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I wanted to visit Egypt when I was a child.

This peculiar ambition began almost before I could read, and it was Mum and Dad's fault.  You see, like so many middle class parents of the 1950s and 1960s, they wanted to stimulate my developing brain by providing a rich selection of interesting, educational, and non-threatening reading material.  This in turn meant that we owned the requisite encyclopedia (no mere Funk & Wagnalls, but a World Book), beautifully illustrated editions of the classics from Heritage Press and the Folio Society, solid fiction and non-fiction, and Newberry winners like King of the Wind (which I loved) and Miss Hickory (which I disliked because I wasn't old enough to get the Important Message about the Cycle of Life).

We also subscribed to the National Geographic.  

I'm not egocentric enough to think that I was the reason the premier magazine of exploration, archeology, and ecology arrived in our mailbox each month.  We had back issues predating parents' marriage in 1955, so I can only assume that one of them (almost certainly my father, who loved science and adventure) took out a subscription around the time he finished graduate school and got his first teaching job.  I am fairly sure that I am why Mum kept up the subscription until long after I'd finished college, moved to Boston, and gotten married (I might leave Wingding and move home, after all), and I have always regretted not having quite enough money (or room) to continue the family tradition.

For the National Geographic was always been far more than a mere magazine to me.  It was a feast of wonders, with gorgeously illustrated, beautifully written articles about everything from America's national parks to Mesoamerican culture, European pilgrimage routes to Civil War battlefields.  Every issue had at least two or three stories about something fascinating, and that doesn't count the detailed maps, or the wonderful paintings of past cultures and eras, or the books on on every subject imaginable.  I first encountered the Middle Ages and the Renaissance thanks to National Geographic like The Age of Chivalry and The Renaissance:  Maker of Modern Man, and as readers of these diaries well know, my love for these eras has shaped my professional and personal life from college on.

Weirdly enough, one of my housemates at Smith my freshman year was a granddaughter of National Geographic editor-in-chief Gilbert S. Grosvenor.  I didn't find this out until just before Commencement in 1979, when the campus erupted because President Conway refused to honor the senior class's selection of graduation speaker (Garry Trudeau, who'd just won a Pulitzer Prize for Doonesbury) and inflicted Adrienne Rich on them instead.  Sandy maintained that not only would her grandfather make a terrific speaker since he'd edited the Geographic for much of the early 20th century, he'd be coming up for Commencement anyway so all he'd need to do is write a speech.

I have no idea if she ever approached President Conway with this idea, but after reading Rich's incoherent rant about how the largely white, largely middle class Class of '79 should draw on the “tribal anger of their Ibo grandmothers in the marketplace,” I really wish she had.  It couldn't possibly have been worse.

Regardless, when I was a child I used to look forward to the monthly arrival of Gil Grosvenor's magazine.  It was a touch of the exotic and the exciting in my otherwise boring suburban life, and in between new copies I used to pore over back issues to catch up on everything from Alexander the Great's military campaigns to Crater Lake National Park.

And then there was Abu Simbel.

This was a magnificent Egyptian temple that was threatened with destruction by the Aswan High Dam the Egyptian government was building in the 1960s.  Many treasures would be lost to this allegedly beneficial project, but none would be a greater blow to Egyptology than Abu Simbel.  Built by Ramses II and dedicated to him and his wife, Nefertari, the complex was hewn from solid rock and boasted two temples with monumental statues, beautifully carved hieroglyphics, and an astronomical orientation that meant that the sun's light shone directly into the interior of the temple on the thirtieth anniversary of Ramses' reign.   Archeologists the world over protested against the mere idea that Abu Simbel might be lost, and art lovers mourned the magnificent art.

It seemed that once again a priceless piece of cultural heritage would be lost to the needs of the modern world...and then the miracle happened:  UNESCO, partially financed by donations from no fewer than fifty-two countries, partially by UN funds, decided to move both temples, statues and all, to the shores of what would be known as Lake Nasser.  And since the National Geographic was the publication of record for popular archeology and ancient art, my favorite magazine set out to chronicle the entire process over a period of several years.

Of course I was enthralled.  Who wouldn't be?  The engineers and archeologists overseeing the Abu Simbel project would need to take detailed pictures of every single centimeter of the temple and the rock from which it was carved, cut the entire complex out of its original matrix, number every section, move it to higher ground, then reassemble the temple in its new home.  This had to be done without destroying the hieroglyphics or marring the faces of the statues with cut lines, reconstructing or reshaping the stonework, or introducing support elements like rebar that might deteriorate and ruin the entire edifice.

It was a complicated, painstaking, and delicate process that required the very best the 1960s had to offer in terms of imaging, construction, engineering, art history, and archeology, all paid for by millions of dollars that might otherwise have gone to irrigation, medical care, or schools for the Egyptian people.  I don't recall such criticism making it into the pages of the National Geographic, but looking back I'm amazed that the Egyptian government and UNESCO decided in favor of the intangible benefits of art and culture instead of the more needs of simply letting Abu Simbel sink beneath the rising flood waters.  

