AN INTERVIEW WITH GRAHAM HANCOCK
Few, if any, have contributed more to the alternative history and esoteric genres than Graham Hancock. At the peak of his career, and on the eve of his first speaking tour of Australia, Andrew Gough met up with Graham to discuss his legacy and what the future may hold for the greatest voice of his generation.
Graham, can you believe that your seminal book, Fingerprints of the Gods, was published over 17 years ago?
Yes, it’s really bizarre, actually, the feeling that 17 years have passed. I had a feeling back then that there was another story to tell about the past – something missing in the record – and I set out to look for that.
Were you prepared for the responsibility that came with the success of Fingerprints of the Gods?
Well, I think first of all I need to make it very clear that Fingerprints of the Gods could never have been written if there were not a whole group of people working in this area. And, to name a few, I would say: Rand and Rose Flem-Ath, with their work on earth-crust displacement, following up the work of Professor Hapgood; Robert Bauval, with his extraordinary work on the Orion correlation, which radically changed our understanding of the pyramids and what they’re all about, and the deep antiquity that they’re connected to; John Anthony West and Professor Robert Schoch from Boston University – John West, radical Egyptologist, thinking things through in a different way, realising that there is something wrong with the story of the Sphinx, and Robert Schoch, backing that up with geological observations; all of these people were working away, doing incredibly important, original work of discovery and part of my function was to write a book that put all of that work together into a bigger picture.
Your success was not without consequence, and I remember watching the 1999 BBC Horizon documentary in horror, as they attacked your theories, in what was clearly a premeditated manner. Although you were vindicated, what do you think led to the BBC’s aggression?
Well, again, I think, first of all, when you get into the field of exploring radical new ideas, challenging the status quo, and perhaps I didn’t realise this fully at the time, because the whole success of Fingerprints of the Gods and the speed with which things developed took me quite by surprise, you absolutely have to expect to be attacked, and academics also attack each other in exactly the same way.
I also think by 1999 perhaps I myself had become over-confident. I’d had a lot of success. When I look back on the story of my life, and those particular years, I think I was arrogant. I think I was cocky. I think I felt invulnerable. I actually think I needed to be taken down a peg, which is what the BBC did to me.
That’s a very impressive perspective.
So much attention has been paid to the end of the Mayan Calendar, but in your estimation what is significant about the start date?
Well, you know, this is curious. I actually can’t answer that question. All I can tell you is that when we look at what we understand of history we can say that that date, of around 3100 BCE, does mark quite closely the beginning of the emergence of the city state.
And now the big question: what’s your view about what may or may not happen on 21 December 2012?
To be honest, I don’t think anything is going to happen on 21 December 2012. People often ask me where I will be on that date. Where I want to be is in the loving embrace of my family, surrounded by my children and my wife, having a good time.
That is so refreshing.
Perhaps now that I am coming on 62, as the years go by you begin to focus perhaps a little bit more on that. Life doesn’t go on for ever. We don’t know what happens afterwards. I happen to believe we come back. I can’t prove that, but I can’t see the point of a universe that provides just one life. So, my feeling about 2012 is a reminder that we’re here to love and that’s what we should be doing, and living, as far as possible, positive lives, which means positive lives in relation to others as well. And that remains true, whether or not some great cataclysm is coming.
What is your view on reincarnation?
Well, first of all, reincarnation makes perfect sense to me. I think it was Voltaire who said that it is no more extraordinary to be born twice than to be born once. My own religious point of view is that it seems highly likely that consciousness survives death, and I have tried to make this point in recent lectures, that materialist science works with a model of the brain that says the brain generates consciousness, rather in the way that a factory makes cars, and therefore when the brain is dead consciousness is dead. That’s a view. But again, that is not a fact. It is equally possible, and all the measurements would remain the same, that the brain is a receiver, or a transceiver, of consciousness; that the brain is the junction point between the material and immaterial realms; that is the point through which consciousness manifests into the material plane, rather in the way that a television signal manifests as pictures through a television set. When you destroy the television set the signal is still there. Consciousness could equally well be that way.
Do you think we choose our circumstances in our next life?
