On Twitter, Graham Hancock linked to a glowing review of his 2015 book Magicians of the Gods and endorses its author’s praise of him. Normally, I wouldn’t talk about someone else’s book review, but this one as a strange read that has a few points that are worth looking into since the author claims to be a major public figure who will change the world just like Graham Hancock is changing history. It seems to be fair to evaluate his views.
The review, published on the Medium blogging platform, comes to us from Jonathan Roseland, a smalltime huckster who runs the Limitless Mindset website, which sells memberships with the promise of improving one’s brainpower through a combination of drugs, meditation, and “life hacking.” Named for the 2011 movie Limitless, about a drug that improves brainpower, Roseland’s site claims to be the world’s largest resource for “smart drugs,” specifically the one he sells for cash, Caballo. Roseland himself claims for his credentials his participation in a bank robbery, that he nearly drowned twice, and that he “reads dozens of books a year, listens to +20 podcasts a week and watches a documentary film every day.”
Somehow, Roseland is incredibly impressed with his own mental prowess and therefore feels that he is sufficiently skilled to evaluate the difference correct and incorrect historical theories. Roseland claims to have spent twenty years studying alternative, fringe, and paranormal beliefs. “I’ve read books and watched hundreds of documentaries about UFOs, ESP, big foot, 911 truth, flat earth, the Mandela effect, Nazi conspiracy theories, ancient aliens, etc.” Roseland says that this study has led him to discount most of these claims because of their slipshod reasoning, reliance on anecdotes, defiance of “economic sense,” and promotion by self-interested entertainers. Somehow, this did not disqualify Graham Hancock in his view.
Roseland says that there are a couple of arguments that have convinced him that Graham Hancock is correct. The first is an argument that flatters his own ignorance: “Around the globe; from the pyramids of Egypt and Göbekli Tepe in Turkey to the ruins in the high mountains of Peru we find extraordinary megalithic architecture that could only be created by an advanced civilization. Remarkably, what we DON’T find in the archaeological record of these places is evolution of the craft of megalithic building.” Or, as he more bluntly puts it: “We don’t find smaller, shoddier, crappier pyramids that the Egyptian engineers cut their teeth building before they really figured out how to create the spectacular pyramids that have stood for thousands of years.” That’s only true if you start with that assumption and then “re-date” the pyramids, for example, to ignore the transition from the Step Pyramid of Djoser to the Bent and Red Pyramids and then the bigger and more perfect Giza pyramids. The “smaller pyramids” were the mastabas, which preceded pyramids and gave rise to them when engineers began to stack them atop one another. They weren’t small because they already knew how to build big mastabas when Imhotep decided to place one atop the next. Similarly, in Peru, a succession of cultures moved from mud brick to stone to the more famous cyclopean style over thousands of years.
What’s amazing is that this argument hasn’t changed appreciably in centuries. Ignatius Donnelly used it in Atlantis: The Antediluvian World (1882): “The mounds of Europe and Asia were made in the same way and for the same purposes as those of America. [...] The pyramids of Egypt, Assyria, and Phœnicia had their duplicates in Mexico and Central America.” Many forget that Donnelly did not invent this argument but acquired it from the lost race theorists of the 1830s and 1840s, who drew on colonial opinions before them.
And, boy, does Roseland have colonialist views. He seizes on Hancock’s borrowed claim that the Atlantean heroes were white Caucasians by asking if white Americans engaging in poverty tourism in third world countries are continuing the tradition of the Atlanteans by patronizing the poor—those people “living like animals”—and civilizing those unfortunates outside of Atlantis’s reach. To this, he adds a shockingly colonialist view of what he thinks happens when the Great Men leave town: “And why didn’t they continue doing it? Why do all the supposed descendants of the megalith builders live in squalor now? There’s a stark contrast between megalithic architecture and the decrepit modern day cities of Cairo, Lima or Athens.” It’s good that he threw Athens in there, just to make plain that the Caucasian Aryan supermen visited benighted white people, too. But for him to blithely dismiss centuries of colonialism and imperialism, and the devastating effects they had on local cultures, as merely something that happened between the Golden Age of megalith builders and the misery of stupid poor people today is shockingly ignorant, especially for a man who claims that magic pills named for a horse turned him into a super-genius.
Roseland concludes with a false dichotomy, demanding to know how megaliths arose if not for Atlanteans. “Aliens?” he asks. No, how about people? If you believe men from Atlantis could raise large stones, then why not the “animal” savages you imagine were living in the areas where these stones stand. Why were they unable to achieve the same level of genius? Did they not have magic horse pills?
Roseland’s review is terrible. It blatantly endorses Hancock with arguments drawn from alt-right and libertarian internet memes and ideology. But it is instructive in this sense: While Hancock has steadfastly maintained that his views were neither racist nor colonialist, we see in stark relief how the audience for Hancock’s work absorbs, embraces, and utilizes the messages he provides.
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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