It’s always nice to know that I’ve made a difference in the world. I got confirmation yesterday from an author that New Page Books / Career Press will not send me review copies of any release—even at the author’s request—because they don’t like my reviews. Since their books tend to get few or no reviews, one might think that they would take the view that any publicity is good publicity, especially if they could then use my criticism to market their volumes as the books that “skeptics” don’t want you to read. But instead, they have taken the line that I am an enemy, which probably speaks more about their mentality—and their understanding of how crappy the books they publish must be—than it does me. But so long as they continue to publish new books by former Nazi party leader Frank Joseph (as they will do again next week—with the endorsement of Brad Steiger!), it is impossible for them to argue the moral high ground.
But good for them. They have proven beyond doubt that when fringe writers say that they want to engage with the mainstream and that they are putting forward arguments to open up new possibilities and which can withstand scrutiny through the force of their genius, they are lying. If fringe publishers don’t think their books are strong enough to withstand my reading of them, then they would be wise to reconsider what they publish.
Fortunately, one does not need the permission of the publisher to review a book. Tomorrow I think I will select a New Page / Career book to review. Today I will review an upcoming release from Bear & Co., a fringe publisher that at least recognizes that there is no good to come from trying to hide its books from skeptics.
Do you remember the lost continent of Mu? Of course you do. Invented in 1926 by “Col.” James Churchward, the lost continent of Mu supposedly spanned the Pacific and served as the mother culture for humanity, ruled over by a benevolent white race. Well, Mu had a lot in common with an earlier lost Pacific continent from the Faithist movement, and that continent is back. An anthropologist named Susan B. Martinez has revived the lost Pacific continent claim, under the name of “Pan,” and is making all of the same claims in a new book called The Lost Continent of Pan (Bear & Co., 2016), which goes on sale at the end of next month. Unsurprisingly, her evidence is not very good.
Martinez holds a Ph.D. in anthropology from Columbia University and says that she specializes in ethnolinguistics. (Her dissertation 1972 is under the name Susan Ehrman.) Nevertheless, in 1981 she discovered the Oahspe Bible, a bizarre Victorian fantasia of religious, ethical, and pseudohistorical material drawn from Christian and Sanskrit esoterica. Martinez believes that this book, written in 1882 and supposedly channeled from the spirit world, is a real revelation, and therefore she has sought in her own book to “prove” that Oahspe is correct about the existence of the Faithists’ Pacific continent of Pan. According to the “Synopsis of the Sixteen Cycles” within the Oahspe Bible, Pan was an ancient continent that sunk in the Pacific around 24,000 years B.C., and Martinez adopts this as her timeline as well.
In Oashpe, the fall of Pan is cast as a riff on the Nephilim-Flood myth of Genesis, and indeed the author of the book, John Ballou Newbrough, specifically identifies the sinking of Pan with Noah’s Flood. But he offers disturbing ideas about racial hierarchy, in which the “good” people called the I’hin, who are white or yellow and slender, have become corrupted through interaction with brown and fat people, the children of Cain. Thus, in Synopsis 1:27 “the brown people burnt with desires, and they laid hold of the I’hin women when they went into the fields, and forced them,” creating a “copper” colored race of half-breeds. God, angry at the degeneration “of breed and blood,” destroyed Pan to save heaven from the “festering sores” of mixed-race souls (2:8), who had become cannibals:
And now the council deliberated, and after a while caused the records of the earth and her atmospherea to be examined, and they discovered that the heaven of the land of Whaga (Pan) was beyond redemption because of the great numbers of the spirits of the cannibals and of the multitude of fetals. It was as if a disease in the flesh be healed over externally, leaving the root of the disease within. So was Whaga and her heaven; the redemption of the cycles remained not with her, but evil broke out forever in a new way. (3:16)
So, as a result, God says “And I will send rains and winds and thundering; and the waters of the great deep shall come upon the lands; and the great cities shall go down and be swallowed in the sea” (3:26). And then he does it, causing the event remembered as Noah’s Flood or the sinking of Atlantis.
Anyway, it’s not a very promising starting point for a “scientific” investigation. Worse, Martinez starts her own book by identifying “race” as one of the “clues” and “smoking gun” for the existence of Pan.
I have no idea how to review a book whose entire foundation is predicated on a belief that Oahspe is a genuine record of prehistoric life and can be used to reconstruct the hilariously named language of the first humans, Panic. Martinez believes this, and as a result she then uses Panic as a guide to linguistics, comparing ancient languages to one another based on her feeling that words in those languages resemble the ancient words of Panic as recorded in various names given in Oahspe, thus “proving” that the languages derive from Panic and that Pan really existed. The argument is circular, but if you do not believe in Oahspe, it is also worthless. Of course the names in Oahspe resemble words from ancient languages. Where do you think Newbough got them from? He borrowed syllables from old mythologies and recombined them at will to give historical flavor to his phantasmagoria.
The quality of her other evidence is hardly better: She claims that the art of weaving proves that all ancient peoples are connected, for how could anyone learn to make cloth independently? She cites the infamous “Mayan” Atlantis relief (actually a modern painting) as a genuine record of the Great Flood! And of course “cyclopean” architecture is for her proof of a lost race, for who else could stack stone on stone? Oh, and the lost race of Pan also practiced skull elongation, because Oahspe says it could shape personality!
But Martinez descends into some of the worst instincts of the fringe. She actively goes in search of white people. She claims that the Jomon of Japan are “yes, a white race” (her words!) and thus descendants of God’s chosen people, the people of Pan. The book is littered with references to “white-skinned” people, “fair-skinned” people, the “white race,” “Caucasoid” people, “proto-Caucasoids,” etc. She finds them in all the usual places: The “white” Indians of Darien (actually albinos), the “white” gods of Mexico and South America, the occasional Caucasian traveler to Asia, etc. She identifies the Toltecs as a separate white race from Native Americans, remarkable, she says, in their genius, knowledge, and humility. She happily cites writers like James Churchward, Erich von Däniken, Andrew Collins, and David Childress to support her views, which only underscores the degree to which most fringe history is infested at some level with racial panic, so to speak.
Martinez got her race theory from Oahspe, but Newbrough got it from Victorian racism, which had long declared Native Americans the destroyers of the genius of ancient whites. She thinks she is doing scientific work by cherry picking the historical record to find evidence that supports Oahspe, but from the perspective of anyone who doubts that Oahspe is anything but a Victorian fever-dream, she is doing nothing more than recycling the same “evidence” Newbrough used to make Oahspe in service of proving its reality. Her book, in other words, is that most ancient of symbols, the ourobouros, the snake eating its own tail, a circular argument that can only make her world view smaller and smaller.
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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