Again, it kind of makes sense to me that we set a particular objective for this life – that there’s stuff we need to ‘get’ here. As I’ve gone through the process of life and I’ve made my mistakes, I’ve become more and more certain that there are transcendental consequences to all of our actions and I’m much more aware of this today than I was 20 years ago. We should not act lightly or thoughtlessly in ways that impact others and impact ourselves. We should consider that this may have huge implications over millions of years, not just over this one lifetime.
Tell me about the impetus for The Master Game?
In The Master Game, co-authored with Robert Bauval, I focused on the Gnostic tradition and how the mainstream religions – Christianity, Judaism and Islam – all worship the same entity, who is referred to as Jehovah or Yahweh in the Christian and Judaic tradition and Allah in the Islamic tradition, and that from the Gnostic point of view this entity called Jehovah is not a god. He is an imposter. He is a demon, who presents himself as a god.
There was a saying in the film, The Usual Suspects, that the smartest trick the devil ever played was to convince the world that he did not exist. Gnostics would take that a step further – they would say, the smartest trick the devil ever played was to convince the world that he is god – that you actually insert the demonic into the mainstream religions and that would explain why these religions talk the talk of peace and love, but actually walk the walk of hatred and cruelty and violence.
Has the fact that history has been written by the victors ever made you wonder if the wrong god has won?
Well, yes, I think the wrong god won – absolutely. The alternate point of view was driven underground, and that alternate point of view said that spiritual experience is fundamental and that we don’t need these intermediaries that call themselves priests or mullahs or rabbis to tell us how to relate to the spirit. How dare they stand there and tell us how we may relate to the divine?
Take Lucifer, whom we are conditioned to believe was evil, but his name means ‘bringer of light’. That doesn’t sound evil to me.
Not to me, either – and again, of course, the knee-jerk Christian faction will immediately say, ‘Oh, you’re a devil worshipper’, but what actually are we worshipping in this creature called Yahweh, called Jehovah? Look at the stories in the Old Testament. Look at the things that this entity did. This is not a loving, beautiful, divine light. This is a dark creature, which tells a man to kill his own son; which says that if somebody behaves in a certain way – if somebody is a homosexual, for example – they should be killed. This is written in the Old Testament. Don’t listen to what they say. Look at what they do. What they do is pure, unmitigated, divisive hatred, wickedness, suspicion and evil.
Why do you feel there has not been a significant discovery in Egypt or other ancient lands in some time?
Well, actually I do feel there have been significant discoveries. I feel that, for example, Robert Bauval’s Orion Correlation is a significant discovery. I think that the gigantic, 12,000-year-old megalithic temple in Turkey, called Göbekli Tepe, that’s been excavated in the last six or seven years by a mainstream archaeologist, is a hugely significant discovery. First of all, it’s firmly dated to 12,000 years old, which makes it 7,000 years older than other known megalithic sites. Secondly, it’s highly sophisticated, which means there’s a background to it, which is much older than 12,000 years, that we don’t, at present, have any evidence for, but the very fact that Göbekli Tepe stands there tells us there is a background, because those people were not moving around 20- or 30-ton megaliths without some previous experience. Thirdly, that the oldest stuff at Göbekli Tepe is the best and that the younger stuff is less good.
Who do you feel is the lost civilisation destroyed in the last ice age?
I do think that there was something worthy of the name ‘civilisation’ back in what geologists and archaeologists call the Upper Paleolithic – the end of the last ice age – and that it thrived, I think, on coastlines. I think it was primarily a maritime civilisation. I don’t think it was a civilisation very much like ours.
For me, maps from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, based on ancient maps, are evidence that there was a global, maritime civilisation, which mapped the world and I think that it drew a meridian through the earth. The ancient prime meridian ran through Giza, that’s the zero point, and I think that there were sites all around the world that were marked off at significant longitudes in relation to that zero point.
In what epoch do you believe the ancient meridian was constructed?
I think there was an attempt to re-map the world after the cataclysm. I think there were survivors and I think that, again somewhere between 13,000 and 12,000 years ago and perhaps soon after a radical cataclysm shook the earth, there was an attempt to re-establish things, to re-map things, and that attempt ultimately failed, but traces of it are left. I think that’s what happened.
