Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Conclusion of a month I'll never forget

As I wrote at the beginning of this month, I was invited to be the "Author of the Month" at the website of Graham Hancock for the month of January, 2012.

Little did I know then how much I would learn from the experience.

It was truly a remarkable month and one that I will never forget. I am deeply grateful to Graham Hancock and his team for the opportunity, and to the amazing community who offered insights, challenges, questions, connections, and new perspectives that I would not have seen on my own.

Thank you to everyone who joined in the conversation -- it was a privilege to meet you and I look forward to further discussion along some of the fascinating avenues that opened up as a result of our interaction.

For ease of reference, here are a few links to some of the topics that we explored:

"Darwinism and the flood" (started 01 0028 Jan 2012).

"Flood cataclysm" (started 01 1021 Jan 2012).

"Really quick rock folding" (started 01 1856 Jan 2012).

"The Sphinx built by flood survivors . . . really?" (started 02 0611 Jan 2012).

"Ruamahanga Woman" (started 03 0048 Jan 2012).

"How the axis came unhinged" (started 05 0739 Jan 2012).

"Where's the drift?" (started 06 0234 Jan 2012).

"Evidence for ancient contact across the oceans (aside from the use of big blocks)" (started 07 0805 Jan 2012).

"Rapid origin for the Grand Canyon" (started 08 0801 Jan 2012).

"Precession and Zodiac" (started 09 1805 Jan 2012).

"The water under the earth" (started 09 1922 Jan 2012).

"Shamans" (started 10 0818 Jan 2012).

"Stonehenge - Great Pyramid connection?" (started 12 0536 Jan 2012).

"Sphinx flood problem again" (started 12 2044 Jan 2012).

"Couple thoughts on the Piri Re'is map" (started 14 0808 Jan 2012).

"Dietary laws, ancient and modern" (started 15 1540 Jan 2012).

"Eternal life and reincarnation" (started 17 1325 Jan 2012).

"The ocean floors" (started 20 2149 Jan 2012).

"The origins of radioactivity on earth" (started 21 0434 Jan 2012).

"Khufu Rafu or Spufu" (started 24 0038 Jan 2012).

"The acid test for the hydroplate theory" (started 24 1736 Jan 2012).

"Connecting the scientific and the spiritual" (started 25 0717 Jan 2012).

"Ghost stories, epistemology, evolution, etc." (started 29 0120 Jan 2012).

"200 ton blocks in Khafre's Valley & Sphinx temples . . ." (started 29 1803 Jan 2012).

A special thank-you from Graham Hancock (31 2157 Jan 2012).

(Note of courtesy: the month is over now and there are new Authors of the Month, so let's defer to them and not bring these topics back into the forefront while other conversations are going on -- the Message Board is structured such that a new comment on one of these threads will thrust it back to the top of the page, which would have the effect of interrupting the discussion that the current Authors of the Month are pursuing -- however, there are other areas of the Graham Hancock Message Board site where topics can be brought up, and you can easily embed a link to one of these if you want to continue to refer to it).

As I've written before, it really takes all of us working toward solutions to the mysteries of the amazing history of mankind. I really believe that "everyone has a unique perspective to bring to the conversation, and that the more perspectives that are brought to bear on the problem, the more opportunity we all will have to discover the real solution to the mystery."

I hope all those who are reading now will continue to add their insights to this important quest, and not give up or grow discouraged, and encourage one another even when we disagree.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Green River Formation varves

The great American southwest contains a wealth of geological evidence which can and should be examined to provide points of comparison between various geological paradigms.

A paradigm is an over-arching model or vision which ties together to provide a framework within which its proponents fit the various pieces of evidence that they encounter. Often, proponents of one paradigm are extremely resistant to suggestions that their entire framework for understanding the data could be wrong.

During the twentieth century, for example, the "fixists" who opposed the suggestions of Alfred Wegener regarding continental drift and plate tectonics were bitterly opposed to his new paradigm. They had a mental framework within which they could and did fit any piece of evidence that was presented to them, and from which they could and did criticize any alternative vision of how all that evidence could fit together.

Of course, it looks like they were completely wrong, as most conventional geologists today will agree.

Similarly, the geological evidence can be explained very differently by those who subscribe to different paradigms. Those who subscribe to the conventional geological paradigm that is dominant today try to fit all of the evidence surrounding the Grand Canyon into their mental framework, which involves millions of years of fairly uniform erosion by the Colorado River. They reject suggestions that this explanation could be completely wrong and that the evidence in the Grand Canyon and surrounding terrain could be better explained by catastrophic forces acting over a period of only weeks or months.

The Grand Canyon is just one example of geology in the American southwest that provides an outstanding laboratory for the comparison of different paradigms. Another is the famous Green River Formation, an extensive geological region located in what are now the United States (specifically, spanning terrain in present-day Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado).

Fossil Butte National Monument was established in 1972 to preserve a large portion of this fossil-rich geology. This webpage from the National Park Service explains that the current consensus of geologists is that the Green Mountain Formation is the product of "a sub-tropical lake ecosystem commonly referred to today as the 'Green River Lake System.'"

Under the conventional paradigm for explaining the evidence found in this region, geologists conclude that the layered sedimentary rock that makes up the formation today formed by the process of annual deposits over a period of at least two million years and possibly as many as six million years.

One of the main reasons for this conclusion is the presence of "varves" in the Green River formation (sometimes called laminae to distinguish them from varve layers thought to have been laid down by glaciers). Varves are thin layers of sedimentary particles which are sorted into alternating types of particle. In the Green River Formation, alternating layers of light and dark sediments are generally believed to represent alternating seasons of winter (less organic matter and therefore lighter coloration) and spring-summer (growing season, with more organic matter and therefore darker coloration). The fame of the Green River Formation stems from its record of more intact layers than perhaps anywhere else that we know of: six million unbroken layers of varves at some points!

