I am one that becomes two
I am two that becomes four
I am four that becomes eight
After all this I am one.
At 2011’s Breaking Convention, a bi-annual conference on psychedelic philosophy, professor of Hispanic Studies, William Rowlandson, related how towards the end of his life, Argentinian writer and mystic Jorge Luis Borges, said, ‘I think of the world as a riddle. And the one beautiful thing about it is that it cannot be solved – but of course – I think the world needs riddles.’ The Dogon of Mali, West Africa, have gifted the world with a much needed riddle, one which has fascinated me for a long time and may never be solved. In this post I offer a summary of the story together with some personal observations and speculations.
Although enigmatically hinted at by Voltaire in 1752, the possibility of a companion star for Sirius was first raised in Europe by German astronomer, Friedrich Bessel in 1844. Later known by the unimaginative title, ‘Sirius B’, the companion star was first observed through a telescope by New England astronomer Alvan Graham Clark in 1862 and defined as a white dwarf in 1920 by Walter Sydney Adams of the Mount Wilson observatory in California. Sirius was thus already known as a binary system in 1931, when French anthropologists Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen embarked on their Dakar-Djibouti expedition, beginning an ethnographical study of the Dogon which was to last for 25 years.
Griaule’s discussions with Dogon elder Ogotemmêli led to the publication of Dieu d’Eau (1948) and later Le Renard Pâle (1956), but what was particularly surprising about their article, A Sudanese Sirius System, published in 1950, was the astronomical knowledge which the Dogon were alleged to possess about Sirius and its plural companions. The story was taken up in the 1960s by an American scholar and now long-term U.K. resident, Robert Temple, who in 1976 first published the The Sirius Mystery. He argued that the Dogon knew of not one but two Sirius companion stars, as well as their orbital periods. The most astounding suggestion in his book was that the teachers of this knowledge were visiting aliens from the Sirius star system. The book went on to became a classic of the ancient spacemen genre.
The more militantly aroused proponents of academic orthodoxy, assuming the aliens idea to be ridiculous, vigorously protested that only seething brains of madmen could conceive the notion of an African tribe acquiring advanced astronomical knowledge without the aid of a modern telescope. Seizing upon the Dogon mystery with their astute reasoning skills, they set about transmuting it into the utterly mundane. The most obvious explanation was that the Dogon had received information from outsiders. Astronomer and populariser of science Carl Sagan proposed that Catholic missionaries had been responsible and corresponded with Temple in the early 1980s. Israeli astronomer Noah Broasch, in his book Sirius Matters, identified a French astronomical expedition to West Africa in 1893 as the likely source. The general consensus voiced by sceptics like Sagan and Robert Todd Carroll et al. was that the Sirius connection had either been introduced by foreigners, or else misinterpreted or invented by Griaule.
It might seem eccentric to begin an outline of the scholarship surrounding the Sirius Mystery with the man who found positive evidence for ancient aliens in South America, but even he found no evidence for the Dogon-Sirius story. The late lamented Philip Coppens, wrote an article entitled Dogon Shame, in which he found Temple’s evidence tainted by flawed scholarship and an association with the Council of Nine, a group of psychics, which included Yuri Geller, who claimed to channel other worldly intelligences. Having cast doubt on Temple’s findings and citing some damning evidence against the Dakar-Djibouti study, Coppens concluded that ‘it is highly likely that Griaule contaminated [Dogon] knowledge with his own’ and that ‘With this, the Dogon mystery comes crashing down’.
Coppens principally drew this conclusion from the most devastating evidence against the Dogon mystery, widely regarded to have delivered a coup de grâce to the whole affair and settled it for good – the work of Dutch anthropologist Walter E.A. van Beek. Having studied the Dogon through the 1980s, van Beek’s article, The Dogon Restudied, which appeared in the April 1991 edition of Current Anthropology, reported that Griaule and Dietelen’s findings were impossible to replicate in the field. He found no creation myth, almost none of the symbolism, and nothing whatsoever – not a trace – about Sirius. At a stroke, van Beek appeared to demolish 25 years of research by his predecessors.
