The Holes in History By Jeremy Burns
Atlantis. The Knights Templar. King Solomon’s Mine. As much as we may think we know about our collective past, history is rife with unanswered questions and buried secrets. Archeologists and historians are regularly uncovering another piece of the puzzle, forever changing our understanding of how we got to where we are today. Though myth and legend often obscure the truths of history, in fact, those fabled stories often contain more than a grain of truth.
The legendary city of Troy, forever immortalized by The Iliad, was thought for centuries to be nothing more than myth. Even when Henrich Schliemann, who had made it his life’s ambition to discover the city, announced his discovery of the city’s ruins, much of the academic community scoffed. Yet Schliemann was vindicated, his discovery proving to be the actual site of the historical city of Troy.
History is full of such incidents. There is mounting archeological evidence that Atlantis and its destruction is more than just a myth; several sites have been discovered in the Mediterranean and beyond that would prove a suitable inspiration for Plato’s cryptic references to the doomed arch-civilization, and scientifically proven natural phenomena from the established historical record have been posited to have caused the city to be “swallowed up by the sea.” The legendary King Arthur may have his roots in an actual Roman general stationed in what would one day become Britain. Even in science, animals such as the mountain gorilla, the okapi, and the giant squid were long presumed to be cryptozoological; now, we know that they are real living creatures.
It is in mankind’s nature to be inquisitive, to ask questions about the world around us and how we came to be where we are today. This inquisitive spirit has lead us to question the established order and not be satisfied with our current understanding of science, history, and the like. Indeed, this is the very engine of progress.
Seemingly counterintuitive to that process, though, is the fact that, often the powers-that-be will cover up an inconvenient truth, seeding history with lies and double blinds to distract us from what really happened. Particularly of interest to truth-seekers is why those truths were covered up in the first place, and what relevance they may have to us today. In my first thriller, FROM THE ASHES, I use a chillingly plausible what-if scenario to bring to light a terrifying real-life campaign waged by the U.S. government against civilians throughout the twentieth century. My second novel, OF FAITH AND TREASON, will explore a real but buried history involving a secret society of militant zealots, a 19th century shadow war between by the U.S. government and a powerful religious sect, and an ancient artifact that may be key to the United States’s survival – or destruction.
Both of these scenarios have chillingly real consequences for today’s world, yet the hidden histories explored within are buried beyond the public’s consciousness. I believe that the very fact that they are not talked about is all the more reason why they should be brought into the light.
Beyond the threat of powerful figures and organizations controlling secrets and lost treasures, there is a magnificent wonder to behold within this quest for truth. One of my favorite quotes comes from Albert Einstein, one of the most brilliant minds humanity has yet produced, which makes his words all the more poignant: “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” To me, the quest for deeper understanding and the wonder of mystery are irrevocably intertwined.
And as much as I love probing the unanswerable questions of the past, present, and future, I pray we never run out of mysteries to ponder, nor the spirit or desire to do so. But thankfully, judging from what we know – or rather, what we don’t know – about the mysteries of history, I doubt we ever will.