MUST-READ OF THE WEEK: TEMPORARILY INSANE BY CARL BORGEN
Proving that truth sometimes is much stranger than fiction, Temporarily Insane by Carl Borgen tells the enthrallingly eccentric and inspiring story of a group of aging hippies who have dedicated their lives to proving that an ancient civilisation lies buried underneath the North Pole.
By Timothy Arden
It has been said that travel broadens the mind, but that is a gross understatement in the case of Dutch-Canadian author Carl Borgen.
For it was while venturing along the hippie trail in Asia in the early 1980s that he first heard of a story so fascinating and profound that it changed his entire outlook on the purpose of life and the origins of civilisation.
It was called ‘The Bock Saga’ and, it is claimed, is an oral history of the first people on Earth that had been secretly passed down within the Bock family from generation to generation for more than a thousand years—though its origins stretch back far, far further.
Borgen and his friends heard the saga on the sun-drenched beaches of Goa and that setting, as well as the care-free lifestyle they were living, so vividly described in the book, must have seemed not a million miles away from the world in which this story—an alternative creation myth and history lesson rolled into one—narrated.
The epic tale had come from the lips of one of their acquaintances, Ior Bock, a Finnish mystic who said that he was the last in the Bock line and that, as such, he was revealing the closely-guarded saga to ensure that it would endure after his death.
In short, the saga describes a global civilisation, the ‘Aser’, whose empire was centred in ‘Odenma’, which is where the Finnish capital Helsinki is now but which was, then, at the Earth’s North Pole.
The Aser, so the saga says, were highly advanced yet at the same time living in harmony with nature, in a period known as ‘Paradise Times’. Though they eventually succumbed to an ice age—‘Alt-land-is’ (from which, apparently, ‘Atlantis’ is derived)—they were the parents of all humans today and gifted all the civilisations to come with language, writing, and many other arts.
This, though, was more than just a colourful legend. It spoke of a temple, ‘Lemminkäinen’, that would lead to a treasure chamber of inconceivable size and which still held the priceless treasures of this forgotten people. Moreover, it indicated exactly where this temple could be found today.
For Borgen and his friends, who had first gone travelling to escape the decayed urban lifestyles of their parents, this was revelatory. Here was a testimony from the ages that not only endorsed but crowned a hippie-like existence as the true heritage and model for all mankind.
Borgen’s friends vowed to do whatever it took to uncover the temple, locate the treasure chamber, and show the world the truth, while Borgen—equally affected yet not willing to sacrifice his life for what could, possibly, be a fool’s errand, chose to say behind.
Temporarily Insane is the real-life story of that group’s subsequent mission to prove the material existence of the Bock Saga, and it’s the most bonkers yet brilliant book you’ll read this year.
Combining a tale of true adventure, with New Age prophecy and memoir, there really isn’t anything quite like this title. The same could be said of the Saga itself, of course, which is weaved in throughout the text to provide additional context and insight into the myth that continues to drive devotees—Bockists—to act like Indian Jones, though with a horned fur hat preferable to fedora.
So, since 1987, a small but dedicated team of amateur archaeologists have been excavating the Temple of Lemminkäinen on the Bock family estate.
According to Ior Bock, the temple was sealed in 987AD to protect the pagan artefacts from Catholic crusaders who invaded Finland, so the first job was to open it back up.
As Carl, now in his sixties, reflects in Temporarily Insane: “Our protagonists didn’t have to find this treasure; they knew where it was. All they had to do was dig it up and show the world, help everyone understand and believe what life was like in the beginning. Simple, right?”
Yet the task has continued on for more than 30 years, and is detailed in all its bizarre yet utterly addictive twists and turns.
There are run-ins with the police over drug-smuggling offences, committed to buy dynamite to blast clear the temple entrance (!), hostile reactions from the Finnish government and mainstream academics, and the brutal murder of Ior Bock in 2010.
Indeed, the title of the book comes from description ascribed to Bock’s killer, a carer who came to believe the aging hippie-cum-guru was an agent of the Devil.
As a reader, what I found most interesting were the characters who propel the story onwards. There’s Ior, who was clearly a charismatic influencer, and the followers who have given their everything to show the Man that the world should be paradise.
