I grant you that I often expect too much from fringe writers. I keep expecting that they’ll understand the material that they discuss, have read primary sources, or, at the very least, be able to tell the difference between fiction and nonfiction, if not fiction and fact. So it was with disappointment that I read an article by Brent Swancer in Mysterious Universe today about the alleged Nine Unknown Men of India. This is another one of those giant messes that fringe writers simply take at face value.
The legend of the Nine Unknown Men is kind of stupid on the face of it. According to the modern conspiracy theory, the Indian emperor Ashoka (reigned c. 268 to 232 BCE), terrified that humanity could not handle the truth about technology and aliens, forbade the study of science and created a secret society of nine individuals charged with guarding the secrets of science from the public. These Nine were replaced over the centuries with new members. Among them was Pope Sylvester II, who traveled to India on an unexplained mission. Today, these Nine are the Indian version of the Illuminati, believed to control human history.
This would be a fine story if it weren’t for the fact that the story comes from Talbot Mundy’s 1923 adventure novella The Nine Unknown. It’s fiction.
Now, that should be the end of the story. But the fringe have an answer for that, arguing that Mundy was actually reporting a genuine legend that had been discussed in the nineteenth century speculations of French occultist Louis Jacolliot, a fellow who was himself no stranger to inventing fake facts, having created the supposedly ancient Agrouchada-Parikchai from scraps of real Indian texts and Freemason conspiracies.
According to Mysterious Universe, “Jacolliot stated that the Nine Unknown Men did in fact exist, and this mention of advanced knowledge well before it was ever thought possible, although not concrete evidence of their existence, is certainly eerie.” This fact, most online fringe sources agree, was allegedly reported in Jacolliot’s Occult Science in India (1879). It was not. The English translation contains no trace of it, nor does the original French version. The book contains only one line that might associated with it, attributed to Jacolliot’s fake Agrouchada-Parikchai: “The preservation of this fire should be given in charge to nine Brahmins and their wives.” It’s not the same thing.
So where did this claim come from?
Like so many dumb fringe ideas, it comes from Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier’s Morning of the Magicians (1960), where you will find almost the entirety of Swancer’s Mysterious Universe article given, almost verbatim, and with the same quotations and “facts.” Heck, the article even ends with the same “fact or fiction?” get out of jail free disclaimer that concludes the chapter in Morning. I can’t say this more plainly: Swancer’s article is as close as one can come to rewriting a chapter of a book and calling it “original” work.
Anyway, our Francophone authors provide no sources for their assertions, but they claim that Mundy was the first to report the facts, identifying his book as fiction laced with “scientific inquiry.” We know from Bergier’s letters and other writings that he was a huge fan of Talbot Mundy and, like Blavatsky with Bulwer-Lytton, considered his fiction to have secret and occult hidden meanings. “All mysterious India appears in it,” Bergier wrote of The Nine Unknown, according to Brian Taves’s critical biography of Mundy.
I can’t stress enough that almost every iteration of the story found online is a simple rewrite of Morning of the Magicians, usually point for point, in order, and without even a little critical analysis. This is an embarrassment because the copyists don’t realize that the English edition of Pauwels and Bergier re-translated French translations of English originals, so we end up with Mysterious Universe stating:
H.G. Wells once wrote of Asoka in his book Outline of World History, “Among the tens of thousands of names of monarchs accumulated in the files of history, the name of Asoka shines almost alone, like a star.”
This is verbatim from Morning of the Magicians; however, the book in question is Wells’s famous Outline of History, which actually said: “Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines, and shines almost alone, a star.” This is so easy to check that it is simply sad that hundreds of fringe authors, writers, bloggers, and columnists have failed to do so for 55 years. I own an early printing of the book, but it’s online for anyone to read.
Given the way Pauwels and Beriger operated, I wouldn’t put it past them to have imagined the nine Brahmins who tend the sacred fire in Jacolliot as being the same as the nine priests of the nine planets (the sun, the moon, and the seven non-earth planets recognized in the 1800s), which were an essential part of his occult system. This they could reasonably conclude as “evidence” of the Nine Unknown Men, though no such term appears in the book. However, Jacolliot wrote dozens of books, and unfortunately Pauwels and Bergier didn’t specify which one they were using. I was unable to find any references to nine men in the Google Books scans of the French editions of Jacolliot’s works, but that isn’t necessarily conclusive. A more generalized search for the French name given for this group, the Neuf Inconnus, returns no relevant results before Pauwels and Bergier either, suggesting that their phrasing is a direct translation from Mundy.
