Aura Photography
MASS DELUSIONS, prominent cases over the last 5 centuries
Police Psychics
The Great Pyramid--Martin Gardner
Over 50 top scientists go public over Bush's abuse of science
Atlantis & similar tales
ATLANTIS MYTH: CSICOP + Michael Shermer's articles
The making of myth, an anthropologist's aboriginal experience
The Great Pyramid--Martin Gardner

Acknowledge as a gem of skepticism in print.  The highlighted portion show has by playing with numbers odd patterns are generated. 

The Great Pyramid  Chapter 13

FADS & FALLACIES, In the name of science

Martin Gardner

Dover Publications, NY, 1957, p. 173-185

The Great, the Mighty God, the Lord of Hosts . .. which hast set signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, even unto this day. ...

Jeremiah 32:18-20


THE LITERATURE OF Biblical archeology presents a bewilder­ing panorama. It ranges all the way from competent, objective studies by men who took great pains not to draw unwarranted inferences from their artifacts, to the work of men who have twisted their material in every conceivable way to make it conform to Biblical records. Thousands of books and pamphlets have been written in the past hundred years to show that the "latest findings" of archeology confirm all the details of scriptural history—especially the miracle stories at which unbelievers scoff. In some cases, it is hard to believe the distortion has been unconscious. Professor Hubert Grimme, for example, of the University of Munich, published in the twenties a "translation" of a stone tablet which told how the infant Moses had been rescued from the bullrushes by Pharaoh's daughter. It later came to light that the professor had made free use of cracks and weather marks on the stone, combining them with the hieroglyphics to make the translation come out right.


In English, the most dignified books in this pseudo-archeological literature are by Sir Charles Marston—The Bible is True, 1934; New Bible Evidence, 1934; and The Bible Comes Alive, 1937. Among the less scholarly, John O. Kinnaman's Diggers for Facts, 1940, is a good recent example. From it you will learn that Abraham's home and even his signature have been unearthed, as well as evidence that St. Paul once preached in England. Kinnaman is cautious, however, about identifying the salty remains of Lot's wife. "There are many actual pillars of salt in that region," he writes, "but which may be the remains of the unfortunate woman, no one can tell."


Expeditions to Mount Ararat, to find Noah's Ark, take place every few years. Egerton Sykes, head of the Horbiger Institute in England and editor of an Atlantis magazine, planned such an expedition a few years ago, but Russian authorities put pressure on the Ottoman offi­cials at Ankara, and he was refused a visa. According to the Russians, his expedition was part of an "Anglo-American military plot to spy on the Russian borders in sight of Ararat." However, in 1949 another expedition, led by Dr. Aaron Smith, of Greensborough, N.C., did manage to climb 12,000 feet up the side of Ararat. Unfortunately, they failed to find the Ark. "We can't say if the Ark may have landed at a lower level," Smith reported, "or if it was completely buried by the debris of earthquakes, violent in this region. Again, it may exist on the north side of the range, under ice and snow. We have not found it; but we sure have cleared the way for others who may have better luck than we had."


It would be impossible, of course, to survey even briefly the litera­ture of eccentric Biblical archeology. One aspect, however, known as Pyramidology, is sufficiently curious and colorful to warrant special attention. With this topic (which rivals Atlantis in the number of books devoted to it) the remainder of the chapter will be concerned.


The Great Pyramid of Egypt was involved in many medieval and Renaissance cults, especially in the Rosicrucian and other occult traditions, but it was not until 1859 that modern Pyramidology was born. This was the year that John Taylor, an eccentric partner in a London publishing firm, issued his The Great Pyramid: Why was it Built? And Who Built it?


Taylor never visited the Pyramid, but the more he studied its structure, the more he became convinced that its architect was not an Egyptian, but an Israelite acting under divine orders. Perhaps it was Noah himself. "He who built the ark was, of all men, the most competent to direct the building of the Great Pyramid," Taylor wrote. The picture is rather amusing, of poor old Noah, after his Herculean task of building the Ark and surviving the Deluge, being sent to Egypt to direct the even more Herculean labor of building the Pyramid!