In its ‘cultural explanation’, writes van Beek, French anthropology had tended to emphasise symbolism and ideology, which had led Griaule as an active agent, to find what he was looking for. ‘His primary goal was never just to understand Dogon behaviour but to prove a point about African thought….to show that African cultures…enshrined philosophies equal to the best found in classical Greece or India.’ Though not quite fabrication, van Beek found the work to be the ‘product of bicultural interaction … between a strong-willed researcher, a colonial situation, an intelligent and creative body of informants, and a culture with a courtesy bias and a strong tendency to incorporate foreign elements.’ Pressed to name things, Griaule’s informants had sometimes concocted information that had not existed before. Griaule faithfully compiled and interpreted this data, unaware that his informants were often, and in a way that was typically Dogon, just having fun with their language. The myths were never really coherent story lines but a cobbled together commentary on signs, symbols and drawings. ‘Without a story there is no myth’, writes van Beek, and what we are left with is ‘…the imprint of a European view of African culture while at the same time testifying to the creativity of the African experience.’
Naturally, there was a reaction to van Beek’s published article from surviving members of Griaule’s team. Germaine Dieterlen, perhaps appealing to van Beek as a gentleman and from a position of some authority, merely asked van Beek not to publish. Griaule’s daughter, Geneviève Calame-Griaule, who had compiled the Dictionnaire Dogon came to her father’s defence. She rejected van Beek’s damning assertion that Griaule had gone to Africa with preconceived intentions about discovering an African philosophy. She questioned van Beek’s research methods, emphasised that Griaule’s area of study had been literature – never astronomy as van Beek claimed – and insisted that her father had first learned about Sirius from Ogotemmêli. In her article she curtly explains that van Beek’s “restudy” ‘contains so many misreadings that it is impossible to correct them in limited space’ and that it would take a whole article to respond point by point.
Another more detailed rebuttal to van Beek’s restudy was made by anthropologist Luc de Heusch. He argued that myth does not always appear as continuous text but, consistent with metaphysical tradition, as implicit fragments for the initiate to bring into synthesis. The ‘perennial tradition’, discernible within ancient philosophy, can be conceptualised as the ineffable ground of all being towards which the full weight of ancient thought and indeed the whole purposive momentum of civilisation was ‘in illo tempore’ directed. Following in this enduring tradition, which celebrated and commemorated archetypal structures and processes, Pythagoreans and Platonists of the classical era, and scholars of the Renaissance, explored universal relationships, the infinite and abstract within the finite and physically concrete, and demonstrated their occult knowledge by drawing together the implicit with the explicit, the hidden with the manifest into an expression of Unity. If de Heusch is accurate in his perception of van Beek’s ‘rigid conception of myth’, one can anticipate the latter’s failure to tune into any of these traces of symbolic resonance. Were remnants of Dogon ‘Deep Knowledge’ to coincide with the principles of a perennial tradition and prove less than mundane, one might expect van Beek either to misinterpret or fail to notice them.
Van Beek demonstrates his superficial reading of myth in his association of the Dogon deity Nommo, with Jesus Christ. He writes:
‘…the concept of atonement (by Nommo), the crucifixion (of Nommo), the eight people saved in the ark are just the beginning. The story of the redeeming sacrifice of Nommo is even closer to the bible: Nommo is sacrificed standing upright, arms outstretched, tied to a tree (with horizontal branches) with iron: during his suffering he thirsts and is offered a cup of water, which he spits out.’
Nommo is the Dogon fish-man god that Robert Temple believed to be an amphibian spaceman from a water world who had traveled across interstellar space, presumably in some sort of fish tank spaceship – sorry Robert. Griaule and Dieterlen found Nommo at the heart of the creation myth which van Beek found no trace of. Nommo was reborn as a pair of mixed twins, which raises a biblical connection that van Beek overlooks, the association between twin-ness and thunder. Dogon culture may not be as ‘anomalous’ as van Beek claims. The thunder-twin theme occurs in many other parts of the world, in other African cultures, notably in Nigeria, amongst the Aymara Indians of Peru, and is mentioned in the Gospel of Mark (3:17), which refers to twins James and John as ‘sons of thunder’. I suspect that the twin/thunder concept is far beyond the purview of your average Protestant missionary, that it touches upon perennial bedrock and connects to something extremely ancient and far from mundane, as James Rendel Harris explored in Boanerges.