Pauwels and Bergier were notorious for borrowing from secondary materials, and Jacolliot appears frequently in one of their obvious inspirations, the works of Helena Blavatsky. In Isis Unveiled, Blavatsky specifically cites Jacolliot as her source for a “sub-brotherhood” of the “occult fraternity” of the Hermetic Brotherhood, the Pitris, whom she called “yet more arcane, perhaps” than the Hermetic sect. Since Pauwels and Bergier don’t specifically say that Jacolliot actually writes about Nine Unknown Men or their particular powers and attributes in any detail—only that “Jacolliot states categorically that the society of the Nine did actually exist” (Jacolliot est formel: la société des Neuf Inconnus est une réalité.)—it is reasonable to think that they read into the claims about an occult fraternity and a priesthood of the nine planets (or, more accurately, of “the nine principle divinities which rule the planets”) a confirmation of Mundy’s more elaborate version. That Blavatsky’s discussion of Jacolliot comes right after an (unrelated) mention of the Emperor Asoka only heightens the feeling that this is where the authors began.
Pauwels and Bergier had enormous influence on the fringe, with their chapter serving as the foundation for claims in five decades’ worth of books, many published in India, and the websites that copied shamelessly from one or more of them. Writing in The Stargate Conspiracy (2001), Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, misunderstanding Morning of the Magicians, asserted that Jacolliot “popularized” the Nine Unknown Men, probably because they got it from a mixed up version of the Pauwels and Bergier account that had been circulating since it was published in 1986 in K. L. Bhowmik’s Culture of the Past (“The legend of Nine Unknown Men was brought to light by Jacolliot, a French writer.”). Either that, or they have terrible reading comprehension.
11/10/2015 01:15:27 pm
>>misunderstanding Morning of the Magicians<<
11/12/2015 01:22:39 am
"Smithsonian Admits to Destruction of Thousands of Giant Human Skeletons in Early 1900′s" Hey Jason, not only did the US Supreme get involved but the Smithsonian openly admits to destroying "tens of thousands" skeletons of GIANTS all over the world because of order from the "higher ups" Read it and weep
11/12/2015 02:21:51 am
11/10/2015 01:15:55 pm
IMO Mundy told a damned fine story, I know his work is dated but I still enjoy Jimgrim and all.
9/23/2018 11:36:21 pm
You might be interested in knowing that the Nine Unknown have returned to 'pulp fiction' in the Clive Cussler & Boyd Morrisons novel "Shadow Tyrants". Though I suspect the authors are drawing on the 'Morning of the Magicians' iteration rather than the original tale.
11/10/2015 01:31:38 pm
I've pointed out on several of Swancer's MU articles when he's taken fiction (or possible fiction) as a source, and I've been shocked that his answer is usually along the lines of, "It's not my job to figure out what's true or not, I'm just asking raising possibilities." He's also obviously allergic to primary sources.* He's emblematic of the worst practices of the current crop of fringe writers.
11/10/2015 04:30:28 pm
Was the book Warren Smith's STRANGE SECRETS OF THE LOCH NESS MONSTER? That's where I first came across that one, I think.
11/10/2015 05:25:57 pm
No, the book I'm referring to is Sea Monsters: A Collection of Eyewitness Accounts by James B. Sweeney.
terry the censor
11/14/2015 09:29:39 am
> "It's not my job to figure out what's true or not, I'm just asking raising possibilities."
11/10/2015 01:40:31 pm
"This fact, most online fringe sources agree, was allegedly reported in Mundy’s Occult Science in India (1879)."
11/10/2015 02:03:22 pm
I've actually never read The Stargate Conspiracy, so I'm pretty curious about Picknett and Prince's Nine and Pauwels and Bergier's Nine. Are they supposed to be the same? My only knowledge of the book comes from the general idea as well as some details mentioned in Nick Redfern's Pyramids and the Pentagon (the Nine were apparently pretty racist).
11/10/2015 02:24:56 pm
Also, this article brings up the "Nine channeling" as well but connects it to the Simonomicon, so this could be of interest to you.