Taylor's chief reason for thinking the Pyramid part of God's plan was the fact that he found in its structure all kinds of mathematical truths which far surpassed the knowledge of ancient Egypt. For example, if you divide the monument's height into twice the side of its base, you obtain a fairly close approximation of pi (the ratio of diameter to circumference of a circle). In addition, Taylor found elaborate reasons for thinking that the measuring unit used by the Pyramid's architect was none other than the Biblical "cubit" employed by Noah in the construction of the Ark, by Abraham in building the Tabernacle, and by Solomon in the architecture of his temples. The "sacred cubit" was, Taylor thought, about twenty-five inches, and based on the length of the earth's axis. Since the earth's diameter varies considerably, because of the flattening at the poles, what could be a more natural basis for a divine unit than the axis on which our globe rotates? If you divide the axis by 400,000, you obtain the sacred cubit. Taylor found other divine units of measurement in the Pyramid—in the capacity of a granite coffer in the King's Chamber, for example—all of which he thought had bases in nature and were therefore superior to those of other measuring systems.


In addition to all the supposed truths embodied in the Pyramid, Taylor also found a score of passages in both the Old and New Testa­ment which, if wrenched from their contexts, can be interpreted as references to the stone monument. For example, we read in Isaiah 19:19-20: "In that day shall there be an altar to the Lord in the midst of the land of Egypt.. . and it shall be for a sign and for a witness unto the Lord of hosts. ..." And in Job 38:5-7: "Who hath laid the measures thereof, if thou knowest? Or who hath stretched the line upon it? Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Even St. Paul spoke of the Pyramid, Taylor believed, in such passages as ".. . Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto an holy temple of the Lord." (Ephesians 2:20-21). The Pyramid symbolized, he explained, the true Church with Christ as the topmost corner stone (this symbol, incidentally, has been popular in Christian mystical lore, and was adopted by the founding fathers as the reverse side of the United States Seal).


Taylor's speculation would probably have soon been forgotten had it not been for the Astronomer-Royal of Scotland, a University of Edinburgh professor named Charles Piazzi Smyth. Fired with enthu­siasm for Taylor's theory, Smyth soon convinced himself there were greater truths symbolized in the Pyramid than even Taylor suspected. His 664-page work, Our Inheritance in the Great Pyramid, is to Biblical Pyramidology what Donnelly's book is to Atlantology. The first edition, in 1864, was an immediate success. It went through four later editions (the last, greatly revised, in 1890), was translated into many languages, and has far exceeded all subsequent works on the topic in its influence. In 1865, Smyth went to Egypt at his own expense to make his own measurements of the Pyramid. The results of this research appeared in his three-volume Life and Work at the Great Pyramid, 1867, and On the Antiquity of Intellectual Man, 1868.


Our Inheritance is a classic of its kind. Few books illustrate so beautifully the ease with which an intelligent man, passionately con­vinced of a theory, can manipulate his subject matter in such a way as to make it conform to previously held opinions. Unfortunately, space permits only the barest resume of Smyth's sensational findings.


To begin with, Smyth discovered that the base of the Pyramid, divided by the width of a casing stone, equaled exactly 365—the number of days in the year. Casing stones originally composed the outside surface of the monument. The first of these stones was unearthed after Taylor's death, so its width had not been known to him. The stone measured slightly more than twenty-five inches, and Smyth concluded that this length was none other than the sacred cubit. If we adopt a new inch—Smyth calls it the "Pyramid inch"— which is exactly one twenty-fifth of the width of the casing stone, then we obtain the smallest divine unit of measurement used in the monu­ment's construction. It is exactly one ten-millionth of the earth's polar radius. Somehow, it had been passed on through the generations, the Scottish astronomer believed, until it became the Anglo-Saxon inch, but in the process altered slightly, making the British inch a trifle short of the sacred unit. Many years later a number of other casing stones were dug up. They had entirely different widths. By that time, however, the Pyramid inch had become so firmly established in the literature of Pyramidology that devotees merely shrugged and admitted that the first casing stone just "happened" to be a cubit wide.