Defenders of the conventional paradigm believe that the Green River Formation is one of their strongest arguments against theories involving catastrophic forces, and one of their strongest arguments for the acceptance of uniformitarian processes as the best explanation for the geological evidence that we find in the world around us.

For example, here is a webpage at the University of Indiana website in which teachers are provided with "talking points" to shut down any pesky students who "maintain that the varves are not annual, and/or the sediments were deposited during the great worldwide Noah's flood." There is a nice photograph of a portion of the Green River Formation at the bottom of that webpage, and teachers are encouraged to:
show this photo to your class, so they can actually see about 300 meters (~1,000 feet) of ancient lake sediments in the nearest cliffs, deposited over about 2 million years. Note the many more layers rising higher in the distance. You may want to point out that 7,000 years would create only about 1 meter (3 feet) of sediments, about the height of the cows across the river!
This approach, declaring that the evidence can only be explained under one paradigm and specifically marginalizing and ridiculing anyone who proposes alternate explanations, is unfortunate and unscientific. It is exactly reminiscent of the approach of the "fixists" who opposed Wegener during his life. It would be far better (and more scientific) to present the evidence, admit that there are different analysts who have proposed different mechanisms to explain the existence of this evidence, and then to encourage students to use their own critical thinking skills to compare the strengths and weaknesses of each explanation point-by-point (one hypothesis may explain one group of data better than another hypothesis, while having more difficulty with different data than the other hypothesis).

In fact, as Walt Brown explains on this page of his online book, the creation of the laminae in the Green Mountain Formation is by no means an "open-and-shut case." For starters, the varves in the Green River Formation cover tens of thousands of square miles: this fact alone is difficult to explain by uniformitarian processes involving an enormous lake system operating undisturbed for millions of years. As Dr. Brown points out, the layers are extremely uniform and parallel: under the conventional explanation, one might expect changing stream patterns to come and go during the course of millions of years which would disturb the varve-production in one area but not another, or differing weather patterns to lead to differing thicknesses in one region of the formation that was far removed from another region (isn't it reasonable to believe that weather in Utah might have been different from the weather in Wyoming or Colorado during some of those winters or summers over that two million year period?). If we subscribe to the tectonic theory, we might even expect some uplift to change the terrain in some portion of this extensive formation and not another, if we truly believe that six million years were involved.

In addition, Dr. Brown points out that the Green River Formation is also an incredibly fossil-rich area. The National Park Service explains that "the quality of fossil preservation is extraordinary, nearly unparalleled in the fossil record" (they provide a photo gallery of fossils here).

In addition to finely-preserved birds (some with fossilized feathers), reptiles, and mammals, the Green Mountain Formation also preserves countless fossil fish, which Dr. Brown notes are "flattened, paper-thin." Literally thousands of these were preserved in the act of swallowing other fish. This fact is extremely difficult to explain under conventional uniformitarian models. Explaining why these fish are pressed paper-thin is difficult enough: explaining why so many apparently died while eating another fish without positing some catastrophe is even more difficult.

As it turns out, the hydroplate theory (which also provides a very credible explanation for the formation of the Grand Canyon and for some of the geological evidence surrounding the Grand Canyon region) also provides a coherent explanation for the formation of the Green River varves and the presence of so many well-preserved fossils in the same place. The hydroplate theory explains the formation of these varves as being due to the process of liquefaction, which would have been present during a global flood. Dr. Brown explains the principles of liquefaction in a section of his book beginning here and continuing through the pages following.

During the flood event described in the hydroplate theory, tons of water and eroded sediments would have rapidly buried billions of organisms. During the period in which the floodwaters prevailed upon the earth, powerful hydrodynamic processes similar to those caused by ocean waves today would tend to sort sediments into layers, and water lenses would form in between these layers. When the water lenses collapsed, fossils inside would tend to be flattened. Dr. Brown explains:
Because dead fish usually float, something must have pressed the fish onto the seafloor. Even if tons of sediments were dumped through the water and on top of the fish, thin layers would not lie above and below the fish. Besides, it would take many thin layers, not one, to complete the burial. We do not see this happening today.

However, liquefaction would sort sediments into thousands of thin layers. During each wave cycle, liquefaction lenses would simultaneously form at various depths in the sedimentary column. Fish that floated up into a water lens would soon be flattened when the lens finally drained.
This explanation is at least as satisfactory as the conventional explanation, and for much of the evidence found in the Green River region it is far more satisfactory. Further, we have seen in previous discussions that the hydroplate theory can provide a far better explanation for many other "extreme" geological formations found around the world (some others include Uluru and Kata Tjuta, the "White Cliffs of Albion," submarine canyons such as the Ganges Fan and others around the world, fossil evidence in the Arctic and Antarctic, and many others).

Certainly the possibility that there are other explanations for the Green River varves should be carefully considered, rather than dismissed, ridiculed, and marginalized.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mars retrograde motion for 2012

The magnificent constellation Leo the Lion is now really visible in the eastern sky after dark, rising up to follow Orion and clearing the horizon by about 8:30 pm at latitude 35o N (depending, of course, on the terrain of your horizon and your observation point).

To find Leo, you can follow some of the description given in these previous posts:

"Ever wonder why Ishtar, Cybele, Rhea, and other aspects of the Great Goddess ride lions?"


"The Gate of Cancer"

Mars, the red planet, is now clearly visible, trailing the Lion into the sky (see diagram above). It is large and bright, not far from the Lion's bright tail (which is marked by the bright star Denebola).

Like the other planets, Mars does not "twinkle" the way that stars twinkle. If you wonder why, the easiest way to intuitively understand it is to ask yourself if the moon twinkles at night. The answer is: of course not! Neither do the planets, which shine the same way that the moon does, by reflecting our sun's light on their surfaces.

