Extracts from Bernal’s ‘Black Athena’

“The main body of the book began with a description of the ways in which Classical, Hellenistic and later pagan Greeks from the 5th century BC to the 5th century AD saw their distant past. I attempted to trace their own vision of their ancestors’ having been civilised by Egyptian and Phoenician colonisation and the later influence of Greek study in Egypt.”

“… up to the 18th century, Egypt was seen as the fount of all ‘Gentile’ philosophy and learning, including that of the Greeks.”

“I went on to show how at the beginning of the 18th century the threat of Egyptian philosophy to Christianity became acute. … it was in opposition to this 18th-century notion of ‘reason’ on the part of the Egyptophils that the Greek ideal of sentiment and artistic perfection was developed.

Further, the development of Europocentrism and racism, with the colonial expansion over the same period, led to the fallacy that only people who lived in temperate climates – that is, Europeans – could really think. Thus, the Ancient Egyptians, who – though their colour was uncertain – lived in Africa, lost their positions as philosophers.”

“In this way, by the turn of the 18th century, the Greeks were not only considered to have been more sensitive and artistic than the Egyptians but they were now seen as the better philosophers, and indeed as the founders of philosophy.”

“The same period also saw the Greek War of Independence, which united all Europeans against the traditional Islamic enemies from Asia and Africa. This war … completed the already powerful image of Greece as the epitome of Europe. The Ancient Greeks were now seen as perfect, and as having transcended the laws of history and language.”

“With the intensification of racism in the 19th century there was increasing dislike of the Egyptians, who were no longer seen as the cultural ancestors of Greece but as fundamentally alien.”

“The status of Egypt fell with the rise of racism in the 1820s; that of the Phoenicians declined with the rise of racial anti-Semitism in the 1880s … by the Second World War, it had been firmly established that Greece had not significantly borrowed culturally or linguistically from Egypt and Phoenicia and that the legends of colonisation were charming absurdities, as were the stories of the Greek wise men having studied in Egypt.”

(Comment: Historiography, being subject to politics, prejudice, and pride, results in history being a movable feast. Then, we have the staunch defenders of the prevailing paradigm, the status quo.

We also have modern regurgitators of historical pap. For example, there seem to be Indian writers who, like Eurocentric British writers, continue to refer to the Aryan invasion of their territory – a proven non-existent event.

Westernised Asians, whether former colonial subjects or not, and who are not aware of the writing of their own people, are likely to be misled by racist bias by white supremacists camouflaged as reporting or even learning. )


The fabrication of Ancient Greece

Over the years, I have read that:

• Greece was established as a nation only in the 1980s
• Its first king was a Dane
• Way back in time, Athens had been established by Egyptians
• At some point in time, half of the population of Athens had been Egyptians
• Many Greeks (Greek-speaking people) had studied in Egypt
• Pythagoras, in particular, had studied in Egypt for 8 years
• Egyptian gods had been worshipped by the Greeks in their Egyptian names
• The Phoenicians (who were Semites from the Levant) had also contributed to the development of Greek culture
• The rise of European colonialism then led to a claim that no ‘black’ people had contributed to the development of Western (including Greek) cultures
• The then leaders of Christianity also denigrated the role of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Persia, all with durable cultures, in the civilisation of mankind in the Aegean and the Middle East; especially that Egyptian gods had been revered in Greece in their Egyptian names
• European colonialism, having proven its ability to conquer and damage (if not destroy) ‘native’ cultures all over the world, began to assert the genetic superiority of the ‘white race’ (whatever that is) over all other ‘races.’
• Confronted with the longevity of the advanced civilisations of India and China, certain European scholars dated the People of the Book (the followers of Judaism) as historically earlier than these Asian cultures.
• Greece then became the intellectual ancestor of Western colonial nations (presumably the Greeks were adequately white in colour).

The title of this post was borrowed by me from the book ‘Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilisation’ by Prof. Martin Bernal, a multi-disciplinary scholar.

It seems to me that Greece’s rise in status was incidental to the power-grab by that terrible combination of authoritarian Christianity and the rapacity of half a dozen small nations in Western Europe.

Where lies the truth – of what had been done to whom, for whom, and by whom? Refer my posts ‘Reviews of Bernal’s Black Athena’ and ‘Extracts from Martin Bernal’s Black Athena.’


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)


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.