Many years ago, Dan and I were not exactly New Age — we’ve always both had a horror of what you could call whoo whoo stuff, and even if we flirt with it, we usually spring back to reality fairly quickly — but we could be mistaken for that by people who didn’t look too closely.
Part of it was that we did most things from scratch, like, you know, cooking and clothes making and stuff like that, including rebuilding the “distressed” houses we bought. Now, this was economic sense, not “We believe our clothes should be woven entirely out of organically grown wheat” but if people didn’t know all the tips and tricks of “how to live on one salary and make it look like two” they assumed we were doing it to save mother Earth, or whatever. So we rang a lot of people’s “crazy hippie bells.”
When Dan got his job in CO it was through a contractor the company he’d actually be working for. The contractor had a relocation specialist who got in touch with with us. Weirdly, she wanted us to — back then — buy in Denver, and commute to the Springs (given the hours programmers worked in the early 90s, that was a non-starter.) Mind you, the area she wanted us to buy in was considerably more central and now more expensive than where we are. Maybe we could have afforded it in the 90s, when it was still considerably blighted, and maybe we should have, even if we only went there on weekends.
Anyway, part of the way she determined where you should be living was with an interview where she asked us the weirdest questions. And at some point she went “Wow, you’re eccentric, but no bells.” And we went “bells?” and she said she’d be talking to some people, they sounded perfectly sensible, and suddenly her “crazy warning bells” would start to ring. You know, something like “We’d like a house near our [type of church] and the park, so we can walk the dog, and a good school for the boys. Oh, yeah, and it must be near a good New Age Store so we can buy pyramids for defense, when the UFOs land.”
With us it had gone the other way around, mostly because what she’d mistaken for “really weird” was “science fiction geek” (remember, we weren’t always as dominant as we’re becoming.)
This is apropos of the fact that I’ve been reading a lot of weird and speculative stuff about human evolution, pre-history and ancient civilizations. Yes, it’s for world building. Yes, you’ll get the benefit of it, through Baen if they accept the series.
It’s not the first time I’ve done this. Part of the background for the Shifter series, and the reason it’s more sf than fantasy was a Hindu-financed book on “forbidden archeology” I read many decades ago. For this I need a millennia old organization that has seen a couple of civilizations about our level — but magic based — rise and fall. So it’s important to have an idea what to refer to, etc, although the books would take place in the present. It’s closer to the background of Repairman Jack than Star Gate. More plausible than Star Gate, too.
Anyway, the problem is that I find myself watching these videos or reading these books, and suddenly the bells go off.
I’ll start by saying that a lot of these “archeologists of the damned” have a point. Not in everything, mind, but because archeology is submerged into such a sea of unknown unknowns and also besieged by crazy people talking about the Power of Pyramids, there is a tendency for academy-sponsored archeologists to come up with the most stodgy, conservative theory ever and hold onto it buckle and tongue, even when contrary evidence surfaces.
These “priests of science” screaming “the science is settled” piss me off so much I ALMOST become a pyramid power person myself. At least I feel like denting their shiny theories all over, just because I can.
However when reading or listening to unconventional archeologists, there is ALWAYS that point where I feel like I’m talking to the old civil engineer in Porto who had gone insane and who spent his days drawing a bridge to cross the Atlantic. He was sensible and rational, talking about forces and waves, and stuff to do so storms didn’t break the bridge. And then, after you listened to him for hours, he’d say “And it will float, because it’s made entirely out of soap. And it won’t dissolve because soap doesn’t dissolve in salt water.” (This has become a short hand in our family. When one of us is making some plan completely out of reality, one of the others will go “and it’s made entirely out of soap.”)
I’ve come to understand WHY the relocation agent said “and then the bells go off” when talking about some of her former clients. Also, I’ve learned to identify the “and it’s made out of soap” moment. Here are some of the “my bells are ringing” moments.
1- Again with the fracking pyramids.
Seriously, I get it. They’re very impressive, and we can’t for absolutely sure know how they were built, or why only for a relative brief period, with before and after being completely unable to reproduce the tech. I GET IT.
What I seriously doubt is that every new discovery that doesn’t quite fit the pattern is tied to the pyramids.
The same goes for the Templars. In fact mention of the Knights Templar is usually a bell so loud I can’t think through it.
2- It’s ALL about the stars.
