Friday, July 25, 2008

Ancient Knowledge in the New World

Back to this side of the world, one can see the remains of magnificent pyramids whose builders, the old Mayas, developed so accurate a calendar that it established the year of 365.2422 days – a lot more precise than the Julian of 365.2500 and even the Gregorian of 365.2425 days, in use until now. The Mayas also developed a numbering system based on the position of values, whose use would only become general in Europe from the Fifteenth Century onwards, and which implied the conception and use of zero.

In this connection, it has become widely known that the Mayan calendar was based on the so-called Long Count, whose starting point was established in about 3114 BC and was supposed to end about 5,125 years later, i.e. in 2012 AD approximately. Further elaborations about this striking feature can be seen in “About Year 2012”.

As to the Toltecs and Aztecs, great builders of pyramids, and the mysterious, much older Teotihuacans and Olmecs, I have already mentioned that they apparently were the first to develop a sophisticated astronomy and an accurate calendar; probably as accurate as that of the Incas, which was altogether astronomical and agricultural and so sophisticated, that it included the biological cycles of some plants and animals. Also, I need not say that all these cultures determined with utmost precision the dates of the equinoxes and solstices; this was made, for example, in the South of Peru, by the Pre-Inca compound which features the mysterious “lines of Nazca”, regarded as the world’s largest astronomical calendar, and the Inca monolith known as Intihuatana (“the stone that ties up the Sun”), a clock or astronomical instrument that stands out at the highest point of the citadel of Machu Picchu, near Cusco.

Other witnesses of the great advances made all over the world from remote times can be seen, even today, in the ruins of ancient cities whose existence was legendary or unknown, like Mohenho–Daro and Harappa, in India, so advanced that their streets had canalizations and their houses bathrooms, and a meaningful fact: their inhabitants apparently did not wear any offensive weapons. Here too, mysterious engraved inscriptions were found that even now can be seen in Mesopotamia where, by the way, from a deep Sumerian layer pertaining to 3000 BC or before, a statuette of Shiva meditating in Yogic stance – identical to another found in the ruins of the Mohenho–daro citadel, obviously indicating that it was made before that date – was unearthed. These findings not only suggest that already in remote times there were relationships among civilizations, but also – as further claimed by some people – that the Sumerian civilization originated in that city–state, which in fact would be a lot older than is officially accepted.

There even are traces of a vast civilization that would have encompassed the whole North of Europe, from Ireland and Britain to the Scandinavian countries, and which would date back from as early as 9000 BC. It is very possible that the builders of the great stone observatories of Stonehenge in England and Carnac in France, as well as the gigantic zodiacal circle of Glastonbury, in England, of 30 miles in circumference, which would date back from 3000 BC, came from it. Modern analysis has shown that such builders, on top of possessing a most advanced astronomical knowledge, were great geometers who, for example, knew that a triangle whose sides are proportional to 3, 4 and 5 will always contain a right angle, a property whose discovery is attributed to Pythagoras (the author of the famous theorem) but which, in all justice, should be attributed to them; in like manner, it is known that by means of an approach that not for being simple was less advanced, they could draw huge, almost perfect circles.

From these and other enigmatic vestiges, some authors have concluded that some of the posterior cultures, like the Sumerian and Egyptian in the Old World, and the Mayan and Aztec in the New, were in their respective prosperous times, and after the disappearance of some technological culture about which nothing is known at present, climbing down, and not up, the world’s civilization ladder. This notion has been reinforced by the discovery of certain documents, including the famous map of Piri–Reis, with characteristics of 12,000 – 13,000 years ago: the Antarctic coast free of ice, rivers and mountains on the Queen Maud Land, and an ocean level lower than it is currently; the map of Zenon, which shows Greenland free of ice such as it was 14,000 years ago; that of Hadji Hamed, with the land bridge of the Ice Age between Alaska and Siberia visible; that of Finaens, showing the Sea of Ross as it was 6,000 years ago, etc – and also by references to remote cataclysms which, upon extinguishing whole cities, even civilizations, would have caused a cultural reversal to various degrees of barbarianism. Such would be the case, for example, of the biblical Flood, which would have to be placed between 8000 and 10000 BC, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, which is supposed to have occurred around 3000 BC, to mention but two of the better-known examples, capable to create conditions like the ones depicted. After that there would have come a slow, painful material progress of mankind toward present-day civilization, which does not remember a thing about the primordial civilization, and whose decline and imminent disappearance are predicted in turn by many scholars. (To be continued.)

(First published on Qassia 24 Jul 2008)

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Ancient Knowledge in the Old World

Against the common objection that ancient societies hardly possessed a rudimentary technical knowledge, there is increasing evidence that they actually had such advanced skills in mathematics and astronomy that only recently, after long and dark millennia, have been equaled or improved.

Such is the case, for instance, of India, whose knowledge in astronomy was so advanced that it became the ultimate goal for wisdom seekers. A very old jyotisha, Brahma–gupta, deals among others issues with such topics as the motion of the planets around the Sun, the ecliptic obliquity, the spherical shape of the Earth, the light reflected from the Moon, the Earth revolution on its axis, the presence of stars in the Milky Way, the law of gravitation – all of which would not see the light in Europe until the time of Copernicus and Newton.

In turn, Surya–siddhanta informs us that the Earth, a globe that moves through space, has a diameter length equivalent to 12,617 present-day kilometers – an extent fairly approximate to the one calculated in our days.

Now, while there exist most advanced conceptions of the space–time dislocation and the current expansion of the Universe, all data pertaining to the period of precession of the equinoxes seem to have been disguised by means of a most peculiar symbolic language, even though a careful inspection of certain texts – for example, Bhagavata Purana 5, 21:4 – will let discern its length approximately. Anyway, I have already said that it was probably in India where Hipparcus obtained his knowledge of this phenomenon, in the same way that Aristarchus of Samos received a much less sophisticated one but which scandalized his generation, even though it was shared by other philosophers like Zenon of Elea, Anaxagoras and Democritus: that of the sphericity of the Earth and its orbiting, together with all the other planets, around the Sun.

