|SKEPP takes on Patrick Geryl|
Patrick Geryl on 2012
According to the 2012-believers the world as we know it will end on the 21st of December 2012. On that day, they speculate, either a spiritual or a physical transformation will take place, which marks the beginning of a new era. One of Europe’s most prominent advocates of the second (and more spectacular) interpretation is Patrick Geryl. Geryl is a Belgian author who has written several books on the topic of 2012 (e.g. “The Orion Prophecy”, “The World Cataclysm in 2012” and “How To Survive 2012”). Over the last few years he made the news several times with his predictions for the coming world catastrophe in 2012, and thereby related discoveries he claims to have made in Egypt. Geryl has not only published several books on the subject, but is also specifically looking for resources to survive 2012. Today, the former laboratory worker spends all of his time organizing a special survival project.
However, Geryl’s self-proclaimed domain of expertise is not limited to the alleged 2012-apocalypse. He has also written books on several other topics, ranging from alternative cancer-treatments to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Yet all his books have a few things in common: they are hard to read, make heavily use of superlatives, lack a clear and logical line of thought, and are anything but scientific. Geryl is, as we will see, an example of someone who can be called a dilettante: “a person who is or seems to be interested in a subject, but whose understanding of it is not very deep” (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). Furthermore, what makes Geryl so extraordinary is that he combines his dilettantism with a lot of guts.
From quasars to fruit diets
Patrick Geryl made his debut in 1987 with “Een nieuwe ruimte-tijd dimensie” (Dutch for “A new Space-Time Dimension”), a book on cosmology that he illustrated with his own – rather bizarre – drawings. In this book he tries to disprove the theory of relativity. It is hard to give a summary of his prose (unlike one is used to this kind of subject, Geryl does not make use of physics formulas), but he claims to have proven that special and general relativity contradict each other. In 1905 Einstein formulated his special theory of relativity, wherein he fixed the relations between the speed, time, length and mass of objects that move in a uniform rectilinear motion relative to each other. The general theory of relativity, which he formulated eleven years later, also covers objects in acceleration and includes gravitation. This allowed Einstein to lay down the foundations of modern cosmology. That both theories are in conflict with each other is something that was unknown as well before as after Geryl, because the second is just an extension of the first.
In his book Geryl talks particularly about quasi-stellar radio sources, or quasars. These are distant galactic nuclei that move rapidly away from earth in the expanding universe and can emit extremely high quantities of energy. At the time Geryl published his book there was still no scientific consensus about the cause of these massive quantities of energy. Yet Geryl thought to have found the answer. According to the special theory of relativity the mass of these quasars should vastly increase due to their high speed. Geryl thought that the mass of the quasars becomes so high that they collapse, with “the most heaviest explosion in the universe” as a result1.
Unfortunately, Geryl hasn’t understood much of relativity in the first place. According to the theory of relativity there is neither a privileged observer, nor an absolute reference point. Furthermore, it should be noticed that all movements are relative according to the theory. If we see a quasar moving rapidly away from us, then the mass of this quasar will have increased from our point of view. Yet from the point of view of the quasar itself, its mass stays unchanged and it appears on its turn that our galaxy is moving rapidly away from the quasar and that “our” mass, not theirs, has increased.
But this is not the only illustration of Geryl’s scientific ignorance. A careful reader will notice that at some places in his book Geryl mixes up mass with volume or, at other places, with the density of matter. In one of his drawings, for example, he wants to illustrate how a cow gets bigger when its velocity increases, thereby mixing up mass with volume. Although this, among other illustrations, makes his book completely worthless, Geryl is still proud of it. He even claims to be the first to have predicted the expansion of a billion quasars, while we have only discovered a few hundred thousands up to this day (even if one would discover one quasar per minute, which is a huge number, it would take two thousand years to reach a billion).
For obvious reasons Geryl got more success with a book like “Slank en gezond door de juiste voedselcombinaties en het fruit-groente dieet” (1991) (Dutch for “Slim and healthy with the appropriate food combinations and the fruit-vegetables diet”), which has several times been reprinted. With his revolutionary diet he completely ignored regular nutrition measurements like proteins and carbohydrates, but instead he divided the food in three categories that can be combined with each other, even in vast amounts. We do not consider ourselves competent to evaluate this particular food diet, but a Dutch review noticed rather coldly: “In regular dietetics one does not start from food combinations. The book contains incorrect claims and therefore cannot be recommended.”.
