In Search of the Psychometric Giants of Atlantis - John Foster Forbes: A Life Among Megaliths
At the heart of John Foster Forbes' philosophy and work lies his admirable contention that the subjects of Archeology and Anthropology should not be held exclusively within the interest of a limited group of academics and experts, and that such topics belong to everyone to explore and examine for themselves. His belief was that these twin fields of science were far too important towards discovering the origins of humanity, so as to remain within the exclusive possession of an elite circle who alone control their narratives.
I first came across the name John Foster Forbes in 2015 while I was working on the final drafts of what was to become my own book entitled The Druid Code: Magic, Megaliths and Mythology, when a friend of mine handed me a rather appealing, but well worn and badly repaired copy of the book entitled Ages Not So Dark. I found the title instantly captivating with its almost childish, but deliciously appealing cover art. The image was of seven druid-like individuals – apparently of both sexes – with their arms held aloft, and each of their hands joined joined into a triangular shape formed above their heads. In front of these seven ancient sages, were five megalithic standing stones with the rising (or setting) sun situated between them, being the subject of the druid's and druidess' veneration as an art deco type representations of the sun's rays decorated the top half of the cover. The quality of the printing being very much a product of British austerity, but nonetheless, the image was captivating and well presented given the obvious financial and technical limitations imposed upon the printing press which produced it.
Assuming this to be a fictional novel, I was pleasantly surprised to find out it was something of a Fortean tome dealing with megalithic locations. As I flicked through the deteriorating pages, held together by an increasingly threadbare binding, I discovered the text was complimented by numerous drawings and photographs pertaining to the more well-known, and also some lesser known, megalithic sites of Britain and beyond. There was a Shelleyesque poem dedicated to the Atlantis by a T. Weston Ramsey, along with references to something called The Council for Prehistoric Research in Great Britain, as well as another organization known as The Society of Antiquities of Scotland.
Instantly, I was hooked after reading the preface of Ages Not So Dark Being An Anthropological Retrospect of Britain and the Extreme West of Europe, to give the book its full title, and its author by the name of J. Foster Forbes. What stuck me most, was that Forbes was basically expressing – in a rather naive and more enthusiastic manner – what was essentially many of the ideas I was to put forth in my own soon–to–be–published book dealing with similar topics of Atlantis, giants, the west–to–east civilization counter–theory, electromagnetic effects of megalithic stones, the importance of mythology relating to attaining a more holistic insight into Neolithic stone structures, along with terms that were new to me; such as 'Psychometry' and the use of this mystical science in visualizing the ancient past. Although, it was not until I read much further into the text, did I come to understand what the art of Psychometry actually is.
Within a short while I found myself not only, caught up in Forbes ideas and theories, but also finding myself charmed by the unrestrained passion for his research along with its overall delivery. A passion that was to be eventually snuffed out by his later writings following the horrors of the Second World War and the on–set of of the Atomic Age and from this, the emerging Cold War. The text and writing style of Ages Not So Dark was resplendent with numerous exclamation marks and bolded, as well as underlined text. Yet his style of writing was not in the least obnoxious or off–putting, as is generally the case when reading through such works, as these grammatical embellishments are usually the work of cranks and eccentrics who ultimately have nothing original or anything of genuine value to offer the reader. However, in the case of John Foster Forbes these overuses of punctuation marks did not distract me one iota from the overall message he was conveying to his readers. For beneath his sometimes (and often more than is generally required) flamboyant delivery and punctuation, was a work of almost visionary scope considering the publication year of 1939.
In Ages Not So Dark, J. Foster Forbes presented a work that was to predict the future in terms of how people would eventually come to see the megalithic structures of Britain, Ireland and western European in terms of being a cohesive remnants of a lost civilization that owed more to the development of non–Classical European civilization than had been officially recognised. In many ways, Forbes can be seen as the bridge between the work of the antiquarian William Stukeley (1687–1765) and more contemporary megalithic researchers such as Julian Cope, while at the same time adding his own deliciously excessive, but by no means, unforgivably hyperbolic, flavours into the mix. Considering that we are dealing with a work from well before the rise of the New Age and alternative spiritual movements, John Foster Forbes can be viewed as a man ahead of his time. Hopefully this article will lead to a new generation of researchers, authors and latter day Forteans to become aware of J. Foster Forbes and the rich legacy of his work into the sacred ancient sites of these islands and beyond.
