Mr West, the Sphinx & Gurdjieff: “Only a gentleman fights for lost causes”

John Anthony West

John Anthony West


It has been thirty-five years since the first publication of John Anthony West’s revolutionary book Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt. It was a courageous challenge to the academic blindness of mainstream Egyptology. Much has transpired since then and although the mainstream still desperately clings to its outdated attitudes toward the wisdom of the ancients, the knowledge that the real truth of our history and its origins have been denied to us is gaining a much greater acceptance.

In this exclusive interview for New Dawn magazine, Darren Carville spoke to John about where he is currently at and what motivates him at the age of 82 to continue taking on the Establishment. The following are some highlights from that interview.

DARREN CARVILLE (DC): John, Serpent in the Sky was originally published back in 1979 when the Internet was just a pipe dream. It’s amazing how many of these ideas are so widely disseminated online now. Just one example is this curious image of the ‘Sitting Scribe’ [see the front cover of this magazine] that in your book was originally in black & white, but now there are dozens of vivid colour copies of it online from every angle as people visiting Egypt take digital shots and upload the images themselves.

JOHN ANTHONY WEST (JAW): Yes that’s true, and that particular image is also a great example of Egyptian technology going backwards, because those inlaid eyes, they’re made of four different kinds of quartz crystal and as R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz points out, not only is quartz a very difficult stone to work with, but in order to make a realistic eye that looks back at you, means having to understand the refractive and reflective indexes of the eye. So this is a very advanced knowledge of anatomy. By the New Kingdom, a thousand years later, they had lost the ability to be able do it anymore.

DC: As an artist, even to paint something like that, is a very, very difficult thing to do.

JAW: In terms of high art, once you’ve seen these Old Kingdom statues with the inlaid eyes, all other sculpture, including Michelangelo and Donatello and all the others, fade in comparison. They look blind, they don’t see, that’s the big difference.

DC: You can read a saying that the ‘eyes are the window to the soul’, and here they have produced art where you can actually sense that. On the topic of lost knowledge, my son recently showed me a book that had a chart of all the different Egyptian crowns and headgear. It’s something that’s never spoken about is it? That famous picture of Yul Brynner in ‘Moses and the Ten Commandments’. He has that crown on his head that looks like a giant bowling pin, but they never actually found any of these hats in Egypt?

JAW: No, that’s right. We have so much stuff out of Egypt now, that if it really was a crown, you’d have some instance of it and there’s not a sausage, they’ve never found any physical manifestations of them. Nobody up till now has been able to satisfactorily explain them. So this has always been a big mystery. Intuitively, I reckon that since it’s on their heads, which is the seat of consciousness, that in some way or another, symbolically it represents the consciousness of that particular principle. But that’s a ballpark observation, it doesn’t mean I can explain why one crown has a ram’s horn and the other kind of crown has a sheep’s horn. Or why one has a solar disc and the other one has a lunar disc. Well, okay, that’s sort of obvious. One is solar, and one is the lunar principle. But why this combination, I don’t know.

DC: John it’s been over 20 years since your award-winning bombshell documentary about the Sphinx [‘The Mystery of the Sphinx’] with its ancient rainfall erosion and hence its age having to be thousands of years older than the ‘official’ date. The archaeologists produced their own documentary supposedly ‘debunking’ your claims, but it seems they were too late to sway the general public, and nothing has really been the same since has it?

JAW: Right, well I love it. I have a certain advantage over most of my colleagues. Graham Hancock is a very good journalist but he’s not a satirist. I’m a scholar by default, but I see myself as more of a writer than a scholar. When we get attacked I have the tools to deal with them, so the harder they come at me, the more I enjoy it, particularly now we’ve got the Internet. Because before that you couldn’t retaliate.

DC: What’s been your best achievment so far?

JAW: People often ask me, “What do you think your legacy will be?” Well, I know this Sphinx theory – whatever the fate of symbolism – it isn’t going to go away and it’s all there. It’s not going to be long before the Establishment is obliged to accept it or get marginalised themselves. It’s really a lot like Galileo’s story actually, because I didn’t invent this Sphinx theory, I got it from a single line from Schwaller [de Lubicz] and he just glossed over it. He didn’t see it himself. Yet, it’s the key to the whole lost civilisation hypothesis… it’s quite clear from the way he talks about it. In English the book is called Sacred Science: The King of the Pharaonic Theocracy. That’s going to be around forever. Nobody’s going to get rid of that.

