Monday Odds and Ends: Recycled News, Jacques Vallee in Argentina, and Arabic Treasure Hunting Guides
Here we go again! A geologist claims that he has discovered definitive proof that Jesus and his wife Mary Magdalene were buried in Jerusalem’s Talpiot Tomb with their son Judah—and the geologist isn’t even Scott Wolter! Dr. Aryeh Shimron says that chemical tests done on the so-called James Ossuary, the one inscribed with the phrase “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus,” prove that the ossuary was originally deposited in the Talpiot Tomb. The bigger question is this: Why is this news now? Shimron made his claims in the spring of 2015, but Britain’s Sun newspaper decided to write about them now, for no discernible reason.
Meanwhile, the eminence grise of ufology, Jacques Vallée was in Argentina to participate in the filming of an alien abduction documentary. While there, Vallée was to be asked about his belief that a non-human intelligence is manipulating human culture. Argentine UFO writer Alejandro Agostinelli described it thus:
For decades now, he has focused on ancient sightings, such as those that he developed in “Wonders in the Sky” (with Chris Aubeck, 2011 [sic]), or contemporary ones that he considered unexplained. In such cases, he seeks to establish connections or draw parallels in the service of a hypothesis that has been in the works since the seventies, the so-called Control System Hypothesis, according to which for millions of years a “not necessarily extraterrestrial” intelligence has shaped the evolution of human consciousness. UFO mythology, for Vallée, is part of a reinforcement program which determines the opinion of the masses by creating illusions of design, something like holographic representations with which this intelligence influences our religious institutions, cultural structures and political systems. (my trans.)
This is a summary of Vallée’s 1975 claim, expressed in The Invisible College, that this “intelligence” speaks to us through myths and legends and thus defines our worldview. “What I do mean is that mythology rules at a level of our social reality over which normal political and intellectual action has no power.”
In 1978, for example, Vallée told Fate magazine that he thought UFO sightings and even alien abductions were designed to create specific mental impressions to change our culture:
But perhaps we're facing something which is basically a social technology. Perhaps the most important effects from the UFO technology are the social ones and not the physical ones. In other words the physical reality may serve only as a kind of triggering device to provide images for the witness to report. These perceptions are manipulated to create certain kinds of social effects.
Vallée himself fell victim to a “control system” and over the intervening forty years failed to consider whether the “social effects” and “illusion of design” that he observed were not intentional productions of an intelligence whose actions he deemed “absurd” but rather, as the evidence suggests, a self-generated myth that emerged from a specific (human) cultural context and persisted because of its perceived utility for its believers in understanding the world. Vallée falls into the folly of the creationists, seeing the hand of a designer in the random workings of chance.
The documentary Vallée will be shooting is called Humano: La Llamada Guarani and will be examining alien abduction in light of the mythology of the Guarani people of Paraguay and Argentina.
I also feel like I should call your attention to a pair of Ancient Origins articles by Chris “Mogg” Morgan, an occultist, occult book publisher, and investigator of magic and the occult. Morgan wrote about seventeenth century treatises on the treasures of Egypt and described the Pharaonic curses and magical powers attributed to ancient Egypt’s tombs. One book was the Colloquium heptaplomeres attributed to Jean Bodin, and the majority of the article discussed something he calls the Book of the Buried Pearl, though he gives no information to identify what he says is a sixteenth century Arabic text. He says only that it is a treasure-hunting guide, and he describes its content. All I know of the text is that Morgan says that a French translation was published in 1901. He does not give its title or editor.
I wondered if he could be referring to Khalid ibn Yazid’s Kitab al-kharazat (Book of Pearls), a famous treasure-hunting guide, though that book was allegedly written before 704 CE. Khalid was, according to legend, the first Arab alchemist, having commissioned translations of Christian and Greek Hermetic works of Late Antiquity.
It took me quite a bit of poking around to discover the actual text Morgan referred to: Ahmed Bey Kamil’s translation of the Book of Buried Pearls and Hidden Treasures, which was published at Cairo in either 1900, 1901, or 1907 depending on which source I consulted. I was not able to find a copy of the text, so I do not know its contents.
It makes me angry that fringe writers refuse to give clear citations to the works they cite.
Since I don’t know anything about the Book of Buried Pearls, I can’t really talk about it except to say that if Morgan was interested in early (rather than late) Arabic views on ancient Egyptian treasure, magic powers, and cursed tombs, he might have done well to check out the Akhbar al-zaman, from c. 1000 CE but incorporating much older material. It is full of so many wild claims about buried Pharaonic treasure, mystical enchantments, and curses to keep Morgan in business for years to come.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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