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Secrets of the Western Esoteric Tradition
By TIM WALLACE-MURPHY
The Disinformation Company Ltd.Copyright © 2010 Tim Wallace-Murphy
All rights reserved.
From A State Of Grace? Prehistoric Man and the Dawn of Civilization
Most civilizations have evolved similarly - from the wandering band, egalitarian, co-operative, sharing resources and in awe of nature, through the tribe, to the settled agricultural community and town and so to the city, at first usually centred on religion. As numbers grow, bureaucracies evolve and, from them, secular elites. Hierarchies of rule and ownership bring the desire first to defend power and wealth, then to acquire more - by force. Each rise in numbers is led by a new order - with scope for peace and war. As we pass from the industrial into the information age, we seek a global order - but, unless we control our technology, risk global destruction.
- The Gaia Peace Atlas
Nothing arises in a vacuum. Culture, religions and civilization itself all have their roots in the past and any study that ignores this ever-present fact is valueless. Therefore in order to gain a true appreciation of the nature of esoteric knowledge and learn why it had to remain secret in the European context, as well as its long-term effects, we need to begin our research at the earliest time possible. Then, progressing forwards, step by step from that mysterious beginning we can begin to understand the nature of the massive advances and changes that have occurred in the evolution of man and of society itself and appreciate the formative role that esoteric knowledge has played in creating the culture that sustains us all.
The past is a very strange place; people behaved differently there. Even recent history is distorted in our perception by our own inability to understand the thinking patterns and basic attitudes that were the foundation of earlier cultures. It seems almost futile to try and appreciate attitudes, ideas and beliefs that have long since been consigned to intellectual oblivion on the short but misty road from those days to the present. In any attempt to resolve the problems, not merely of history, but of prehistory - the time of myth and legend - we must try to correct this distortion by whatever reasonable means that modern scientific and academic disciplines can provide.
History, as we now understand it, did not begin until the development of writing and written records. The multi-faceted and mysterious problems of the interpretation of the prehistory of our race are compounded by our own previous reluctance, or unwillingness, to concede that man himself is an integral part of the evolutionary process: a process which is not just biological in nature, but also encompasses the evolution of both intellect and consciousness. Our only guidelines in this attempt to understand our own early development as a species are the archaeological artifacts that have come to light, our present level of conscious intellectual ability and, above all, the mythology that has been handed down over the ages. Mythology used and evaluated with circumspection may yet provide some of the keys to unlock the doors that, at present at least, bar the way to a more comprehensive understanding of our cultural and religious origins.
Yet how can one speak seriously of mythology in this age of modern technology and science? Of what use can it be in our search for understanding and factual evidence? Many scientists, philosophers and historians of the present century are divided in their evaluation of the use of mythology as an historical tool. However, the value placed on myth as an indication of historical truth is undergoing a profound change. Interpreted with discretion and in conjunction with archaeological evidence or, supported by the opinions of scholars of repute, far from confusing the issue, mythology can provide insights into the developmental prehistoric era of man that stand the test of dispassionate scientific analysis. One modern scholar, Theodore Roszak, claims that: "The meaning of myths lies in the vision of life and nature they hold at their core." This confirmation of the value of oft-derided myth was echoed by Joseph Campbell who claimed that: "Mythology is the penultimate truth - penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words." This point was reinforced by Kathleen Raine, who stated that "Fact is not the truth of myth; myth is the truth of fact" and by the Indian scholar, Ananda Coomaraswamy, who wrote: "Myth embodies the nearest approach to absolute truth that can be stated in words." Bill Moyers remarked to Joseph Campbell, "Myths are stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance." Campbell replied, "Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of human life."
The precursors of our species evolved in the heartland of Africa over two million years ago. Scientists begin to call these creatures "early man" at the stage of development they reached one million years later. It is generally believed that they lived in small family-based bands of "hunter-gatherers." These were the first demonstrable form of human organization: one within which man formed his earliest relationships with other men, with nature and with the planet that continues to sustain him. This primitive way of life persists to this day in the more remote regions of the globe, and it is doubtful if the basic manner of living of the modern hunter-gatherers differs greatly from that of mankind's distant ancestors.
