A book with a subtitle like “A Prehistory of the Spirits” would have a lot of ground to cover. Gordon White certainly doesn’t fail at traversing a lot of ground in examining the scattered beliefs of various parts of the world alongside available genetic, linguistic, and astronomical data. Our journey is a long and fascinating one, and White serves as an excellent guide through this massive terrain.
Let me first say, I avoided buying this book for like a year. The description did not sell it to me well, and the title honestly made me think it was going to be full of alien woo. And yet those most down to earth friends, whose taste in books I respect more than anyone else, have continued to cheer for it and sing it praise. I finally had to see what all the hype was about. The hype was correct, yet I doubt I could manage to describe or sell the book to you in this review any better than their description did to me. Simply know that even if this review fails to make it sound like an awesome read, it is. Buy a copy.
First, let me say Scarlet Imprint is excellent. The order came in like a week or less, despite being from the UK. I placed orders from publishers in America before this one. I received this book and read it in that time. As I write this review, I am still awaiting those books from within my own country. Scarlet Imprint has excellent speed and service, having also been quick to respond to email questions about titles. It was also nice getting digital copies. I didn’t think I would use them, but they’ve become handy for continuing my reading in the tub.
It’s hard not to immediately notice the presentation. It’s bound in a sand color cloth, black stamping on front and spine. Normally I am not a fan of dust jackets. I fucking hate them actually. But Star.Ships keeps the dust jacket design simple, matching the simple cover. The material however, a hammered gold, is stunning and feels quite nice (even if I wouldn’t read the book with it on, for fear of damaging it). Paperback is also available.
The book is hand numbered and comes with the same Alpha and Omega bookmark that comes with other Scarlet Imprint titles. It’s a little freebie that shouldn’t lead to much excitement, and yet I’ve grown quite fond (and expecting) when it comes to these bookmarks. They’re nice to have.
I felt the book started fairly slow in discussing the failings of current academics, and yet it is perhaps a necessity that he occasionally points this out and reminds of the political and personal conflicts existing within the fields.
The book quickly gets past the basics for examination however, and moves on to the main course, perhaps just skipping dinner for a giant cake. I really have to say I loved the next few sections discussing the travels of our ancestors, the species we lived alongside, and the hardships we endured. The comparisons with Gondwanan and Laurasian mythologies were fascinating. I’m really going to have to delve into similar books mentioned, such as Origin of the Worlds Mythologies and Eden in the East… The first half of the book is just amazing.
The rest of the book moved a little more slowly for me, once he got into Egypt and the various practices and rites. Which is not to say it wasn’t good. Here we examine the possibility of a different purpose to the temples, and the shamanic elements of the Pharaoh’s Heb Sed. Really there’s just so much that I can’t go into everything. White paints a number of similarities between beliefs and spirits of our various ancestors with their modern continuations and cultural adaptations, surviving into modern Western magic.
He takes us through places like Egypt, Sumeria, the Göbekli Tepe, and the Pacific, before showing us the stars in a very down-to-earth way. I was quite happy to find that the book was not, as I had suspected, a story filled with UFO conspiracy theories. Instead he tends to suggest much more logical approaches to looking at the mysteries of the past. In doing so, by the time he has finished guiding you through this journey of a book, context is reestablished when it comes to those beliefs and spirits that have been passed down. To be clear, it is not an attempt at reconstruction. As a good friend pointed out, perhaps this book will totally make you rethink a lot of things. Perhaps it will just leave you wondering if there is any point in life. The choice is yours. I certainly found that it shifted a few perspectives.
Regardless. It is amazing how we have carried our stories for so long. An amazing read. Seriously, just buy it. I’d consider it an essential.