Which underwater site do you think is going to create acceptance that civilisation goes back further than historians believe it does?
Luckily, with Göbekli Tepe, we’ve already got one above water. What I was arguing in Fingerprints of the Gods was evidence for a sophisticated civilisation 12,000 or more years ago and Göbekli Tepe already provides us with really incontrovertible evidence of the existence of such a culture, which had developed its stone-working techniques to such a degree that it could create a site on that scale.
As you’ve said, Fingerprints of the Gods was published 17 years ago. I took the work a lot further with Underworld and the underwater stone circle of Kerama in Japan, off the island of Okinawa, I think is a greatly underestimated site. It’s 110 feet underwater and has been so for 12,500 to 13,000 years. I think the cities that have been detected with sidescan sonar in the Gulf of Cambay, off the north-west coast of India, are very, very interesting. And off southern India, as well, where we have a huge Atlantis tradition.
Where do you place Atlantis, and when?
I place it everywhere. I think it’s important to not isolate the Atlantis story – it doesn’t stand alone. There are many such stories from many different cultures around the world.
And I don’t think we should forget America itself, if we’re looking for the one that’s Plato’s Atlantis. America is very interesting and it does appear to have been over North America that this gigantic comet of 12,900 years ago exploded. So, I think there’s a whole lot of missing story to be recovered from the Americas and offshore of the Americas.
How meaningful is the fact that Plato’s notion of Atlantis comes from what Solon learnt in Egypt?
Very meaningful, especially because of the date that’s put on it – 9,000 years before the time of Solon, 9600 BCE.
What if those priests were counting in lunar years; that is, each month was a year?
Well, I’ve personally never seen the need for that at all. If they say it was 9,000 years before the time of Solon, well, that puts us smack-bang in the end of the last ice age. If each month was a year, then it’s much less far back in time.
If each month was a year, then it puts us in at the time when science says Thera erupted.
Well, that’s fascinating and Thera, undoubtedly, was a gigantic event that brought an end to some known historical civilisations. I understand the case for saying that this is what Plato’s story was about.
That’s not to say that if Plato’s Atlantis was Minoan Crete, for instance, that there weren’t other great ancient civilisations that were also decimated by cataclysms.
But I don’t think we can have it both ways. I think that Plato’s Atlantis is either one or the other. I am totally open to the Minoan thing and Thera. I have no doubt that Thera changed the story massively – globally and in the Mediterranean – but what I find compelling about Plato’s story is actually to take the time frame at face value. Plato could not have known anything about ice ages, but 9,000 years before the time of Solon is 9600 BCE – that’s 11,600 years ago – and this is precisely the period of the gigantic meltdown of the ice cap.
I struggle to explain the uniqueness of the texts at Sais. I’ve been all over Egypt and I have never seen inscriptions that pay homage to another culture, let alone one more advanced than the Egyptians. Do you not agree?
Not at all. Go to Edfu – go read the Edfu building texts, which tell us that they are the copy of an earlier document. When it was built an ancient document existed, which contained certain texts and those texts were faithfully inscribed on the walls, and when you read those texts they do speak of a former civilisation; they do speak of an island on which the gods dwelled; they do speak of a flood and they do speak of survivors, who come to Egypt and establish the primeval mounds that are to be the sites of all future temples in Egypt. So, I think the Edfu building texts are exactly that.
Great answer, although that is more a creation myth than an ancient culture, is it not?
Not really. Not only do we have the Edfu building texts, but also the King List at Abydos, which lists all the pharaohs, actually 30,000 years back into the past. This is the time of the followers of Horus. This is the period that the Egyptians called Zep Tepi, the ‘First Time’, which Egyptologists would like us to believe is entirely mythical. In other words, Egyptologists cherry pick the King Lists – they say the period of the King Lists that relates to what we know of as history (i.e. from 3000 BCE onwards), we accept that as a useful guide to the story of the pharaohs, but everything else in the King Lists, we regard that as mythical and having no meaning whatsoever. I don’t think that’s a logical position.
The Sign and The Seal chronicled the history of the Ark of the Covenant and traced its possible resting place to Axum, Ethiopia. What do you think would happen if the Ark was rediscovered today?
