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Is this book dire or dazzling? Read my review and get the inside dope

Earth's Earliest Ages

And Their Connection with Modern Spiritualism and Theosophy
G. H. Pember
Edition / Year
12th Edition, 1893(?)
In the section labelled

(Please note that this article contains mockery of sincerely held Christian beliefs, albeit of the flakier variety. If that sort of thing offends you, kindly shove off).

It is interesting to observe how some misguided souls manage to build vast towers of supposition on the shakiest foundations by the power of faith alone. In his book Mr. Pember presented a vision of the world which may sound like fantastic fiction to the sceptic, but which he believed was a literal interpretation of the words of the Bible: the type of interpretation in which any assertion, however mad, however unsupported by evidence, can be 'true' if some Biblical passage can be read as confirming it.

His aim in writing the book was to communicate his views on the connections between the ancient history of the world and the then popular fads of Theosophy and Spiritualism, which he saw as demonically-inspired and liable to bring about the end of mankind. There seemed to him clear parallels between contemporary events and biblical stories such as the Fall of Adam and Eve and the great Flood.

Pember's application of the term 'literal' did not exclude the wildest interpolations between the lines where he felt like it. For example, take the first two verses of Genesis:-

  1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
  2. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

According to Pember (following the Scottish theologian Thomas Chalmers), there is no indication of the length of time that had passed between the two verses, and so there is no contradiction between the Bible and geological observation: the vast ages of time indicated by study of rocks occurred in the gap. What is more, Pember was inclined to believe that during this time there were in existence numberless 'preadamite' races of man who were each in turn wiped out by God when they proved unable to resist the lure of sin.

In this time, too, Satan got up his rebellion against God and was duly chucked out of heaven (though how he hoped to succeed in overcoming his omnipotent adversary is never explained), to find a new home with his accomplices in the air around us:-

For the whole aerial surroundings of our planet are densely peopled with a hostile race of beings unutterably superior in wisdom and power to ourselves; having had during a vast number of years every conceivable experience of the weak points of humanity ; possessing the incalculable advantage of being themselves invisible, though as spiritual intelligences they are probably able, not merely to judge of us by our words and outward expression of countenance but even to read the innermost thoughts of our heart; co-operating with the most perfect and never-failing organization; and lastly, directed by a leader of consummate wisdom and skill, who is assisted by powerful princes, and finds his subjects so numerous, that, if we are to lay any stress on the word “legion” in the memorable narrative of Luke, he is able to spare some six thousand of them to guard one miserable captive.

(Scary, eh? Satan - the ultimate super-villain).

Pember's version of the Adam and Eve story is a little odd, too. I am not entirely sure what to make of the following passage:-

Yet another and crowning joy was in store for Adam. His benign Creator, knowing that it was not good for him to be alone, determined to bestow upon him a companion and partner of his joy. But first he brought to him the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, to see what he would call them: that is, to see if he should claim any of them as bone of his bones and flesh of his flesh. Adam gave names to all, but to none that of woman; a result which had, of course, been anticipated by God. Indeed it seems not improbable that He made the trial to stimulate in His creature a desire which He intended to gratify.

Is there not a hint of bestiality here?

Adam and Eve were tempted by a snakeskin-clad Satan, and ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Grumpy old God, who could anticipate that Adam would not fancy snuggling up to even the cutest of camels, but somehow failed to spot Old Nick setting up his greengrocer's cart, slung them out of the garden, and in a fit of temper cursed the Earth. Pember cites a nutty Professor Balfour, who believed that the existence of thorns and thistles were 'evidence' of His curse on the vegetable kingdom.

Having dealt with the early chapters of the Bible, Pember turned to the various modern manifestations of sin that would bring down the wrath of God as in the days of Adam. In so doing, he showed that his literalism in the reading of texts was not limited to the Bible but extended as much to the extravagant claims of his foes in the Theosophical movement, such as that mediums, by the aid of demons, are able “to hold intercourse with supernatural beings, to reveal secrets, and in some degree to foretell; can travel in a moment to any part of the world ...”. Furthermore, demonic possession is a commonplace, “a large proportion of the patients in our lunatic asylums” being such cases, and “direct communication with demons ... is now becoming prevalent”. And, proving the advanced nature of North American society even 100 years ago, “the ceremonious marriage of a woman to a demon is a thing not unknown in the United States: whether it has ever happened in England we cannot say”.

Another great evil in the world was Buddhism, which according to Pember had many more adherents than previously suspected: for, “recent investigations have made it probable that Buddha was once the god of Northern Europe, and that his name is philologically identical with that of Woden...”. Not only that, but some fifth century Chinese Buddhists “apparently” reached North America and made converts there. Most astonishingly (except to the most paranoid of protestant fundamentalists), “there can be little doubt that the Buddhist tope is the original of the Roman Church...”.