Then it was Robert Schoch, my colleague, who stuck his tenured neck out to defend the whole water erosion hypothesis and it was his triple Ph.D in Geology, Geophysics and Palaeontology that did it. Nobody would have given me the time of day, even though I’d actually done my research pretty well. Schoch is very cautious and quite respectable – less so than he used to be. He’s an interesting guy, and very intelligent.

The other thing I would like to be remembered for is being the one who drove the final nail into the coffin of Darwinian evolution. Robert Schoch and I have a book planned called ‘Darwin Debunked, Darwin De-clawed, Darwin Dethroned’, sub-titled, ‘A Scientist and a Scholar Deconstruct the Cargo Cult of the West’. We want to write the definitive anti-Darwin book, and it’s funny because there are lots of so called ‘definitive’ books that never managed to do it. Maybe the time wasn’t right or they’ve just not been written in a way to fire the public imagination. We think we can do that between us.

DC: It may well be the right time because even five years ago if you tried to explain to most people that the world was run by a few private corporations they just laughed. But now because of what’s happening, and how it affects people personally, the attitude is changing and I think all of that global control couldn’t exist without this Darwinist world view – that there’s no greater purpose to living than being a consumer.

JAW: Yes, it’s the foundation for it, if not explicitly, implicitly. It supports the whole rotten structure.

DC: Is there anything else you’re currently working on that’s in the pipeline John?

JAW: At the moment Schoch and I are working on another book called ‘Dancing Down the Bridge of Sirah’. It comes from Sufi literature and it’s described as this bridge that’s narrow as the razor’s edge, and on one side is the Chasm of Credulity and on the other is the Abyss of Scepticism. So the trick is to get down that bridge and this is not so easy. Schoch and I intend to do a really comprehensive account basically of the Sphinx theory – not going into the Symbolist realm so much – and now that we’ve got Göbekli Tepe, we’ve got a smoking gun [for more on Göbekli Tepe, see Robert Schoch’s articles in New Dawn Special Issue Vol.7 No.1 & New Dawn 122]. So not too long from now it’s going to be impossible for these jackasses to keep on insisting their old paradigm is right, and they will go under. The subtitle is ‘A Scholar and a Scientist Fend Off the Air-brushed Unicorns and Take on the Paradigm Police’. That’s an image coined by my composer step-son. He was once talking about the covers of New Age music and he complained that, “It’s all a bunch of air-brushed unicorns.” That’s a perfect totem for the woo-woo segment of the New Age movement. The paradigm police are of course the debunkers.

The other thing we are trying to do is a ‘Magical Egypt 2.0’ documentary but we’ve got to figure out how we intend to make money from it. We didn’t make a bean out of all the work that went into the first ‘Magical Egypt’ series because people just pirated it in the end.

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DC: Great, we will certainly be looking forward to seeing this! One of the things I love most about Serpent in the Sky and the ‘Magical Egypt’ series is that you layout all these ideas and encourage people to follow them up and verify for themselves. I find they are something I keep coming back to, and each time it sparks me off into new research. This seems to be the way of the Egyptian Sacred Science – it makes you work for the understanding, you can’t just get it through a bunch of memorised facts in the way of academic learning. As you mentioned with Gurdjieff’s book Beelzebub’s Tales to his Grandson – it’s like Egypt makes you work for it and there is no start or finish, it’s about how far you can penetrate into the enigma.

JAW: Yeah, sure.

DC: A good example is the division of the head at the crown of the skull in the temple reliefs. Clearly it is a clue inviting people to have a look at this specific portion of the head as there is a deeper message hinted at. Schwaller and his team do all the research, look at the anatomy of the brain, look at all the esoteric traditions to do with that part of the head etc. He has to do a lot of research to be able to get to the truth or the understanding of what that is actually revealing. He had to work for it.

