Did China spark the Italian Renaissance? (Part 1)

“In 1434 a sophisticated Chinese delegation visited Italy. After that date the authority of Aristotle and Ptolemy was overturned, and Chinese knowledge ignited the work of geniuses such as da Vinci, Copernicus and Galileo. China’s influence sparked the Renaissance. The course of Western civilisation was changed forever.

Following on the bestselling 1421, Gavin Menzies’ controversial new book 1434 charts the final voyage of the Imperial Chinese fleet. His astonishing discoveries about China’s legacy in Europe rewrite the history of our modern world.”

The above are from the back cover of ‘1434: The year a magnificient Chinese fleet sailed to Italy and ignited the Renaissance.’

Credible? A Western historian is on record saying that he had difficulty suspending his misbeliefs about Menzies’ tentative conclusions. About what? The gifts of new knowledge to the then Pope from the Emperor of China delivered by Admiral Cheng Ho (Zheng He); and how the Renaissance arose from the spread if this high-value knowledge.

Anyone who had read the book will be impressed by the vast scope of Menzies’ investigations. His details about the principal players in this drama, what they did or contribute, and their relationships with one another are incredible. So much research!

Menzies is a former mariner, who “visited 120 countries, over 900 museums and libraries, and every major sea port of the later Middle Ages” in the course of researching his previous book ‘1421.’ Through the massive investigations by his research teams into the pathways the contribution by China seem to have led to the Renaissance in Italy, Menzies has again drawn upon the work of many earlier reputable researchers and relevant documents in major libraries.

Disbelief and probable Eurocentrism are one side of the coin. The other side requires demonstrating an alternative explanation for Italy’s sudden Renaissance in the realm of the technologies, maps, art, etc., etc. which Menzies refers to.

Is there any value in just asking “Where’s the evidence?” That allegedly happened when some historians in Australia examined ‘1421: The year China discovered the world.’ Most of the evidence is obviously in China. Go look!

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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.

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)

Intimations about the Afterlife

I had a dream recently. I woke up at the conclusion of the dream, wondering whether it followed my recent speculations about the Afterlife. As a metaphysical Hindu, through some in-depth reading and careful analysis, I accept the probability of the existence of my soul, the reincarnation process, and a re-charging domain I conceive as the Afterlife.

The concept of an Afterlife is very challenging. Would insubstantial soul-entities, the spirits of former Earthlings, need a home of substance? But then I cannot conceive of an insubstantial place where a goodly number of soul-entities could sojourn. However, I realise that at age 89 I can expect to have my curiosity satisfied very soon.

Since I had been advised by a casual clairvoyant (or seer) to listen to my subconscious for messages from my Spirit Guide, I wonder if my dream was more than wishful thinking. Living in a flat country whose highest mountain is a mere pimple, whose rivers do not seem to flow like those in New Zealand, and whose dry terrain does not attract much rain (except for sudden troubling downpours occasionally), my subconscious may be seeking to compensate for this deprivation by Nature.

In my dream, I was on a lush mountain top, with a raging river below on one side and a cliff on the other – which allowed me to see the distant sea and a rocky shore. It was raining, but I do not remember getting wet. I heard voices, yet neither saw nor met anyone. It was as if we were all avoiding one another. In the morning, I again remembered this compensatory dream. After all, had I not been born and bred in a lush tropical terrain? Had I not enjoyed the years I had lived there?

Then, much to my great surprise, during my sleep a few nights later, I had a thought flitting through my mind. Intuitively, I felt that spirits created their own personal environments in the Afterlife. Was that message from my Spirit Guide? As a recluse of many years, I am attracted to this possibility.

Indubitably, the conceptual vista of my soul as a time-traveller, traversing countries and cultures through the occupation of a long series of human bodies, and living (with all its pains and pleasures), and learning while necessarily adapting to a new home, and ultimately returning to The Source morally purified is spiritually satisfying. As ever, it is the journey (in spite of great suffering on the way) which matters, not the arrival Home.

Evidence of life after Earthly death

My personal evidence is as follows. After reading a large compendium providing an up-to-date summary of findings in the paranormal realm, I went to consult a clairvoyant. He had been recommended to me. I wanted to ask him (hereafter referred as C) how he went about his business.

