HISTORY AND RELIGION
COMMENTS, QUESTIONS & CORRESPONDENCE
David L. McNaughton


Oswald Spengler (and Yockey)

Which Culture has displayed the most intense passion for music?

Could another "High Culture" develop in sub-Saharan Africa?

Is any country now capable of forging the Euro-Imperium envisaged by Spengler?

The fragmentation of the ancient Middle-Eastern Civilisation.

Japan's position in Spenglerian philosophy ...
... including a look at their game of "Go".

What sort of Mathematic might the new Russian Culture develop?

To what extent did Spengler influence and encourage the Nazis?

How would Spengler view the present European Union?

Were the 1930s perhaps "too early" for Spengler's Caesarism?

Important lessons contained in Spengler's writings.

Alien forces are capable of "killing" a High Culture, e.g. the Seljuk Empire.

Yockey on the Jews, Russia and Japan.

Moscow's change in attitude towards Zionism.

Some attempts to describe the nature of the "Mayan soul".

Distinction between systematic/scientific and intuitive/organic processes.
 


Ancient Zimbabwe (and Judaized Lembas)

Contradictions in the "NOVA" website regarding the Lemba and ancient Zimbabwe.

The ancient history and diaspora of the Jewish people.

Errors in an article published in Archaeology volume 51, number 4.

The bird-symbol in ancient Zimbabwe.

The stone structures could be dated independently using Thermoluminescence.

Possible origin of the wild lemon trees.

Burial sites in the Lemba sacred 'Dumbghe Mountain' not yet excavated?
 

Religion (and ethnology)

Sabians (in the Qur'an) also qualify as "People of a Book" (given to Yahya).

Isma'ilis and the migration of souls.

Isma'ilis and Hinduism

Did the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation speak Old Tamil?

Speculation regarding the Virgin Birth of Jesus.

A unique example - an older religion recognising and accommodating a newer one.

Establishment of Buddhism in China.



From Arthur Law, Zimbabwe, 1983:

After reading Spengler's book, I could not help wondering whether Western Culture could be described as having a stronger passion for music than any of the other Cultures.
 

Comment:

I am inclined to agree. In the Spenglerian context, different art-forms are media for 'expressing and fulfilling the soul', and some Cultures seem to have placed more emphasis on sculpture or painting, rather than music. To support your suggestion, it would be helpful to try and decide which other societies (besides the West) accorded high prominence to music. India would certainly be worth considering.

David McN
 

From Antranig Khanmirzayents, Armenia, August 2000:

To me, it makes absolutely no sense to ask that question - nor to answer it. It depends entirely on what criteria are used to assess the "strength of passion for music".

I am not proposing Armenia here for the "number one" position in history, but would nevertheless like to offer a few comparisons which are critical of Western efforts.

The most important qualities in Armenian music are creativity, refined artistry, improvisation, and a sophisticated rhythmic and melodic sensibility.

In Western music, there is virtually no improvisation; thus each musican is not a creator or composer, but simply an automaton. To us, their symphonies seem brittle and mechanical, apparently devoid of the 'passion' which you mention. Without the highly developed sense of rhythm and unique timbres of Armenian instruments, Western music seems dull and vacant to our sensibilities.

Further and equally important from the Armenian worldview, Western music lacks the historical foundations that are an important attribute of truly great music. Without extensive use of Arabic, North African, Persian, Greek, Byzantine, Turkish and other musical traditions, there would be little European music to speak of.
 

Reply:

Yes, enjoyment of music is essentially a matter of taste. It could be argued that passion reaches high intensity during religious devotion; this undoubtedly fuelled the development of Western organ-music.

Your final paragraph could certainly be challenged.

David McN
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From Michael Holman, Zimbabwe, 1965 (subsequently with the UK newspaper "The Independent"):

Is it likely that more 'High Cultures' will develop eventually - for example one in sub-Saharan Africa?
 

Comment:

That is certainly possible. Maybe the African one has already been 'born'. If so, my guess is that its present 'age' corresponds to the stage which Western Culture had attained in about 500 or 600 AD.

The sub-Saharan love for music, along with the ability to compose their own - is perhaps the main reason why I believe they have the potential to develop into another High Culture.

