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. )

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Reviews of Bernal’s ‘Black Athena’

“How did the wise Egyptians, admired until the Enlightenment as the friends of philosophy, religion and mathematics, become transferred into a dead and death-loving people incapable of abstract thought, who built the pyramids by some kind of accident?” (Margaret Drabble, ‘Sunday Times’)

“The value of the book lies in his massive and meticulous demonstration of how suddenly views of the past are moulded (and repeatedly modified) by the changing political environment in which scholars pass their lives.” (London Review of Books)

“… a swashbuckling foray into the very heart of racist, Eurocentric historiography. He shows a thorough grasp of every relevant discipline and is formidably well read … and has at his fingertips the results of all the latest scholarly research in the diverse fields he has mastered …” (City Limits)

“Racism made it intolerable that Hellenism could owe anything to Africa … The political purpose of ‘Black Athena’ is … to lessen European arrogance …” (Times Higher Educational Supplement)

(Comment: Bernal is a very impressive scholar. Relevant extracts will be presented in another post. Racism underpinned the glorification of the Greeks by Eurocentric writers from the 18th century.)

Corruption galore

Corruption seems to be a very human attribute, evident all over the globe. Yet, is it not strange that the majority of people I have met are not in the least interested in taking advantage of their position to acquire wealth or possessions? Against that, those who are corrupt include (everywhere) very rich or very powerful people enjoying a high lifestyle. If that does not indicate extraordinary greed, what does?

The latest corrupt behaviour in Australia I have read about involves some unlawful arrivals claiming asylum because they are gay, that is, homosexual. Migration agents are reportedly involved; how so? Are pro bono lawyers involved too? Media reports are somewhat opaque about such matters. It is, however, interesting to read about the preparations made by some asylum seekers to convince decision makers that they are practising homosexuals.

Since these applicants are already in Australia, but are not allowed to work for a living, who feeds and houses them? Australian charities? Do members of their tribal community provide material support? Do their supporters among the host-nation population who are not tribally-linked provide necessary sustenance?

How did these applicants get into the country? Unlawfully? Or, by not being honest when applying for a visitor-visa?

Corruption in Australia is petty compared to the grand larceny reportedly to be found in many countries. Yet, would it not be sensible to attempt to close the holes now available through faulty policies or lax administration? The financial cost to the nation now must be ridiculously high.

Authority and religion are incompatible

I grew up in a non-authoritarian religious environment. As ritualistic Hindus, my family attended our Pilleyar (Ganesh) temple frequently; and we prayed each evening before dinner. Our priests were facilitative, not authoritative. As a Seeker, but a loner, I did not seek a guru to whom I would be expected to give total loyalty, when I sought to proceed from the ritualistic path to the metaphysical path. I sought guidance without control.

When I arrived in Australia, I found substantial priestly control in one Christian sect. This control seemed to be based upon bestowed authority. I wondered why authority and control were considered necessary in any religion. Was not the responsibility of any priesthood to assist their believers to reach out to God without any duress? I noticed that authority was also used to keep separate parishioners away from fellow-Christians in other sects. Other religions were clearly taboo. Fortunately for society and mankind, this control is waning – through withdrawal.

As older religion, an Asian one, based on feudalism and authority, is being destroyed for political purposes. Yet its humanistic philosophy has enriched and guided many people in the West. The behaviour of some traditional followers, and the reported utterances of a couple of their regional leaders, however, contradict the core beliefs of that religion. Of course, feudalistic authoritarianism and religious ideology have been shown throughout the history of mankind to be incompatible.

Unacceptable recent behaviour of priests in the West is now well-documented. Institutionally-asserted authority and its delegation to priests will, I fear, diminish the role of religions. Mankind does need religious faith.

Yet, it may be better for each one of us, no matter how great our need for spiritual succour, to seek communion with our Creator at a personal level. I certainly do not need an intermediary, even a non-authoritarian one.

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)

 

Aggrandising colonialism’s cultural ancestors

Was it not the Scottish Enlightenment (centred on Edinburgh University) which offered intellectual enlightenment to the English? Did that widened understanding of matters significant seep into the psyche of the buccaneers of the East India Company and, later, into the policies of the British rulers of India? Probably not! Were not the latter imbued with the objective of enabling their ‘natives’ to achieve a speedier access to Nirvana through being clutched to the bosom of Christ, while continuing with their own role as shopkeepers?

