Stairway to Heaven: An Open Letter

Dear Mr. Levenda,

I regret to inform you that I will not be reviewing your book, Stairway to Heaven, on Papers.  I know that, given your current spate of national radio shows and other promotional media, this will be of little consequence to you, but given my long and friendly relationship with your good friend Simon, you might have expected more coverage.

That is not to say I did not find your thesis – that mystical ascent literature across the world has certain commonalities that associate it with the Big Dipper – intriguing, nor that I did not look forward to reading your work.  Now that I have completed the first chapter on the Egyptian afterlife, however, I have some serious qualms.

First, I noted this passage near the beginning of that chapter:

For now, though, we will look at what I am calling the “ascent literature” of ancient Egypt:  the Coffin Texts, the Pyramid Texts, and what is popularly known as the Book of the Dead.

That you subsequently forgot to cover the Coffin Texts, and only devote a little attention to the Book of the Dead, is a minor error, but I was surprised at the omission nonetheless.  Nonetheless, I proceeded to your discussion of the Pyramid Texts, of which you said:

The most recent academically acceptable version is the one by Faulkner, published in 1969, to which most still refer.

I have the utmost faith in your credibility, so imagine my surprise to find that Brill had released a new edition three years ago.  (As a side note, a quick look through one has invalidated your desired link between the Pyramid Texts and the Hekhalot literature).  Further, I notice that while “most still refer” to this book, you yourself never quote from it.  I warn you that this might lead to scurrilous rumors that you got the text off of some website like this one and didn’t look at the book yourself.  Still, I have yet to check out Faulkner’s version, so I you can count upon me defending your integrity.

Nonetheless, I was continuing to read, when I noticed that a large number of your Egyptology references in the chapter came from E. A. Wallis Budge’s Book of the Dead.  This is not common knowledge, but Budge was writing over a century ago and is considered completely unreliable by most authors on the topic.  It is a shame that you had no way of knowing this, such as having a Necronomicon collaborator who edited a more recent and reliable translation.  Still, some readers might be tempted to ask why, if you did not put the effort into finding this out, why readers should put in the effort to read your book.

But this is not the reason for my dismay.  I am incensed to find that, not only have you not mentioned the Necronomicon at any point in this book as an example of a seven-tiered ascension to heaven, you nowhere credit your dear friend Simon for his hard work in Gates of the Necronomicon over the same ground.   Nonetheless, you cover much the same ground with regard to the ziggurats, the Pace of Yu, etc.  I can only attribute this to jealousy on your part over Simon’s strict usage of university-affiliated and peer-reviewed literature.  You’d certainly never catch him quoting Budge!

As no one is more devoted to defending the good name of Simon than I, I must regretfully refuse to review your book.

Sincerely,

Dan Harms

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Published in: on June 24, 2008 at 8:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

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