This book explores the network of new age thinkers who are promoting the occult/new science/fringe science interpretations of Egypt. They argue that fringe archaeologists such as Graham Hancock, Robert Temple and Robert Bauval are much more influenced by occult cultist organisations than is generally recognised. They fix particular attention on the group associated with Andrija Puharich, James Hurtak and the medium/channeller Phyllis Schlemmer who claims to channel ‘The Nine’ who turn out to be the Ennead, the ancient Egyptian pantheon. Closely associated with this group are those who are still promoting the Martian Face nonsense.
Picknett and Prince argue that these entwined networks, which include many characters such as Arthur Young, and Charles Muses who simultaneously inhabit the two worlds of respectable science and occultism, and act as conduits through which ideas from the cultic milieu can filter into mainstream culture, are projecting an apocalyptic ideology, centred around the belief that the gods of ancient Egypt were extraterrestrials, who are about to return to take control of the world.
They trace the various permutations of the Egyptian fringe through the second half of the twentieth century, bringing in even more curious characters including the notorious Aleister Crowley, but it has to be said that they appear to have little grasp of the range and depth of the European occult milieu’s fascination with Egypt, which can be traced to the influence of the pseudo Egyptian Hermetic writings on Renaissance thought, from which Freemasonry derived its interest in Egypt.
A very influential strain of ‘romantic Egyptology’ which is not commented on here was that the of the 19th century pyramidlologists such Piazzi Smith, who saw the great pyramid as incorporating codes confirming Biblical prophecy and containing additional divinely inspired prophecies. Pyramidology itself was closely connected to British Isrealism, the belief that the Europeans and in particular the Anglo Saxons were descended from the ‘lost tribes’ of Israel, and that the Anglo Saxons, through their British and American descendants, and not the contemporary Jews were the chosen people of God.
The modern descendant of this ideology is the anti-Semitic and often pro-Nazi ‘Identity Christianity’. A central theme of this ideology is that only white people are descended from Adam, the Jews are descended from the ‘demon seed’, the offspring of Eve and the serpent (the blacks and others being subhuman mud people). Surely it is to this twin seed belief that James Hurtak refers when he says “And I was told by my guides… that I was not to eat of the false powers of the earth, nor encourage my seed to marry with the fallen spiritual races of the earth” If so this New Age ideologue shares an ideology with Neo Nazi street killers, such as the members of ‘The Order’.
This should not surprise us, for the whole new age movement, top and bottom is heavily contaminated by fascist and irrationalist radical rightism. The popular seed bed of the American new age has been the I AM cult of Guy Ballard, who had close connections of the wannbe American fuhrer William Dudley Pelley, one of the most influential of the middle brow new agers was the French writer Louis Pauwels who was also a very influential member of the ‘post Christian’ radical rightist GRECE organisation, while the among the really intellectual gurus of the new age movement, Carl Jung said some very iffy things about Jewish and Aryan Psychology, Mircea Eliade had been a member of the ultra fascist Rumanian Iron Guard and Joseph Campbell was an unrepentant admirer of Adolf Hitler (he once abused the German writer Thomas Mann for not supporting Hitler), who to the end of his days served on the editorial panel of the ‘race science’ journal Mankind Quarterly and allegedly abused Jewish students at his college.
Picknett and Prince of course, invoke the CIA and one gets the impression that they see this organisation somehow is rationally manipulating the cultists, but even supposing, and the evidence for this is weak, that members of the CIA are involved with these groups, it is more likely that this is because they share the same beliefs and outlook. There is no reason why spies cannot be cranks, some like the late James Jesus Angleton, were frankly psychotic in their paranoia. I suspect that with these groups we are seeing something more complex, chaotic and ultimately worrying than clear headed manipulation; something that we are all too prone to ascribe to groups and people whose ideas we find baffling or unacceptable. The sad fact is that people are all too capable of manipulating themselves without the need of any Svengali.
Though this is an interesting book, with lots of fascinating nuggets, it does suffer from the the fact that the authors are inclined to believe themselves in ideas for which their is little evidence, and which for most of us are as strange as anything that Puharich believed in. Where a more resolute scepticism would take us in this matter is hard to say. It’s when reviewing a book like this that I most miss the wisdom of the late Roger Sandell. -- Reviewed by Peter Rogerson.