It was only a few weeks ago that Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop luxury lifestyle brand interviewed Robert Schoch about his claim that the Sphinx is more than 10,000 years old. This appears to have opened the gates for other luxury lifestyle brands to bypass the fact-based media and turn to fringe historians to provide the kind of personalized, hand-crafted history that purchasers of solid gold drinking straws and jade vaginal eggs demand. Why get your history from the kind of plebian mass-market “facts” that even the poor have access to? This week’s offender is London-based Eluxe Magazine, purveyors of online and print publications devoted to “sustainable luxury fashion, beauty and lifestyles.” Eluxe ran an interview with none other than Graham Hancock, who is either a lifestyle or a fashion. I’m not sure.
As you might expect from a magazine devoted to that unique brand of vaguely New Age liberalism combined with fetishizing wealth, the reporter Eluxe dispatched to quiz Hancock on hidden history was uncritical and openly embraced his “maverick” and “heretic” status. Apparently in the world of puff pieces about high-end women’s cologne, vegan makeup, and “glamping,” there is an almost sexual frisson in challenging mainstream ideas, so long as the challenge fits within a holistic ideology where money, fame, and ecology join in a consumerist orgy that only feints toward liberal ideals of fraternity and equality.
In the interview, Hancock says what we all knew, that he basically saw Raiders of the Lost Ark and decided he wanted to live out an Indiana Jones cosplay fantasy, traveling across Africa in search of the Ark of the Covenant: “This was shortly after I had seen The Raiders of the Lost Ark, and so my nose for a journalistic story, you know, started to twitch.” Since this was also the period when Hancock elsewhere said that he was frequently high on marijuana, it’s not entirely unsurprising that he decided he wanted to live out a movie. But more interesting is the faulty logic he employs to justify his belief that the Ark was not just real but also a technological device from a lost civilization:
Scholars were telling me it was all rubbish, and yet I am seeing how central it is to Ethiopian tradition, and how every single church in Ethiopia has either a replica of the Ark of the Covenant or a replica of the tablets of stone in the holiest of holies of that church, and how could this just be bullshit?
I trust you can see the fault here: Hancock proposes a false dichotomy where Ethiopian representations of the Ark are either representations of a real object or bullshit. But these are not our only choices. It is possible to believe in something that is unreal and have that belief be important and sacred even if it is not objectively “real.” Every Hindu temple to Shiva has a conical standing stone that many interpret as a representation of Shiva’s penis, and it is an object of cultic worship. This in no way implies that the god Shiva really walked the Earth, or that Shiva’s penis had magic occult powers. Similarly, every government office in the United Kingdom has a depiction of a unicorn on the royal coat of arms, but this speaks nothing of the reality on unicorns.
Speaking of bullshit: After years of pretending that he had come around to the view that the Great Pyramid of Giza was indeed the work of Khufu and had served as his tomb, Hancock now declares these long-established conclusions to be “bullshit”:
I found myself in front of the Great Pyramid, and then I’m hearing the same bullshit from the academics that I was hearing about Ethiopia: that this is just a tomb of some megalomaniac Pharaoh. I’m looking at this thing and it’s 481 feet high and it weighs 6 billion tonnes and it’s almost perfectly aligned to true north and I’m not buying what the academics are telling me.
The Eluxe writers responded to this by declaring the sentiment “beautiful.” Just not as beautiful as the crystal-based, Reiki-certified organic skin cream promoted in another recent article. That inherent trust in magic, mysticism, and the good wishes of New Age profiteers manifested in Hancock’s declaration that he no longer watches or reads mainstream media because the “terrible energy” harshes his mellow. “Fuck them. Now, we don’t need to go to them at all, we don’t have to have anything to do with them at all, they are not important, they’re absolutely insignificant.” Instead, he receives the majority of his information from like-minded alternative types on the internet, which I suppose explains his increasingly out-of-touch ramblings. When you are locked into a media bubble of your own creation, it becomes easy to imagine that everyone else is delusional and fails to grasp essential truths that you and your tribe possess.
Eluxe also asked Hancock why “the powers that be” tolerate the existence of fringe history claims on the internet and don’t “shut that down.” Apparently Eluxe didn’t read its own headnote to the interview in which they explained the number of copies of books Hancock sells and how major publishers have put out said books and how major media companies have used Hancock’s claims to create movies, documentaries, and other moneymaking ventures. Someone has been hitting the homeopathic happy juice a little too hard. Or not hard enough. There’s probably no way to tell. The interviewer and Hancock both agree, though, that “breathwork”—rhythmic breathing and meditation—can induce altered states of consciousness that connect to the spirit world.
Meanwhile, Hancock admitted that he is now a pagan and worships the goddess Mother Ayahuasca, holding that the hallucinogenic plant is in fact a “divine entity” which connects human beings to—and I am not making this up—“the intelligence of the plants themselves, or the intelligence that manifests through them.” Yes, Hancock believes that while high on drugs he holds deep conversations with plants. This raises fundamental questions, such as: If meat is murder because animals are intelligent creatures, is it now also unethical to eat plants because they manifest divine intelligence? If plants are now smarter than animals because they are living gods, does that mean that the Atkins diet is the more ethical choice than veganism? Sadly, Eluxe, which promotes luxury veganism, does not get into the epistemic conundrums of how to deal with the problem of consuming the children of the plant gods.
Hancock, though, is a liberal in the mode of the “democratic socialism” of Berne Sanders, to judge by his disapproval of capitalism and the power structures that support it. In listening to him talk about his dislike of the very system that has made him a millionaire many times over, it becomes clear that Hancock’s investigation of “ancient mysteries” is less about actually seeking out a real lost civilization than it is about crafting a countermyth that would justify resistance to the current power structure.
I think there are forces at work in society that want to disempower us and disenfranchise us, that do not want us to be fully realized human beings, that do not want to allow the divine spark within us grow and shine, that want to basically turn us into meat robots, who are here just to produce and to consume. That is actually a huge project and part of that huge project is the lies we are told about history.
Hancock confirms this when he describes his interest in the ancient history of North America emerging from his decision to become an activist protesting the Keystone Pipeline at Standing Rock last year. He said that his choice to join the protest meant that he “got activated” on the subject of North American antiquity, and he quickly decided that he wanted to write a book to justify Native American perspectives on ancient history by documenting the ways that white people erased and minimized Native history. His mixture of the political and the historical runs the risk of producing his most infuriating book yet because most of what he has to say about North American prehistory and the changing archaeological understanding of the peopling of the Americas is correct, but if he tries to link it to a lost civilization he risks ruining an important paradigm shift of the past two decades with his fetid claims of a lost civilization, which were born of the very white supremacist effort that Hancock decries! It’s a bizarre situation, and one that sits uneasily in Hancock’s work, where radical liberal politics sit alongside Victorian claims of “white” Atlanteans interbreeding with and bestowing culture upon benighted Natives.
There isn’t any indication that Hancock has dealt with this problematic aspect of his ramshackle intellectual chimera (indeed, he believes his interracial marriage and liberal politics negates the racist origin and function of his major ideas), but Eluxe finishes the article with the most incongruous conclusion you can imagine: They offer their readers a luxury tour of Hancock’s favorite South American ancient mysteries for just $2,100—flights and transportation not included—with New Ager Candice-Marie Fox, who claims to have cured cancer with pineapples. Maybe Hancock can talk the pineapples into offering a discount.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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