PSEUDOHISTORY: Illusion, self-deceit, truth and lies
Sometime in the late seventies, I and Rose went to an auditorium in the university town of Lund in southern Sweden, to listen to a lecture and watch colour slides presented by Erich Anton Paul von Däniken. The hall was filled and the atmosphere was expectant. The crowd was mixed; enthusiastic UFO nerds sat with their cameras prepared, while sceptical academics had small notebooks ready to write down the Swiss amateur researcher's most outrageous claims.
A sturdy, calm and authoritative von Däniken entered, accompanied by excited applause, the podium and then displayed photographs of a massive, non-rusting iron pillar in New Delhi, the Cheops Pyramid, a large, sculpted slab covering a tomb in Mexican Palenque, monumental Moai heads from the Easter Island, Stonehenge, gold treasures and signs of UFO presence in caves in Ecuador, the Turkish Piri Reis map presenting the Antarctican coastline even before it had been discovered, the Tulli papyrus describing UFOs over ancient Egypt, the Peruvian Nazca lines and a host of other objects and sites proving that the earth had been visited by aliens from outer space, who had influenced and changed human culture and even our genetic composition.
von Däniken demonstrated how pineapples (though they are more likely pine cones) were depicted on Babylonian reliefs, far earlier than such fruits had been brought to Europe from the Caribbean.
There were pictures demonstrating how ancient Babylonians had used electric batteries. That Egyptians had used big light bulbs (more likely depictions of lotus buds enclosing snakes symbolizing their inherent fertility).
Space crafts from ancient India (actually heavenly temples).
Maya gods with space suits (head ornaments of wood and feathers).
The Kayapó people in Brazil, who during dance celebrations personalize ancient astronauts (actually shamans from the Mebêngôk people, among whom members of the Xikrin clan on specific occasions dress up as Bep Karoti´s mekakron, his spiritual double. Bep Karoti was a chief who sometime in the twentieth century introduced a new method of braiding carpets).
According to von Däniken, there could not be any doubts about the earth frequently and regularly being visited by advanced aliens. His claims came quickly and without a shadow of doubt. von Däniken spoke in a perfect English, moving continuously as he spoke. It was engaging, senseless, scientifically superficial and downright nutty.
When von Däniken after his imaginative speech, left the word free he was initially confronted with complete silence. Not even the dubious academics, with their scribble filled notebooks, came up with any objections. The speech had been overwhelming, in accordance with what in the United States has been referred to as Gish Gallop, named after the Creationist Duane Gish, who silenced critics by drowning them with an avalanche unfounded facts, jokes and blatant lies.
Duane T. Gish delivered his statements at a furious pace ̶ fast and furious. I assumed that von Däniken now would meet the sceptics´ expected criticism in a similar manner. He seemed to be doggedly sure of his case. An older lady rose, everyone was expectedly watching her. Like von Däniken she spoke English with an almost unnoticable German accent:
̶ Mr. von Däniken, I became interested in your theories concerning the Nazca lines in Peru, that you assume they served as runways for extra-terrestrial visitors.
von Däniken leaned forward:
̶ Yes, that's right, it's a perception I obtained after visiting the site several times.
̶̶ You also mentioned Maria Reiche´s name and told us that you know her personally.
Everyone in the hall had her/his attention focused on the lady, what was she hinting at? von Däniken answered with a calm and confident voice, though just as rapidly as he ahd done during his presentation:
̶ Yes, I know Maria Reiche. Although I, in some respects, hold different views about the origin of the Nazca lines, I remain a sincere admirer of her invaluable research and her self-sacrificial struggle to protect and preserve the Nazca lines. She lives in the area, in a very simple, even Spartan manner.
The lady answered:
̶ Yes, I am aware of that and share your admiration for her.
von Däniken now wondered:
̶ And your question?
̶ It's more of a query than a question. How many times have you met with Maria Reiche?
̶ Oh … Several times.
̶ Strange. She is familiar with your books, though she does not know you.
von Däniken was visibly shaken:
̶ How do you know that?
̶ For several years I have been a close friend of Maria Reiche and last time I met with her was a couple of months ago. She does not know you.
von Däniken was speechless. I do not remember how it all ended. The audience was stupefied. It was as if a bucket filled with ice cold water had been emptied over us all. I suffered with von Däniken, his public humiliation. He stood there before us, as embarrassingly exposed as The Emperor without Clothes, like a magician who had failed with his tricks, dropped his cards on the floor and did not dare to pick them up.
Why had Rose and I ended up there? In October 1972, the shah of Iran, Mohammad Rez Pahlavi, had placed an order for two passenger jets. He had recently traveled in a Concorde on a round trip between Teheran and Paris. The Shah had become mighty impressed: "It went so fast and easy. My suit did not even get wrinkled."
In connection with that, I read a Swedish newspaper article by the poet Gunnar Harding, in which he reviewed a book by Colin Wilson, The Occult. Harding described how impressed he had been by this more than 750 pages long and well-written exposé of the history of magic and unexplained phenomena, from ancient times to the present. Harding introduced his article with the Shah's statement and compared it with Wilson´s ideas. He had among many other things told the story of mankind's millennial dream of being able to fly and how this had given rise to amazing speculations and literary works stimulating mind and imagination, even if such fancies had not resulted in any practical achievements.