JAW: It is impenetrable to 99% of people, even people who are highly literate and highly philosophical. There’s just something about the density of his thinking that people can’t or won’t go to the trouble to penetrate. For me it was not easy, and some of the things I didn’t have the maths to be able to follow him in certain instances. But otherwise I had a good grounding in Gurdjieff and a lot of esoteric studies so I could read it without too much trouble. It’s certainly not for everyone so it’s good to have something like Serpent in the Sky to help you open it up.

DC: I really wanted to ask you about that Gurdjieff connection John, because I heard you on another interview say that if it hadn’t been for your understanding and experience with the Gurdjieff work, you would have never twigged to what Schwaller was on about in the first place.

JAW: Well, I would never have even found him, for that matter.

DC: Right, and I do wonder John – in what you’ve just said about the nature of Schwaller’s work and the level of his mind – do you think that’s really a factor of this whole idea that one’s level of ‘being’ determines what level of higher knowledge one can actually gain access to?

JAW: That’s a good question. Well yes and no. Working on being – you’re thoroughly familiar with the Gurdjieff work?

DC: Yes.

JAW: Well, I would say in terms of levels of being, it’s impenetrable unless you’ve acquired what Gurdjieff calls the ‘Magnetic Centre’. That’s what opens you – it makes these kinds of things accessible. It’s one of the things that a lot of people don’t understand who haven’t been involved in this kind of work themselves, and are mostly working with their heads. They just can’t get it at all. As my Sensi used to say, “Don’t talk about moonbeams to the blind or about music to the deaf, and especially do not talk about sex to eunuchs – they will just get angry!” So once you understand that and stop getting frustrated by, let’s call it, the intolerable obduracy of the quackademic, because it looks as though it’s deliberate, but it isn’t. They just don’t get it.

However, when they call their terrible disability ‘reason’ and take over the palace, the empire is doomed. This is what you’re dealing with. They’re basically wildly uncreative people. I mean, Schwaller appeals not necessarily to the intellectuals, although you have to be quite intellectual in order to penetrate it. You need more than intellect to be able to think in a certain way. The people who get it instantly, or at least they get the basic premise, are the artists and the architects, and sometimes the engineers, oddly enough. Rarely the hard-nosed scientist, never the sceptics of course, they’re totally out of it.

So it’s going back to the magnetic centre, and the magnetic centre automatically means that you’ve done some sort of work on your own level of being. Some sort, even if it’s not been formal, otherwise you don’t have that magnetic centre that gets you to Gurdjieff and Schwaller in the first place.

DC: Yes, and in relation to this battle with the academics, Gurdjieff also pointed out very clearly that this kind of ‘work’ is not for everyone. A person has to be genuinely seeking for the truth in the first place. Reading your argument with the Egyptologists in your open letter to Archaeology magazine [see], I get the sense that you have these different compartments at work in your life, because at one level you deal with the public, you do interviews, respond to all sorts of criticisms and arguments, but obviously at a deeper level you know that the issue for the human race’s future is a much deeper thing. It’s not really just about Egypt is it? Because no-one with any kind of awe and wonder about how difficult it is to make anything can ever look at the Darwinist idea that these chemicals get together accidentally and produce life. It’s a dead, non-resonating kind of thing. You could never swallow it. Yet millions do, quite happily, 24/7.

JAW: More than millions. I mean, it’s the belief system that’s at the core of all science and all education.

DC: Yes, I do wonder how long it’s actually going to take to replace that world view with something better. I did notice with your documentary series, ‘Magical Egypt’, looking at any of those episodes, the number of hits they have had, it’s in the hundreds of thousands. It’s quite extraordinary the popularity your work has gained since Serpent in the Sky – the message is getting out there. Of course the other side of the coin is that with the Internet all sorts of ideas have become popular and their popularity makes them seem like fact. For example, this whole Anunnaki/aliens making human slaves mine gold kind of thing – you don’t go for any of that do you John?

JAW: No, and in our book ‘Dancing Down the Bridge of Sirah’ there will be a section in there called Zecharia and his Sitchininnies. Some of the other stuff, some of the ‘Airbrushed Unicorn’ stuff, is fairly harmless, but his work is seriously malignant.