So much could have gone wrong.  A single slip of a crane...the wrong adhesive...a misplaced block of carving...a miscalculation in how quickly the water was rising...any of these could have proved disastrous.  Nothing quite like the salvage of Abu Simbel had ever been attempted, and even as construction started, some wondered if it was ultimately even possible.

And then the last stone was lowered into place, the last image was checked against the master photos, and Abu Simbel, which had withstood war, neglect, and being buried in sand for centuries years, rose over a brand new lake, huge and serene and once again awaiting pilgrims.

It was an achievement that deserved the word “monumental," and a signal to the world that international cooperation could work for something other than a war.

I may not read the National Geographic on a regular basis these days, but I still love reading about the past.  Lost empires, lost civilizations, obscure archeological digs, the stories that can be teased out of the shreds of a tunic or a broken pot or a shattered shrine...these are meat and drink to my mind.  My most important work to date is my paper on the Impruneta Cushion, a Renaissance artifact that disproves once and for all the claim that patchwork developed in 18th century England, and if it weren't for the Geographic it's doubtful I would have ever ever known the cushion existed, let alone written about it.  I love historical research, and I love archeology, and there's nothing quite as exciting as the thrill of reading about scientists adding another tile to the mosaic of what we know about the past.

Tonight I bring you two attempts at such a restoration.  One, a nicely written novel with a twist that no one could possibly have expected, is still in print three-quarters of a century after it was written.  The other, crammed with fascinating and totally erroneous information, is harder to find but well worth it it you're in a mood to read about Lost Empires So Bad They're Good:

Winged Pharaoh, by Joan Grant – this fascinating historical novel came out in 1937 and has remained in print ever since.  The tale of early First Dynasty Egyptian princess Sekhet-a-Ra (called Sekeeta), it has everything a reader in search of light entertainment might wish:  romance, intrigue, action, and plenty of colorful, authentic details about ancient life, religion, and social paradigms.  No less a source than the New York Times praised it as  “[A] book of fine idealism, deep compassion and a spiritual quality pure and bright as flame,” and so appealing was its description of other times and places, and so strong were the sales, that eventually Grant wrote two more books about ancient Egypt, this time centering on Ra'ab, the Nomarch of Oryx.   If that weren't enough, she continued to write historical novels, most notably Life As Carola (about the illegitimate daughter of an Italian nobleman in the early 16th century) and So Moses Was Born (take a wild guess).

In a nutshell, Joan Grant is a much, much better writer than I usually feature in these diaries, and Wing Pharaoh is well worth reading seventy-five years after publication.  Grant was a solid, entertaining writer with a real gift for narrative, characterization, and description, and a welcome flair for making past eras spring to life on the page.

All this is very nice, Ellid, I hear you cry.  But isn't the point of this series bad books, not good ones?  What is something like Winged Pharaoh doing here?

It's a good question, with a surprising, and surprisingly simple, answer:  

Joan Grant's novels weren't novels at all.  They were autobiographies.

No one knew this at first, except Grant and her family.  Her editor, her publisher, her agent – all thought that Winged Pharaoh, Life as Carola, and Grant's other works of historical fiction were just that:  fiction.  It was almost twenty years later that Grant came clean and admitted that all of her books, which had seemed so authentic that she'd surely spent uncounted hours in the stacks at the nearest major library, had required very little research because she, outwardly an ordinary Englishwoman from an upper middle class family, was in actuality the reincarnation of a First Dynasty princess, a Renaissance strolling player, and and all the others.  She was psychically gifted, you see, and thanks to her talent for “far seeing” into her past lives, Grant would go into a trance, write down the story of one of her past lives, polish the prose a bit, and then send it off to the publisher.

In short, when she titled one of her books Life as Carola, she wasn't kidding.

Little about her early life (as Joan Grant) hinted at this extraordinary development.  Born in 1907 to a British/American tennis champion who played for both national teams (and thus faced the prospect of playing a match against himself, which would have been entertaining but not precisely practical) and a society hostess who doubled as an amateur psychic of the tip-the-table-and-channel-the-Red-Indian-doctress, Grant was originally pointed toward a career in science and engineering by her pragmatic, science-loving father.  Family dreams of Grant becoming the first woman to take a First in Mechanical ended after the abrupt dismissal of her beloved governess  led her to declare that she was done with formal education, and her father, a brilliant researcher who was an expert on mosquito control, had to content himself with using Joan as a lab assistant.

This was not to say that Joan's early life was nothing but catching the local Anopheles and studying them under her father's supervision.  Her psychic abilities manifested themselves early, and she spent much of her childhood and adolescence seeing and speaking to the local ghosts.  She kept many of these experiences to herself, but eventually she did share some with noted science fiction author H.G. Wells, who knew her father and visited the family when Joan was sixteen.

