POWER PLACES AND THE MASTER BUILDERS OF ANTIQUITY
Frank Joseph | 320 pages | Bear & Company | 2018 | ISBN: 9781591433132 | $18.0
Dear God, there’s another one. It’s only been a couple of days since I reviewed Xaviant Haze’s Ancient Giants, and now we have an even worse entry in the canon of ancient mysteries books to contend with. This one is especially appropriate because it comes to us from the pen of Frank Joseph, formerly known as Frank Collin, the ex-head of the National Socialist White People’s Party and the National Socialist Party of America. In a month when a former American Nazi Party leader is running unopposed to secure the Republican nomination for an Illinois congressional seat (which he will likely lose since it is a heavily Democratic district), it just seems right to see what the other former Nazi leader in the public eye is up to. Yes, he is still promoting white interests, just more subtly.
I opined the other day that Inner Traditions, the owner of the publisher of both Haze and Joseph, never met a bigot or a lunatic they didn’t embrace. In a period when Neo-Nazis and the alt-right are surging both in prominence and in their threat to public safety, publishing another book from a former Nazi party boss who once went to the Supreme Court for the right to hold a Nazi march seems proof of that. A few years ago, it was still possible to look askance at Joseph’s prominence on the fringe but dismiss his past as the disturbing actions of an eccentric and a kook—well, aside from the child rape charges that sent him to prison. But now there is much greater and deeper concern about giving prominence and a platform to any Nazi-affiliated personality, much less the man who fought so long and hard for the Nazi cause. Neo-Nazis are no longer just vaguely ridiculous buffoons and wannabe thugs.
Joseph is today a prolific author, having used the time since his release from prison to develop a growing series of ancient mysteries books centered on the overarching theme that a lost white race from Atlantis, not unlike the Aryan master race from Thule in Himmler’s Nazi mythology, was the guiding force behind world history. In Power Places and the Master Builders of Antiquity: Unexplained Mysteries of the Past (Bear & Company, 2018), Joseph collects a series of 42 essays originally published in FATE magazine and strings them together in imitation of some of the lesser mystery books of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The volume is due out in June, and this is an early review.
FATE magazine has an unusual pedigree. It was founded in 1948 by Ray Palmer, the legendary science fiction editor, as a vehicle for his work with Kenneth Arnold in creating the UFO phenomenon from Arnold’s sighting of flying objects and spare parts from science fiction stories published in Palmer’s Amazing Stories. The FBI documented this development and concluded in the 1940s that the UFO phenomenon, as depicted in popular culture, was largely the result of this work. In 1988, FATE was sold to Llewellyn Publications, a less than rigorous New Age publisher, and the next year the magazine hired ex-Nazi Frank Joseph to write for it, which he apparently continues to do regularly, despite changes in ownership and editorial direction at FATE in the intervening years. Joseph praises his editor since 2001, Phyllis Galde, for her support. She is complicit in promoting Joseph’s career, and the white supremacist ideology that is never far from the surface of Joseph’s work.
Joseph’s book is chock-a-block with random false claims familiar from other contexts. In one place we find a Victorian lie that Scotland had a serpent-shaped mound just like one in Ohio. (It doesn’t.) In another, that ancient sites resonate at 110 hertz, with supposedly magical results. There are so many of these claims that I simply cannot list them all, let alone explain the innumerable exaggerations and errors. Since most of his essays cover topics hoary with age and debunked many times over, and also dating back a quarter century or more, it is not my intention to exhaustively review each. Instead, I’ll give you a general rundown and speak about some of the broader themes.
The book is divided into several sections revolving around general themes. The first centers on “master builders,” referring to the master race who were supposedly responsible for the construction of megalithic power centers around the world. The first chapter sets up Joseph’s viewpoint quite clearly by attempting to prove that New World sacred sites are “connected” to those of the Old World, and you will win no prizes guessing where he assigns primacy. The second chapter continues the theme, comparing American mounds to Egyptian pyramids. To be more specific, Joseph usually avoids explicitly claiming that ancient American sites were built by a lost white race, but the conclusion is all but inevitable when he describes ancient European sacred sites and then folds in American mounds, adding his belief that (fictitious) discoveries of European-style copper armor in the mounds is key to understanding them: “This grave signifies a vast technological difference between the Hopewell and the historic Shawnee, who occupied the region at the time of early European settlement.” The point is driven home when he speaks of “European” myths of a single, global civilization. This is of course, Atlantis, in the form Joseph prefers, as given by Ignatius Donnelly, who identified its denizens as white.
