The Alexander mythos (2)

“Indian civilization is distinctive for its antiquity and continuity. Apart from its own vitality, the continuity of Indian civilization is largely due to its ability to adapt to alien ideas, harmonize contradictions and mould new thought patterns. Her constant contacts with the outside world also gave India the opportunity to contribute to other civilizations.

Whilst other ancient civilizations have long ceased to exist, Indian civilization has continued to grow despite revolutionary changes. The ancient cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia have not survived. But in India today, Hindus seek inspiration from concepts similar to those originally advanced by their ancestors.

Jawaharlal Nehru says in his book The Discovery of IndiaTill recently many European thinkers imagined that everything that was worthwhile had its origins in Greece or Rome. Sir Henry Maine has said somewhere that except the blind forces of nature, nothing moves in this world which is not originally Greek.”
However, Indian contacts with the Western world date back to prehistoric times. Trade relations, preceded by the migration of peoples, inevitably developed into cultural relations. This view is not only amply supported by both philological and archaeological evidence, but by a vast body of corroborative literary evidence as well: Vedic literature and the Jatakas, Jewish chronicles, and the accounts of Greek historians all suggest contact between India and the West. Taxila was a great center of commerce and learning. “Crowds of eager scholars flowed to it for instruction in the three Vedas and in the eighteen branches of knowledge.” Tradition affirms that the great epic, the Mahabharata, was first recited in the city.” (An Advance History of India, R. C. Majumdar, H. C. Raychanduri p.64) Buddha is reputed to have studied in Taxila. Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy owe their origin to Indian thought and spirituality.

Alexander’s raid, which was so significant to Western historians, seemed to have entirely escaped the attention of Sanskrit authors. From the Indian point of view, there was nothing to distinguish his raid in Indian history. Jawaharlal Nehru says, ” From a military point of view his invasion, was a minor affair. It was more of a raid across the border, and not a very successful raid at that.”

“The Europeans are apt to imagine that before the great Greek thinkers, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, there was a crude confusion of thought, a sort of chaos without form and void. Such a view becomes almost a provincialism when we realize that systems of thought which influenced countless millions of human beings had been elaborated by people who never heard the names of the Greek thinkers.”
(source: Eastern Religions and Western Thought – By Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan
(Source: ‘Ancient rishis’ pathway to Hinduism)

 

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Cultural diffusion – from East to West?

Stephen Oppenheimer in ‘Eden in the East: The drowned continent of Southeast Asia’ writes that the Universal Flood drowned the huge continental shelf of Southeast Asia’; and that this had caused a population dispersal which fertilised the Neolithic cultures of China, India, Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Eastern Mediterranean, thus creating the first civilisations.

Oppenheimer’s theory is that “ … the roots of the great flowering of civilisation in the fertile crescent of the Ancient Near East lay in the sinking shorelines of Southeast Asia. The Sumerians and Egyptians themselves wrote about the skilled wise men from the East, a fact often dismissed as the embellishment of a fertile imagination.”

Oppenheimer points out that the myths of the Sumerians, “with their religious connotations,” were “among the first written records in the third millennium BC;” and that “in the majority of cases the structure and content of the Mesopotamian myths show them to be derived from earlier Eastern sources;” and that “we may suppose that the direction of diffusion was East-to-West.” That claim must be equivalent to putting a cat into an aviary! If true, the dates of diffusion may be much earlier than 6,000 years ago.

He states as a ‘myth-type’ the parable of the ‘two warring brothers’ which had arisen in eastern Indonesia, and to have travelled with the Austronesian expansion along the north coast of New Guinea into the Southwest Pacific “at least 6,000 years ago.” As a most probable clash of cultures (eg. nomadism vs. agriculture), this parable (an example is that of Kulabob and Manup in eastern New Guinea) is reminiscent of Cain and Abel. Oppenheimer concludes “ … these myths antedate Genesis by several thousand years.

Other “shared Eurasian myths” include the Flood; the “watery creation and separation of Heaven and Earth;” the tree motif in the two-brother parable “derived from the Tree of Life;” and the Garden of Eden as a “fertile lost Paradise.” “The family of immortality myths may be the oldest of all, recalling the importance of ritual burial which goes back well before the end of the Ice Age.”

Significantly, Oppenheimer also says “My personal view is that although there was much technology transfer over a prolonged period, the most important new lessons from the East were … how to use hierarchy, politics, magic and religion to control other peoples’ labour.” What a claim! But he does remind us of “the stratified hierarchies still surviving in Austronesian traditional societies from Madagascar through Bali to Samoa;” and the retention of honorific titles in countries such as Bali and Samoa.

In the event, did European colonialism fail in teaching some of its ‘natives’ how to govern themselves in a democratic manner? Perhaps class-riven Britain and social rank-driven Europe were not then appropriate role models!

