Scifi, Rocketry and Occult Silliness
Not a great article based on John Whiteside Parsons and his occult links.
Pretty poor actually.
Extremely poor article, and utter waste of space. I can't think why the author of the review bothered to write it.
He seems to be an archeologist from Stockholme with a penchant for Fantasy and Lovercraft.
He obviously ridicules alternative thinking judging by most of his posts.
I agree Michael.
Sadly representative of a certain sector of archaeologist....
I do wonder how he manages to actually do anything objective in archaeology if he holds 'irrational' beliefs in such contempt.
Unless he's restricting himself to the very recent past (like maybe this century) every population he studies will think things he considers crazy, not a good start if you are supposed to be revealing aspects of their lives honestly rather than sniggering at the poor deluded fools.
The opinions of this author are quite common amongst educated professionals, who understandably and correctly view practices such as wanking onto talismans (and embarrassing lapses of judgment such as trusting transparent con men like Hubbard) as silly in the extreme.
You’ll notice that one of the posters in the comments section advances a lame “believer script” in defense of the occult, namely: “What? You don’t believe in magic? Haven’t you ever been to a wedding? A graduation?!” This script holds, basically, that a person who doesn’t believe in outlandish nonsense must be incapable of feeling any wonder at all. It’s the sort of blindness to nuance that is the hallmark of religious belief.
By the way, despite what some people might want to believe, a person doesn’t need to agree with – or even respect – the views of past societies in order to study them accurately. To point to an obvious example, there are plenty of historians who study the American South during the nineteenth century. Not only do these historians, almost across the board, not agree with many beliefs of this slaveholding society, they find these beliefs (far more than “silly”) evil, disgusting, and reprehensible. And yet they can still accurately study their society. Funny how that works, eh?
"Educated professional"? Time for me to genuflect, clearly.
I'm an occultist, and don't bother with "believer scripts" myself. I don't give a monkey's whether you "believe" in the occult or not. I do notice, though, that you are forever trying to pick a fight about it, which has been a source of much hilarity over the years and will no doubt continue to delight for years to come.
This Swedish chap is living proof that an 'educated professional' can also be a tunnel visioned twerp.
It strikes me that some of these blinkered atheists and religious extremists are truly brothers under the skin.
Yep, 'educated professionals' like those in this study. I presume OUP is academic enough for you?
Hmm yes. I also notice that you are falling back on your very own "nature-of-believers script" which holds that anyone that does not subscribe to your narrow definitions of what is acceptable ("True" really doesn't come into it) spends most of their time frolicing with unicorns and speaking to space-men, with a similar lack of regard for the nuances present in both personal beliefs and the degrees to which these are held. You remind me of the geographer and landscape historian Brian K. Roberts' marvelously on-target criticism of archaeologists that have a "... tendency to assume, without excavation, that similar forms are indeed the same ...".
I'm sorry did you just compare historians with archaeologists? You really need to go and have a very long and hard think about certain fundamental differences in how both groups work and the differences between 'witness testimony' and actual physical evidence (think Police Procedural if it helps). A written apology might be acceptable.
As far as this particular example goes the oh-so-modern and sceptical archaeologist in question's PhD thesis was an analysis of a large preChristian pagan cemetary. I've not read it (I might when time allows though its outwith my period and area) but if you can't see how coming into such a study with an attitude of "Oh these ridiculous fools believing in invisible beings and afterlives which are such rubbish" might get in the way of any attempt to understand or explain why certain things were done. In the absence of contemporary written records (with all their many limitations and problems of partiality) you have to approach the evidence with a mind that may well be far more open than many find comfortable just to make sure you don't miss something significant.
The astronomer and astro-archaeologist A. Aveni (Google him he's academically legit) puts it like this: "Caught up in the theory of progress, we tend to focus on whatever glimmers of modern science we find in ancient or indigenous ways of understanding nature. We see that a certain group discovered an herb containing a curative chemical or recorded the position of the rising Sun at the vernal equinox. And then we lament, "Just think what they might have accomplished if they had taken the 'right track' and pursued this knowledge more single-mindedly". But we would do better to study how and why these cultures built elegant systems for making the things they observed comprehensible -- not to us but to themselves. Other peoples' motives for sky watching may tax our patience and require dredging up subjects that suit neither our tastes nor our prejudices. But our failure to understand these motives will always be our loss."
or more pithily:
"Ancient and indigenous peoples created elegant systems for making things comprehensible -- not to us but to themselves."
Or B.K. Roberts again (lengthy but worth it): " Landscapes, which may be defined as the assemblages of real-world features - natural, semi-natural and wholly artificial - give character and diversity to the earth's surface and form the physical framework within which human societies exist. They are closely linked to all aspects of human life, for not only are there practical economic bonds - the majority of humans which have ever existed were hunter-gatherers or peasant farmers - there are also powerful social, religious and psychological bonds. This is a timely reminder that landscapes contain figures. At first these appear as mere shadows, the wielders of the stone axes and the firebrands, but as documents become available even the impact of individuals can be defined and assessed - for example, Launcelot Brown and Thomas Telford. ... Although they may phrase them differently, archaeologists are also concerned with the substance of these questions. To bring this argument to a focus: each generation inherits a landscape, much as an individual or family might inherit a house; each generation uses that property, changing it, adapting it to new needs, new demands, so passing it through a filter of use. Thus, the inherited landscape, the inherited house, will contain a mixture of features, some of them relatively old, some relatively new, and by adding some completely new elements and changing or wholly destroying inherited elements, each generation bequeaths the present to the future. Both landscape archaeology and landscape history are concerned with understanding the development of this complex palimpsest and in defining and understanding the generative forces at work. Thus, once the lineaments of a landscape have been described, questions emerge, at first random, but then increasingly formalised as study proceeds and evidence and hypotheses accumulate. As long ago as 1941, Carl Sauer described this process when he wrote ' the historical geographer must ... be a regional specialist for he must not only know the region as it appears today; he must know its lineaments so well that he can find in it traces of the past, and he must know its qualities so well that he can see it as it was under past conditions. One might say that he needs the ability to see the land with the eyes of its former inhabitants, from the standpoint of their needs and capacities. This is about the most difficult task in human geography. ' Few archaeologists or landscape historians, particularly fieldworkers, would disagree with these sentiments."
You will I hope note that neither they nor I propose that anyone has to accept these beliefs as 'True' but that you do have to understand them as 'True' for the objects of study and both respect and expect the consequent reflection of this in the traces left by their activity. Understanding possible motives makes it far more likely that our guesses as to what exactly went on in the past are closer to "Nice try" than "You thought what? Hahaha!" in the hypothetical situation of getting to ask them in person - and I personally strive for "Nice try". We will never get it spot on (without time travel), there are too many variables and too much evidence has already been destroyed/was never preserved in the first place - do not believe the certainty which the media always puts out around archaeological - or science in general - stories, they lie or simplify because they have no respect for their audience. True story: I was once told by a film crew from the National Geographic that I could not use the word "hearth" to describe a Neanderthal...hearth because "nobody in the MidWest would know what you meant, use 'fireplace'". This might be a little esoteric but in my world a 'fireplace' is not a 'hearth' as it suggests an architectural feature which has been built for the purpose rather than the location of a single use fire as in this case - one of my colleagues pointed out that technically I should be calling it a zone de combustion and they blanched visibly. 🙂
Crap, I've spent far too long here...knew there was a reason not to check in....