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Suggested Essential Reading

14 Books for Metahistorical Studies and Overview

The works cited are chosen to reflect the five master themes that comprise the Arch of Metahistory, proposed under Guidelines. All beliefs encoded in narratives about human experience or about things imagined by human beings (such as the activity of gods or the evolution of stars) are constellated by these themes, and so every variant of every belief can be traced back to them. Narratives that describe events as simple as the fall of Humpty Dumpty or as complex as the fall of the Twin Towers are structurally based on these master themes.

Notably, no book on the list presents a straightforward treatment of history such as one finds, say, in The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon. Half of the books cited delve into a range of historical developments: the rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent, the problem of heresy in the early centuries of the Christian era, ancient Jewish religion and apocalyptic sects, Atlantis and archeological enigmas, the Minoan culture of ancient Crete, and occult and fascist movements in the 20th century.

Of the remaining books, four are specific studies of mythology: Pagan Christs, The Myth of the Goddess, Memories and Visions of Paradise and The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Angels and Aliens and Supernature deal with aspects of the paranormal, while Beyond Theology focuses on philosophical speculations, and Gaia is about atmospheric science.

Where, then, is the history in all this material?

As noted in the Guidelines, metahistory is an inquiry into all kinds of stories to detect the beliefs they encode. The emphasis on beliefs broadens the scope of the inquiry and obliges us to realize that all versions of human knowledge involve story-telling, even though they are not all histories in the strict sense of the term. The explanation of pollination in a botany book involves the story of the birds and the bees. The theory of the Big Bang, which explains the origin and evolution of the universe, is a story. History in the strict sense is an account of events in the past, but metahistory is not limited to this perspective. It is concerned with all forms of the narration of human experience, all stories we invent to guide society and confer purpose on life.

Pagan Christs by J. M. Robertson. A cross-cultural inventory of mythological scripts that display all the elements found in the story of Jesus Christ, the universal savior of Christianity, whose life and deeds are held to be historically unique by adherents to the faith. This book demonstrates the astounding uniformity of plot-structure in the scripts attached to religious belief-systems centered on a messiah or savior, the example of divine sacrifice.

Many savior-type sun-gods preceded Jesus Christ: for example, the Aztec God, "Yiacatechutli," shown here in an image from a Pre-Columbian Codex drawn before Christian influence in the New World. The figure is typical of solar deities who symbolically sustain the four seasons, represented by the cross. This deity is named "Lord of the Vanguard." The title is astronomically correct, for the sun propels the solar system through space by a screw-like motion in which it occupies the apex and the four seasons recur continually on the axis it generates. (For a contrasting image, see below, The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception.)

Beyond Theology by Alan Watts. A lucid discussion of some primary assumptions in Western religion, contrasted to other assumptions found in Asian philosophy. Watts concentrates on the difference between the belief that God is a father-figure who tests us and the belief that Divinity is an awareness that plays with us, operating through our own minds. Watts’ lucid and often humorous treatment of the ways in which humanity explains its relationship to the Divine offers deep insights into the theme of Moral Design.

The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light by William Irwin Thompson. A brilliant model of metahistorical overview, this book delves into the origins of culture and civilization as reflected in human sexuality. It is especially effective in showing how the patterns of experience in primordial time (Sacred Nature) predetermine the rise of civilization (Origins), even though the continuity with nature is ruptured as civilization develops.

The notion that civilization is inspired by the love between a Goddess and a human male is common to many ancient cultures. The Erotic theme is lavishly developed in the Sumerian love poetry that celebrates the theogamy (divine-human mating) of the Goddess Inanna and the shepherd Dumuzi. According to Thompson, civilization begins by making love, not war. (Lovers embracing, clay plaque, Mesopotamia, 2000 BCE)

Memories and Visions of Paradise by Richard Heinberg. A rich, well-arranged inventory of mythic scripts that describe Paradise and the Golden Age. This is a book full of inspiring stories about an original harmony from which humanity emerged into its present conflict and confusion. It shows that whether or not the harmony ever existed, the nostalgia for it is real and powerful. Reflecting primarily on the theme of Sacred Nature, this book also raises the question of how humanity creates order once it has become separated from the life-sustaining order of the natural world.

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels. A study of religious heresy, this book raises many questions concerning the master themes of Eternal Conflict (Good versus Evil) and Moral Design. Drawing upon Gnostic teachings repressed by the Christian Church, it considers alternative scripts of sin and redemption, contrasting with those received in Judaeo-Christian tradition. Side by side with the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Gnostic materials cited here represent the greatest archeological textual find of the 20th Century.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. A rich and dramatic recounting of the many guises of the hero and the many variants of his quest. The heros relation to the Goddess (reflecting the master theme of Sacred Nature) points to the origin . Moral Design is also implied, for the hero is the primary model of morality in pagan cultures and indigenous societies, fully as important as the prophet, saint or messiah in societies ruled by the institutional religions.