David McN
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From Professor Gilbert Merlio, Bordeaux, France, 1984 [now at the Sorbonne in Paris]:

I read your essay on Oswald Spengler with great interest. However, I do have reservations as to whether any Western country is now capable of uniting our High Culture into the "Grand Imperium" which he envisages. The permissiveness and absence of discipline in modern-day west-European and American society will be a serious handicap.

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From John Reilly, USA, 1999:

One point which I do question in your essay on Spengler - is the notion that the Magian "nations" (the Armenians, the Zoroastrians and the Jews and so on) were a product of the pseudomorphosis. I believe that Spengler regarded these confessional societies as the natural nations of the Magian Culture. It was the territorial state, based on ethnicity or language, that was alien. From what I know about the Middle East, this idea does hold some water, but I would be interested to hear what you think.
 

Reply:

You are quite correct with your last comment. In Spengler's Middle Eastern or Magian Culture, component nations were based on religion.

It is also worth recalling that the "Magian pseudomorphosis" was a concept for which Spengler received some quite heavy criticism from his German academic contemporaries.

You are right, too, that when I used the phrase "distorted and fragmented" as a description of the Magian pseudomorphosis, it was my own personal expression. Spengler does not  say "fragmented" quite as bluntly as that - although I am tempted to suggest that he would not disagree too much, were he still here.

For example, he mentions that the Magian Culture was the only one to have been in contact with every other Culture (except the two American ones). Thus, going through the list of components, Byzantines were of course heavily influenced by their ancient Greek heritage; Zoroastrians absorbed a number of ideas and customs from India; Jewish religion had some of its roots in ancient Babylon, and Copts were originally ancient Egyptians - (this latter Civilisation was in a few respects still lingering in the 3rd/4th centuries AD). Armenians seem to have been influenced by a complex mixture of more than one of those above-mentioned external Cultures; (the same was probably true of Nestorians, and of Jacobite Christians in Syria).

As you know, the Graeco-Roman domination and distortion of Levantine Magianism is one of Spengler's main discussion-points. However, he definitely does also mention the Indian connection with the early Zoroastrians, as well as implying that Greek influences were somewhat weak on the extreme eastern churches (and on other Magian religions like those of the Manichaeans and the Sabians/Mandaeans of John the Baptist). But St Paul was a Roman citizen, and that did affect the development of (what eventually became) the Greek Orthodox Church. See Spengler's discussions regarding the Council of Ephesus and Council of Chalcedon. Thus, I  personally am inclined to think that the effects of neighbouring older Cultures - made the various Magian components even more different from each other, than they would otherwise have been.

In other words, the Arabs were probably the "purest" of them all, explaining why their religion spread like wildfire once it emerged. A lot of this is consistent with what Dr Spengler says in his pages given in note 5 of my essay.

David McN
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From John Reilly, USA, 1999:

I believe that Spengler somewhere compares the United States with Carthage. However, if I had to pick a 'Spenglerian parallel' with Carthage in the present world, then I would nominate Japan. Despite its current difficulties, Japan has remained an economic competitor, even after its military power was effectively terminated.
 

Comment:

I agree: your comparison of modern-day Japan with ancient Carthage is a good one. Spengler believed the Carthaginians to be a late offshoot (through the Phoenicians) of ancient Babylonian Civilisation, so they were essentially outsiders, but modified through having to face the Roman power. In a similar way, Japan is indeed trying to become westernised in some respects, but has not abandoned her old culture. As perhaps you know, Tang dynasty architecture and even Tang music are better preserved in Japan, nowadays, than they are in China, which never really recovered properly from the Mongol occupation.

I was also quite intrigued with the article "Japanese Temple Geometry" in the May 1998 Scientific American. I could not help wondering if it provided some insight into the old Chinese mathematic - which was lost (when Shi Hwang Di "burnt the books"). Had Spengler known about that Temple Geometry, he might well have mentioned it (along with his discussions of Chinese garden-art). The article implies too that ancient Chinese and Japanese mathematicians cultivated it as much for its artistic merit, as for its application to science and technology.

The above-mentioned Temple Geometry provides one clue, and I believe that comparing Chess with the Japanese board-game "Go" gives another indication as to how ancient Sino-Japanese mathematical concepts and techniques differed from our own. Undoubtedly, Chess is the much more "dynamic" game. However, even though the "Go" pieces do not move around the board, it is still extremely subtle and complicated. In addition, it might be argued that its evaluation and strategy suit the Japanese psyche more than the European one.