You should have no trouble locating Mars using the above diagram. You may prefer to use the simpler outline of Leo shown in this previous blog post (about 3/4 of the way down the post there is a star diagram of Leo). It outlines only the brightest and most visible stars of Leo. I prefer the conceptual outline as illustrated by H.A. Rey, but the stars which make up the Lion's dignified face and muzzle are rather faint and difficult to see unless you are in a very dark location.

The earth is currently passing Mars on our orbit around the sun. Both planets orbit in the same counter-clockwise direction (commemorated by ancient civilizations in their chariot races). Earth periodically passes Mars on our inside track in this race -- every twenty-five and a half months, in fact.

The period in which we overtake Mars can give us some of the most brilliant views of the red planet as we go by. It also creates the famous apparent retrograde motion, during which the planet seems to "go backwards" as we speed on past (just as a car on the freeway can seem to move backwards as you overtake it). This retrograde motion gave rise to the "epicycles" imagined by ancient thinkers who were trying to explain why it happened. The phenomenon is described in this Wikipedia article, as well as in this discussion from LaSalle University, which embedded some animation from the University of Tennessee (Knoxville) showing the reason for the apparent retrograde as well as showing the (incorrect) "epicycle" model.

The concept of the retrograde motion of Mars may not be immediately clear from some of the explanations on the web, however. First of all, if you stare at the sky, you will not see Mars appearing to move forwards, backwards, or anywhere else -- it looks stationary, just like the rest of the stars. Certainly, during the night, it will move from the eastern horizon across the sky towards the western horizon, due to the turning of the earth, but so will the rest of the background of stars. So, what is this "retrograde motion" we are supposed to be looking for?

You might think that it has something to do with the planet's nightly location at the same exact time of observation, and if so then you are getting warmer. This might lead you to guess that perhaps the planet's normal behavior of rising a bit earlier each night will reverse and it will start to rise later each night during its "retrograde" phase, but that is not it either. Mars continues to rise a bit earlier each night through its retrograde period.

What the retrograde motion really means is that it seems to move "westwards" against the background of stars during its retrograde period, before resuming its normal movement "eastwards" against the background of stars. Even this description can be a bit confusing, so let's really break it down, using the diagram above.

As we've discussed previously, stars in the region of the zodiac and celestial equator rise earlier by four minutes each night, as a result of earth's progress around the sun (the metaphor of the "earth's orbit inside your dining room" is helpful here, thinking of the ecliptic constellations as posters on the four walls of the dining room as the earth orbits around the center of the room).

This four-minute advance each night means that the stars of Leo will be a bit higher the next night at exactly 9 pm than they were the night before at the exact same time (they had a four-minute head start the next night, and tomorrow night they will be four additional minutes further on at the same 9 pm observation time).

Now, if Mars were to rise exactly four minutes earlier, then it too should be ahead by the same amount the next night, and the stars of Leo would "gain no ground" against the planet, but this is not what usually happens. If Mars rises only three minutes earlier each night, then Leo will slowly "outstrip" Mars (since the stars of Leo are rising four whole minutes earlier). Leo will slowly "get away" from Mars, and Mars will end up in the following constellation (Virgo) after a while of this. Mars will have moved eastward against the background of the stars. In the diagram above, it will be as if Leo is rising upwards (towards the top of your screen) faster than Mars is, and thus Mars will be figuratively "falling" towards the bottom of your screen. Since the diagram above pictures Leo rising, the bottom of your screen is where the eastern horizon is located: by falling "downward" Mars is moving eastward against the background of the stars (Mars is still moving westward each night due to the turning of the earth -- it is only relative to Leo and Virgo that Mars can be said to be moving eastwards).

During most of the orbit of earth and Mars, this eastward relative motion is the norm. However, during retrograde periods, something different happens: Mars starts to rise "more earlier" each night than normal! As we first begin to enter the retrograde period, Mars almost "stands still" (rising four minutes earlier, just as the stars of Leo rise four minutes earlier). But then, as the retrograde period really starts to kick in, Mars starts to rise five minutes earlier each night, and even rises six minutes earlier as we get into the thick of the retrograde period!

Returning to our diagram above, if Mars were to start rising five and even six minutes earlier each night, and Leo's stars only rise four minutes earlier each night, then you can see that Mars will begin to "overtake" Leo, moving "upwards" on the diagram (relative to the background stars), and head up towards Regulus (the brightest star in the Lion, marked by the largest black dot and forming one of his forepaws). This is the retrograde motion.

Mars just began its retrograde motion within the last few days, and is now moving from just inside the border of the Virgo constellation back into the territory of Leo (crossing that line around February 3) as it "moves towards" Regulus. The retrograde period ends around April 15 (the tax deadline for regular filing in the US).

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Spiritual meaning of the dismemberment myths?

In an earlier post, we looked together at an article which took Hamlet's Mill authors de Santillana and von Dechend to task for a variety of reasons, concluding that their text is nothing more than "an amazing exhibition of academic narrow-mindedness, unrestrained speculation, and lack of expert knowledge, on the part of its authors."

At one point in the essay critical of Hamlet's Mill, the author asks, "My only comment is why didn't the channels of communication - whatever they supposedly were - also get used to carry other technical information such as metalworking."

This is a reasonable question. I gave a few possible answers, including the possibility that some knowledge was perceived as dangerous to let out to everyone, while other knowledge (such as metalworking) was not perceived the same way. I also pointed to some less obvious possibilities, discussed in a previous blog post entitled "If the ancients really knew so much, why didn't they just come out and say it?" In that post, I reference some very good arguments offered by both Robert Temple and by John Anthony West.

There is an additional possible answer to that question.

I believe the "chopping down the world-tree / Djed column" motif that so often accompanies precessional imagery in ancient myth is likely connected to the "Big Roll" experienced by earth as a result of the events surrounding the global flood described by the hydroplate theory.

I have argued (along with de Santillana and von Dechend) that the myths found around the world encode scientific understanding of the planets, the stars, and the phenomenon of precession (see blog posts here and here for example).

