Saturday, October 24, 2015

Pyramid scheme

Nick Redfern’s 2012 book, The Pyramids and the Pentagon, is enormously entertaining. Redfern is a reporter who writes about subjects like UFOs and the paranormal. In this book he draws parallels between some of those subjects and the interest in them by the United States government. My natural skepticism gets in the way of actual belief, but I like all his books, anyway. I am interested in why people believe in such things.

In the “pyramids” part mentioned in the book’s title he also goes into the subject of ancient astronauts, and how, for instance, they helped the Egyptians build the pyramids. I’ve never understood why aliens from space would help in such an endeavor, but the stories have gone around for many years and there are a lot of people who believe them. Personally, stories of alien mentors and their out-of-this-world technology seem less credible than the more prosaic explanations, that the Egyptians got the job done without anyone else’s help, and did it using a their muscles and the technology available to them at the time.

(If aliens had helped them it would have been nice if they could have left a few snapshots of the work in progress lying around in the burial chambers for archeologists to find.)

Human beings are tool builders, and some rare humans have a gift for invention, especially during times of need. Our species could not have survived without brains and invention, and glory be, opposable thumbs. So why credit the hard work of building the pyramids to aliens? Why do some people look at the work and logistics involved and think there is no way those old-time Egyptians could have done the job? Evidence shows they did, whereas stories that they were helped by aliens are conjecture at best, fantasy most likely.

I remember when Chariots of the Gods? by Erich Von Däniken came out in 1968, and I thought that popular book had been the origin of such stories. But Redfern reaches further (much further) back to retell a story told 1100 years ago by Abu-al-Hasan Ali al-Mas'udi, a prolific writer of over 30 volumes of the history of the world, based on his own experiences and collection of stories during his many travels. As Redfern explains it:
“. . . al-Mas'udi noted that in very early Arabic legends there existed an intriguing story suggesting that the creation of the pyramids of Egypt had absolutely nothing to do with the conventional technologies of the era. Rather al-Mas'udi recorded, tantalizing, centuries-old lore that had come his way during his explorations strongly suggested the pyramids were created by what today we would most likely refer to as some fom of levitation.

“The incredible story that al-Mas'udi uncovered went like this: When building the pyramids, their creators carefully positioned what was described as magical papyrus underneath the edges of the mighty stones that were to be used in the construction process. Then, one by one, the stones were struck by what was curiously, and rather enigmatically, described as only a rod of metal. Lo and behold, the stones then slowly began to rise into the air, and like dutiful soldiers unquestioningly following orders, proceeded in slow, methodical, single-file fashion a number of feet above a paved pathway surrounded on both sides by similar, mysterious metal rods. For around 150 feet . . . the gigantic stones moved forward, usually with nothing more than the gentlest of prods from the keeper of the mysterious rod to ensure they stayed on track, before finally, and very softly settling back to the ground.

“At that point, the process was duly repeated. The stones were struck once more, rose up from the surface, and again traveled in the desired direction, for yet another 150 feet or so . . . until the stones finally reached their ultimate destination. Then in a distinctly far more complex feat, the stones were struck again, but htis time in a fashion that caused them to float even higher into the air. Then, when they reached the desired point, they were carefully, and with incredible ease, manipulated into place, one-by-one, by hand and nothing else, until the huge pyramid in question was finally completed.” The Pyramids and the Pentagon, pages 69-70.
Fun story! As Redfern states, “manifestly astonishing.” Indeed it is.

But it is from an old book, and is part of a history collected from those who told tales from the oral tradition going back for generations. Those folks grappled for explanations and came up with such fabulous tales, much colored by superstition of a world of the unseen and mysterious, ruled by God (or gods).

The story is too far-fetched to be believed. When a story goes into the realm of magic (via “magical papyrus” and levitation rods) I assign it to the “untrue” column, especially when the magic involves the unlikely help of aliens from another star.

It just does not give enough credit to those who labored in the service of the Pharaoh, and the thinking of the era, that his monument was of paramount importance in their religion. Architects and planners had to work all of this out using primitive tools, and they had to make it so because that was the will of Pharaoh. To me that achievement seems much nearer to supernatural than does some fantastic story of levitation tools provided by alien interlopers.

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