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Damian
Indeed, yes, I certainly have wondered -
wondered why we have a religious instinct, why we want to learn more of our origins, why we often instictively feel that some things learned and discovered by the select few for who knows what reasons are not always readily shared with the rest of us, and why we wish to confirm over and over again our suspicion that there are always more past facts and discoveries to be happened on. The human urge to explore and discover is essentially fired by inspiration, conviction and, yes, by dreams. Witness the early explorers who needed to prove their suspicion that more lay beyond the horizon of the Atlantic, and ponder the visions of Cecil Rhodes, Alexander The Great, the Pilgrim Fathers and Abraham Lincoln, and the diligence of Charles Darwin and today's Quantum Physics researchers.
Someone, I believe Bernard Shaw, once said or wrote, "Show me your stutues of Commitees in your Parks and your Cities" , - a wonderful portrait of the triumph of our human individuality. So, are all those "secrets", the clues of our past and the map of our futures necessarily always best served by the dry observations and theories of text books, or the unimaginative, measured collective declarations of academic institutions ? Thus, if someone researches their subject and sources to provide substance and weight to their writings, (witness Graham Hancock), it surely is no crime that such books can give us a welcome opportunity to wonder, to ponder - and to conject. Books which explore the past in a responsible fashion, and say "Maybe, just maybe" can therefore play an excellent role in making us stop and think and dream - the latter is an instinctive, relevant part of our human condition.


