THEOSOPHY, Vol. 17, No. 1, November, 1928
(Pages 15-22; Size: 24K)
(Number 34 of a 59-part series)
(Compiler's Note: This is the last of four installments)
A LAND OF MYSTERY(1), BY H.P.B.
(Concluded from October)
TO refer all these cyclopean constructions then to the days of the Incas is, as we have shown before, more inconsistent yet, and seems even a greater fallacy than that too common one of attributing every rock-temple of India to Buddhist excavators. As many authorities show -- Dr. Heath among the rest -- Incal history only dates back to the eleventh century, A.D., and the period, from that time to the Conquest, is utterly insufficient to account for such grandiose and innumerable works; nor do the Spanish historians know much of them. Nor again, must we forget that the temples of heathendom were odious to the narrow bigotry of the Roman Catholic fanatics of those days; and that, whenever the chance offered, they either converted them into Christian churches or razed them to the ground. Another strong objection to the idea lies in the fact that the Incas were destitute of a written language, and that these antique relics of bygone ages are covered with hieroglyphics. "It is granted that the Temple of the Sun, at Cuzco, was of Incal make, but that is the latest of the five styles of architecture visible in the Andes, each probably representing an age of human progress."
The hieroglyphics of Peru and Central America have been, are, and will most probably remain for ever as dead a letter to our cryptographers as they were to the Incas. The latter like the barbarous ancient Chinese and Mexicans kept their records by means of a quipus (or knot in Peruvian) -- a cord, several feet long, composed of different colored threads, from which a multicolored fringe was suspended; each color denoting a sensible object, and knots serving as ciphers. "The mysterious science of the quipus," says Prescott, "supplied the Peruvians with the means of communicating their ideas to one another, and of transmitting them to future generations...." Each locality, however, had its own method of interpreting these elaborate records, hence a quipus was only intelligible in the place where it was kept. "Many quipus have been taken from the graves, in excellent state of preservation in color and texture," writes Dr. Heath; "but the lips, that alone could pronounce the verbal key, have for ever ceased their function, and the relic-seeker has failed to note the exact spot where each was found, so that the records, which could tell so much we want to know, will remain sealed till all is revealed at the last day." ...if anything at all is revealed then. But what is certainly as good as a revelation now, while our brains are in function, and our mind is acutely alive to some pre-eminently suggestive facts, is the incessant discoveries of archæology, geology, ethnology and other sciences. It is the almost irrepressible conviction that man having existed upon earth millions of years -- for all we know, -- the theory of cycles is the only plausible theory to solve the great problems of humanity, the rise and fall of numberless nations and races, and the ethnological differences among the latter. This difference -- which, though as marked as the one between a handsome and intellectual European and a digger Indian of Australia, yet makes the ignorant shudder and raise a great outcry at the thought of destroying the imaginary "great gulf between man and brute creation" -- might thus be well accounted for. The digger Indian, then in company with many other savage, though to him superior, nations, which evidently are dying out to afford room to men and races of a superior kind, would have to be regarded in the same light as so many dying-out specimens of animals -- and no more. Who can tell but that the forefathers of this flat-headed savage -- forefathers who may have lived and prospered amidst the highest civilization before the glacial period -- were in the arts and sciences far beyond those of the present civilization -- though it may be in quite another direction? That man has lived in America, at least 50,000 years ago, is now proved scientifically and remains a fact beyond doubt or cavil. In a lecture delivered at Manchester, in June last, by Mr. H. A. Allbutt, Honorary Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Society, the lecturer stated the following:-- "Near New Orleans, in one part of the modern delta, in excavating for gas works, a series of beds, almost wholly made up of vegetable matter, were dug through. In the excavation, at a depth of 16 feet from the upper surface, and beneath four buried forests, one on the top of the other, the labourers discovered some charcoal and the skeleton of a man, the cranium of which was reported to be that of the type of the aboriginal Red Indian race. To this skeleton Dr. Dowler ascribed an antiquity of some 50,000 years." The irrepressible cycle in the course of time brought down the descendants of the contemporaries of the late inhabitant of this skeleton, and intellectually as well as physically they have degenerated, as the present elephant has degenerated from his proud and monstrous forefather, the antediluvian Sivatherium whose fossil remains are still found in the Himalayas; or, as the lizard has from the plesiosaurus. Why should man be the only specimen upon earth which has never changed in form since the first day of his appearance upon this