Monday, 4 April 2016

The quest for the Holy relic of archaeology: part eight

Speculative drawing of Atlantis (cropped) from an unpublished
cultural history of Atlantis by Géza Maróti (1875-1941)
When I was very young the history taught at my schools seems, now, to have consisted mainly of remembering the dates of various battles, all of them British. But when I was about twelve I had a history teacher who stressed what life was like for the average person in the past. What would we be doing if we had no television? he asked. Now, of course, we know the answer to that question, we would be watching Netflix. About two years later, and at a different school outside London, I was taught "religious education" by a teacher who had us only draw maps of the Holy Land. Perhaps she had other things planned for us, but after punching one of us (irreligious) kids in the face, she was fired and was replaced by an Anglican priest who stressed kindness to one's fellow man as his main religious theme. I really liked the history teacher and thought that his approach to the past was surely the right one. I did not understand, at the time, that what had attracted me to it was mostly its novelty, but also that after years of battles but no explanations about why, there was at last some talk of cause and effect. The matters of cause and effect with the later changing of my religious education teachers was obvious to me at the time, but neither of the two teachers had really explained religion to me.

Thus it was no small wonder that, at the age of fifteen, Bertrand Russell's essay Nice People had a major impact on the way that I viewed the world and its people. Kids, of course, are naturally materialistic and everything is a simplistic series of causes and effects; rewards and punishments; rights and wrongs. If they happen to be extraverted types, this gets becomes enhanced over the years, but their analyses can become far more sophisticated if they do not fall prey to some neurosis. If they are introverted types then the Bertrand Russell effect does not last very long and can often switch to its opposite with the dangers of considerable teenage angst. So after moving to Calgary, I found myself reading the works of another Englishman who had also moved to Calgary: Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, the "pen-name" of Cyril Henry Hoskin who was a plumber from Devon. His books turned out to be both fraudulent and not anything true to Tibetan Buddhism, but he certainly did raise public awareness to the plight of Tibetans. About thirty years later I came to know a true Tibetan, also in Calgary, who had done some real work in that cause: Tashi Phuntsok who was not a monk, but had served at one time as the Dalai Lama's accountant in Dharamsala, India. He was born in Tibet near the Nepalese border and speaks that language as well as Tibetan and English. I have wanted to write his biography as he is the bravest person I have ever met, but his work in politics makes that a problem for him, at least it was the last time I spoke to him. His approach to the Chinese/Tibetan problem is more conciliatory and bringing up the past is perhaps not the best way to achieve this. He is respected by the Chinese community in Calgary.

Unlike history, archaeology, by its very nature is materialistic, so the fringe archaeology that includes such things as the lost continent of Atlantis is just too far removed to be considered by it. The historian, however, can consider it in a different light: from an expression of Plato's politics or that combined with various mythological and historical metaphors. The more extraverted materialist historian will see the political and think the mythological to have been an invention of Plato's.  The more introverted historian will look at the unconscious archetypes expressed in Plato's world view of his time. You can read Plato's work Critius online. Which way do you view it? The closest that a very materialist archaeologist can get to this sort of thing is in considering a physical equivalent such as looking at Homer's Odyssey a representing a real  voyage and trying to trace its steps in geographical terms instead of ignoring all of that and seeing the work as defining the ideal hero; husband; wife; and son.

But the believer who is really looking for a real continent beneath the waves is also a materialist, and thus closer to the archaeologist than either would want to admit. So we will look at that aspect of the psychology tomorrow.

John's Coydog Community page


  1. The contrasting of extraverts and introverts in this blog is interesting because it shows ihow people view the world. At school my favourite subject was social studies which included the study of history and geography. I had extremely excellent teachers . Thank goodness we did not have to learn dates but concentrated on the why events occurred.

  2. Social studies is so much saner than the division into history and geography that I had to endure. It also allows for the incorporation of so many other subjects as well. Had mathematics been just a part of various projects that had to use it, I might have not been so dreadful at it. As I was so bad at the subject because I missed important parts due to illness and was to too shy to ask for help, mathematics was frequently given to me as a punishment for my various wrongdoings and so became a phobia to boot. I was so glad to leave school as soon as I was legally able to do so (16). In those days, people like me were not understood at all. I could read perfectly before I ever saw the inside of a classroom and had to suffer long years of total boredom before I became free. I mentioned that to a fiend, not long ago, saying that the school and social system made it impossible for me to go on to any advanced education. He then, sagely, pointed out that had it been any other way, I would not now be the person that I am. Perhaps I should thank them!