As the book progresses, Joseph expands his focus, but not his theme. He cites David Hatcher Childress from Ancient Aliens in describing the history of the Pacific islands and the supposed ancient lost culture that built their great ruins before the Polynesians squatted in them. He slides lightly over the fact he counts on his readers to discover, that Childress, stealing shamelessly from James Churchward’s Mu books, identified the master race of the Pacific as white. He might speak instead of Polynesia’s “haunting ruins” as representing the “powerful culture” of Lemuria rather than Mu, but in the world of Theosophy, from which Joseph and occult Nazis draw, Lemurians were the ancestors of the Atlanteans, whom Donnelly and others had marked as the progenitors of the Aryan race. The unspoken implications are a fixture of each chapter. One on the tomb of the first Chinese emperor, for example, cannot deny that the Chinese were non-white, but Joseph sneaks in asides about how the emperor’s tomb was “perhaps mimicking Egypt’s Great Pyramid,” and speculating that the lack of excavation at the site does not foreclose the possibility that the structure predates China. The argument is subtle and unspoken, but nevertheless present.
The second section is a loose catalog of unsolved mysteries, beginning with the claim that the Knights Templar buried treasure in the Money Pit on Oak Island, which most readers will recognize as the guiding theme of the TV series Curse of Oak Island, and also a fiction. The chapter basically summarizes the TV series and the lies that have been told about the so-called Zeno Narrative, but uses it to set up the idea that white Europeans, notably the Sinclair family of Scotland, had longstanding knowledge of and made extensive voyages to the Americas in the Middle Ages. Joseph, as always, engages in some sleight of hand. In 1826, the Vermont Patriot reported the discovery of chain mail buried in a field. Joseph quotes a secondhand account in such a way as to fool the reader into thinking that the paper had declared it “consistent” with the armor of the Knights Templar. That’s a modern lie, from Gerard Leduc, in Ancient American magazine. Here’s the actual news report, dated August 18, 1827, because I am better at research than Joseph or his source, Leduc:
We learn that a gentleman in Irasburgh in Orleans county, in this state, while plowing in his field, found a few days since, what is termed by some, an “iron shirt,” the body part of which is made wholly of iron rings linked into each other, about one eighth of an inch in diameter. The collar s made of brass rings, so closely interwoven as to be perfectly stiff. The proper name of the garment is undoubtedly a “coat of mail,” but how it came in Irasburgh, is left to conjecture. It was found, as our informant states, under the stump of a tree, about two feet over, which had become rotten. We have seen several of the rings, which are made of small wire, and appeared to be rivetted together. We are told that the United States engineers, who are surveying in that region, have procured it, and intend to carry it to New-York.
Mail was still in limited use in the early colonial period, which might explain this, should the report be correct. However, at this point there is no real way to determine whether this report is simply another hoax, a misidentification of some other object, or what.
But I said that I wouldn’t bother criticizing each minor claim in detail. Ah, well. Whole chapters are simply filler, brief news accounts of forgotten claims from decades ago. These could have been cut with no appreciable loss since they say nothing of interest or importance. Another chapter is an old book review of The Atlantis Blueprint, in which Joseph declares, without evidence, that Plato’s 9,000 years are lunar rather than solar, so Atlantis existed in the Bronze Age, but endorses the suggestion that the (white) Atlanteans delivered culture and sacred mathematics to all the peoples of the world, establishing a global megalithic civilization. The only theme truly uniting the pieces is the unstated argument that they represent clues to finding this lost white mother culture.