Wilson had written about St. Joseph of Coppertino (1603 - 1663), an Italian, Franciscan priest who by his superiors had been described as being an "idiot", which in those days probably had the meaning of being “simple-minded” rather than “idiotic”, though everone agreed that Joseph was a pious man who spent much of his days on meditation and penitence. However, quite often he entered in such an extreme state of ecstasy that he lifted from the ground ... he levitated:
What are we to make of such phenomena? It would be convenient if we could dismiss the whole thing as a pack of lies or mass hysteria, or hypnosis. We can certainly dismiss 95 percent of the miracles attributed to the saints in this way without a twinge of conscience [...] But the evidence does cannot be dismissed; it is overwhelming. His feats were witnessed by kings, dukes and philosophers (or at least one philosopher ̶ Leibniz). When his canonisation was suggested, the Church started an investigation into his flights and hundreds despotions were taken. He became a saint 104 years after his death. [...] Fr. Josef flew. There can be no possible doubt about that.
In Basilica di XII Santi Apostoli here in Rome there is an altarpiece with the flying Joseph of Coppertino, in front of which you every day may spot one or two students praying for divine intervention to help them with their studies and exams.
Gunnar Harding´s interest in the story of Joseph of Coppertino, and his association of him with the Shah's statement about his unwrinkled suit, were probably due to Harding being a poet and musician. He described how we all have a propensity to be dominated by everyday concerns. Routines weaken our preparedness for experiencing the mystery of existence, the prerequisite for flight of fancy, for dreams and for profound appreciation of the miracles and wonders of life. Sitting by our cocktails in a comfortable airplane seat we do not perceive the wonder implied in Josef of Coppertino´s flights.
Colin Wilson compares our daily lives with a man who, during his train journeys to and from his workplace, sits submerged in the local newspaper´s easily forgotten words (nowadays it would more probably be a mobile phone or iPad) until he one day lifts his gaze and through the window detects the passing landscape, marvels at its beauty and afterwards, with a renewed interest, observes his fellow travelers. To channel this feeling, to make it into life-enhancing awareness is what Colin Wilson in his book The Occult describes as Faculty X:
Someone accustomed to a modern city probably cuts out as much as 99 per cent of the stimuli that fall on the senses. We all know about this. But what we have not yet grasped is the extraordinary power we possess in being able to focus upon particular aspects of reality. This power is Faculty X, but at the moment we hardly make use of it, unaware of its potentialities.
I assume that Gunnar Harding, as well as several other poets and writers, became interested in The Occult after having read The Outsider, which a twenty-four-year-old Wilson had published in 1956. It was easy to identify with a young man who had travelled around in Europe, for a while had a minor administrative job, married, had a son and then divorced, constantly devouring one novel after another, while trying to write an amazing novel. Wilson had his reading in common with sevetal other people of his age; Kafka, Camus, Hesse, Eliot, Hemingway, Blake, T.E. Lawrence, Sartre, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Hamsun, H.P. Lovecraft and many others of a similar vein. I guess that many young persons still find their way to writers like these and might experience something like Wilson felt:
It struck me that I was in the position of so many of my favourite characters in fiction: Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov, Rilke's Malte Laurids Brigge, the young writer in Hamsun's Hunger: alone in my room, feeling totally cut off from the rest of society. It was not a position I relished.
Wilson began to write down his impressions from novels, biographies and diaries he was devouring. Like many other young people, he soon found literature that primarily concerned him dealt with experiences beyond social conventions. As the voice (it's the voice of the Great Boygen, a threatening troll) that come out of the darkness tells Peer Gynt in Henrik Ibsen's dramawith the same name:
Peer: Answer! Who are you?
A voice in the darkness: Myself.
Peer: Clear the way!
The Voice: Go roundabout, Peer! The hill's roomy enough.
Peer (tries to force a passage at another place, but strikes against something). Who are you?
The Voice: Myself. Can you say the same?
In his book, Wilson described his purpose in life as providing a description of how outsiders affect society and how society affects the outsiders. In particular, he was looking for different options that may provide life a meaning. In his next book, Religion and the Rebel, Wilson assumed he was on his way to find a solution ̶ religious mysticism. He strived after safeguarding his inspiration, while maintaining a critical thinking. A "genius" (Wilson was convinced he was one of those) lived dangerously:
Our life in modern society is a repetition of Van Gogh's problem, the day-to-day struggle for intensity that disappears overnight, interrupted by human triviality and endless pettiness.
Wilson's ideas made him seek contact with the American psychologist Abraham Maslow, who assumed that every human being strives to develop his abilities as far as possible. Each and every one of us ought to identify her/his mental strength and try to achieve what Maslow called “self-actualization”.
Most of us are unable to reach this state of bliss, though Maslow discovered among his students and patients that several of them had experienced moments of peak experience. A feeling that all our abilities, our experiences, during short, intense and blissful moments of happiness may converge into something that feels perfect. I do not really know what it may be, maybe something like what I have observed during voodoo ceremonies, when someone becomes possessed by a lwa, a god, and is suddenly transformed; singing, dancing and expressing her/himself in an unexpected manner. Other participants in the ceremonies state that a person behaving like that se sube, “raises”.
