The Reality According to Ben Hammott.
The reality of someone else is always ambiguous, subjective and truly impossible to fully understand for anyone not living in that specific plane of existence; the inner reality some of us desperately try to share through art and creativity, written and spoken words but never seems to be fully accessible for the curious. To externalize what’s inside of us can be art and it can be magick or both, but the only way we can get away with it without being diagnosed mentally unstable is to call ourselves artists. But what about the rest, those who for one reason or another can’t blame their wild imagination on being artistic beings?
What is the truth if, let’s say, your friendly uncle Bob claims that something has happened to him all alone that no one else experienced it, and therefore it can’t be proved? Should we trust him? In the end, the only thing we can trust is uncle Bob’s own testimony about being abducted by grey aliens or getting into a fistfight with Bigfoot — without any kind of physical evidence or witnesses. So why can we trust some people, and not uncle Bob?
In general, a normal human has been programmed to accept a certain level of reality and when another person claims something out of the ordinary that exceeds the programmed probability the trust withers away in the minds of most information receivers. A mutual respect/belief is a must to establish trust, and to choose the right confidants is even more important. Evoking a specific truth is like a magickal performance: doing rituals, using spells — rooted in the accepted, traditional reality. Instead of creating a sigil and burning it: create a coded letter buried inside a bottle outside a holy cave! Just like with all other art, taking what’s inside of you to create something external is magick and for an ambitious person it’s an effective way to change their reality.
I might not believe everything that people say they have experienced, but I neither have any reason to force them to prove that everything they claim is true. It is their truth and I can’t do much about it. A few of them go to extremes to make their truth as convincing as possible, as in the case of Bill Wilkinson, more known under his alias Ben Hammott. In 2008 a hyped documentary, Bloodline, was released on DVD and it claimed something very spectacular: Mary Magdalene, Jesus and maybe their children are buried in a tomb in the French countryside outside the town of Rennes-le-Château; famous from conspiracy theories regarding ancient artifacts, advanced riddles and hidden treasures, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and secret knowledge that could bring down Christianity itself! In the film, we follow director/host Bruce Burgess as he investigates the organization of Prieuré de Sion and the legend about the bloodline of Jesus. Through that he meets Ben Hammott, who at the moment is living in his well-used car outside the French town. He leads them on a spectacular treasure hunt and produces unique video footage of the tomb of Mary Magdalene and Jesus. From time to time Burgess seems to question Hammott’s intentions, but slowly is drawn into Hammott’s world of mysteries, as a fly caught in the sticky net of a mild-mannered British spider.
Bloodline is truly an interesting and exciting documentary that unwillingly becomes a mockumentary, as Ben Hammott (an anagram for “The Tomb Man”) in 2012 confessed in a written statement he’d made everything up as a huge, ambitious hoax — including writing a 662 page book, Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar, about his adventures in the Rennes-le-Château area, filled with cleverly constructed riddles, treasure maps, buried ancient artifacts, photos of the tomb and a constructed conspiracy that’s goes beyond what few have done before. He involved a lot of people: his brother, friends, colleagues and members of the media to make his story grow even bigger, until the day he couldn’t handle it anymore and confessed his secret to Bloodline’s producer, radio host René Barnett. It resulted in a tell-it-all interview, which turned the community of Rennes-le-Château conspiracy theorists on their heads.
It’s an interesting situation, as it shows it’s possible to prove basically everything if everyone involved is willing to believe. And if it’s possible to prove, does that make it the truth? It IS a reality for some, that’s a fact. I’m sure on some level that Hammott believed it himself. He was basically a method actor in his own universe — but slowly lost control over the reality he once started to construct. It’s not that far from established actors who can’t get out of their character after a film or play as the new fictional reality and the old one crash into each other. Reality is a complex thing, no matter on what side we’re standing.
I enjoy…no, I love hoaxes like this, or should we call them shifts in the established reality? It can be very stimulating when the reality is off a bit from the normal state; when it for at least a fleeting moment questions everything we’ve been taught before going back to the grayness of the external reality we share with others: work, responsibilities and no fun and games. It gives us a sense that everything is possible, that magick is present. If we remove the human concept of morality from this particular hoax, this is just someone who wanted to create his own reality no matter what; his own Total Environment as Anton LaVey would have called it. It gave him something. Was it tickling the ego? Perhaps it was something deeper, as a cathartic exercise to deal with the death of a child, something Hammott had suffered? Compared to those involved in other famous and often very ambitious hoaxes as Hitler Diaries and Alien Autopsy, Hammott seems less interested in money as he is in the search itself; the mystery he created and expanded over multiple mythological and personal universes.