Hunter-gatherers live in small mobile groups and have to adopt ecologically sustainable lifestyles. When the population outstrips the available food supply, they have no alternative but to travel on in search of new territory. Their choice is brutal - move or starve. Thus we can see that early man had to devise ways to create and maintain a social organization which allowed for and encouraged a nomadic, or at best, semi-nomadic lifestyle. With continuing growth of population, these small bands had to extend their range of movement over an ever-widening area. They moved inexorably onwards and outwards until they eventually spread in ever increasing numbers, fanlike, across the face of the Earth and established themselves throughout the globe from China in the east, to Europe in the west.
Archaeological evidence exists that sheds some light on the general nature of some of the belief systems that may have sustained their social organization. Burial patterns and certain other practices provide evidence that disclose the essentially "spiritual" nature of these beliefs. Cave paintings such as those at Altimera, Lascaux, Montespan and Les Trois Frères in the Ariège in France reflect the shamanistic practices of the early cave dwellers, a form of ritual magic that is still practiced today by hunter-gatherers in many parts of South America, Africa and Australia today. As man became more numerous and pressure on the available food supply became greater, it was inevitable that magic, or some form of ritual, spiritual enhancement became of greater importance. Cave paintings, burial practices and female figurines found in excavations all point to a strong and persistent belief in spiritual powers by our Stone Age ancestors. In fact it is now generally agreed that primitive man lived in awe of nature, seeing some form of living spirituality in every leaf, every creature, and every aspect of their lives.
Indeed that insightful English author, Colin Wilson, suggests that primitive man had one great advantage over his modern counterpart, in that he knew that he possessed spiritual powers. Knowing this, if he wanted to develop and deepen them it was simply a question of finding the best possible method of doing so. The insight probably came first, the method followed and, as we have seen in the example of the so-called cave art, Stone Age man soon found at least one. Wilson also introduced the conception that among all peoples are natural leaders. Perhaps they are the dominant males of the animal kingdom, normally about one in twenty of any population. These he called the "Few." It is to this group that he ascribes the search to increase and pass on to succeeding generations the spiritual or magical powers designed to enhance the chance of survival of the entire band. This search for shamanistic rituals and procedures to heighten man's spiritual powers, allied to the time-consuming search for food and shelter, explains to some degree the pressures that tended to restrict prehistoric man's inventiveness and cultural progress.
Until approximately ten thousand years ago our ancestors had little impact on the planet, or on the animals and plants around them. Then came a quantum leap in the development of man with profound implications for not only man himself, but for all the plants and animals and, ultimately, for the survival of the planet as a whole. In some inexplicable way our primitive ancestors found ways to domesticate animals and plants, thus entering into a new and evolutionary partnership with many of them. No other living species has accomplished this in anything like the same manner.
Darwin's much ignored co-discoverer of the theory of "natural selection," Alfred Russel Wallace, claimed that some "metaphysical force" had directed evolution at three different and critical points: the beginning of life itself; the beginnings of consciousness; and at the start of civilization. This presupposes that mankind passed through a period when man himself was not a conscious being. Julian Huxley, in his introduction to a work on the same subject by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, states quite clearly that human intelligence and consciousness were an integral part of the evolutionary process. Thus three leading scientists suggest that consciousness emerged at a critical stage of evolutionary advance as something genuinely new and startling. When it did emerge it had a dramatic effect on the course of history as the evolution of consciousness provoked significant and wide reaching behavioral changes in man, particularly the dramatic shift from the nomadic lifestyle of the early hunter-gatherers to the creation of settled communities of the earliest agriculturalists. This is the single most dramatic change in the way of life mankind has ever experienced. This massive change, which laid down the direct roots of our present civilization, did not take place instantaneously across the settled regions of the globe. It happened piecemeal and spread slowly. With this change we commenced the process that began to separate us from the spiritual heritage that was so important to our Neolithic ancestors - one that is not given substance by written records or mythology, for there are none, but by monuments that have fascinated modern man for centuries.
