RECENTISM, What Day Is It Today?

What if I told you that 300 years that never existed, have been inserted into our calendar? What if the reality is that only 1723 years have passed since the birth of Jesus Christ, and not 2023? Recentism argues that it it the case.

How can we distinguish truth from falsehood? How can we know which parts of the world’s history recounted in books are worthy of trust? The question is difficult, and the answer requires a lot of subtlety, nuance, and also a lot of rigor in the method used to establish the plausibility of information. Because science is complicated, and because history, practiced according to the rules of the hypothetico-deductive method, respecting the principles of parsimony and the refutability of hypotheses, is science. Some say it is art.

contemporary monthly calendars and clips on pink table

Recentism – what we don’t know about the calendar

Unfortunately, some people have pretty scenarios in their heads that they try to demonstrate with all the appearances of mastery. Their discipline and practices related to history would be considered pseudoscience. This type of person, with their alternative historian approach, is known as a Recentists. While some are very knowledgeable in areas of history, it is their sense of chronology that comes under question. They deal with the “grey” areas of chronology with an agenda in mind, which questions their credibility. Thus they proceed to cast doubt on parts of history, trying to find reasons as to why there would be issues, usually explained by some sort of dark agenda. Let’s take a deeper dive into the mind of a Recentist. 

Year 1582

Do you know what happened between October 4 and 15, 1582?

Nothing. Absolutely, rigorously nothing. Those days did not exist. We went from Thursday, October 4 to Friday, October 15 in the Gregorian calendar to catch up with the delay of the Julian calendar. This was done because there was a misalignment of the calendar with astronomical events, and things had to be realigned. However, when this was done in the 16th century, the accumulated misalignment should have been 12 days. We only had to correct 10 days, meaning that the equivalent of 300 years did not produce any gap in chronology vs astronomy: this means that those 300 years never existed, and have been inserted artificially in our timeline. Basically we should be in 1723 instead of 2023.

This is an example of recentism. Forcing their way to resolve a perceived issue.

The history that we know is an intellectual construction, a reconstruction of past events, their causes, and their consequences. Nobody today has witnessed the siege of Troy or the storming of the Bastille. However, based on the intellectual approach, one can choose to believe that all or part of what we know about history is actual. Depending on whose intellect was applied, criticism tends to set in with historical biases. The intellectual challenge, then, is actually yours.

This hypercritical reading of chronology can be found everywhere, particularly in France with Jean Hardouin in the 17th century, who believed that most work around documenting the chronology in history were fakes invented by Benedictine monks. Hardouin promised to reveal the monks’ names and motivations in a document to be opened only after his death, but such a document was not found, which obviously leaves plenty of room for speculation.

This type of view on chronology is called recentism or the “theory of added time”, and it comes in several flavors depending on what the theorist wants to achieve. Historical duplicates are mentioned; to invent the missing centuries, existing centuries would have been copied… sometimes several times. Thus, for some, the chronology in history commonly accepted by the so called ‘experts’ is deemed off by 75%.

The recentism thesis was popularized by Anatoly Fomenko, a Russian mathematician. He based his work on the research of Nikolai Morozov. Both were published together, but without eliciting a very warm response from the scientific community. For scholars, they insist that this thesis simply does not hold up. Undeterred, Fomenko then abandoned the idea of publishing his work in scientific journals and instead released books. And there, all was revealed and the books proved to be a success!

For Example: what does the New Chronology theory by Fomenko say?

According to the New Chronology theory, the current timeline of history is a vast invention of the Jesuits during the 17th and 18th centuries. Fomenko, the most famous proponent of the theory, believes that it is highly absurd that Russian civilization emerged so late, almost a thousand years after the great Mediterranean civilizations. To stress this perceived affront, he claims that nothing existed before Russia.

the famous saint basil s cathedral in russia

The world and recentism

According to Fomenko, world history began around the year 800. The Virgin Mary and Jesus were Russian, and Jesus was likely Pope Gregory VII Hildebrand. He was crucified in 1086 (or 1183) in Constantinople, which is the true Jerusalem. The current Jerusalem is a mere invention of the 18th century, placed in the desert for the needs of the “official timeline.” Furthermore, Julius Caesar is a projection of Otto III, Emperor of Germany, and Charlemagne never existed. Also,he claims that Homer’s Iliad does not tell the story of the Trojan War but rather the Crusades. 

According to the New Chronology theory, Genghis Khan is, in fact, the Russian King Yuri III. He subdued the European peoples, founded the papacy in Rome. Alexander the Great, the leader of the Cossack horde, founded Islam and the caliphate in Baghdad less than 500 years ago. The horde continued, crossed China, founded the samurai order in Japan, then crossed the Bering Strait and founded the Maya and Aztec civilizations. The Pyramids of Giza are the tombs of Yuri-Genghis Khan and his sons. They date back to the 14th century. After the disintegration of the great Russian Empire, former vassals would have invented European languages to assert the independence of their territories. Even Greek and Latin are more recent than the original language: Russian. And all the religions of the world derive from the original religion: Orthodox Christianity.