    I finished today's post before noon and a sirloin roast has been slow cooking in the oven while the remains of a turkey has been recycling itself in a large pot of water on the stove since about 8.a.m. The postman has just brought me new pods for my hydroponic garden on the table, but the cherry tomatoes are starting to reflower again as if trying not to get pulled up just yet. Too bad the sun isn't a bit warmer to make the day perfect.

  3. I returned from having lunch with a group of retired teaching friends. One is very eager to read Blink so I kindly passed it a long to her. I know we will have entertaining discussions. But one of the group really annoyed me, stating she only reads travel books and mysteries. I am quite sure she is not trying to expand her mind in any fashion. How can some people live in a bubble?
    I remember being so curious about the different topics covered in social studies the other students would give me that what is she talking about look. The best part of math for me was geometry, I guess because I think in pictures and could visualize the forms. But stats forget it I disliked this field of math with a passion. I remember having to take course in it for my Ed degree, what a waste if time. I never used it. This is one of the topics I talked to Bill having to take that was so totally useless.

    1. Now I'm wondering if she reads travel books, but does not go anywhere.

      I'm pretty good with geometric shapes, some movers told me that my corner desk would not fit through a door, so I told them exactly how to do that with the motions and angles they needed to use. They didn't like that. I tend to think in abstract metaphors and patterns. My father was a statistician -- I don't like statistics and try not to fit into any of them.

      Fate sometimes plays tricks: I never thought I would have any use for French at school. Once, P.E. was running around the school grounds. I said that I wanted to keep running for another 45 minutes to increase my stamina and distances, and got permission for that, but it was really because a French lesson followed it. So I moved to Canada and studied coins where most of the literature on them was in French. I still don't speak much French but can read "Celtic numismatic French" quite well.

  4. Just finished reading Nice People, I had a few good laughs. I think one such never trust someone who seems to be really nice. What else is going on behind the scenes! At the moment, I am rereading an article from Macleans about "Did Jesus Really Exist" . It all about new memory research and rethinking about how accurate our memories are in representing and retelling the true facts.
    Yes, she does travel. I guess it was the tone of her voice that bothered me the most .
    Smart thinking to remove yourself from something you did not want to do. Did your stamina improve?

    1. Yes, my stamina did improve. I was best at sprinting but not as good at longer distances. When I started smoking, however, my speed dropped. Mind you, it did not seem to affect the stamina. Once going up the direct route to the Moose Mountain Ice Caves when I was about thirty, I was with with an Italian friend who worked in construction. He was puffing and panting trying to keep up with me and the first thing I did when got to the top was to light a cigarette. He couldn't believe it. I don't smoke anymore, just vape.

      There are two main alternative theories:

      The Passover Plot:

      Which has a lot going for it (My wife was a Messianic Christian and early Christianity was certainly a Jewish Messianic sect). I loaned my copy to my girlfriend when I was about 25. When I asked for it back, she told me that her mother (Catholic) had burned it!

      The other is Deconstructing Jesus:

      which thinks that it was a pastiche and he did not really exist. Price says that there is not a single original story in the New Testament.

      I think that the two can be resolved by having the original Jesus existing and Messianic but also having later accounts (the testaments) absorbing various Dionysian myths from Greece.

      Judaism apparently had trouble with Dionysianism infiltration. I came to that conclusion through comparing the Passover sacrifice laws in Deuteronomy XVI with the later (and timely) changes in Exodus XII. See:


  5. I never smoked because both my parents did for their entire lives. I am pleased to know you gave it up. You have given me interesting sources to read, as always. Talking about math, my father, though he was a farmer, he was a brilliant man and found math easy. He had a strong personality. Can you imagine him trying to help a shy little girl how to do problem solving questions because he always used high school problems. Someday I will tell you the story about my first driving lesson he gave me. Thank goodness, my mother took over the lessons and she did an excellent job.