However, it is also very possible that -- in addition to encapsulating scientific truths about precession etc -- these recurring myths also embody deeply-held spiritual beliefs. This would be yet another answer to the critic's question above regarding the reason that the ancients preserved this knowledge in myth, rather than (say) "technical information such as metalworking."

Authors Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy have provided some evidence for ancient spiritual interpretation of the precession-embodying myths of Osiris and Dionysus. In their 1999 text The Jesus Mysteries, they write:

The Pagan sages taught that in the Inner Mysteries an initiate discovered that what appeared to be their individual Daemon was actually the Universal Daemon, which they pictured as having been torn into fragments and distributed among all conscious beings. Epictetus teaches: "You are a fragment torn from God. You have a portion of him within you." Osiris-Dionysus represents this Universal Daemon, the Mind of God conscious in all living things.

In many myths Osiris-Dionysus meets his death by dismemberment. This is often taken to mean the threshing of the grain to produce bread and the trampling of grapes to produce wine [note: de Santillana and von Dechend provide extensive argument to support the grinding between millstones, for example, as precessional allegory in myth]. Initiates of the Inner Mysteries, however, understood this motif on a more mystical level, as encoding teaching about the dismemberment of the Universal Daemon by the power of evil. In the myth of Osiris, for example, the godman is murdered and dismembered by his evil brother Set, and then the goddess Isis collects together all of Osiris' limbs and reconstitutes him. 125.

Strictly speaking, Isis did not manage to collect all of his limbs, but Freke and Gandy's point is well taken. There is a clear resonance with a profound spiritual teaching connected to the scientific and astronomical mechanism of precession (the authors Freke and Gandy do not assert that precession was known more anciently than the time of Hipparchus -- I argue that it was, along with many others including de Santillana and von Dechend, but do not wish to imply that Freke and Gandy share this belief).

This connection of the scientific and the spiritual appears to me to be very important. These two hemispheres of human experience have been largely put asunder in the modern world.

We have encountered the importance of concept of dismemberment and reconstitution of the individual before -- see for example this previous post.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gung hay fat choy!

The Chinese New Year is the most important celebration of the entire annual calendar in the traditional Chinese year.

Chinese New Year begins with the second New Moon after the Winter Solstice. Since there was a New Moon on December 24, 2011 (which waxed into a Full Moon on January 9th and has since been waning), the New Moon which commences on January 23rd is the second New Moon since the solstice and ushers in the Chinese New Year.

For some discussion about the phases of the moon and the celestial mechanics behind these phases, see this previous post and this previous post. For more on the celestial mechanics behind the recent Winter Solstice, see this post and this post.

This year, the calendar of Taoist astrology says that we are entering the Year of the Dragon (which occurs once every twelve years). Taoist astrology also assigns one of the five Taoist elements (or "energy phases") to each year -- the five energy phases are wood, fire, earth, metal and water. There are actually "wood dragon" years, "fire dragon" years, "earth dragon" years, "metal dragon" years, and "water dragon" years: the combination of the twelve animals plus the five energy phases creates a sixty-year cycle rather than a simple twelve-year cycle. This year will be a "water dragon" year -- the last such year in the cycle was sixty years ago, in 1952.

Here is a recent interview with Feng Shui master Raymond Lo by Bloomberg Television's Susan Li, discussing the significance of the Year of the Water Dragon:

Note the association of the Dragon with earthquakes -- this may be very significant.

We have already considered a video in which David Talbott suggests that many of the recurring symbols of the ancient world represent attempts to capture or record the effects of plasma discharge -- a relatively new but important area of scientific study. In the video below, beginning at about the 3:10 mark, Mr. Talbott examines the recurring theme of the celestial dragon, and opines that the long "barbels" or "mustaches" characteristic of the Chinese dragon may embody aspects of plasma discharge that was present in the ancient earth and observed by ancient humanity:

The hydroplate theory draws a scientific connection between powerful earthquakes and plasma discharge (see again the blog post linked above discussing the importance of piezoelectricity in the origin of radioactive isotopes and in the ongoing electric effects present around very powerful earthquakes even into the modern era).

David Talbott argues that the celestial serpent embodies powerful plasma discharge: we have already seen that the ancient Chinese associated this same dragon with earthquakes. Further confirmation is given in the video linked above of Feng Shui master Raymond Lo, associating the dragon with earthquakes. Thus, the dragon's connection with both earthquakes and powerful electric discharge (or even plasma discharge) appears to resonate with the connections made between these phenomena by the hydroplate theory (for more on the connection of plasma discharge and earthquakes, both in the cataclysmic flood event and in very powerful earthquakes in the modern era, see this section in Walt Brown's online book).

We can only hope that this year will not see any catastrophic loss of life or property from powerful earthquakes or electric discharge. However, the apparent connection between the two phenomena embodied in the dragon is an important clue about the ancient history of mankind, and an important confirmatory detail that supports the hydroplate theory.

Happy New Year to all and very best wishes for a prosperous Year of the Dragon! Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Birthdate of Joseph Hill of Culture

January 22 is the birthdate of Joseph Hill of the band "Culture" (January 22, 1949 - August 19, 2006).

He was a gifted songwriter and singer and reggae artist, and sang of human dignity and "rights and justice for all." His amazing career began in the 1960s and continued until he went to glory (while on tour). He never stopped singing and producing new music.

In the song above, "Jah Rastafari" (one of Culture's most well-known songs), he declares:

"I and I and I
should never hold I peace
while wrong is going on
day or night."

Here is a small selection of his immense body of work, all of which is worth owning and listening to over and over:

"Innocent Blood"

"Why am I a Rastaman"


"Zion Gate"

"They Never Love in this Time"

"This Train"

"So long Babylon a Fool I (and I)"

Big up -- respect.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Has Hamlet's Mill been "debunked"?