planet? The fancied superiority of every generation of mankind over the preceding one is not yet so well established as to make it impossible for us to learn some day that, as in everything else, the theory is a two-sided question -- incessant progress on the one side and an as irresistible decadence on the other of the cycle. "Even as regards knowledge and power, the advance, which some claim as a characteristic feature of humanity, is effected by exceptional individuals who arise in certain races under favourable circumstances only, and is quite compatible with long intervals of immobility, and even of decline,"(2) says a modern man of science. This point is corroborated by what we see in the modern degenerate descendants of the great and powerful races of ancient America -- the Peruvians and the Mexicans. "How changed! How fallen from their greatness must have been the Incas, when a little band of one hundred and sixty men could penetrate, uninjured, to their mountain homes, murder their worshipped kings and thousands of their warriors, and carry away their riches, and that, too, in a country where a few men with stones could resist successfully an army! Who could recognize in the present Inichua and Aymara Indians their noble ancestry?" ... Thus writes Dr. Heath, and his conviction that America was once united with Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia, seems as firm as our own. There must exist geological and physical cycles as well as intellectual and spiritual; globes and planets, as well as races and nations, are born to grow, progress, decline and -- die. Great nations split, scatter into small tribes, lose all remembrance of their integrity, gradually fall into their primitive state and -- disappear, one after the other, from the face of the earth. So do great continents. Ceylon must have formed, once upon a time, part of the Indian continent. So, to all appearances, was Spain once joined to Africa, the narrow channel between Gibraltar and the latter continent having been once upon a time dry land. Gibraltar is full of large apes of the same kind as those which are found in great numbers on the opposite side on the African coast, whereas nowhere in Spain is either a monkey or ape to be found at any place whatever. And the caves of Gibraltar are also full of gigantic human bones, supporting the theory that they belong to an antediluvian race of men. The same Dr. Heath mentions the town of Eten in 70 S. latitude of America, in which the inhabitants of an unknown tribe of men speak a monosyllabic language that imported Chinese labourers understood from the first day of their arrival. They have their own laws, customs and dress, neither holding nor permitting communication with the outside world. No one can tell whence they came or when; whether it was before or after the Spanish Conquest. They are a living mystery to all, who chance to visit them....
With such facts before us to puzzle exact science herself, and show our entire ignorance of the past verily, we recognise no right of any man on earth -- whether in geography or ethnology, in exact or abstract sciences -- to tell his neighbour -- "so far shalt thou go, and no further!"
But, recognizing our debt of gratitude to Dr. Heath of Kansas, whose able and interesting paper has furnished us with such a number of facts and suggested such possibilities, we can do no better than quote his concluding reflections. "Thirteen thousand years ago," he writes, "Vega or a Lyroe, was the north polar star; since then how many changes has she seen in our planet! How many nations and races spring into life, rise to their zenith of splendour, and then decay; and when we shall have been gone thirteen thousand years, and once more she resumes her post at the north, completing a 'Platonic or Great Year,' think you that those who shall fill our places on the earth at that time will be more conversant with our history than we are of those that have passed? Verily might we exclaim, in terms almost psalmistic, 'Great God, Creator and Director of the Universe, what is man that Thou art mindful of him'!"
Amen! ought to be the response of such as yet believe in a God who is "the Creator and Director of the Universe."
NOTES ON "A LAND OF MYSTERY"
To the Editor of the THEOSOPHIST -- I have read with much pleasure your excellent article on the "Land of Mystery." In it you show a spirit of inquiry and love of truth which are truly commendable in you and cannot fail to command the approbation and praise of all unbiased readers. But there are certain points in it, in which I cannot but join issue with you. In order to account for the most striking resemblances that existed in the manners, customs, social habits and traditions of the primitive peoples of the two worlds, you have recourse to the old Platonic theory of a land-connection between them. But the recent researches in the Novemyra have once for all exploded that theory. They prove that, with the exception of the severance of Australia from Asia, there never was a submersion of land on so gigantic a scale as to produce an Atlantic or a Pacific Ocean, that, ever since their formation, the seas have never changed their ancient basins on any very large scale. Professor Geike, in his physical geography holds that the continents have always occupied the positions they do now, except that, for a few miles, their coasts have sometimes advanced into and receded from the sea.
