Time travel from ancient mythology to modern science

Time travel from ancient mythology to modern science

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Time travelling and time machines have been a topic of science fiction and countless movies for many decades. In fact, it appears that the possibility to travel in time, either into the future or into the past, has appealed to the imagination of mankind for centuries. While many may think it is absurd to believe that we could travel back or forwards in time, some of the world’s most brilliant scientists have investigated whether it could one day be made a reality.

Albert Einstein for example, concluded in his later years that the past, present, and future all exist simultaneously, and most are familiar with his well-known concept of relativity . That is, that time is relative and not absolute as Newton claimed. With the proper technology, such as a very fast spaceship, one person is able to experience several days while another person simultaneously experiences only a few hours or minutes. Yet the wisdom of Einstein's convictions had very little impact on cosmology or science in general. The majority of physicists have been slow to give up the ordinary assumptions we make about time.

However, if time travel really was possible, one can hardly contemplate what this may mean for humanity for whoever has the power to move through time, has the power to modify history. While this may sound attractive, it would be impossible to know the consequences of any alteration of past events, and how this would affect the future.

Time travel in ancient mythology

If we look into ancient texts we can find a number of references to time travelling. In Hindu mythology, there is the story of King Raivata Kakudmi who travels to meet the creator Brahma. Even if this trip didn’t last long, when Kakudmi returned back to Earth, 108 yugas had passed on Earth, and it is thought that each yuga represents about 4 million years. The explanation Brahma gave to Kakudmi is that time runs differently in different planes of existence. Similarly, we have references in the Quran about the cave of Al-Kahf. The story refers to a group of young Christian people, who in 250 AD tried to escape persecution and retreated, under God’s guidance, to a cave where God put them to sleep. They woke up 309 years later. This story coincides with the Christian story of the seven sleepers , with a few differences.

Another story comes from the Japanese legend of Urashima Taro . Urashima Taro was an individual who was said to visit the underwater palace of the Dragon God Ryujin. He stayed there for three days, but when he returned to the surface, 300 years had passed. In the Buddhist text, Pali Canon , it is written that in the heaven of the thirty Devas (the place of the Gods), time passes at a different pace where one hundred Earth years count as a single day for them. And there are many more references.

Scientific research

Probably the most well-known story of accidental time travel is the Philadelphia experiment which allegedly took place in 1943 with the purpose of cloaking a ship and making it invisible to enemies’ radar. However, it was said that the experiment went terribly wrong – the ship not only vanished completely from Philadelphia but it was teleported to Norfolk and went back in time for 10 seconds. When the ship appeared again some crew members were physically fused to bulkheads, others developed mental disorders, a few disappeared completely, and some reported travelling into the future and back. Allegedly, Nikola Tesla, who was the director of Engineering and Research at Radio Company of America at the time, was involved in the experiment by making all the necessary calculations and drawings and also providing the generators (however he wasn't alive when the experiment took place, he died a few months before the experiment took place).

In 1960, we have another interesting case report of scientist Pellegrino Ernetti , who claimed that he developed a machine that would enable someone to see in the past, the Chronivisor. His theory was that anything that happens leaves an energy mark that can never be destroyed (something like the mystical Akashic Records). So he allegedly developed this machine that could detect, magnify and convert this energy into an image – something like a TV showing what happened in the past.

In the 1980s, there are reports of another controversial experiment, the Montauk project , which again allegedly experimented with time travel among other things. Whether the Philadelphia and Montauk experiments actually took place is still under debate. However, it is common sense to assume that the military would definitely be interested in the possibility of time travel and would engage in extensive research on the subject.

Moving on, in 2004, Marlin Pohlman applied for a patent for a method of gravity distortion and time displacement. Marlin Pohlman is a scientist, engineer, and member of Mensa with a Bachelor, MBA and PhD. And only last year, Wasfi Alshdaifat filed another patent for a space compression and time dilation machine that could be used for time travel.

Physicist Professor Ronald Lawrence Mallett of the University of Connecticut, is working on the concept of time travel, based on Einstein’s theory of relativity, and is absolutely convinced that time travelling is feasible. He predicts that human time travel will be possible in our century. Particle physicist Brian Cox agrees that time travel is possible but only in one direction.

We have the mysterious story of Ali Razeqi, managing director of the Iranian Centre for Strategic Inventions, who claimed that he developed a device that can see anywhere from 3 to 5 years in the future. His initial story disappeared from the internet a few hours after it was published.

In theory, time travel is possible, even if it is difficult to comprehend. Has the research cited above brought us closer towards making time travel a reality? If so, we can only hope that the technology does not get into the wrong hands.

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Reptilians: The Serpent Connection From Ancient Myths To Modern Science

This is a highly controversial and thought-provoking subject.

We will therefore investigate the topic from a scientific and mythological point of view. The human reptilian connection is very old. Reptilian-like humanoids and “Lizard- people” are described in many ancient texts and religions.

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“As long as humanity has kept records of its existence, legends of a serpent race have persisted. These myths tell of a mysterious race of superhuman reptilian beings who descended from the heavens to participate in creating humankind and to teach the sciences, impart forbidden knowledge, impose social order, breed with us, and watch over our development.

“The serpent like beings were not alone, but were part of a retinue of super beings thought to be gods by the ancients.

“Yet, in cultures as widespread and diverse as those of Sumeria, Babylonia, India, China, Japan, Mexico, and Central America, reptilian gods have been feared and worshipped.

“To this day the dragon or serpent signifies divine heritage and royalty in many Asian countries, while in the West, the serpent represents wisdom and knowledge.

“The symbol of two serpents coiled around a staff (originally signifying the tree of knowledge of ancient myth), known as the caduceus, is today used by the American Medical Association as its logo,” wrote Joe Lewels, Ph.D in his article “The Reptilians: Humanity’s Historical Link to the Serpent Race”.

The subject of reptilians has become popular since some decades when, David Icke, stated that some human beings on Earth are not normal like us and they are reptilians.

So is it possible that we evolved from reptilians?

There are certain physiological similarities between humans and reptilians. We have what is known as the “reptilian brain”.

It controls vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance.

Our reptilian brain also includes the main structures found in a reptile’s brain, namely the brainstem and the cerebellum.

The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive.

Our eyes are also constructed like the eyes of reptiles. In both humans and reptiles, the eye acts as a box with a lens to focus the light that passes through it. Cells within the eye process the light and turn it into useful information.

Scientists have for long been aware of that the lizard has a heart that is virtually indistinguishable from a human embryonic heart. While the structure of the human heart has been known for a long time, the evolutionary origin of our conduction system has nevertheless remained a mystery.

Now, a century-old mystery has thereby finally been unravelled about the evolution of the human heart.

Researchers have finally succeeded in showing that the spongy tissue in reptile hearts is the forerunner of the complex hearts of both birds and mammals.

The new knowledge provides a deeper understanding of the complex conductive tissue of the human heart, which is of key importance in many heart conditions.

“The heart of a bird or a mammal – for example a human – pumps frequently and rapidly.

This is only possible because it has electrically conductive tissue that controls the heart.

Until now, however, we haven’t been able to find conductive tissue in our common reptilian ancestors, which means we haven’t been able to understand how this enormously important system emerged,” says Bjarke Jensen, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University.

Along with Danish colleagues and colleagues from the University of Amsterdam, he now reveals that the genetic building blocks for highly developed conductive tissue are actually hidden behind the thin wall in the spongy hearts of reptiles.

Is this who started our civilization?

Since the early 1900s, scientists have been wondering how birds and mammals could have developed almost identical conduction systems independently of each other when their common ancestor was a cold-blooded reptile with a sponge-like inner heart that has virtually no conduction bundles.

“We studied the hearts of cold-blooded animals like lizards, frogs and zebrafish, and we investigated the gene that determines which parts of the heart are responsible for conducting the activating current,” Dr Jensen.

“By comparing adult hearts from reptiles with embryonic hearts from birds and mammals, we discovered a common molecular structure that’s hidden by the anatomical differences,” he added.

Considering the number of similarities we share, such as the reptilian heart, brain and eyes, it’s wise to say there are strong indications that ancient reptilian-like humanoids hold secrets of mankind’s origin.