At the doorway to his consulting room, C greeted me thus: “I have the spirit of your uncle with me. Will you accept him?” I was totally flummoxed. Since I had 3 uncles, and C could see the spirit, I had him describe the spirit. His description covered height, skin colour, clothing, and footwear.

Since he was obviously my no. 1 uncle, the oldest in his family, I naturally accepted him. He had also been the second-most important man in my life (after my father). But, as I could not see him, and as he communicated silently with C, I had to rely upon C to know what Uncle said.

I was told that Uncle had been sent by ‘higher beings’ to advise me, as he was “the one I was most likely to accept.” What Uncle said to C indicated that he knew what happened to my life after his death; he even described the cabin bag that I had brought to Australia from Singapore. He referred to his sister, my mother, in a tone of reminiscence; and advised me about my spiritual progress. Near the end of an hour-long session, he responded to a comment that I had made to C. That meant that he could hear what I had said. Since he could see C, I assumed that he could see me too.

It is undeniable that Uncle had retained his mind and his memories after his death; that he could communicate with C; that he see and hear me; that he could process my message and respond to it as if he had a brain as well; and that he could project himself in and out of the material realm at will.

An insubstantial entity had displayed his ability to relate to the realm of substance from which he had departed, using organs of vision, hearing, thought, and memory – which are Earthly facilities. How? All these organs had been cremated with the rest of his body years before.

What is significant is that C provided a comparable service to many others, including 2 of my friends. They confirmed to me that their experiences with the spirit realm through C‘s skills were comparable to mine.

To the professional intransigent sceptic I say this. It is pure folly to proclaim that something is not, or cannot be, without being able to deny real experiences of fellow-humans in a substantive manner. Think about those who claim that God is not, but without being able to prove that assertion.

C is clearly able to contact the spirit realm. He has told me that he obtains advice from the spirit realm through his own Spirit Guide before certain consultations. I suspect that, although he had no previous contact with me, he had sought advice about me. For that I am grateful.

I now have evidence that life on Earth and in what I refer to as the Afterlife has meaning. My Hindu religio-cultural inheritance in this life, suggestive of a continuity of Earthly life through many incarnations, should sustain me through alternative cultural milieus through time.

Following that consultation, I began to write about what Uncle had suggested – “to seek to contribute to building a bridge from where you came to where you are”; to wit, migrant integration into the nation of choice. My books are available as inexpensive ebooks at amazon.com (USA), and its international affiliates (Canada, UK, Australia, France and Germany).

Since that life-changing experience through meeting Uncle, I have had certain other exposures to spirits. I believe these to be spiritually uplifting.

Spontaneous past-life recall by children

“Ian Stevenson, from the Department of Parapsychology of the University of Virginia, is the international authority in the area of child case research. He has collected about 2,000 cases of apparent past-life recall. Of these he has examined more than 200 cases exhaustively. He has reported his findings in books and numerous articles. In northern India he examined 105 cases, in Sri Lanka 80, and a few dozen in Turkey, Lebanon, Alaska, Thailand and Burma.”

“Research into child cases may be compared with legal investigations. It is important to get as many precise and independent testimonies as possible. If a child has never been near the place where the past person lived, and has not met any people from there, it is possible to experiment on the spot.” … …

“Stevenson , who now has data on more than 2,000 cases, takes careful account of all alternative explanations of apparent recollection. … His opponents are less informed.”

These extracts are from ‘Exploring Reincarnation’ by Hans TenDam. Colin Wilson, a renowned writer on parapsychology, describes it as “ … the great definitive work on reincarnation.” “… he has written not as a believer, but as a detached observer …”

TenDam also states “In the cases Stevenson examined, the intermission between death in the previous life and birth in the new life is usually between 1 and 4 years. An intermission of more than 12 years hardly occurs. Between 25 and 75 percent of the past lives which children remember can be identified and verified, usually because the deceased person’s family is still alive. He found changes in sex in 6 to 16 percent of his cases. This differs according to region.”