With incredible zeal, Smyth applied his Pyramid inch to every measurable portion of the Pyramid, inside and out, to see how many scientific and historical truths Ire could discover. These he found in great profusion. For example, when the height of the Pyramid is multiplied by ten to the ninth power, you obtain a distance which approximates the distance from the earth to the sun. Similar manipu­lations of Pyramid lengths give you the earth's mean density, the period of precession of its axis, the mean temperature of the earth's surface, and many other scientific facts only discovered in recent times. In addition to a system of sacred measuring units for length, weight, volume, and so on, Smyth even proposed a "Pyramid ther­mometer." It used freezing point as zero, and a fifty-degree mark based on the temperature inside the King's Chamber, which was on the fiftieth level of the monument's masonry.


Smyth's most spectacular contribution, however, was the elabora­tion of a theory proposed by one Robert Menzies—that there is a great outline of history symbolized by the Pyramid's internal passage­ways. When these passages are properly measured in Pyramid inches, counting an inch as equal to a year, and the symbolism correctly interpreted, you emerge with the principal dates in the earth's past and future. You discover, for instance, that the world was created about 4,004 years before Christ. The Flood, the time of the Exodus, and the date the Pyramid was built are also indicated. The beginning of a sloping passage called the Grand Gallery marks the birth of Christ. Other features indicate the Lord's Atonement (after 33 inch-years of life), his descent into Hell, and final Resurrection. Continuing upward along the gallery, one discovers that it terminates at a point between 1882 and 1911, depending on how the length of the Grand Gallery is measured. To Smyth this 29-year period is the great Tribu­lation which will precede the Second Coming of Christ,


It is not difficult to understand how Smyth achieved these astonish­ing scientific and historical correspondences. If you set about measuring a complicated structure like the Pyramid, you will quickly have on hand a great abundance of lengths to play with. If you have sufficient patience to juggle them about in various ways, you are certain to come out with many figures which coincide with important historical dates or figures in the sciences. Since you are bound by no rules, it would be odd indeed if this search for Pyramid "truths" failed to meet with considerable success.


Take the Pyramid's height, for example. Smyth multiplies it by ten to the ninth power to obtain the distance to the sun. The nine here is purely arbitrary. And if no simple multiple had yielded the distance to the sun, he could try other multiples to see if it gave the distance to the Moon, or the nearest star, or any other scientific figure.


This process of juggling is rendered infinitely easier by two signifi­cant facts. (1) Measurements of various Pyramid lengths are far from established. Competent archeologists in Smyth's day disagreed about almost all of them, including the most basic of all, the base length of the Pyramid. Later archeologists, after Smyth, made more accurate measurements and found still different figures. In many cases Smyth had a choice of several lengths to pick from. In other cases he used measurements made by himself. And sometimes he added together conflicting measurements and used the average. (2) The figures which represent scientific truths are equally vague. The distance to the sun, for example, was not known with great accuracy in Smyth's day, and besides, the distance varies considerably because the earth's path is not a circle but an ellipse. In such cases you have a wide choice of figures. You can use the earth's shortest distance to the sun, or the longest, or the mean. And in all three cases, you can choose between conflicting estimates made by different astronomers of the time. The same ambiguity applies to almost every scientific "truth" employed by Smyth.


The only Pyramid "truth" which cannot be explained easily in terms of such juggling is the value pi. The Egyptians may have pur­posely made use of this ratio, but it seems more likely that it was a by-product of another construction. Herodotus states that the Pyramid was built so the area of each face would equal the area of a square whose side is equal to the Pyramid's, height. If such a construction is made, it fits the Pyramid perfectly, and the ratio of height to twice the base will automatically be a surprisingly accurate value for pi. (See Popular Astronomy, April, 1943, p. 185.)


Both Taylor and Smyth made a great deal of the fact that the number five is a key number in Pyramid construction. It has five corners and five sides. The Pyramid inch is one-fifth of one-fifth of a cubit. And so on. Joseph Seiss, one of Smyth's disciples, puts it as follows: "This intense fiveness could not have been accidental, and likewise corresponds with the arrangements of God, both in nature and revelation. Note the fiveness of termination to each limb of the jiuman body, The five senses, the five books of Moses, the twice five precepts of the Decalogue."


