I keep being asked the question: what books changed your life?
Here are a few that may surprise you:
1. Graham Hancock’s “The Sign and the Seal”. The Ark of the Covenant disappears from the Temple in Jerusalem before the Babylonian conquest. Where did it go? Could it possibly have been carried through Egypt and what is now the Sudan to Ethiopia? This extraordinarily fascinating book provides an “alternative history” that could be the “real history”. At least, so far, its basic premises have not been able to be refuted. How did it change my life? It opened my thinking in a way that brought together so many facets of world history – Israelites, Jews, Christian Crusaders, Ethiopian Copts, British explorers, Portuguese explorers, Gothic Cathedral builders, Templars, Freemasons, and others. A true eye opener.
2. While we are on Hancock, also his “Fingerprints of the Gods”, which provides another example of “alternative history”, this time of Antarctica and what might have happened there before the development of its ice cap – was it the home of an ancient civilization that spread up the coasts of South America and Africa? A very readable book, dealing with cultural similarities across the world and their possible origins, as well as a brief history of cartography. You’d be surprised at what some very old maps show.
3. The Robert Ardrey books, “African Genesis”, “The Territorial Imperative”, “The Hunting Hypothesis” and “The Social Contract”. Books from the 1960s, again very readable, by a playwright turned anthropologist, who looked at the study of evolution and at various studies of animal behavior, and concluded that mankind descended from carnivorous, weapon bearing pre-humans, for whom territoriality, social organization and social hierarchy were the central features of their lives. He posited that these characteristics are still with us human beings, and that various attempts at social organization, world peace (and religious thought) fail because they are based on false conceptions the uniqueness and centrality of mankind. The influence on me? Simple. These books changed the way I look at humanity.
4. The books by Immanuel Velikovsky, particularly “Worlds in Collision”, and “Earth in Upheaval”. Velikovsky (unlike Hancock or Ardrey) has been villified for decades now, because his theories – about climatic changes being the results of sudden polar shifts and the passage of a comet (which became trapped in a solar orbit and became the planet Venus) through the atmosphere of the United States – have largely been disproved in their entirety. While it would have been fascinating if Velikovsky had been correct, his books (enormous best sellers of the time) fathered a type of world-view known as Catastrophism, which posits that the history of the world has been greatly affected by one-time catastrophes that were unpredictable and unpredicted. Velikovsky himself, a brilliant man whose interests, and abilities, ranged from scientific subjects to world-wide historical cultural development, has a lot to teach. The books were influential to me because (a) that introduced me to this fascinating and extraordinary mind, and (b) because it got me thinking that Catastrophism is not as wild as it may appear as a theory of the history of the planet.