11/10/2015 02:25:50 pm
11/10/2015 02:05:55 pm
I'm honestly surprised the Nine Unknown Men haven't appeared in various fringe circles as further evidence of the New World Order, Reptilian overlords, Nephilim, lost civilizations, etc.
11/10/2015 02:13:12 pm
Give it time. :P
11/10/2015 02:53:40 pm
"IMO Mundy told a damned fine story, I know his work is dated but I still enjoy Jimgrim and all. "
11/10/2015 05:43:04 pm
You know, I can see this causing some people to get up in arms, but I have to say, I can see the point of the people who didn't want it. Lovecraft is one of my favorite authors and you can't deny his influence, but it does seem a little awkward basing a trophy off of him given his views. Also, despite his current popularity, I didn't think they would use Lovecraft.
11/10/2015 05:46:24 pm
Of course, there's also the issue of Heinlein and Campbell:
11/12/2015 06:17:49 pm
Platy, I think that you're going to find that EVERY sci-fi/fantasy writer has political views, and that they're views that SOMEONE or other doesn't like and would declare anti-American. For that matter, every FICTION writer who's worth anything has political views that someone doesn't like.
11/10/2015 07:28:03 pm
My problem with this entire affair was not what was done, but how it was done.
11/10/2015 08:16:05 pm
True, but I guess that could be one of those "wait and see" things. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. After all, the situation seems less about using someone of the "right gender/orientation" and more about how they were using an explicitly bigoted author in a diverse fanbase. Again, regardless of my opinion on the matter, it's still a valid point.
11/11/2015 02:08:28 am
"Whoever goes on it now is vunerable to accusations that they were not chosen on the merits, but simply because they were the right gender/orientation."
11/10/2015 03:02:49 pm
“After the conclusion of this [Third Buddhist] council, Emperor Asoka sent several missionaries to different countries of the world, for the propagation of newly organized Buddhist faith. The dispatch of Buddhist missionaires represents one of the significant results of this Council. The Mahavamsa, a Sinhalese chronicle, contains the list of nine groups of Asokas’s missionaries to [nine] different parts of the world”.
11/10/2015 03:14:52 pm
Jason, I wish you would stop trying to fool me. When I saw the title "The copy and paste mysteries of the nine unknown men" I thought you were talking about the Republicans running for President and their policies.
An Over-Educated Grunt
11/11/2015 07:01:37 am
I thought it was the new Wu-Tang album personally.
11/10/2015 09:43:10 pm
Fringe history authors present an excellent study in projectionism. They rant and rave about how acedemia are stuck in a bubble, yet refuse to admit/recognise the fact that they themselves just recycle the same talking points and sometimes copy each other's work. Or in David Hatcher Childress case, he just Colts his own work repeatedly that he in turn stole from dead authors haha.
11/11/2015 04:43:25 am
There really is no black and white distinction between Fringe and Mainstream unless you are absolutely 100% OBJECTIVE which would bring everything to a total standstill.
11/11/2015 08:05:04 am
It can't have been Ashoka, because it was the Atlanteans who put their technology in the Cave of the Ancients. I know this because Lobsang Rampa wrote it so
11/11/2015 06:20:21 pm
Yet another tidbit that made it into Technology of the Gods.
11/13/2015 03:59:38 am
They definitely had hover boards.
11/11/2015 09:30:01 am
Lobs an grampa would make a good comic strip.
11/11/2015 03:33:45 pm
i was thinking it would be a cracking TV series.
11/11/2015 09:41:26 am
Grampa goes on mythic quests and his pet lobster on a leash, "Lobs", gets off of the snarky one liners.
11/11/2015 10:30:09 am
That was Gerard de Nerval who took his pet lobster on a walk attached to a blue ribbon, in the Palais-Royal. He said: "I have a liking for lobsters. They are peaceful, serious creatures, They know the secrets of the sea, they don't bark, and they don't gnaw upon one's monadic privacy like dogs."
11/11/2015 09:43:24 am
Sorry, omit the word "of". This blog needs an edit feature.
11/11/2015 04:42:02 pm
Terry Melanson is a conspiracy theorist who dies study and udnerstand primary sources.
11/11/2015 10:24:18 pm
Gotta give you props Jason. Muddling through the crazy, especially the repetitive crazy, and presenting clear academic proofs is really impressive. Even if it's all off the top of your head it's still an effort of time and cognitive energy. Thanks. You save me a lot if time when I deal with this lunacy. I can click on your links and follow the trail....
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