Some Differences in Life between the Ancient and Modern Worlds

In a time without cell phones, computers, telephones, automobiles, refrigerators, and all of the beeps, buzzes and noises of modern life, silence was common. In a time when the world’s population was less than 50 million, solitude was common. In a time when populations lived or died according to the size of their local annual harvest, austerity was the norm. This paper will mention only a few.

By design, man has always received information from the world outside of himself through his senses. However, in ancient times the senses of man were limited in what they could experience by the local environment. Today such limitations are far less.

Ancient – Without photographs and with drawings and paintings rare, man’s visual input was limited to the sights of his immediate surroundings. Few people had seen snow and jungles and mountains and forests and oceans because they rarely traveled more than a few dozen miles from home and those features are rarely co-located. Travelers could describe features to friends back home, but direct experience of varied sights was uncommon. With few written documents and little literacy, reading and analyzing documents was unusual.

People in Canaan had an advantage over many other ancient peoples in their visual experiences for two reasons. First, Canaan has snow and mountains (Mt. Hermon and vicinity), forests (Lebanon, Galilee, Jordan River basin), deserts (in the south around Beersheba, Negev), and the Mediterranean Sea. As nations go, Canaan is small (comparable in land mass to modern Slovenia or El Salvador), and residents of the land had only a few weeks travel from the deserts in the mountains in the north (Beersheba to Mount Hermon is just over 200 miles by ancient routes). The distance from the Jordan River to the east, and Mediterranean Sea to the west is only 60 miles. Second, Canaan was a crossroads of trade between Mesopotamia, Arabia, Africa, Asia, and Europe. People could see traders from India bringing peacocks and elephants, those from Yemen bringing gold and spices, and those from Europe trading furs. Assyria and Egypt were mighty empires compared to puny Israel, but while average Assyrians may never have seen an ocean and average Egyptians may never have seen snow or mountains, ordinary Israelites could easily have experienced both. Few places in the world can boast of such diversity in so small an area.

Modern – Technology allows almost anyone to have almost any type of visual input, regardless of their environment. With millions of documents on every conceivable subject available to most people in an instant, people can spend large percentages of their time on them.

Ancient – The sounds of nature, the human voice, and the noises of a few manmade things such as the creak and groan of the oxcart and the clash of swords comprised the sounds available to be heard. The overall noise level, except near inherently noisy places such as waterfalls, was low. Conversation occurs at about 60 decibels (db) and the sound of a large waterfall such as Niagara might tip 100 decibels. A human shout, such as what people might have heard in war, tops out about 90 db. Our ancestors would rarely have heard anything louder.

Modern – The only limit of sounds to which one can be exposed is the ability of the human ear. One can listen to sounds from the deep sea or high atmosphere, sounds never experienced in person by anyone.

The overall noise level is relatively high in the cities, with traffic hovering around 80 db and a jet takeoff hitting 140 db. Since over 50% of humanity lives in cities, most people experience more sounds than their ancestors did.

Ancient – The smells accessible to man were those of the natural world immediately around them. Abraham, for example, probably never experienced the smells of cinnamon, nutmeg or cloves. Due to an increase in trade, the apostles may have.

Modern – Smells are more limited than sights or sounds because it is more difficult to transmit chemicals over the internet than electrons. Nonetheless, foods, flowers and other fragrant items can be transported across the globe in a matter of hours.

Ancient – As with smells, food could not travel far, so people experienced only what was local. Because Canaan was a land bridge for trade between the continents, Israelites would have had the chance to experience much more.

Modern – As with smells, the only limit to tastes one can experience today is the limitations of the human body.

Ancient – Tactile stimuli are the same throughout the world.

Modern – Ancient man was far less protected from hot, cold, rough, smooth, and other such stimuli than we are today. Many of us spend our days in climate-controlled houses, buildings and vehicles.

It is important to note that while the ancients had a smaller variety of stimuli to observe, they may have observed more deeply than we do today.

In antiquity, man was governed by the realities of nature in a way that few people living today can even imagine. Sundials, water clocks and other devices were used to tell time in the ancient world, but mechanical clocks were not invented until the early Renaissance. The rhythms of the seasons dictated schedules.

Time Period

Ancient – Artificial light, usually candles or lamps lit with olive oil, was expensive. Most people had little. When the sun went down, they went to bed. Combat larger than small unit actions could not occur at night because commanders could not control bodies of troops. Land navigation depended upon the stars and landmarks because roads, until the famous Assyrian roads, with their regular waypoints, were generally narrow and could be easily missed.

Commoners and slaves usually did hard physical labor farming, hunting, gathering, or construction, and were exhausted when evening came. David spent hours alone in the countryside with his sheep and Lincoln spent hours alone in the forest splitting wood.

Modern – Today artificial light is cheap and work is less often hard physical labor. Instead of being awake 12-14 hours per day like the ancients were, we are awake 16-18 hours per day, most of it filled with activity and sensation.

Ancient – The phases of the moon and the movement of the stars were important for religious observances and for long distance navigation, especially nautical.

Modern – Navigation is done with timepieces, maps, charts, and radio and satellite navigation aids. Celestial navigation is a vanishing art.

Ancient – As largely agricultural people, the seasons dictated man’s activities. Wars could not occur during the harvest until there were enough people to do both at the same time.

Modern – Few in developed countries are one poor harvest away from starvation, so the seasons have far less impact on the lives of people.

The greatest force available to man in the ancient world was the pulling force of an ox or horse and the pushing force of the wind or water. Thus man’s ability to lift and move was limited (although as the builders of the pyramids demonstrated, impressive).

Man can walk about three to four miles per hour over moderate terrain, and camel and donkey caravans averaged about the same speed. The typical day’s journey was 25 to 30 miles although it was possible to go faster if the roads were good. Roads were made of dirt until the Roman era and trouble from highwaymen was common. Camels needed to spend up to two months in between long journeys to recuperate. Caravan routes followed established trails or roads between water points. Fodder had to be brought along, with roughly 30 loads of fodder for every 100 loads of merchandise. Each camel would carry loads of up to 300 lbs. Typical cargos were wool, cotton, tea, spices, precious stones, and manufactured goods. A caravan might include 150 camels, roughly eight files of 18 camels per file, for a total of 22.5 tons (45,000 lbs).

Water transportation was by rowing or sailing ships. Depending upon the winds and the current, triremes (ancient Greek ships with rows and sails) typically traveled six to seven miles per hour and travel up to 60 miles per day. Most ships would stay close to the shore and anchor at night to avoid running aground unless they were in very familiar seas. By 240 BC, the Greeks were using cargo ships which were each capable of carrying 500 tons (1,000,000 lbs). It is little wonder that sea trade was far cheaper than land trade.

By contrast, modern trucks can travel 400 miles in one day while carrying 24 tons (48,000 lbs). Modern ultra large container vessels (ULCV) can carry up to 15,000 twenty foot equivalent units (TEU). Each TEU represents approximately 24 tons (48,000 lbs). Thus one modern ULCV can carry roughly 360,000 of load.

Health was one of the greatest differences between ancient and modern times. As late as England in the 18 th century, 25 women died for every 1000 babies born. According to estimates using data from the Roman Empire, about 300 of every 1000 newborns died before completing their first year. Abortion and infanticide, common practices, artificially elevate that number, but modern non-industrial societies sometimes have infant mortality rates of up to 200/1000. Average life expectancy was 25 years, but people who lived into adulthood probably made it to their 60s or 70s.

By contrast, modern life expectancy at birth is 75 to 80 years in the Western world and infant mortality is roughly three to five deaths per 1,000 births. Maternal mortality is roughly 10 deaths per 100,000 live births.

Libraries have been written on this topic, but students of history and historical documents such as the Bible should be aware of these important facts. A clearer understanding of the lives of our ancestors will help us better understand their thoughts, actions, and lives. It will also help us better identify the lessons of history and apply them to our world today.