This can happen within different contexts; within the theatre world when an actor performs in such a manner that s/he seems to have been completely transformed. In music when someone begins to play or sing with such strength and inspiration that the musician her/himself does not understand it could. Within the flamenco culture such a state of mind is called tener duende, to have a duende (a kind of spirit that may possess people or places), it meaning that your mind and body are taken over by force/being far mightier than your own personality.
The passionate poet and play writer Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) did in several of his writings and speeches try to explain what it meant to be obsessed by a duende:
The actual fight is with the duende, [taking place in various ways] the quest for God is well-known, it may take us away from the barbaric methods of the hermit, towards the mystics´ more subtle approach. Like taking refuge in Santa Teresa's sheltered tower, or by following one St. John of the Cross's three paths. And even if you might be forced to complain, as Isaiah did: "You are indeed a hidden God," God will nevertheless send his thorns of fire to the one who searches for him. [...] The great masters from southern Spain, the gypsies, the flamenco artists, are already singing, already playing, they know that no strong feelings are achieved without the arrival of the duende. [...] No map or practice is required to find the duende. We feel his presence when he burns our blood like molten glass, desiccating everything that denies the solemn, beautiful geometry that crushes all pretension, he is the one who made Goya a virtuoso in grey silver ...
Colin Wilson was looking for a state that was not limited by our everyday existence. He pursued clues and inspiration among his favourite writers and philosophers. His ability to read and absorb large amounts of writing was impressive, but it probably also gobbled up his analytical abilities and sense of reality. Colin Wilson seems to have become drowned by his own capacity to consume and present vast amounts of reading and information, something that makes him highly readable even his beliefs and statements are becomung incressinly bizarre and irrational.
Wilson's condition worsened by the great response and all the praise he obtained for his Outsider. It is often said that it is not good to be too successful when you are young, and even worse if your talent brings you fame, rewards and wealth. Wilson became solidly convinced about his own excellence, though he was unable to repeat his first success. During his pursuit of peak experiences, he lost himself in reading and writing about crimes (he concentrated on mass murderers), sex (often quiet bizzare variants) and above all occultism, paranormal phenomena and pseudo-history - Atlantis, secrets of the great pyramids and other oddities. However, even if Wilson himself was inclined to support weird fantasies it probably ought to be stressed that he considered von Däniken to be an imposter and a liar, without a single trace of scientific accuracy and decency.
I asked a good friend, who like me as a young man had been fascinated by The Outsider, what he assumed to be the reason to why Colin Wilson had lost himself in occult stupidities. His answer was perhaps the most likely one:
̶̶ He tried to support himself by his writing, devoting himself to what he perceived to be the most lucrative themes.
Well, I devoured The Occult when I had finished high school and during my military service was assigned as telegraphist, something that meant I had to spend lonely nights by a telegraph transmitter and a switchboard. With my comrades I discussed occult things and the same day we were demobbed my friend Claes and I caught a train to the Continent. Claes seena program from the BBC ̶ Jerusalem's Lost Treasure. With great enthusiasm he had explained the content to me and our mates while we in a café just outside the Regiment were hiding from our military duties.
The documentary Claes had seen dealt with mysteries surrounding a provincial cleric, François-Bérenger Saunière (1852-1917), who in the small village of Rennes-le-Château in southern France suddenly had became wealthy, restored his parish church and equipped it with strange art works. The unexpected fortune of Father Saunière was explained by a pair of parchments with coded messages, which the priest had found under the church altar.Tthese documents had directed him to an immense gold treasure. The program´s producer, Henry Lincoln, had come across copies of these mysterious parchments, documents linking a branch of French nobility to esrly medieval Merovingian kings, Knight Templars and Cathars, the parish church of Rennes-le-Château and the French seventeen-century artist Nicolas Poussin.
All this was described by Henry Lincolnin his TV show.A complicated pattern that finally had revealed that Saunière was member of a mysterious brotherhood called Prieuré de Zion, which in 1070 had been founded by some monks arriving from Calabria. Prieuré de Sion had in 1099 been reorganized by the famous crusader Gottfried de Bouillion. The purpose of the brotherhood had been to safeguard Jerusalem´s temple treasures, including the Ark of the Covenant and the original Menorah, wich the Roman conquerors had stolen during their destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. The treasure finally ended up with the French Merovingians. In Palestine, Bouillon had learned about the secrets of the treasure and knew where it was. However, after leaving his county, Lorraine, in 1095, Bouillon had never returned from Palestine. In order to protect the temple treasure from discovery and abuse, Bouillon had invoked the brothers of Prieuré de Sion in the secrets and commissioned them to protect the treasure.
However, some members of the Prieuré de Sion could not refrain themselves from providing clues about its existence, among them the unknown writers of the parchments that Lincoln had been presented with. Nicolas Poussin, was one of them. In his famous painting Et in Arcadia Ego, he had suggested where the treasure was hidden. Finally had the priest Saunière dug up some of the gold and used it to restore his church, where he furthermore, through its artworks, left several clues how and where he had found it.