Wells was an atheist, a socialist, and a strong proponent of science and the material side of life, so why the psychically gifted teen chose to confide in him is not clear.  To his credit, though, Wells refrained from mocking young Joan as a silly, gullible creature who needed a good dose of materialism.  Instead je seems to have regarded her as a kindred spirit, albeit a mystical one; after she related her adventures in the psychic realm, Wells told her that "It is important that you become a writer," although he cautioned her to keep her own counsel about until she was "strong enough to bear being laughed at by fools."

Praise from the great Mr. Wells was praise indeed, and it's likely that Joan walked on air for days afterwards, at least when she wasn't counting mosquitoes in her father's workshop.

Life was not all encounters with great men, working for her father, and seeing the occasional discarnate spirit.  Joan enjoyed outdoor activities, especially skiing and golf (she entered a golf tournament on a lark and won despite never have played before, which is either beginner's luck, an indictment of the competition, or just possibly a blatant lie), reading, and dating a string of men her mother deemed worthy of her bright but stubborn daughter.  

Tragedy struck in her mid-20s, when Joan, who had finally met a man she considered suitable during a ski trip to the Alps, lost him to an accident before they could wed.  Grief-stricken, she eventually let herself be comforted by a young law student named Leslie Grant, and in 1927 they married.  Three years later Joan gave birth to a daughter, and it seemed that her life was finally complete.


Leslie Grant was not only a barrister, but also an Egyptologist who frequently traveled to the Land of the Nile.  Joan, ever curious, often accompanied him.  And when she did, she dreamed of another life…another time…another existence….

As Princess Sekhet-a-Ra, daughter of one pharaoh, co-ruler with another, warrior, mother, diplomat, and adept trained in the religious disciplines that eventually resulted in her being a true "winged pharaoh," a psychic of immense power and skill.

Leslie and Joan were both fascinated by these dreams, especially after Joan began going into trances and dictating her "far memories" of Sekeeta's life to Leslie.  He quickly wrote them down in his neat shorthand, and by the mid-1930s there was more than enough material for Joan to reshape into what became Winged Pharaoh.  Neither expected the book to achieve more than modest sales; books about the ancient world had been a mainstay of the mid-list for decades, to be sure, but there was seemingly little to distinguish this one from the pack.  

Worse, for all the Grants' professional knowledge of Egyptian archeology, professional scholars pointed out that there was little to no evidence that Sekeeta and her dynasty had ever existed, or that the account of Egyptian religion and royal customs did not square with actual hieroglyphic records.  In particular, the calendar used by Grant throughout the book was not known to exist, nor was there any evidence, either physical, written, or artistic, for an avenue of trees Sekeeta described in loving detail.

None of this prevented Winged Pharaoh from becoming a surprise bestseller.  Joan was, after all, a gifted writer, and whether or not professional Egyptologists liked her book, the public certainly did.  The same thing happened to Life as Carola, which came out in 1939, 1942's Eyes of Horus (also set in Egypt), and so on and so on.  What had begun as transcriptions of past life experiences had turned into a career as a minor literary star.

It was just as well, too.  Leslie, who had been pleased to have a psychic wife when her gifts were confined to the bosom of the family and their intimate friends, was not at all pleased when the novels based on these gifts started to sell, and sell, and sell.  Soon he and Joan had divorced, and by 1938 she'd met the man who would be her second husband, Charles Beatty.  Beatty, who was also fascinated by the psychic realm, married Joan in 1940 and transcribed some of her books from a wire recorder.  

It seemed that Joan finally had it all:  a successful career, a beautiful daughter, a thriving career, plenty of far memories to keep her literary muscles in trim…except for that pesky little event called World War II.  Being British, she and her family were right in the thick of things, and being patriots, they opened their home in Wales to several displaced friends and their families.   Joan, whose income was largely responsible for the upkeep on the house, soon found herself channeling not only her own previous lifetimes but assisting the war victims in channeling theirs, and by the middle of the war she'd added "amateur trauma therapist" to her list of accomplishments.

Throughout this time, she continued to write.  A book would appear every year or so, most set in Egypt, but some not.   All were based on what Joan called "far memory," her reminiscences of previous incarnations.  So certain was she that life as Sekeeta, or Carola, or  her other past existences, was nothing more than true that those who met and spoke with her came away convinced that regardless of what the historical record might say, Joan herself was completely sincere in her belief that, for her at least, the barrier between past and present simply did not exist.

Eventually, of course, the truth about Joan's books came out.  She'd had contacts in psychic circles from girlhood thanks to her mother, and her work as an amateur therapist during the war was scarcely a secret.  Even so, there was a minor literary scandal in the 1950s when she made a clean breast of her greatest secret and revealed that her "novels" were nothing of the sort.   By 1960, when she married her third husband, psychic enthusiast Denys Kelsey, and moved with him to the Dordogne region of France, Joan had largely given up "novels" in favor of writing and lecturing on far memory and other psychic techniques.   By the time she died in 1989 of a chronic heart condition, she and Denys had spent many years aiding clients in ridding themselves of past life traumas, guilt over ethical transgressions, and similarl mental baggage.   Denys would conduct the actual therapy session and Joan, still gifted and empathetic, would analyze what the client said and then apply her own insights to whatever troubles had brought the seeker to her home.  

