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It takes a fair event to get me out of the house away from Daily Grail and family duties, but it wasn’t a difficult decision last night when best-selling author Graham Hancock stopped into my hometown of Brisbane on his ‘Magicians of the Gods‘ tour to talk about everything from consciousness to UFOs to lost megalithic cultures. Nevertheless, with doors opening at 5pm, and Graham going on stage at 6pm sharp, getting to the show on time through rush-hour traffic – given its location at the wonderful Old Museum just outside the CBD – was not without its difficulties. On the bright side, the fact that I arrived right on 6pm meant that a host of convenient parking spots right near the building had just become available to me. On the down side, it started pouring rain at the exact time I hopped out of my vehicle. Lucky for that close park!

Arriving at the Old Museum, my first encounter with staff was a happy one. Rather than a paper ticketing system, a simple flash of my driver’s licence allowed me entry as they ticked my name off on an iPad – no sacrificial trees required. Though one of the last to arrive at this sold-out event, every one of the still-spare seats in the house offered a fine view of the stage, and the media screen behind it. The MC quickly ran through the sequence of events for the night, etiquette tips (phones to silent, etc), and other information – an often neglected, but very helpful start to the event. Then, Graham Hancock walked to the stage to rapturous applause, for his first (of three!) presentation of the night.

This first talk was related to his fiction outing, War God. Although I’d imagine for many of his devoted ‘alternative history’ fans that this talk may have felt like the ancillary one of the evening, for me – given I’m very familiar with many of the topics discussed in his other talks on consciousness and lost cultures – this proved to be an absolutely fascinating exploration of the cataclysmic historical period when the Spanish first arrived in Mexico. As an Australian, a lot of this history isn’t familiar to me, and I was stunned at what an amazing saga it is (so much so that as Graham talked I began imagining the plot for an HBO series based on it all). At the end of the talk, a 20 minute intermission was announced, during which Graham would happily sign books, chat to punters and have his photo taken with them. As the queue began almost directly in front of my seat, I popped sideways into it so as to quickly say ‘hi’ to Graham (we’ve known each other via email for almost 15 years, though we’ve only met once in person previously). Upon recognising me (almost 10 years on from our last meeting), he leapt from his seat to embrace me with a friendly hug and shake of the hand, a mark of his warm character.

With the 20 minute intermission not being long enough to cater for all the meet and greets (I didn’t chat long, I promise), the organisers (Lost Tribes) intelligently handed out numbers to those remaining in line, so that they could be first in line at the end of the night when Graham would continue to press the flesh. Again, a small thing, but a very smart move to keep everyone’s night a happy one. Graham then swung into his next talk, this one an absolute epic concerning ‘the war on consciousness’. Rather than me trying my best to describe it, see the embedded video below of Graham’s famous ‘banned TED talk’ to get a feel for both the topics discussed, and Graham’s wonderful oratory style (though stretch it out from the 15 minute TED format to around an hour and a half in length last night).

Upon finishing his talk, a short 10 minute ‘leg stretch’ intermission was announced – though many I’m sure headed to the coffee stall outside the doors, to freshen up for the impending finale: an almost two hour talk on Graham’s research into the upcoming ‘sequel’ to his best-selling 1995 book Fingerprints of the Gods, the similarly named Magicians of the Gods. A tour-de-force of material both old and new (the background information from Fingerprints, augmented by his latest research discoveries), this part of the evening again offered plenty to me, as Graham was not shy in sharing some of his most recent insights – a real treat, as many authors and researchers can be reticent to share material at this stage of writing. From ancient depictions of Yoga by the Indus Valley civilisation through to strange similarities between carvings at Gobekli Tepe and the New World, I’m sure many attendees would have left the event in gleeful expectation of the next book, based on what they listened to during this final presentation.

With rapturous applause again as Graham finished his official duties for the night, it was announced that he would then continue meeting with readers until they were all done – remember, this is after about four hours of non-stop talking on-stage on a huge and diverse range of topics, 20 minutes of previous mingling and signing, and only 10 minutes break from being the focus of the spotlight from 6pm and 11pm – the man is a MACHINE. And despite the energy spent in those first five hours, Graham hung around for almost another hour, conversing happily with fans, and patiently listening to, and engaging with, more than a few who had their own ‘unique’ theories about the history of humanity. I hung around in the background until all attendees had left happy and content (even helping out with the camera for some of those attending on their own), and then had a longer, more relaxed chat with Graham, though he was by this stage quite obviously, and understandably, completely exhausted.

But though Graham is a friend, I’ll make it quite clear that there were a number of ‘facts’ in his talk that I don’t personally agree with him on. But this would hardly be a surprise to him – indeed, he covers so much controversial ground in his talks – religion, psychedelics, UFOs, lost civilisations and so on – that it would be a wonder if anybody in the audience agreed with him on everything. What has always attracted me to his work though is that he is primarily an inspiring story-teller (I don’t intend the ‘story-teller’ in the pejorative sense). By the end of the evening I could almost feel the sense of wonder hanging in the air, as 200 odd (again, not the pejorative!) souls wrapped their minds around speculations, possibilities, and some good old ‘didn’t learn that in shcool’ moments, all woven into a coherent – and more importantly – entertaining ‘story’ by Graham. As people waited in line at the end of the night to shake hands with him, conversations kept floating through the air about this ancient civilisation, or this monument, where to look for more information, and so on. You could imagine that upon arriving home, after midnight, they likely hopped straight on to Google rather than curling up in bed.

Some skeptics say that alternative speakers such as Graham Hancock are dangerous, because they’re spreading misinformation. Ironically, I know some skeptics who say this who were originally inspired to study history and archaeology by reading Fingerprints of the Gods, before disavowing the work once inducted into academic archaeological circles (I have heard similar things about von Daniken’s work and space scientists). I think that’s an important point to make – the value of fascinating ‘entry points’ to hook us into these topics, from which we can then expand and refine our knowledge, and possibly change our opinion as our understanding evolves.

But furthermore, the larger question is “what if he’s right?” on some of these points. In some areas, I am in little doubt that Graham Hancock is correct in his opinion, such as his thoughts on the ‘war on consciousness’ and the madness of modern society. On other points, such as the ‘worldwide grid’ of megalithic sacred sites, I am more skeptical. But it is certainly no crime to consider these theories; indeed, really it is imperative that we should always question the things we think we’ve got right about the world, and follow up on anomalies and glimpses of other possibilities. Orthodox archaeology laughed at Graham Hancock, John Anthony West and Robert Schoch when they suggested large monuments could have been built ten to twelve thousand years ago – now Gobekli Tepe has proven that view was a viable one. I for one enjoy hearing dissenting voices, especially when they are as eloquent as Graham Hancock.

Graham Hancock’s 2014 tour of Australia continues on with talks in Byron Bay, Sydney, and Perth, though all but Perth are now sold out. See the linked website for more details.

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A weary Graham Hancock leans on some numpty from the audience