Just for fun, if one looks up the facts about the Washington Monument in the World Almanac, he will find considerable fiveness. Its height is 555 feet and 5 inches. The base is 55 feet square, and the windows are set at 500 feet from the base. If the base is multiplied by 60 (or five tunes the number of months hi a year) it gives 3,300, which is the exact weight of the capstone in pounds. Also, the word "Washington" has exactly ten letters (two times five). And if the weight of the capstone is multiplied by the base, the result is 181,500 —a fairly close approximation of the speed of light in miles per second. If the base is measured with a "Monument foot," which is slightly smaller than the standard foot, its side comes to 56V^ feet. This times 33,000 yields a figure even closer to the speed of light.

And is it not significant that the Monument is in the form of an obelisk—an ancient Egyptian structure? Or that a picture of the Great Pyramid appears on. a dollar bill, on the side opposite Wash­ington's portrait? Moreover, the decision to print the Pyramid (i.e., the reverse side of the United States seal) on dollar bills was an­nounced by the Secretary of the Treasury on June 15, 1935—both date and year being multiples of five. And are there not exactly twenty-five letters (five tunes five) in the title, "The Secretary of the Treasury"?


It should take an average mathematician about fifty-five minutes to discover the above "truths," working only with the meager figures provided by the Almanac. Considering the fact that Smyth made his own measurements, obtaining hundreds of lengths with* which to work, and that he spent twenty years mulling over these figures, it is not hard to see how he achieved such remarkable results.


Nevertheless, Smyth's books made a profound impression on mil­lions of naive readers. Dozens of volumes appeared in all languages carrying on the great work and adding additional material. In France, the leading advocate of Pyramidology was Abbe F. Moigno, Canon of St. Denis, Paris. An International Institute for Preserving and Perfect­ing Weights and Measures was organized in Boston, in 1879, at a meet­ing in Old South Church. The purpose of the Society was to work for the revision of measuring units to conform to sacred Pyramid stand­ards, and to combat the "atheistic metrical system" of France. Presi­dent James A. Garfield was a supporter of the Society, though he declined to serve as its president.


A periodical called The International Standard was published during the 1880's by the Ohio Auxiliary of the Society, in Cleveland. The president of the Ohio group, a civil engineer who prided himself on having an arm exactly one cubit in length, had this to say in the first issue: "We believe our work to be of God; we are actuated by no selfish or mercenary motive. We depreciate personal antagonisms of every kind, but we proclaim a ceaseless antagonism to that great evil, the French Metric System. . . . The jests of the ignorant and the ridi­cule of the prejudiced, fall harmless upon us and deserve no notice. ... It is the Battle of the Standards. May our banner be ever upheld in the cause of Truth, Freedom, and Universal Brotherhood, founded upon a just weight and a just measure, which alone are acceptable to the Lord."


A later issue printed the words and music of a song, the fourth verse of which ran:

Then down with every "metric" scheme

Taught by the foreign school, We'll worship still our Father's God!

And keep our Father's "rule"! A perfect inch, a perfect pint,

The Anglo's honest pound, Shall hold their place upon the earth,

Till time's last trump shall sound!


The prophetic portions of Smyth's work appealed strongly to Protestant fundamentalists of all denominations — especially in Eng­land. One of the most popular early books, Miracle in Stone, 1877, by Joseph Seiss, ran through fourteen editions. A Col. J. Gamier pro­duced a book in 1905 which proved by the Pyramid that Christ would return in 1920. Walter Wynn, in 1926, issued a similar work. Un­daunted by the failure of its prophecies, he wrote another book in 1933 containing equally bad predictions. Bertrand Russell, in one of his essays, summed up this literature as follows:

"I like also the men who study the Great Pyramid, with a view to deciphering its mystical lore. Many great books have been written on this subject, some of which have been presented to me by their authors. It is a singular fact that the Great Pyramid always predicts the history of the world accurately up to the date of publication of the book in question, but after that date it becomes less reliable. Generally the author expects, very soon, wars in Egypt, followed by Armageddon and the coming of the Antichrist, but by this time so many people have been recognized as Antichrist that the reader is reluctantly driven to scepticism."