Some Problems with Modern Kemetic Mythology

There is a sub-category of Neopaganism today called Kemetism, or Egyptian Neopaganism. It is often heavily wrapped up in Black Supremacist or Afrocentrism movements. By analogy to Wicca, the most well-known variety of Neopaganism, which is based on a European pagan legacy (especially Celtic, Greek, Nordo-Germanic, and Roman), Kemetic religion is derived from Egyptian religion almost exclusively (for example, it rarely integrates Mauritanian, Ethiopian, Phoenician, or sub-Saharan religions). Much of Neopaganism is allegorically naturalist and only culturally religious, or vaguely spiritual and quasi-supernaturalist. But unlike this major trend in contemporary Neopaganism, Kemetists are not content to just reimagine an Egyptian pantheon, culture, and ritualism they also have a chip on their shoulder about deconstructing all modern religion as “secretly” Egyptian. Thus Christianity and Islam are “really” just bastardized, stolen versions of Egyptian pagan mythology—and thus, really, African (in particular, of the most historically advanced ancient civilization in Africa the African “master race” as it were). This is where the whole religion goes off the rails.

I don’t bother much with Neopaganism, because hardly anyone follows it and it isn’t pulling on the levers of power anywhere in the world, but also because it tends to be relatively harmless—unlike, for example, the world’s most powerful, influential, and dangerous variety of paganism today: Hindu Nationalism. Allegorical varieties of Neopaganism can even be plausible enough to integrate with secular humanism. A science-and-evidence-based allegorical Neopaganism is entirely conceivable. But when Neopagans start to distort history and spread ethnocentrist revisions of historical fact, particularly in areas I’m an expert in and thus can speak with some authority on, I get notably annoyed.

I addressed some examples of this recently on the Dagger Squad, where we critiqued just a sampling of claims from the most famous Kemetic apologist today, Brother Jabari. The whole process reminded me of some common, fundamental lessons in historical methodology I wish all these amateurs would learn and apply, so we could clean up and get rid of all the misinformation they spin on the internet, which often gets conflated with serious Jesus-myth scholarship and thus wrongly used to dismiss it. I’ve summarized some critical thinking tools on this point before (see A Vital Primer on Media Literacy, The Difference Between a Historian and an Apologist, and From Lead Codices to Mummy Gospels: Essential Links on Dubious Tales). I also teach an online course every month on both critical thinking and historical methods for everyone. Here I’ll focus on some basic principles of sound (vs. unsound) historical procedure for ascertaining the truth, particularly regarding antiquity. So my brief critique of Jabari will serve as a launching point for general principles.

Stop Trusting Historians Before 1950

Rule Number One: Never trust anything written before 1950. Indeed never, ever trust anything written in the 19th century. Almost everything from that period is deeply and persistently unreliable (the few exceptions, e.g. the best textual criticism and lexicography of those eras, don’t pertain to any point here see my old article History before 1950, which I include in Hitler Homer Bible Christ). Unless you verify it independently—either in more modern, peer reviewed (not amateur) scholarship, or directly in the primary evidence.

Which leads to Rule Number Two: Always trace a claim to its earliest evidence. In other words, go to the primary source, which here means the earliest surviving instance or evidence of the claim at hand. Good scholars will bread-crumb you to that with source citations (either to that primary evidence, or to secondary scholarship that in turn cites those primary sources). Good scholars will also have checked the primary evidence to confirm any secondary source they cite has correctly represented it.

Jabari fails at this when he tells us he “found” proof in the “Chronicon Paschale“ that ancient Egyptians worshiped a virgin born Horus who was adored in a manger. He “quotes” his imagined source as saying:

To this day, Egypt has consecrated the pregnancy of a virgin, and the nativity of her son, whom they annually present in a cradle, to the adoration of the people and when king Ptolemy, three hundred and fifty years before our Christian era, demanded of the priests the significance of this religious ceremony, they told him it was a mystery.

There is actually no such passage in the Chronicon Paschale. And the Chronicon is not an ancient text. Or an Egyptian one. It is a Medieval, European, Christian document. Probably written by white dudes. This “quotation” comes from a book published in 1881 after the death of its author, the amateur quack Logan Mitchell, who had no recorded qualifications of any relevance. So, not even a historian. But also, this is 19th century garbage. Like almost all 19th century work in history is. This “quotation” kept getting repeated and attributed to various sources for decades no one quoting it seems ever to bother doing what a responsible historian must do: find the original text and confirm the translation and its context. What does the Medieval Christian Chronicon actually say? And what were its sources? Should we even believe a word of it?

Christian apologist Roger Pearce did the responsible thing and checked. What the Chronicon actually says is this:

This sign Jeremiah gave to the priests of Egypt, predicting the future, that their idols would be destroyed by a boy savior born of a virgin, and laid in a manger. For which reason they honor a pregnant virgin goddess and worship an infant in a manger. When king Ptolemy asked why, they told him that they received this secret from the holy prophet handed down by their fathers. [Meaning] the same prophet Jeremiah, before the [first] destruction of the temple.

This story is claiming the existence of an obscure priesthood (of Jewish converts?) in Egypt worshiping a virgin born baby in a manger at the behest of “their” Jewish prophet Jeremiah, foretelling the Christian religion. This story is complete bullshit. Some Medieval Christian made this garbage up, to embarrass the Jews and glorify Christianity. This nonsense about worshiping virgin born babies in mangers might go as far back as the 5th century Christian mythmonger Epiphanius (from his spottily extant Lives of the Prophets). But not beyond. There is no ancient source for this Christian myth—at all, much less among any Egyptian sources, textual or epigraphic. This is simply not an Egyptian story at all. It is also not a story, take note, about Horus or any ancient Egyptian god. It is a Christian fiction, a bogus claim that there were some (possibly even Jews) in Egypt who at the behest of their prophet Jeremiah were honoring a future-coming Jesus Christ. No such thing is or ever was true. It’s bullshit. And anyone who did their homework should know this. After all, had any such story existed in the first three centuries, Christian apologists would have cited it a hundred times! But as we see, they’d never heard of any such thing. So we know no such tale then existed. It’s a Medieval fabrication.

Which leads us to Rule Number Three: Once you have found the earliest surviving source, you must date and contextualize and critically evaluate its evidence. Don’t just be a gullible dupe and believe anything anyone wrote down. Least of all the most unreliable of people in the history of history: Medieval Christian mythmongers. What does this passage in the Chronicon actually say? What sources did it use—does it even cite any? Is this even a trustworthy source? Particularly for foreign cult lore that just happens to conveniently glorify Christianity? Why does it appear nowhere in actual ancient Egyptian material? Why do no earlier sources ever mention any such tall tale? Why should we believe any of it?

Get Your Facts Straight

If you are intent on claiming you know the origin of something, check first. How do you know? For example, the idea that gods have sons, or even that living men were gods, was not unique to Egypt but a global religious idea that so far as we can tell predates all written history. Just because we have more ancient Egyptian texts than of other civilizations does not mean all other civilizations got their ideas from Egypt. Most ideas predate written records altogether and Egypt will have borrowed from other cultures just as many ideas as other cultures borrowed from Egypt. So “antiquity” is not alone evidence of causal direction. You need something more than that.

Which is Rule Number Four: Always check your facts, and your logic, to make sure your claims actually follow from the evidence that actually exists. An even more important example of failing at this is Jabari’s repeated insistence that Horus is a virgin-born god. Nope. In the most common myths his mother Isis fucks her brother Osiris after endowing him with a magical prosthetic penis that inseminates her. Mary does not fuck Yahweh by riding his magical dildo. So in no way is the one borrowed from the other. To the contrary, Mary’s insemination by angelic magic is deliberately crafted to renounce such vulgar myths. The whole point of having her an untouched virgin who never fucked a thing is to “prove” she is the superior of all these tawdry pagan whores. Because sex is gross. Which is a Jewish idea. Not an Egyptian one. And its precedents don’t come from Egypt (see Virgin Birth: It’s Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.).

Egyptian mythology had only one virgin mother goddess: Neith and the only virgin-born god is her son, Ra. And Neith is not impregnated by some subdeity casting a spell on her on behalf of a Higher God as Gabriel more or less does to Mary, but by her own direct will to create. Mary does not do that. Nor is she a god her de facto deification would not occur until the Middle Ages, and though by then some role was to be played by co-opting Mother-with-Horus cult worship in Egypt, that was not the only mother-son cult coopted by Christians to lure and appease pagans away from their old cults into the new state-sanctioned one. Every local religion was used to lure local populations. And Jesus was already virgin-born to Mary in Christian mythology centuries before any of that occurred. Which leads to Rule Number Five: Pay attention to relative chronology. Don’t look at later Medieval developments in Christianity and then claim they signify how the whole religion and its core myths began. That’s bullshit history. Don’t do bullshit history.

