ROBERT W. BROCKWAYTHE ROOTS OF NEW AGE
are as close to the scientific as possible. Thus, the academic historian typically collects data dealing with a particular event in history, assembles it, analyzes it, compares interpretations with one another, and finally produces a closely-reasoned discussion authenticated by references to the source materials.
The alternative approach of those who are committed either to ideologies of some kind, to a religion, or to the occult, is very different. There is an initial act of faith. The documents on which discussion is based, such as the Bible, are held to be divinely revealed and therefore beyond human powers either to verify or to repudiate. On the basis of deductive reasoning, the faith-based historian then proceeds as does the scientific historian. He or she also organizes and analyzes the material concerned and forms hypotheses. However, because of the assumption of divinely-revealed authority, it follows that whatever the temporal history of the religion may be, it is the working out of the divine plan. This is what German scholars of the last century called Religionsgeschichte or the History of Religion. Thus, to the Christian historian, for instance, the life of the Church is the unfolding of God’s will in time/space. There may well have been wicked popes and prelates, for example, inhumane Protestant Reformers, errant rabbis, and other villains. But one understands them in the context of divine disclosure. This is very different from secular history in which the Church, for instance, is usually seen in terms of politico-economic struggles.
Occultists are akin to religious people in this. They see history in terms of supernatural beings who transcend time/space, of revelation, and mystical experience. Thus, some occultists believe that all civilizations originated in the lost continent of Atlantis which vanished beneath the waves in one night. Refugees from Atlantis reached the shores of Africa and America and founded the civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Rome, India, and China, while those who fled to the Americas founded the civilizations of the Mayas and Incas. The fact that there is not one shred of evidence for Atlantis, or for the Atlantean origins of civilization, is irrelevant to the occultist who bases his or convictions on faith in revelation rather than in documentary evidence. The fact that all stories of Atlantis originate from two stories told by Plato in the Critias and Timaeus respectively make not one iota of difference to the true believer.
There are many occasions in which archaeological and esoteric interpretations become fused, and in which soberly-held archaeological theories are advanced on the basis of very flimsy evidence. An example of this is the theory of Judge Fornander of Hawai’i, who worked out an elaborate history of the Polynesians based, in part, on native traditions and, in part, on the Bible. According to him, the Polynesians wandered east from Babylonia, and spread out over the islands of the Pacific. This idea is an example of diffusionism, the belief that all civilizations originated from some one part of the world and spread out from there.
Theories of Archaic Culture and Religion
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, a series of interpretations of archaic culture and religion were advanced, most of them based on very little