They say there is nothing new under the sun, but sometimes even I am surprised by how much fringe writers steal outright from old books. Clearly, I am trying way too hard when I come up with original ideas and research them to write my books. I need to learn how to make money from rewriting other people’s work and then screaming loudly about my genius.
I was dumbfounded to discover, in unrelated research for a completely different project, that Knights Templar conspiracy theories indistinguishable from Scott Wolter’s alleged Egyptian-Templar-Freemason-Oreo Cookie conspiracy not only existed in the 1870s but were used to justify the rise of the labor movement in the United States. The publisher of a pamphlet on the Working People’s International Association, an anarchist group later responsible for the Haymarket bombing, sketched out what he saw as a vast conspiracy involving the Templars, secret Egyptian wisdom, and the labor movement.
It is far too long for me to quote in full, but a summary is sufficiently familiar. The Great Pyramid of Egypt contains mystical teachings from the dawn of time, and the Knights Templar inherited this ancient wisdom while in the Holy Land. Solomon’s Temple was but a small imitation of the Pyramid. After the suppression of the Templar order, the surviving knights “secretly preserved their traditions” and fled to Scotland where Robert the Bruce turned them into Freemasons. After rebuilding their wealth and power for three or four hundred years, they fomented revolution in England, France, and America, and later Germany and Italy. But now, because international bankers (read: Jews) had broken the power of Freemasonry and subsumed world governments under the banks, the Templars have reorganized yet again as labor unions in “authentic succession” to lead the world to a paradise of equality.
Swap out “labor unions” for “Venus families” and you have Scott Wolter’s hypothesis, almost point for point, in 1873! It’s actually a little odd, though, that the Templar conspirators seem to have been growing wealthier and more elite in the retelling. It seems that in the 1800s it was still possible to believe that change would bubble up from below, while today we seem to assume that progress is imposed from above.
Speaking of the Great Pyramid, I also discovered that Graham Hancock’s and Robert Bauval’s ideas about the real meaning of the Great Pyramid, and about the cosmic catastrophe it supposedly warns of, were also fully developed in the 1800s, right down to the claim that the pyramid was designed to target certain stars through the precession of the equinoxes. Joseph A. Seiss, writing in 1877’s A Miracle in Stone summarizes findings that the astronomer John Herschel made in 1839 regarding the entrance to the pyramid:
Sir John Herschel in 1839, assuming that its long, narrow, polished tubular entrance passage was meant to be levelled at a polar star, began to calculate back with what data he had to find the time when such a star was looking down that tube from the northern heavens. Nor did he fail to find one answering the conditions near about the time assigned by other methods as the probable date at which the Great Pyramid was built. Closer determinations of the exact pointings of the grand tube, along with other data, enabled other astronomers to repeat the calculation with more determinate results, fixing upon the year two thousand one hundred and seventy before Christ, as that in which this tube pointed to α Draconis, the then pole star, at its lower culmination, at the same time that the Pleiades, particularly Alcyone, the centre of the group, were on the same meridian above. And as this was a mark in the heavens which could not occur again for more than twenty-five thousand years from that time, and was itself very extraordinary, it has been accepted as meant to be the sign of the date of the building of the Great Pyramid.
Not only is this the same methodology Robert Bauval suggested was his own unique contribution to pyramid studies—he mentions neither Seiss nor Herschel in The Orion Mystery—but John Herschel is the same astronomer whose reputation had been hijacked in 1835 for the Great Moon Hoax in the New York Sun, an early forerunner of the ancient astronaut theory!