The fact is, virginally conceived and virginally born gods were such a popular motif all over the Mediterranean when Christianity began that the idea cannot be credited to any single culture. It was by then simply a ubiquitous trope, that Christianity could adapt from everywhere. They would have had no idea where that trope began thousands of years prior and neither, honestly, do we. They would see the Egyptian models of it as just part of a universal type found in all cultures. Hence as I wrote before:

[It’s true that the] notion that the virgin birth was not a lift from paganism is highly improbable. The idea is obviously a Jewish adaptation of a popular motif in surrounding cultures. There is no other credible explanation for why it ever became important to claim such a thing of Jesus. Just as “our God must be able to do things your God can” led to syncretistic innovation within Judaism (whereby, for example, the Jews suddenly “discovered” their God would resurrect them, at oddly the very same time they learned the Zoroastrian God would), so “our godman must be as awesome as your godmen” had the same effect. Thus, Jesus couldn’t be sexually conceived, because that was gross, and yet he had to be a pre-existent being inserted into a woman’s womb to reify prophecy. A conundrum. But as soon as Jews saw how the pagans solved this problem for their godmen, they would obviously have stolen the very same solution. This is how all ideas and technologies proliferate from one culture to another. “Well if pagan gods can directly create fetuses just with their divine pneuma, then so can ours, damnit!”

And in case it isn’t clear, ancient Egyptian statues showing a toddler on a goddess’s lap are of Horus and Isis, not Ra and Neith—and Horus was not the one born to a virgin Ra was. It’s especially embarrassing to see someone claiming to be an expert in Egyptian religion not even getting right which Egyptian god was born of a virgin (or else not even correctly identify Egyptian statuary). But it’s a particular failure to not have researched the ubiquitous multicultural fact of virgin mothers that Christianity was lifting from, or the Jewish basis for the forms of it they preferred to emulate—which definitely did not feature the fucking of dildos, but very specifically the repudiation of such things. Their closest actual model was Zeus’s begetting of Perseus by slipping into Danaë’s womb in the guise of a magical fluid just substitute “Holy Spirit” for “Golden Rain” and “Yahweh” for “Zeus” and you have the baby Jesus tale. The begetting of Horus was absolutely not a parallel they had any interest in replicating (see That Luxor Thing and That Luxor Thing Again).

December 25th Is Neither Egyptian Nor Pagan

I know it is popular to claim Christmas was assigned to December 25 because that was the birthday of every sun god…well, under the sun. But that’s simply false. Search all you might—follow the Five Rules I just enumerated—and you simply won’t find this. There is no ancient evidence that any god, sun-god or otherwise, was born on December 25th. Horus was not born on December 25th. Mithras was not born on December 25th. No god was born on December 25th. So please. Stop saying this.

This obsession with a modern urban legend about December 25th is all the more perplexing given that Christianity never originated with any such idea anyway. The usual bullshit line spun is that because Jesus “was born” on December 25th, and all sun-gods were born on December 25th, therefore “Christianity” was invented as a replicated sun-god cult. Astrotheology for the win! But this is all false. All of it. Not only were there no sun-gods born on December 25th when Christianity began, but the idea that Jesus was born on December 25th didn’t exist when Christianity began. The earliest recorded Christian belief regarding when he was born put his birthday in Spring, not Winter (arising sometime in the second century the Gospels say nothing on the point). The idea of moving it to December 25 had its origin in fringe Christian numerological speculation in the third century, and didn’t prevail in Christian doctrine until the fourth century. It therefore had nothing to do with the origin of the religion.

When it finally did arise, the notion was based on the convenient “logic” that (a) Jesus must have been conceived on the same calendar date he died (because that just “feels right”) and surely Mary had an absolutely, perfectly, exactly nine-months-to-the-day pregnancy (because she and God are awesome, “so that must be the case, right?”) and if you count inclusively (as then they did) exactly nine-months-to-the-day from the believed calendar date of his death (based on Gospel fabrications having to do with making him conveniently die exactly on a Passover, which is actually historically impossible), guess what date you get on the then-Roman calendar? That’s right. December 25th. There are two reasons we can be certain this is the real reason Christians eventually adopted that date for the birth of Jesus: because this notion started arising before any pagan god was assigned that date of birth and it is far too improbable that Christians would borrow that date from a pagan god and just by coincidence it’s exactly nine-months-to-the-day after their previously-imagined date of his mythical death-and-conception. Such coincidences sooner suggest intelligent design: that is far more likely the reason for choosing the date than an “accidental” consequence of it.

This is another “Please Check Your Facts” example. If you did actual, competent, responsible research you would find there is no evidence of gods being born on December 25th (Egyptian or otherwise) until Emperor Aurelian late in the third century chose to assign that calendar day to celebrate the birth of his preferred state god Sol Invictus (The Invincible Sun). But that isn’t Egyptian and it doesn’t predate Christian speculations moving Jesus’s birthday to the same date. Aurelian’s god Sol was a syncretized Etruscan-Syrian cult and the reason for placing his birth date at December 25 most likely had to do with two converging factors: (a) Aurelian needed a day not already devoted to a holiday on the official state calendar, and the actual Winter Solstice (birthday of the sun), December 21, was already taken (by the pagan “Christmas” feast week of Saturnalia), while December 25 was not and (b) Aurelian’s new temple to Sol was completed just then and thus was most conveniently dedicated on December 25. Perhaps Aurelian’s move to do this later gave an added incentive to Christians to choose the faction pushing a December 25 date for their god over the previously more popular Spring date, to coopt and eclipse Sol cult as often they did others, but by then we are hell and gone from the origin of Christianity, and nowhere near any Egyptian myth.

Jabari not only fails to learn any of this—because he fact-checks nothing, and just gullibly believes whatever some long-dead white guys told him—but he garbles even the sources he claims to have. Contrary to what he elaborately claims, the late pagan author Macrobius does not date any holy day to December 25, least of all the Winter Solstice, which occurs not on the 25th but on December 21. The Saturnalia, which he wrote a lot about, is many days long and ends before the 25th (it was most typically celebrated from the 17th to the 23rd). When Christianity arose, and even later on when Christians started speculating on a December birthday, there was no holy day on December 25 in either the Roman or the Egyptian calendars (which didn’t align anyway, so “December 25” is a meaningless term in the Egyptian system such a date simply didn’t even exist in any fixed sense, much less match up with the Julian calendar date of December 25).

In case you were wondering, reconstructed ancient Egyptian holy calendars do exist. What we find on them is that Ra, the actual Egyptian god of the son, was born in August and Horus (and Osiris, the Egyptian god otherwise most equivalent to Jesus) were not born in any month: their births were in what are called intercalary days, extra days that complete a solar year, which in the Egyptian system were assigned to no month at all—and occur nowhere near December they filled the calendar in Summer. Which gets us to Rule Number Six: If you want to know if something is true about a given culture at a given time, check the sources of that culture from that time.

Third Day Mythology

Contrary to what Jabari says, there is no evidence that the Christian “third day” resurrection motif was ever connected to the sun or any kind of astrotheology. In fact, there is no astrotheology whatever in early Christianity—the Bible is entirely devoid of it, and based instead on scriptural numerology. Astrotheological ideas might have been coopted into Christianity in the Middle Ages, but that can have no relevance to the origin of the religion or the contents of its New Testament nor were they uniquely Egyptian (Persian and other systems were just as influential). Even Judaism from which Christianity arose, though it used a lunar calendar (as many agricultural societies then did), and eventually adopted the ancient scientific understanding of a planetary-layered-heaven, was not astrotheological in content. None of its doctrines were based on astrology, constellations, or anything astrophysical. If you want to see what actual evidence of astrotheology looks like, consult the research in ancient Mithraism (which derived from Greco-Persian astrotheology, not Egyptian) in David Ulansey’s The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (though with some corrective in Roger Beck’s The Religion of the Mithras Cult in the Roman Empire). There is nothing like this evidence for Judaism or early Christianity.