Caught Between the Psychic Wars
“More often that not he (Forbes' father) could simply not understand me; I often felt he looked at me wondering what kind of animal I was; I didn't in anyway fulfill the laws of his generation, which were to him immutable.”– J. Foster Forbes
The intensity of war often brings about 'magical' ways of thinking that would not otherwise be as tolerated and accessible as such ideas would be during peacetime. The necessity for both personal and collective survival brings up the ancient ghosts of the primitive shadow psyche which have been securely locked beneath the civilized surface during more peaceful, tranquil, and stability–infused days before death and destruction come knocking upon ones door. Our detachment from all manner of death, means that we as modern people can entertain notions that we are both reasoned and logical, as the conformity of placidity affords us a shelter from the irrational and the predictable. However, as soon as the horrors of wars and possible violent death arrive, we can be transported very quickly back to a status of superstitious savagery. Suddenly, we are not so very different from the ancient ancestor we had previously taken comfort in evaluating as less educated and sophisticated than our own present self image.
There is also something about war that bring up other sensations pertaining to the overall survival of the human race and how we managed to survive as a species the traumatic episodes of the past. Recounting the tales of Jericho's walls and the submergence of Atlantis, likewise gives us hope that as our society around us is torn asunder that we too, shall prevail and go on, as survivors of previous cataclysms have done so in the past. After all, there is no difference between a city being consumed by bombs and incendiary devices than that of an ancient city being submerged beneath the waves. Only the specifics of the annihilation differ. Such fears drove J. R. R. Tolkien to build his own survival mythologies in the trenches of the Somme as part of his personal attempts to prevent the end of the age of men from coming to pass with the onslaught of mechanised warfare, poisoned gas, flame throwers and other forms of emerging military pathological sorcery.
Death and war when it is happening to someone else far away becomes a cold and analytical topic of discussion and hard political philosophy. When it arrives at one's own front door, the ancient fears and superstitions that lay hidden within the alcoves of the human condition can very quickly step out into the light to remind us all; that at just beyond the twilight worlds of social and cultural turmoil, lay a desperate salvation within the mysterious and the superstitious. What was shunned and mocked in peacetime, can very quickly become the only crutch we have left when the Angel of Death darkens our doors. At times such as this, we are all potential Atlanteans, we are all behind the fortified walls of our own Helm's Deep.
And so it was in London at the height of the Blitz, starting in September, 1940, when the German Luftwaffe, for fifty seven consecutive nights, reduced over one million London homes to rubble, and which killed over forty thousand civilians during an operation that also targeted several other British cities and seaport towns. As the sound of the air raid sirens began to fill the nightscape of British cities, among the terrified and vulnerable civilian population, the desire for survival unleashed a psyche firestorm that manifested in the revival of religious salvation and old superstitions.
Among the educated and middle classes the world of the metaphysical and esoteric tapped into this wartime 'charge' in the form of magicians, cranks, oddballs, eccentric artists and other 'queer characters' dodging the German bombs and incendiary devices while finding that the heighten psychological and emotional state of the time was allowing them to indulge in their own craft and conjurations with a sense of almost religious freedoms, as the English Witchcraft Laws were temporally set aside in light of their war time conditions. One can only imagine how a person making their way though the burning streets of London during the late night hours and then submerging into the safety of the subterranean world of the London Underground – where thousands took refuge – that each one would be existing in a kind of Dante's Inferno of the modern consciousness. Within such conditions, a tremendous psychic 'charge' is unleashed and this then becomes the fodder of magic and mysticism borne out of mayhem.