<a href="mailto:&#100;&#97;&#109;&#105;&#97;&#110;&#46;&#119;&#97;&#108;&#116;&#101;&#114;&#64;&#98;&#116;&#105;&#110;&#116;&#101;&#114;&#110;&#101;&#116;&#46;&#99;&#111;&#109;?subject=Ever wondered why ...">stickler</a> wrote:
>
>
> Ever wondered why writers of 'ancient mysteries' aren't taken
> more seriously by the academic community ...?
>
> Several years ago I was standing in a bookshop browing
> through a copy of Alan F. Alford's book. "Gods of the New
> Millennium". While flicking through the photographs, I was
> immediately struck by his inclusion of a photograph of the
> impressive stone image of Vishnu at Budhanilakantha in the
> Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (the image is of Vishnu recumbent on
> the coils of Ananta/Sesa, the cosmic serpent). This is a site
> I have visited personally on a number of occasions, so I was
> interested to see what use Alford had made of it in his text.
> There were two entries in the index, but I found the
> references themselves very unsatisfactory. He basically
> seemed to be implying that it was a curious fact that this
> statue of Vishnu had been created in Nepal at roughly the
> same time that Mesoamerican sources were describing the
> departure of Quetzalcoatl from their own shores on a 'raft of
> snakes' (the corresponding dates he provides are only roughly
> approximate, to say the very least). This is suggestive, but
> is nothing more than that, and hardly seems to warrant the
> inclusion of such a striking image among the colour plates of
> his book (he also pays no attention to the historical
> precedents for textual and iconographical representations of
> the reclining Vishnu that certainly predate the carving of
> this particular image at Budhanilakantha).
>
> Don't get me wrong. I haven't read any of Alford's books, so
> I'm not in a position to make a definitive judgement about
> the bulk of his research (although see what he himself writes
> on amazon.co.uk). His use of the image at Budhanilakantha,
> though, caught my eye and it's for this reason that I've
> marked him out for criticism. There are various anomalies
> surrounding the image, it's true, but in a specifically
> Nepalese context they seem to make far more sense than Alford
> seems to suggest. He makes much of the fact that the image is
> undoubtedly that of Vishnu, but that the name,
> Budhanilakantha ('Old-Blue-Throat'), is generally used to
> refer to a form of Siva. This conflation in one image of the
> characteristics of different deities is hardly uncommon in
> Nepal, however. Hinduism and Buddhism combine in very
> complicated ways in the Kathmandu Valley, and there is also a
> fair amount of disparity between Hinduism as practised in
> Nepal, and Hinduism as practised in India. Within the
> Kathmandu Valley, for example, Kali and Camunda, two
> manifestations of the Hindu goddess Durga, are not
> distinguished either iconographically or conceptually. In
> similar fashion, the Hindu goddess Kali is frequently
> conflated with the ferocious manifestation of the Buddhist
> goddess, Tara. Sorry to go on at such length, but I'm just
> trying to demonstrate the kind of reservations many academics
> would probably express when faced with the kind of 'evidence'
> presented by authors such as Alford. I certainly don't think
> Alford helps his case, either, by listing "The Rough Guide to
> Nepal" as his main source of reference! I'm certainly
> interested in the recurrence of serpent imagery
> cross-culturally, but unlike Alford, I don't think anything's
> really served by extrapolating data devoid of meaningful
> context.
>
> Similarly, in his discussion of Near Eastern Ubaid
> 'lizard'-like figurines in "From the Ashes of Angels", Andrew
> Collins writes:
>
> "By far the strangest and most compelling of the reptilian
> statuettes is a naked female who holds a baby to her left
> breast. The infant's left hand clings to the breast, and
> there can be little doubt that it is suckling milk. It is a
> very touching image, although it bears one chilling feature -
> the child has long slanted eyes and the head of a reptile.
> This is highly significant, for it suggests that the baby was
> seen to have been born with these features. In other words,
> the 'lizard'-like heads of the figures were not masks, or
> symbolic of some animalistic god-form, but abstract images of
> an actual race believed to possess reptilian features" (p.
> 259-261).
>
> Everyone's free to believe what you like about Collins'
> argument more generally, but the image of the
> 'reptile-headed' infant in itself doesn't provide the
> supporting evidence for Collins' claim (ie. that these
> figurines represent "abstract images of an actual race").
> Accuse me of nit-picking is you like, but I've seen many
> images of 'strange'-headed infants in South Asia (images of
> infant forms of some of the deities of the Hindu pantheon,
> for example), which make me a little dubious to say the least
> about accepting the straight-forward correspondence Collins
> seems to be suggesting (ie. that the inclusion of an image of
> a 'reptile'-headed infant necessarily precludes the
> interpretation of these images as "symbolic of some
> animalistic god-form"). Of course, I'm not necessarily
> arguing that
> they can ONLY be interpreted as symbolic representations,
> simply that they could still be interpreted in this way
> despite the inclusion of the 'reptile'-headed infant. One has
> only to think of the elephant-headed son of Siva, Ganesa, in
> a Hindu context to see the point I'm trying to make more
> clearly. According to one of several legends that attempt to
> account for Ganesa's strange appearance, he is said to have
> been created (fully formed as a young man) by Siva's wife,
> Parvati, to guard her during her husband's absences. He lost
> his head (literally) when Siva was barred from his wife's
> room, and decapitated him in a fit of rage before realising
> who he was. To appease Parvati, Siva had to bring his son
> back to life by providing him with a new head (an elephant
> being the first animal he came across). I'm trying to keep
> this brief, but the main point I'm trying to make is that
> despite initially being created as a 'human-headed' young man
> (prior to losing his head), Ganesa is frequently depicted in
> iconographical representations as an elephant-headed infant
> (not infrequently crawling around the floor on all fours, or
> sitting on his mother's knee). The fact that the Ubaid
> figurines include an image of an infant, then, doesn't
> necessarily support (in and of itself) Collins'
> interpretation of these images.
>
> The problem, of course, is that there's always a tendency to
> presume that visual images (because they seem to be
> immediately accessible to the gaze, and because we tend to
> privilege vision) are open to literal interpretation (Erich
> von Daniken and the Mayan 'space-man' on the lid of Palenque
> in Mexico provides an obvious example). Greater attention
> needs to be paid to the difficulties involved in attempting
> to decipher the meanings of visual images from other
> archaeological or cultural contexts.
>
> In "Gods of Eden", Andrew Collins describes the apparent use
> of sonic technology in Tibet during the first half of the
> twentieth century. Collins' argument rests on an obscure
> Danish source that describes in seemingly meticulous detail
> the apparent eyewitness account (by two Western explorers) of
> the lifting of stone blocks by means of sonic technology. The
> reason given by the Danish author for why Western travellers
> were never normally allowed to witness the use of sonic
> technology was because the Tibetan Buddhist practitioners had
> decided that it was important to prevent it being
> appropriated by the West and "exploited for selfish and very
> destructive purposes". If this is the case, I can't help
> wondering why the two eyewitnesses were invited to observe
> what was going on in the first place, and why they were
> allowed to make such apparently meticulous notes about it
> (subsequently published - complete with sketches - in the
> Danish source quoted by Collins).
>
> Perhaps it's just me, but I can't help thinking that accounts
> such as these say far more about Western fantasies about
> Tibet than about Tibet itself. After all, there's an entire
> genre of books dating from the early part of this century
> which purport to reveal the 'hidden secrets' of Tibet (one's
> only got to think of Madame Blavatsky, Alexandra David-Neel
> etc.). Most of these accounts turn out to be far from factual
> (for more on this particular subject see Peter Bishop's 1989
> book, "The Myth of Shangri-La: Tibet, Travel Writing and the
> Western Creation of Sacred Landscape").
>
> I remember attending a lecture in London several years by the
> Tibetan historian, Tsering Shakya, in which he purposely set
> out to 'demytologise' Western concepts of Tibet and Tibetans.
> One phrase, in particular, has stuck in my mind since I heard
> him speak. In his lecture, he provocatively described
> Tibetans as the 'pandas' of the refugee world (referring to
> the fact that they serve an almost iconic function in the
> eyes of the international community); get too close, though,
> he continued, and you'll discover that Tibetans, like pandas,
> have got nasty claws. Of course, Tsering Shakya, being
> Tibetan himself, can presumably get away with saying
> something as provocative as this without getting into too
> much trouble. The main point of his lecture, though, was to
> argue that the West's fascination with the 'magic and
> mystery' of Tibet tends to 'de-historicise' both Tibet and
> her people.
>
> In "Gods of Eden", Collins criticises the "stubborn ... often
> bombastic, attitude of the academic community" (p. 369).
> Isn't it more likely the case, though, that many academics
> probably harbour the same kind of concerns as Tsering Shakya?
> I assume many academics aren't necessarily hostile to new
> ideas per se, but are concerned about some of the
> implications of these ideas, and also about the strength of
> the evidence being presented.
> That's not to say that academics shouldn't be prepared to
> 'engage' with well-argued and well-researched books, but it
> doesn't follow that they should have to agree with the
> conclusions drawn. After all, it's surely unreasonable to
> expect academics to take all books marketed as "Unsolved
> Mysteries" or "Earth Mysteries" seriously. The level of
> integrity of research displayed by different writers varies
> enormously from book to book (a point made by Andrew Collins
> himself in "Gods of Eden" when he refers to the "unbelievable
> literary sloppiness on the part of numerous ancient mysteries
> writers", p. 46).
>
> Regards,
> Damian

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Subject Views Written By Posted
Ever wondered why ... 252 stickler 12-Mar-02 20:45
Re: Ever wondered why ...- YES! 139 Thirdwave 12-Mar-02 23:21
Re: Ever wondered why ...- YES! 103 stickler 13-Mar-02 00:32
Re: Ever wondered why ...- YES! 109 Particle Noun 13-Mar-02 06:44
Re: Ever wondered why ... 111 Morph 13-Mar-02 14:15
Re: Ever wondered why ... 113 stickler 13-Mar-02 17:56


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