All along, Winged Pharaoh, its sequels, and Life as Carola continued to sell, usually in New Age bookstores or the occult section of Barnes & Noble.  It was widely regarded as fictional by mainstream readers and critics, especially since later research had failed to reveal so much as a single scrap of indisputable evidence that Sekeeta and her friends had ever lived…

Until archeologists found a calendar almost identical to the one that appeared in Winged Pharaoh.

Maybe there was something to "far memory" after all…?

The Lost Continent of Mu:  Motherland of Man, by James Churchward - James Churchward was a man of many interests.  Born in Devon and raised there and in London, he worked as, among other things, a soldier in the Raj; a tea planter in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka); an engineer; an inventor and metallurgist who developed armor plating for naval vessels during the Great War; and an expert fisherman who authored two books on the delights of angling in northern New England and along the St. Lawrence River.  His circle of friends, relatives, and acquaintances ranged from his brother Albert, a noted Freemason, to French occultist Augustus Le Plongeon, and by the time he'd retired to a small tract of land on the shores of Lake Wonoskopomuc in Connecticut in 1914, Churchward had lived a life that could only be lessened by being described as “colorful.”

All this is before he claimed to have discovered the lost continent of Mu in the Pacific Ocean.

Churchward was not the first person to hypothesize that the Earth had once boasted more than seven continents.  The ancient philosopher Plato had claimed that there had once been a land called Atlantis that had prospered under the rule of a race of philosopher-kings, and the utter lack of any historical, archeological, or geological records supporting this had not prevented generations of enthusiastic amateurs from locating Atlantis everywhere from the North Atlantic to somewhere in the Caribbean.  Prominent among these was American pundit Ignatius Donnelly, whose book enjoyed a late 19th century vogue, but he was scarcely alone in his obsession; Churchward's old acquaintance Augustus Le Plongeon also believed that Plato had described a real continent in his dialogues, not the classical equivalent of Hi-Brazil.

Le Plongeon, who was an experienced traveler and explorer as well as an author, first conceived of the idea of Mu after an expedition to the Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula had persuaded  him that the pyramids of Mesoamerica were too similar to those of Egypt to have arisen independently.   After all, they were both pyramids, so there was no reason to pay attention to such pesky details as differing construction techniques, purposes, and presence/absence of decoration.  Clearly some sort of continent had served as a land bridge between Africa and South America in years past, and after Le Plongeon read a purported translation of Mayan codices that claimed to identify the lost continent as “Mu,” the connection was obvious.  As Le Plongeon told it, Mu and Atlantis were one and the same, and both deserved acknowledgement as the ultimate source of civilization:

"In our journey westward across the Atlantic we shall pass in sight of that spot where once existed the pride and life of the ocean, the Land of Mu, which, at the epoch that we have been considering, had not yet been visited by the wrath of Human, that lord of volcanic fires to whose fury it afterward fell a victim. The description of that land given to Solon by Sonchis, priest at Sais; its destruction by earthquakes, and submergence, recorded by Plato in his Timaeus, have been told and retold so many times that it is useless to encumber these pages with a repetition of it.”
Le Plongeon went on to state that once Mu/Atlantis had undergone a series of catastrophes that would have delighted Guillermo del Toro, the survivors of its advanced and flourishing culture had scattered in all directions.  One group, led by “Queen Moo,” had ended up in Egypt (home of Hathor, the cow goddess, so obviously there was a connection), there to build the Pyramids, the Sphinx, and so on, while another group that was not led by a domestic animal landed in Mexico and built Chichen Itza and Tekal.  As evidence he offered his own translations of ancient Mayan codices, and never mind the suspicious resemblance to the earlier work of the grandly named Charles Etienne Brasseur de Bourbourg.  

That Brasseur in his turn had depended on the wildly inaccurate “Mayan alphabet” recorded by genocidal Spanish archbishop Diego de Landa, which was about as accurate as the hilarious pre-Rosetta Stone translations of Egyptian hieroglyphics by Athanasius Kircher, was dismissed as a mere trifle.  

All of this was entertaining enough, especially to Egyptologists, archeologists, and other professionals who actually knew what they were talking about.  It wasn't until Churchward  announced to the world that Le Plongeon was both right (Mu was a real place, and he, James Churchward, could tell you exactly where it had been) and wrong (Mu wasn't Atlantis, which really truly had been in the Atlantic, but a separate place that occupied roughly the area bounded by Fiji, Hawaii, and Easter Island).  After all, hadn't he spent years living on an actual island in the Mysterious East, growing camellia sinensis for fun and profit?  Hadn't he sailed the briny deep in search of aquatic life suitable for catching, eating, and transforming into trophies fit to adorn the most genteel home?  Hadn't he served Queen and country in India, where he became such good friends with a Hindu priest that he eventually learned to read a language known only to three other people in all the Raj?  