I have been thoroughly enjoying the conversations and discussions I've been having as Author of the Month for January 2012 on the Graham Hancock website. The quality of the comments and insights that other participants have offered has been consistently excellent, and the discourse has been very valuable to me, helping me see the issues from different perspectives and offering many new avenues for future exploration.

It is important to note that challenges and criticism of some of my arguments has also been very valuable. I believe it is always important to examine the assertions that others make (this is related to the concept of "due diligence" discussed in other posts) and it is also important to examine one's own assumptions and one's own analysis, and to be clear on the reasons that one has for arriving at various conclusions. Just going through the process of articulating one's own reasons to others is a valuable process.

Further, as I have said before, we all have our own different strengths stemming from our own personal and professional experience and study, and we all also have gaps and biases and blind spots, such that community and conversation and discourse and the council of others is very valuable to bring in the strengths and experiences of others that are different and potentially complementary.

As the great philosopher Rocky Balboa once said, "I got gaps, she got gaps: together we fill gaps" (or words to that effect).

With this in mind, it was worthwhile to respond to a challenge to the thesis put forward by de Santillana and von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill (1969), which I believe to be a very important book and one that provides a great deal of valuable insight for anyone intent on understanding the evidence left to us from ancient civilizations in the form of mythology.

It turns out that of the two "external references" provided for Hamlet's Mill in the current Wikipedia entry, one is a link to an online version of the entire book, and one is a link to an essay which is very critical of Hamlet's Mill and its authors, calling it "an amazing exhibition of academic narrow-mindedness, unrestrained speculation, and lack of expert knowledge, on the part of its authors."

During one discussion of some of the aspects of the Mathisen Corollary book on the message board, this critical essay by Gary David Thompson was brought up as evidence that the material in Hamlet's Mill "has been shown to be severely flawed." I replied in a post which can be read here, much of which is reproduced in the argument below. I give my reasons to believe that the essay does not prove that Hamlet's Mill has been "debunked" at all.

On the contrary, I would argue that the examples the author brings out to "debunk" Hamlet's Mill (when he finally gets around to bringing them out) demonstrate his lack of understanding of their thesis and argument. Admittedly, Hamlet's Mill is a dense and somewhat convoluted read. It takes a lot of time to piece through it and tease out the direction of the arguments. However, that (in and of itself) does not invalidate the arguments. This author apparently has not taken the time to grasp the argument completely.

It is somewhat ironic that Gary David Thompson accuses the authors (he is especially critical of von Dechend) of being disorganized, saying: "The contents of the book are poorly organised and presented. The book contains an immense amount of loosely related information but there is no persuasive evidence presented for the connections being made." Ironic because Mr. Thompson's essay can also be accurately described as containing an "immense amount of loosely related information." The first 2/3 of his essay reads like a disjointed recitation of everything that came out of a very vigorous web search, with no explanation as to the significance of the information, how it is connected, or why Mr. Thompson included it at all (or why the reader would be interested in learning it). I am not sure why the room number of lectures from the 1960s or the times that seminars met is important to his argument at all, nor why I should want to know which airport Dr. de Santillana flew out of on a trip to Europe.

In fact, the first part of Mr. Thompson's criticism of the authors of Hamlet's Mill recalls the ad campaign describing an imaginary syndrome called "search overload," in which jumbles of information without any context would be recited by a character in a trance-like state, to humorous effect (see this video for an example -- the first half of the article suffers from the same problem).

I can only believe that Mr. Thompson included all of that very detailed information about the personalities and lives of de Santillana and von Dechend as a giant ad hominem attack that is supposed to discredit them and dissuade anyone from reading their work. I do not believe that is a good way to determine whether or not someone's analysis has merit -- I believe it is much more important to examine the person's analysis itself and make a judgment that way. I believe it is quite unfair to attack the author, as if there are any human authors about whom you cannot find plenty to criticize. I personally do not care if de Santillana and von Dechend received their insights directly from aliens -- if their insights and analysis appears to be supported by close examination of the myths or astronomical phenomena that they describe, then it may be worthwhile in advancing human knowledge (in fact, even if only some of their insights turn out to be borne out by independent analysis, then it can be said to be of value).

I have personally examined their text very carefully and I can attest to the fact that their insights are absolutely borne out by close examination of the contents of myths from the familiar episodes of Homer to the less-familiar mythology of Polynesia (some of the examples I use in my book come from myths reported by independent researchers of the cultures of the Pacific, many of them published before Hamlet's Mill was published).

Of course I do not agree with every sentiment espoused by de Santillana and von Dechend, nor with every aspect of their own personal belief systems or with everything they did during their lifetimes. But to mock them for things they did or believed during the decades that they lived (which were very different times in the world of academia than those of today or of the past couple decades) is both uncharitable and unhelpful. I have published a blog post in which I point out that the "blind spots" of previous eras are often more obvious to us today than the "blind spots" that we have which we do not see ourselves. This fact is related to the literary trope in which mystery stories are almost always solved by an "outsider" (see Sherlock Holmes or Scooby Doo).

Now to my point about Mr. Thompson's failure to understand de Santillana and von Dechend. He takes them to task in parts 2, 3, and 4 for things like this (the quote is from Mr. Thompson's essay):

Erra is an Akkadian warrior god. The result of Erra's assault is that the world is plunged into darkness and as a result Marduk is displaced from his throne and forced to descend to the underworld. Erra temporarily seizes control of Babylon from Marduk during the latter's temporary absence. As the phenomena of precession is completely unconnected with any occurrence of celestial darkness this type of imagery can hardly be descriptive of precession. The theme of the chosen imagery of the Erra-Epic is believed to refer to a disastrous military event that occurred to the city of Babylon in the "dark age" at the beginning of the first millennium BCE.