The notion of a resurrection “on the third day” appears to be based on Ancient Near Eastern concepts surrounding death that predate the written record. Our earliest example of the motif is not Egyptian, but Sumerian: it appears in the ancient tale of the death-and-resurrection of the goddess Inanna, which survives on clay tablets dating at least to the 18th century B.C., which contain a legend that could date as far back as the 40th century B.C. The motif appears all over the place after that, from Greece and Rome to Persia and Egypt. In Jewish lore it appears to have been connected to the time it was thought it took for a corpse to become unrecognizable (see my discussion and quotation of the relevant sources in my chapter on the body of Jesus in The Empty Tomb). But it also coincided with Jewish calendric beliefs regarding the time-span of the new or full moon, where we see the same assumptions governing the assignment of a three-day motif to the death and resurrection of Osiris in Egyptian myth (which assignment can’t be reliably dated much earlier than the Hellenistic era: see Dying-and-Rising Gods: It’s Pagan, Guys. Get Over It.). Both Osiris and Jesus die on the first day of a full moon and rise on its last “full” day. But this does not appear to be because the Christians borrowed the idea from Osiris cult, but simply because both Jesus and Osiris cult set their death-and-resurrection tales around a local lunar holiday (and not, I’d like to point out, a solar holiday—Jabari can’t even maintain a coherent metaphor). Because the Jews had already long before fixed the Passover to the rise of the full moon, and Jesus was conceived as the new Passover sacrifice.

Which gets us to Rule Number Seven: Correlation is not causation. Parallels do not automatically exist because you think they do and when they do exist, they do not automatically confirm your particular causal hypothesis. If X resembles Y (e.g. Osiris and Jesus died and rose “on a third day”), it may be because X caused Y (Osiris cult inspired Jesus cult), or because Y caused X (Jesus cult inspired Osiris cult), or because a common factor Z separately caused both X and Y (lunar calendars cause third-day motifs, and Egypt and Judea both independently adopted lunar calendars), or because of mere random accident. Because there are billions and billions of facts, accidental “correlations” among them are actually statistically inevitable and guaranteed to be quite numerous. So similarities might belie no causal connection whatever. You need to do a lot more work than just find “similarities” to support any causal hypothesis, much less yours. (See Everything You Need to Know about Coincidences.)

Um…That Was a UFO, Not a Star

Jabari waxes on a lot about how “the star” in the Infancy Narrative of Matthew “must” be a reference to the Dog Star, Sirius (Canis Major), and somehow connected to Orion’s Belt and thus the Pyramids (or some such bizarre nonsense). The Great Pyramids might have some sort of intended stellar alignment (that’s disputed, but not my area). But I can confidently say nothing else he says about this is correct. For one thing, his account seems to garble a bunch of different astronomical facts. He seems to argue that Orion’s belt points “to” the rising of the sun that’s incorrect. It points to the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star—the brightest star in the Earth sky, which is nowhere near where the sun ever is. You might know that “Dog Days” are when that Dog Star rises each day at the same time as the sun, which is Summer that coincidence of rising times (not locations) was anciently used to mark the dawn of the Summer season (in more places than just Egypt Egyptians weren’t the only ones looking at the sky in antiquity). But more off the rails is Jabari’s attempt to connect any of this to the mythology of Matthew (which I should remind you is only the mythology of Matthew—no “star” exists in Mark, Luke, or John and the actual origin of the “star” motif may be a completely different, secret story that I discuss in OHJ, pp. 195-96, 320-21, 473).

In Matthew the “star” (astera, meaning any light or flame in the sky) is not what we mean in modern English by “a star,” but what we would today call a UFO: an unidentified flying object, that moves and hovers miraculously as suits its divine helmsman (in legend, an angel). This was never even proposed to be an astronomical phenomenon (and all modern attempts to turn it into one are bogus: see astronomer Aaron Adair’s The Star of Bethlehem: A Skeptical View). Moreover, Jabari commits the common mistake of interpreting the Greek phrase “we saw his star in the East” as meaning a star in the East in fact from context Matthew must mean the observers were in the East when they first spied this UFO—in the West (some translations will say “at its rising,” which is plausible, but context makes that reading unlikely as well). The UFO then flies ahead of them (Westward), vanishes for a spell to evade Herod’s spying eyes, and reappears at just the right time to fly forth and hover over a single town—indeed, over a single barn. There is no comparable story in ancient Egyptian lore. And there is nothing astronomical even imagined to be going on here.

Healing: Myth & Folklore

Jabari tries to argue that Mark’s involvement of “spit” in some of the healing miracles of Jesus proves Mark was stealing ideas from Egypt (Mark 7:33 & Mark 8:23 one of which tales is elaborated in John 9:6). The reason? Egyptian folklore included legends of divine spittle curing wounds. The problem? Jesus never cures any wounds in Mark. At all. Much less with spit. Scholars and layfolk alike often overlook this. But the Gospel Jesus mostly only cures ailments that are commonly psychosomatic and incapable of being proved real (because that’s all that Christian missionaries could “actually” heal in their tent shows as well). The only wound care Jesus is credited with appears in Luke, who was so disturbed by both his sources depicting Peter mutilating a slave and Jesus doing nothing about it that he decided to invent the tale that Jesus fixed it which fabrication to the story John rejected. And Luke did not imagine Jesus using spit for this.

This leads to Rule Number Eight: Always check if what you think is particular and thus indicative of something, was actually commonplace and thus not indicative of anything. As in this case: using spit to heal wounds was a ubiquitous folk belief, not at all peculiar to Egypt, and almost certainly dates beyond even the existence of Egyptian culture indeed, evidence of craft medical lore predates even human beings: the earliest indications of culture and craft lore arise in the pre-human species Homo habilis (far, far south of Egypt). Since it is a scientific fact that human saliva assists wound care, it seems quite unlikely that fact hadn’t been discovered long before sentient beings even walked the sands of Egypt. Consequently it will have spread everywhere before Egyptian civilization even had a chance to influence anything.

But actually, the fact in Christian myth that Jabari wants to explain is Jesus’s peculiar use of spit to cure deafness and blindness, which has no medical basis. That idea did exist in Egyptian lore, but so it did in many cultures. But we can adduce a more likely basis for its invention in Mark’s effort to revamp and rewrite the miracles of Moses: Christians adopted the belief that Jesus Christ was in fact Moses’s rock, also known as Miriam’s Well, which brought to the Israelites the water of life (OHJ, pp. 415-18). That the water of life (water literally from that rock, now in the new form of Jesus) would cause the deaf to hear and the blind to see (both metaphors for understanding the gospel) is a rather too obvious literary device. As is the parallel Mark intentionally draws by linking Moses’s tree of healing and Jesus’s healing of the blind man (who at first “sees trees” rather than people another obvious giveaway). But even as a replication of common medicinal folklore there is nothing peculiarly Egyptian about any of this.

In the same vein, contrary to Jabari’s attempt to argue an Egyptian basis for it, the title “King of Kings” was a global Western phenomena, not unique to Egypt any connection to Egypt it might ever have had (and there is, I’ll remind you, no evidence of any) would have been long lost hundreds of years before Christianity arose, and thus couldn’t have been salient to its inventors. What we find instead is the far more likely source of that appellation is the Jewish, not Egyptian, background of Christian mythology: the Jews’ Persian overlords famously held the title King of Kings, as attested in the books of Ezra, Ezekiel, and Daniel, and the New Testament constructs its mythology for Jesus out of exactly such scriptures. This is the most likely reason it was adapted to Jesus. Though note this title is not assigned to Jesus in any of his actual “myths” it’s not in the Gospels, nor in Paul. It first appears in the late first century book of Revelation, a political prophetic text written long after Christianity began—and without any discernible Egyptian influence.