As to Democritus, the origin of his famous atomistic theory will very likely have to be found also in India, in the so-called Vaisheshika philosophic system of the legendary sage Kanada.

But long before the Greeks themselves emerged to history, it seems all this, or little less, was known in ancient Egypt. A manuscript by one Abdul Hassan Ma’sudi, preserved in the Oxford Bodleian Library, recounts for example that «Surid, king of Egypt before the great Flood, ordered the building of the pyramids and had his priests deposit the knowledge of sciences in them»; and that «he had the data pertaining to the spheres and their positions put into the biggest one, in order to perpetuate them».

In this connection, it is a proven fact that the pyramid of Kheops contained both the knowledge of the value of pi – as given by the sum of its four sides divided into the double of its height – and the golden ratio, 1.618 – obtained by dividing the surface of its base into the lateral surface and the surface of this one into the total surface – plus many other data like the mean distance from the Sun, etcetera.

In addition, eclipses were predicted, and an agricultural calendar was developed that was so advanced, that it announced the exact time of the Nile inundations. All this made Egypt, like India, the ultimate goal of all seekers for knowledge. According to Diogenes Laertius, it was here that the Greek philosophers Thales and Democritus learned geometry and astronomy, and for his part Porphyry, in his Life of Pythagoras, insists on an Egyptian origin of Thales’ ideas and, therefore, of those of Pythagoras. As to the latter, it seems his famous theorem was of common use in Egypt as early as 2500 BC.

However, it surely was in Babylon, according to recent studies, where the said theorem was known not only in its practical use but also in its theoretical formulation as early as 2000 BC, and there even is a possibility that this knowledge dates back from the old Sumerians, which in fact would place it in prehistoric times. Be it as it may, it is said that the old Babylonians invented the circle divided into 360 degrees, although this “invention” seems to have been made in many places and at different times. What is sure is, like the Egyptians, the Babylonians established an accurate agricultural calendar that not only predicted floods but also eclipses, all of which made Babylon, like Egypt and India, a great culture-radiating center.

As to China, a single example will suffice to show the extent of the advance it reached from old in the area of astronomy: An archaic manuscript describes, in the peculiar Chinese poetic stile, a “inharmonic” meeting of the Sun and Moon in Fang, a portion of the ski of China which would correspond to four stars in the Scorpio constellation. Well, calculations made by contemporary astronomers have revealed that this eclipse did occur on the 22nd October of 2137 BC – more than 4000 years ago! (To be continued.)

(First published on Qassia 11 Jul 2008)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The universality of esoteric knowledge

Following the works of some scholars, I have already suggested that the many correlations and analogies among diverse traditions in the matter of ages and cycles, as well as the universality of certain esoteric knowledge, can only be explained if a common origin is admitted for them all; and in other posts I have reviewed the countless coincidences among different traditions, all of them elements whose study, along with the study of certain archetypical universal forms, might help us trace back such origin.

So continuing our quest, which ideally should take us back to the primeval origin of the doctrine, in this post and the next we will deal with the quaternary cycle, considerably more frequent and of an eminently temporal nature – although it also shows spatial correlations, basically with the four cardinal points. Omnipresent in our study, its main feature is its variable length. In effect, it is a cycle that appears in all orders of existence, from the total universal manifestation to those of any historical peoples or societies, each with their own chronology and their own starting date.

One of the better known examples of these particular applications is the famous dream interpreted by the prophet Daniel (2, 1 ff), which he refers to four civilizations that he identifies with the traditional ages of Gold, Silver, Bronze and Iron (they are actually five, but the last one is irrelevant). However, it would not be difficult to find many other similar examples in all of which we will be dealing with cycles of a descending nature, where every phase is worse than the previous one; although only the Hindu tradition, the one alone that has received the primeval knowledge in one piece from the original center, has preserved that of the proportion by which the respective lengths decrease, whatever the total length of the corresponding cycle.

This latter fact carries an additional and most important conclusion itself: namely, if the length of the last period of the quaternary series is, by definition, a tenth of the total length, then such period can obviously be sub-divided into other four ages which follow the same proportion (and in fact not only the last period, but any of them). For example, if the Kali-yuga really has an effective length of 5,184 common years or a tenth of 51,840 common years, we can safely assume that it will consist in turn, always following the corresponding proportions, of four periods whose lengths will approximately be 2,074, 1,555, 1,037 and 518 years. In other words, we are talking about cycles within cycles so that one may refer, say, to the kali-yuga of the current Kali-yuga – that is, the darkest phase of the Dark Age. Naturally, this is a hypothesis that must be demonstrated, and in the following posts I will do my best to do so. Meanwhile, I will face an objection that is usually presented with regard to the doctrine as a whole: namely, whether we are not dealing with mere “numerological” speculation; for, were not the ancient so ignorant that they merely possessed some basic technical knowledge?

Without referring yet to the possibility that in remote times entire civilizations may have disappeared without leaving a trace, I will try, in my next post, to refute such objection: quite simply, I will prove that the ancient cultures possessed, among other advanced scientific information, a most precise knowledge of the chronology and calendar computation, probably born of their liking for the great observation of stars in the case of the Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations, and, particularly among the Mayas and Aztecs, for the accurate measurement of huge lapses of time. Even more, we will see that the ancient had such advanced knowledge in mathematics and astronomy that only recently, after long and dark millennia, has been equaled or improved – yet not always.

(First published on Qassia 02 Jul 2008)