A nutty, though somewhat exciting story that I linked to a novel I had recently been given by my older sister, the confusing Monsieur, or the Prince of Darkness by Lawrence Durrell, who also dealt with secret societies in contemporary France, dark secrets, Knights Templar, Gnosticism and Chatars in Provence and Languedoc. As a result, I and Claes, as soon as we had been demobbed, took the train down to Languedoc and visited Rennes-le-Château, Carcasonne, Montségur and other places believed to have links with the Knights Templar and Chatars. We soon discovered that we were not the single outsiders in these places. We constantly encountered people, some of them quite odd, who ha wayched the same television program as Claes, while others, like Colin Wilson, had been far too impressed by occult literature.
When I had returned to Sweden, I signed up for Religious Studies at Lund University, the reason for this was not the least Colin Wilson and my reading about Chatars and other European heretics. While I studied History of Religions, I came across William James´s impressive The Varieties of Religious Experience, Spanish mystics, Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein and Nietzsche, Persian Sufis, Indian and Chinese philosophers, the world view of Indigenous People and much more that everntually transformed my youthful fantasies about alternative views of existence.
Of course, I also encountered pseudoscience in the form of von Däniken´s quite untrustworthy speculations about gods and angels actually being technically advanced aliens. Ideas that occasionally during seminars were mentioned by some nerd, These rengades were generally met with indulgence. von Däniken's naive and prosaic theories were considered as pitiful replacements for religious visions and profound mysticism. Explaining religious experiences as having been influenced by technological innovations that extraterrestrials in ancient times had bestowed upon humanity was nothing less than a vulgarization of human imagination and rationality.
As an example, consider the relief above K'inich Janaa Pakal's sarcophagus in Palenque. In an, possibly already obsolete, interpretation Linda Schele assumed it to be a representation of the Mayan life-sustaining world tree. The surrounding frieze thus presents celestial bodies, among them the sun, the moon and several stars, as well as the names of six members of the Pakal dynasty. The central imagery consists of a cross-shaped World Tree in which crown a quetzal is resting. The quetzal, with its green-shimmering feathers and its ruby-red breast, was Kukulkan´s, the Fetahered Serpent´s, bird "Ruler of the Air". Kukulkan was god of vegetation, wealth, freedom and rebirth. At the foot of the tree, the deceased king K'inich Janaa Pakal rests in the shape of Hun-Hunapah the maize god, creator of the world. It is from him that the World Tree sprouts. Pakal rests in a foetus position, on top of a deity that may be either Hun-Came, One Death, or Vucu-Came, Seven Deaths, rulers of the Kingdom of Death, Xibalba, "The Place of Fear". Of course, the symbolism is more profound and significantly more complicated than that, while its riddles are not yet fully resolved, though several of the characters can now be read. However, I find Mayan mythology far more interesting than von Däniken's interpretations that makes him discern an Alien, who with an oxygen device attached underneath this nose, leans forward above the console of a jet-driven spacecraft.
von Däniken grabs wildly any hint of ancient astronauts. It is quite enough for him to see a picture or read a superficial translation of a fragment from an ancient text to begin associating them with alien spacecrafts and all sorts of imaginary, technical gadgets. He makes me think of a teenage boy who digs into technical mail order catalogues to find exciting devises to fiddle with, or something that might impress his pals.
von Däniken's enthusiastic presentations of ancient technology also remind me of a program called Technical Magazine, which was broadcasted on Swedish television between 1957-87. Like in such a TV show, there is no sense of mystery in von Däniken´s interpretations, no visionary flights. No fuzzy detours! The spaceship has landed and out comes ET, everything is explained.
Ezekiel 1: 4-26 does according to von Däniken, simply describe a technologically advanced spacecraft, and through a touch by his magic wand Jewish Merkabah mysticism fades away.Two thousand years of philosophical deliberations and profound mysticism that gave rise to the Kabbalah's intricate doctrines. Compare von Däniken's spacecraft with the complex world found in Kabbalists´ interpretations of the vision of Ezekiel. For sure quite strange even that and much more difficult to grasp than von Däniken´s crude no-nonsense approach, but still immensely more fascinating.
The Kabbalists did not perceive any spacecraft, they recognized the angels of God, the Seraphim (a difficult concept, maybe they are not actual beings, perhaps they are Sefirots, "emanations" of God's eternal and energetic presence ) and made Ezekiel´s vision into an indication of their faith in God, the complicated machinery that maintains His creation. Ezekiel´s vision reflects different states of knowledge and consciousness inherent in the Universe. Our paths towards a vague understanding of God´s essentially fathomless existence and our own lives. Below I provide an extremely schematic representation of the Kabbalistic mind-set. If we want to immerse ourselves in Kabbalah's complex worlds, Gershom Scholem's books are a good, though not quite simple, introduction.