According to Geryl, he has been fanatically adherent to a fruit only diet since he turned 21, with the intention not to follow the example of his father, who was only 57 when he died. “If I would have started earlier with the hunger diet, I could have reached the age of 140 years old.”, he believes2. Given the success of this publication more books followed on the topic of health and food, wherein he made even more bizarre claims.
The world catastrophe
However, Geryl says his hopes to live a long life have been dealt a blow when he first heard of a predicted world catastrophe in 2012 in the book “The Mayan Prophecies” (1995). He was so overwhelmed by it that he stopped his pension savings and went thoroughly into the matter. Along with Gino Ratinckx, by him referred to as archeo-astronomer (he at least knows more of astronomy than Geryl does, but unfortunately that doesn’t say a lot), he published “De Orion Profetie” in 2000 (translated in English in 2001 as “The Orion Prophecy”). In this book he presented his own version of the coming catastrophe. Later he also wrote “The World Cataclysm in 2012” and “How to survive 2012”.
Insofar as Geryl’s theory on 2012 can be grasped, we can distinguish more or less five claims, all of which are highly contestable.
- Claim 1: after a certain number of periods in the sun’s activity a massive magnetic eruption will take place.
Just as the earth the sun too has a magnetic field. It is caused by the rotation of the hot ionized gasses (plasma) where the sun is made of. Due to the differences in rotation speed of the sun (faster at the equator, slower at the poles) the layers of plasma get more and more wound around each other, which in turn causes more and more deformations in the sun’s magnetic field, which results in an increase in the number of sunspots at the sun’s surface. One then says the sun gets active. This results in outbursts of plasma, which are emitted through magnetic fields from the sun. Furthermore, the number of sunspots will increase in periods of high activity, after which their number will decrease again. Such a cycle usually lasts 11 years in average.
Geryl now claims that after a certain number of solar cycles a massive eruption will take place. Why that would happen is not at all clear. Taking into account our current understanding of solar physics and the fact that the existence of such an eruption has never been noticed in the past, there is no reason to believe that such a massive eruption will take place.
- Claim 2: this massive magnetic eruption will cause a shift of the magnetic poles of the earth.
Shifts of the earth’s magnetic poles can certainly take place. In fact, we know such shifts have taken place in the past by studying the magnetism in old rock formations. However, such shifts are not caused by solar flares but by internal processes in the liquid core of the earth. It is very hard to see how changes in the magnetic field of the sun could reverse the magnetic field of the earth. Moreover, shifts of the earth’s magnetic poles happen gradually, not in one go, as Geryl suggests.
- Claim 3: the shift of the magnetic poles of the earth will cause a reversal of the earth’s rotation.
This claim is probably even more absurd as the foregoing one. A shift of the earth’s magnetic field does not have any consequences on its rotation, all the more because the magnetic field of the earth is too weak and a shift happens very gradually. On the sun the magnetic poles reverse after every cycle, but this shift does not influence its rotation in any way. There is no reason to believe this to be any different on earth.
Geryl, however, claims that a polar shift will cause the earth to turn in the opposite direction, so the sun would rise in the West from one day to the other. Nothing indicates this has ever happened. On the contrary, besides a few exceptions all planets and satellites of our solar system rotate in the same direction.
- Claim 4: the result of a reversal of the earth’s rotation will be a giant catastrophe, of which traces can be found.
Geryl claims to have found traces of such a catastrophe in the past by referring to, for example, the stories on the destruction of Atlantis or the Great Flood. His reference to this kind of myths is of course rather gratuitous, but either way one could ask how people could have survived such a catastrophe to retell the story.