Throughout Western Europe, especially in Great Britain, there is a vast and imposing body of evidence testifying to the supreme value accorded spirituality by our first ancestors who began to raise crops, domesticate animals and live in settled communities. Stonehenge, Avebury, Carnac and an infinite variety of other megalithic structures stand in mute testimony to early man's spiritual beliefs.CHAPTER 2
Mute Testimony to Neolithic Spirituality
All places that the eye of heaven visits
Are to a wise man ports and happy havens
- William Shakespeare, King Richard the Second
Sacred sites of Stone Age man are mysterious in the extreme. Irrespective of their location or size they are all imbued with a tangible mystical power that attracts awe-stricken tourists and pilgrims by the thousands. It is not simply the size of the structures erected upon them that amazes the twentieth century observer. Some innate, haunting quality seems to lie tantalizingly just beyond the understanding of modern man, puzzling him, attracting him and, apparently, satisfying some deep inner need. Is this quality something spiritual perhaps, or does it derive from the mystical power of the site itself? Even the Romans were aware of this; indeed, they used to describe it, as the "genius loci" - the spirit of the place.
The puzzle deepens if we understand that people who left no written records constructed this vast range of megalithic structures scattered right across the globe. Their compelling allure arises, in part, from the immense size of the stones used in their construction and the fact that we have no clear idea of how or why many of them were built. Some, such as the long barrows and dolmens, are quite obviously burial places but the exact function of most of the others is still beyond the understanding of modern man. The siting of these ritual monuments poses an even more intriguing problem. Their location was deliberate and calculated on sites of demonstrable telluric power. The Greek philosopher and initiate, Plato, believed that the ancients were simple people who accepted things as they were. If a particular place had a mystical appeal, a magical effect or a healing power, they used it. Did our ancestors discover the telluric energy first, or the magical sites? We will never know. What is beyond doubt is that one vitally important attribute required of a Druid was the ability to discern the Earth's sacred places.
Amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins rediscovered strange lines of telluric energy in the early 1920s and demonstrated that man could still detect them. Water divining had been known for centuries and was accepted as a "God-given" means of finding water. Now a "new" use was found for divining, or dowsing - the location of a complex network of lines of energy linking a wide variety of ancient sites. They join the sites of long barrows, dolmens, henges, healing wells, sacred grottos and many early churches - tangible and detectable lines connecting them all with amazing, yet predictable, precision. In the East, these lines of energy, or ITLχITL, have been known and recognized by Chinese feng shui experts for millennia, but in the Western world the ability to detect and use them had been lost for centuries.
Another enigma arises from the inexplicable, and truly amazing, precision of alignment found between so many monuments and the planetary bodies and stars. This is not an isolated phenomenon - there are many Neolithic temples that are orientated to receive light and energy from heavenly bodies. The best-known example is, perhaps, Stonehenge, but it is at Newgrange in Ireland that one of the most fascinating alignments is to be found. This Neolithic passage grave dates from 3200 BCE. It predates Stonehenge and Avebury and is several centuries older than the Pyramids of Giza. In 1963 the examination of an anomalous stone slab at the beginning of the passage led to the discovery of a "roof box" immediately over the entrance. This had been constructed in such a manner that on midwinter's day the first rays of the morning sun shine down the passageway and fall upon the burial chamber at the far end. How did Neolithic man in 3200 BCE know how to align such a vast structure in this precise manner? The precision is such that these so-called "primitive" people must have possessed an incredible degree of astronomical knowledge. A study of ancient Egyptian construction proves that this knowledge persisted and developed well into the era of early civilization. This precision and skill is not the only dramatic discovery we make when we study Neolithic sites and artifacts. Meticulous archaeological excavation reveals even more startling evidence of the power of spiritual insight and its effects upon human behavior, disclosing facts that flatly contradict many widely held beliefs about the essentially warlike nature of mankind.
One such settlement which had been continuously occupied from the middle of the seventh millennium to the middle of the sixth millennium BCE was discovered in 1961 at Çatalhöyük in Anatolia. Excavations brought to light evidence that amplified and transformed the whole conception of Neolithic behavior. Arts and crafts were well represented, giving a crucial insight into man's activities, appearance and dress, as well as his religious beliefs. Fragments of textiles were found that are among the earliest yet discovered. Bones discovered on the site clearly show that animals had not yet been domesticated; the inhabitants lived on the results of their agriculture, supplemented by hunting. From the evidence provided by this site much can be deduced to illuminate man's behavior at that time and even earlier.
Excerpted from HIDDEN WISDOM by TIM WALLACE-MURPHY. Copyright © 2010 Tim Wallace-Murphy. Excerpted by permission of The Disinformation Company Ltd..
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