Van Beek’s expertise lies in the field of ecological anthropology and his obvious weakness in comparative mythology, easily identified by De Heusch, is evinced in his cursory treatment of the Nommo story. De Heusch explains that the picture is rather more complex than van Beek will allow, having both similarities and dissimilarities to Christianity. He points out that the universe born out of a primordial victim owes as much to the Brahmanic model. Nommo’s blood, unlike Christ’s, ‘floods a gestating universe’, and gives rise to the creation of the Earth. Where van Beek sees Nommo’s thirsting like Christ while pinned to a tree as telling evidence of cultural borrowing, it is arguably an integral part of the narrative rather than an incongruous embellishment. On drinking, Nommo vomits up a water snake, the word for which is the antonym of Nommo’s twin, before becoming a water spirit. Annihilation of the flesh, transformation and reintegration narratives speak to the saturated archetypes preserved within myths and their associations with shamanic initiation rituals. Such themes are found in the story of Krishna, also pinned to a tree in redeeming sacrifice, in the Osirian tradition of ancient Egypt where the dismembered Osiris is the precursor to the ascended Horus, and in parallel myths all over the world.
Presupposing that every detail of Christianity is original means that when confronted with what seem at first sight to be biblical fragments in a remote African culture, the simplest and most mundane explanation can appear as the most likely (Occam’s Razor), even if it entails conveniently placed missionaries. Any deviation from this presupposition is liable to court controversy and trigger a response from western dogmas of religion and science, the former simply rejecting it out of hand and the latter maintaining that any potentially world-view changing perspective, in this case one that accommodates Christian elements in pre-Christian African myths, requires a scientific or multidisciplinary approach and certainly much more than textual evidence alone. Open to interpretation and therefore vulnerable to misinterpretation, myths by themselves are often considered very far from constituting proof of anything much at all.
Had he, however, more appreciation for a comparative mythology that factored in recurrent Christian motifs from around the world, van Beek might have been more cautious in his assumptions about ‘myth as bricolage’, interpreted simply as cultural borrowing by the Dogon. These assumptions may be coloured by antecedents within anthropology, a discipline which looks back to 19th century evolutionist beginnings pursued by armchair academics who relied on the reports of missionaries and explorers. Viewed through an evolutionist lens, anthropology regarded non-white indigenous cultures as less evolved than Indo-European ones. Systems of thought considered to be built upon an unstable foundation of superstition were held as more likely to co-opt, seemingly at random, cultural fragments from foreigners into their own cultural practices. In the 20th century, anthropology transitioned into a more relativist approach, recognising the value of field work, which led to empirical studies and a firmer recognition of the common humanity shared by developed societies and so-called ‘primitive’ ones. Whether Griaule and Dieterlen’s work is viewed cynically as an initial and therefore less developed relativism within anthropology, or less charitably, as by van Beek, as the result of a ‘colonial situation’, what can be drawn from both Griaule and van Beek’s studies are vantage points from within a specific discipline at particular points in a chronological process of development. Shaped by its own evolution, its norms of discourse, jargon, frames of reference, and methodology, this process also provides the context for alleged missionaries which keep van Beek within the accepted boundaries of these established discursive practices.
Unable to find a single Dogon informant with any knowledge of the myths described by his predecessors, van Beek states ‘… a secret not shared is not cultural’ implying that if there is no trace of the myth in the wider culture then the myth simply ceases to exist in any socially viable manner. The idea that culture and intellectual traditions can not be mutually exclusive would seem as flawed as the notion that to speak of the latter is to venture into conspiracy theories about secret societies. To my mind, this arises from the same bizarre paranoia as the organised religion which sought to eradicate ancient knowledge in the first place. The Hermetic tradition, for example, which serves as the foundation stone of Western esoteric thought and finds expression within ancient myth, migrated from Alexandria into Eastern Europe, and from Greece into the Arab world and is no more a conspiracy than modern anthropology. If myths can function exclusively as science, or as ‘proto-science’, as Claude Lévy-Strauss maintained, then they can also, just as is the case with modern science, take the form of specialist knowledge possessed by an educated elite.
Noah Broasch, – a Dogon mystery sceptic – writes this about Sirius B in Sirius Matters:
‘The gravitational redshift expected at the surface of a white dwarf whose mass is M and its radius is R (Trimble and Greenstein 1972)
K = 0.635M ∕M☉(R ∕ R ☉)ˉ¹ km sˉ¹
or as a fractional wavelength shift (Phillips) 1994) :
∆λ ∕ λ ≈ 74 [M ∕M☉] ⁴ ∕ ³ [ GM☉ ∕ R☉c²]’
All such technical language is ‘mumbo jumbo’ to the uninitiated. Just as our distant ancestors would no doubt be mystified by contemporary modes of thought and methods of notation, it is just as likely that modern civilisation is uninitiated into the ways of the ancients. Modern astronomy, for example, dryly informs us that alpha Librae has two companions and lies on the ecliptic. In contrast, Homer, who personifies the star as Helen, ‘white-armed’ daughter of Zeus, plots out the mirrored terrestrial and celestial dramas uniting earth and sky. The bardic element of ancient astronomy nested human story within its celestial counterpart, imbuing the senses with epic narrative. Obviously, modern astronomy does not attempt to inspire us with verse. Although many people today are unaware of what the ecliptic is, the lack of inculcation of astronomy into popular culture does not preclude its existence as a body of knowledge. Therefore, I would also argue that van Beek’s dismissal of the existence of myth, based on the ignorance of the average Dogon man in the street, fails to acknowledge the potential for the cosmological aspects of myth to function as a proto-scientific body of knowledge.