And hadn't he eventually bullied persuaded his priestly friend to let him read ancient tablets that disclosed the real, true, genuine history of Mu?

This history was far more fascinating, and extensive, than even Le Plongeon had guessed.  So powerful, and so advanced, was Mu that the so-called Cradle of Civilization in the Near East, the mighty empires of the Mayans and the Persians, and even the Egyptians themselves were but colonies of Mu.  Its wonderful climate and fertile soil were the originals behind the Biblical tale of Eden, and its people, the Naacals, had developed technologies that the 20th century could only dream of.  Though the tablets the Hindu priest had eventually given Churchward were mere fragments of a much longer work, Churchward's research into other cultures had revealed enough that he could, and did, have enough material to share this crucial discovery with the world.

This Churchward proceeded to do over the last nine years of his life.  Beginning with 1926's The Lost Continent of Mu:  Motherland of Man and continuing until just before his death, Churchward wrote book after book about Mu:  the modestly named Books of the Golden Age in 1927; the less grandiose Copies of Stone Tablets Found By William Niven at Santiago Ahuizoctla Near Mexico City (also 1927); and a series of books devoted to the successors, sacred symbols, and cosmic forces of Mu (1931-1935).  

Needless to say, Churchward's books caused a sensation, at least among readers with a taste for the weird and the fantastical.  And why not?  Where else could one learn the following:

-    The sun-kings of the Naacal were known as "Rah," and the memory of these splendid monarchs had survived in the worship of  the sun-god "Ra" in Egypt?  

-    The popularity of bird imagery in cultures as diverse and farflung as the Maya, the Burmese, the ancient Greeks, the even more ancient Egyptians, and the Polynesians of Easter Island proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that all had a common origin in Mu?  

-    The original inhabitants of Mu, who had had to flee their homeland 12,000 years before Churchward's, were originally a "white race" that had inexplicably devolved into the dusky complected races of Oceania, Central America, the Orient, and the shores of the Nile?

-    This "white race" had been all but obliterated by "fifty millions of square miles of water" in a series of catastrophes involving subterranean gas bubbles, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions that would have made Guillermo del Toro all but weep into his kaiju storyboards

-    All the megalithic art of Polynesia had been created by refugees from Mu.  This was particularly true of Easter Island, where the jaunty pukao hats perched atop the enormous moai statues were nothing more than corrupted memories of Mu's sun cult that accordingly "seem[ed] to show red in the distance."

It should not surprise anyone that material clearly influenced by Churchward's writings on Mu began to show up in popular fiction, especially in the works of horror master H.P. Lovecraft and his fellow contributors to pulp magazines such as Weird Tales.  Lovecraft never met an obscure, peculiar, or just plain creepy idea that he didn't like, after all.  It is far less explicable that Kemal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey, was so enraptured by Churchward's writings that he openly speculated whether Mu was the ultimate origin of Turkey and its people.

Yes, really.

Alas for romance, Churchward (and Le Plongeon, and Donnelly, and everyone who's written about Mu and Atlantis except Plato, who is probably either turning in his grave or laughing himself into a stupor) was almost completely wrong.  Modern geology has shown beyond a shadow of a doubt that continents, far from sinking beneath the waves, actually float about on enormous "plates" of rock and soil.  Modern anthropological and archeological research has shown with near-certainty that similarities between geographically distant cultures are attributable to the similarities between human beings, not a common origin.

Worst of all, Diego de Landa's Mayan "alphabet" was conclusively debunked decades ago as scholars realized that Mayan writing was actually logograms, not letters.  The very codex that Brasseur (and Le Plongeon, and all the rest) had relied upon was not a description of Queen Moo Cow fleeing with the remnants of her people to the banks of the Nile, but a  learned work on Mayan astrology.    And there is no trace of any Naacal tablets, scrolls, priests, language, or anything else in India, Central America, or  anywhere else.   It seems that the Hindu  priest who taught James Churchward his secrets was either having fun at the earnest Briton's expense, determined to strike back against the colonialist oppressor by making him look foolish, or perhaps didn't exist anywhere outside Churchward's fertile imagination.

At least Churchward's books on fishing are still useful.


Did you ever read Winged Pharaoh or Life as Carola?  Dip into the literature about Mu or Atlantis?  Read an HP Lovecraft story?  Wonder if sunken continents were possible?  Admit it if you did?  We're all friends here, so come and share....


