3 February 2013


Robert M. Schoch. Forgotten Civilization: The Role of Solar Outbursts in Our Past and Future. Inner Traditions, 2012.

This is a volume that holds two surprises. The main one, which does not remain a surprise for very long, is that Dr Schoch has a theory as to why the ancient world left so many megaliths, associated gigantic structures and precious little else materially. This theory also covers some of the main global mythologies that have come down to us today.
The second surprise, strongly related to the first, does not seem to receive the attention it deserves. However, whilst both of these certainly deserve perusing, it may be instructive to consider some

Dr Schoch became famous because of his theories concerning the age of the Great Sphinx on the Giza Plateau. Having studied the weathering and general aging on the Sphinx, he gave his opinion as a geologist that heavy rain had worn away the stone into the distinctive patterns that we see today and, as a result, the age of this chimeric sculpture should be pushed back by a considerable margin. Thus he became one of the voices of what has been termed alternative archaeology. He is also one of the few with actual scientific qualifications, and qualifications with relevance to the fields that he comments upon, which (sadly in my opinion) makes him a rarity in this very intriguing, yet hugely variable, area. This also means that the book, whilst striving to speak to the layman, does venture into scientific arguments which, now and again, require some pause and reflection to make sure that they are grasped.

The thrust of this book is that this planet, in our past, was ravaged by Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) from the Sun. They not only brought the last Ice Age to an abrupt end but chased our ancestors underground, as well as into monumental shelters, the remains of which are littered around Earth to this day. With the sudden termination of the ice came geological and climactic chaos as plasma filled the skies, melted rock, caused torrential rain, earthquakes, and so on. Some of what has, until now, been identified as early writing may be attempts to record the shapes created by the dazzling plasma in the upper atmosphere. Indeed, the repeated and popular ‘birdman’ glyph which recurs around the world may be from a common form taken by the plasma. As one would expect from a scientist, the good doctor has taken the time to put all of his evidence here for us to look over and to make our minds up about his argument. As I said earlier, it makes a refreshing change to have some sound evidence available when a case is being put forward for something in the alternative archaeology genre.

There are some asides here as well. Towards the end of the book especially, Dr Schoch refers to some distinctly New Age concepts of altered consciousness and such. Seeing as this tome was penned before the (supposedly) apocalyptic events of 12st December 2012 AD, there is mention of this as a possible return of the destructive CME to the face of the earth, but to be fair, this actual date is not claimed as a definitive time of disaster. There is also a brief look at some of the experiments performed with sound in ancient monuments as well.

More tellingly, we are told by a scientific insider just how given subjects are marginalised, and in some cases, effectively closed to mainstream research, thus confirming the fears and suspicions of Forteans everywhere. He also quotes Max Planck: “A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it”.

The second surprise, though, is a direct result of his plasma theory. Basically, it is that extra-terrestrial events that effectively have the last say as far as our climate and geological events are concerned. Whilst just stopping short of saying outright that man-made global warming is a red herring, he reckons that the Sun performs a crucial part in what goes on here below, both weather-wise and geologically. The Sun does not act alone, however, as cosmic rays have a very important part to play in the behaviour and interaction of these systems as well. In many ways, it is worrying stuff, because if this is close to the truth then the fate of the planet could well be out of our hands. It is surprising in some ways that this message is not hinted at on the cover due to the high profile of climate change today. There are also references to the physicist Henrik Svensmark, professor in the Division of Solar System Physics at the Danish National Space Institute (DTU Space) in Copenhagen, and his controversial new field of cosmoclimatology, and is one of the reasons why Dr Schoch goes on the offensive against science and the ways in which work in some areas is closed down.

The book has a decent, but not an exhaustive, index. The bibliography seems thorough, however.

Whilst on the one hand it is pleasing, and in some ways a relief, to read a book in this field that has been written by an author with the qualifications to back up his theories, this is somewhat offset by the controversial nature of the central theory which clashes with an orthodoxy that is not only scientific, but also very heavily imbued with political and emotional issues. – Trevor Pyne

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