You would not have fallen into any error, had you accepted M. Quatrefages' theory of migrations by sea. The plains of Central Asia are accepted by all monogenists as the centre of appearance of the human race. From this place successive waves of emigrants radiated to the utmost verge of the world. It is no wonder that the ancient Chinese, Hindus, Egyptians, Peruvians and Mexicans -- men who once inhabited the same place -- should show the strong resemblances in certain points of their life. The proximity of the two continents at Behring Straits enabled immigrants to pass from Asia to America. A little to the south is the current of Tassen, the Kouro-sivo or black stream of the Japanese, which opens a great route for Asiatic navigators. The Chinese have been a maritime nation from remote antiquity and it is not impossible that their barges might have been like those of the Portuguese navigator, Cabral, in modern times, driven by accident to the coast of America. But, leaving all questions of possibilities and accidents aside, we know that the Chinese had discovered the magnetic needle even so early as B.C. 2,000. With its aid and that of the current of Tassen, they had no very considerable difficulty to cross to America. They established, as Paz Soldan informs us in his Geografia del Peru, a little colony there; and Buddhist missionaries "towards the close of the fifth century sent religious missions to carry to Fou-Sang (America) the doctrines of Buddha." This will no doubt be unpleasant to many European readers. They are averse to crediting a statement that takes the honour of the discovery of America from them and assigns it to what they are graciously pleased to call "a semi-barbarous Asiatic nation." Nevertheless, it is an unquestionable truth. Chapter XVIII of the Human Species by A. De Quatrefages will be an interesting reading to any one who may be eager to know something of the Chinese discovery of America, but the space at his command being small, he gives a very meagre account of it in his book. I earnestly hope you will complete your interesting article by adverting to this and giving us full particulars of all that is known about it. The shedding of light on a point, which has hitherto been involved in mysterious darkness, will not be unworthy of the pen of one, the be-all and end-all of whose life is the search of truth and, when found, to abide by it, be it at whatever cost it may be.AMRITA LAL BISVAS.Calcutta, 11th July.
Scant leisure this month prevents our making any detailed answer to the objections to the Atlantan hypothesis intelligently put forth by our subscriber. But let us see whether -- even though based upon "recent researches" which "have once for all exploded that theory" -- they are as formidable as at first sight they may appear.
Without entering into the subject too deeply, we may limit ourselves to but one brief remark. More than one scientific question, which at one time has seemingly been put at rest for ever, has exploded at a subsequent one over the heads of theorists who had forgotten the danger of trying to elevate a simple theory into an infallible dogma. We have not questioned the assertion that "there never was a submersion of land on so gigantic a scale as to produce an Atlantic or a Pacific Ocean," for we never pretended to suggest new theories for the formation of oceans. The latter may have been where they now are since the time of their first appearance, and yet whole continents been broken into fragments partially engulfed, and left innumerable islands, as seems the case with the submerged Atlantis. What we meant was that, at some pre-historic time and long after the globe teemed with civilized nations, Asia, America and perhaps Europe were parts of one vast continental formation, whether united by such narrow strips of land as evidently once existed where now is Behring Strait, (which connects the North Pacific and Arctic Oceans and has a depth of hardly more than twenty to twenty-five fathoms) or by larger stretches of land. Nor shall we fight the monogenists who claim Central Asia as the one cradle place of humanity -- but leave the task to the polygenists who are able to do it far more successfully than ourselves. But, in any case, before we can accept the theory of monogenesis, its advocates must offer us some unanswerable hypothesis to account for the observed differences in human types better than that of "divarication caused by difference of climate, habits and religious culture." M. Quatrefages may remain, as ever, indisputably a most distinguished naturalist -- physician, chemist and zoologist -- yet we fail to understand why we should accept his theories in preference to all others. Mr. Amrita Lal Bisvas evidently refers to a narrative of some scientific travels along the shores of the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, by this eminent Frenchman, entitled -- "Souvenirs d'un Naturaliste." He seems to regard M. Quatrefages in the light of an infallible Pope upon all scientific questions: we do not, though he was a member of the French Academy and a professor of ethnology. His theory, about the migrations by sea, may be offset by about an hundred others which directly oppose it. It is just because we have devoted our whole life to the research of truth -- for which complimentary admission we thank our critic -- that we never accept on faith any authority upon any question whatsoever; nor, pursuing, as we do, TRUTH and progress through a full and fearless enquiry, untrammelled by any consideration, would we advise any of our friends to do otherwise.