The minute someone explained Gobekli Tepe with “It’s all about the constellations” my eyes started rolling so hard I looked like a slot machine. Oh, sure, sometimes buildings align with this or that constellation, or might have if they were built at a particular time. I’ll even buy that SOMETIMES this was intentional (if you’re building in a way that aligned with the stars ten thousand years before or after you built, probably not.) BUT SERIOUSLY every single time?
More than likely when the buildings aligned with the stars it was because of some kind of astrology, like say Chinese homes and graves are aligned in certain ways, and not to “send a message” to us. (More about that later.) No, seriously. I can’t imagine anything more unlikely than spending decades of man-years building a thing so we could send a message to our descendants ten thousand years hence. I seriously doubt that most of us can really muster much care for our descendants that far off, okay?
I also have real trouble believing that there are no other messages to send to the future than “when the sun is in the seventh house, and mercury aligns with Mars….”
I’m fairly sure for whatever reason Gobekli Tepe or the pyramids were built it was to be USED in their time, and not as a sort of telegraph through the ages. Which brings us to…
3- It’s all about US. Not the people who built the thing. Not the aliens who are supposed to have arrived. No, it’s all about us. And if you read the books or watch the videos, you can’t help thinking of Good Omens, where aliens start popping out all over to give the most trite messages ever.
This is the same thing. It turns out that what the ancients who built the pyramids want to tell us is whatever the New Age cause du jour is. So that, you know, they built huge structures of stone to tell us the age of Aquarius is coming and we should all be enlightened and smoke weed, and stuff. OR the Maya calendar was right. Or we should not have cars and pollute. Or– whatever. The cause du jour that confirms the “researchers” biases. You got it. That’s exactly what the ancients went through horrible time and effort to tell us. Because it’s all about us. We know we’re the most important people in history, so why wouldn’t they?
You know in Independence Day when they say “they didn’t come millions of miles to start a fight with us.” Well, as an alien species that’s one of the few reasons to come hundreds of light years, or whatever. Because you need the planet to survive.
And as an ancient people, supposing there was some kind of civilization before, whatever they built they built for THEM. If it’s all about us, it’s probably all moonshine.
4- It’s all mystical… and it’s all true.
Sure, I’m sure the ancients had their own religions, just like we do. And it could be immensely important for them to go through endless expense to gratify their beliefs or worship their gods. But–
But just because they’re older and they believe it, it doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t mean their civilization really was run by Zeus or more likely for these things Osiris. It doesn’t mean that their theory of what happens after death is true.
It just means that’s what they believed. (And here the “priests of official science” can also just stop with calling everything they don’t understand a temple. Sometimes “We don’t know what it was for” is PERFECTLY acceptable and the right answer.)
5- They were advanced/we don’t understand how they developed/where they came from, so it must be… Space Aliens!
Seriously? In the time now estimated from when human beings first came into being to the first confirmed civilization signs (Gobekli Tepe) as of right now, there’s space for SEVERAL civilizations. Hell, there’s space for civilizations at our level, much less say Roman level.
The “priests of science” idea of a long stagnation and TONS of nonsense about when “sentience began” (Are you sentient tovarish? How about a cat?) is just that, nonsense. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and the long stagnation might simply be a period when all the signs of civilization are buried under water/were destroyed by vulcanism/ are under ice in Antarctica. The only reason that sounds crazy to you is how crazy archeologists of the damned who have posited this before being… well… crazy. But ignore the pyramids and Easter Island, and think in terms of likelihood. Assume our ancestors were a lot like us, tinkering apes. And assume what is now 150k to 200k of anatomically modern humans. The most ancient sign of “civilization” we have goes back 12k years. Now do the math. There could EASILY accounting for time in between to “forget’ except at the level of distant legends ten past “lost” civilizations.
These don’t need to be more advanced than ours — that’s also a sign of crazy cakes — or even advanced the same way. Their material culture might well have been at the level of ancient Greece or Rome, though. (Though how cool would it be if one of of those made it to the stars, and when we get there they’re like “b*tch, what took you so long?” because they took every “civilized human being” and only missed some aboriginals in the jungle, hence accounting for our genetic bottle neck. BUT NOTE I’m a writer, and I like this because it sounds cool, not because it’s plausible.)