An American preacher enormously impressed by Smyth's researches was Charles Taze Russell, of Allegheny, Pa., founder of the sect now known as Jehovah's Witnesses. In 1891, Pastor Russell published the third volume of his famous series Studies in the Scripture. It is a book of Biblical prophecy, supplemented by evidence from the Great Pyramid. A letter from Smyth is reproduced in which the Scottish astronomer praises Russell highly for his new and original contribu­tions.


According to Russell, the Bible and Pyramid reveal clearly that the Second Coming of Christ took place invisibly in 1874. This ushered in forty years of "Harvest" during which the true members of the Church are to be called together under Russell's leadership. Before the close of 1914, the Millennium will begin. The dead will rise and be given a "second chance" to accept Christ. Those who refuse are to be annihilated, leaving the world completely cleansed of evil. Members of the church alive at the beginning of the Millennium will simply live on forever. This is the meaning of the well known slogan of the Witnesses—"Millions now living will never die."


In England, two brothers, John and Morton Edgar, were so im­pressed by Russell's pyramid theories that they hurried to Egypt to make measurements of their own. There they found "beautiful con­firmations" of the pastor's views "as day by day first one, and then the other, discovered fresh beauties in the symbolic and prophetic teaching of this marvellous structure." Their heroic research is recorded for posterity in two weighty tomes, from the first of which the above quotation is taken. The volumes appeared in 1910 and 1913, under the title, The Great Pyramid Passages and Chambers.


'To the great disappointment of the Russellites, 1914 ushered in nothing more dramatic than the World War, and the sect lost thou­sands of members. New editions of Russell's Pyramid study were issued with the wording altered slightly at crucial spots to make the errors less obvious. Thus, a 1910 edition had read, ".. . The deliver­ance of the saints must take place some time before 1914. ..." (p. 228) But in 1923, this sentence read, ". . .The deliverance of the saints must take place very soon after 1914. . . ." Morton Edgar (brother John died before the great disappointment) produced a series of booklets in the twenties which followed the then current Russellite line—namely, that in 1914 Christ (already on earth since 1874) had begun an invisible reign of righteousness.


Judge J. F. Rutherford, who succeeded Russell after the pastor died in 1916, eventually discarded Pyramidology entirely. Writing in the November 15 and December 1, 1928, issues of The Watch Tower and Herald, Rutherford releases a double-barreled blast against it, and advances many ingenious arguments that the so-called Altar in Egypt was really inspired by Satan for the purpose of misleading the faithful. Did Jesus ever mention the Pyramid? Of course not. To study it, the Judge writes, is a waste of time and indicates lack of faith in the all-sufficiency of the Bible. Whether Morton Edgar remained a faithful Witness after this date, renouncing his life-time work on the Pyramid, would be interesting to know.


The Judge did not remind his readers in these articles that he, too, had been guilty of a prophetic error. For many years he had taught that 1925 would mark the beginning of the great jubilee year. Alas, it also had passed without perceptible upheavals. The sect now dis­courages the sale and reading of Russell's writings, and although members still believe the Millennium is about to dawn, no definite dates are set.1


Another fundamentalist sect that has made even stronger use of the "Bible in Stone," is the Anglo-Israel movement. This cult regards the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic peoples as descendents of the ten lost tribes of Israel, and therefore heir to all the promises God made to Abraham. In the United States, the leading organization is the Anglo-Saxon Federation of America, with'headquarters at Haverhill, Mass. Their handsome monthly magazine, Destiny, has been going now for more than twenty years.


Anglo-Israel's outstanding Pyramid work is a monumental tome, the size of a volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica, called The Great Pyramid: Its Divine Message. It was written by David Davidson, a structural engineer in Leeds, England, and first published in 1924.  A revised eighth edition appeared in 1940. The book is based on Smyth, with important differences in the prophetic section. The "Final Tribulation" of the Anglo-Saxon peoples was to begin in 1928 and extend to 1936. From September 16, 1936 until August 20, 1953, the Anglo-Saxons—i.e., the "true" Israel—will be brought together and given divine protection against a coalition of world powers seeking to destroy them. This will be the Armageddon period, terminated by the return of Christ.