[Also see the remarks on Chess in the next item below > ]

David McN
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From Igor Makhankov, Naro-Fominsk (near Moscow), 2012 [adapted and enhanced]:
I am quite intrigued by the way Spengler discusses and contrasts the different styles of Mathematics which developed and flourished in various High Cultures, namely - the Geometry and Statics of the Ancient Greeks, the Algebra of Arabia and Persia, and the Calculus and Dynamics of the West. Thus, I cannot help asking myself what sort of new Mathematic will be created as the young Russian Culture unfolds.
 

Reply:

During the last decade or so, Russian mathematicians have certainly made prominent contributions in that field - and from their work it may well be feasible to discern a few clues as to the nature of the future Russian mathematic. In particular, Grigori Perelman should be highlighted. He demonstrated the truth of the Poincaré Conjecture, and it could well be significant (in the Spenglerian context) that it was a Russian mind which succeeded in doing that. Earlier, Perelman confirmed the Soul Conjecture with [what Wikipedia describes as] "an astonishingly concise proof". These two breakthroughs are indeed important insights and landmarks in the development of mathematical topology (which may be described and defined as the study of spaces and their connectivity). So perhaps the new Russian mathematic will blossom in this field? For example, eventually it might produce a comparatively simple proof of the Four Colour Theorem ! ... [As a comparison, here it is probably relevant to recall Archimedes's "proof" (20 or 30 pages long !) that the volume of a sphere had to be 4.pi.(r-cubed)/3 - by constructing internal and external regular polyhedrons with an ever-increasing number of faces. As you probably know - with calculus, the proof comes out in just a few lines].

I would like to suggest, incidentally, that the [Western] game of Chess seems to be particularly well tuned to the Russian mindset - [see Spengler's description of their soul in his "Decline ...", volume II, page 295, footnote]; in other words Spengler would not be surprised that the Slavs have produced so many world-class Chess players. (Chess as we know it developed in western Europe during the 1400s and 1500s - by introducing several changes in the older and less dynamic Arab-Indian game).

In a similar vein, I wonder whether the perception and construction of the Periodic Table of Elements crystallized more naturally in a Russian mind - that of Mendeleev - rather than in a West-European one.

It could be argued that the above-mentioned points seem consistent with Spengler's theory that the "Prime Symbol" of the Russian Culture is the 'infinite plane'. In other words, perhaps Russian mathematicians can immerse themselves more effectively than Western ones in the topology of surfaces (even ones which have been convoluted through higher dimensions !) - just as Mendeleev found it easy to contemplate and integrate the full extent and range of all known chemical elements.

David McN
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From Javier Ricardo Abella, Venezuela, 1999:

I am working on a thesis about the influence of Oswald Spengler's ideas on the National Socialist "ideology" (if one could call that an ideology). In particular, I am trying to get hold of Spengler's article entitled Political Duties of German Youth - if possible translated into English or Spanish. What can you tell me about it? Any other comments you have will also be valuable.
 

Reply:

I am not aware of any translation into English of Spengler's Politische Schriften, nor his Politische Pflichten der deutschen Jugend (which is actually one of the essays included in that volume). Charles Atkinson may have decided that they were too chauvinistic.

To digress, one of my colleagues (Arthur Law, in Zimbabwe) correctly remarked that Spengler was extremely lucky with his English translator. Judging by their correspondence, I do not think Spengler ever appreciated what an incredibly good job Atkinson had done.

There is one passage in Politische Pflichten der deutschen Jugend which is sometimes quoted to try and argue that Spengler was guilty of "encouraging the Nazis on to their doom" (even though he later rejected them, just as they disowned him). In that passage (in his Politische Schriften, page 147), Spengler regards the German ability to "hate" other nationalities - as an asset. However, the verb "hassen" (used by Spengler in that context) must be distinguished from the verb "verachten"; see for example page 41 in his book Der Mensch und die Technik (1971 edition), and also Spengler Letters, page 17. "Hassen" implies respect for one's opponent - so there is not really a good equivalent word in English. "Verachten" means "despise", and includes no respect.

You may be aware that the Nazi Armaments Minister Albert Speer referred briefly to (and even praised) Spengler in his autobiography Inside the Third Reich. Some Nazis were undoubtedly encouraged by Spengler's arguments that Germany was destined to weld Europe together into a Super-State.