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Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 06:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've read some Lovecraft, and... (14+ / 0-)

    a few other things. Lovecraftian references are a running gag in the adventures of the Airship Flying Cloud
    as per this excerpt from Episode 25: Big Bands of the Elder Gods:

    Iverson concentrated on his glass as he lowered it to the bar. Lately it had shown a tendency to touch down at odd angles to the vertical. "Wa’ happen next?" he asked.

    "She broke off the engagement," said Abercrombie, "moved in with my best friend, an’ sold the ring to buy a cow."

    "So wha’d you do?"

    "Well, I thought ae stealin’ the cow, as it’d been my ring as paid for it. But he was my best friend. An’ it wasn’t a very good cow. So I left to join the Navy. Ye gotta watch the lassies, lad. They’ll break your heart."

    Iverson sighed and stared back at the dance floor, where the band was pounding out a local number with a fast-moving beat.

    Sunken Rilyay, here I come!
    Right back where I started from!
    So open up that Elder Gate
    Sunken Rilyay, here I come!

    Set in the Pacific, it's not surprising the crew of the Flying Cloud keep running into leftovers from the Elder Gods and Lost Continents.

    Robert Heinlein's novella Lost Legacy had a nice reinvention of lost continent mythology as part of the story.

    And who could forget the classic 1961 movie Atlantis, The Lost Continent?

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 06:34:53 PM PDT

  •  You write the most fascinating 'stuff' (11+ / 0-)

    I look forward to finding out what tidbits you have for us in each of your diaries. How do you find the people and books that you write about?

    I have not read any of these people and will probably never look them up but what you shared was so much fun.

    When I was a child I wanted to go to deepest, darkest Africa and discover a cure for something just like Albert  Schweitzer but then decided I couldn't deal with the mosquitos. LOL

    But I never read anything as fun as what you share. Thanks!

    "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night." Greg Martin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

    by CorinaR on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 07:30:42 PM PDT

  •  Mayan (11+ / 0-)

    ""the Maya writing system is a mix of logograms and syllabic signs; with the latter, they could and often did write words purely phonetically." "

    The Landa alphabet had the difficulty that Landa did not understand the existence of syllabic writings adequately.

    I call readers attention to that incredible science-history volume Breaking the Maya Code by by Michael D Coe

    Restore the Fourth! Save America!

    by phillies on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 07:44:40 PM PDT

  •  Alley Oop (15+ / 0-)

    My family used to have some National Geographics dating around the early '60s, and I seem to recall seeing that article about the relocation of the Egyptian temple.  I was more interested in the articles about the space program.

    My grandfather had one of Churchwald's books and I can remember paging through it.  I didn't read it, and can recall only vague images of plates comparing carvings from different cultures and maps showing the gigantic gas pockets under the Pacific Ocean which led to the sinking of Mu.

    Another legacy of Churchwald's is the comic strip character Alley Oop, whose home is a prehistoric land called "Moo".

    Read my webcomic, "Hannibal Tesla Adventure Magazine" at

    by quarkstomper on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 07:59:45 PM PDT

  •  Books by and about psychics have always (11+ / 0-)

    intrigued me. I generally come away with the feeling that there are one or two solid bits, but that they're so totally buried in bullshit that they're almost impossible to sift out. So I read the Michael stuff, and the Seth stuff, and books about Cayce, and all the Dion Fortune novels, and Isaac Bonewitz' work. Aside from a tendency for channels to develop really odd neurological symptoms, I haven't seen a whole lot of pattern. Since it's available in a Kindle edition, I'll put Winged Pharaoh on my maybe list and see what happens.

    Mu and Atlantis have never really been my thing, although I do enjoy a lot of what's been done with the Atlantis myth. My favorite is probably the Indiana Jones LucasArts game from a few years ago - I kept waiting for them to make a movie out of it.

    A side note - I read Misty Lackey's Joust series as it came out, and it wasn't until I'd reread the first two books the second time that I realized she was doing a retelling of the Atlantis story - with dragons.

    At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

    by serendipityisabitch on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 09:14:14 PM PDT

    •  Isaac Bonewits was a bit different (5+ / 0-)

      A good friend of mine knew him, and said he was refreshingly free of a lot of the New Age/channeling junk that was popular around then.  He was much more into trying to restore/recreate Druidism...and he was very much aware of all the bullshit that's sprung up around neopaganism, Wicca, and so on.  I wish I'd met him, because he sounded like a fascinating man.

      As for Misty Lackey rewriting Atlantis (with dragons)...not a surprise.  Not in the least.... :/

      •  I met him once,years ago, at Starwoods. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        llywrch, RiveroftheWest, Aunt Pat

        Most of what I remember was him being so thoroughly pissed that people were still so interested in "Real Magic" when he'd done so much better work.

        But he's also one of my data points in the "channels tend to have really weird neurological symptoms" pattern. I'm not particularly talking New Age here. People who work in what's generally considered the psychic area, when they're not frauds (i.e. whatever's going on, they take it seriously), seem to be more prone to neurological dysfunction than the norm. My evidence is anecdotal, for the most part, but it's what I've got.