Changing reality/creating magick needs other participants that believe in it, and Hammott had them all in his hand. Together they created an even wider, more mysterious and convincing reality. They connected themselves to what Alan Moore calls the Ideaspace, where art and creativity are their own realities — building upon the already existing mythology about Rennes-le-Château, the mysterious priest Bérenger Saunière and his alleged hidden treasures, the secret organization Prieuré de Sion and of course the bloodline conspiracy itself. Suddenly Ben Hammott’s truth had also become their truth, and if that’s not magick I don’t know what it is?
What is the truth anyway? I don’t know if truth even exists to be honest. There might be some internal, deep truth inside all of us, but it feels it will always change based on how we perceive everything around us, because nothing is truly constant. There’s always irregularities. Truth, I guess, must also be based on knowledge and experience. But what is knowledge except the experiences of others and yourself, and there’s no way you’ll have all the experiences to tell what is the truth. So for all of us, our private truth is basically guessing. For me truth is not necessarily true in the sense it’s accepted by others. I’m not interested in the ultimate truth, as it won’t give me any more experiences — it just stops there, and therefore life kind of ceases meaning. I’m also a firm believer in the truth being what we make of it, we’re the ones in charge.
That can of course be very destructive, depending on the level of experiences you’ve had, and the intelligence you possess. Many people claim one truth to hurt other people, which of course is contemptuous behavior. But that’s not my responsibility to worry about, I can’t stop them from believing in what they do — no matter how tragic that belief is. Instead I have my own truth, which is based on my experiences. That can of course be changed with additional information, which one day will be contradicted by even newer information — and that’s the fun of it. My acceptance (not necessarily belief) in a lot of things out of the ordinary is because I don’t think there’s any truth out there. Everything is made up, in one way or another, from people’s imagination, claims and experiences — and those can never be the same for me; that’s impossible. Even if someone shows a video of what they’ve experienced, it’s just a camera, it’s not real — it’s a digital copy of the event from a whole different angle.
Just because you see something on TV doesn’t mean it’s true. That’s the same thing with existence in general: you don’t know for sure. I often say that I KNOW that there’s no universal mind, but truth be told; I don’t know that. It’s something I say because it’s based on the experiences I’ve had in my life, including information I’ve gathered from other’s who had pondered the same subject and came to similar conclusions. All this together makes me make up my mind as it will fit my worldview and level of spirituality. “Make up my mind” is a good expression here, as we take the information we’ve gathered and use it as make-up on our consciousness, covering the spots we don’t like and/or agree with, making it fit as we want. This is freedom for me, this is individualism: the right to perceive reality as we want it. It’s not always necessary to be “moral” or “smart”, and as long as it doesn’t involve other people in some kind of situation that will hurt them physically or destroy their lives — and Ben Hammott didn’t do that, at least not deliberately. Whatever you choose as your reality is accepted by me, even if I might not agree with you. Everyone shapes their own path, no matter how insane it is — and it’s impossible for anyone else to interfere as that path changes all the time, just like the truth isn’t constant.
Often a distorted reality/truth can be more rewarding than the traditional reality, but it’s important to not let it take over; then it might become a religion, a controlling philosophy that leads to worship of a higher being than oneself. The truth becomes more interesting when it fluctuates, as long as it doesn’t get destructive. Ben Hammott learned it the hard way and confessed to what he had done, which is kind of sad. I would have loved to see his universe live on forever — and maybe it does, as there are those who question if his 2012 confession actually is true. Some say it’s written by someone else, and that Hammott was forced to retract his sensational discoveries by a powerful organization, maybe the Catholic Church or another alleged hoax, the mysterious Prieuré de Sion, but maybe it is what Cam Clayton claims, that he is the the creator about a conspiracy that the conspiracy itself is a conspiracy? Why not read his fascinating text I was a Small Time Disinformation Troll. Oh, how I love reality mindfucks!
It really doesn’t matter if we see this as the truth because if we do that, what says it can’t be real? The concept of truth is based on magick, and truth is something we’re dealing with everyday whether we’re aware of it or not through tiny, innocent white lies and something we might call the truth. We’re constantly shaping our reality, and some of us, like Ben Hammott, take that a few extra notches.
That makes us all magicians.
Fred Andersson is a Swedish story producer, researcher and writer with over twenty years of experience in commercial television and the author of three books. He lives in Märsta, outside Stockholm, with his photographer husband Grzegorz and two overly active cats. Join him on Twitter and Instagram.
Burgess, Bruce and Barnett, René, Bloodline: What if the Greatest Story Ever Told was a Lie?, Cinema Libre Distribution, 2008.
Hammott, Ben, Lost Tomb of the Knights Templar: 100 Year Old Clues Left by a French Priest Lead to an Amazing Discovery, self-published, 2008.