Take the Paeleolithic Renaissance.
There is currently no universally accepted -or even verifiable- explanation for this simultaneous global flowering of art, and technological innovation that occurred pretty much everywhere where the earth wasn’t covered in a two mile block of ice.
Whatever it was essentially kicked off ‘modern humanity’ as we would understand it.
Pseudohistory has a tendency to immediately jump to explanations that rely on ancient astronauts and lost civilisations.
The most popular orthodox version of the story of our beginnings lies in the work of James David Lewis-Williams whom we will return to later but you can pick up the gist in the first half of this interview with him here.
Orthodoxy is essentially saying “we don’t know how it happened but it’s definitely not whatever crazy talk you’re spouting.” Forget beyond the data. It even refuses to speculate with it. Like the geological age of the sphinx, ignorance is the best policy, apparently.
Because the natural response to their position is “oh really? Well why don’t we just find out?” Pseudohistory legitimately exposes just how little the scientific method actually underpins modern historic academia. Why not start with the verifiable scientific facts and build from there? Why not start with the footprints found in South America that are 12,000 years too old for your ‘population of the Americas’ theory? Why not start with the geological age of the Sphinx? Why are you sticking to a patently wrong story?
Pseudohistory fulfills this classical satanic role. It challenges, it pokes at the artifice, it demands hegemony speaks the truth… it calls out its lies.
Wizards, I like to think, sit somewhere in between the two poles of historic and pseudohistoric. Because there is a critical interplay here… a yin and yang exchange that we use to weave the narrative of our existence, of our place in the world.
Graham Hancock says in this interview that he “presents anomalies rather than a belief system.” Debate that assertion amongst yourselves but this is the point he is driving at… wizards should hypothesise with the available data and then make amendments as new data comes to light.
And you know what? It works. Agitation in a system leads -eventually- to innovation. Here is a quote from an interview with the amazing Jacques Vallee about the orthodox treatment of UFO encounters:
By denying the reality of the reports, brushing aside the witnesses…and treating them like fools or crooks, the academic skeptics are actually teaching the public that science is impotent at studying the phenomenon.
Pseudohistory was refused entry into the tenured ivory towers of bitchy academia so it turned around and went after the villagers instead. It went after us. It’s much better at capturing mindshare because the thing about being locked out of the towers is that it applies to everyone who doesn’t put on a tweed jacket and (hopefully) metaphorically blow the head of the department.
Pseudohistory’s near-irresistible temptation to speculate beyond the data -to make ever more bold claims- is an entirely understandable manifestation of the narrative fallacy. For instance, Richard Hoagland has spent decades agitating NASA about structures on the moon and Mars. Decades. Doing one thing. That gets into your head, man. So it’s no surprise he thinks JFK was murdered because he was about to give the space programme to the Russians and that returning astronauts have their memories erased. We don’t need to talk about reality tunnels, we’re all wizards here.
One last point to bear in mind, especially as we move further into the fringe… the final thing that paints pseudohistory into a crazy corner is ‘false’ or ‘counter’ pseudohistory created by the orthodoxy; psyops being a publicly acknowledged -and regularly used- strategy by most major governments. (Sometimes I really do wonder about Crowley’s claim that his pro-Nazi propaganda was deliberately outrageous and paid for by the Secret Service Bureau so as to weaken the entire pro-Nazi discourse on the east coast. It only sounds weird until you realise we were even using Roald Dahl for a very similar thing.)
Pseudohistory should not -at least when deployed properly- function as a complete replacement of a world narrative constructed by the inherently conservative institution of academia. Far from it. It augments the story by holding up the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that don’t fit and says “what about these?”
Given we have explored a potentially more sophisticated role for the field, perhaps it’s time we take back the word? Perhaps it’s time we reclaim it as our own like so many previous pejoratives that have been hurled at those who ever dared to suggest that being different is the same thing as being bad? I can’t imagine the parades will be quite as dazzling but it’s worth a shot:
We’re here. We’re pseudohistoric. We don’t want any more Bering ice bridge theory.