DC: It’s even turning up in romantic novels now.

JAW: I always left the door open to Sitchin because his work was based upon his own translations of the Sumerian texts. No Assyriologist would look at his stuff. That’s not Sitchin’s fault. So I thought he could well be right about certain things. Who was I to argue those points? However, recently, a really solid biblical scholar who doesn’t have an axe to grind called Michael Heiser put up a website called ‘Sitchin is Wrong’ []. This guy really knows what he’s talking about and goes through Sitchin line by line, and none of it tallies with the dictionaries created by the Sumerian scribes themselves. As far as I’m concerned, it’s completely false.

DC: You have often given the analogy that where we are in the Kali Yuga cycle is very much like being in the ‘Winter’ stage of the four Seasons.

JAW: Yes, that’s right. However, the big problem with these very long cycles is that you don’t have a Spring Equinox to set your clock by. You just can’t really know exactly. There’s a lot of very informed, interesting work done on the Yuga cycle, but they all have different ideas of where it starts and how it starts, and unfortunately there’s nothing scholarly or scientific that you can actually depend upon that is more plausible or less plausible analyses. There’s simply not enough history, it’s too short to tell. I mean real history only goes back about 2,500 years. In other words, history that you can document. It’s really not much more than that. Even the Egyptian history is, half the time, symbolism of some sort or another. There are very few ‘facts’. So we’re talking about cycles, at least precessional cycles, and maybe more than that, we just don’t know. You look around us today and intuition tells me that we’re in the thick of the Kali Yuga and it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

DC: John, how was it that you originally got involved in the Gurdjieff work?

JAW: When I look back on my life I see I was psychologically precocious. Not a genius, but at the age of 12 or 13 I actually knew that I was living in a lunatic asylum, that the whole thing was insane, and it was very lonely living back then. Now lots of people sort of understand that. By the time I was 19 I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to be the little boy who said, ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes!’

It took another 20 years. I had published a lot of stuff by then, and the scholarship was starting with my The Case for Astrology book. There were also plays, a novel and stories. I was well published but not very well paid for it, and I realised I was now playing out my role as the little boy who said, ‘The Emperor Has No Clothes’. I finally came across the Gurdjieff work when I was living in a thriving artists colony at Ibiza in Spain during the late 50s and early 60s.

Through a weird series of circumstances – again it’s the magnetic centre at work – one of the guys that I knew gave me a book called The Theory of Celestial Influence by Rodney Collin, a student of Ouspensky. I read it and that really interested me, and my friend, a very good painter, who had been in the Gurdjieff work himself, started feeding me Gurdjieff in very limited doses. He was right on course because I would have said, “Ah, what do I need this stuff for?” So one day he finally said, “Well, okay, here’s Beelzebub’s Tales to His Grandson.” He gives me a little fat book and I take it back and I read the first paragraph which is something to the effect of “Everything you know is completely wrong, and this book will make you understand that you don’t know anything.” I was furious. “Fuck you! who are you to tell me that, what have you ever written?”, but then I calmed down and thought, “Well I’ve had a lot published myself, and and I know how difficult it is to make your audience feel – not even think – but feel what you want them to feel.” Here was this guy, in one paragraph, getting me so angry that I was ready to throw his book against the wall. Suddenly I realised, “Oh… that’s not easy to do!”

What Gurdjieff was doing, he was obliging me to work. You didn’t know what was true or false or even if he was pulling your leg. Could you follow those paragraphs? Those sentences that are two pages long with a thousand parentheses in the middle… he was forcing you to use your head in a way that you never dreamt of using it before.

That was my introduction to Gurdjieff and I eventually left Ibiza to move to England to get into the Gurdjieff work, which was really important. Without that I would have spun off the rails long ago. Everything else stopped. Because at a certain point you can’t just read about these ideas anymore, you have to do them, and this is where the problem comes in because it’s not easy to do and it’s not fun.

DC: The Gurdjieff work, no it isn’t.

JAW: It’s not like rubbing crystals or hugging trees, it’s hard work. Gurdjieff was almost the only person I’d ever come across who was as contemptuous of all of Western civilisation as I was, but the difference was that he knew how to live in it and I didn’t. So after nine years of living in Ibiza, I finally moved to England to get into the ‘work’.