However, it is extremely doubtful whether Hitler himself ever made much effort to read and understand Der Untergang des Abendlandes.

David McN
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To Timothy Fitzgerald, USA, January 2000:

As Yockey implies, it is probably correct that Zionism played a role in helping the Communists seize power in Russia in 1917; (for example, it could well be indicative that Trotsky served as one of Lenin's deputies). And in the aftermath of World War Two, the Soviets supported Israel's aspirations to independent nationhood.

However, during the 1950s the USSR seems to have 'changed sides' - supporting the Arabs in 1967 (and to some extent even in 1956) - as well as in subsequent Middle East conflicts. As perhaps you know, Kaganovitch (the last Jewish member of the Praesidium) was expelled in 1957. Yockey discusses that switch in attitude - when citing (in the second of his Four Essays) the trial and hanging of eleven Jews in Prague in 1952.

In addition, I remember reading somewhere about the 'crisis' undergone by the European far-Left during the 1950s, when it changed its allegiance from Israel to the Arabs.

David McN
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To Sanam Peshimam, Dubai, UAE, February 2000:

The Sabians mentioned in the Holy Qur'an are not the same as the Sabaeans of southwest Arabia (discussed elsewhere in this file in connection with the Lemba of southeast Africa). But the Sabians are significant from another point of view, because (like Muslims, Christians and Jews) they can be described as 'People of a Book'.

Muslims cite three earlier texts which were revealed before the Holy Qur'an, but there is a strong case for adding a fourth pre-Muslim 'Book' to that list. This is the Kitab Yahya which was given to the Prophet bearing that name (known to Christians as 'John the Baptist').

The Sabians (or Mandaeans) of southern Iraq still have sacred scriptures entitled the Book of John and the Ginza. Yahya is the primary figure of their religion.

The other three Books recognised by Muslims, as you probably know, were the Taurat - revealed to Moosa, the Zaboor (or 'Psalms') - passed down to Dawood, and the Injeel - given to Eissa (Jesus). I must add, incidentally, that Muslims believe that those earlier texts (like the Book of John) have not been preserved in their original form.

Sabians are specifically cited in the Holy Qur'an in surah 2, ayah 62 and again in surah 5, ayah 69 - as people who 'shall have their reward with God' (just like Jews and Christians). And Prophet Yahya is mentioned too in surah 19, ayah 12 - as having received a Book from Allah.

However, the linkage between Yahya and the Sabians is not mentioned in the Holy Qur'an, but it is well established from other sources.

David McN
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To Nasreen Hasan, Canada, February 2000:

There is evidence that the Isma'ilis accepted the possibility of transmigration of souls even during the Fatimid period. Known as tanasukh or metempsychosis, this belief had its roots in Neoplatonic philosophy. According to Farhad Daftary, Druzes still subscribe to it.

Thus, it is not difficult to understand how Hindu converts to the Nizari faith, would have found it easy to retain their concepts of reincarnation.

David McN
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To the "NOVA" website, March 2000
(after being directed there by Christine & Ian Dowdeswell of the USA):

I am puzzled because your website seems to contain two mutually inconsistent 'threads' running in completely opposite and contradictory directions. The two articles concerned are entitled Tudor Parfitt's remarkable journey, and Mystery of Great Zimbabwe.

In the first essay, you cite the strong genetic and other evidence that the Lemba have Jewish ancestry, and you even go on to mention the Lemba claim to have built the ancient Zimbabwean stone temples and fortresses. Indeed, in the second article you strengthen that thesis by referring to the identical burial practices amongst the Lemba and in ancient Zimbabwe (a point which is confirmed by Professor Gayre).

However, the second of your above-listed articles - fiercely attacks the suggestion that the ancient Zimbabwean temples might conceivably have been constructed by people from outside Africa, even though the previous essay believes the original male ancestry of the Lemba to be Semitic.

One important point not mentioned in your discussions, is the likelihood that the Lemba absorbed a lot of Bantu genes during the centuries immediately after their Middle Eastern ancestors arrived in southeast Africa. That would certainly explain the comparatively dark skin of modern-day Lemba, as well as their original Bantu-type language - a dialect of Makaranga (which is spoken in the Masvingo area around the Zimbabwe ruins). During those early centuries, Semitic immigrants into southeast Africa probably comprised many more males than females, in which case the men would have taken Bantu women as concubines (rather than as wives, constrained as they probably were by Semitic laws and customs). And it is a well-known fact that children learn their mother's language more readily than their father's - so it was not surprising that the original Semitic language was eventually replaced by a Bantu one (leaving only a few Hebrew or Arabic-sounding names, something else which is acknowledged in your site).