To say that the displacement of a god, after which he is forced to descend into the underworld, "can hardly be descriptive of precession" is just plain wrong. This is exactly the pattern we see in the Osiris myth in Egypt, as well as in the Kronos myth in ancient Greece, both of which can clearly be explained in terms of precession (Jane Sellers does an excellent job explaining exactly how this can be seen as descriptive of precession in her well-known and well-written book Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, and I discuss it at length in my own book and give some shorter discussion of the same topic on my blog in posts such as this one and this one).

In other words, the examples Mr. Thompson brings up to discredit Hamlet's Mill do not discredit Hamlet's Mill at all (if anything, they generally reinforce the arguments of de Santillana and von Dechend and show that Mr. Thompson does not understand their thesis).

He brings up a book by William Thompson which interprets the fairy tale of Rapunzel as "involving the sun and moon and the planetary motion of Mercury, Venus and Mars." This interpretation is not dealt with directly (in other words, no argument is offered to demonstrate that Rapunzel is not about celestial bodies) but rather is "discredited" by saying that William Thompson knew Hertha von Dechend and that she "discussed her ideas on ancient mythology and astronomy with him at their lunches in the student cafeteria." This does not discredit the thesis of Hamlet's Mill at all either! In fact, the possibility that Rapunzel contains such information is further validation of their thesis (Hamlet's Mill cites several cases in which folk tales appear to contain the same celestial information as epics and sagas contain, but using more "rustic" characters such as the farmer's cat instead of great heroes or warriors). I have compared this to actors who appear in very different costumes in different movies or plays, but who are the same actors (see this blog post).

Mr. Thompson is also critical of what he calls, "The influence of Higgins' concept of an ancient world-wide secret religious order sharing knowledge" and dismisses the idea on the basis that if such an order existed to share celestial scientific knowledge, then why didn't it also encode other knowledge, saying: "My only comment is why didn't the channels of communication - whatever they supposedly were - also get used to carry other technical information such as metalworking."

That's a good question, but it doesn't disprove the possibility that myths were used to encode celestial knowledge. One rather obvious answer is that it is quite possible that some ancient knowledge was perceived as dangerous to let out to everyone, while other knowledge (such as metalworking) was not. I have discussed other less obvious reasons why such knowledge might have been perceived as needing to be kept secret, in a blog post entitled "If the ancients really knew so much, why didn't they just come out and say it?" In that post, I reference some very good arguments offered by both Robert Temple and by John Anthony West.

Finally, while Hamlet's Mill deals primarily with evidence in mythology, my own examination of the evidence from physical archaeology (measurements of ancient monuments, etc) leads me to believe that archaeological evidence supports the evidence found in mythology, and that this further supports the general thesis of de Santillana and von Dechend. Needless to say, many others have found similar evidence and the evidence appears overwhelming that ancient cultures knew about precession long before conventional history says that they should have. This confirmatory evidence from archaeology indicates that we should not dismiss Hamlet's Mill so readily.

The extensive evidence that ancient civilizations could and did traverse the world's oceans (and that they knew the earth was round and what size it was) should silence the circular argument found in some criticisms of Hamlet's Mill which state to whit, "We know there was no advanced ancient civilization, so this book arguing that there was must not be taken seriously" (see for example the criticism cited which says that de Santillana and von Dechend's insistence that there was some ancient unified culture or civilization is "pure fantasy" and that therefore their attempts to assemble details of such a culture can be "no more than an intellectual game"). This is simply circular logic. There is a very real possibility that the timeline of history as it is currently being presented is wrong. The evidence from myth that de Santillana and von Dechend present is only one category of evidence -- other categories include human artifacts such as massive monuments and inscriptions of "Old World" languages and writing systems found in the "New World," as well as actual human remains, which are even more difficult to dismiss as "pure fantasy."

This lengthy response is not intended as an attack on any Graham Hancock Message Board participant. The point that we should not uncritically accept the analysis of anyone (including de Santillana and von Dechend) is well taken. There are doubtless some errors in Hamlet's Mill, and plenty of room for criticism. However, I disagree that their entire thesis has been disproven, or that their very insightful text needs to be thrown out. I also disagree with the ad hominem tactics of the essayist cited.

My own research indicates that Hamlet's Mill is an extremely valuable work and one which, while certainly difficult to read, provides many indispensable insights to inform our search for answers to the mysteries of mankind's ancient past.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A heartfelt portrait of John Blofeld from Daniel P. Reid

Here is a link to a deeply moving essay by Daniel P. Reid entitled "The Wheel of Life."

Rather than try to summarize, I would prefer to encourage you to read it for yourself.

By way of background, here are some links to a few of Daniel Reid's works:

The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity: A Modern Practical Guide to the Ancient Way.

The Tao of Detox: The Secrets of Yang-sheng Dao.

The Art and Alchemy of Chinese Tea.

A Handbook of Chinese Healing Herbs.

The Shambhala Guide to Traditional Chinese Medicine.
For those unfamiliar with the work of John Blofeld (1913 - 1987), here are some links to a few of his works:

Taoism: The Road to Immortality.

Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin.

Taoist Mysteries and Magic.

The Chinese Art of Tea.

City of Lingering Splendour: A Frank Account of Old Peking's Exotic Pleasures.
In addition to being a fond remembrance of John Blofeld, the essay above also touches on the exemplary way that he dealt with matters of life and death. Related to this subject, of course, is perhaps most remarkable and striking part of Daniel Reid's evocative essay, which relates the account of John's visits to his daughter in a recurring dream, by which she was guided to the temple where he desired that his earthly remains should repose.

As Daniel Reid explains:
John’s last wish had been to have his ashes interred in a Kuan Yin temple in Thailand. Kuan Yin, the beloved Chinese “Goddess of Mercy,” had always been John’s favorite Buddhist deity, and he devoted an entire book to her, Bodhisattva of Compassion: The Mystical Tradition of Kuan Yin.
Again, I will let you read the account exactly as Mr. Reid relates it, as it is much better that way.