The Scandinavian media portrayed Bock and his friends in the most negative of lights, as Borgen reveals: “They described Ior as a satanic cult leader who brainwashed his followers with his dangerous Saga. The campaign was … [that] the Bock Saga is evil, and everything and everybody that has anything to do with it is also evil.”
Yet from Temporarily Insane, it is clear that Ior was not evil, and neither were his followers brainwashed.
They simply latched tight to this myth and the ray of light it beamed into a grey existence, leading them to form a loyal community and friendships that have stood the test of time.
What also makes the book enjoyable is that the writing is not a form of disguised propaganda for the myth; it is not seeking to find new followers.
In fact, it is quite the opposite for while Borgen defends the Bock Saga and all it stands for, he also admits that he himself doesn’t know if it’s true or just a beautiful story.
What I chiefly liked, however, is that the book combines three great hooks: a beginner’s guide to the Bock Saga, though delivered in an entertaining and accessible way; a fascinating journey like no other across Asia and Finland; and a profile of the most unlikely team of archaeological heroes you’ll come across.
Perhaps it’s this story of a bunch of underdogs questing for answers rather than wealth or glory that makes Temporarily Insane such a winner.
Regardless of whether the group finally bring back the Bock treasures, author and Bock Saga historian Carl Borgen has struck literary gold with this crazy chronicle.
Carl Borgen is one of the world’s leading experts on The Bock Saga and the first person to put Ior Bock’s story into written form. He is the author of The Bock Saga: An Introduction and new title, Temporarily Insane, which details the 35-year hunt for the Bock treasures, out now in hardcover, paperback and eBook formats priced £19.99, £12.75 and £4.99 respectively. Further information about The Bock Saga can be found at www.carlborgen.com and www.bocksaga.info.
MEET THE AUTHOR: CARL BORGEN
Early on in life, author and Bock Saga historian Carl Borgen made a conscious decision to seek a more meaningful existence than is typically offered in the urbanised world. It was thanks to this voyage of discovery that he first came across the Bock Saga, which transformed his outlook on the history and potential future of humanity. Now in his sixties, he is recording the Saga for posterity in the hope that it will inspire others in the same way.
Author Carl Borgen’s life can be characterised by a burning desire to challenge and expand himself through learning and adventure.
As he says himself, he has “an intellectual hunger and a burning desire for knowledge to make the world a better place”.
More than likely, this stems from his experiences growing up. Born in 1960 to Dutch parents in Canada, Borgen was constantly reminded by his parents that he heralded from an old, influential aristocratic family that had once ruled for the Dutch government and trading houses including the East India Company.
The family fortune was, however, lost after the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the Second World War.
Borgen, therefore, grew up with the prospect of a relatively a mundane existence, living in the cold Canadian suburbs where capitalism and a normal Western trajectory were expected.
At the same time, he was pressurised by his parents to restore his family’s lost fortune. Instead, he chose to rebel.
He read widely, devouring classic literature, philosophy and sci-fi fiction. It was, indeed, one novel in particular that led him to reject the expectations placed upon him.
He said: “After reading George Orwell’s 1984, I was convinced that I should not rule an empire the size of a continent as my father had projected for me. At the first opportunity, I fled without further ambitions to fulfil this fate.”
Borgen left home at 17 to squat with friends, working various jobs to make ends meet.
Still, the empty roads and call of adventure beckoned, and he began hitchhiking—first through Europe then onto Asia, through Pakistan and India.
He continued: “Just minutes before I was to be kicked out of school in a screaming row with the head, I instead sacked him in the name of intellectualism and for the hope of the future of all the other students.
“I threw my school bag, filled with text books, at him and ran off to live a travelling life instead.
“The first few years I had more jobs than Donald Duck! I was a painter of high voltage electricity pylons. I climbed like a monkey 110 meters above the ground between steel bars and electric cables.
“I also worked as a roadie with several hard rock bands, as well as the National Ballet of Canada, and was later a DJ in a tourist resort in France.
“I learned scuba diving and one week later I was teaching it. It was only when I got my hands on a book of diving theory that I learned how dangerous that had been.”
“I finally left Europe at the age of 22. I saw so many opportunities. It was usually quite easy to survive economically. The differences in price of things between the East and the West were enormous.”
