Thursday, 28 May 2015

Magicians of The Gods (by Graham Hancock)

(Originally posted on Saturday, 3 September 2016)

My rating: 7/10

Magicians of The Gods is clearly weaker than Fingerprints of The Gods, but it is still a good (solid) book. I reviewed Fingerprints of The Gods here:
Fingerprints of The Gods (by Graham Hancock)

What’s good (in the Magicians of The Gods):
1. A very good description of a comet-impact theory.
This part gives a detailed description of the theory from 1923 by J. Harlen Bretz that the Channeled Scablands (in the North-West USA) are the result of a vicious flooding, together with a detailed description of the most recent findings that suggest that this flooding was caused by a comet that hit the ice-cap in the North America around the year 10,800 BC. Very interesting and believable stuff, really.
2. Interesting info about some ancient stone structures that were not described in Fingerprints of The Gods, most notably about Gobekli Tepe, Gunung Padang and Baalbek Ruins.
3. New very interesting info about ancient stone structures in Sacsayhuaman that were also described in Fingerprints of The Gods.
4. Many high-quality photos.

What’s bad:
1. Some parts are too long and/or are disjointed.
Some parts of the book could have been definitely shorter. Even the part about the comet-impact theory mentioned above drags a little. Moreover some things are unnecessarily split into different chapters placed in different parts of the book.
2. Some other interesting places introduced for the forst time (most notably Pisac and Cutimbo) are described too shortly.
3. The sets of photos could have been better.
For example, I was much more awestruck by the photos of Pisac I found on the Internet than by the ones I found in the book. It seems that Hancock published the photos that he preferred, but it would be much better if he simply published more photos of the sites he mentioned in the book.
4. The description of the Gobekli Tepe.
Hancock focuses too much on just one stone pillar and even though this pillar is actually very interesting I wish he would describe some other pillars more thoroughly. What’s worse he states that the whole site has “a very definite northwest to southeast orientation”, but gives absolutely NO explanation why he (or the original source of this opinion) thinks so. Yes, there is a picture of the site with an arrow drawn through it, but it does NOT prove anything. To me the orientation of the whole site is far from definite and the orientation of the enclosure D (with Hancock's pet pillar) is rather north to south.
5. Questionable theory about a warning of another comet-impact given by a lost civilization. Why did an advanced civilization (destroyed by a global cataclysm) choose to give a message (in a form of a stone pillars) without picturing what will actually happen? It would be very easy to show a comet hitting the Earth, right? Hancock’s pet pillar only points out to our times (if the theory is correct at all), but it does not show anything more.
6. A trap of ancient history.
While reading this book I fell into a “trap of ancient history” – I was trying to compare different legends from different ancient history texts, basing my work also on the things that can be found on the Internet. What a waste of my time! Please, answer yourself these questions before you start trying to build an image of the ancient times:
1) How long would be a precise history book about your country’s last 10 years? Last 100 years? Last 1000 years?
2) How precise would be a description of the most important moment in the history of your country if it were written in a couple of sentences? On a couple of stone tablets? On a couple of paper pages? How much context can you precisely describe in such small volumes? 3) How precisely can you write using hieroglyphs, pictograms or other symbols? How precisely can you interpret them after thousands of years? How precisely can you translate a text written in a language that nobody uses anymore?
I think that there is a seed of truth in most of the ancient history texts, but we should be always open to a possibility that over time, a very looong time, some things have got blurred, twisted and misunderstood. This is something inevitable. And there is no way of objectively judging which parts got twisted and which did not. Trying to build a DEFINITE image of the ancient times is always dubious and hence the waste of time. Interestingly I didn't fall into this trap when I was reading Fingerprints of The Gods.
7. Hancock himself became a little LESS open-minded.
Hancock states some things in a very arbitrary way, unlike he did it in Fingerprints of The Gods. Reading Fingerprints of The Gods was a real pleasure because Hancock described things and just pointed out different interpretations of them, constantly reminding that ANY theory may be right. In Magicians of The Gods at some moments (thankfully only at some moments) he seems to be only pretending that he has any doubts about correctness of his own opinions. I didn't like that.
8. Hancock stubbornly sticks to his pet theory.
Hancock’s pet theory is that there was an advanced civilization that had developed ON ITS OWN on Earth and it was the lone survivors of this civilization (destroyed by a global cataclysm) who were perceived by hunter-gatherers almost as gods. This theory is debatable on its own and I simply ignored it when I was reading Fingerprints of The Gods. In Magicians of The Gods Hancock gives some additional, very questionable “examples” that his theory may be correct. The most striking example is that he invokes the Book of Enoch. According to the Book of Genesis from the Holy Bible Enoch is the only person from that time who didn't die on Earth but “God took him”. Before that Enoch lived 365 years, much LESS than other people mentioned in the book of Genesis. Anyway, the Book of Enoch is NOT a part of the Holy Bible, for whatever reason, but in this book there are “sons of heaven” too (who “descended on the summit of Mount Hermon”). If they, as Hancock suggest, flew just from another part of the Earth (in a plane or something) then why the ancient history texts don’t point that out? Or why did the “sons of heaven” hide it? The way it is written down it seems that they came out of nowhere – from “outside” the Earth. Similarly to the Holy Bible and to the Book of Enoch, there are also some other ancient texts, including the Sumerian texts, that suggest that there was “a sky god” and that “gods created people”. So, most of the ancient texts suggest that human civilization had NOT developed on its own. Hancock sticks to his theory that is contradictory to most of the other theories. Yes, he has the right to do it – we don't have time machines to verify ANY theory about the ancient history, but in my opinion his theory is rather weak.
9. Hancock is clearly biased against both Christianity and Judaism.
Among other things Hancock uses this outrageous epithet: ”new fanatical, exclusivist religion of Christianity”. Such without-a-doubt kind of statements are totally unacceptable to me. First of all it’s not a religion that is fanatical but people doing fanatical things in the name of the religion. Second of all Christianity has always been a religion of peace and tolerance – the antonyms of fanaticism – the New Testament leaves no doubts about it. In every religion there are some people who are fanatical, but it doesn't make a religion fanatical by default. There is a HUGE difference between such expressions and Hancock should be more careful when writing about such things. Once again: a religion should NOT be blamed for people's sins.
Here’s another “gem” from Hancock:
“It has long been recognized by scholars that the Biblical Flood narration is not original to the Old Testament but was borrowed from a much earlier source (…) – ancient Sumer in Mesopotamia ( …)”.
I hate that Hancock questions the definite opinions of “mainstream scholars” in most parts of his books and blindly accepts their definite opinion in this case. Pathetic. After all, isn't it narrow-minded not to realise that ancient history could have been recorded and passed from generation to generation independently in different cultures? How can anybody be 100% sure that one culture “borrowed” an ancient history from another? And what about all the detailed things that are written in the Old Testament that are missing form ancient Sumer texts? There is no 100%-sure explanation to all the questions connected with ancient texts, so NOBODY should make definite statements on such topics.