It’s a fact, and it’s a rather spooky one, that the three mainstream monotheistic faiths, Islam (particularly in its Shia manifestation) Judaism and Christianity, all have fundamentalist elements which make reference to the Ark of the Covenant, and for the character that the Shias call the ‘Hidden Imam’ to return. He, by the way, is the person whose return Iran is actively preparing for now: the Mahdi, whose name lies behind the Madhi Army in Iraq. The Hidden Imam (the Mahdi) must recover the Ark of the Covenant and return it to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem before he can engage in what is seen, in Shia tradition, as the final battle of good against evil, which is interpreted in Iran as the battle of Shia Islam against the forces of the West and Judaism. The recovery and retrieval of the Ark of the Covenant, and its return to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, is the key that turns that process on – the process of Judgement Day, or of the end of the world.
It’s the same for fundamentalist Judaism. There are groups, such as, for example, the Temple Mount Faithful in Israel, who are intent on building the Third Temple on the Temple Mount and who would like to sweep away the monuments of Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, and make it a site of fundamentalist Zionism. They, too, require the Ark of the Covenant in order to realise that apocalyptic dream, which they, too, see as the precursor to the end of the world.
And fundamentalist Christians make reference to the Book of Revelation, where one of the signs of the Day of Judgement is the reappearance and return of the Ark of the Covenant. For these institutions, access and control of that object would, undoubtedly, be used as a catalyst for a cataclysmic struggle. So, I think it’s a really good thing if the Ark stays away from history for a while.
What role do you feel psychedelics and hallucinogens have played in the evolution of human consciousness, imagination and religion, and is there a place for them in our world today?
Just as it’s impossible to understand ancient civilisations without getting into astronomy, I think it’s impossible to understand ancient civilisations without getting into altered states of consciousness, which can be brought about by a variety of different means, of which the most widely used and most reliably effective are the visionary plants. But there are other techniques and methods for getting into deeply altered states of consciousness. So, I would put the emphasis first on altered states of consciousness, rather than on psychedelics. Psychedelics are simply a vehicle for bringing about the requisite altered state of consciousness.
Drumming, rhythmic dancing, certain forms of music… Fasting has a long and honourable tradition for bringing on altered states of consciousness and contact with the divine – there really is a huge range of techniques.
People get really holier than thou about this and say, ‘we achieve altered states of consciousness though meditation – this is the only pure way to do it – anybody who uses psychedelics is not authentic.’ I think that’s absolute bullshit.
Of course, mainstream society does tolerate certain drugs. It does allow people to use alcohol – in fact, it encourages people to use alcohol. But there are other agents that induce radically altered states of consciousness, which not only allow you to step out of the alert, problem-solving state of consciousness, but also almost inevitably lead you to question the fundamentals of life in the material realm and, indeed, the nature of reality itself; but those agents include power visionary plants, such as the Ayahuasca in the Amazon, which consists of two things. It consists of the vine, Banisteriopsis caapi, and it consists of the leaf of a bush, Psychotria viridis , it’s called Chacruna in the Amazon and the vine is called Ayahuasca. The leaves contain pharmacologically pure dimethyltryptamine (DMT), which is, of course, a highly illegal drug throughout the West and, indeed, throughout the world. It’s a Schedule I drug in the United States, it’s a Class A hallucinogen in the UK, and you can go to prison for a very long time for using DMT.
DMT is probably the most powerful hallucinogen known to man. I have personally had eleven journeys with pure, smoked DMT and what happens with DMT is that it hits you within about one tenth of a second of the first inhalation and, within two to three seconds, it plunges you mercilessly into a completely alien realm, which is as much disconnected with this realm as it is possible to imagine and which, as a result, can be utterly terrifying – or not.
Most people that have worked with DMT will agree with this: there is something oddly almost mechanistic and technological about DMT realms. And the sense of alien contact is very powerful – that there is so much in common between the realms that are encountered on a DMT journey and the realms that are reported by UFO abductees, that you have to ask yourself what is going on here?