The various spheres of existence that many Kabbalists discerned through Ezekiel's visions were by some of them described as "heavens" or "spheres". Atziluth ("The Radiation", Divine Wisdom) was perceived as the abode of God, Ein Sof, "The Infinite", equaling absolute existence, in spite of actually being impossible to explain to a human being it may roughly be described as a state above and including self-consciousness; a boundless, all-encompassing reality. Beriah ("Creation”, Divine Understanding) the abode of Seraphim, "The Burning Ones”, where God´s presence is manifested through His radiance, His uninterrupted state of creativity. Yetzirah ("Formation", the moulding of thoughts and things), the sphere in which God's existence can be divined through human thinking/speculation, being partially grasped by our limited world of imagination, our intellectual capacities. Yetzirah may be described through myths and parables, though also by mathematics, physics and chemistry. Hayyot ("Living") the evident world, nature, human existence, where we humans live, act and create. A world that can be seen and touched, which constantly affects us and which we are ordained to protect and preserve. Assiah ("Action") The limited sphere within which each, single individual is active, which each and every one of us is influencing through our actions and thinking, the sphere of our personal responsibilities.
In his Chariots of the Gods? from 1968 and in a number of following books, von Däniken reiterates his arguments until they become quite tedious. He deprives the world history of its mystery, turning everything into consequences of ancient technological innovations provided by extra-terrestrial visitors. Some may find it much more exciting to consider a pile of ceramic chards, which probably consists of the remains of papyrus containers, to be broken galvanic batteries that charged primitive incandescent lamps and machines. However, I do not belong to those enthusiasts.
Who is Erich von Däniken? He was born in Zofingen in Switzerland in 1935 and received his basic education in a Catholic boarding school. After school, he started working as a waiter and bartender at a hotel in Bern where he met his current wife Elisabeth, they worked side by side at different hotels in Switzerland, the money they earned they used for travel, motivated by von Däniken's great interest in archaeology and ufology. Unfortunately, von Däniken was careless with other people´s money and even committed minor frauds and discreet thefts, which meant that he occasionally ended with juridical problems, including being sentenced to a four-month imprisonment.
In 1967, von Däniken while working at a hotel in Davos, met with Dr. Thomas von Randow, science editor at the German weekly magazine Die Zeit. Von Randow became impressed by von Däniken's enthusiastic story-telling about ancient spaceships and alternative archaeology. Admittedly, von Randow found it all to be far too fanciful for Die Zeit, but realized that there could be money to earn from a book about UFOs and ancient astronauts and accordingly put von Däniken in contact with a good friend of his, who was a book publisher. The publisher became interested and hired Wilhelm Roggersdorf, an editor with a keen sense of public taste, to edit and rewrite von Däniken's manuscript.
Roggersdorf was a pseudonym for Wilhelm "Utz" Utermann, a novelist and dramaturg who had been engaged in Nazi propaganda, among other activities he had been one of the main editors, Schriftleiter, for the Nazi party's main daily, Völkischer Beobachter. It is very possible that Utermann provided some of the racist undercurrents that may be discerned in Erinnerungen an die Zukunft, Memories of the Future, the original title of the Chariots of the Gods?, among other dubious statements the claim that aliens begat children with selected specimens of humanity and thus improved the genetic composition of some populations.
Racial views occasionally appear in most of the different writings of von Däniken, they are especially prominent in his Signs of the Gods from 1980:
Was the black race a failure and did the extraterrestrials change the genetic code by gene surgery and then programme a white or a yellow race? […] I quite understand that I am playing with dynamite if I ask whether the extraterrestrials ‘allotted’ specific tasks to the basic races from the very beginning, i.e. programmed them with special abilities. […] I am not a racialist …Yet my thirst for knowledge enables me to ignore the taboo on asking racial questions simply because it is untimely and dangerous… why are we like we are?
von Däniken elaborates his views in a Penthouse interview he gave to the future Nobel Prize Laureate Elfriede Jelinek (in my opinion one of the worst choices of the Swedish Academy):
These gods have also benefited man by creating Homo sapiens with the help of genetic mutation. They made him intelligent.
He even advocates eugenics, racial hygiene:
Assume I was experimenting with bacteria by placing them in test tubes. If I discover that a number of these cultures are developing erroneously, firstly to their own harm, secondly to the detriment of the environment, then I throw these test tubes into the fire.
Erinnerungen an die Zukunft became a great success in Germany and was soon translated into a multitude of languages , von Däniken became a wealthy, albeit controversial man. So far, he has written more than forty books, He wrote his second book Zurück zu den Sternen: Argumente für das Unmögliche, Return to the Stars: Evidence for the Impossible, while in prison where he had ended up for tax fraud and unpaid debts amounting to 750,000 USD. von Däniken was sentenced to three and a half years in custody, but was released when he was able to pay off his debts, and even more than that.
When, after the debacle in Lund, I read von Däniken's first book about extra-terrestrial visits, I was surprised by how much of it was not particular original. I had read about similar speculations before, for example in a book I once bought in a pharmacy in Santo Domingo. Most Dominican pharmacies used to market all sorts of strange, occult literature, from the awful, anti-Semitic The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to bitches´ brews of popular Latin American pseudo historians, like the Chilean neo-Nazi Miguel Serrano.