Some books (and some other things too) seem to be truly inspired. Fingerprints of The Gods is this kind of book – it gave me the feeling of an adventure, as if I were actually sight-seeing all those places (many places) myself. Magicians of The Gods is not this kind of book, but I still rate it as a good (solid) book. There are some really interesting things in this book, but it could have been better and more measured.

Below there are interesting quotes (without in-quote references). There are only a few of them because I don't have time to quote more.

    Randall doesn't buy the gradualist theory that multiple emptyings of Lake Missoula through multiple breakings and remakings and breaking again of its ice dam can account for the evidence on the ground. He doesn't dispute that the glacial lake existed, or that there were outburst floods from it, but he's convinced it was never anywhere near big enough to account for all the cataclysmic features Channeled Scablands. Like J Harlen Bretz in the 1920s, he believes that one sudden, short-lived, totally exceptional flood of truly immense proportions was the real culprit.

    And the team is growing. As I complete this chapter in March 2015, I have before me on my desk the latest paper published by Firestone, Kennett and West. The paper, entitled “Nanodiamond-Rich Layer across Three Continents Consistent with Major Cosmic Impact 12,800 Years Ago”, appears in the September 2014 issue of The Journal of Geology. The lead author is Carles R. Kinzie of the Departament of Chemistry, DePaul University, Chicago. Firestone, Kennett, West and twenty-two other leading scientists from prestigious universities and research institutes around the world are co-authors. The gravity of the paper, of its authors and of the journal in which it appears, together with the further detailed refutations it contains of prior critiques, combine to make a laughing stock of (…)'s claim that the Younger Dryas comet hypothesis is “fringe science”.

    (…) the Popol Vuh, an original document of the ancient Quiche Maya of Guatemala, based on pre-conquest sources, also speaks of a flood and associates it with “much hail, black rain and mist, and indescribable cold”. It says, (…), that this was a period when “it was cloudy and twilight all over the world … The faces of the sun and the moon were covered”. Other Maya sources confirm that these strange and terrible phenomena were experienced by mankind “in the time of the ancient. The earth darkened … It happened that the sun was still bright and clear. Then, at midday, it got dark …” Sunlight was not seen again “until the twenty-sixth year after the flood”.

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