In his proposal for his new book, The Origin of God, the late Laurence Gardner pointed out that, in the light of successive disasters in the post 9/11 environment, churchmen and theologians had written books with their variously given reasons for God’s inexplicable methods of divine judgement.
Meanwhile, scientists and atheists had published works that sought to establish an anti-religious dogma that there was no God. Traditionally, those who wrote books about God were either stalwart believers or confirmed non-believers. Their books emerged with immediate vested interest, and there was a lack of anything newly objective on the bookshelves.
Until now, that is – The Origin of God minimizes the ‘science versus religion’ debate and substitutes a straightforward historical inquiry.
The book has now been published posthumously, thanks to the efforts of Gardner’s widow Angela, who helped to set up a small publishing company specially to produce it, and its sequel, The Revelation of the Devil, will be out in spring 2011.
Best-selling Gardner was unhappy that the ‘cult of celebrity’ seemed to have taken over the publishing industry but, shortly before he died last August, he nevertheless joked with Angela that no one was likely to find any bigger celebs than the subjects of his two new books – God and the Devil.
Angela said: ‘Because I wanted to get The Origin of God out in the year of Laurence’s death, I was the catalyst in my sister Susan and her husband David creating Dash House Publishing to enable this. It was a far quicker process, as conventional publishing can take anything from nine to 18 months to get a book into the system, whereas by setting up Dash House Publishing, we managed to get the book out within three months.’
Few books have been written about God that are not specifically theistic or atheistic in nature. Beyond these traditions of belief and disbelief, meagre attention has been paid to the personal history of God from a standpoint outside the Bible – and it is this unbiased premise that makes The Origin of God so different from other books, and it is, indeed, a masterly appraisal, surely one of the most important and comprehensive works in the history of religion.
Gardner, who died at the untimely age of 67, was a courageous and authoritative author and speaker in the ‘alternative history’ genre of research whose works, including The Grail Enigma (2009) and Lost Secrets of the Sacred Ark (2004), presented controversial revisionist theories, and challenged orthodox views of world history.
His Bloodline of the Holy Grail (1996) provided some of the inspiration for the development of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code (2003). Here, Gardner convincingly advanced the idea that Jesus did not die on the cross but married Mary Magdalene, fathered children and created a bloodline of descendants existing to the present day.
Angela told me: ‘Since 2005, when Laurence was diagnosed with a particularly virulent form of cancer, he told me that before he died he was determined to complete The Origin of God and The Revelation of the Devil – books which he’d had on the go for many years and was adding to all the time. It gave him the purpose he needed to keep going during these difficult years of illness. We didn’t know how long Laurence had to live, so he immersed himself in his research, drawing on documents that pre-date the Bible by thousands of years to construct a biography of God through the centuries.
‘As to how these books might be received by the public, Laurence didn’t look that far ahead – he was forced to live for the day in the hope that his work would live on after he was gone.’
For Gardner, the purpose in writing the two books was to try to redress the balance that religion had long imposed on society and unravel the mysteries of a monotheistic culture which has survived from ancient times to the present day. To quote from his Introduction to The Origin of God: ‘Our quest is to discover from all available sources what evidence there is, if any, to support the long-standing and widespread notion of God’s existence. Is there a creative, supernatural, intelligent entity in the universe, or is the concept just an abiding superstition?’
Thus The Origin of God comprises a biographical exploration of the character known as Yahweh, Allah or simply Lord, and seeks to uncover and evaluate his original identity, as against his eventual religiously motivated portrayals.
Gardner says the objective is a ‘headlong, impartial quest to trace the origin and evolution of God as a figure of belief by way of collating all demonstrable and circumstantial evidence in a chronological sequence of monotheistic development’. Following the course of his story into biblical scripture, he discovers a strategy of pure literary evolution – or, in other words, some might say, invention.
