On October 4, 2016, I boarded a British Airways flight from Los Angeles to London’s Heathrow Airport. After a few hours at Heathrow, I got on a flight to New Delhi, India. I was going to India to speak at the Tenth Annual All-India Students’ Conference on Science and the Spiritual Quest, in Mathura. I arrived at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on the morning of October 6th. A representative from the conference was there to meet me. We drove by car to Vrindavan, a town near Mathura, about 90 miles south of New Delhi. There I got checked in to my hotel. It was nice being in Vrindavan.
I have always been a spiritual seeker, and in the early 1970s, my spiritual path led me to become a disciple of a guru from India, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who founded the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Before he came to America in the 1960s, Bhaktivedanta Swami lived in Vrindavan, the place where Lord Krishna appeared five-thousand years ago. So you could say that Vrindavan is the spiritual home of devotees of Krishna like me. I travel widely around the world, speaking at scientific conferences and universities, but it is something special when my work happens to lead me to my spiritual home.
It turned out that my hotel was within walking distance of the Krishna Balarama Temple, established by Bhaktivedanta Swami. It was at the Krishna Balarama temple that Bhaktivedanta Swami left this world in 1977. His samadhi, a memorial shrine marking his final resting place, is located in front of the temple. On October 7th, I went to visit the samadhi of my guru. As part of his mission, Bhaktivedanta Swami wanted some of his disciples to challenge the Darwinian theory of human evolution and other scientific theories that contradict the understandings about the origin of life and the universe given in the ancient Sanskrit writings of India. I have done what I can to satisfy his desire. My visit to Bhaktivedanta Swami’s samadhi was a deeply felt moment of personal rededication.
The next morning, I was driven to the conference venue, the Hindustan College of Science and Technology, near Mathura. The title of the paper I presented at the conference was “Puranic Time and the Archaeological Record with Some Thoughts on Knowledge Filtration.” The auditorium was full of science students and science professors from all over India. I explained that the Puranas, the historical writings of ancient India, are based on a cyclical concept of time. The basic unit of this cyclical time is the kalpa, or day of Brahma, which lasts 4.32 billion years. The day of Brahma is followed by a night of Brahma, which is followed by another day of Brahma, and so on. During the days of Brahma, life, including human life, is manifest in the universe; during the nights, it is dormant. The day of Brahma is divided into fourteen subperiods called manvantaras, each lasting about 306 million years. According to the Vedic cosmological calendar we are now in the seventh manvantara of the current day of Brahma. The Puranas, like the Bhagavata Purana, tell us that humans like us have been present since the first manvantara, at the beginning of the day of Brahma, millions of years ago.
The Bhagavata Purana even gives a specific example of such a person—the boy saint Dhruva, who lived during the first manvantara. I will quote here a little bit from my paper: “When Dhruva was a young boy, he went into the forest to find God. There he met the sage Narada. This meeting occurred at a place here in the town of Mathura, where we are gathered today. The place is called Dhruva Ghat. Narada advised Dhruva to go to meditate on God, Narayana, in the Madhuvan Forest, on the outskirts of today’s Mathura. There is a temple on the hill called Dhruva Tila that commemorates this event. All over India, there are temples that commemorate events recorded in the Puranas, which took place millions of years ago.”
According to modern science, humans like us first appeared less than 200,000 years ago. That leads to a question: is there any archaeological evidence that is consistent with the Puranic accounts of extreme human antiquity? If you dig deeply into the history of archaeology, as I have, you can find many reports of archaeologists, geologists, and other scientists finding human bones, human footprints, and human artifacts far older than 200,000 years. These reports are, however, absent from today’s textbooks. Why is that? I propose it is because of a process of knowledge filtration that operates in the world of science. The “knowledge filter” is a metaphor for the dominant consensus in a scientific discipline. In archaeology, the dominant consensus is that humans like us appeared fairly recently. Evidence that is consistent with this passes through the knowledge filter. But evidence that contradicts the dominant consensus does not pass through the knowledge filter and therefore, you do not see it in the textbooks. Or even if it does make its way into the textbooks, it is altered so as to fit the dominant consensus. My idea of the knowledge filter is related to the concept of paradigms, introduced by philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Paradigms influence how scientists treat evidence.
In my Mathura talk I gave, as an example of knowledge filtration, a case that I wrote about in my column for Atlantis Rising #106—the Happisburgh footprints. In 2013, a team headed by Nick Ashton discovered footprints in newly exposed sediments on the beach at Happisburgh in the United Kingdom. They published their report in February 2014 in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE (vol.9, issue 2). The footprints were found in sediments between 0.78 and 1.0 million years old. The researchers carefully studied the footprints and found their measurements matched those of footprints of modern human populations. But the researchers did not attribute the footprints to anatomically modern humans. According to their understanding, humans like us did not exist between 0.78 and 1.0 million years ago. So the researchers attributed the footprints to Homo antecessor, the hominin (ape man) that, according to their ideas, inhabited Europe at that time. In other words, they saw only what their paradigm allowed.
This reminded me of a psychology experiment that Thomas Kuhn described in his book. This experiment demonstrated how people modify what they actually see to fit their expectations. The experiment was carried out by J. S. Bruner and Leo Postman, who published their results in 1949, in Journal of Personality (volume 18, pages 206–223). In this experiment, the colors of the symbols on playing cards were changed. For example, the color of the four of hearts, normally red, was changed to black. But when a deck of cards was shown to people, one card after another, they could not recognize the altered cards as different. They saw them as the expected, normal cards. Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1996, p. 64) said, “In science, as in the playing-card experiment, novelty emerges only with difficulty, manifested by resistance, against a background provided by expectation.” In the case of the Happisburgh footprints, scientists did not perceive them as a novelty, as potential evidence for extreme human antiquity; instead, they saw them in such a way that would fit their theoretical expectations. In my Mathura talk, I gave many more examples of archaeological evidence consistent with the Puranic accounts of extreme human antiquity.
A few days later, I gave the same talk at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Roorkee, about a hundred miles north of Delhi. There are 23 IITs in India, and they are considered the nation’s top science and technology institutions. My talk, which was part of an IIT evening lecture series, was very well attended. All the seats in the auditorium were filled with faculty and students, and many students were sitting in the aisles. The IIT organizers apologized to the audience for not having held the lecture in a larger auditorium. One of the faculty organizers explained to me that they normally did not get so many attendees for the lecture series.
Roorkee is not far from the pilgrimage town of Haridwar, located where the Ganges River emerges from the Himalayas, entering the plains of northern India. My hosts asked me if I wanted to go to Haridwar to bathe in the waters of the Ganges. According to the Puranas, the waters of the Ganges descend from the spiritual world before becoming visible at their earthly source, a glacier in the Himalayas. I could not refuse their offer, so we went to Haridwar and, along with many other pilgrims, I bathed in the waters of the celestial River Ganges. I did not plan to come to either Vrindavan or Haridwar. But by following my duty of speaking about archaeological evidence consistent with the Puranic accounts of extreme human antiquity, I was led there. I took it as a sign that I am doing the right thing.
Michael A. Cremo is the author, with Richard Thompson, of the underground classic Forbidden Archeology: The Hidden History of Human Race. He has also written Human Devolution: A Vedic Alternative to Darwin’s Theory. (Visit HumanDevolution.com).