Anachronism, Historical Fakes, Cults, and Scriptures

HonoriusAn anachronism is something inappropriate to the time and place being described. A momentarily famous recent example is the Starbucks coffee cup accidentally left on a table in a scene from Game of Thrones. Here are a couple others: In the first Blade Runner movie, made in 1982 and set in the then far future of 2019, the main character at one point runs around, frantically, looking for a pay phone. Why? Because in 1982, the makers of the film failed to predict that in 2019, everyone would be using cell phones. In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series, set thousands of years in the future, people with names like Harry and Joey and Billy lounge about the spaceship and talk about the little woman taking a meatloaf out of the oven back home.
     Anachronisms are one of the hallmarks of fakes. For example, a Hungarian guy named Edmond Szekely claimed to have found an ancient Essene manuscript in the Vatican that he then “translated” and released, in parts, over several decades, as The Essene Gospel of Peace. Of course, the original manuscript just happened, conveniently, to have disappeared, just like the tablets of “Reformed Egyptian” hieroglyphics “translated” by Joseph Smith using the magic spectacles given him by an angel. A dead giveaway that the supposed “Essene Gospel” is a forgery, a fake, is that it just happens to propound none of the mores and norms found in the ancient Middle East but, instead, those of the 1960s hippies among whom Szejeky lived in a commune in Baja, California–vegetarianism and long hair and free love. Like, peace, man. Groovy.
     One sees this kind of tell-tale anachronistic fakery in Scientology and in various New Age cults that imagine beings so advanced that they can travel faster than light in invisible spaceships and create life and whole worlds or universes and yet are ruled by an “Emperor” and a “Galactic Council”–characters literally out of a children’s fairy tale that retells some late-medieval, early Renaissance fantasy. In a recent book from one of these cults, the “Commander” (hee hee) of the invisible “Akashic Council” spaceship to which the author transported her “Energy Being” in a trance is described as looking a whole lot like Fabio (if you don’t know who that is, think of the typical hunky, long-haired, shirtless male vegetable on the cover of a trashy romance novel).
     And, of course, one finds the same sort of thing in sacred scriptures from throughout history. Why would I think these anachronistic? Well, they claim to be TIMELESS–to give us the 411 about EVERYTHING, at ALL TIMES. They purport to be revelations from the creator or creators of the universe and springs of knowledge and understanding IN GENERAL. And yet, of course, they JUST HAPPEN, in their thousands and thousands of pages about everything, to mention nothing about spiral galaxies or autoimmune reactions or the half life of plutonium and do happen to to be chock full of whatever mores and folk beliefs about the universe were common in the time and place in which they were written: The sky is a dome that separates the waters of heaven from the Earth. It is supported by pillars. The stars are little pin pricks in the dome or are set in the dome like raisins in a pudding. The sun is a little ball of light that rolls across it each day. One can argue about how much of these ancient scriptures were purest chicanery even when they were written, for guruing and prophetizing have always been lucrative businesses, but in general, I think, ancient scriptures tell us what peoples of ancient times and places actually believed, and because of that, they reveal much about us and our histories and development and are endlessly fascinating. Just don’t mistake them for explanations of life, the universe, and everything.
Wouldn’t it be easy peasy if there were some book (or collection of books) that would give you that? Sorry.
     Art: Grimoire Papst Honorius, Rome, 1760
     For more pieces on Religion, go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/category/religion/. For more on philosophy, go here: https://bobshepherdonline.wordpress.com/category/philosophy/
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About Bob Shepherd

interests: curriculum design, educational technology, learning, linguistics, hermeneutics, rhetoric, philosophy (Continental philosophy, Existentialism, metaphysics, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, ethics), classical and jazz guitar, poetry, the short story, archaeology and cultural anthropology, history of religion, prehistory, veganism, sustainability, Anglo-Saxon literature and language, systems for emergent quality control, heuristics for innovation
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