Stories of the origin of civilization often cite a founding hero like the Trojan warrior Aeneas. His father, Anchises, had mated with the Goddess Aphrodite, another example of theogamy. After fleeing Troy with Anchises on his shoulders, Aeneas went on to become the mythical progenitor and "culture-hero" of the Roman peoples. (Children’s book illustration.)

The Myth of the Goddess by Anne Baring and Jules Cashford. The best single overview of the lore of the Goddess found in many cultures, this book focuses on the master theme of Sacred Nature which the Goddess universally embodies. It recovers and restores many stories lost to humanity over the last two millennia due to censorship by the patriarchal religions.

From Atlantis to the Sphinx by Colin Wilson. A clear, informative resume of a wide range of alternative scenarios of history, this book focuses on the long controversy over Atlantis, the exemplary lost civilization said to have existed in pre-historic times (before 9000 BCE). It reflects equally on the master themes of Origins and Technology because it explores the controversial notion that high technology existed in prehistory. Even if only a few of the speculations summarized in this book are correct, the story of how civilization arose will have to be rewritten “from scratch.”

The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler. As the title indicates, this book explores the master theme of Eternal Conflict expressed in the opposition between aggression (blade) and nurturing (chalice) throughout history. Taking Minoan Crete for the model of an egalitarian but Goddess-oriented society based on cooperation between the sexes, it skillfully develops the argument against the male-defined "dominator society" called patriarchy. It is especially valuable in presenting alternative history as a basis for developing new options for sexual and social relations in contemporary society.

Arktos by Jocelyn Godwin. A shocking expose of the racial-religious theories that have inspired some occult movements as well as the Nazi regime. This book describes the origin of Aryan white supremacist scripts and the close links between metaphysical (New Age) fantasy and fascist ideology. In doing so it explores the master themes of Origins and Eternal Conflict within the framework of the catastrophic events of the 20th Century. All three of the controversial A-words of metahistory — Atlantis, Aquarius, Aryan — are treated in a sober and scholarly manner.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception by Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. Vivid journalistic and scholarly account of the scandal surrounding the cover-up of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in Israel in 1947 on the eve of the founding of the State of Israel. These texts reveal that the Christian religion did not arise from mainstream Judaism before Christ, but from the fanatic beliefs of a militaristic splinter cult, the Zealots. Hence the book supports an alternative story for the origin and meaning of Christianity and is highly relevant to the master themes of Eternal Conflict and Moral Design.

In Christian ideology, all the former pagan sun-gods who suffer and die a Christ-like death, only to be resurrected, are amalgamated into the figure of Jesus Christ, who is then presented as the sole and legitimate example of the cosmic savior. However, the evidence of pagan origins continues to adhere to the Christian savior. A Swiss Cathedral door cast in the 18th century depicts the crucified savior embellished with grape clusters, the motif of one of his pagan counterparts, Dionysos.

Angels and Aliens by Keith Thompson. An original and far-ranging treatment of the UFO/ET question, demonstrating how beliefs about extraterrestrial intervention contain all the elements of a full-blown religious system. A deep study of the symbolic and psychological dimensions of the UFO phenomenon, this book explores the boundaries between what is real and what is imagined, and it shows how often beliefs determine where those boundaries are located.

The theme of the intervention of an alien or extraterrestrial species into human affairs occurs in Sumerian texts that date from 3400 BCE. The belief that aliens "seeded" humanity on earth and brought technology from their world has been revived since 1947 when the Roswell crash was alleged to occur. This belief is almost always coupled with the assumption that humanity is incapable of advancing solely by its own potential. (Cover of Fate Magazine, September 1992)

Supernature by Lyall Watson. A sober, eye-opening look at the realm of paranormal phenomena, raising many questions about humanity’s relation to the powers of the physical world (Sacred Nature) and the use of its hidden potential for good or evil (Moral Design). Extensively researched, this book focuses on the question of how human potential may be repressed by religious beliefs and denied by scientific dogmas (beliefs in disguise). It exposes many scripts that carry assumptions about what is and is not possible to us through the exploration of our own inborn faculties.

Gaia: The Practical Science of Planetary Medicine by James Lovelock, co-author of the Gaia Hypothesis, proposing that the earth is a dynamic entity able to control its own life processes. Here is a new story about the life of the earth, which might change our view of the human presence in the natural world. Through his vivid description of the geophysiology of the planet, Lovelock reformulates the master theme of Sacred Nature in the context of Technology. The debate over Gaia introduces a new scientific paradigm that challenges many religious and scientific beliefs.

Gaia-Sophia Navigator

The Gaia Hypothesis reintroduces in rigorous scientific language the belief common to indigenous peoples and some esoteric traditions, such as alchemy: namely, that the earth is a living intelligence. Gaia is Sophia (Wisdom), who imparts to humanity the moral and practical knowledge necessary for its survival. In this role, the earth-wisdom is invariably represented as a woman. (18th Century alchemical manual, Sapientia veterum philosophorum)

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Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2018 by John L. Lash.