We must remember too that it was definitely a Y-chromosome feature which was carried down from the Jews to the modern-day Lemba; in other words that genetic link came through the male line of descent. This is consistent with the Lemba tradition (which you also refer to) - that their male ancestry derives from people 'who came by boat from a distant country'.

It is worth adding that other African tribes too probably absorbed some of the original inhabitants of ancient Zimbabwe, thereby inheriting a few of their customs and skills. These tribes include the Makaranga (along with other branches of the Shona) and the Venda. However, the Lemba seem to contain a significantly higher proportion of Semitic 'blood' than those other tribes do.

You also include a description of ancient Zimbabwe by the Portuguese writer João de Barros. However, you fail to mention that (in the 16th century, according to de Barros) there was "an inscription above the door" of the Great Stone Temple, and that the "Moorish merchants, learned men, could not even tell in what character it was written". Surely that is important and significant evidence regarding the origin of the ancient buildings there? Why did you leave it out of your article?

David McN
 

Reply from Peter Tyson, Online Producer, Nova:

You're right, the two pieces can sound contradictory. You state the key that clears up the seeming contradiction, namely, that over time, the Lemba, notwithstanding their Jewish heritage, became, for all intents and purposes, black Africans. So Parfitt's contention in Tudor Parfitt's Remarkable Journey that the Lemba have Semitic origins, and my argument in Mystery of Great Zimbabwe that archeological evidence suggests black Africans, including possibly the Lemba, built Great Zimbabwe, are not inherently contradictory, because the original Semitic Lemba became the African Lemba of today.

I thought this obvious so didn't mention it, but I think you're right that it should be stated to avoid confusion. So I've added the following penultimate paragraph to the "Mystery" article and amended the first sentence of the final paragraph:

If the Lemba contention is true, does this mean that outsiders - that is, not native Africans - built Great Zimbabwe? After all, the Lemba have Semitic origins (see Tudor Parfitt's Remarkable Journey). The answer is no, because by the time Great Zimbabwe was built in medieval times, the Lemba had become decidedly African, having so thoroughly intermixed with Bantu Africans over many hundreds of years that today, among other African traits, the Lemba have dark skin and speak a Bantu language.

Indeed, the more contentious part of that question "who built it?" has finally been put to rest...

Regarding de Barros's description of the inscription, I didn't include it in the article because, while intriguing, what does it prove? The inscription would indeed be "important and significant evidence" of Great Zimbabwe's origin if it still existed. But without it, all we know is that the Moorish merchants couldn't read it.
 

To Peter Tyson, Nova:

Presumably you did read my notes on Ancient Zimbabwe and the Lemba Tribe? There is still room for healthy and open debate on this unresolved controversy. Many people claim that it was really the Shona who built the temples - such that evidence for even a Lemba connection is sometimes deliberately suppressed or ignored (as in Scientific American, November 1997).

Regarding the existence (many centuries ago) of an inscription above the entrance to the Zimbabwean Temple, you ask "What does that prove?" First, it indicates that its original owners were probably not Bantu (none of whom had ever developed their own system of writing). Second, it confirms that the stone structures were extremely old when de Barros wrote his report in the mid-16th century.

Even today, there are significant features which distinguish Lemba society from surrounding tribes. One or two hundred years ago, when Western scholars noticed and began writing about them, those differences were more prominent. To recap, these included stone buildings, an elaborate New Moon ceremony, special burial customs, and Semitic dietary taboos; (it is also worth mentioning their propensity for mining and metalwork). Thus, if we go back even further, say a thousand years (or even just six hundred), it does seem debatable whether the Lemba could then have been described as "decidedly African" - if by that you mean 'Bantu'. (Compare footnote*).

The date when Great Zimbabwe was constructed is critical to this discussion, and it is true that scholars disagree about it. In Origin of the Zimbabwean Civilisation, Dr Gayre cites radiocarbon measurements suggesting that it was around 600 AD. Other wood-samples from the walls and drains carry later dates.