In some versions, the Justinian Plague (530-590) and the Black Death (1348) are one and the same event that was doubled to mask the cosmic cataclysm responsible for the fall of Rome.

There you have the New Chronology Theory that Fomenko emphatically upheld in his works.

How can anyone believe such… stories?

The question arises, and the answer is not that this was all due to stupidity. For example, Garry Kasparov, a former world chess champion, at least partially subscribes to this theory. So, while we cannot call those who believe in these theories as ‘imbeciles’, we can further investigate.

The fact is that the New Chronologists are unclear. The number of years to be subtracted ranges from 300 (year 614 to 911, according to German theorists) to over 1000. Some speak of a global cataclysm, while others do not. There seems to be a lack of method, and a lack of homogeneity and consensus in this theory. And therein, we have reason to cast doubt.. 

They argue that it is an immense field of research, and that consensus will arise at one point in the future.

This great blur, where theories multiply and resemble each other only in the rejection of the so-called “official” theory, may be due to the amateurism of the proponents of these theories and their lack of method. The most famous theorists, Fomenko and Nosovski, are respectively a mathematician and a physicist. They base their discovery on what they see as mathematical incongruities in dates. They are not qualified in archaeology, history, or linguistics, disciplines in which they have not proven themselves. 

On the other hand, it can be argued that we need an archeologist who is not academically trained, to revise official archeology. This ensures a mind that is not indoctrinated by the education system and the biases instilled on the pupils.

There is no consensus among these people who believe that attributing different periods to a different chronology. None have published a real scientific study to support their theses. To further explore recentism and the rewriting of chronology, let’s meet Uwe Topper. For this intellectual,  history does not date back before 1400. According to him, the wall of Mont Sainte-Odile in Alsace (the “wall of the pagans”), was intended to protect the inhabitants from attacks… by dinosaurs.

It can be seen that the method used by recentists allows them to conclude one thing as well as its exact opposite. This is because recentism is by its very nature irrefutable, as it consists of categorically and excessively doubting anything that tends to prove it false. This position is untenable in real scientific practice. Indeed the generally accepted chronology has been built by linking a myriad of facts, drawn from written archives and accounts, astronomical events, art and architectural history, etc… It is the marrying of all these fields that give its solidity to the hypothesis. The unscientific approach would be to discard one or several of those input points, in order to “make work” an hypothesis drawn from any other input points. Of course, some input points may be problematic, and need more research to fully solidify. But totally disregarding them is simply self-serving.

How did history end up being modified? 

Once the recentist has noticed that there appear to be fictitious historical periods, the next step is to explain how this happened. Some, of course, suggest a conspiracy (involving Jesuits or Benedictines), but for others, the main explanation is a series of errors.

black woman covering face with hands standing near potted plant

How did we wake up to this? Learn about recentism

Why this conspiracy? Whether or not there was an error at the beginning, the accepted chronology would now be deliberately maintained for obscure reasons. It will be said that today’s scientists cannot bear to question everything on which their work is based. It will be said that political powers owe their legitimacy to that of their predecessors, and that this encourages them not to upset the chronology. This is implausible, but it gives an illusion of coherence, so it will do.

In general, recentist proofs are based on the alternative interpretations they offer to explain facts. It is an entire work of interpretation, without any production of new knowledge, in which analogies and approximations are used and abused.

We have just seen that the New Chronology Theory is largely absurd. However, it is insufficient to completely reject the idea of a vast manipulation of chronology. Let’s take a few moments to explain how the accepted chronology is based on real and coherent data.

What Are The Sources of Accepted Chronology?

There are texts, documents from the time, chronicles of past historians. Registers and charters, validated by the study of the nature of the ink used, paleography (the study of ancient ways of writing), formulas, seals. There are so many disciplines in which experts reach a consensus on the age of the documents.

There are also coins from all historical periods. These have been found, bearing the effigy of Roman lords up to the most recent kings, passing through the Merovingians (those Germanic warlords that ruled most of Western Europe in the first half of the first millennium), found in different archaeological sites. Sometimes they are solitary coins, sometimes real treasures.

The conspiracy hypothesis behind the evidence based chronology, is a bit far fetched. Who could have spent time, talents and precious metals to bury hundreds of thousands of coins everywhere? Then an ad hoc hypothesis is proposed, that of the superposition of epochs. It states that the coins are real, but they are all from the same epoch. The lords appearing on the coins would only be vassals of the empire. The problem with this hypothesis is that their arrangement is always consistent with the scientific chronology. There is not a single Roman coin in a Carolingian treasure and vice versa, which indicates that the two periods are distinct.

Carbon14 dating is a method used which proves to be a powerful tool. However, because it requires calibration, we will leave it  aside for this particular discussion.