Well, at a pharmacy, I had picked up a Spanish translation of Le Matin des Magiciens from 1960. It was written by Jaques Bergier, born in Odessa, chemistry engineer, as well as former member of the French Resistance and Louis Pauwels, journalist at Le Figaro, a former Communist, nominated for the Goncourt Prize, a member of a host of secret societies and subsequently ending up as a fervent reactionary. This was a much more fascinating book van von Däniken's incresingly booring works.
I do not know if Le Matin des Magiciens, The The Morning of the Magicians, may be called pseudo history, rather it is a kind of magical realism, inspired by authors like Borges and Lovecraft. The book addresses Nazi occultism, a variety of conspiracy theories and ancient prophecies. In an initiated manner it describes modern alchemy, and not least theories of ancient, advanced races and unexplained "mysteries", several identical with those that von Däniken writes about, speculations such as Sodom´s and Gomorrah´s destruction through a nuclear explosion, as well as speculations concerning the Nazca lines.
This brings me back to Claes´s TV program ̶ Jerusalem's Lost Treasure ̶ which producer Henry Lincoln followed up the success with two more "documentaries" where he elaborated his claims even further. In 1982, he furthermore published a book, co-written with two other authors. Holy Blood, Holy Grail is a remarkable concoction in which the authors claim that Jesus was married to, and had several children with, Mary of Magdalene, who after her husband´s crucifixion with tiher children fled to what is present-day southern France. During the 500's AD, the reigning Merovingian kings were direct descendants of Jesus. The Holy Grail, in Medieval French Sangréal, was by Lincoln et. al. interpreted as Sangue réal, i.e. Royal blood, meaning that it was not at all a goblet in which Jesus's blood had been gathered, but rather "holy blood" in the sense of the DNA found in the veins of Jesus´s descendants. The secret organization Preuré de Sion was founded with the mission of safeguarding the Merovingian dynasty, until it once more could gain power over France. Several of the secret grandmasters of Preuré de Sion have been famous men, such as Nicolas Poussin, Isaac Newton and Leonardo da Vinci.
According to the authors of Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the secret brotherhood of Preuré de Sion still remains and this leads us to the strange secret French societies in which, for example, Louis Pauwels was a member. Pierre Plantard was born in 1920 as a son of a valet and a concierge, female janitor, but he claimed descent from the Merovingian kings. As an ultranationalist and anti-Semitist, Plantard the collaborated with the Nazis, who occupied Paris during World War II, claiming that he was an initiated Freemason able to reveal the subversive plans this secret organization.
Some time during the fifties, Plantard registered Prieuré de Sion as a charity organization and it is possible that he, with some friends and acquaintances, devoted himself to some puerile rituals. In 1961, Plantard read a book by pseudo historian Gérard de Sède, specialized in legends surrounding Cathars and Knight Templars. Plantard considered that Gérard de Sède could be useful for the spread of the myth of his own Merovingian heritage. Accordingly, Plantard suggested that de Sède and he could write a book based on what Robert Charroux had found out about Rennes-le-Château and unite those findings with Plantard's speculations about his own origins and the "holy blood" of the Merovingians.
Robert Charroux, whose real name was called Robert Joseph Grugeau, had before he could support himself on his books worked within the French postal service. He was one of the first to write extensively about ancient astronauts visiting Earth from other planets, both as science fiction and "documentary investigations". There is no doubt that von Däniken is well acquainted with Charroux's various writings.
By the beginning of the sixties, Charroux had in a local newspaper come across the story about how the priest Saunière in Rennes-le-Château had constructed a church that revealed how he had found a gold treasure. A man who figured in that article was Noël Corbu. He had in 1946 bought the land that was part of Saunière's inheritance fromthe preist´s sole inheritress Marie Dénaranaud, who had been his housekeeper. A few years later Corbu set up a restaurant in Rennes-le-Château. Ten years later, the local newspaper La Dépêche du Midi published a series of interviews with Corbu, in which he told the story that Father Saunière had found a treasure containing no less than 28,500,000 gold pieces, intended as ransom for St. Louis who had been held captive by the Saracens. St. Louis´s Egyptian gaolers had nevertheless been pleased with the 400,000 livres tournois that had already been delivered and in 1250 they released St. Louis from his imprisonment. The gold that his mother Blanche of Castile had collected was thus not delivered, but instead interred somewhere close to Rennes-le-Château, this had been revealed through some parchments found by Saunière under the altar of his parish church.
Robert Charroux became fascinated and contacted Noël Corbu, along with his wife and the restaurant owner Charroux, with thethe help of a metal detector, searched both the church and the landscape surrounding Rennes-le-Château. All in vain. The unsuccessful treasure hunt, did however not impede Charroux's firm belief in the existence of an amazing gold treasure and he later incorporated the story into a book he called Trésors du monde enterrés, emmurés, engloutis, "Treasures of the world buried, immured, engulfed". It was that same book that Pierre Plantard and Gérard de Sède had read and eventually made into the foundation of their concoction L'Or de Rennes from 1967, which in turn became the inspiration for Henry Lincoln's TV "documentaries".