He travelled by trains, ships, camels, donkeys, by bicycle and on foot, discovering the most diverse locations and people.
No doubt, the author was searching for something to fill the negative void of his childhood and also something to latch onto; something truthful and pure, perhaps even a place to call home.
Arriving in Goa—a hippie hangout with unspoilt beaches, majestic sunsets and wild parties—in the early 1980s, Borgen at once felt a connection.
Like his family had done centuries before, he began buying and selling goods across Asia, using his networks of locals of rich Westerners to eke out a living.
“On my trips I found beautiful handicrafts, museum pieces that I bought and sold further on the road,” Borgen said.
“I lived comfortably. I could travel and stay in good places. Many times I slept on beaches or on the ground in temples in India. I considered them good places, too.
“Much of the time I was on hippie trails and beaches, enjoying the psychedelic parties. My girlfriend at the time called me ‘Hilton Hippie’, as I was just as comfortable in high circles as sitting on the floor by the fire at some tribe somewhere far away.”
It was during the early ‘80s, hanging out by the Indian ocean, that he and his friends first met Finnish mystic Ior Bock and heard about the Bock Saga. This alternative creation story, and the promise of being able to rediscover a lost civilisation whose forgotten wisdom could transform the world into a ‘paradise’, would enchant them, changing their perspectives forever.
So great was the lure of this story, that, in 1987, Borgen’s friends travelled to Finland to begin excavations at the Temple of Lemminkäinen, near Helsinki.
Borgen, however, decided not to answer the call, uncertain whether the Bock treasures were real and unwilling to sacrifice the rest of his life to finding out.
He explained: “The Bock Saga is the family story of Ior Bock that goes back to the first humans on Earth and thus tells the story of mankind.
“Most of my friends were attracted to the Bock Saga because it describes a ‘Paradise Time’, an age when everything on Earth was in harmony.
“Their thinking was that if they could prove that the Bock Saga is true, everybody would want to live again in eternal happiness, just as in those olden days. Division, greed, and hatred would all be set aside and the world would know true peace.
“While I would also love to see such a golden age for humanity, I have always stayed away from this pursuit as I can’t see how an archaeological find can have the global impact my friends expect.
“Would the concept of possession, of conflict, of religious difference, really be thrown overboard just because an ancient temple had been discovered? I believe in the idea but I just can’t see it happening in the real world, sadly … at least, not yet.”
While Borgen kept in contact with his friends, he had no further direct involvement with the Bock Saga until 2015, five years after Ior Bock had been brutally murdered, stabbed to death by a carer at the age of 68.
With his friends now getting on in years, and with Ior Bock being no longer alive, Borgen was concerned that the Bock Saga would once again be lost in the mists of time.
In a bid to save it for posterity, he took on a new role as an historian of the Saga and chronicler of those who have been involved with the search for the temple.
After almost five years listening to the Bock Saga stories of his friends, he published his first book, The Bock Saga: An Introduction, in 2019, which set down Bock’s oral history in print for the first time.
He has now followed this up with Temporarily Insane, which brings together the story of how his friends came to excavate the Lemminkäinen temple, and their subsequent adventures and misadventures.
Moving forward, Borgen has another two books centred around the Bock Saga, set for publication next years.
These—The End Of Paradise, and The Squatters Gang—will be novels, the first a thrilling adventure set during the end days of the Paradise Time, and the second a contemporary tale of a group of friends trying to escape the depressed urban world who are unaware that their lives are being manipulated by the gods of the Bock Saga.
When not writing, Borgen—who now lives in the Netherlands with his partner and 10-year-old son—keeps himself busy in the abstract world of blockchain stocks.
Recently, he was involved in planting a cutting from an ancient tree called ‘Yggdrasil’ (symbolically, the tree of life in the mythology of the Bock Saga), in a park in Amsterdam.
Its parent tree, which had marked the place that generations of the Bock family had been buried in Finland, had been cut down by a vandal incensed by the pagan mythology of Ior Bock.
Borgen hopes that the planting of the tree, currently the size of a bonsai, will, like his books, help preserve the remarkable Bock Saga for the benefit of future generations.