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  transient events
  'age of myth'
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  !! funding needed !!
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!! a passionate appeal for funding !!

Absent independent wealth, experience has taught that the type of research I pursue cannot realistically be done without funding.

Publishers and academics alike frown upon classic catastrophism and the idea that myths could contain useful information about unusual natural events in the past. At best, myths are supposed to be about the normal workings of nature - how the sun moves, what causes earthquakes and so on. Despite the successes of geomythology, any suggestion of stories tracing back to significant changes in the natural order, temporary or not, remain unwelcome. This is partly for understandable reasons, given the track record of the genre. However, it should be acceptable in principle to approach these subjects using proper standards of research and presentation. Platitudinous rejection notes is all I ever managed to receive from publishers and agents, who seem happy to focus on a handful of trending subjects. In the case of articles, I suppose the anonymous character of the peer review process was often my saving grace, but even so authors traditionally do not receive a dime. And self-publishing? It has much enriched our lives, but cannot remotely be relied upon to cover even the cost of groceries.

For 20 solid years I was able to produce a prolific output and develop countless lines of investigation thanks to a generous source of private funding. When this suddenly fell away in late 2020, it was instantly clear that the future of everything I had been working on - at full steam and at the top of my game - hung in the balance. This in itself is unremarkable, for such is the fate of many. The tragedy lies in the unique nature of the work. Without exaggeration, the material I have painstakingly amassed from libraries, sites and other sources around the world would be exceedingly difficult to duplicate and deserves to be shared with humanity. The manifold patterns that can be deduced from these data and the ways they may relate to aspects of nature are almost as valuable. For now - and there is perhaps no polite way of saying this - no one would be better placed to make these resources available than me. This is because I am at ease with many of the languages involved and know my way around the complexities like no other. The time to act is now. I am still at a stage in my life where I have the energy, flexibility and interest to salvage these projects. In a few more years, this window of opportunity will likely have passed. I can go on and do something else, but the hard-won material will disappear into obscurity with me. And that would be such a shame.

Why not go the way of self-promotion and crowd-funding, using blogs, videos and social media? Truth be told, those are just not my cup of tea. Call me old school, but my forte is doing serious research. We all have different talents and it is wise to ask, with Seneca, Quota pars operis tanti nobis committitur? What, in this work, is our (my) part? Some old-timers in our circles will recognise the reference. Like many academics, I thrive in quietude without a need to entertain, placing not myself at the centre but carefully composed text and images that will retain their value for decades, safe from the vagaries of popular fashion and in durable format. True and diligent creative work requires intense mental dedication and is far more time-consuming than many people imagine, especially with the enormous range of subjects I work on. I am simply not the type who is capable of combining that with a lively presence on the web or on social media. Kudos to those who are.

These are the projects at stake:

[1] database of primary sources on cosmological traditions worldwide

This will be publically accessible for free, searchable and multilingual. The emphasis will be on myths of cosmic creation, structure and destruction. Such a resource does not currently exist. It would provide a useful service insofar as myths are more important than many of us realise and their original sources are generally difficult to identify, often involving old chronicles, missionary reports, anthropological diaries or other publications that few people are able to access or read. The many thousands of research notes that I have already gathered in the course of my research over the past 24 years would provide an ideal starting-point for the database and I have detailed ideas about how it should be structured.

[2] book series Glimpses of a Lost World (open-ended)

Closely related to the database project is this series of sourcebooks on myth. Selecting entries from the projected database, each volume will focus on a specific motif such as 'the raising of the low sky', 'the Great Fire', 'the multiple suns and moons', 'a past race of giants', 'the ladder to heaven' and many more. Books on myth are plentiful, of course, but they tend to be organised alphabetically (an A to Z of deities, say) or by cultural region (Egyptian myths, Indonesian myths, and so on). Flood myths aside, it is not commonly realised that there are scores of other motifs found universally. It should need no argument that compilations of primary sources centred on one motif at a time, are a worthwhile endeavour and yet I have not been able to solicit the slightest interest from commercial publishers or university presses.

This project will be a tribute to the thousands of indigenous nations with which Westerners share this planet. Let their voices be heard. Each myth or tradition will be given in the earliest recorded source, translated where necessary, and credited to the narrator(s) to the extent possible. These books will be theory-free, that is, the traditions will speak for themselves and no attempt is made to explain them. Scholars, performers, artists - all could benefit from this rich repository of pan-human heritage. Further details can be found here.

[3] book series On the Origin of Myths in Catastrophic Experience (c. 8 volumes)

The ambitious goal of this series is to formulate real-world scenarios that can do justice to the claim to truth inherent in myths about the world's origins - more justice at any rate than any of the prevailing schools of thought allow. Cutting-edge astronomy, geophysics, geology, palaeontology, archaeology and other disciplines are used to evaluate ways in which cross-cultural patterns in the traditions can be meaningfully accounted for. The pitfall of insistence on a single, overly specific interpretation is avoided, but the various emerging possibilities do combine in a compelling picture of the terminal Pleistocene as the 'age of myth'.

Two volumes have so far appeared. The remaining ones have been completed in draft, including the illustrations, but still need to be prepared for publication. That involves bringing them up-to-date with the latest research; filling in some gaps; and finalising the text. No volume should require more than about a year's work. The subject matter is organised as follows:

vol. 3: geological disasters: deluge, wildfires, earthquakes, with mass deaths; rôle of fossils;
vol. 4: the earth's rotational properties: sudden pole shifts, astronomical and geographical; tippe-top effect;
vol. 5: bolides, comets, asteroids; Clube & Napier's coherent catastrophism; the Younger Dryas comet;
vol. 6: solar superstorms; the instability phases of Peratt's plasma column in detail;
vol. 7: prehistoric rock art, geoglyphs and some other artefacts;
vol. 8: the psychological and cultural effects; the theory of 'collective amnesia' revised and refined; collective post-traumatic stress disorder; the origins of the great institutions of 'civilisation'; geomagnetic influences on long-term trends in human behaviour; reconciling with nature.

[4] Thunderbolts Picture of the Day essays bundled into a book, fully referenced

[5] monograph on the widespread symbol of the ouroboros or 'tail-biting serpent'

Almost everyone is familiar with this iconic image, especially in the setting of alchemy, but a book-length treatment has yet to appear. My collection of pictorial and textual examples is arguably the most complete one in existence, including much evidence that has never featured in discussions of the ouroboros. The book is organised thematically.

[6] monograph on the zodiacal light in premodern cultures

Astronomers have been investigating the zodiacal light since the late 17th century, when Cassini conducted the first studies. In our days of ubiquitous light pollution it is easy to underestimate the impression this nocturnal glow may have made on earlier generations, notably at lower latitudes. In a number of peer-reviewed articles I have already drawn attention to possible reflections of the zodiacal light in the literature and iconography of the ancient Near East and Greece. This only scratches the surface, however, of a vast topic with enormous potential for the history of science. The book is begging to be written - and I have already done most of the legwork and drafting. The materials from ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and the classical world dominate, but a survey of credible global attestations will be included.

 

This is my cri-de-coeur to save the passion of a lifetime. Those who have read my work know that I rejuvenate stale topics with copious amounts of original sources, never seen earlier in the contexts in question. They will recognise the universal spirit in a dispassionate striving for accuracy, sincerity and balance, in which all sides receive a fair hearing. I am a hard worker. It is either this or nothing for me. If the task ends here, so be it.

If you see merit in any of this and are able to make a difference, please do not hesitate to contact me.

 

Marinus Anthony van der Sluijs
2024