        At least half the future I've been expecting hasn't gotten here yet. Sigh.... (Yes, there's gender bias in my name; no, I wasn't thinking about it when I signed up. My apologies.)

        by serendipityisabitch on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 09:11:59 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  OH-oh-oh -- bound for Mu Mu Land (11+ / 0-)

    Justified and Ancient

    By the KLF, featuring Tammy Wynette
    (Tammy -- stand by The Jams!)

    These extremely eccentric guys were also known as The Jams, Timelords, and The Justified Ancients of MuMu.

    I only know about Ray Palmer from the bad halves of some Ace Doubles from the 60's.

    Millions of us – the majority – must come together to insist that President Obama and the Democrats stand up and fight for the things we sent them there to do ... Michael Moore

    by MT Spaces on Sat Sep 28, 2013 at 10:09:32 PM PDT

  •  I have a soft place in my heart for people (11+ / 0-)

    with complex delusions of grandeur that can't be explained in less than a hundred pages.  I'm sure I would have got along great with Joan Grant, although I'm not sure she would have got along with me.

    My ex-wife was a big believer in alien abductions.  She collected books on the subject and was a big, big fan of Whitley Streiber.  I actually enjoyed reading Streiber's books, although I kept wondering if he is really this far out in the woowoo that he believes this shit or if he's just in it for the money.  I'm cynical, but I'm also aware of how fragile and creative some minds are.  There are people that can actually make an honest buck off of their kooky delusions that leave everybody else's mouth gaping.

    Did you know I was abducted by aliens?  Yup.  I forgot the date, but I think it was about 1991, or thereabouts.  I slept through it.  I woke up to hear my wife sobbing.  I asked her what was wrong, and she told me hold me, I'm scared, I'm so scared!  

    "What's wrong?"

    "The aliens came and took you!"

    I was half asleep and would have been very grumpy about it, too, but that had me falling all over the place laughing.  She was terribly distraught and in tears over it, and I was laughing.  Awful, I realize, now.  But I tried to comfort her and get the details without laughing too much.  Apparently they made me float in the air above the bed.  I asked her if they probed me, because that would have been rather disturbing in an unwanted homo-erotic encounter way.  Rather than disturbed, I was disappointed to find out that, no, they just made me float in the air and then they checked me out.

    I theorized to my wife that maybe I was considered substandard and was rejected from the rest of the official processing.  I didn't even merit a goddam anal probe.

    •  Strieber (4+ / 0-)

      From what I've heard, Strieber was absolutely sincere in his beliefs about alien abductions, at least at first.  I tried reading one of his books and gave up pretty quickly because it's just not my thing....

      As for your story, good God.  That is just BIZARRE (and no, I do not mean the lack of anal probe, I've never ever understood why aliens who are so advanced just don't take a blood sample).  Dare I even ask how long you remained married to her?

      •  Seven years before we both caved in. (4+ / 0-)

        I'm counting two years of pre-marriage in that, but seven total.  We're still on good terms and I suppose we both still love each other quite a bit.  It's not bitter anymore.  But we're not in contact much because we get into arguments about her and drugs and there's too much old baggage.  She's a complicated person.  

        By the way, she was in Operation Rescue, before we met.  Met again, actually -- turned out we had gone to high school together.  She was serving community service for an arrest in front of an L.A. family planning center during a protest organized by Terry Randall.  I still find little fetus keychains and other pro-lifer chotchkies when I'm sorting through old boxes.  

        Her previous husband was a convicted coke dealer.  He beat the crap out of her one night and put her in a neck brace and I went kind of nuts over it and dragged her and bullied her into getting a restraining order against him.  She needed a place to live and a bodyguard, so we ended up shacking up together.  I had to serve him all the papers.  That was fun because her husband and his brother both bragged about the people they had killed.

    •  I had a thought about that (5+ / 0-)

      I don't want to share it, because I don't want to give the UFO folks any ideas.

      It's just that, well, there is only one reason anyone would be interested in people, and it's the same reason we're interested in cattle or swine or ducks: life can do more chemistry than living things can. We can't even do photosynthesis, despite knowing how it works, but every plant can. We get increasing numbers of compounds by deriving them from living things. The only reason anyone would want to do anal probes is if there's some gut bacterium that's rare among humans and worth something to the searchers.

      It'd have to be monumentally valuable and utterly impossible to produce any other way. Otherwise, the critters would just stay home and not bother coming here, entering an atmosphere, going off to a person's house, and then all the rest.

      So: odds that there is intelligent life: very very very low. Odds that it's interstellar: very much lower than none. Odds that it's interstellar and comes here and is undetectable: super duper insanely super low. Then, it has to need, very badly, a particular bacterium that can only be found in the human GI tract, in the large intestine.

      Oh, and they're good at memory erasing, but they suck at anesthesia.