In this context, it is relevant to ask when the first commercial settlements were established in the Zimbabwean interior. It seems reasonable to link them to the ancient gold trade cited by Masudi and Ibn Al Wardy in the 10th century AD, and probably even to the earlier reference by Cosmas Indicopleustes to the 6th century AD.

You maintain that the granite buildings were constructed only after the Semitic immigrants had become 'thoroughly intermixed with Bantu Africans'. Is it not possible that they were built, or at least conceived before that? The stonework and drainage systems were quite sophisticated, as too were the gold-mining engineers, and those skills (along with terraced agriculture) could so easily have been imported from southern Arabia - where they were very much in vogue during the pre-Muslim era.
----------------------------
* I do agree that people of Semitic stock may be termed 'Africans' if their presence there dates back many centuries. Amharic-speaking Ethiopians, for example, are certainly 'Africans' in the broader sense. In fact, the original Amharic-speaking settlers of Ethiopia were probably distant cousins of the Lemba forefathers; (their languages were similar).

David McN
 

Reply from Peter Tyson, Nova:

I agree wholeheartedly in healthy and open debate on the subject, which is far from settled. Unfortunately, there isn't a place on the NOVA Web site to further that debate. On many subjects we cover, particularly controversial ones, I would like nothing more than to keep chatlines open indefinitely, or at the least have a "Letters to the Editor" section in which we could post perceptive commentary like yours. Sadly we don't have the resources to do so, though we are considering options for the future.

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From Anthony Sligar, USA, April 2000:

I recently watched a TV documentary on the Lemba of South Africa.

I am quite intrigued: please send me more information on how the Cohens, Ethiopians, and Lemba could be related through their common Jewish bond with Aaron.
 

Reply:

There is no complete and detailed history of the Jewish people: there are unfortunately plenty of gaps in the 'saga'. In particular, the story of how their religion spread southwards into (what is now) the Yemen and Ethiopia - is partly speculation. However, I will try and keep to facts as far as possible; when I do resort to guesswork, then I will say so.

Virtually all scholars are agreed that there was a civilised, prosperous society in the south and southwest of Arabia during the centuries both before and after the birth of Christ - probably lasting 1000 years or more. There is certainly abundant rainfall there, particularly in the mountains. That region was a source of exotic spices (like myrrh and frankincense) -  probably as a result of their own cultivation, but perhaps through trade as well. Quite possibly the Queen of Sheba was based there; (Sheba is thought to be another name for "Saba" - which was indeed the name of one of the components there, inhabited by the "Sabaeans").

Most people accept that the Sabaeans had good trade links with India and much of East Africa - probably at least as far as Zanzibar. They also seemed to possess plenty of gold - although it is not at all clear from where they obtained their supply; (but see later*).

Much further north was the Jewish state of Israel/Palestine (as described in the Old Testament). It suffered a series of heavy blows between about 725 BC and 575 BC at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. Written records are somewhat confused and fragmented with regard to what happened in Israel immediately after that - because most of the Jewish scholars and priests were either killed or carried off in captivity to Babylon.

However, it is likely that some Jews managed to escape to Saba in the south. Quite possibly, that was when the Judaistic faith became planted in Saba (but perhaps without completely displacing the previous religion - which worshipped a moon-goddess).

There was also a lot of contact (including invasions and counter-invasions) across the Red Sea between Saba and the kingdom of Axum (or Aksum) in modern-day Ethiopia. Here too the written records are not all that prolific, but there is evidence that Axum also adopted Judaism at some stage. (The "Falashas" are obviously the remnant of that society, not being completely wiped out when Coptic Christianity later took hold in Ethiopia).

According to a few sources, some Jews may have settled in Abyssinia even before the Assyrians invaded Israel.

*Coming back now to the enigmatic gold wealth of Saba and its sister-state of Axum, there is certainly evidence that enormous quantities of gold were extracted from the ground in Zimbabwe - and that this took place long before the Portuguese explored that territory in the early 1500's. Many ancient mines can still be found scattered round Zimbabwe.

It is by no means impossible that the Sabaeans and Axumites sailed further south beyond Zanzibar. The wind systems along that coast do regularly change direction, making it easy to return to equatorial latitudes. (Remember too that the Phoenicians managed to circumnavigate Africa in about 600 BC).

And perhaps the Sabaeans and Axumites tried panning the effluent of the Zambesi and Sabi rivers, discovering gold in their waters - to their surprise and delight.