Revising history (2)

“Many of us are troubled by the present course of civilisation and are probing for ways out of the looming crisis. We must therefore ask about the nature of knowledge. What is knowledge? What is it that we are seeking to know? Are we content merely to know the names and numbers that explain the outer world, or are we seeking knowledge of a deeper reality? Are we satisfied with knowledge bound by time and space, or are we looking for eternal Truth?”

Comment: The above paragraph resonates with me. As a boy, I was curious about this question: How do we know what we know? More recently, as my WordPress posts will confirm, I am pre-occupied with this question: How could we investigate the non-material realm which is clearly an integral component of Earthly existence? My exposure to the domain of spirits and clairvoyance (refer my earlier posts) and my understanding of the limitation of the scientific method lead me to follow the guidance offered by books such as ‘In search of the cradle of civilisation’ by Feuerstein, Kak, and Frawley. Extracts from this book continue.

“We are looking for a deeper meaning and awareness than the factual mind can produce.”

“According to the Vedic view there are two levels of knowledge: The knowledge of the practical world of name, form, and appearance; and the knowledge of the ultimate, nameless, formless, infinite, and eternal Reality. There are certain fundamental questions that we all ask at some point in our lives. What is the Divine? What in us, if anything, transcends death? What is the origin of the Cosmos? Such questions cannot be answered by a knowledge that relies solely on name and form or time and space.”

“There can be little doubt that ancient humanity was more concerned with spiritual realities than we are.”

“In fact, all worship and prayer can be regarded as means of accessing the fundamental Reality that transcends ordinary ways of knowing.”

“Today we are in need of a philosophy, science and spirituality that are deep and broad enough to accommodate the emerging global civilisation. … … we inevitably are led back to considering, as did our ancestors, the infinite, eternal, impartite Reality. The reason for this is that only in that which has no boundaries can there be the ground for integrating all the diverse aspects of human creativity. This brings us face to face with the need to create a global spirituality that transcends all parochial religious modes of knowledge and experience.”

“As Carl Gustav Jung noted, ‘Man is never helped in his suffering by what he thinks for himself, but only by revelations of a wisdom greater than his own. It is this which lifts him out of his distress.’ This insight has more than personal relevance. It holds true of us collectively as well.”

“There are many spiritual teachings and traditions upon whose experience and wisdom we can call in our effort to create a global spiritual ‘science’ that steps beyond the limitations inherent in specific paths but that also does not seek to merely replace them or diminish their practical significance and value for spiritual seekers.”

“It would appear that none of the world’s extant traditions are as old and comprehensive as the Vedic-Hindu tradition. It is so embracing that it seems to contain all the different approaches to the Divine, or ultimate Reality, found in other traditions. Every spiritual means – from simple devotional surrender to complex visualisations to postural variation – has been systematically explored in this great tradition.”

“The Vedas embody what has been referred to as the perennial philosophy at its purest and noblest. … … Aldous Huxley, in his book ‘The Perennial Philosophy, explained: ‘The perennial philosophy is the metaphysic that recognises a divine Reality substantial to the world of things and lives and minds; the psychology that finds in the soul something similar to, or identical with, divine Reality; the ethic that places man’s final end in the knowledge of the immanent and transcendent Ground of all being.’”

Food for thought?

Revising history (1)

“Our re-examination of the early history of India, the land of the sages and seer-bards, has led to a view of ancient times that is radically different from text-book versions. This revised history even challenges our ideas about humanity and ultimately about the reality we live in.”

“ … we are now able, and indeed obliged, to question the foundations of our present civilisation. How advanced or enlightened really is our current post-industrial civilisation?”

“… are we in danger of destroying ourselves because the prime values of our society are out of sync with the laws of life?”

“We tend to feel superior to whatever and whomever has preceded us. This is captured in the idea of progress, which has governed Western thought for the past two hundred years.”

“Carl Gustav Jung stated that ‘ modern man has suffered an almost fatal shock, psychologically speaking, and as a result has fallen into profound uncertainty.’ This confusion is evident in the countless problems that vex out world, some of which are seemingly insurmountable, such as the unabated devastation of our environment caused by a runaway technology whose only purpose appears to be to stimulate the consumption of goods.”

“Though part of the world is enjoying un-paralleled material abundance, the majority of humanity is still forced to live at a subsistence level. In fact, a hundred million people are starving to death every year.”

“The psychological path of the so-called developed world has frequently been called into question, and its dis-ease is rapidly spreading over the entire planet.”

“Religious traditions are faltering under the onslaught of secularism, cynicism, and a general hopelessness.” … … “Yet it would be wrong to say that there have been no positive developments at all, or that there are no glimmers of hope on the horizon.” … … “If science and technology have triggered a multitude of problems, they are also helping us to free ourselves from the limiting concepts of nation, race, religion, and culture that previously divided mankind.”