But that’s the other part of it and a rebuke to the priests of science too. Yep, things like Gobekli Tepe and the pyramids can and sure as shooting did co-exist with the most primitive stone tools and cave drawings. Because, you know, even now, with Western Civ having more penetration that even our ancestors 200 years ago could possibly imagine, there are still Amazonian tribes who don’t have a concept of counting above 3. And if we all got into an interstellar ship to escape Nebiru (don’t get me started. That’s a gong, right there) tomorrow, there would be a lot of people left behind who are at different civilization levels, never got the call and are REALLY GOOD at hiding.)
6- The old myths are ALL true.
That’s a massive bell, right there. One of these guys was talking about oral traditions transmitted ten thousand years.
Sure there are some fragments, but mostly we retain one central event (both the deluge and dragons seem to be worldwide) but the story gets crazy different really fast, the moral is all different, etc.
Sure I’m willing to believe there might be some elements that are distant echoes of something. MAYBE. BUT they could also be distant echoes of how the human subconscious is wired. (From the resemblance between modern soap operas and the stories of ancient gods, I’d go with the human subconscious likes certain things, like mysterious twins, ‘she didn’t really die’, everyone being in lust with everyone else no matter how unlikely. Oh, yeah, and talking babies. This seems to be a BIG thing.)
But coming from a culture in which things were transmitted through the ages I am aware both of the persistence and the distortion/limits of oral tradition. Sure, sagas like the Odyssey an get passed on, but there is no indication they were done as anything but cultural artifacts. When it comes to “things my grandmother said” and you think about it, it become more complicated very quickly.
For instance, there are things my grandmother told me her grandmother told her, which I assume had happened in her grandmother’s time but which must be a lot older. And things I ASSUMED grandmother was telling me of experience which are impossible. Like, say, the Napoleonic wars. Because the math just doesn’t work that way.
I realized how unreliable this is, when I realized my kids thought I came from a family of three. You see, we have a cousin who was raised with us. I always referred to her by her first name, so they assumed…
Now multiply that by ten thousand. The great shocking event — like, say, the deluge — might remain, but it will move all over in time and space. Which brings us to: was it universal? Or did someone from that culture have a lot of kids with traveling feet who carried the legend EVERYWHERE over a couple of centuries. I mean, it’s like the Victorians thought Amerindians were the lost tribe of Israel. Turns out that genetics confirm a lot them have Jewish genes. Score, right? Well…. we’re close enough to have traced it and… no. For whatever reason in the 17th century, an Iberian Jew went over most of the Americas impregnating Amerindian women, who bore his sons, who apparently were similarly successful with the opposite sex. (I have a theory this was an ancestor. On paternal grandmother’s side. Her father had a …. reputation.) I think, though I’m not going to put hands in fire, they actually got a probable name for this great inseminator. But suppose a couple thousand years have passed. Both the legend of Jewish origins and the genetics would be muddled, and we might think that the Victorians were right.
When dealing with deep antiquity assume not only garbled, but far less likely to match our expectation than you’d think.
This matters, and the crazy bells are annoying, because of course, it would be good for us to know where we come from. Say ice ages or meteors, or even our scavenger-species tendency to stop reproducing when secure ended civilization several times before. The ancients might not have MEANT to give us a warning, but we could still take it, and take steps to prevent it happening to US.
However, none of that matters, because the moment that you start investigating anomalous stuff, the crazy people come out of their holes tolling their little bells that say “unclean, unclean” (Or more likely “the purpose of the pyramids was to sharpen shaving blades!”) and then the Priests of Science take fright, pull up their skirts and entrench, screaming “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary proof.” Like, you know, given the nature of our species as tinkering monkeys, the idea of 190k years of pure stagnation ALSO isn’t an extraordinary claim.
There have been scientific studies on other fringe phenomena, like, say, telepathy, which ended up being blighted the same way. In fact one of the books I have says that “there is undeniably something there, but the idea attracts so many charlatans it’s impossible to conduct a straight study.”
Same thing. The more the “Knights Templar built the Pyramids to guide ALIENS” people make noise and toll the insanity bell, the less likely it is that sensible people will want to study and consider anomalous discoveries. Which means it takes something really big like Gobekli Tepe to make us revise our chronologies or consider we might not know everything.
Now this is very fertile ground for fiction writers like me (of course I’m cackling guys. What do you think?) but it doesn’t help understand what came before us, or who we are, or what we’re capable of, or even our persistent downfalls.
No, I’m not going to fight through the crazy bells anymore. I got my world building.
Sooner or later we’ll know more, but I doubt we’ll know “the truth” in my or anyone living’s life.
And a great part of this is that the lies are so attractive, even if completely crazy.