      Everyone's innocent of some crime.

      by The Geogre on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 06:35:59 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sounds a bit like Dorothy Eady, aka "Omm Sety" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, No Exit, Aunt Pat

    Eady made some solid contributions to Egyptology, but her belief in her reincarnation of a priestess of the temple of Seti I at Abydos has spawned all sorts of flakiness.

    Real stupidity beats artificial intelligence every time. (Terry Pratchett)

    by angry marmot on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 07:21:08 AM PDT

  •  Joan Grant didn't know sagebrush from sage (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Aunt Pat

    They're two different plants, belonging to two different genuses (Artemisia and Salvia, respectively), and the former is almost exclusively New World. Salvia, not Artemisia, is the one that smells like sage - because it is sage, or at least several of its common species are.

    Artemisia smells more like camphor - not something one would ordinarily want in one's food.

    At one point in Winged Pharaoh she describes a ride through "sagebrush" and the sage-y smell of it - and as soon as I read that, I knew she was BS'ing about "remembering past lives". (As a vanilla historical novelist, she stacked up about average - there's generally at least one oopsie per volume.)

    If it's
    Not your body,
    Then it's
    Not your choice
    And it's
    None of your damn business!

    by TheOtherMaven on Sun Sep 29, 2013 at 11:06:38 AM PDT

    •  So much for far memory (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest, Aunt Pat

      I had pretty much the same thought when I read Life as Carola - it was entertaining, but there were so many problems with the nuts and bolts of life in the Italian Renaissance, even given what was known in the 1930's, made it very clear that she couldn't possibly have lived during that period.

  •  Two thoughts about Egypt & Missing Continents (4+ / 0-)

    First, from your title I expect a mention of L. Sprague de Camp's non-fiction books. Not because they are So Bad They're Good, but because in his heyday he made a few dollars writing books on this topic, especially (to quote the name of a section I once saw at Powell's Books) "Speculative History".

    Science-Fiction Handbook, now undeservedly out-of-print, contains his fascinating account of the history of SF up to the early 1950s: the literature, the fandom, & the, er, interesting folk who were at the time lumped into the Science Fiction genre. Those include the extra-terrestrials living on Mt. Shasta (or whatever they are), the Shaver Hoax mentioned above; & L. Ron Hubbard (his account of Hubbard includes the otherwise unknown fact that Hubbard made some money "singing on the radio"-- although I suspect de Camp was making a sly joke of some kind writing that).

    His other book, more germane to this diary is Lost Continents; some years back I saw it was reprinted by Dover. My knowledge of Churchward is based on that book, including the interesting fact that the man died at the age of 80-something after leering at a young, attractive woman on the street. And that Churchward believed that the names of the Greek letters (i.e., alpha, beta, gamma, delta, etc.) preserve an ancient poem on the submersion of Mu -- for which Churchward helpfully provides a translation.

    Second thought. In contributing to Wikipedia, I exchanged emails with a writer on ancient Egypt many consider a fringe source: David Rohl. He's different from many of them since he did receive legitimate training in Egyptology (All But Dissertation from University College, London, according to Wikipedia), so the establishment has a harder time dealing with him than other fringe writers. And I think he's on to something in pointing out that there are some unrecognized issues with Ancient Egyptian Chronology: nothing so extreme as to accept the existence of Sekeeta, or the theories of Velikovsky, but it needs a thorough revisiting. Many important academics still repeat as proven theories put forth decades ago that have been questioned or proven incorrect by their peers long ago. (For example the Sothic Cycle is still mentioned in many reference books as the backbone of Ancient Egyptian Chronology, yet it appears over recent decades to have been proven wrong or is simply ignored.) This is not due to some vast conspiracy, but to the simple fact that, as in most of the Liberal Arts, Egyptology is badly underfunded, & what money there is goes to excavation instead of publication or analysis of data.

    Anyway, in one of his emails to me, Rohl mentioned the primary reason he moved from London to Majorica after his first book was to get away from the countless types who had read his book & called on him to discuss their own, er innovative theories about Ancient Egypt at all hours of the day & night. Which I found amusing, in a dark fashion.

    No matter how crazy you think some people are, there will always be people even crazier than them. (Which means that the Tea Party probably has its own lunatic fringe they are working hard at disowning. :-)

    •  Oh, I know about Sprague deCamp (4+ / 0-)

      I just about memorized Lost Continents when I was a kid.  It was where I first heard about Churchward, actually.  Great read, even if his theories about Tartassos being the origin of Atlantis have been largely superseded by the Santorini excavations.  Alas, I only had a limited amount of space (and time)...but I definitely will be writing about him at some point.

      As for fringe Egyptology...the only reason I didn't bring up Ramona Louise Wheeler's Walk Like An Egyptian is because she's nuts enough to sue, and I have no money and therefore do not wish to risk legal action.  But I had the unpleasant experience of seeing her at a convention several years ago, and words fail to describe how unimpressed I was by her and her book.

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