When scholastic writings by white supremacists did not convince subject peoples that the ‘white race’ was genetically (inherently) superior to all other ‘races,’ the British colonial mind seems to have sought appropriate intellectual and militaristic forebears in continental Europe.

Fortunately, there were the philosophers of Athens, who were not pre-occupied with the semantics of the Church; Macedonian Alexander (the Great), who allegedly introduced everything Greek to all the tribes on the way to the Indian sub-continent, was also available.

Two further developments aided the search for an appropriate cultural ancestor. European scholars of Indian philosophy were cleverly able to date Indic writings to no further back in time than about 1500BC. This allowed Abraham and his people to establish Judeo-Christianity as the religious ancestor of Europeans, with priority over Hinduism.

Then came the acolytes of these scholars, who claimed with great certitude that no ‘black peoples’ had contributed in any substantive manner to human civilisation. These black people were presumably the Egyptians, Sumerians, Persians and Indians, and anyone else with a nicer skin colour than (coppery) white. Strangely, the Mediterranean cultural ancestor and the Levantine religious ancestor could not have possessed that superior white colour!

I now ask these two questions. Who taught Heraclitus that ‘It is all fire up there’ (or words to that effect)? An unknown Indian whose name is not recorded in a text book allegedly reached that conclusion thousands of years before.

Second question: Did not the Bible draw liberally upon Sumerian writings, while the Vedas of the Indic people have been dated, through known planetary configurations, back to about 7,000 BC?

After the modern Western neo-colonials have self-destroyed themselves, or hopefully matured morally, could we recognise that we human beings are all one species? Could we also accept that each one of us will probably have different religio-cultural ancestors in each life on Earth?

The history of nations can be confusing

My country of birth was Malaya, which included Singapore. Today, Malaysia excludes Singapore but includes Sabah, a slice of Borneo. Malaysia is now a Muslim Malay nation, regardless of the substantial development contributions by the elders of the multi-ethnic Asian communities living there.

My father was born in Jaffna, an independent Hindu Tamil territory, in colonial Ceylon. Now, Buddhist Sinhalese control the whole island (thanks to the colonial British), which was re-named Sri Lanka.

India was a conglomeration of independent principalities ruled by the Muslim Mughals from Central Asia for centuries. The Mughal rulers were the descendants of Genghis Khan of Mongolia. Genghis was the ruler of the largest contiguous empire ever. Since Alexander and Constantine are known as ‘the Great,’ Genghis could fairly be described as ‘the Greatest.’

The British then united almost all of the principalities into the nation known as India. Then, in an act (which one of my elders described as an act of bastardry), Pakistan, a Muslim nation in 2 widely separated segments, was created. An unnecessary division of a co-existing people led to inhumane consequences. The religio-political tension between these nations may delight the ex-colonials. Then, Bangladesh was hived off. Who benefited from the division of the sub-continent into 3 nations, since Muslims live as equals, and individuals have risen to power, in modern India?

Need or greed would have led to various tribes entering the lands of other tribes in Asia. Over time, boundaries became flexible, and some tribes apparently merged. No boundary seemed to be durable. What is known about these tribes? That depends upon whether their names are in Persian, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Indian, Greek, or some other languages. In the apparent absence of indigenous records, one is limited to the claims of the colonisers or invaders.

have read that most of the tribes named in history are known by only their languages; and that ethnography is mute. Bias, even in academic circles, is not unknown, hitherto influenced essentially by Eurocentrism (the residue of colonialism). For example, an economic historian recently claimed that the major civilisational developments of mankind arose in Eurasia!

Contradictorily, and amusingly, there is apparently a school of historical thought which claims that no ‘black’ people could have contributed to the origins of civilisation. There go the ancient Indians, Egyptians, Mesopotamians (especially the Sumerians), Persians, and other peoples outside Europe. History based on where coins have been found is obviously challengeable. Ubiquitous traders respect no politico-cultural boundaries. They spread philosophy, social customs, coinage and goods.

Those who claim Athens as the font of new knowledge for Europe are challenged by the claim that Athens was established by Egypt; and that, at one time, 50% of Athenians were Egyptians, with many Athenians (such as Pythagoras) studying for years in Egypt.

We cannot all be leading nations, even in history. If, in each life, we are born into different cultures, hopefully – in time – our souls may intuitively guide us to the realisation that difference is insignificant in impact when we are all connected to one another in time and space.