Much more interesting than ‘the product of a bicultural interaction’ and the co-created confection proposed by van Beek, the parallel motifs and universal themes expressed in the epic narratives and poetic metaphors of myth in some of the world’s oldest traditions are simply brushed aside and we are asked to accept that Griaule, as his daughter Geneviève suggested ironically, had the ‘imagination of Hesiod’.
The ancient Greeks, ancient Egyptians, and in all likelihood the Dogon too, given their interest in the number eight, shared a cosmological outlook originating in a core set of eight principles – The Ogdoad – which manifest both mimetically and mnemonically – mimetically in that they commemorate natural causalities – and mnemonically in that they absorb into the intuitive, emotional and intellectual faculties, rather than being confined exclusively to logical, left brain cognition. Architect and sacred geometry lecturer Randall Carlson defines this outlook as:
‘reveal[ing] fundamental processes of creativity on a vast scale and range of phenomenon, from the geometry of atomic and molecular organization, through the forms and patterns of biological systems, to the scale of the cosmos itself and the very structure of Space and Time.’
The power of saturated meaning to extend beyond language into the metaphysical is rather challenging to frame within contemporary modes of thought and conditions of language. Robert Lawlor, in his book on sacred geometry, explains:
‘The archetypal is concerned with universal processes or dynamic patterns which can be considered independently of any structure or material form. Modern thought has difficult access to the concept of the archetypal because European languages require that verbs or action words be associated with nouns. We therefore have no linguistic forms with which to image a process or activity that has no material carrier.’
This lack of linguistic form is important to bear in mind when considering the sceptical reaction to Laird Scranton’s study of the Dogon. Scranton makes the case for a comprehensive Dogon cosmology that is consistent with the perennial tradition. Although the direction of Scranton’s thinking seems logical and congruent, his unorthodox comparisons between the ancient Egyptian and Dogon languages brought him into the firing line of the sceptical community. Mark Newbrook, a British sceptic and PhD in Linguistics, wrote a review (link?) of Scranton’s book, The Science of the Dogon. He gives an account of a telephone conversation he had with the author in which, as far as Newbrook was concerned, Scranton’s inability to produce ‘cognate sets’ and ‘phonology’ made his arguments ‘impossibly weak‘, and concludes that the only sensible course of action for him is to ‘recant’.
Scranton has argued, not unreasonably, that it is not particularly useful to limit the assessment of a study of comparative mythology to linguistics, and like van Beek, it would seem that Newbrook also fails to take the implications of this comparative mythology fully into account. Because of the extreme antiquity involved, it is in my judgement, virtually impossible to definitively prove a linguistic relationship between the Dogon language and ancient Egyptian. Whatever the relative merits of Scranton’s linguistic method, employing the methodology of historical linguistics – concerned with relationships between languages, such as sisterhood, parenthood or ‘protolanguage’, and with the processes of language change – can only be an inadequate way of approaching the universal concepts Scranton is describing. Newbrook may have applied what he considered the most appropriate discipline in debunking Scranton, but why should criticism of a study of comparative mythology, solely from an historical linguistics perspective, be any more valid than say, criticism of a study on free market economics from an exclusively horticultural perspective – or something equally Pythonesque? The serious point here is that just as cognate sets and phonology do not contribute to an appreciation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, or the geometry of Chartres cathedral, neither are they of any use in exploring the archetypal. In other words, diverse correspondences of meaning conveyed mimetically or mnemonically are not limited to spoken or written forms of language and therefore lie entirely outside the scope of prevailing discourses within historical linguistics.
