Six Questions with Duncan Burden: Author of Maranatha-Et in Arcadia Ego
Since this site features the Maranatha-Et in Arcadia Ego puzzle book (using it like a labyrinth of words to explore), it only seems appropriate to have Duncan Burden be one of the first to take part in Six Questions. It is always a great pleasure to hear fascinating perspectives and ideas from people actively pursuing their interests. And although the puzzle competition has ended for both the puzzlers and the creators, the journey continues for all. I, along with many others, enjoy the fascinating quest of discovery of which the hunt inspired. I was excited for the opportunity to ask Duncan about ‘life after the puzzle’.
- Q1) In order to have created such a wide reaching puzzle, you must have researched the many topics and subjects included in the puzzle yourself. I am sure I speak for many when I say the search for knowledge doesn’t just stop. What are some of the interests which you continue to study?
Hello, well, with the end of the puzzle and my responsibilities to that, I have been lucky enough to go back to my core interest, which is Freemasonry. I was fascinated by it as a child, with dreams of it being a secret society designed to either underpin society with philosophical ideals of Plato’s Republic, or to be a modern gathering of knightly custodians of lost golden treasure hordes or libraries of forgotten wisdom. Although, as I said, those were my dreams as a child, as I got older my expectations became more realistic, but my curiosity remained. Eventually I read more, I joined and I have enjoyed being a Freemason on so many levels. Although, I have decided to resign now, mostly due to the project I am working on now.
- Q2) As many know, the puzzle presented many challenges for all involved. It seemed at times the supposed Curse from Rennes le Chateau or the Mummy loomed over the puzzle. Would you want to share any thoughts on this? Have you been able to take anything away from the experience?
I have never heard of the term ‘Curse from Rennes le Chateau’ (lol), but I can relate to the metaphor. Although, I don’t believe in such ‘Curses’ as being a reality, I would have to admit, when I look back on events of the Maranatha (Time Monk) puzzle, there are such a list of extreme negative episodes that it is mathematically hard to really ignore the possibility that a curse exists.
I can give two excellent examples of bizarre ‘negative episodes’ that happened during the Maranatha (Time Monk) project. Coincidently, one relates to why Priory Publications (GB) Ltd was formed to publish the projected series and the other why Priory Publications (GB) Ltd was forced to cease trading.
Example 1: Prior to Priory Publications (GB) Ltd being formed to publish the books, the Team behind the project worked with an independent publisher, who loved the project. The agreement was, they would create the books and we would market them. We arranged a suitable timetable, arranged marketing, book distribution, and an internet presence. We knew little of publishing, and left the publishers to do their bit.
It was three months from the launch when all communication from the Publishing Company stopped. We called, wrote and emailed, but received nothing in reply. The company was not local, and all the Team had commitments, so it was another three weeks before someone was free to drive south and knock on the doors of the Publisher’s offices to find out what was happening. Hours before departing we received a postal response. In the letter it explained that the owner and Chief Editor had died and the company was suspended until the business was sorted out. This was tragic news both personally and commercially. With no company to get the project ready, we felt we had little choice but to start Priory Publications (GB) Ltd and do our best to meet the deadlines. Our inexperience in publishing and limited time frame, cost us dearly, but not as sad as losing a dear friend and supporter.
Between that moment and our last ‘negative episode’, it felt not a month went by without some problem or set back, e.g. a marketing company going bust in America (just after we had paid their engagement fee), book shipments held in quarantine due to ‘suspect’ wooden pallets, and a reader stating they were taking us to court due to their belief that in reading the book it had released a demon that was terrorising them!
Although, our last ‘negative episode’ is so astounding it led many Team members to be convinced that a genuine conspiracy existed that was attempting to thwart our project.
It happened just after we had managed to redesign the product and website to market the puzzle as ‘Time Monk’. We had regained the backing of major distributors in the USA, Australia and England, but this was mostly due to a huge investment into a filmed advert that was eventually to be released on Television. To test the advert and to utilise the internet, a massive $300,000 US dollar Google campaign was devised and agreed.
Due to the level of projected exposure and the amount agreed to be invested, the Managerial Team in England insured that all commercial preparations were ready. These included a new online secure internet purchase system and noted banking accounts to successfully trade in various currencies. Due to previous problems with Banks, we even went as far to ensure that all the correct signatories were listed with the Bank, so every member could react quickly with authority if the need arose. All systems were check and confirmed, by both the team and the banks. The preliminary Google tests worked well so we were good to launch. At this moment, I would like to state it is amazingly quick to spend $300,000 US dollars on Google, and we did.