While there was a rationing of food and other forms of energy, during these Blitz–laden months of 1940 to 1941, there was also a veritable cornucopia of magical, paranormal, metaphysical and spiritualist forms of energy unleashed for anyone wishing to avail of such 'queer' indulgences, once they did not get in the way of the Ministry of Defense and infringe upon wartime secrets, This was the case with Scottish spiritualist Helen Duncan, when in 1940 she brought forth – during a seance – perfectly accurate information concerting the sinking of the Royal Navy's elite warship HMS Hood and before the event was made public due to the huge loss of life and the potential effect on public morale. Her abilities brought her to the attention of Brigadier Roy C.E. Firebrace, head of military intelligence for Scotland who confirmed her information as legitimate mediumship, and not that of a Nazi spy as had been previously suspected. However, she was still to find herself eventually imprisoned under the Witchcraft Act in Holloway Prison for her powers as a medium.
In was during this same time – while German bombs rained down upon London – that the 'Great Beast 666' himself, Aleister Crowley, was drafting and redrafting, altering and changing rough proofs of the Thoth Tarot deck artwork with the visionary artist Lady Frieda Harris at Crowley's lodgings at 93 Jermyn Street, in Piccadilly. On the other side of this now burning great metropolis, the brilliant artist, author and occultist Austin Osman Spare found himself badly injured and homeless and after a Luftwaffe bomb had destroyed his apartment and all his artwork, only to find the experience inspirational as he embarked upon his creative works and research into the occult. Another occultist, Dion Fortune and her magical order, the Fraternity of the Inner Light, began a series of meditations in an attempt to defeat the Third Reich within the magical battlefields of the astral realms having taken heed of the Scottish journalist, folklorist and occult scholar Lewis Spence book entitled Occult Causes of the Present War.
Far from the flaming streets and mountainous rubble of wartime London along the Scottish borders region in the historic country of Peebleshire, J. Foster Forbes from his home at Solway Cottage was engaged in correspondence with The Council for Prehistoric Research at Caxton Hall on the corner of Caxton Street and Palmer Street, in Westminster, London. The still standing structure is an ornate Francois I style edifice of red brick and pink sandstone of some architectural note, and a building with an interesting pedigree of its own. Nestled between Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, Caxton Hall was a major player in the birth of the British Suffragette League, as well as hosting non other than Aleister Crowley and his coven in late 1910, when they performed the Rites of Eleusis ritual in the hall and which was described by the press at the time as being of a display of 'blasphemy and erotic suggestion.'.
Not long before J. Foster Forbes was attempting to procure a possible lecture opportunity with The Council for Prehistoric Research at Caxton Hall so as to present his research and findings on the true nature of the aboriginal Britons, that Michael O'Dwyer, the former Lieutenant Governor of the Punjab in India was assassinated by Indian nationalist Udham Singh, in retaliation for the 1919 Amritsar massacre. Due to the conditions of the war time realities, Forbes would have to suffer delay after delay in presenting his findings to The Council for Prehistoric Research. It would not be the first time his appeal for representation was to be ignored, and even ridiculed. However, The Psychometric Atlantean from Abedeenshire was not going to be silenced either, as his life had been up until this point one of almost maverick unconventionality, especially considering the social order and overriding class system of British society during his life and times. J. Foster Forbes would in time deliver his Westminster lectures on what he believed to be the true nature of the aboriginal Britons.
Rothiemay Castle in Aberdeenshire, in the north east of Scotland was originally a seat of the Abernethys family, and the castle played a central role in the history of Scotland during turbulent times of nationalistic and religious wars having one time having provided shelter to none other than Queen Mary. Originally dating from the 15th century, Rothiemay Castle, was reconstructed and refurbished as a Scottish baronial manor house in 1788, by James Duff, 2nd Earl Fife. Resplendent with conical roof turrets and a labyrinthine lower level of servant's quarters and callers the impressive and picturesque L–shaped building was composed of massive field boulders, and it was perhaps the young J. Foster Forbes being surrounded by such impressive examples of masonry during his early childhood, that his interest in the 'hidden' quality and phenomena of stone took root before he began to explore the many Aberdeenshire Neolithic stone circles beyond the confides of the castle itself.