Another example in this category is the trope of the dying-and-rising god, which was all over the West by the time Christianity arose. It was never, so far as we can tell, peculiar to Egypt. As I already noted, the idea could be Sumerian in origin and as old as 4000 B.C. In fact for all we know, it could date back tens of thousands of years, and predate even Egypt as a civilization, its origin wholly unknown. In any event, the trope was everywhere, and in no way peculiarly Egyptian, by the time the first Christians adapted that trope to Judaism. Jabari even makes the peculiar mistake of trying to argue the resurrection of Jesus derives from the tale of Horus being killed by a scorpion as a child and then resurrected (even though Jesus does not die as a child, much less by scorpions) rather than the far more apposite parallel of Osiris being murdered by the Egyptian analog to Satan and resurrected. But far more apposite is the death and resurrection of the Sumerian goddess Inanna, who is actually effectively crucified to gain victory over the death (see OHJ, Chapter 3.1), or the Roman god Romulus, whose story bears a great many parallels to the Jesus myth (see the peer reviewed work of Richard Miller, Resurrection and Reception in Early Christianity). Finally, I won’t even bother debunking Jabari’s attempt to link erections to resurrection beliefs—which really have no connection to penises outside satire.

And Please No More Crank Etymology

And Rule Number Nine: Don’t just believe any etymology someone spurts at you check real linguistic scholarship first. Crank etymology often operates on the totally bonkers principle that if two words in radically different languages even remotely sound alike, the one must have derived from the other. This is as dumb as thinking all the bald men you ever met must come from the same village in Finland. So no, contra Jabari, the English word “thought” does not derive from the Egyptian god Thoth. Thoth is the Greek bastardization of the actual name Djehuti, which derives from an Afro-Asiatic language which had no significant influence on the Indo-European. Our word “thought” derives through Germanic thanht, most likely long predating any Greek influence, as multilinguistic cladistics indicate it derived from the Proto-Indo-European word tong thousands of years before Greeks even encountered Egypt, much less Germans. There is simply no connection to Egyptian language, gods, or myth.

Likewise, contrary to Jabari’s fabricated etymology, the name of Mary is actually the English bastardization of the Greek transliteration “Miriam” of the Hebrew name Maryam, the mythically famous name of the sister of Moses (when Christianity arose, one in every four Jewish women had that name). It has no known connection to any Egyptian words or persons. And the city of Paris wasn’t named after any African deities either (nor even the mythical Greek hero of exactly that name, which you might think is a far more likely source for the city’s appellation). It derives, rather, from the name of the Celtic tribe who originally lived there when it was conquered and colonized by the Romans: the Parisii. In fact the city’s actual full name is Lutetia Parisiorum, the word lutetia deriving from the Celtic word luto for marsh or meadow in other words, “Meadow of the Parisi Tribe.”


Don’t break the Nine Rules:

  • Rule Number One: Never trust anything written before 1950.
  • Rule Number Two: Always trace a claim to its earliest evidence.
  • Rule Number Three: Once you have found the earliest surviving source, you must date and contextualize and critically evaluate its evidence.
  • Rule Number Four: Always check your facts, and your logic, to make sure your claims actually follow from the evidence that actually exists.
  • Rule Number Five: Pay attention to relative chronology.
  • Rule Number Six: If you want to know if something is true about a given culture at a given time, check the sources of that culture from that time.
  • Rule Number Seven: Correlation is not causation.
  • Rule Number Eight: Always check if what you think is particular and thus indicative of something, was actually commonplace and thus not indicative of anything.
  • Rule Number Nine: Don’t just believe any etymology someone spurts at you check real linguistic scholarship first.

Sound history requires not employing crank methodologies, which often entail abandoning one or more or even all these rules, and acting like a gullible Medieval arm-chair academic instead of a competent, serious, responsible scholar. Yet not much training is needed to simply abide by these rules so lack of qualifications is not an excuse. Even lay and amateur authors can do this, and should. Especially in the era of fake news.

Time Travel in Ancient Indian Tradition

The idea of time travel is not recent. Ancient civilizations entertained the idea of time travel and multiple universes. Time in each of these parallel realities passed at a different pace. Ancient Indian tradition presents us with an intriguing time-travel story.

The Bhāgavata Purāṇa, one of eighteen Maha (great) Puranic (a collection of old Indian scriptures) texts of Hinduism describes the story of king Kakudmi and his daughter Revati.

According to the myth king Kakudmi and his only-daughter lived around 120 millions of year ago. Kakudmi ruled Kusasthali, a prosperous and advanced underwater kingdom. The king was convinced that he could not find a suitable husband for his daughter and took his daughter to Brahmaloka the plane of existence of god Brahma to ask for advice from the god.

When father and daughter arrived, Brahma was watching a musical performance. so they waited patiently to end. At the end of the performance king Kakudmi found the opportunity to ask Brahma about who would make a good match for his daughter. Lord Brahma explained that all the princes that he had considered as potential bridegrooms for his daughter had died and that even their sons, grandsons had also passed away. Brahma also explained that time runs differently on different planes of existence. During the time King and daughter had waited, 27 chatur-yugas (1 chatur yuga equivalent to 4,320 years) had passed on Earth. Both of them were distraught but Brahma comforted and recommended Balrama the brother of Krishna when they would travel back to the future.

What seemed as a few minutes in Brahmaloka for Kakudmi and Revati was actually around 100,00 years in their plane of existence. When back home everything was different. Not only were the surroundings different but they noticed that mankind had taken steps back in terms of physical, spiritual and cultural evolution compared to their own time.

Urban Legends

The urban legend is a story that is supposed to have happened recently, usually to someone remotely known to the teller, such as "a friend of a friend." Urban legends spread quickly, then die out, perhaps to reappear later in slightly different form. One of the first urban legends to be studied by folklore experts was a story about alligators living in New York City sewers. Rumor had it that children vacationing in Florida had brought home tiny alligators, which they flushed down toilets when the pets started to grow. This legend, although unfounded, has had a longer life than any alligator.

chaos great disorder or confusion

If Tarzan and Superman offer visions of the ideal human being, the legend of Frankenstein explores human flaws. The English writer Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley wrote Frankenstein: or, the Modern Prometheus in 1818. It tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist who builds an artificial creature from pieces of corpses and brings the creature to life. An element of the Frankenstein story that has been repeated in many modern books and movies is the theme of the "mad scientist" who crosses a moral boundary and unleashes forces beyond his control. The monster, who is intelligent and kind but so ugly that everyone fears and hates him, represents everyone who is misunderstood and cannot find a place in the world. He symbolizes both a fear of the unknown and the pain caused by prejudice.

Many ancient myths feature monstrous, frightening beings who are partly human and who prey on humans. Such figures continue to fascinate today. Among the most enduring monsters in modern mythology are werewolves and vampires. The werewolves represent the idea that a fearsome beast lurks inside a human being vampires give form to humans' fears of darkness and death. One of the most famous vampires is Count Dracula from the 1897 novel Dracula by Irish writer Bram Stoker. A modern twist on the vampire legend emerged in the 1990s, when a few books, films, and television shows portrayed vampires as sympathetic characters battling against their bloodthirsty impulses.

- Are these real or just urban myth?

(Pocket-lint) - Every now and then an image appears online which people claim shows a time traveller somewhere they shouldn't be. But are they just cases of people letting their imaginations run wild?

We've rounded up some of the best and most interesting images of time travellers throughout history. Some turned out to be plain fakes or cases of mistaken identities, but others are certainly intriguing.

Which have you seen before?

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11. The Colossus of Rhodes straddled the Greek harbor of Rhodes

The Colossus of Rhodes was an authentic statue, but it did not straddle the harbor of the Greek isle of Rhodes. The 100-foot high statue of Helios was erected adjacent to the harbor in 280 BC. Artistic recreations showing the statue straddling the harbor are simply wrong. The giant statue toppled over during an earthquake in 226 BC, and its legend remains today.

12. The Island of Manhattan was purchased for $24 worth of beads

It is true that the Island of Manhattan was purchased from Native Americans, but there's no mention of what items were involved in the trade. The money equivalent was 60 guilders, or roughly $1000 today. The same amount was paid for Staten Island. That amount is still pretty low, by our understanding, but some historians point out that the Native Americans may have had a different understanding of “land ownership.” To them, the cost was more like rent, since they believed that land, air, and waterways could not be “owned” as property.

13. Old southern homes had unattached kitchens for fear of house fires

There's a certain logic here, but it doesn't work because old Northern homes had attached kitchens. Why the difference? Heat. Kitchens would get very hot, and since there was no air conditioning in the colonial era, and the southern states could get very hot during the spring and summer months, they built their kitchens separate from the living quarters. Meanwhile, northerners often wanted to share the warmth of the kitchen in the living quarters because of cold outdoor temperatures. So they built their homes with attached kitchens.