To make his story more credible, Plantard along with his good friend, Philippe de Chérisey, had fabricated the "ancient" parchments that Saunière allegedly had found under the altar of his parish church. They photographed thier fake evidence and presented it as the real stuff in the book L'Or de Rennes. It was copies of these documents that Lincoln presented in his TV show. Plantard and his co-author Gérard de Sède eventually became nenemies. However, like Lincoln, they continued to spread their fancies about the gold treasure buried in Rennes-le-Château.
It soon became apparent that the clues about a treasure allegedly left by Saunière in his church were non-existent, as well. The sculptures, including the fearsome devil figure beneath the baptismal font, originated from an order catalogue issued by a company in Toulouse specializing in the production of church ornaments ̶ La Maision Giscard. The renovation of the parish church in Rennes-le-Château, including the purchase and installation of the painted gypsum sculptures from La Maision Giscard was not funded by Saunière, but by a wealthy benefactor, a certain Mme Marie Cavailhé, who in July 1887 had paid 700 francs for the artworks.
Saunière, who due to various irregularities was deprived of his position as parish priest, nevertheless continued to serve as an unauthorized vicar in Rennes-le-Château. He did not earn an income from his discovery of a treasure, but by taking illegally payments for church services, which were either free of charge, or were not been accounted for to Church aithorities, something which along with other offenses originally had led to his discarding.
Jesus had children with Mary Magdalene, their descendants are still living among us and are protected by the Prieuré de Sion. The story sounds familiar, it is one of the main ingredients in Dan Brown's immensely successful The Da Vinci Code. Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln also recognized the story and in 2006 they sued Dan Brown for plagiarism. They lost the process and had to pay three million English pounds for the costs of the trial. The problem was that the authors had claimed that their Holy Blood, Holy Grail had been based on serious research and thus was entirely reality-based. However, this became their downfall because the book could thus not be regarded as their original creation, which had been stolen by Brown. Accordingly, the data they had been presenting in their book were authentic facts and thus available to each and every one, unless s/he had not directly plagiarized the actual wording of the original text of the book. This might happen if you invent stories and claim they are true and well-founded. The trial was actually about the difference between facts and fiction, something that pseudo historians have difficulty in grasping, not least von Däniken.
By now, Rennes-le-Château and von Däniken are likely to have become forgotten history as well, but this does not prevent that distorted and forged past, in company with absurd conspiracy theories and quack medicine prosper and are further developed throughout the digital media network. It has been written a lot about how the truth is becoming perturbed and "smoothened out" by oversimplifications. Nowadays people are affected by an increasingly limited patience and often fail to read any written text longer than a twitter message. Efforts to foster equality and democratization have been taken as excuse for attacks on the "expert society". Each and every one can now become her/his own professor and disseminate unfounded insights and opinions, while s/he may pretend that their knowledge is the result of years of in-depth and critical research.
And this is not just due to the net. Intellectual lethargy is spreading. Earlier reputable and serious book publishers are no publishing mumbo-jumbo written by pseudohistorians and dubious advocates of all kinds of ridiculous miracle cures. Previously, such books were in the bookshops were referred to suspect departments such as "New Age", or "Alternative Medicine", but now you may find them under the "History", "Science" or "Healthcare" sections.
The list of intellectual fraudsters and quacks can be made almost infinite: Menzies, Diop, Schucman, Berlitz, Hancock, Jacobovici, Icke, Starbird, Farrakahn, Bauval, Mısıroğlu, Hubbard, Szukalski, Brennan, Tabov, Calleman, Pye, Chandler, McKeith, Asante, Cremo, Hartung, Deretic, Fomenko, Gaddis, Behe, Gardner, Duesberg, Kolosimo, Potter Gale, Landsburg, Tsoukalos, Levashov, Marss, Graf, Pellegrino, Phillips, Sitchin, van Sertima and Holford. That was just a minorl selection of charlatans, there are thousands like them. Scatterbrains denying the Holocaust, extolling their own "roots" and "people", informing you about what kind of vegetables that cure cancer, claiming that vaccines are fatal complaining about a devious "knowledge monopoly", and detect aliens everywhere.
Several earn fortunes through their stupidities. Once I heard about the opinion of a French minister: "I'm not particularily disturbed when an idiot declares that God is an onion, though when he on top of that forces people to believe in such an idiocy, preaching that we should be prepared to die or kill for that onion and furthermore asks for money to hear him praying and preaching such mumbo-jumbo, then I become upset."
When I half a year ago worked as a high school teacher, I was surprised by learning that several of my students were firm believers in the existence a secret society – the Illuminati – which goal it is to control governments and worldwide organizations in order to create a New World Order, meaning that their members will obtain absolute power over the world's wellbeing. Illuminati appears in Dan Brown's novels, in computer games and movies, while rappers and rock bands sing about them. This is one reason to why it may assumed that the Illuminati are non-existent, though that did not convince my students that everything told and written about the devilish influence of the Illuminati is completely. Why trust my opinions when they are opposed to what is preached on the web and by idols like Jay-Z or Beyoncé?