Having said so much, we may now give a few of our reasons for believing in the alleged "fable" of the submerged Atlantis -- though we explained ourselves at length upon the subject in Isis Unveiled (Vol. I, pp. 590, et seq.).
First.--We have as evidence the most ancient traditions of various and widely-separated peoples -- legends in India, in ancient Greece, Madagascar, Sumatra, Java, and all the principal isles of Polynesia, as well as those of both Americas. Among savages, as in the traditions of the richest literature in the world -- the Sanskrit literature of India -- there is an agreement in saying that, ages ago, there existed in the Pacific Ocean, a large continent which, by a geological upheaval, was engulfed by the sea. And it is our firm belief -- held, of course, subject to correction -- that most, if not all of the islands from the Malayan Archipelago to Polynesia, are fragments of that once immense submerged continent. Both Malacca and Polynesia, which lie at the two extremes of the Ocean and which, since the memory of man, never had nor could have any intercourse with, or even a knowledge of each other, have yet a tradition, common to all the islands and islets, that their respective countries extended far, far out into sea; that there were in the world but two immense continents, one inhabited by yellow, the other by dark men; and that the ocean, by command of the gods and to punish them for their incessant quarrelling, swallowed them up.
2. Notwithstanding the geographical fact that New Zealand, and Sandwich and Easter Islands, are at a distance, from each other, of between 800 and 1,000 leagues; and that, according to every testimony, neither these nor any other intermediate islands, for instance, the Marquesan, Society, Feejee, Tahitian, Samoan and other islands, could, since they became islands, ignorant as their people were of the compass, have communicated with each other before the arrival of Europeans; yet, they, one and all, maintain that their respective countries extended far toward the west, on the Asian side. Moreover, with very small differences, they all speak dialects evidently of the same language, and understand each other with little difficulty; have the same religious beliefs and superstitions; and pretty much the same customs. And as few of the Polynesian islands were discovered earlier than a century ago, and the Pacific Ocean itself was unknown to Europe until the days of Columbus, and these islanders have never ceased repeating the same old traditions since the Europeans first set foot on their shores, it seems to us a logical inference that our theory is nearer to the truth than any other. Chance would have to change its name and meaning, were all this due but to chance alone.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
FORMATION OF RACES
The human Races are born one from the other, grow, develop, become old, and die. Their sub-races and nations follow the same rule. If your all-denying modern science and so-called philosophy do not contest that the human family is composed of a variety of well-defined types and races, it is only because the fact is undeniable; no one would say that there was no external difference between an Englishman, an African negro, and a Japanese or Chinaman. On the other hand it is formally denied by most naturalists that mixed human races, i.e., the seeds for entirely new races, are any longer formed in our days. But this last is maintained on good grounds by de Quatrefages and some others. --S.D. II, p. 443-4.
The term "Atlantean" must not mislead the reader to regard these as one race only, or even a nation. It is as though one said "Asiatics." Many, multiplied, and various were the Atlanteans, who represented several humanities, and almost a countless number of races and nations, more varied indeed than would be the "Europeans" were this name to be given indiscriminately to the five existing parts of the world; which, at the rate colonization is proceeding, will be the case, perhaps, in less than two or three hundred years. There were brown, red, yellow, white and black Atlanteans; giants and dwarfs (as some African tribes comparatively are, even now). --S.D. II, p. 433, fn.
FRATERNITY OF EAST AND WEST
(The first of five short articles leading-in to a
continuation of the "Ancient Landmarks" series.)
(Part 35 of a 59-part series)
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TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) This article was first printed by H. P. Blavatsky in The Theosophist for August, 1880.
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(2) Journal of Science for February, Article -- "The Alleged Distinction between Man and Brute."
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