This relatively sober calculation pales before the work of Frank Henry Norton (1836-1921), who on April 7, 1894 more or less anticipated one of the final chapters of Graham Hancock’s 1995 book Fingerprints of the Gods, though I am sure that Hancock didn’t know it. Like Zecharia Sitchin and Graham Hancock, Norton was unconvinced that the cartouche found in the relieving chambers above the King’s Chamber in the Great Pyramid was actually that of Khufu, though he does not go so far as Sitchin did in declaring it a fake. Instead, he anticipates Hancock in assuming that the Egyptians followed Babylonian astrology 2,000 years before its invention and thus reads the cartouche as a prophecy of the future destruction of the world, reading into an announcement of the upcoming destruction of the world by flood. This, he says, reflects the prophesied doom predicted by the Babylonian priest Berossus, as preserved by Seneca in Natural Questions 3.29:
Some suppose that in the final catastrophe the earth, too, will be shaken, and through clefts in the ground will uncover sources of fresh rivers which will flow forth from their full source in larger volume. Berossus, the translator of [the records of] Belus, affirms that the whole issue is brought about by the course of the planets. So positive is he on the point that he assigns a definite date both for the conflagration and the deluge. All that the earth inherits will, he assures us, be consigned to flame when the planets, which now move in different orbits, all assemble in Cancer, so arranged in one row that a straight line may pass through their spheres. When the same gathering takes place in Capricorn, then we are in danger of the deluge. (trans. John Clarke)
Norton fixated on the flood half of the equation, arguing that the planets would be so aligned in Capricorn in 1901, thus dooming the Earth. Hancock preferred the flaming half of the prophecy, and he claimed that the fiery doom would occur on May 5, 2000, when the planets aligned in Cancer. Both men were wrong.
I remain amazed at how frequently fringe writers produce and reproduce the same bad ideas from the same raw materials, no matter how often they are proved wrong!
Norton added one detail I wanted to know more about: He claims that the Great Pyramid has been used to explain the “spiritual origin of the American flag.” I hadn’t heard that claim before, and you’d think that it would show up more often in the works of fringe writers. I guess it doesn’t because so many fringe writers are British.
As far as I can tell, the claim comes from Albert Ross Parsons in his 1893 book New Light from the Great Pyramid, which goes as far down the rabbit hole of crazy as one might have hoped before the advent of the History Channel. Parsons claims that when Washington rejected six-pointed stars for the American flag in favor of five-pointed stars, and these stars symbolize Yahweh, whose name, in Hebrew, uses consonants with the numerological value of 5 and 6. The colors of the flag, too, are those of the Aryan conquerors who held Egypt under their sway. Everywhere he saw in American symbolism in Egyptian.
The prehistoric Egyptians came to fear and dread the number 5 because it was the number associate with the ancient conquerors who swept the country and built the Great Pyramid to—and here we go again—warn the world against the return of a cosmic catastrophe (a comet) that would destroy the earth. Yes, it’s the same cosmic catastrophe Ignatius Donnelly stole for his book Ragnorak and Graham Hancock appropriated for Magicians of the Gods, and which goes back to Edmund Halley’s speculation on the origins of Noah’s Flood. And yes, it is based—and Parsons concedes this—on the medieval Arabic pyramid myth, which neither he nor Graham Hancock, who also relies on it, recognize as recycling in mythic form the old prophecy of fire and flood that was the common inheritance of all Near Eastern cultures, and which was long associated with the Watchers and Fallen Angels.
Oh, and Parsons also argues that the lost Book of Jasher (the one referenced in the books of 2 Samuel and Joshua, not the early modern forgery of the same name) likely recorded the destruction of two armies by a meteor shower, which also took down Atlantis! (This, he thinks, is why the sun seemed to stand still for Joshua.)
But that was hardly all: Parsons quotes an astronomer by the name of E. Colbert, from an 1892 book called Humanity in Its Origins (or rather a book review summarizing it), on an astonishing bit of fringe wackiness half a century or more ahead of his time:
The theory of an alternate shifting of water from one hemisphere to the other, at intervals of ten to eleven thousand years, is so much in harmony with known facts and reasonable inference as to justify us in expecting that a few score centuries hence the northern hemisphere will be partially submerged, and vast southern land-areas uncovered, the latter being the scene of the greatest activity and highest civilization. It would be well for us to consider the propriety of erecting some durable monument in the United States to bear witness of us there. The great pyramid of Egypt, and possibly some of the others, may have been constructed with some such intent soon after the lower valley of the Nile emerged from beneath the ocean-surface.
Do you recognize that claim? It’s nearly the same as the famous “pole shift” hypothesis of Charles Hapgood, Rand Flem-Ath, and Graham Hancock!
I could go on digging through all of the connections to one seemingly random fringe history claim after the next, but I think I’ve covered enough for one day.
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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