Rothiemay Castle came into the ownership of the minor aristocratic Forbes family, and remained in their possession until it was sold to a wealthy businessman from Holland in the 1950s. The new owner showed little interest in restoring the crumbling structure, and as a result of this neglect that it was eventually repurchased back by the Forbes family in 1961. However, a surveyor's report ascertained that the building was structurally dangerous and advised it being dynamited. Although this destruction took place in 1963, later investigations revealed that the demolition was unnecessary and the building should not have been demolished. In some ways, the fate of Rothiemay Castle mirrors the life story of J. Foster Forbes own work and research; being declared unworthy and discarded, before many years later, more sympathetically-inclined Atlantis enthusiasts and researchers such as myself rediscovered the overlooked integrity of his investigations and writings which proved his reduction to 'crank' status as being shortsighted and unfortunate.
When J. Foster Forbes was born 'under the sign of Taurus in 1889, the British Empire had reached the zenith of its power and global influence. The wider world was changing as well as reexamining itself as the old imperial structures were giving way to the on coming realities of the approaching 20th century. Along with J. Foster Forbes, in 1889, Adolf Hitler and Charlie Chaplin were also born within weeks of each other, and in that same year, the Austro–Hungarian empire was still reeling from the bizarre double-suicide of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria, and his mistress Baroness Mary Vetsera at their Mayerling hunting lodge. While in almost literal antithesis to the decline of the old traditions, the Coca–Cola Company began operations, the Eiffel Tower was opened, and an artist named Vincent VanGogh began painting his masterpiece Starry Night which would herald the transition between traditional and modern art. 1889 could not have been a more appropriate for a man who would fuse the past, present and future such a J. Foster Forbes to have been born.
Following his public school education and time at university in Cambridge, J. Foster Forbes enlisted as an intelligence officer in the Army and subsequently served in World War One. Although little is known of his wartime experience, his capacity as both an intelligence officer as well as exposures to the horrors of the Great War may have played a significant part in his later changes in psychological and emotional health, as well the depth of his investigations and research into megalithic and other sacred sites of Britain.
Following the war, Forbes found employment as a boys school headmaster and took charge of his own catering college which proved to be unsuccessful. Forbes was known for chain–smoking the sun–cured and highly aromatic Murad brand of Turkish cigarettes with their high nicotine and tar content, and ironically featuring artwork of Middle Eastern megaliths and mysticism which adored both the brand's advertisements and cartons. Forbes was also reported as being something of an enthusiastic drinker at the time, but even so, during this period of history, heavy smoking and constant alcoholic consumption was hardly unusual for men of his age and social status. It was also during this period when Forbes' growing interest in prehistoric mysteries and megalithic sites really began to grab hold of his imagination as he devoured every text on these topics he could lay his hands upon. As comfortable with academic volumes, as with more esoteric and pseudo–historical works of the period, J. Foster Forbes began to develop his own model of the ancient world – that was to remain with him for the rest of his life – as he constantly refined and solidified his theories and ideas of the ancient world of the megalithic builders of Britain, Ireland and beyond. Central to this, was the numerous Pictish and other earlier Neolithic sites of his home county of Aberdeenshire.
In the 1920s J. Foster Forbes was overcome by serious illness which appears to have been the result of either wartime Post Traumatic Stress, or a nervous breakdown due to other unknown factors or a deeply disruptive early mid–life crisis which at the time almost killed him, but was to become a personal experience which Forbes' himself was to look upon as some kind of mystical or psychedelic experience. While at the deep end of this psychological turmoil and poor personal health, a group calling themselves the Order of the Cross entered into his life and saved him during his darkest hour demonstrating remarkable compassion and attention to Forbes' predicament which was to profoundly change his outlook on life.