Numerous Anglo-Israel books and pamphlets have been based on Davidson's work, notably the books of Basil Stewart. In the United States, the Haverhill group is currently selling the tenth edition of Great Pyramid Proof of God, by George F. Riffert, of Easton, Pa. It likewise is a popular version of Davidson. The first edition, which appeared in 1932, placed great stress on the September 16, 1936 date. There was, in fact, considerable excitement among Anglo-Israelites in both England and the United States when this day approached, but it slipped by without visible cataclysms.


The present edition of Riffert's book has an added chapter in which the author confesses, "A very real problem was, and still is, to ascertain the literal significance and character of the epoch whose crisis date was September 16, 1936." He suggests several events which took place on that day, the most important of which was "that the Duke of Windsor, then King of England, notified his prime minister, Mr. Baldwin, of his determination to marry Mrs. Simpson."


Riffert concludes: ".. . By 1953 the present Babylon-Beast-Gentile type of Civilization, the Capitalistic System of Money profits by exploitation and usury, the Armageddon Conflict, the Resurrection and Translation of God's spiritual Israel preparatory to their administrative service in the New Social or Economic Order, the overthrow of dictatorships, the regeneration and transformation of the Anglo-Saxon Nations, into the world-wide Kingdom of God, and literal return of Jesus Christ as King of Kings to prepare and perpetuate the Millennial Age, will all have come to pass."


Adventist sects have a distressing habit of refusing to blow away when one of their major prophecies fails. It is too easy to discover "errors" in calculations and make appropriate revisions. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to observe the mental gyrations of the Haverhill leaders after August 20, 1953 slips by.2


It is perhaps worth mentioning that there is also a vast occult literature dealing with the Pyramid—especially in Rosicrucian and theosophical traditions. The Biblical prophecies of Smyth are rejected, but the authors find in the monument a great deal of mathematical, scientific, astrological, and occult symbolism which varies widely with individual writers. According to Madame Blavatsky, the interior of the Pyramid was used for the performance of sacred rituals connected with the Egyptian Book of the Dead, and most theosophists today assume there are vast mysteries of some sort connected with the stone monument that are known only to initiates. The best reference on this approach is a two-volume work by British theo-sophist William Kingland, Great Pyramid in Fact and in Theory, 1932-35. Another occult approach, connecting the Pyramid with the mystical Jewish writings known as the kabala, will be found in J. Ralston Skinner's Key to the Hebrew-Egyptian Mystery, 1875 (revised in 1931).3


As worthless as all this literature is, it is not entirely worthless if we can see in it an important object lesson. No book has ever demon­strated more clearly than Smyth's (the other Pyramid books, of course, to a lesser degree) how easy it is to work over an undigested mass of data and emerge with a pattern, which at first glance, is so intricately put together that it is difficult to believe it is nothing more than the product of a man's brain. In a sense, this is true of almost all the books of pseudo-scientists. In one-way or another, they do not let the data speak for themselves. Consciously or unconsciously, their pre­conceived dogmas twist and mold the objective facts into forms which support the dogmas, but have no basis in the exterior world. Sir Flinders Petrie, a famous archeologist who made some highly exact Pyramid measurements, reports that he once caught a Pyramidologist secretly filing down a projecting stone to make it conform to one of his theories!


Perhaps this tendency to distort data operates in its subtlest forms in the great cyclical theories of history—the works of men like Hegel, Spengler, Marx, and perhaps, though one must say it in hushed tones, the works of Toynbee. The ability of the mind to fool itself by an unconscious "fudging" on the facts—an overemphasis here and underemphasis there—is far greater than most people realize. The literature of Pyramidology stands as a permanent and pathetic tribute to that ability.


Will the work of the prophetic historians mentioned above seem readers of the year 2,000 as artificial in their constructions as the predictions of the Pyramidologists? Chesterton's hilarious fantasy of the future, Napoleon of Notting Hill (which opens, by the way, like Orwell's novel, in 1984) begins with these wise words:

The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning .. . and one of the games to which it is most attached is called, "Keep to-morrow dark," and which is also named (by the rustics in Shropshire, I have no doubt) "Cheat the Prophet." The players listen very carefully and respectfully to all that the clever men have to say about what is to happen in the next generation. The players then wait until all the clever men are dead, and bury them nicely. They then go and do something else. That is all. For a race of simple tastes, however, it is great fun.

Enter supporting content here