Sceptical reaction to Scranton does not, it would seem, stem only from perceived linguistic flaws but also from a clash of world views, specifically Scranton’s dangerous proximity to Afrocentrism, the notion that ancient Africa and its vast diaspora of culture was ignored and written out of history by white European scholars in the 19th century. Certain academics and skeptics vigorously oppose this idea, partly because it implies that scientific method lacked objectivity and was tainted by an ethnocentric or racist perspective, and also because of the threat to academic consensus from the demand for a radical revision of history. Afrocentrism is castigated as bad scholarship, as ‘pseudohistorical’ wishful thinking that arose in the United States as part of a resurgent ethnic pride alongside the civil rights movement. Prominent Afrocentric scholars include Molefi Asante and Martin Bernal, whose book Black Athena, provoked heavy criticism and a subsequent book – Black Athena Writes Back – in which he responds to his critics. Another essential perspective on the subject of Afrocentrism comes from a protégé of Marcel Griaule, Cheikh Anta Diopas, in his book, The African Origin of Civilisation. Myth or Reality. If nothing else, these scholars at least highlight the abiding western Weltanschauung and the tumultuous reaction whenever its dominant discourses are challenged. One only has to look at Diop’s wikipedia page to see just how fraught the topic is. It is tempting to question the plausibility of whether the Ancient Egyptians, who imported coca leaves from South America and traded extensively with Africa, had never fully explored the very land mass beneath their feet in 3,000 years of civilisation, specifically the land to the west, simply because it was too arid. This argument is undermined by anthropologists Fred Wendorf and Romuald Schild, who have discovered a wealth of archaeological evidence that 10,000 years ago, before the inception of Dynastic Egypt, the African Sahara was fertile and populated. Further discoveries push ancient Egyptian connections with the African interior much further to the west. In 2007, for example, ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were discovered on a high rock, deep in the desert, some 600km west of the Nile at Gebel Uwainat. Investigations by Robert Bauval and Thomas Brophy at Nabta Playa, located 100km west of the Nile, have demonstrated a precise astronomy built into this megalithic site, which predates Dynastic Egypt yet incorporates many of the precessional and stellar alignments found in ancient Egyptian architecture. There are also significant links between ancient Egypt and West Africa found in funeral and burial customs, methods of embalming, beliefs about the afterlife and the nature of the soul. Finally, we have the confident assertion of the venerable Herodotus, who stated that only cultures influenced by Egypt circumcised their male infants on the 8th day of life, as do the Dogon of West Africa.
Anomalous astronomical knowledge is not limited to the Dogon. The Virgo Cluster, for example, was not known to consist of galaxies until the 1920s as they cannot be discerned as such without a powerful telescope. So it would seem astoundingly synchronous that the fertility, grain and harvest deities of the ancients – Virgo, Isis, Demeter and Ceres – are all associated with this one fertile area of sky and that the wheat sheaf she is holding above her is located precisely at the position of this galaxy cluster, as if she is seeding the heavens. And if this is not remarkable enough, the goddess representing the fecundating principle of the universe is also helpfully pointing directly into the centre of the cluster. But any suggestion that this was known without the aid of a telescope would seem as unlikely as the Dogon knowing about the orbital period of Sirius B. Whatever the truth about Dogon knowledge of Sirius, its significance for the ancients lay in an understanding of its special relationship with our solar system, based on a precise observational astronomy. The seasonal reappearance of our close (8.6 l.y.) neighbour and brightest star in the sky may have coincided with the inundation of the Nile but this is not the only reason it was selected to mark calendrical cycles. Sirius is also perfect for measurement of the sidereal year, a crucial fact which can only be arrived at by meticulous observation over many centuries. Because the Egyptians did not adjust their civil calendar as we do to account for a leap year, (doing so would have been inconsistent with cosmic order or ‘maat’), the civil calendar of 365 days slipped backwards by a quarter of a day each year against the solar year. New Years Day of the civil calendar therefore coincided with the heliacal rising of Sirius once every 1,460 years, (365 ÷ 0.25), a major event, which heralded the beginning of a new calendrical age. The Sothic cycle functioned as a kind of slow hand measure of time, marked by jubilee festivals at incremental points, and the full completion of a cycle was commemorated as the ‘Lord of Jubilees’, the return of the phoenix to Heliopolis. It is unfortunate that in denying the significance of the Sothic cycle, many Egyptologists do not recognise the valuable insight it provides into ancient cosmology, and with that, ancient Egyptian history as well. I think it is fair to say that because it is central to the concept of maat, commemoration of the Sothic cycle is likely to be at least as old as Dynastic Egypt and certainly predates proselytising Protestant missionaries by a considerable margin.