With the Google campaign running, it was possible to track its success, by viewing the hourly statistics that Google provided. The Campaign was designed not to be intrusive, but was structured to peak people’s interest over a period of time, and that interest would result in them eventually buying a copy of the book. From the statistics matching Google’s tests and predictions, all seemed to be going well, and we prepared for orders. Then a Director went into a branch of our Bank, to cash a routine cheque to pay the first stage for a dispatch of books, only to have his signature rejected! In fact, swiftly over a period of three days, every signatory for the company was denied access to the account and funds. We obviously called in confusion, and the Bank stated that they would investigate; assuring us that it must be a technical error and will be corrected. Although the response from their investigation was that they could no longer discuss the matter us. The reason for this was that, to quote, ‘we have no record of any signatories on this account, and we can only discuss the account with a signatory’.
I am well aware of how bizarre this event sounds. It’s even stranger to experience it. It took six months and a lot of legal effort to get the Bank to even discuss the situation, let alone correct it. Eventually it came to light that the Bank’s process of dealing with signatories was to first remove a signatory, and then replace one. As such, it was later claimed by the Bank that in the process of us adding a new signatory, the application was declined due to the form being incorrectly filled in, so was rejected. And although the Bank accepted this failed signatory to sign and authorise internet banking, cheques, changes of addresses etc, when it was used to authorise other signatories to the account, those applications were also declined due to the original signatory not being authorised. This meant, that the Bank was systematically removing all the signatories and not replacing them, until the time came that no signatories existed on their records, and they froze the account until ‘we’ could correct the issue. The most amusing official letter we have from the Bank is their letter stating that they could not give us access to the account until an authorised signatory was added to the account, and that they would be happy to add such a signatory if it had an authorising signature on the form. They regretted they could not help or discuss the matter further with us, but no authorising signatory existed on their records! The Bank had claimed that they had notified us of all failed attempts, but strangely, although we have all the records and documents, from general mail to account statements, we have no copy of any returned application forms or warning letters.
It took over nine months to get a signatory back onto the account, although this also meant that our account had been frozen for three quarters of a year. We could not take orders or funds, and neither could we pay any funds from our account. The company survived on the personal funds of the Team and supporters. This basically covered the operational costs. We had to cancel all orders, as we could not pay for the storage, dispatch and replenishing of stock, as every cent we earnt was locked in an account we couldn’t use. In addition to that, we now also had a bill of $300,000 for a marketing campaign, which was wasted.
We authorised the Banking Ombudsman in England to investigate the matter, with our claim that the Bank had acted irresponsibly; not in just removing all the signatories, but also in authorising false signatories, proven accounts of misleading and false claims of communication. The latter points they up held, but the Ombudsman could not authorise compensation for two reasons. Firstly, that their power was limited to awarding only up to £100,000, and secondly that they could only demand compensation for ‘undeniable’ proven losses, and the charges of ‘marketing’ could not be included, because, no matter what the circumstances, ‘marketing’ cannot be proven beyond doubt, and even though we had to refund orders, we could not categorically prove that the marketing was a success or not. They only advised that we take the matter to court, but on legal advise, we were told it would take another six to eight months just to get the case to court, let alone winning and surviving any appeal. The company, nor its debtors, could survive that long with the debt that was incurred. Hence, the closing of the company and the project.
I do not believe in ‘Curses’ or such conspirator theories such as the Priory of Sion, or Masonic or Illuminati claims that they control world markets, commercial endeavours or governments. I certainly don’t believe any such organisation tried to hamper the humble endeavours of the Time Monk books. I acknowledge some people didn’t like what we were trying and went to great lengths to stop us, but in honesty we failed because of initial ignorance, global financial breakdown, and an insane amount of ‘Bad Luck’, if that is a‘Curse’, then it got us, lol.
- Q3) You shared on the tweleve forum a story about how some things in life must be experienced in order to appreciate its value. You said, and I quote, “Is this lesson not echoed in the legends of the grail-questing knights? The treasure didn’t fall to their feet, some accounts speak of decades of suffering and searching? How greater would the reward be if you actually lifted the veil to the Holy Grail, rather than someone simply holding it in procession? How could you feel the deep awesome sensation if it was passed to you as easily as a cup of coffee? Would you treasure it as much?” Words of wisdom, I must say, but, do you still believe the ‘Holy Grail’ can be discovered by all?
It’s nice to be able to speak more freely about what I believe about the Holy Grail. To me the Holy Grail is primarily two important things. Firstly, it is only a collection of words and those words have slightly changed through history. The second important thing about the words ‘Holy Grail’ is what those words imply to the person reading them. And that too has slightly changed through history.