Certainly, if anybody did stumble upon an 'Eldorado' of that nature, then they would try and keep it secret. Nevertheless, there is actually a document written (by Cosmas Indicopleustes) in the 6th century AD which mentions Axumite expeditions to obtain gold from a place in SE Africa (where the behaviour of the sun confirmed that it was in the southern hemisphere).

I believe that the lure of gold eventually led to a Semitic colony becoming established in Zimbabwe, accompanied by its Jewish-type religion (with an active priesthood, it now seems). In addition to mining and making ornaments out of gold (and probably copper), they constructed drystone temples and fortresses (with sophisticated drainage systems), and they carved agricultural terraces out of the Inyanga mountain slopes. The same people also seem to have cultivated cotton and probably wove their own garments. Perhaps at some stage there was a mass exodus to SE Africa after a conquest or upheaval in south Arabia; (there certainly were several crises there between about 400 and 1000 AD).

The Lemba tribe could easily be the remains of that ancient Semitic society - after fleeing from Zimbabwe when the Bantu people began to pour across the Zambesi in increasing numbers. It should be added that the Lemba must have absorbed a lot of Bantu genes since their ancestors first arrived in SE Africa (see my letter to Nova).

David McN
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To John Reilly, USA, May 2000:

Thank you for pointing me towards the review of Yockey's Imperium in your "History" section. Regrettably, I do believe that you have not been entirely fair to him. Nevertheless, I can understand how his scathing criticism of the USA does not go down well with Americans.

But it is misleading to imply that there is nothing whatsoever of value in that book. His refutations of Darwinism and Freudianism do contain good sense. (I am not a 'Creationist' incidentally, but attitudes to classical Darwinism were certainly modified in later decades - for example, scientists did eventually recognise that mutations are often significant). And Yockey's description of "The common man" is very apt (pages 251-253). In addition, Yockey's paraphrasing of Spengler's philosophy does sometimes help fill in gaps and enhance one's understanding of that difficult topic - which so many modern authors consider to be unfashionable and not worthy of analysis.

Your mention of the possible influence of Imperium on Satanism must be placed in its proper perspective. There are undoubtedly many books whose content has been twisted and reinterpreted by outsiders - sometimes for evil purposes - but it does not always follow that the author of the original text was also evil. I do not believe that Yockey was himself a Satanist. However, it might be easy for some readers of your review to receive a misleading impression.

Hitler is never mentioned once, anywhere in Imperium (although Mussolini is acknowledged) - so it is hard to see how Hitler really could be "the hero" to whom the work is dedicated. Perhaps Yockey was simply generalising, despite using the singular form (just as he was on page 56, when reminding us that "Fear of death does not prevent the hero from doing what has to be done"). Indeed, throughout his book, Yockey often avoids the plural in expressions of that sort. And it could well be significant, too, that the noun "hero" was not capitalised in the dedication.

On page 301, Yockey describes the Nazi obsession with racial purity as "a grotesquerie"; (maybe you missed that passage). He adds that members of other races often can become westernised, and that they should be completely accepted once they do. However, you are right that Yockey should have used much stronger language to condemn the Nazi treatment of Jews, Gypsies and Slavs, which did indeed constitute a monstrous crime against humanity.

One important point which Yockey did try to convey, was that during 1945-48 the USSR represented (and would continue to be) the most dangerous threat to Europe. There was no need to worry any more about Germany. And he was quite correct - the Russians proceeded to hold on to and bleed a large portion of Europe for another 40 years - as well as causing serious problems in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Thus, Yockey's chapters on Russia were relevant and valuable - and are still worth reading even now, if we accept that one day the Slavs will recover their strength.

Russia does indeed seem to have a different 'soul' from that of Western Culture (if you will allow me to use those terms). Solzhenitsyn could probably now be added to Yockey's list on page 579 of people "who represent true Russia" (like Dostoyevsky and the 17th century Archpriest Avvakum).

Despite the present crisis there, I am convinced that Russia could well provide difficulties for the West again in the future. We were just lucky that she was too weak and preoccupied to support Iraq during the 1990-91 Gulf War. Undoubtedly, there will be similar problems in the Middle East and the Balkans within the next decade or two.