It is worth noting that this series of events recounted by Daniel Reid resonates strongly with some of the subject matter discussed by Sheldon Norberg in the New Dimensions Radio interview which was discussed in this previous blog post (post contains links to the interview itself). In that interview, Mr. Norberg also gives examples from his personal experience in which persons were visited repeatedly in dreams in very much the same way (although not always benevolently).

I have admired Mr. Reid's writing since discovering one of his books while I was a cadet at West Point, in 1989 or so. It is of personal interest to me that material relating to this topic always connects back to West Point in some way (for me).

However, leaving that personal note aside, Daniel Reid has done us all a great service by sharing this memoir of his friendship with John Blofeld, whose character and personality shine through Mr. Reid's account. It is truly worthy of much reflection.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Powerful video from Dr. Terry Wahls, "Minding your Mitochondria"

Above is a powerful video of a TEDx talk given on November 11, 2011 by Dr. Terry Wahls, entitled "Minding your Mitochondria."

In it, she describes how she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000, and transitioned to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis in 2003. In the video, she discusses radical changes in diet she began implementing in 2007, which she believes to be directly related to her amazing recovery, a recovery that started within a month of implementing the dietary changes.

The video discusses the importance of our diet, examining the problems with the "modern" or "western" diet, and providing some thought-provoking recommendations about foods and proportions that she selected primarily for their impact on mitochondrial health and myelin production, but which may have other beneficial impacts on overall health and may more closely correspond to the diet we were designed to eat (or, as some believe, that we evolved to eat).

She recommends daily consumption of three cups of green leaves or leafy vegetables, three cups of sulfur-rich vegetables, three cups of colorful vegetables and/or fruits, and daily consumption of grass-fed meats or wild fish. She also recommends weekly consumption of organ meats. One notable point in these recommendations is that there is a host of other literature which points to the importance of all of these items -- none of the food groups recommended should really be too controversial. Writers from Michael Pollan (author of In Defense of Food: an Eater's Manifesto, as well as many other works, who recommends fewer "seed-based" foods and more "leaf-based" foods) to Sally Fallon (author of Nourishing Traditions, which was mentioned in this previous blog post, and which contains an entire section on organ meats and a discussion of their health benefits and value in almost all traditional diets) have argued for the value of the foods that Dr. Wahls discusses in the video above.

We have seen in previous blog posts such as this one and this one that some analysts believe that the cholesterol hypothesis, which undergirds many of the recommendations pushed by government food "allowances," may be dangerously flawed. As Sally Fallon says in the cookbook linked above (published in 1999):
Many of our grandparents will remember the days when liver was served once a week. Establishment nutritionists now recommend we discontinue this healthful practice in order to avoid cholesterol! page 299.
This example illustrates the importance of examining the theories which are handed to us by the establishment, theories which are often prefaced with the words, "Scientists have now proven . . ." Dietary theories are a powerful example of the importance of examining the assumptions and the analysis that underlies the theories that inform our thinking, because diet really is an area in which we all can see that "faulty theories can hurt you." I would argue that theories about the ancient history of the human race are also vitally important, and that faulty theories in that department can also be quite harmful. The same can be said for geological theories as well.

We should all wish Dr. Wahls the very best with her ongoing fight for her own health, as well as with her courageous work in conducting clinical studies to learn more about the interaction of diet and chronic disease and to share this knowledge with the world, all of which is intended to help others.

A series of other related videos is available at Dr. Wahls' website here.

Big "hat tip" to Graham Hancock Message Board member "Ratcho," who shared the link to this video in a Message Board discussion here.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Day

This year, the United States celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. day on Monday, January 16. His actual birthday was January 15, 1929.

The life and work of Dr. King opposed oppression and discrimination on the basis of race, particularly in the United States. This message, however, transcends any one specific national or cultural setting or time period.

It also transcends the discrimination against one specific "race," for he argued for a universal brotherhood of humanity and opposed violence against other human beings, whether physical violence or discriminatory behavior and oppression that is based on the threat of violence, even if no overt violence is present. This fact is clear from the expansive and stirring final words of his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, in which he declares:
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
From these words it is clear that his vision went beyond exclusion or oppression based upon any one specific way of dividing up the human family, but that he opposed exclusion based on ethnic grounds, religious grounds, and by extension all other grounds. It is also clear from his choice of language that he believed human equality was based upon the fact that all people are made in God's image, and that they can all be equally described as "God's children."

Another important aspect of Dr. King's example was his rejection of physical violence as a means of addressing grievances. In "Nonviolence: the Only Road to Freedom" (May 1966), he said:
Only a refusal to hate or kill can put an end to the chain of violence in the world and lead us toward a community where men can live together without fear.
and also:
If one is in search of a better job, it does not help to burn down the factory. If one needs more adequate education, shooting the principal will not help, or if housing is the goal, only building and construction will produce that end. To destroy anything, person or property, can’t bring us closer to the goal that we seek.
This is an important topic which has been examined previously in posts such as "A Memorial Day mediation on the Mystery of Easter Island" and "How does barbarism win?" Both posts discuss situations in which grievances were apparently used as an excuse for violence against people designated as different or deserving of retaliatory violence.

Today, as we honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., it is very appropriate to consider these issues, and their implication for the future of civilization.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Ever wonder why Ishtar, Cybele, Rhea, and other aspects of the Great Goddess ride lions?

In a recent post, we discussed the rising constellation Leo in the evening sky, prior to midnight. The Lion will be seen in a vertical angle rising into the sky behind Cancer (difficult to see) and the Twins (easy to locate -- see also this previous post for the location of Gemini the Twins). You may also want to look for the familiar figure of the Big Dipper to the left of the Lion in the sky (for viewers in the northern hemisphere), also vertical and roughly parallel to the Lion, not far away, with its bowl pointing upwards and its handle downwards towards the horizon.