TV programs today, that claim to be investigating the Holy Grail, like to add to their list of specialists an English Professor of Medieval Literature, and they ask him, ‘Do you think the Holy Grail exists?’ Normally the camera shows the Professor smiling as if about to tell a child that the Easter Bunny isn’t real, and then he responds with, ‘No, the Holy Grail is nothing more than a literary device helped to engage the reader in the realm of Romantic Knightly tales. The invention of the Holy Grail is to give the reader something beyond their understanding, but allows their imagination to accept its existence as an item of reverence and power in a fantasy story. It exists there so that the reader can explain to themselves (normally on a subconscious level) the quality, or challenges, of the heroic characters of the story’.
To be honest, I agree with the Professors response to the question. Although, I think the program is asking the wrong person the right question. Remember the Professor smiled first, why is the answer so obvious to him, and not to us (those who are still willing to accept that the Holy Grail is/was real)?
Here is my argument:-
Let’s say we are another 1000 years on, and another program is being filmed. This time the topic is Star Trek, very much the collection of modern Grail Legends. Just as you had noble Knights on Quests, Star Trek too had valiant characters, members of a quasi-military organisation, attempting to bring peace, encountering beasts and facing moral and ethical challenges. Even the social acceptance and enthusiasm for this science fiction program echoes the passion that spread through all the classes of medieval Europe. So imagine a program being filmed about the authenticity of this program, 1000 years in our future.
Instead of a Professor of Medieval Literature, we could expect a Professor of Classical Television to be interviewed, and they could be asked ‘Does the Starship Enterprise really exist?’ That Professor, like our previous Professor of Medieval Literature, could also smile and say ‘No, the Starship Enterprise is nothing more than a literary device helped to engage the viewer in the stories of Star Trek. The invention of the Enterprise is to give the viewer something beyond his understanding, but also allows the viewers imagination to explain how Captain Kirk can travel millions of miles each week to engage in a fantasy story which allows him to show his quality in the challenges of his heroic character’.
To this statement we all may smile like this Professor, because, if you are a fan of Star Trek or not, we are all aware that there is no Spaceship called the Enterprise.
Or is there?
Star Trek started in the 1960’s, along with so many other science fiction programs, but it is the only one that has maintained its presence in our western culture through all the decades. Its success has been noted to its storylines, that the creator, Gene Roddenberry didn’t just have the basic weekly pattern of good versus evil, his stories addressed the confusion and controversy of the world that was around at his time. Using the medium of science fiction theatre, he managed to convey such aspects as racism, political freedoms, religious tolerance, all at a time when such material was taboo for Television, but were still focal questions in the western world. Star Trek became quickly a metaphoric representation of what humankind could achieve if it set aside prejudices and greed, and worked together for the sole purpose of the good of humanity. As such, the very word ‘Enterprise’ began to have a new meaning. The word became more poplar in our vocabulary. ‘Enterprise’ was no longer just a word to represent a ‘business-like endeavour’, it now conveyed the emotional attributes of a quest.
In 1972, less then ten years after the first showing of Star Trek, the Space Institute of America, NASA, engaged in a new revolutionary Space Program. It commissions the building of the world’s first re-useable spacecraft. The first test craft was named the Enterprise! As the word now epitomised what NASA wanted to achieve, and was the simplest way to convey that to both America and the World. Their ‘Enterprise’ was Kirk’s ‘Enterprise’. Indeed, the Space Shuttle didn’t have warp capabilities, and neither looked the same, but their metaphoric meaning was identical.
So, indeed, if you ask in a 1000 years time, a Professor of Classical TV if the Enterprise actually existed, then they just may say ‘No’. And their answer, to their realm of expertise is correct. But ask in a 1000years time a Professor of 20th Century Space Exploration if the ‘Enterprise’ existed, he may also smile, but his answer would be – Yes.
Hence my argument is; that the words ‘Holy Grail’, or originally just ‘Graal’, were more than likely nothing more than a literary device in a series of works that would later be known as the ‘Grail Romances’. Some of these stories may have been written with more of a hidden purpose, but even if so, their subsequent popularity was due to how they were grasped and accepted by the common man, not by any remote few who may have understood any esoteric wisdom encoded (as their interest alone could not have maintained or produced the level of interest that has kept the word Grail on our lips for a thousand years).
Therefore, just as the word ‘Enterprise’, in less then ten years, became the perfect name for the first Space Shuttle, so did the word ‘Grail’ become the perfect word to describe the secrets and treasures of individuals, guilds, and families of medieval Europe. And that is my explanation of what the Holy Grail is, it is a phrase, adopted by a group to become a common term to describe something they treasure and wish to keep secret. They think it powerful and beautiful, and they are truly custodians of it. This also means that there is probably more than one Grail, as it is likely that anyone who had a relic or secret through that period would have referred to their prize as ‘The Grail’. Our challenge is to be sure we are not mixing one person’s Grail with someone else’s, which I think has happened several times, not just in modern research, but in historic references too.