If a sudden reversal of the earth’s rotation would take place, the consequences would indeed be disastrous. The rotating earth represents a kinetic energy of about 2 x 1026 J. That is almost a trillion times the energy of the most powerful hydrogen bomb ever made (50 megaton TNT or 2 x 1017 J). If the rotation of the earth would stop, this energy comes free, mainly in the form of heat. All the water of the earth would therefore evaporate, so it is rather doubtful that this catastrophe was the cause of the Great Flood, as Geryl thinks. His fear that the upcoming catastrophe will destroy all nuclear power plants, making the earth unliveable due to the released radioactivity, is completely unnecessary: even without radioactivity the earth will become unliveable.
Either way, according to Geryl such a catastrophe took place in 9792 B.C., which was responsible for the Great Flood and the destruction of Atlantis. A former catastrophe, in 21312 B.C., moved the axis of the earth for a while (?), so that many mammoths ended up in the cold polar regions. (A somewhat remarkable assumption if one bears in mind that mammoths were adapted to the life in cold regions. The frozen mammoths that one finds from time to time probably just fell through the ice. A mammoth is rather heavy.) In one go he also “explains” the ice ages, even though the chronology of the ices ages does not match with the years he mentions.
- Claim 5: ancient Egyptians and Maya’s knew of this upcoming catastrophe and wrote it down in a secret code, which Geryl was able to break.
This is the aspect Geryl himself spends most of his time with. According to Geryl, descendants (?) of the mythical Atlantis founded the old Egyptian and Mayan civilizations. This is rather peculiar, since there exists at least a six thousand year gap between the alleged catastrophe of 9792 B.C. and the beginning of the Egyptian civilization. In case of the Maya this is even 9500 years. How they kept this reminder alive is a mystery. But according to Geryl, they have not only kept the reminder and the time of this catastrophe alive, but they also knew that after a certain number of solar cycles another catastrophe would follow, and so they calculated this very accurately. How these civilizations knew all of this he does not explain. Instead of this, he makes up a story – dialogues inclusive – about old Egyptians who go about to engrave their history of the “Great Cataclysm” somewhere, and therefore study the “Heavenly Mathematical Combinations”.
When it comes down to concrete indications, Geryl refers to the Mayan calendar, which supposedly “ends” in 2012 (see further). Furthermore, Geryl claims to have discovered a secret code in the Dresden Codex, one of the very few writings of the Maya who have survived, which codes for the cycles in sunspots. The Dresden Codex does indeed contain tables with a certain astronomical meaning (e.g. about the planet Venus), but Geryl is only able to show a link with solar cycles after very complex and absurd calculations (see further). There is no reason to suppose that the numbers in the Dresden Codex would contain a secret code, next to their actual meaning. And, either way, nowhere it has been proved that the Maya knew anything of sunspots.
For the Egyptian foundation of his theory, Geryl mainly relies on the Dendera zodiac. The Dendera zodiac, however, is a Hellenistic monument in Egypt that is only related to the ancient Egyptian civilization in terms of style. As an astrological theme, it is not at all of Egyptian origin. The fact that Geryl completely ignores this, says everything about his knowledge of the old Egypt. Nevertheless, Geryl here once more claims to break an ancient “code”.
His conclusion is therefore that it is “irrefutable” that the next catastrophe must take place on the 21st of December 2012. As ultimate proof he mentions that Venus apparently makes a looping – or retrograde – movement at the sky near the Orion constellation around that time. The same happened before, on the 27th of July 9792 B.C. (the date of the former catastrophe), “but on the other side” (of Orion, he seems to say). The reason for this piece of astrology is more than puzzling: what has the (apparent!) movement of Venus near Orion to do with the sun’s activity? Furthermore, the predicted positions are not correct. Geryl says his friend Gino Rattinckx has calculated this with a “primitive computer program”. However, simple computer programs for calculating the positions of planets are worthless when they are used for too remote times. At my request, the renowned astronomer Jean Meeus has calculated the positions with advanced software. Neither the position of Venus in 9792 is correct, nor the one in 2012.