The third section is devoted exclusively to Egypt, though the underlying themes are, as usual, disquieting. In one chapter he tries to suggest that the Maya and the Egyptians both inherited astronomical knowledge of sun spot cycles from a lost civilization. In another, he tries to marshal psychic readings from the past century to connect the Sphinx to Atlantis, drawing on fabricated claims developed by the Rosicrucians (from a slightly earlier proposal) in the twentieth century. Joseph reports on his own efforts to psychically penetrate the Sphinx, discovering the Atlantean Hall of Records in his mind and finding within a book titled, apparently in English, The History of Lemuria. It takes no great genius to see that the psychics fantasized and dreamed and saw what they wanted to see based on the fringe books they had already read. As in the earlier sections, this one also contains much filler, including books reviews and forgotten news stories. Actually, I take that back: A book review of Andrew Collins’s Gods of Eden is important because Joseph uses it to argue that the racially impure Egyptians were not the inventors of their own civilization, but “inherited an earlier civilized greatness belonging to the Elder Gods.” These, of course, are not the incomprehensible Titans of Lovecraftian fiction, but rather the most important deities of all: white men. Later, he would be more explicit: The Great Pyramid, he wrote, was built not by native Egyptians but by a “lost race.”
The fourth section focuses on the Americas, again, and various locations with “power” and “energy.” One piece describes a UFO sighting Joseph claims to have had in Wisconsin, another pretends that Rock Lake, Wisconsin contains a lost and sunken civilization—a claim that even Scott Wolter, an acquaintance of Joseph, debunked on America Unearthed. Many of the chapters in this section claim artificial origins for natural rock formations, resurrect Victorian speculation, or attempt to connect ancient and modern structures to European symbols and myths. For example, he tries to relate a modern Buddhist temple in Wisconsin to Atlantis by comparing Buddhist and Greek mythologies. In speaking of the mounds, he emphasizes two things—first, that they have no element of “the crude, the savage, and the primitive,” and second that “not even” the Native Americans know who built them. The combination of stylistic choices leads to the inference, never directly stated, that the mounds are not the work of Native peoples, who are primitive savages when compared to Old World sophisticates. It’s an old racist lie, and referencing it only by allusion does not make it less offensive. Joseph adds that a Nashville replica Parthenon, through the principle of “sympathetic magic,” has become a sacred cult center in America, channeling the power of the old (white) pagan European gods.
The fifth section offers potted profiles of historical figures alongside some lunatics, fringe thinkers, and eccentrics, often suggesting the operation of the supernatural in their lives. He presents each as a hero, and most as martyrs, giving their lives and reputations to seek some nebulous truth that “academia” is suppressing. It goes without saying that they are all white and mostly male.
The sixth section deals with the supernatural and the afterlife. Such questions are beyond my scope and interest. Joseph, however, adds nothing new to the discussion that has not been discussed for centuries, mostly summarizing others’ work.
The seventh section deals with natural phenomena and their supernatural connections. These range from undoubtedly real events, like the Tunguska explosion of 1908, to unproveable claims, like the claim that all matter is endowed with a soul, to fictitious claims, like the supposed dangers of the Bermuda Triangle. This section, like the previous two, offers no original ideas and merely summarizes the work of others.
Joseph concludes the volume with an afterword which suggests that by collecting his articles about “powerful places” in one volume, “hitherto unseen patterns and unsuspected themes” emerge. In this he is right, but not in the way he believes. While each of Joseph’s articles is, in and of itself, largely your standard issue “mystery” article, and rarely wholly offensive, taken together a disturbing pattern emerges. Joseph consistently twists his arguments in one and only one direction, subtly but relentlessly emphasizing the primacy of white men over all others, and assigning to the white heroes the driving force in all human history. To the uninitiated, this argument is subliminal and almost invisible, but to anyone who has read deeply of fringe literature, or (more importantly) who works from Joseph’s articles back to their sources, the repeated, subtle, and insistent references to a lost master race quickly reveal themselves to speak of the Aryans of Atlantis.
This undercurrent is diabolically subtle, quiet enough to pass under the radar of most editors. Anyone reading just one article is unlikely to notice it. But the cumulative power of the repeated allusions to a lost white master race is unmistakable. The Aryan argument comes into focus as the shards of the story pull together across the articles. Joseph has seeded his ideology into FATE, and its readers are the unwitting recipients of a propaganda campaign. Joseph himself claims to have given up many of his Nazi beliefs, but his faith in a white master race shows through, even beneath the superficial gloss of New Age mysticism and mystery-mongering. Make no mistake, this is only formally a book about ancient mysteries. It is, at its heart, an effort to make the myth of the lost Aryan master race into scientific fact.
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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