He shows clearly that God has never been an historical constant, but the result of an ancient concept developed as a progressive theme within different cultures. From the biblical times of Moses, at about 1,400BC, during a period of 400 years unaccounted for between the books of Genesis and Exodus, God is mysteriously moved ‘from an ostensibly real environment into a realm of belief and tradition’.
But the Bible is not so much a book about God as might be imagined. It is rather more the story of the Israelite nation and of how God was perceived by the priestly scribes to have adopted the Israelites as his own chosen people. What is perhaps odd is that, for more than 2,000 years, people other than Israelites and Judeans, in an extraordinary worldwide scale, have accepted ‘these same inadequate texts, without question, as providing a sound enough base on which to establish formally operative religions whose unelected hierarchy, by way of self-opinionated laws, have thereby controlled and regulated society through the ages’.
Belief in the one male God of Judaism, Christianity and Islam can be traced back for more than 2,500 years to the time when the Hebrew scripture of Genesis was compiled in the sixth century BC. The Genesis narrative was clearly derived from much older traditions but, on the face of it, there is no documentary evidence from any other source of a monotheistic culture in respect of this particular God from before that date.
Gardner asks the awkward questions. If there was nothing before God created everything, then where was God before that? Where did he come from? If the Bible had never been written, would we know about God from any more original source? Did the Israelite scribes invent God for some reason, or did they have access to earlier records concerning him? If so, what were they?
The answer to this query could lie in the work of the late Christian O’Brien, a Cambridge scholar and exploration geologist, who proposed in the 1980s that members of an advanced race – known in the records of Sumeria, the world’s oldest known civilization, as the Anannage or ‘Shining Ones’- re-started civilization in southern Lebanon around 9,000BC. The Anannage seem to have been the first beings ever to be regarded as ‘gods’ – and one of them in all probability was Yahweh.
For the last 10 years, the independent researcher Edmund Marriage, a relative of O’Brien’s, was a frequent visitor and friend at the Gardners’ home because so much of Gardner’s work resonated with that of O’Brien, whose books were an invaluable source of reference material. Further research by Edmund and the Golden Age Project suggests the Anannage were the survivors of a civilization decimated by planetary catastrophe in about 10,400BC when cosmic debris collided with the Earth.
The Anannage appear in the historical record for thousands of years, but it is not explained that the various descendent godly figures died or went elsewhere. The documentary perception simply changes about 1,400BC from one of actual physical presence to that of mysterious spiritual presence – by a remarkable coincidence, just like God’s.
Whoever the Anannage might have been, and from wherever they might have come, says Gardner, who supports and expands on the O’Brien thesis, the Sumerians were absolutely sincere about their existence at a time when their social, academic and technological cultures leapt forward way in advance of any other region on Earth: ‘seemingly out of position in time and place, these highly advanced individuals appear, like a cast-remnant from Atlantis, to create the most impressive and influential civilization of the era’.
In line with the belief of a great many people worldwide, did Gardner believe God actually existed in some form today? There is absolutely no proof, nor even circumstantial evidence, that this is so, he concludes: ‘God can only be said to exist as an optional concept based on individual choice. He is a subject of unsubstantiated belief, not of certainty.’
As each country followed a progressive move from being an individual ‘nation state’ to the newly required role as a global ‘market state’, the traditional influence held by religion in society was being overwhelmed by the greater corporate influence, led by competition rather than cooperation: ‘People are now asking: “Why do I need to believe in God?” If that question is not answered satisfactorily, then there is no reason why they should give the matter any further thought.’
Gardner worked at first as a stockbroker in the City before turning towards the arts in general and to writing in particular. He was an accomplished painter, and at the Fine Art Trade Guild he provided his expertise as a conservation consultant to define the standards of materials used in printmaking. From 1998, he was a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, a charitable body which promotes the study of the antiquities and history of Scotland through archaeological research.
Laurence Gardner’s Official Home Page: www.graal.co.uk
Dash House Publishing: www.dashhousepublishing.co.uk
Golden Age Project: www.goldenageproject.org.uk