“Our contemporary problems of over-population, pollution, ozone depletion, dwindling of natural resources, threat of nuclear war, terrorism, and so forth are global problems and require that we tackle them together.”

“ British physicist Paul Davies inferred (from a finding in quantum physics) … that non-local connectedness is a general property of Nature. Thus what we do locally has an impact on the whole world.”

“… we can no longer regard the Western European view of world history as universal … … We must acknowledge the contribution to world history and world thought that has been made by the Hindus, Maya, American Indians, Brazilian forest tribes, black South Africans, and other ’minority’ or traditional groups. Their voice is our voice. To create a global culture we must recognise our global heritage.”

“This also means that we have to come to grips with the Eastern spiritual roots of Western humanity.”

(These are extracts from ‘In search of the cradle of civilisation’ by Feuerstein, Kak and Frawley)

(Comment: We need to accept that, through reincarnation – for which there is enough evidence – pride in our current culture, religion or tribe has to be set against the probability that we have belonged to other traditions over a series of lifetimes on Earth.)

 

The value of history

The examination of events which had occurred in the past, or are believed to have occurred, in (say) 5-year rolling cycles (a useful statistical approach) can, I believe, provide a more meaningful vista than a parade of individual events. To be adequately explanatory, one would also need to understand motivations.

That is, what were the triggers? A unilateral initiative or a reaction? The personal ambition of a leader? A tribal thrust reflecting historical memories, including rancour at past injustices? Tribo-religious greed for land, souls, and other resources? Expectations of gain? National stupidity? The economic forces at play? Or the imperatives of suvival?

A broader issue relates to leadership, whether in an offensive or defensive mode. Does a great leader arise from the prevailing circumstances or does a leader-in-the-making create the circumstances he or she needs? I am reminded of 2 female leaders in recent times – Mrs. Golda Meir of Israel and Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka. Then there were Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin. I believe that these ambitious leaders surfaced only because the flow of the political current was propitious. Ditto Adolf Hitler.

On the contrary, while I received a sound education under the colonial British in Malaya, my study of history was partly wasted on what I thought of as ducks and drakes. The ducks were the dukes, earls, et al of Britain. The drakes referred to were notables in Europe, eg. Charlemange, Loyala, and others.

It was only when, after the end of WW2, I read Harold Lasky and others of like mind, that I realised that taught history was totally irrelevant for an adequate understanding of humanity-on-the-hoof. Sundry tribes had been rushing here and there all over the world, including Europe; and tribal and (later) national boundaries were shifted freely.

Official history, or only some prevailing historical presentations, seem Eurocentric – and some of it truly foolish. For example, that the Greek (not Macedonian) Alexander the Great had conquered India. The Encyclopaedia Britannica had Hindu Indians praying to a range of gods, but there was no mention that these gods were only manifestations of the one and only Creator of mankind.

Then there was Muller who apparently could not accept that Hinduism is older than Judaism. There are others who cannot accept that learned Athenians and their philosophers may have learnt from Egyptians and Persians, whose civilisations also go back a long way.

In contrast, I found a series of books on history by Cambridge University about the origins of cultures all over the globe most educational.

We do need to know the long-term trends of significant events which have occurred over long periods of time, their motivations, and their consequences. I found Nehru’s ‘Glimpses of world history,’ which provide brief outlines (and their significance) of major trends throughout recorded history; Jacques Barzun’s ‘From Dawn to Decadence – 1500 to the present’; Martin Bernal’s ‘Black Athena: The Afroasiatic roots of classical civilisation’; Georg Feuerstein, Subhash Kak & David Frawley’s ‘In search of the cradle of civilisation’; Allan& Delair’s ‘Cataclysm: compelling evidence of a cosmic catastrophe in 9500 BC’; Stephen Oppenheimer’s ‘Out of Eden: the peopling of the world’; and sundry other authors of relevance, to be illuminating.

Since the past is embedded in the present, we do need to know how we were shaped. When in doubt, let us keep our minds open.

Did colonialism make Aborigines nomadic?

Was the Australian Aborigine made nomadic? A most illuminative book by Bruce Pascoe ‘Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident?’ suggests to me that British invaders of Australia, in their respective roles as explorers and settlers, forced the indigenes into a nomadic life. When the British drove away the Aboriginal people from their land by shooting or poisoning them (so it has been written), destroying their life chances, as well as their culture and lifestyle, where could the indigene go? How could they survive?

The imagined terra nullius of Australia and North America led to the despoliation of the First Nation peoples of these lands. They could not have been settled, could they? They had to be nomadic, owning no land!