Founded in 1904, the Order of the Cross are dedicated to living a life of compassion and follow a pacifist and vegetarian or vegan way of life. The fellowship offer support and encouragement to all who would embrace its Aims and Ideals. The creation of a fellow Scot by the name of John Todd Ferrier, of which little is known of to this day, although the order itself is still in existence. Their mission is one of Christian mysticism and vegetarianism coupled with a strong sense of pacifism. Inspired by the writings John Todd Ferrier and by the compassion and understanding of the fellowship, J. Foster Forbes found the support and encouragement he needed in order to survive his psychological and spiritual breakdown having being impressed by the group's active encouragement of his own creativity and personal interests.
Having himself literally risen from the dead, Forbes joined The Order of the Cross and began to publish and lecture on his theories of prehistory and what he claimed to be the magnificent cultural achievements of the Keltic, Pictish and aboriginal Britons all within the framework of the Order's philosophy. Forbes had not only found the vigor to embark on bringing his theories of Western European pre–history to the masses, he had also found himself a comforting and supportive framework within the Order of the Cross so as to bring it to the world at large. Central to this was his absolute and near evangelical devotion to the concept that the Atlantis myth of Plato having taken place within the megalithic arc of Western Europe.
Surprisingly, when one considers his membership of The Order of the Cross, to his credit Forbes generally steered well-clear of the more British Israelism-inclined historical revisionism of the era such as that of William Comyns Beaumont, who unlike Forbes had a major public profile being a well respected journalist writing mainly for the British newspaper the Daily Mail. Comyns Beaumont status within British society made him very much a part of the social and intellectual elite when he claimed that Edinburgh in Scotland was the actual site of Jerusalem, and that the English city of Bristol was the real Sodom of the Bible. While Comyns Beaumont theories on 'Atlantis' being located somewhere in the British Isles do indeed have merit, it was constantly undermined by his biblical overlay. To his credit, J. Foster Forbes avoided this popular idea and maintained and stuck-by his belief that the civilization, high–culture and technical achievements of the Neolithic builders of Europe, owned nothing to the tales and characters from the Holy Land.
What makes Forbes work and research stand out compared to his peers was his hands-on approach to field work and constant visits and surveys of the megalithic sites. Although he was generally a solitary individual during most of his life, Forbes gathered around him a team of fellow researchers who may have well fallen out of the pages of one of Agatha Christie's Miss Marple novels; Major F. C. Tyler, Commander Wentworth Grist, Mr Stanley Barber, Miss Iris Campbell and most important of all the 'human television set' herself Miss Olive Pixley. Miss Pixley and Campbell provided the skills used to psychometrize stones at ancient and historical locations and from this would channel or present their psychic impression of memories and experiences contained with the sub atomic structures and electromagnetic qualities of the stones. If his writings is anything to go by, then Forbes held the work of these two women in the highest regard and considered their psychic impressions to be valuable data for determine missing parts of the pre–historical record.
FORBES' MEGALITHIC MISSION
Forbes believed – and in the years since his heyday has been proven correct – that the people of pre–history were far more sophisticated, cultured and technologically adept than have been portrayed by academia, and that an injustice which results from this narrow and simplistic, if not bigoted world view, robs both the people of the ancient past of their own dignity, and we of the present of pride in the achievements of our non-Roman ancestors. Forbes considered it lamentable that history was never 'our' story belonging to average man and woman and one which they should take a personal pride in being connected to. Forbes, rightly, believed that the downgrading of the ancient Britons in order to celebrate the magnificence of the Roman Empire was the root of this issue. He strongly believe that once people looked into the history of the megalith builders of their own accord, and without the strict framework of the prevailing academic orthodoxy, that they too would come to the same conclusions as Forbes himself had.
What made Forbes truly visionary in his work, was that he implemented a holistic methodology of incorporating, along with archeology and anthropology, data collected from folklore, superstition, customs and mythology in order to decode and reveal the evolution and eventual dispersion of aboriginal Europeans of the Atlantic regions in pre–history. Even today this is considered a radical approach by the mainstream historians and yet it has been shown time and time again to be a valuable source of information as well as uncovering new revelations concerning the ancient past. Forbes expressed amazement that this was not standard practice among academics, and he was perfectly legitimate in expressing such concerns. In recent times, research programs in both the UK and Portugal have revealed the extent and depth of information contained within European folklore that offers up consistent archetypes and tropes which have been determined to go as far back as the Bronze Age and perhaps even further into pre–history.