14. Most men in the colonial era wore wigs

Wigs and powdered hair were in fashion at the time, but only about 5% of the population wore them. Wigs were expensive and were mainly worn by lawyers, statesmen and women of the gentry class. Wigs were ill-suited for blue collar jobs. And most people couldn't afford a wig even if they wanted one.

15. In the medieval era, people used spices primarily to mask the flavor of rotting meat

In the days before refrigeration, there was a shorter “shelf life" for perishables. But spices were not used to hide the flavor of rotting food. Spices were much too expensive for such use, which would ultimately not prevent diners from the stomach ailments that accompany eating spoiled food. Instead, spices were used to embellish high-quality foods.

16. Marie Antoinette once said, “Let them eat cake.”

According to legend, prior to the French Revolution, Marie Antoinette, bride of King Louis XIV and queen of France, was notoriously indifferent to the plight of the masses as they cried out for bread amidst a looming famine. There was no bread, and she allegedly responded: "Let them eat cake." This story is unsupported by the facts, for the phrase “Let them eat cake” was previously ascribed to others. Moreover, even though the queen's lifestyle was immaculate, she was quite generous to charitable causes, and she recognized the plight of the masses. She was well-educated and intelligent and would have known better than to say something so inflammatory to a biographer or journalist.

17. The Salem witch trials burned people at the stake

This myth conflates different stories about witches. There were European witch trials in which convicted witches were burned at the stake, but no such burnings occurred in America during colonial times or later. The Salem Witch trials of 1692 predated the standard judicial procedures we know today, including trial by a jury of peers, presumed innocence, and Miranda rights. Most notably the trials never revealed how the defendants were even able to commit the occult acts for which they were accused. In the end, some 20 people were executed, 19 by hanging and 1 by pressing (in a large vice). No one was burned at the stake.

18. Thomas Edison invented the light bulb

Contrary to popular belief, the light bulb, a mainstay of modern life, ubiquitous in the developed world, had been around years before Thomas Edison ever created one. Edison's contribution was to improve on it. Previous versions were unreliable, expensive, and didn't last very long. Up to 20 others independent inventors were doing the same thing as Edison at the time, trying to build a better light bulb. Edison's version of the light bulb improved on the filament, used a sealed vacuum bulb, and had a lower voltage than others at the time. The result was a marketable product that could last for hours. Edison's design has been improved upon over the years. Today standard incandescent bulbs can last for years, even this one that's still burning after 100 years! Stay tuned. Government rules have banned most incandescent bulbs due to their low efficiency. Light-emitting diodes produce light much more efficiently than incandescent bulbs and will one day supplant them.

19. Albert Einstein was bad at math

The irony of this myth is that legendary physicist Albert Einstein forged the revolutionary Theory of Relativity. While he was a poor student who failed to pursue subjects that didn't interest him, Einstein excelled in mathematics and its applications in physics, which seems kind of obvious when you say it out loud.

20. Nero fiddled while Rome burned

This myth is only true metaphorically speaking. Nero was a vicious tyrant who was notoriously indifferent to the suffering of his people. But he did not literally play the fiddle during the great fire in Rome (64 AD), because the fiddle originated in the 11th century, about 1000 years after Nero. Perhaps the myth traces to the Roman historian Tacitus, who wrote about unconfirmed reports that Nero sang while watching the city in flames. In reality, when Nero found out about the fire, he rushed to provide relief. But, that didn't stop his citizens from accusing him of intentionally starting the fire. He was suspected because he later used the razed land for some of his own building projects. He was never able to escape those conspiratorial rumors, since he'd lost all trust from the people. Instead, Nero blamed the fire on a small but growing Jewish-religious sect: Christians.

Ancient Classical Roots of Psychology

John W. Waterhouse, “A Mother Bringing Her Sick Child to the Temple of Asklepios”, 1877 (Image in public domain)

By Laura Rehwalt –

How old is the idea of psychiatry and how long has psychotherapy been practiced? Most likely the Greeks and Romans had an inkling, even if these two words are fairly modern. And given that Plato and Galen had a few things to say as well, it should not surprise us that doctors have known for thousands of years that mind and body are connected. “Soul Healing”for the Ancient Greeks – practicing psychotherapy or psychiatry – was not only relevant but also studied in seminal ways by the medical profession, just as it continues to be studied today. We may often refer to anything related to the study of the mind as modern psychology, but the ancient Greeks and Romans saw psychology, medicine and philosophy in a more integrated way since the idea of mens sana in corpore sano or “healthy mind in a healthy body” as a latin paraphrase of the ca 600 BCE Greek sage Thales. Body and mind together was an important principle linking both parts of our human experience, the internal and the external. Perhaps one place to look for this soul healing would be in the Asklepeian tradition where healing sanctuaries not only addressed the body but the soul, especially at Epidauros where patients laid down in a special room and slept and afterward related their dreams to the doctors-cum-priests. [1]

Some forms of mental health therapy and psychological diagnoses can be traced back to antiquity. The Greeks and Romans were among the first to recognize mental illness as a medical condition that also influenced physical health. At times, of course, they may also have had some bizarre ways of treating certain conditions. For example, many believed that hysteria (from hyster or “womb” in Greek) was a condition for which only women were treated, or that depression could be treated by bathing – although this may not be so strange – or that psychosis was treatable by “blood letting” of n excess of black bile ( hence melancholia). However, at the same time, many ancient cultures had a sensible realization that positive words and hope had value in healing the soul – even the biblical Proverbs 17:22 said, “A merry heart does good like medicine, but a crushed spirit dries the bones” or Proverbs 15:1 “A soft answer turns away wrath but a grievous answer stirs up anger.” On the other hand, where superstition and ignorance prevailed, proper medical treatment was limited by false diagnosis and false or even harmful practices.

But the Ancient Greeks partly led the way in scientific study of psychology and understanding of some psychosomatic conditions like depression or loss of desire. In fact, Aristotle can be given credit for formulating the foundations of psychology. Because Greek philosophers studied how human personality and character were expressed as either part of rational, deductive processes or as impaired irrational processes, it should not be surprising that Aristotle mixed psychology with a philosophy of the mind and thus his empirical approach was a forerunner of modern psychological approach.

Asklepios and his daughter Hygieia, from Therme Greece, late 5th c. BCE, Istanbul Archaeology Museum (Image in public domain)

In early anticipation of Freud, one of the most interesting critical approaches and therapies the ancient Greeks used to understand individual human anxiety was dream interpretation. The Greek thinker Artemidorus (2 nd c. CE) wrote Oneirocritica, the first Greek book of dream interpretation after he traveled and collected people’s recollection of dreams and whether what could be called their outcomes matched their dreams by some form of logic. He divided dreams into at least two basic types:

“Some dreams, moreover, are theorematic (direct), while others are allegorical (figurative). Theorematic dreams are those which correspond exactly to their own dream-vision. For example, a man who was at sea dreamt that he suffered shipwreck, and it actually came true in the way that it had been presented in sleep. For when sleep left him, the ship sank and was lost, and the man, along with a few others, narrowly escaped drowning…Allegorical dreams, on the other hand, are those which signify one thing by means of another that is, through them, the soul is conveying something obscurely by physical means.” [2]

Henry Fuseli, “The Night Mare”, 1781 (Image in pubic domain)

Artemidorus also tried to understand both the personal immediate circumstances and overall context of the dreamer as a holistic approach, believing that the least possible item could greatly influence the dream and how to understand its meaning. This anticipates modern diagnosis as well and is also part of the scientific method of isolating variables in an experiment.