As the chart above indicates, if you wait for Leo to rise far enough, you will be able to see the red planet Mars near the base of the constellation of the Lion. If you can wait still later, you will see the large and important constellation of Virgo the Virgin rising behind Leo. The moon is currently near this constellation (and making things somewhat difficult to see), as is the planet Saturn.

For help seeing the outline of the constellation Virgo, see this previous post. The brightest star of Virgo, Spica, rises above the horizon around midnight, for observers at the latitude 30 N.

The presence of two planets near Virgo makes spotting this constellation especially rewarding right now, but there is even more to the story.

Have you ever wondered why so many goddesses in mythology are described as riding on a lion, riding in a chariot that is pulled by a lion, or sitting on a throne flanked by lions? Take a look at the sky chart above, and see that the constellation Virgo follows the constellation Leo, and then ask yourself the same question again.

These goddesses were extremely important in ancient mythology, and usually are identified as different aspects of the same goddess (given different names by different civilizations or languages). This goddess in her many civilizations and under her many different names was often given the title of the Great Goddess, or the Queen of Heaven.

In ancient Greece, the goddess (or Titaness) Rhea was often shown seated on a throne flanked by lions. The same goddess was also known as Cybele (often called the Earth Mother) who was also associated with lions and closely identified with Rhea by scholars. Cybele is usually described as originating in Anatolia or Phrygia. The Babylonian goddess Ishtar was also closely associated with lions, her symbol, and the Ishtar Gate of course features lions. The Sumerian goddess Inanna is often identified with Ishtar, as is the Ugaritic Ashtoreth or Asherah.

In India, the goddess Durga is often depicted riding on a lion to slay her enemies.

Here is a website discussing these various manifestations of the Great Goddess and their association with lions. It contains numerous excellent examples of images of this goddess from various cultures.

In spite of the great volume of literature written about this extremely important goddess in the ancient world, very few historians appear to make the connection that the fact that Virgo follows Leo probably accounts for the fact that this goddess either rides in a chariot pulled by a lion or rides on a lion herself.

However, if you go out and watch the constellations of the night sky over the next several weeks, you will be able to see it for yourself.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Titanosaurs? In Antarctica? (Moooo)

Here's a link to a recent article found in NewScientist discussing the recent confirmation of the discovery of fossils from a member of the Titanosaur branch of sauropod dinosaurs.

The family of Titanosaurs were enormous, herbivorous dinosaurs weighing up to 100 tons.

The bones of this Titanosaur were found on James Ross Island, a large island near the end of the Antarctic Peninsula (not to be confused with Ross Island, which is also in Antartica but near the McMurdo Sound, is home to Mt. Erebus, and at longitude 167o E is closer to New Zealand, while James Ross Island at longitude 57o W is much closer to the southern tip of South America). Other dinosaur bones of smaller species (runners, not massive sauropods) have been found on James Ross Island in previous years, and sauropods have been suspected based on fossil findings but until now not confirmed.

Here is a map of Antarctica showing the Antarctic Peninsula and the approximate location of James Ross Island:

Below is a closer view using Google Maps to show the location of James Ross Island where the Titanosaur fossils were found:

The discovery of the fossils of such a massive plant-eater should raise some questions, such as "How could such a massive beast get enough to eat down there in Antarctica?" At latitudes around 64o South, James Ross Island is almost on the Antarctic Circle (which runs at 66o 33' S latitude). That means that even if earth had been much warmer when this sauropod was supposedly shaking the earth with its mighty tread, there would have been precious little sunlight for half of the year where it was found.

We have already discussed some of the problems the conventional theory of tectonics has explaining the fossils found in the far north and far south, near or within the Arctic and Antarctic Circles, in this previous post.

A related post here discussed the fact that fossils of animals and plants that seem to belong to more temperate latitudes pose a dilemma for tectonics advocates, because they have been forced to invent multiple tectonic plates below Antarctica to try to explain the sheer disruption of sediment layers by uplifted mountains (which split the sediments by over 3,000 feet in places), but the fossils require an Antarctica that has drifted over time to its present extreme latitude, and putting it on a single tectonic plate is more conducive to an explanation of such a drift.

As both of those previous posts explain, the hydroplate theory of Walt Brown solves this dilemma quite elegantly, with evidence that the events surrounding a global flood caused earth to experience a single and relatively rapid "Big Roll" in the distant past.

The hydroplate theory can also explain another thorny problem with the sauropod fossils found on this remote island, which is "How did such a lumbering beast get itself to this island?" Scientists believe that members of the Titanosaur branch could possibly cross rivers, but certainly not swim out into the open ocean to cross the distance required to reach Antarctica and James Ross Island.

The hydroplate theory explains that the oceans would have been much lower relative to the continents in the centuries after the flood, as this previous post explains. This would have created land bridges not just between what are now called Siberia and Alaska but in fact between every continent and major land mass on earth, including Antarctica (the map which shows ocean depths, with shallower depths in lighter colors, presented in this previous post can help readers visualize these bridges -- even Australia would have had one, although there may have been some narrow waterways that needed to be negotiated between Australia and Asia).

Note in the map below that James Ross Island is situated very near to the proposed land bridge to Antarctica from South America. This bridge would not run directly in a straight line but curved from the southern tip of South America towards the east, before curving back west and meeting up with the Antarctic Peninsula. Nevertheless, the Titanosaurus whose bones have now been found could very well have walked to Antarctica!

Of course, based on our previous examination of how fossils are formed, and the hydroplate theory's reasonable explanation that almost all fossils on earth are the product of rapid burial in sediments during the global flood event, this sauropod probably died long before the Big Roll and the land bridges we have been discussing above, which actually makes sense based on the fact that it and the vegetation needed to feed it would not be likely to survive at the extreme latitude where James Ross Island is today.

It would appear that the recent confirmation of Titanosaur bones at James Ross Island in Antarctica supports the hydroplate theory, as do hundreds and perhaps even thousands of other pieces of evidence around the globe.