Column: A review of Star.Ships

Gordon White’s Star.Ships: A Prehistory of the Spirits, published by Scarlet Imprint in 2016, challenges the overly materialistic shortsightedness of both academic and “ancient aliens” theories regarding the development of human “civilization” during the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic periods. As the subtitle of the book suggests, White offers a spirit-working chaos magician’s perspective on the question of of “civilization” and its relationship to spirits and star lore, utilizing data from a wide swathe of scientific disciplines. “Instead of measuring a civilisation by its density of sprockets, what happens when we consider civilisation to be a collection of values, thoughts, mythologies?” White asks, “What happens when we count up the non-physical sprockets?” (9)

White begins his book with a chapter on the limitations of scientific answers to this question, ranging from methodological problems such as the non-publication of findings due to political or careerist reasons, the deliberate limitation of access to evidence, and blatant fraud, to thornier issues of interpretation: the inevitable gap between facts and interpretation, confirmation bias towards exclusively materialist explanations when dealing with spiritual or mythic subjects, and racist assumptions about “primitive” cultures “progressing” into “civilizations.”