Sunday, May 12, 2013

Without precedent


 One of the things that Gurdjieff told Ouspensky was that the knowledge in ancient Egypt and Babylon came from much older cultures that we know nothing about.

Anyone who doubts his stories of schools passing down esoteric knowledge through millennia from culture to culture should read Thomas McEvilley's influential the shape of ancient thought, which details the influence such schools had on both East and West with a thoroughness that ought to satisfy serious academics as well as laymen.

 These schools exercised influence for many thousands of years, leaving traces that echoed down all the way into the late middle ages in Europe, as reflected in the architecture of cathedrals such as Chartres and paintings such as Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of earthly delights. The inner technology of spiritual work has never existed in completely isolated bubbles; undercurrents of practice and esoteric knowledge have been secretly exchanged between monastic communities all over the world for thousands of generations. It was only in the liberating light of the 20th century, when many conditions on the planet changed, that it was safe for this information to emerge into the world at large.

  While browsing on one of my favorite archaeological sites yesterday, I came across this fascinating reconstruction of a major temple building in the ancient city of Uruk.

 Viewers might opt to exercise enough patience to watch the entire video, and while they are doing so, think and ponder just how extraordinarily sophisticated the architectural underpinnings of this building are, how much the builders knew about structural foundation and the correct preparation for wall supports, sealants, concrete, etc.

It's also worth thinking about the sophisticated ceramic technology required to make the mosaics which covered the walls, and the educated and highly skilled workforce that would have been needed to put this building together.

This building did not spring from nowhere out of the ground. The people who built it had extensive experience in this kind of architecture, which, to all appearances, probably dates back to thousands of years before this building was built — yet no record of them exists, anywhere in archaeological history. Similar things can be said about the even more ancient temple at Göbekli Tepe. In both cases, a stunning architectural achievement emerges from out of nowhere, springing full-blown into the archaeological record — and displaying a level of sophistication that then proceeds to deteriorate over the next few thousand years.

The building at Uruk raises questions about ancient societies that relate directly to Gurdjieff's stories about much earlier cultures. If one combines questions raised by structures such as this one — which is truly without precedent, anywhere in the world — with McEvilley's exhaustive investigation of traditions from extremely ancient, and essentially unknown, cultures which influence both Eastern and Western philosophy and religious practice, perhaps we begin to realize that Gurdjieff was not just a spinner of tall tales. His contentions have proven himself out in both philosophical and physical research.

What remains is a discovery that would point to where this ancient knowledge came from.  While a steady stream of charlatans, hoaxers, and all-too-credulous investigators have provided us with far too many debunkable and even ludicrous claims about the lost city of Atlantis, it does appear that there is a lost culture somewhere from which what we see as the roots of both Eastern and Western civilization emerged.

 May your soul be filled with light.


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