The back cover of Pascoe’s book says: “Pascoe puts forward a compelling argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer label for pre-colonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing – behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag.”

Pascoe is quoted on the back cover thus: “If we look at the evidence presented to us by the explorers and explain to our children that Aboriginal people did build houses, did build dams, did sow, irrigate and till the land, did alter the course of rivers, did sew their clothes, and did construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity, then it is likely that we will admire and love our land all the more.”

A reviewer (Lisa Hill) wrote “In 156 pages, Pascoe has inverted almost everything I thought I knew about pre-colonial Australia. Importantly, he is not relying on oral history, which runs the risk of being too easily debunked; his sources are the journals of notable explorers and surveyors, of pastoralists and protectors. He quotes them verbatim, describing all the signs of a complete civilisation but viewed through the blinkered lens of appropriation and White superiority.

As a matter of interest, during a brief but bitter historiography war in Australia in recent times, a strident effort was made to play down oral history. Why? Without being tested through the adversarial processes of an Australian court, oral statements about the past could have no credibility. So, there go the Old Testament and any other artefacts of culture.

Pascoe’s work was preceded by the renowned Dr. Coombs. The following is an extract from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity’ Chapter 3 ‘To have a dream.’

“ A few years after the initial ‘discovery’ by Captain Cook, it was apparently known that the indigenes not only occupied the land and used it with economic purpose, but also (according to the highly respected Dr.Coombs) “… lived in clan or tribal groups, that each group had a homeland with known boundaries, and that they took their name from their district, and rarely moved outside it.” It was also known that they had, and applied, firm rules about trespass, kinship ties, marriage, child rearing and other matters, the hallmarks of an organised society; that they had a “habit of obedience” to their rulers and leaders, a hallmark of a political society; and that they had an ordered ceremonial life, reflecting the sharing of a spiritual vision, a hallmark of a civilisation. Apparently, they also had their own zodiac, which guided their activities. Their artistic records are also well known and respected.”

Sadly, government after government talked about ‘Bridging the gap,’ with no discernible improvement in the plight of their First Nation people (except for a handful of urban Aborigines, who seemed to have made good progress through personal effort). Quo vadis?

Evidence of earlier civilisations

How and why civilisations have come and gone led William Eigles (in ‘In defence of catastrophes’) to present the findings of Robert Schoch to explain past “planetary changes of the epochal kind.”

Schoch, in ‘Voices of the Rocks: A scientist looks at catastrophes and ancient civilisations’ (co-authored with Robert McNally) claims that “instead of evolution and cultural change being a gradual process over many millennia (the uniformitarian viewpoint), natural catastrophes such as earthquakes, floods, and extra-terrestrially sourced impacts (asteroids, comets, meteorites) have significantly and often abruptly altered the course of human civilisation (the catastrophist perspective).” He says “I just followed the evidence.”

Eigles: “Schoch’s personal work in re-dating the Sphinx to … 7000-5000 BCE time span … led him … to postulate the existence of sophisticated cultures far earlier than had been previously supposed.”

“Countering the claimed absence of evidence for any such notion, he cites some intriguing evidence of technical flint mining from 31,000 BCE; sophisticated Neolithic villages in Egypt dating to 8100 BCE; and, most recently, the astronomically aligned Napta megalith circle found in the Nubian Desert of the southern Sahara dating to 4500-4000 BCE. Remains of ancient sites elsewhere in the Near East, such as Jericho in Israel from 8300 BCE, and Aatal HAyAk in Anatolia, Turkey, from the seventh millennium BCE, serve to buttress his argument that peoples of even earlier antiquity possessed impressive organisational skills, technical knowledge, and engineering prowess.

Additional evidence exists outside Egypt – in the Americas and Europe – as well: in particular, the astronomically correlated painted imagery discovered on cave walls in Lascaux, France, which has been dated to ca.15,000 BCE – stunningly earlier still.”

This paradigm shift to catastrophism “… is based principally on the abrupt shifts in the fossil records of plant and animal communities in the earth that have been observed by various researchers, indicating relatively rapid mass extinctions of life on the surface of the planet at various points in the past (such as the disappearance of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous period sixty-five million years ago.”

In spite of research findings such as the above, there are those who keep asking “Where is the evidence?” One sceptic reportedly said that he did not believe that there could have been a civilisation more advanced than the present one. Yet, our technically-advanced civilisation cannot apparently build megalithic structures like those in various parts of the globe which have been left behind by earlier advanced civilisations.

I do wonder – how do we compare morally with our predecessors? Further, could the term civilisation be applied to modern humans, whose propensity for exploitative greed for power and wealth is well documented?

(Eigles’ article is included in ‘Forbidden History’ edited by Douglas Kenyon)