    1. I had a friend who was cab driver and boasted he could teach anyone algebra very quickly. He tried it on me. I would remember something for five minutes and then it was gone. I had been so badly traumatized by school. When I was younger, long before I wrote my book, I thought about going to the U of C as an an adult student. After an interview, I was told, on the basis of my experience, that I would be allowed to enter an honours program in Classics. But I had to get my Grade 12 English equivalent (which I aced even though the instructor was marking me very severely because I was so far ahead of everyone else in the class, but when I took the first night University course in mathematics I not only did not understand anything of it but was so confused when I left that it took me about an hour to find my way off the campus. I knew the campus very well because I was often at the library there which was just across the way from where I was taking that class. I had completely lost my sense of direction. I never went back. I'm not sure what role mathematics took in Classics. For a language, I would have picked Greek -- it is so nuanced. Latin I find crude and ugly. Still, probably all for the best. Who was it said that life has to be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards?

      I only ever got as far as getting a learners permit. I never liked driving. Perhaps coming from London had something to do with that. There was a time I could honestly say that I had spent more hours on a horse than behind a wheel.

  6. We had horses on the farm from Shetland ponies, quarter horses and a stubborn Walsh pony. We learned to ride bareback. One time our uncle had my sister and I ride without a bridle and a saddle. The result was a disaster because the pony thought freedom and off at a full trot. We fell on to the hard packed road and our dear uncle laughed and laughed. I was so mad at him for thinking it was funny. The Walsh pony was so stubborn. My job was to take him for water and every time he would roll on the road. He was a real pain. My sister and I were allowed to roam freely and explore to our hearts content . Our mom felt we safe as we were accompanied by our loyal dog. Few children would be allowed to do this to day.
    We all have fears. Mine was attending English classes. I remember the first time Bill walked in our class. He looked so rough and tough but through time my opinion charged as I recognized how sad he was. Did you ever have the pleasure of seeing him teacher?
    In my first year my beginning English classes was terrible. The prof talked to the blackboard and did not want to teach first year students. Who would carry a wonderful memory of that experience.

  7. I forget whether I was sixteen or seventeen when I first rode a horse. I went with friends to Elbow Valley riding stables. It became a regular weekend event. In those days you just rented the horse and could go anywhere on their land, not the boring trail rides of today. Most of the horse's were only so so, but I remember having a connection with one of them (called Sky)wherever I thought of going, that's where we went. I even went on a trail in a wood and she would slow down when going under a low branch so I could move it over my head. You never forget that sort of thing.

    At another place about two years later I should have trusted my instincts: It was a small stable with only about three horses available. I was given a pinto that was twitchy and seemed a little crazy. It was not even trained to neck-rein. I think they must have bought it on a nearby reservation, No sooner out of the gate and along the gravel road an idiot in a pick-up sped by showering gravel. The pinto took off down the road. I even tried pulling on the reins until it was looking straight up. That didn't stop it. I tried riding it out but it tried to turn into a driveway, but went though the ditch instead. On the other side I was hit in the chest by a tree branch went backwards and got one foot caught in the stirrup. I woke up in field (must have been dragged through some trees)and I realized I had a broken arm. The horse was a few yards away. Now quite calm. Then I had to catch it and take it back. I remember every bump in the road all the way back to the Holy Cross Hospital.

    I did ride bareback once, a big and very docile mare. Hard on the thighs, at least it was hard on my thighs. The most fun was a retired cutting horse. A bit hard to stay on when it made a sudden turn, but a nice horse, a very attractive palamino -- it just liked chasing things.

    I went on a trail ride at Banff in 1998, it brought back some memories but it was sad -- horses following one after the other. Not much better than on a carousel except for the nice scenery along the Bow.

    I never saw Bill teach. I do remember he got into trouble for throwing a piece of chalk at a student who must have ticked him off somehow. It seemed such a petty reaction to make a big deal of it. He could have done much worse! Do you remember when he used to wear a cape and had a big knife in his belt? He really did not belong in the twentieth century.

    Time for reading in the bath (more T.E.L. research), then Netflix and sleep. Goodnight!