Most of Geryl’s claims are anything but original. For decennia theories about a coming catastrophe in 2012 are circulating in circles of occult-loving Maya-adepts. The 21st of December that year – winter solstice – is said to be the last day of the Mayan calendar. According to highly controversial interpretations this would coincide with the end of times. Furthermore, that day the earth and the sun would precisely align with the center of the Milky Way. This last claim is certainly not correct, unless you are very imprecise. With “the end of the Mayan calendar” they mean that this day gets a very round value in the Mayan chronology (the so-called “Mesoamerican Long Count”), namely 22.214.171.124.0 in Mayan notation. Exactly when this “fatal” value is reached, however, is not known with certainty. Between experts there is no consensus on the correlation with our own calendar era3. Either way, the number of pseudoscientific publications on this subject is hard to count these days. In 2008 there was even published a big disaster movie – 2012 Doomsday – on the topic.
The connection between the Mayan calendar and the activity of the sun was proposed by the British engineer Maurice Cotterell. He claimed to have found a long period of 1,366,040 days in the sun’s activity on the basis of a huge number of sunspot cycles, a number that seemed to correlate with combinations of cycles in the Dresden Codex. Together with Adrian Gilbert he wrote the previously mentioned “The Mayan Prophecies” on this subject. Before this Gilbert, co-author of the pseudoscientific bestseller “The Orion Mystery” (Geryl did not need a lot of inspiration for a title as “The Orion Prophecy”!), already advocated theories that the ancient Egypt was the continuation of a much older civilization, dating back to the period before the Great Flood.
To all of this Geryl further adds the ideas of a French pseudo-Egyptologist Albert Slosman, author of “Le grand cataclysme” (1976), who has also proposed the disaster year 9792 B.C. for Atlantis. When asked how Slosman came to this fatal date, Geryl answered “I can’t ask him any more, he is dead since 1981.4” After years of study and calculations Geryl apparently can’t tell what the reasons are to accept this particular date.
No interest in physics
Geryl is the type of dilettante who thinks that he can proclaim sensational theories because he is not hindered by the established views of science. In the course of history there were indeed a few autodidacts who have made sensational discoveries that went against the prevailing conventions of science (Schliemann, the discoverer of Troy, is a much named example), but as autodidacts these figures did both have a relatively large knowledge of their domain of research and a minimum of methodology. Both, knowledge and methodology, are highly problematic in the case of Geryl.
Let’s take his findings on magnetic fields of the sun and the moon as an example: the magnetic field of the sun, its causes and consequences, are physical processes that are studied in detail, by observations as well as theories of physics (in the first place the magnetohydrodynamics of the inside of the sun). The same applies to the magnetic field of the earth, where the paleomagnetism is of other importance. In his books Geryl has hardly any interest in all of this, not even superficially. Even worse, he illustrates not to understand magnetism in the first place. Yet the problem in question is in fact a physical problem. The only thing that interests him are the periodicities in these phenomena, and even then he does not make a correct use of them.
Geryl did rely regularly on experts to test his theories. The astrophysicist Walter Van Rensbergen (Free University of Brussels, Belgium) tried to explain Geryl how to make use of these periodicities, how to calculate averages, and so on. According to Van Rensbergen this has not influenced Geryls views in any way, and he just continued to do his own thing. In his book Geryl gives a strong example of his own dilettantism when he tells the reader how “bewildered” he was when he found out that sunspots arise at the sun’s equator in an article on sunspots he received from astrophysicist Dirk Callebaut (University of Antwerp, Belgium) – something he could have found in any decent reference work on physics. For Geryl, who has apparently never seen a serious scientific article before, this information is only the start of a new series of weird speculations.
For his information on the Mayan astronomy the situation isn’t any better. At Geryl’s request Felix Verbelen, chairman of the Mira-observatory and an experienced calculator who has focused much of his work on the astronomical meaning of the Mayan writings, has studied Geryl’s hypotheses and noted that his alleged relations were not correct, because he worked with rounded and thus incorrect values. Geryl completely ignored this and continued with the same rubbish.
Indeed, Patrick Geryl is what one calls a “gorilla mathematician”, someone who infers all kinds of things from various calculations. He rounds numbers wherever it fits him and divides using an insane number of decimals whenever it pleases him. However, he does not realize that one needs to take into account both measurement and rounding errors when working with physical quantities.