Like many before and after, Pember believed that the End Was Nigh, though sensibly he refrained from suggesting exactly how Nigh It Was, preferring darkly hinting rhetorical questions: “if the great apostasy, which will at last evolve the Lawless One, be even now spreading; who can be sure of a day or an hour? ... Are we not living through solemn times: is the air not full of warnings: does it not behove every believer to arise, gird up his loins, and trim his lamp?”. How disappointing it must have been to those of Pember's readers who responded to his call and spent the remainder of their days in loin-girding and lamp-trimming, rather than on something they might have enjoyed more, to go to their death beds without having witnessed the second coming nor having the satisfaction of seeing their sinful neighbours judged and sent down into the black and fiery mouth of Hell.

Amusing as this may be, wouldn't it be much more so if no-one nowadays believed this kind of tripe? Sadly the number of misguided loons does not appear to have diminished much over the century since it was published: indeed you can still buy this book, you poor saps.

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Submitted by Pere Ubu (not verified) on 29 Aug 2012 - 01:39 Permalink

Wow, I don't know what's more frightening - Jehovah as a sadistic SOB (wiping out "numberless" pre-Adamic humans) or the credulous boobs coming here to defend Pember. If I was actually interested in wasting my time, I'd go through the comments and tot up all the tired BS trotted out in the defense of the sick incompetent YHVH.

The book he dictated says he exists - oooooh, how could you argue with THAT? *snerk*

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 28 Apr 2012 - 00:03 Permalink

well, yes it is a very good book, the demonology part of it was a bit complicated, but it did open the door for us to see, the vast ages of time that lay before our Adamic Age. The earth is a lot older than we can imagine, and there was more than likely many ages of Advanced Civilizations during this time.
Submitted by Rob (not verified) on 20 Apr 2012 - 17:25 Permalink

Hi, and thank you for this wonderful opportunity to read various views of reality. It really is enlightening to read how different people look at the universe from our human perspective and come to such diverse conclusions. I read Pember's book back in the late '70s, and thought that it was a interesting attempt to reconcile geology and various religious views and spiritual beliefs. So please continue to provide this forum for serious banter. I would encourage everyone to avoid ridicule if possible. It never seems to help anyone to find truth.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 14 Apr 2011 - 22:24 Permalink

I don't think it was the actual sex act, that was the problem, because they were put there with male and female genitals. it was the outcome of that particular sex act, that caused the casm between God and His creation, this bringing the whole creation down, including the animal kingdom, and also causing the animal kingdom to go into a wild survival mode. have you ever wondered why there are very few wild animals that don't scatter at the sight of a human.?
Submitted by pseudonym (not verified) on 15 Apr 2011 - 06:43 Permalink

I have wondered about that, someone told me that the animals that didn't run away were hunted to extinction by humans, what a crazy idiot, the only extinct animals are ones that noah couldn't fit on the boat. It's a real shame god didn't tell him to build it bigger I would have liked to see a dodo.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 13 Apr 2011 - 05:48 Permalink

One thing for sure, the Serpent never played up to Eve, in order to eat a bunch of apples with her. Most people believe that, and even scientists have gone there to Mesopotamia to test the acidity, and alkalinity of the soil, in an attempt to figure out exactly what fruit it was. the final conclusion, according to their tests, is that it was an apricot. (eat of the fruit) is the terminology that the Bible uses to describe a sex act, but in this case, it was the woman that was the fruit tree. The reason that people don't see it, is because it is written in such simplicity, that they miss it completely. They realised they were "naked",after they ate of the fruit and then Cain was born.. An apple or an apricot do not have the qualities of making a person realise that they are naked.
Submitted by Lord Kefka (not verified) on 14 Apr 2011 - 07:41 Permalink

Why do people think that god cares so much about sex? Why is god so freaked out about two people doing it but not at all bothered that telling them about more important things like soap or bacteria how to desalinize salt water? Why? Its because people invented god and people are very nervous about sex, especially the ones who tend to like religion.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on 10 Apr 2011 - 05:04 Permalink

You talking about cunnilingus Mister. what about when the worms are eating her body while she's lying six feet under the ground, "you silly man" (More seriously, an adamantine adherence to the Bible as "true" history seems to be sadly wrongheaded.) " according to who Mister?" God has always used simplicity to hide Himself. God is still God, and He knows how to use a little bit of simplicity to rattle a person right off his high horse too. What do you think you are deeling with Mister.? do you really think that you, or any other person is rightfully justified to take it upon himself, to be Gods own devine interpreter.? When He said, "Let there be light" perhaps a billion years later, an atom burst, and the sun came into existence, it's a fact Mister, and that very light has kept you alive so far. You need to sit down, and do some seroius thinking, instead of talking "Tripe"
Submitted by Lo Sconosciuto (not verified) on 05 Apr 2011 - 08:00 Permalink

Funny, I always thought the whole serpent story was a penis allegory and an attempt to prohibit cunnilingus (a peach would have been a better image than an apple, but let's not quibble). More seriously, an adamantine adherence to the Bible as "true" history seems to be sadly wrongheaded. As Wittgenstein so brilliantly pointed out "might we not say: It is important that this narrative should not be more than quite averagely historically possible just so that this should not be taken as the essential, decisive thing? So that the letter should not be believed more strongly than is proper and the spirit may receive its due."