It amuses me how strong the tendency is among corners of the magical world to throw the baby out with the bath water. Almost as if, should you find one idea in a book or a blog post you disagree with then the whole lot has to go.
You could -and I do- make the case that it’s ultimately better for you in the long run to expose your self to ideas you don’t agree with rather than ones that you do.
Besides, you’re rarely going to agree 100% with something. It seems like such a waste.
Which brings us nicely to Graham Hancock.
Firstly, let me say I am a fan. And I know that saying that runs the risk of getting a whole lot of tedious comments on this post about how he misquotes people and blah, blah, blah.
Yeah fine. Whatever.
But that’s what you get. No one else puts in this amount of work and research when it comes to finding historical outliers. He’s building an argument. And all his books are rammed with fascinating chunks of history. This is what I read him for. As far as I’m concerned his two main shortcomings are:
- A tendency to speculate beyond the data.
- Having a really pissweak editor. (His books are extremely overwritten. You could chop a third out.)
But it’s the first point I want to address today.
You see, I’m re-reading Talisman. And I definitely recommend it. There’s a lot of good stuff in there, as always. The part on my beloved Occitania would be perfect if it mentioned or even speculated that Al-Andalus may have been one of the sources of Gnostic or Platonic thought seeing as the kingdoms were next to each other but whatever.
I still like it.
However there’s an issue with one of the underlying conclusions. And it’s one of intent. Thinking that there is a 1000 year conspiracy hell-bent on rebuilding a mythical version of an ancient Egyptian city according to astrological principles and reintroducing a solar god in a planet-wide new religion is an example of the narrative fallacy. (I want to say “unfortunately.” Is that weird?)
Our brain likes to fit stories around facts. The facts in this case being that a collection of freemasonic and hermetic ideas were popular among the European elites in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The popularity of these ideas influenced the rebuilding of Paris and London and the construction of Washington.
So far so factual but if this was an actual conspiracy then what exactly is being passed down through that 250 year window?
Yes, the leading thinkers from the American revolution were Freemasons. Yes, they hung out in the same Paris salons and lodges as their hermetic, sorcerous continental brothers who included the world’s leading urban architects. Yes those French revolutionaries were also Freemasons who were influenced in turn by late Renaissance Italian magicians and the hermetic courts of central Europe. Yes, those Renaissance magicians themselves were influenced by Occitanian and Arabic discoveries of Greek/Alexandrian thought.
Yes, Washington is laid out according to an eighteenth century Freemasonic understanding of Egyptian talismanic magic. Yes, so is Paris. Yes, London was supposed to be a kabalistically laid out ‘New Jerusalem’ following the Great Fire with St Paul’s as Tiphareth/Solomon’s Temple but the king was basically too lazy and cheap to learn new street names. As a result it’s only a bit ‘New Jerusalem’.
So they were all Freemasons and hermetic sympathisers. Does this make it a conspiracy? A conspiracy of what? We’re talking a good couple of centuries here. These are just ideas. Popular beliefs. Ideas are what gets passed down, not secret plans.
Jason was talking about fads in magic recently and it’s quite clear to see that magic has always had fads.
I’m sure you’ll all agree that magic, fundamentally, is a good idea. Good ideas are shared. Good ideas survive. There need be no more to it than that.
Calling the talismanic nature of these cities a conspiracy -or implying that there was some great plan behind it- would be like saying skinny jeans are a conspiracy.
No they aren’t. Popular ideas move very easily across similar social groups and these were all bourgeois white men. And it was a similar social group. They’re all from the same class and so would have had more in common with each other than the baker at the end of their street. (You could argue otherwise with Washington but… don’t. You’d be missing the wider point.)
Nobody was trying to secretly install an ancient Egyptian god at the top of a new planetary religion. Egypt was the fad at the time so the Etre Supreme took on the whole ‘Eye in the triangle’ look. All they were trying to do was de-christianise the country so break the power of the church and promote reason as a better guiding force in man’s affairs.
As far as I am concerned, the great battle of history is not to uncover the “secret machinations” that have been running the world but to just openly acknowledge and re-install the primacy of magic into the existing narrative.
The narrative fallacy doesn’t just impact our political history. It has huge implications for a sense of identity in particular Pagan circles. You could see that with the Triumph Of The Moon hullaballoo some months back and the more recent, out-of-nowhere, bizarre claims to antiquitous authenticity emanating from certain corners of our world.
But again, what is being passed down? Something may look at first glance like a classical survival but all you can say for certain is that it’s a few concepts that have randomly tumbled down through history to survive into the modern day.
Tolkien used to refer to fairy tales as “the furniture in the nursery”. What he meant is that fairy tales are old stories that -like furniture- may have once been in pride of place in the living room until being replaced by newer items, then they were moved to the second bedroom and then finally they were left in the nursery when there was nowhere else to store them and the kids needed something to knock around.
Undoubtedly some classical magical survivals have tumbled and knocked down to us in a similar way to but this isn’t to say the furniture had a plan.
So yes, the illuminati built and ran your world. And they did it accidentally.