A few examples will do5. At one place he notes that the difference between the length of the year in Mayan writings (365 days) and the true value of the year (see further) is 0.2422 days or 20,926.08 seconds (he multiplies with the number of seconds in one day, namely 86,400). The result of this calculation is presented with an accuracy of two decimals, which is meaningless: the error is certainly not smaller than one second. But next Geryl drops this nonsensical “08” after an entirely incomprehensible line of argumentation – 8 was a holy number for the Mayans –, thereby obtaining exactly 20,926 seconds (in fact, he should write 20,926.00 s). This number – thus for mysterious reasons with an accuracy of two decimals – he divides once again by 86,400, which results in 0.2421990741, an accuracy of one-billionth. A bit further he blunders even more by adding 1/10,000 of a second to this 20,926 s. For him, the result is 20,926.0001. This is, once more, completely nonsensical. But he makes it even worse: he divides this again by 86,400 and writes 0.2421990752315 as a result, an accuracy of one-trillionth this time.
His ignorance of dividing with decimals can be seen in the following quote: “Their (the Mayan’s) obsession for numbers was unprecedented. My calculation equipment was probably not clever enough to discover this. Therefore I decided to make the calculation by hand. This was what I calculated by hand: 20,926 : 86,400 = 0.24199074074074047047047047.6”
Geryl also constantly confuses digits with numbers and talks of a “series” as a number that has an infinite sequence of decimal digits. Furthermore, these kinds of “considerations” only make sense in a decimal numeral system. The Mayan’s had a vigesimal numeral system and, what’s more, they did not have a notation for “decimal digits”. Moreover, the length of the tropical year changes in the course of time. About thousand years ago, at the time of the Mayan civilizations, the year was approximately 0,0001 day – a few seconds – longer. His “true value” of the year is thus not correct.
We better do not consider the way Geryl makes all kinds of connections with the precession of the equinoxes and how he even claims to have found a real “precession code”7. It’s all equally unclear, because the precession has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the magnetic field of the sun or the earth. Geryl’s tampering with calculations comes down to a very confusing form of numerology, wherein even the Number of the Beast – 666 – plays an important role.
Under the influence of Slosman and Gilbert, and other pseudoscientific “classics” such as Hapgood, Bauval, Hancock and J.A. West, Geryl is absolutely convinced that Egypt is swarmed with traces of secret knowledge that proofs that the Egyptian civilization is the inheritor of a much older civilization. According to Geryl the pyramids of Gizeh are monuments that remind us of former catastrophes.
Geryl has also been in Egypt a few times for investigations – but not with particularly spectacular results. According to him he once was in Egypt with Polish supporters (the Polish translations of his books became bestsellers and he even has an article in the Polish Wikipedia), where they were following the instructions of a…”clairvoyant, someone who uses a pendulum”8. However, they did not get permission for excavations. Neither did this happen at the time Geryl and Ratinckx where in Egypt with a GPS as their primary tool to locate the position of the Hawara labyrinth. This “forgotten labyrinth”, close to the pyramid of Amenemhat III in the Fayoum oasis, is in fact an enormous underground mortuary temple that is still not excavated. Geryl, once again inspired by Slosman, claims that this underground space contains all sort of information – in the first place a presentation of (once more!) the Dendera zodiac – that proves his theory. He is very confident about this, even though nobody, neither Geryl himself, has ever seen it. Likewise, nothing interesting was found during the remarkable Hawara expedition of the Belgian artist Louis De Cordier in 2008, where they used geophysical instruments to gauge the underground space. Nevertheless Geryl was very excited about it. He claimed that he was the man behind De Cordier’s project (even though De Cordier distanced himself several times from Geryl).
Patrick Geryl has gained himself a modest place among other popular, but similar authors such as von Däniken, Velikovsky, Hancock, West et al., even though his books are even more confusing and definitely less readable. Currently, he is looking for a suitable shelter for both himself and a very select group of people who want to survive the coming catastrophe. According to Geryl's own insights this should work on a mountain of at least 2,500 meters high, preferably in Africa. He does not have much choice.
(copyright 2009) Tim Trachet
(Translation by Cliff Beeckman)
(This article is a translation (and slightly edited version) of the article “Het geval Geryl: dilettant en rekenknoeier” by Tim Trachet published in 2009 in the spring edition of the magazine of the Belgian skeptical non-profit organization SKEPP. An online version of the original article can be found on their website.)