Damn, I hope that makes sense. As for the Grail of Maranatha? Yes, it is real and it is definitely historic.
- Q4) It would seem the ‘deep awesome sensation’ mentioned in question’s three quote could also be felt by walking into or studying the magnificent cathedrals. Have you walked into them? If so, what sense do the buildings, their construction, and their decorations, impress upon you?
Oh love Gothic Cathedrals! I really am lost in their majesty. Even as a boy, even more than walking around a castle, my mind would be imagining the masons carving, placing stone upon stone to create these trees of columns that stretch straight up to the sky, arching over to make a ceiling suspended almost above cloud height. It was easy for me to imagine the wooden scaffold binding around the structure, ladders disappearing to the heavens. Maybe that it is what Jacob’s story is actually a metaphor for, lol? Then besides all of that, I am then absorbed by the architecture. I am sure that most people reading this are aware of why gothic doorways are pointed arched? How the doorways are formed by two over lapping circles? One circle is meant to be heaven and the other Earth (or mortal life). The idea is, that the only way to move from Earth to Heaven is obviously through where the circles overlap, and that overlap is always were the Gothic main doorway to a Cathedral is.
- Q5) There are always never-ending questions to ponder. Sometimes, though, it is nice to just relax and enjoy our surroundings. Each person seems drawn to a different ‘place’. Personally, my family and I love the beach; others love hiking through the woods; while others go exploring ancient ruins. Where is it you (and your family) like to go? What ‘place’ seems to beckon you?
Simple, and a quick answer, which I am sure is a relief to everyone reading this. Scotland. The Highlands. I try and loose myself up there at least once a year, but must be the Highlands, Invernesshire is perfect. And it must be driven, all the way from London to Inverness.
- Q6) In the Time Monk article posted on the Arcadia website of Andrew Gough’s, you had mentioned that “the group will not offer any further comment” for insight into the puzzle. Have you re-considered this and are you planning on releasing new information concerning what you personally discovered during your research and study?
A tough one. I have reconsidered it, and others have, but they have not changed their minds. We had designed the Puzzle to be a fun and educational method of looking at history and this specific information. We thought it was clear and obvious that we weren’t doing it for financial gain – that was always commercially obvious with the prize fund give away, and the agreement to give a third to charity if we ever made a profit. Anyone with a calculator could work out how many books that would take, let alone factoring the cost of production, storage, marketing, operational cost etc. Even so, we knew some people wouldn’t like it simply because we knew not everyone likes crosswords or snowboarding. But we naively thought those who didn’t like it would just put it down and go off and do something they wanted to. We hadn’t expected the level of vicious hostility that came, and still does come. Even, last week, I still found ‘hate mail’ being sent.
Indeed, most people seemed to either like it, or accepted it wasn’t for them, and only a few persisted in the aggressive attacks. Although, those few did make normal life very difficult for us. The attacks weren’t limited to the team, but also their families, including the children. It was horrific. So understandably most of the team has closed the door permanently on the Maranatha experience. We had hoped that the release on Andrew Gough’s site would have been enough to give confirmation that the material we had was genuine and significant. Even so, we were still stunned by some people’s comments of ‘was that it?’ We honestly thought that the release would open the same doors as it opened for us, and people would discover the rest for themselves, and we could return to normal lives. It really is there to be seen, and yet I feel it has to be explained further.
As said, for most of the team, there is little feeling to engage in the project any further, but for me, I can’t just let it slip into obscurity, as it really means so much to me. I know many people lost something through this project, both members of the team and the readers, and, even though I lost so much too, I still feel guilty for what people have endured, so I am still trying to offer more. So to try and offer more I am attempting to complete a full ‘Step by Step’ explanation of the Article released on Andrew Gough’s site, and its implications, and a full explanation of the material that was encrypted in the Puzzle Book itself. To do this, I have to give up the last thing that is important to me, my Freemasonry, because, to fully describe what the discovery means, I have to say things about real Freemasonry that you would find hard to discover on the internet. So, at present, my time is taken up writing that article, and to try and balance what little integrity I have left against myself, Freemasonry and my desire to prove what was found.
A sincere thank-you Duncan. Your answers openly share and offer a different understanding and perspective to all that was involved in the Maranatha/Time Monk Project. I am sorry for the struggles and hardships the group experienced, and I feel almost uncomfortable to say how much I enjoyed and am grateful for the creation of the hunt; but it is the truth. I loved the hunt. I hope the group and yourself can take a small sense of worth from it.