What distinguishes Gurdjieff from anybody else is that it’s the ancient doctrine but put into a format designed to be practised in the middle of the lunatic asylum, not isolated from it in some monastery or whatever. It’s how to become sane when everybody around you is crazy, without removing yourself from ordinary life. You can’t practise Schwaller. It’s not a discipline. But Gurdjieff is.

DC: Yes, I can certainly appreciate that.

JAW: Without a return to the kind of principles that kept Egypt going, and other ancient cultures going, without this ancient doctrine being understood and taken up, the Church of Progress always wins, or everyone loses one way or another, so it’s very difficult. This is why Egypt is special because there’s so much of it left. You can’t go to China or India or anywhere else and have this thunder of esoteric wisdom coming at you all day long like you can in Egypt.

Of course there’s a lot of bullshit out there as well, but at least in theory the work is designed for people to practise inside their daily lives. Not that many are doing it and I don’t really know why. On the other hand, if you just extract yourself from the world, it’s like you’re shirking your duty somehow or another. I mean, Tiger Woods’ mistresses don’t matter, and most of that stuff doesn’t matter. But some of it does matter. You watch the Scorpions of Wall Street raping our lives and these disgusting billionaires absolutely destroying the planet. That’s the sort of thing you have to keep on top of, it seems to me.

DC: As you’ve said, the Egyptians lived their life in preparation for the next life, and of course some people say, “oh, morbid buggers, they’re obsessed with death.” But no, I think, as you’ve written about and as Schwaller pointed out, clearly they knew, unlike the Darwinists, that they were here for a reason. Something had gone to a lot of trouble to put them together, to put this planet together, and I can really relate to that balancing act you’re talking about… Because on the one hand, as far as we know, we only have the one chance to do what we need to do here and move on, and yet at the same time you would not be human to not feel a concern and want to do something to make the situation here better. Especially being that the dice is so loaded – to programme people from the time they are born – that there is no purpose to life except consumerism, that it doesn’t matter if we destroy the planet because it’s a giant chemical accident anyway.

JAW: Well, you can only do your best. The Gurdjieff work got me understanding things pretty well and Gurdjieff has a lesson for everyone and everyone’s lesson is a bit different. But it was Gurdjieff who taught me – and this is a riff on what he says – that whoever and whatever presses your buttons is your master, and if you let your buttons get pressed, you’re a slave. I didn’t like that, so I worked pretty hard, reasonably successfully, to not get my buttons pressed most of the time. So enough people have to start doing their homework. If somebody asked me, which they probably won’t do, who I think are the most important people of the 20th century? I would put Gurdjieff first and Schwaller second. Certainly the last word has not yet been said about Gurdjieff.

Anyway, I’m figuring on being here for a while yet. A friend of mine recently had the honour of briefly being the oldest man in the world. He was 110, and he really had his marbles together up until the last year or two. He did research into the paranormal. So if he could get to 110, there’s no reason why I can’t!

There’s a wonderful author, the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. He wrote a short story book called Ficciones – magical Cabalistic stuff – and in one of the stories the last line is, “A gentleman only fights for lost causes.” It’s a great line. I don’t necessarily consider myself a gentleman, but it’s hard to do this – it’s hard not to get affected by the sort of stuff that’s happening around us every day.

Now don’t forget to tell your readers about my Egypt tours will you.

Books by John Anthony West – including Serpent in the Sky: The High Wisdom of Ancient Egypt and The Traveler’s Key to Ancient Egypt, as well as The Mystery of the Sphinx DVD, are available direct from John Anthony West at For his tours to Egypt, click here.

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DARREN J. CARVILLE lives and works in New Zealand as a Senior Creative Designer and has had a life long passion for symbolism, sacred geometry, ancient wisdom and the esoteric traditions of the world. His research, lectures and writing are currently focused around developing a contemporary synthesis of ancient wisdom, new science and our potential human evolution. For more information and contact details go to

The above article appeared in New Dawn Special Issue Vol 8 No 6

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