Griaule and Dieterlen’s representation of an ancient African philosophy, cosmology, and of Christian motifs in preChristian Africa, pose existential challenges to the orthodox position of academia, which is anti-Afrocentric. Similarly, Scranton relies heavily on the translations of Egyptologist Wallis Budge, considered out-dated, yet which lean towards a distinctly African and therefore discredited linguistic interpretation. Griaule, Dieterlen and Scranton, raise questions about the development of a cultural language lying at the root of human history and human identity. In doing so they threaten or exceed discursive boundaries. Such an undertaking always poses a risk of personal attack because, as Michel Foucault wrote, it is ‘by definition, to be mad, to be beyond comprehension and therefore reason.’ But perhaps a more progressive attitude towards the outer frontiers of accepted thought is preferable, which conceptualises these limits as the locus for new understanding to be thoroughly explored rather than policed, and resists whatever sclerotic dogmas accumulate there. That this quest for new knowledge, for free enquiry unencumbered by dogma, should naturally be accessible to all is not an open-door policy for the wacky and the woo, but for certain kind of attitude. It can be defined as the rigorous discernment which distinguishes between ‘powdered-wigged’ protection of status quo and the so-called lunatic fringe. It is an attitude which cuts through cant, observes the ease with which reasoned enquiry or new ideas emerging from constructive civil discourse can be disrupted with a simple, targeted barrage of disinformation or ad hominem attack. Such tactics, though helpfully transparent, should be throughly exposed when they arise from a language of competing, circumscribed discourses, and their customary polarised positions, phony bones of contention and binary thinking. If this attitude seems tinged with recalcitrant zeal, it is because ultimately it recognises the limitations of written and spoken language, which unlike mathematical, geometrical or geo-harmonic relationships, are subject to change and have a tendency to obstruct the mimetic and mnemonic sensitivities to universal consciousness to which ancient minds were attuned.
Van Beek’s work on the Dogon and Newbrook’s critique of Scranton appear to be flawed by a superficial reading of myth. Perhaps this is simply the result of academic objectivity, ill disposed towards the kind of subjective investment which profound insight into myth demands. It may also be that the scholarship of mythic thought, valuable though much of it is, has never entirely shaken off its evolutionist yoke, meaning that however much light is shed upon myth, there is a lingering tendency to cast modern minds above it: Not illogical but ‘pre-logical’, not unscientific but ‘pre’ or ‘proto-scientific’, and not primitive but ‘traditional’. Such language is indicative of an underlying Darwinian perspective which has shaped the twinned studies of myth and anthropology. According to philosopher of science, Paul Feyerabend, ‘The apparent primitivism of many myths is just the reflection of the primitive astronomical, biological, etc, knowledge of their collectors and translators’. Positing the ancient mind as the more sophisticated in the realm of the esoteric or transcendent, is virtually non-existent in mainstream circles and what scholarship there is – Schwaller de Lubicz for instance – is studiously ignored.
When a culture is ignorant of its roots, it is set adrift, disconnected from the humanising influences of its ancestral past. The results of this are all around us as global systems of government, fuelled by empty, soulless, destructive ideologies fail to serve the greater good, promote selfishness as the highest virtue, and sow widespread dysfunction and instability.
What better time than now to ask ourselves the most fundamental questions again, the ones we faced in the primeval swamp when human reason and sense of wonder first discerned order in the stars? Who are we and where did we come from? What is mind and consciousness? What happens when we die? With passion, emotion, intuitive intellect and an openness towards the ineffable, our ancestors asked these questions extremely seriously and for a very long time. They launched their minds, their academes and diverse ritual theatres towards a deeper understanding of reality, delving into the mysteries of existence in search of its essence. The inherent spiritual dimension of that is of course taboo to modern ears, but myth and the perennial tradition which inspired it, have endured for a reason, not as curious relics of primitive thought, but as a practical philosophy of insight and transformation. Failing to recognise that this body of knowledge exists let alone what it means and why it matters, represents, in my view, a psychic schism, a kind of tragic collective amnesia. By listening to the universal, sacred melodies, the epic chants from the distant past, and by remembering the value of mystery, the human personality can begin again to integrate with its higher self.
P.S. It has been almost a year since my last post. Too few posts for this blog. This has to do with the whole life-work-balance dilemma thing. The blog definitely falls into the life category for me. One post a year is not enough though. The direction of each post also takes a while to formulate. I had no idea that this post was going to be on the Dogon. I’m currently interested in the mysteries of Isis, Eleusis, etc…We’ll see where that leads.