Forbes came from a time when most educated people believed there was essentially no history at all prior to the early years of the Roman Empire, and certainly there was no history at all on the Atlantic fringes of Europe despite the incredible and numerous Neolithic structures of profound antiquity stretching along the megalithic arc from Scandinavia, down through the British Isles, along the coasts of northern France, into Spain and Portugal and around into the Mediterranean as far as Malta and Sicily.
In his book The Unchronicled Past, J. Foster Forbes first presented this philosophy and revision of ancient history and the initial run of five hundred copies sold out almost immediately, giving him encouragement to continue on his mission to restore pride in the legacy of the aboriginals Britons and to resurrect Atlantis from the depths and present it to the public within a new light. This was not cold and hard historical information, but a vibrant and positive and above all, exciting delivery to people who at them time were enthusiastically willing to embrace in far greater numbers than even Forbes himself initially believed. In 1936–37 Forbes delivered a series of twenty minute long radio talks grieving a brief outline of his theories and findings. This then became the launch pad for his career as a maverick antiquarian to some, and an eccentric crank to others. However, everyone agreed that John Foster Forbes though his writings and lectures brought the ancient history of aboriginal Britons and other ancient races alive, and his ethos and methodology was in time to be emulated by authors such as myself, even if his work and legacy had all but been sadly forgotten. One of the more disgraceful treatments of his work was when Forbes presented his major research and comprehensive surveys on the early pre-Roman history of London's waterways which the BBC 'lost' and has never been recovered. 'Fake News' and censorship is hardly anything new in the world of mainstream media...
LATER LIFE AND WORK
Among Forbes theories; he was the first to propose that the Irish and Scots were the same race as the CeltIberians of Spain and Western Portugal, having correctly identified that the Neolithic structures of these regions having being built by the same race, and at the same time. He was a strong believer in the existence of Giants during pre–history and set about proving his theories decades before such ideas became popular outside biblical scholarship. He was also the proponent of a most interesting theory that the original builders of the megaliths became caught up in a dark occult religion and this 'sorcery' is what unleashed the disaster which caused the destruction of Atlantis. Following this, a new school of druids arrived with the intention of restoring the 'path of light' to the stone circle and dolmens. Their efforts helped to stabilize this reality and end the turmoil. Forbes also warned that dark occult forces of the present are still attempting to corrupt the megaliths of Europe for the own ends. In fact, in his book The Castle and Place of Rothiemay, Forbes recalls a childhood experience when an influential friend of his father generated something of a psychic attack in the young Forbes while this aristocrat joked about human sacrifices at a nearby Neolithic stone circle.
For me personally, my favourite, and highly intriguing J. J. Foster Forbes theory is that of something of a 'literal Freemasonry' – "MARK THE TERM!" as Forbes wrote – which puts forward the idea that it is the nature of dry stone construction which allows megalithic structures to survive for millennia. That, rather than these stones just being randomly piled one upon the other, each stone within a megalithic structure – no matter how small or numerous – belongs in a very specific place. Forbes cited the example of dry stone walls used in field boundaries and their ability to last hundreds of years, as the farmers carefully chooses specific stones for certain points in the wall. Forbes believed that masonry using cement mortar was always doomed to falling apart, but dry or loose stones developed a relationship to one another like the sympathetic resonance of musical notes. These relationships are fine-tuned to not only last thousands of years, but also to transmit psychometric information to people who can read the messages contained within the stones as long as the structures remain in-tact. Indeed, the excavations of Navan Fort in Ulster during the 1970s surprised the archeologists as it was shown that a distinct geometry was present on the main domed structure even though it was composed of many thousands of seemingly random stones. Every one of the small stones appeared to be specifically placed in that precise location.
Over a half a century since his death and John Foster Forbes' work continues to be proven more correct than the people who declared him to be a crank during his heyday.
Further Reading and Thanks to: John Foster Forbes By Patrick Benham in My Brighton