There is dendrochronology.

cut of wide dry tree with cracks and spots

Studying chronology to understand recentism

This is the method of dating through the existence of tree rings that are produced every year as the trees grow. Dendrochronology confirms the existence of past centuries up to the Roman Empire and even before, notably because we have access to trees that exist t0 day that are several millennia old. 

Finally, there is astronomy. Many astronomical events mentioned in ancient texts can be dated using models of the solar system. For example, astronomers were able to date the explosion of the supernova SN1006 in the constellation of Centaurus from the clouds surrounding the star’s corpse. Calculations give it an age of about a thousand years. Astronomical data tells us that it is the brightest supernova since antiquity; it is estimated that it is the only star outside of the Sun that could have cast shadows on Earth. It was visible in the sky for over a year. If we turn to historical documents, this supernova makes it possible to draw parallels between texts from around the world. It is mentioned in European, Chinese, Japanese, Egyptian and Iraqi texts, and in North America, it’s mentioned on a stone engraved in Arizona.

Believing in Recentism

The evidence given above is of course accessible to recentists. They choose not to consult them, or reject them, due to well-known psychological processes, confirmation biases, and thanks to a solid method: the hypercritical method. This allows them to reject all elements that do not agree with their defended thesis.  Providing them with ways to invoke reasons to doubt the unwelcome information.

Never fall in love with your hypothesis.” said Claude Bernard, the founder of modern medicine.

Anyone who wants to defend the thesis that Caesar is the projection of King Otto 3 (or that there was only one King Otto that was later tripled) will inevitably find arguments.

Commonalities in the lives of public figures happen, and some have even compiled an impressive list between Kennedy and Lincoln, which is only impressive because we do not spontaneously think of all the things these men do not have in common. However, with recentist logic, one would conclude that Lincoln and Kennedy are one and the same man.

Recentism and history

  1. Both Lincoln and Kennedy were elected to Congress in their thirties.
  2. They both served in the military before becoming president.
  3. They were both assassinated while in office.
  4. Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre; Kennedy was assassinated in a Lincoln Continental made by Ford.
  5. Both presidents were succeeded by a vice president named Johnson (Andrew Johnson and Lyndon B. Johnson).
  6. Both presidents had wives named Mary.
  7. Lincoln’s secretary was named Kennedy; Kennedy’s secretary was named Lincoln.
  8. Both presidents had four children.
  9. They both had famous quotes about civil rights: Lincoln with the Emancipation Proclamation and Kennedy with his famous “Civil Rights Address” to the nation.
  10. Both Lincoln and Kennedy had significant health issues during their presidencies.
  11. Both presidents were shot in the head.
  12. Both Lincoln and Kennedy were shot on a Friday.
  13. Both presidents were shot in public places.
  14. Both presidents’ assassins were killed before standing trial.
  15. Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was born in 1839; Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was born in 1939.
  16. Booth and Oswald both died before they could reveal their motives for assassinating the presidents.
  17. Both presidents had controversial vice presidents: Hannibal Hamlin for Lincoln and Lyndon B. Johnson for Kennedy.
  18. Lincoln and Kennedy were both succeeded by presidents with opposing political views (Andrew Johnson was a Democrat and Lyndon B. Johnson was a Democrat who succeeded a Democratic president, but his administration was marked by significant policy changes that split the party).
  19. Both presidents were immortalized on the penny; Lincoln on the front and Kennedy on the back.

Because they do not use a method that would allow them to discard their erroneous hypotheses, recentists are of the opinion that what they claim to know is true. And the more they work to confirm what they believe, the more they run the risk of getting stuck in a positive feedback loop where aversion to loss makes the idea of having worked so hard, on nonsense, more and more unbearable.

You will Never have the Proof that Recentism is False

In a disciplinary field as rich and complex as history, almost nothing rests on ONE proof. Our knowledge of the past depends on a myriad of elements that coordinate, validate each other, and create a sort of mesh on which hypotheses and theories can be based.

Any attempt to respond to recentism can only be done through a critique of the method employed to construct it. It is important to remember that the burden of proof lies with those who make a surprising or controversial proposition in the face of established knowledge. Therefore, it is not up to anyone to prove that recentism is false, but rather those who believe it to be true must provide the evidence, and in the case of failure, they must ask themselves why they were not convincing, without immediately suggesting their opponent’s dishonesty.

It is said that history repeats itself. Different actors in different contexts, all living and reliving the human drama. That is why studying the past can make us wiser. We can learn from the mistakes of others that preceded us, and for that we should strive to establish the facts as they happened. And it means a sound chronology. God asks us again and again in the Quran to reflect on the stories of the people of the past, so we can draw ideas on how to navigate our life. Time is short, and the lessons of history certainly represent the shortest path to gain experience, and identify the pitfalls we could face, and help us keep focused on the positive lessons we can learn.

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