I think it is likely that UFO abductees are people who spontaneously overproduce DMT, because DMT is a natural brain hormone. We’re not sure which part of the brain it’s produced in, although it has been suggested that it might be the pineal gland. But it’s really important to emphasise – and I have to make this absolutely clear – this does not mean that those experiences are not real. This does not mean that those experiences are artefacts of the brain. What this does mean is that reality may be much more complicated than we imagine. If I were a betting man I would say that what we are dealing with here is inter-dimensional contacts, rather than just contacts in this dimension, between high-tech and lower-tech beings. I think the flying saucer may be a vehicle to cross dimensions and that it may, at times, manifest into this physical dimension and may, at times, leave a physical trace, but that the primary way of accessing this is through consciousness.
Dr Michael A. Persinger’s invention, the ‘God Helmet’, applies pressure to the frontal lobes, prompting individuals to experience the alien abduction phenomenon. Are you saying that this does not negate the fact that the individual is accessing another dimension or reality that is equally as real ours?
Exactly. Even Persinger himself, who is pretty committed to the materialist paradigm, has admitted this on record – that he can’t absolutely prove that the brain is making these things. He may be altering the receiver wavelength of the brain and allowing in a glimpse of another level of reality.
Tell me more about ayahuasca.
Ayahuasca is a brew – it’s a drink – and there is a mystery in this in itself, because the DMT is being delivered orally and it’s working and the reason that it’s working is because of the ayahuasca vine, which contains a monoamine oxidaze inhibitor that switches off the monoamine oxidaze in the stomach and allows the DMT in the Pyschotria viridis leaves to be absorbed and to cross the blood-brain barrier and enter the brain. Now, when you bear in mind that there are 155,000 different species of plants and trees in the Amazon it’s a pretty amazing piece of chemistry that the shamans in the Amazon found these two plants, which, when put together and cooked with water, produce this amazing brew.
Now, here’s the curious thing with ayahuasca, which, again, is universally reported: the sense of connection and contact with an intelligence, which we also find with pure DMT, but in pure DMT those intelligences are a bit impersonal and quite mechanistic. It’s like they’re machines that have got a job to do on you. With ayahuasca there’s a very personal sense of a connection with a being, who, in a way, is a being a bit like us, but vastly superior in her powers and abilities.
Her? Is this ‘being’ demonstrably a female?
Many people encounter this being as a woman, or as a female entity – very often as a serpent – usually as a serpent – but always understood to be female. Serpents play a huge role in it. This is very well documented. As any shaman will tell you, when the 300ft-long serpent opens its jaws right in front of you, then what you have to do is just dive right in and go into that process and see what comes. For me she has always been female and I have come to the feeling that many others have come to, that she is the mother goddess of this planet, and that her business is the planet, and that she does not operate in the material realm. Her only way to access the material realm is through human consciousness and that’s why right now, at this time of crisis, ayahuasca is spreading all over the world and it is being drunk in every major city in the world, and it’s being encountered by tens of thousands of people all around the world, and every one of them is receiving very curiously similar messages from ayahuasca. And those messages concern the nature of the environment; they concern terrible things that are being done to our jungles, and to our oceans, and to this beautiful gift that we’ve been given by the universe, that we’re destroying, and the desperate need for a change of consciousness to stop that monstrosity happening. And they concern our personal lives.
Ayahuasca is regarded as a teacher in the Amazon and she will usually begin with obliging you to ruthlessly review your own life, and will show you the impact that you have had on other people. In a visionary sense you see this – the impact that you have had on other people over the whole course of your life, and the pain and the damage and the hurt that you have caused, that you may have totally justified to yourself at the time; but ayahuasca strips all of that away and obliges you to see yourself as you have been to others in reality, not as you imagined it to be. As a result, many people find themselves in floods of tears during ayahuasca ceremonies, because they have realised that, far from being the nice, decent, loving person that they thought themselves to be, they’ve actually been rather toxic and selfish and greedy and cruel and unkind to others.