It is profitable – indeed, not only profitable but necessary – for the dreamer as well as the person who is interpreting that the dream interpreter know the dreamer’s identity, occupation, birth, financial status, state of health, and age. Also, the nature of the dream itself must be examined accurately, for…the outcome is altered by the least addition or omission, so that if anyone fails to abide by this, he must blame himself rather than us if he goes wrong. [3]

While Artemidorus on occasion might have been able to work out some causal relationships in direct or theorematic dreams, he could not really provide a key to interpret figurative dreams. We now know it is so complicated that it still remains elusive two millennia later, but we can laud the logical approach Artemidorus was attempting. He was seminal in believing that every dream is unique to the dreamer and that waking life influenced dream life. He also tried to verify at least 95 dream outcomes he wrote about in order to be as scientific as possible, which make him appear very modern in his “systematic” outlook. [4]

Although other civilizations contributed to the forefront of the development of psychology, much of their contributions were lost through the lack of written transmission. Plato, Aristotle’s teacher, developed insights into the human mind. He developed the Theory of Forms in which it was stated that the psyche defined the mind and the soul. With the Theory of Forms, Plato then developed a framework of human behavior as he attempted to learn and study how humans reason and how impulses are developed.

Is this a Greek expression of emotional and physical distress from wine or ecstasy? Greek Symposium, early 5th c. BCE (Image in public domain)

Plato’s Republic Book 4 theorized what Plato developed as three interconnected parts of the Tripartite soul (psyche). First, logistikon was the intellect or part of the mind as the seat of reasoning and logic. Second, epithumetikon was the appetitive part of the soul focusing on base desires. Third, thumoiedes was the emotional part of the soul or mind that dictated feelings. The thumoiedes also invoked and enforced logistikon to govern desires and appetites of the epithumetikon, in some function possibly parallel to what some have later called will. According to Plato, the healthy mind maintained a balance between the three parts. For example, for Plato the appetitive part of the soul seeking base desires for food and drink should nonetheless be governed by the other two parts, intellect or logistikon and emotions or thumoiedes. [5] Even today we identify that organ of the chest – which we now know is tied to our immune system – where the Greeks thought emotions were felt, still named the thymus in a sense after Plato.

Comparatively, Plato’s theory anticipates the model of Whole Health that is currently used by many therapists. The basis is similar to Plato’s logic in that the whole person must be treated treating one symptom will not alone cure the individual’s mental malaise.

To paraphrase Plato elsewhere, his Phaedrus suggests our soul is like a chariot “driven” by two horses, the horse of passion and the horse of reason the horse of passion is needed to move us toward our desires but the horse of reason examines and qualifies those desires, honing desire by a sense of what is right.[6]

Plato, Classical bust (Image in public domain)

Plato’s focus on examining human behavior to gauge what internally “drives” it also parallels Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), currently used as one goal-oriented treatment model in mental health aimed at changing how thought impacts behavior in dysfunctional emotions and maladaptive behaviors such as anxiety or mood disorder, among others. Only one working example is that CBT has even been strongly connected to healing eating disorders and is a forerunner in treating anorexia and bulimia, in a sense parallel to Plato’s theory of exercising self-control through internal change. [7]

Greek doctors were trying to find treatment and solutions to medical issues just as researchers do today. But because our understanding of chemistry and brain physiology is much more advanced and detailed, mental health as a holistic approach was significantly different than it is today. Although not limited to psychological matters, even our word for “therapy” derives from the Greek word therapeia, which eventually came to mean in ancient Greece “a medical or surgical treatment or cure”. [8] Galen (ca. 129-210 CE) was another Greek doctor, in fact, the imperial physician to the Emperors Marcus Aurelius, Commodus and Septimius Severus. Among over 600 medical treatises, Galen wrote much on psychological maladies (along with dream diagnosis) and also thought of himself as a philosopher – he wrote “the best physician is also a philosopher” – because of his experience as one who dealt with mental as well as physical malady, strongly believing in some psychosomatic connections from empirical experience. He once described a stressed-out patient who tossed all night, dreaming and worrying whether Atlas the Titan could hold up the sky (and the world in it) if this Titan got sick. Galen called this a case of dysthymia – a severe case of depression as a dysfunctional expression of maladjusted desire and will – and he believed that mental and emotional stress could cause physical sickness, especially as he followed Plato in his own “anatomy of the soul”. [9]

Although the external template of life may appear different than in antiquity, the basic body and psychology of human beings has not changed. Until recent history, people traveled by slower and more sedate modes. Communication was either by word of mouth or completed in the transmission of paper or scrolls when dissemination of information was controlled by limitations not encountered today. Our modern world may not really be any “busier” or more filled with activity, nor is the actual physical metabolism of life necessarily accelerated – after all a day is still only 24 hours long – but there is a glut of information with a faster rate of transmission of information that has increased exponentially. By gaining so much technology, we may have lost something in human transmission in that we may not take the same time to carefully read or study what our ancestors did only a few generations past because of the sheer volume of material now available. Perhaps it could be stated that the template of our world, of life, has changed. It is likely, however, that people and the individual human psyche have not necessarily changed.

Galen the Physician, reconstructed from a sculpture (Image in pubic domain)

Family trauma for weeks during severe illnesses cause intense grief and emotional stress. But in Ancient Greece, we can assume that individuals and families probably experienced similar emotions during a life crisis. Even our modern medical knowledge cannot simply alleviate fear or grief. Stress in today’s world may not be exactly ignited by the same causes, but nonetheless, the physical process that the body goes through in a stress event is and was the same. The adrenal gland kicks in, cortisol is released and we go into a “fight or flight” mode. In antiquity the stress reaction may have had different causations but individuals experienced stress and their bodies went through the same physiological response to the stress. Wars and battles were fought differently, but the process of how individuals responded to the stress was almost certainly the same as it is today, even if our physical stresses themselves have changed: we may not face a lion or dire wolf but our physiochemical and emotional response to an immediate threat or danger involves the same chemical triggers and other physiological change like endorphin neurotransmitters.

So are we that different from the Greeks millennia past? Again, the template of how the world looked in that era compared to today’s world in terms of social and political structure, language, modes of communication and other external stimuli may have been considerably different, but human beings respond internally in much the same ways. However our perceptions differ, the material body and the emotional and cognitive person (much of what Greeks called the psyche) have many of the same tensions as today. We are most likely not very different in the realm of mental health realities of what we experience relative to our ancestors. Even if they did not necessarily combine the two words as we have from their language, the Greeks had both the word for the “soul”, psyche, and a word for “healer”, iatros with ancient practitioners like Artemidorus, Galen and Asklepian doctors engaging in some forms of “soul healing” we could recognize today.

[1] For the bridging between ancient and modern also see C. A. Meier. Healing Dream and Ritual: Ancient Incubation and Modern Psychotherapy. Daimon Verlag, Einsiedeln, Switzerland, 2012 ed. (a different Northwestern University Press earlier edition in 1967) for one of the most representative or comprehensive studies that range on Asklepian topics, see Louise Cilliers’ editorship of Asklepios: Studies on Ancient Medicine, Acta Classica Supplementum 2, 2008, Bloemfontein, Classical Association of South Africa.

[2] Artemidorus, Oneirocriticon I. 1.2. Robert J. White tr.

[4] Robert L. Van De Castle. Our Dreaming Mind. Ballantine Books, 1995, p. 68.

[5] Plato, Republic Book 4.436 & ff. also see Charles Siewart . “Plato’s Division of Reason and Appetite.” History of Philosophy 18.4 (2001) 329-52.

[6] Plato, Phaedrus 246a-b.

[7] R. Murphy, S. Straebler, Z. Cooper and C. G. Fairburn. “Cognitive behavioral therapy for eating disorders.” Psychiatric Clinics of North America (Elsevier) 33.3 (2010) 611-27.

[8] Henry G. Liddell and Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon, Oxford, 1996 ed., 792-3.

[9] R. J. Hankinson. “Galen’s Anatomy of the Soul.” Phronesis 36.2 (1991) 197-233 also noting Prof. Susan Mattern’s invited lecture at Stanford University Classics Dept., May 2009 on “Emotions in Galen”.

Sir Sanford Fleming invented standard time in 1878. Standard time is the synchronization of clocks within a geographical area to a single time standard. It developed out of a need to aid weather forecasting and train travel. In the 20th century, the geographical areas were evenly spaced into time zones.

In 1927, Canadian-born Warren Marrison, a telecommunications engineer, was searching for reliable frequency standards at Bell Telephone Laboratories. He developed the first quartz clock, a highly accurate clock based on the regular vibrations of a quartz crystal in an electrical circuit.


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