By the way, the mighty President of the USA also presents the image of an all comprehensive, secretive elite making "ordinary people" powerless and forgotten. Unemployed ex-workers, firm believers in God and America are emerging from an ever growing rust and suffer hard times while academics and politicians enjoy the good things in life. Thankfully Donald J. Trump has promised to drain the swamps filled with manipulative parasites and transmitters of fake news.
An attempt I made, which hopefully affected some of the Illuminati-believers, was to bring with me a book that I had bought and read while living in New York ̶ The Illuminatus Trilogy. I was written by Robert Wilson and Robert Shea and consists of three novels ̶ The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple and Leviathan, the last written in 1975. The authors have described the three novels as "fairy tales for adults" and the action is certainly absurd.
The action takes place in different alternative universes and mixes quantum mechanics, New Age philosophies, conspiracy theories, pseudohistory, mythology, fantasy, science fiction, B movies and comics. The absurd plot is difficult to describe in any sensible manner, though a brief summary may possibly provide a superficial perception of the character of this bizarre trilogy.
Two detectives residing in New York are investigating at terror attack directed against a left-wing magazine, writing about the murders of Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King Jr. The detectives are following tracks indicating a number of powerful secret societies. The editor-in-chief of the wrecked newspaper has been imprisoned for drug possession and is being tortured in a secluded prison in Texas. However, he is released by The Discordians, a resistance group commanded by a mysterious millionaire, Hagbard Celine. They blast the prison and brings with them the editor in Hagbard's golden submarine. It turns out that The Discordians are involved in global warfare against The Illuminati, an organization secretly controlling the entire world. Hagbard finances the Resistance through drug trafficking.
The action gradually derails and moves between Las Vegas, where the US Government Agency is experimenting with chemical weapons, a Chicago controlled by gangsters, Atlantis where Howard, a talking octopus, lives together with his gang of porpoises, and the island of Fernando Poo, which will be the scene of an upcoming cold war between Russia, China and the United States.
A satanist rock band collaborates with American scientists to stage a massacre intended to trigger off the energy needed to revive ancient Illuminati, among them Adolf Hitler. This will happen during a Woodstock-like event in the Bavarian town of Ingolstadt, in the vicinity of which hibernating Illuminati and an army of Waffen SS rest in the depths of a lake called Totenkopf. The plans are thwarted when the rock band and several Illuminati are killed by The Discordians, supported by a giant incarnation of the Eris, the Earth goddess .
After mission accomplished, the New York detectives and The Discordians take their refuge in Hagbard's golden submarine for a final confrontation with Leviathan, a pyramid-shaped, amoeba-like ocean monster, which is pacified by accessing the submarine's computer, that puts him in contact with other creatures and relieves him from his immense loneliness. Once the threat of the Leviathan has been eliminated, Hagbard and The Discordians can finally defeat The Illuminati and disappear into the Universe´s immensity.
This concoction originated from the brain and actions of Robert Edward Wilson (1932 - 2007). Wilson moved during the fifties and sixties around within New York's beat cliques, with acquaintances like Timothy Leary, Richard Alpert, Allan Watts and Allen Ginsberg. As a "dadaist, agnostic and futurist," Wilson was engaged in the anarchist-synergic politics of beat prophets of the time.
Wilson regarded himself as a "nonbeliever". He did not want to create any "doubt in God, but doubt in everything". A mission he realize wd, together with a certain Robert Shea, as responsible for Playboy's questions-and-answers-column, here they excelled by acting as "scientifically" reliable journalists answering both submitted and self-manufactured queries about the ”unexplained”, making them fabricating elaborate hoaxes evolving around conspiracies, spirituality and religion. An activity that found its way into their Illuminatis trilogy. Wilson and Shea considered their dadaist/anarchist role playing as a means to ridicule pompous elitism and ludicrous escapism. They could hardly imagine that their fantasies about Illuminati and pseudohistory would stimulate the phenomena and the perceptions they intended to make fun of.
Wilson and Shea assumed that they through their satirical exaggerations would reveal the absurdity of pretentious make-beliefs about esotericism, conspiracy theories and all other forms of superstitions. Nevertheless, they ended up in the wrong corner the ring, acting in accordance with the theories of Princeton philosopher Harry G. Frankfurt in his book On Bullshit:
[A bullshitter] does not care whether the things he says describe the reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.
According to Frankfurt, a bullshitter cannot be characterized as a liar. What s/he states is beyond lie and truth Bullshitters are well aware of the difference between lies and truth, they know when they lie. Bullshitters may perfectly well believe in what they state. Even though they expose absurd allegations, they tend to defend themselves by declaring:
That's what I think and beleive. That's my truth. You can dismiss my statements only when someone else is coming up with a better explanation than mine. An explanation that I even can understand.
People who claim the truth of phenomena that cannot be proven or disproved are often not honest, only confused. In a world without fixed boundaries and firm opinions, where everything is uncertain, they opt for explanations that make life predictable. Fixed routines and authoritarian dogmas that convince us that things happen for a reason. That everything can be explained. Even if they believe in illusion, their faith provides meaning and purpose to their lives. As Wittgenstein pointed out ̶ to get up on a roof, we need a ladder, but once we are there, it has served its purpose.
My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them — as steps — to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)
He must transcend these propositions, and then he will see the world aright.
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