Spontaneous recollection by little children can differ “… greatly in precision and detail, similar to normal recollection.” Acceptance by their families would reflect prevailing religious and cultural values. Christians would be the least likely to listen to a child talking about a past life. The implications for the existence of souls and a reincarnation process would not be consistent with God’s Will, as interpreted by His intermediary, the priest.

Staunch Christians, especially recent converts, are likely to be professionally sceptical about reincarnation, in spite of all the evidence for its existence. They would “… expect the process to exhibit certain recurring patterns or rules … expect indicators of the length of time between one life and the next ; also the sort of distances the soul or consciousness may travel in order to be reincarnated …” (Ian Wilson). Cultural differences are also apparently not allowed in this clockwork universe. As has been reported repeatedly, even professional scientists can reject findings (reached through strict research) which challenge the prevailing paradigm.

Those of us who have had personal experiences of life after death or have partners or friends similarly involved, simply ignore those who cannot accept reality. There is life after Earthly death.

Is reincarnation not real?

Many sceptics claim that there is no reliable evidence for the reincarnation process. However, there are many real experiences which say otherwise. One strand comes from reliable professional research on volunteered (that is, spontaneously uttered) past-life memories of very young children – usually aged between 3 and 5 (up to 7). Then there are my experiences; these I am unable to deny, although I tend to be a sceptic by nature. (I am not gullible.)

As well, there are tribal beliefs in every continent which accept the reincarnation process in one form or another. Most of the major Western religions also seem implicitly to accept the possibility of reincarnation (refer the New Testament); whereas the Eastern (Asian) religions accept reincarnation. The oldest version – in Hinduism – is based on the soul going through many Earthly lives on a path of moral purification.

The scientific method (based on the null hypothesis), has no role to play in this matter. How could it be applied? Any institutional religion based on authority and rigid control can have little credibility on this issue. I have read that, against the prevailing background of many cultures in the world holding a belief of some sort in reincarnation, the early Christian Church decided that control of the lives of its followers necessitated the rejection of reincarnation.

Indeed, reincarnation, with its cause-and-effect trajectory, can, according to Colin Wilson (a renowned writer on paranormal phenomena), be seen as reflecting free will. During each life, through free will, one could shape one’s future life. Otherwise, the reincarnation process is meaningless; that is, without purpose or direction. Unlike the early Church’s intention to interpret God’s Will, human free will may be less dependent on the Will of God or spirits.

Colin Wilson also refers to Hans TenDam’s book ‘Exploring Reincarnation’ as the great definite work on reincarnation. “ … he has written, not as a believer, but as a detached observer …” The back cover of the book (1990) states “Unlike some writers in the field, Hans TenDam examines, freely and frankly, the range of explanations of past-life recall – the many different hypotheses about body and soul. None fits the evidence, he concludes, as well as reincarnation.”

The most persuasive of the evidence for the reality of reincarnation comes from the extended and substantial work of Dr. Ian Stevenson. According to the great debunker Ian Wilson (refer ‘The After-Death Experience’), “Dr. Stevenson’s reports … are prodigiously detailed and, as such, undeniably represent the most authoritative and scientific approach supportive of belief in reincarnation available in any language.”

Not surprisingly, some of the professional debunkers did embark upon some strange means of studying the issue. One approach was to weigh a body before and after death to see if the alleged soul had weight! I am reminded of those scientists who measured the skulls and weighed the brains of Australia’s Aborigines: was that to see if they were fauna?

There will also be researchers who, being human and thereby holding religious views, cannot accept explanations arising from studies which challenge that religious position.

Here is what TenDam has to say in his extraordinary book.
“So a great many people belief in reincarnation. Why? The majority undoubtedly because they have been brought up to believe in it. But in the final analysis, belief is based on experiences, reflections, and arguments that convince people of its plausibility.”

“People having apparent memories of their own past lives is an area of experience like any other. We need neither doubt that these experiences are what they profess to be, nor believe that they are beyond sober analysis and criticism. I can easily accept past-life recall, because I have had such experiences myself, and have hundreds of times observed other people having them, but I don’t take them for gospel.”

I too have had intimations of an immediate past life, supported by a spontaneous vision by a seer; yet, I am far from convinced. But I have no doubt that life continues after Earthly death; the spirit realm provided the evidence.