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There is the way of scientist and the way of shaman. The scientist does things. Everybody else who claims authority but does nothing is a shaman.

Shaman come in many forms. A shaman may wear masks and do dances around a fire in the Congo. Other shamans have PhDs and everybody agrees to call them "Professors" and "Authorities" on a subject. For our purposes, these are precisely the same. Shaman substitute impressiveness for accomplishment.

At its beginning stage, a civilization must have scientists. They become shaman only later.

In the case of Egypt or the Mayans or the Incas or ancient China, history rushes through the development of real technology, to get to the mythology and art. In the case of Egypt, a popular book will explain briefly that the Egyptians learned to plant and harvest in harmony with the ebb and flood of the Nile each year, thereby increasing their production and population enormously.

Then a possibly mythical king Menes united Egypt so that it became one enormous and united power. So now Egypt had overwhelming money and power from these real accomplishments.

After breathlessly rushing through the basis of all the wealth and power, history turns with relief to the fun part, which is the Learned Nonsense that followed. From here until the collapse, the story of a Great Civilization becomes a history of shamans and exactly what kind of nonsense they indulged in.

To us, Egyptian history is battles between the god Amon and Aton, how the god Thoth brought man writing. We get detailed explanations about which god wore the head of which animal.



It is easy for our kind of history to ignore the basics because the technological basics bore us. That is why what we call history is almost entirely nonsense.

For each civilization the beginning was a calendar. Whether it is the annual Nile flood or the coming of the rainy season an exact calendar became essential to survival as agriculture advanced.

The calendar is the titanic and critical ACCOMPLISHMENT PHASE of each civilization. It is the only time when the "intellectuals" who later become a shaman class actually do something useful.

Those first real intellectuals who made the accurate calendars were very special people. But they do not interest the historian and we know nothing about them. We have no interest in this group until they transform from intellectuals into shaman and start rolling out that fascinating nonsense we call Ancient Wisdom.

The first calendar was a work of precision never before accomplished.

After all, some kind of calendar existed before the dinosaurs. Many dinosaurs were herd animals and moved with the seasons. Their pig-like predecessors probably needed some ability to anticipate the seasons too. Homo erectus could tell that rain was coming on or that it was becoming fall.

What we call a calendar was new not because it told us that winter would come soon, for that knowledge is in our bones. The human calendar tells us far ahead from year to year when each season will come. A civilization can only plant and sow and rotate crops and avoid being washed out by rain if it has a dependable calendar.

Foresight, patience, and sticking to nothing but the facts were the essential characteristics of the first and last intellectual leaders Ancient Civilizations ever had, those who developed the calendar.

In early civilizations you might have to use a third of your grain just to plant the new crop. If it got washed out twice you would starve. And as agriculture advanced, hundreds lived on land that only a single hunter-gatherer could survive on before. There was no going back so life more and more depended on the calendar.

Those who developed the calendar over the years became powerful. But once it was developed, the knowledge they had was there for the learning. At this point those who ruled the calendar could just show everybody how to predict the seasons and go back to being like everybody else.

If they did this they would still be real, productive intellectual leaders. They would say, "We have developed a great piece of knowledge. It is now time for everyone to learn it and we can go on to searching for other knowledge."

That never happened in any of the Great Civilizations.



But instead of giving the people their knowledge of the calendar and giving up total control over them, the first and last intellectual leaders in each Great Civilization became shamans. They wrapped up their knowledge in a cloak of mystery and mythology.

Historians marvel at the fact that Aztec priests developed a calendar which was endlessly complicated and gave dates for many millennia to come. As usual, historians are lost in awe at a trick that any country huckster would see through in a New York minute. One way to make basic knowledge seem mysterious is to make it seem that only a superspecialist can deal with it. So the only people allowed to dictate the calendar were those who devoted full time to it.

If any of the peasants supporting these full time priests thought he might be able to do the same thing, they brought out that hideously complicated "Aztec calendar" as one of the proofs that a full-time shaman class was essential.

Other shamans in Great Civilizations used other methods of making the facts they had learned mysterious. Since they were the experts on the seasons, Egyptian priests told the people that if they and the Pharaoh didn't spend full time performing the right ceremonies, the sun would stop coming up.

We all know the First Rule when it comes to discussing Ancient Civilizations. That First Rule is Show Respect For Ancient Wisdom. When we are told that ancient Egyptians actually believed they needed to support their shamans in grand style or the sun wouldn't come up in the morning we must Understand that behind this there was a Deep Wisdom.

What no decent person would ever do when he is told that the shamans maintained their life style by saying they wouldn't make the sun come up in the morning would be to laugh out loud. To find someone who would do that you would need a truly evil and uncouth person.

Which, dear reader, is exactly what makes me so useful to you.

The moment that the first and last intellectual leaders any Great Civilization ever had turned into fakes and shaman the pursuit of knowledge ended. All mental effort was wasted in inventing endless complications that all the young shaman had to learn.

There is nothing sillier than the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It absorbed all of everybody's intellectual life. You can only see it realistically if you see it as the shaman's trick it was. But we are not allowed to see it for what it really was.

It is literally true that no one can begin to understand history until they abandon the First Rule in dealing with Ancient Civilizations. A huckster and a fraud is a huckster and a fraud no matter how many priestly offices or PhDs he has. You cannot be realistic about history if you are not realistic about the world in general.


Rule One in dealing with Ancient Civilizations is essential to every kind of huckster. When Houdini went to seances to expose the frauds, every one of those frauds demanded that everyone be silent and respectful during the ceremony.

Laughing out loud at unbearable silliness is a sure sign of Heresy. I laughed out loud in class when I heard the professor read the preamble to the Soviet Constitution for the first time.

Let us remember who wrote that Constitution. The outstanding characteristic of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and every other leader and theorist of the Workers' Revolution was that not one of them had ever done an hour's actual labor in their entire lives.

James Madison and Thomas Jefferson worked on their farms when they were boys. They were experts in real planting. And if George Washington didn't actually chop down the cherry tree it certainly wasn't because he didn't know how. Ben Franklin was a journeyman printer among many other things.

But no champion of the working class knew how to do anything useful.

Let me make it clear to you how silly this situation is. Let's say that you and I are listening to some children setting up a game. The child proposing this game says, "OK, here's how it goes. Jimmy will do all the digging in the dirt. Billy will do the heavy lifting. Tommy will do the fighting."

So Billy says, "So what are you going to do?"

The kid setting up the game says, "I'll do the thinking and I'll give all the orders."

We would laugh out loud because you and I know that no small child, smart or not, is going to fall for that.

So when the Leaders and Theorists of the Working Class sat down to write a preamble to the Soviet Constitution, how did they set it up? Here it is:

"The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is made up of farmers, workers, soldiers and intellectuals."

It said that these people would do all the farming, this group would work the factories, that group would do all the fighting. So the intellectuals do all the thinking and give all the orders and do nothing else.

I was only a teenager, but I laughed out loud at the obvious absurdity of the thing. No one else had ever laughed at this. If anyone had, it could have saved a hundred million lives.

The hucksters took over Russia. They also rule our universities today.



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Issue: Nov. 17, 2001
Editor: Virgil H. Huston, Jr.

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