monument in America looms over a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia.
Five massive slabs of polished granite rise out of the earth in
a star pattern. The rocks are each 16 feet tall, with four of them
weighing more than 20 tons apiece. Together they support a 25,000-pound
capstone. Approaching the edifice, it’s hard not to think immediately
of England’s Stonehenge
or possibly the ominous
monolith from 2001:
A Space Odyssey. Built in 1980, these pale gray rocks are
quietly awaiting the end of the world as we know it.
Guidestones, the monument is a mystery – nobody knows exactly
who commissioned it or why. The only clues to its origin are on
plaque on the ground – which gives the dimensions and explains
a series of intricate notches and holes that correspond to the movements
of the sun and stars – and the "guides" themselves,
directives carved into the rocks. These instructions appear in eight
languages ranging from English to Swahili and reflect a peculiar
New Age ideology. Some are vaguely eugenic (guide reproduction wisely
– improving fitness and diversity); others prescribe standard-issue
hippie mysticism (prize truth – beauty – love – seeking
harmony with the infinite).
widely agreed upon – based on the evidence available –
is that the Guidestones are meant to instruct the dazed survivors
of some impending apocalypse as they attempt to reconstitute civilization.
Not everyone is comfortable with this notion. A few days before
I visited, the stones had been splattered
with polyurethane and spray-painted with graffiti, including
slogans like "Death to the new world order." This defacement
was the first serious act of vandalism in the Guidestones’ history,
but it was hardly the first objection to their existence. In fact,
for more than three decades this uncanny structure in the heart
of the Bible Belt has been generating responses that range from
enchantment to horror. Supporters (notable among them Yoko Ono)
have praised the messages as a stirring call to rational thinking,
akin to Thomas Paine’s The
of Reason. Opponents have attacked them as the Ten Commandments
of the Antichrist.
anonymous architects of the Guidestones were, they knew what they
were doing: The monument is a highly engineered structure that flawlessly
tracks the sun. It also manages to engender endless fascination,
thanks to a carefully orchestrated aura of mystery. And the stones
have attracted plenty of devotees to defend against folks who would
like them destroyed. Clearly, whoever had the monument placed here
understood one thing very well: People prize what they don’t understand
at least as much as what they do.
of the Georgia Guidestones began on a Friday afternoon in June
1979, when an elegant gray-haired gentleman showed up in Elbert
County, made his way to the offices of Elberton Granite Finishing,
and introduced himself as Robert C. Christian. He claimed to represent
"a small group of loyal Americans" who had been planning
the installation of an unusually large and complex stone monument.
Christian had come to Elberton – the county seat and the granite
capital of the world – because he believed its quarries produced
the finest stone on the planet.
Elberton Granite’s president, nodded absently, distracted by the
rush to complete his weekly payroll. But when Christian began to
describe the monument he had in mind, Fendley stopped what he was
doing. Not only was the man asking for stones larger than any that
had been quarried in the county, he also wanted them cut, finished,
and assembled into some kind of enormous astronomical instrument.
What in the
world would it be for? Fendley asked. Christian explained that the
structure he had in mind would serve as a compass, calendar, and
clock. It would also need to be engraved with a set of guides written
in eight of the world’s major languages. And it had to be capable
of withstanding the most catastrophic events, so that the shattered
remnants of humanity would be able to use those guides to reestablish
a better civilization than the one that was about to destroy itself.