It is probably the most effective and most powerful anti-addiction agent in the world and the control of addiction comes through revelation – through the realisation of the individual that they are making a mistake in their lives and I speak from direct experience in this matter. I am not simply reporting something that’s in the literature, because I had, until October 2011, a 24-year, non-stop marijuana habit. It was a very central part of my life and there was a time in my life when smoking marijuana was, I believe, helpful to me – extremely helpful – and helped to open me up to other possibilities. I first started smoking marijuana in 1987 and that was round about the time that I started to open up to the Sign and the Seal and the ideas that led me into the whole enquiry into ancient civilisations. I actually don’t believe I would ever have done that if I hadn’t encountered marijuana at that time.
I was told by many people that something had changed in my behaviour and that it wasn’t good, but I wouldn’t listen. I was just sure that this major, major, major use of marijuana was a very important, fundamental part of my life and I felt, actually, that I couldn’t write without it. But when I went to Brazil in October 2011 and had five ayahuasca sessions, they dealt directly and specifically with my marijuana habit.
That’s amazing. And how did your upcoming tour of Australia with Dennis McKenna and Mitch Schultz, ‘The Origins of Consciousness: An Exploration into Psychedelics, Spirituality & Ancient Civilisations’, come about?
I know Mitch Schultz personally and I have talked many times with Dennis over Skype and the three of us have many mutual interests; the idea came up of putting together our similar and diverse interests into a series of talks and events that will be given across Australia. I’m enormously looking forward to it.
Your most recent work, Entangled, has seen you delve into fiction. After such an illustrious catalogue of historical non-fiction, what promoted this shift in approach?
I have always wanted to stretch myself and not to get locked in a particular rut, just because it works. In the time that I have I would like to explore this gift that I’ve been given, just as somebody who is a sculptor might like to explore their abilities as a sculptor.
But then there was the question, what would I write about and how would I approach it creatively? And, again, this is an area where some people, no doubt, think that I’m nuts, but I went to Brazil and asked ayahuasca what to do with that – this was back in 2007/8 – and I was given the story, pretty much, that I wrote in Entangled in a series of ayahuasca sessions in Brazil.
You present a unique and fascinating view of Neanderthals in Entangled. How did this come about?
In Supernatural I didn’t give the Neanderthals much respect. I regarded creativity and symbolism as the province entirely of anatomically modern humans, but ayahuasca showed me a different picture of Neanderthals altogether and that I expressed in Entangled.
Time travel is an important theme of Entangled. Do you believe it’s possible?
I really do, yes. I believe time travel is possible and that time itself is much more complicated than we think. This is a point that I make strongly in Entangled: that we have this linear notion of time – time’s arrow – that past, present and future all run in a straight line and that therefore, while the past might impact on the future, it’s impossible for the future to impact on the past. I take a totally opposite view in Entangled – that time is spirals and a cat’s cradle of lines that inter-wrap and interweave and that different epochs can be closely connected to one another, and that, actually, the future can have an effect on the past; that the past can be changed; that any unobserved element of the past can be changed by things that happen in the future.
So, 2012 non-withstanding, what does the future hold for Graham Hancock?
I’m embracing fiction very strongly at the moment. I am going to go back and write the second volume of Entangled. I have actually written a hundred pages of the second volume, but for certain complicated reasons to do with my publishers, as much as anything else, but also because I think there was stuff I needed to learn, I’m writing a whole series of other novels first; three novels, of which I’ve already written two, and this is a fantasy adventure series, based very strongly, historically, on the events of the Spanish Conquest of Mexico. Then I’ll go back and finish the second volume of Entangled.
Then I may, just possibly, do a follow-up to Fingerprints of the Gods.
That would be brilliant. So what words of wisdom can you leave us with?
Just to reiterate that 2012 is a reminder that we’re here to love. And that remains true, whether or not some great cataclysm is coming. It remains true, whether or not the world economy is going to collapse. It remains true, whether or not the madness of the state-driven system and the madness of mainstream religions is going to plunge us into a cataclysmic, man-made, global war. All any of us can do is make choices, as individuals, to live positive and nurturing lives that are filled with love and light, rather than with darkness and with hate and, if we make that decision at the individual level, every one of us, then the light is going to grow in the world.
Let me second that, and thank you for all that you have done. Best of luck in the future.
Thank you. My pleasure. It’s been fun.
Graham Hancock’s interview was transcribed from audio by Beth Johnson.