Still looking at 1945, it has been argued with justification that Roosevelt was guilty of not being firmer with Stalin. American forces could have opposed or reversed the Soviet advance into the heart of Europe, had they wanted to. It was scandalous that Poland (for whose sake Britain and France had gone to war in 1939) was in 1945 sacrificed to Communist tyranny, and that many talented and capable Poles then 'disappeared'. Churchill was quite outspoken regarding that betrayal, particularly after the contribution made by Polish troops to the Allied war effort. Thus, it is easy to understand why Yockey regarded Roosevelt with such mistrust and distaste.

But I do agree with you that Yockey went much too far in his criticism of American Jews. Nevertheless, it is probably fair to admit that during the 1940s, their influence on American foreign policy was greater than warranted by the number of Jews resident in the USA. To an extent, the Jewish lobby is still quite powerful in Washington today, as the Palestinians will testify.

Looking back once again at the Second World War, pertinent questions have been asked about Roosevelt's handling of Japan (and here too, Yockey's commentary is worth considering). I have heard it implied, for example, that Washington went out of its way to try and provoke Tokyo during 1941, and also that Roosevelt knew in advance that the Pearl Harbor attack was coming. (Was it coincidence that all the aircraft carriers had been removed from Hawaii? These were far more important than battleships). Of course, Japan had been guilty of appalling atrocities in China, but what was Roosevelt's real motive? Was it to enter the war in order to punish Germany for its maltreatment of the Jews?

David McN

BIBLIOGRAPHY
W.S. Churchill, The Second World War (particularly volume 12). Cassell, London, 1954.
J. Wheeler-Bennett & A. Nicholls, The Semblance of Peace: the political settlement after the Second World War. SBN 333-04302-2. MacMillan, London, 1972.
 

Reply from John Reilly:

I don't know of any evidence that Yockey was a Satanist, either. While what the Satanists have to say seems to contain a stratum of Yockey's ideas, those ideas do not themselves require a Satanic conclusion. Yockey cannot be blamed for the fact that others have tried to adapt his theories. Still, there is a case to be made for influence by Yockey on the Satanists. It is important to point out the connection, simply as a matter of intellectual history.

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To Rajitha & Jayan, Kerala (India) and UAE, June 2000:

There are indications that modern-day Tamils and Keralites are descended from people who created the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation in what is now Pakistan (at Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, etc.) They could well have been driven south when the Sanskrit-speaking Aryans invaded India.

Some people claim that analyses of ancient Indus Valley texts show patterns which are similar to Old Tamil, suggesting that they represent an early Dravidian language. For example, there is a good article by Walter A. Fairservis in the March 1983 Scientific American, pages 44-52.

Another Dravidian tongue (Brahui) is still spoken in Pakistan. In addition, the old Elamite language of southwest Iran has definitely been proved to be a distant 'cousin' of Old Tamil and Malayalam.

There are even arguments that the Dravidian family is (remotely) related to Finnish and Hungarian, based on word comparisons; (Chambers's Encyclopaedia, 1973, volume 7, page 475).

It is certainly plausible that a Dravidian dialect was widely spoken in northwest India several thousand years ago.

David McN
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To Valsa George, Kerala (India) & Saudi Arabia, September 2000:

With regard to the 'Virgin Birth' of Jesus, Leslie Weatherhead puts forward some interesting ideas in his book; (click on that name to open the relevant file and read the extract).

David McN
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From Steve Redder, USA, January 2001:

What do you think Spengler would say about the modern-day European Union? To what extent does it fit his concept of an "Integrated Europe"?
 

Comment:

I suspect that Spengler (had he been here to reply), might have regarded the present European Community as a somewhat clumsy and messy arrangement, arguing that it does not really have a clear sense of purpose or identity. As you know, its primary emphasis is on economic union.

At the same time, it is certainly indicative that so many individual European states have voluntarily drawn together into a community. This could be interpreted as evidence that their differences have almost faded into insignificance: i.e. after centuries of warfare, they seem to be converging naturally towards sharing what is essentially the same outlook.

David McN
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From John Reilly, USA, 2002:

There is one item in your essay on Spengler and Hitler which I am inclined to criticize: I maintain that World War II was still too "early" for Caesarism to take hold in Western Civilisation.
 

Comments (copied to Haroon Sheikh, Netherlands, for the Manchester Workshop in Political Theory, 2008):

Yes, it could certainly be said that Hitler was "too early" in that he tried to achieve too much too quickly. Of course, he was intoxicated by his own megalomania - and this undoubtedly contributed to his downfall.

But if the Nazis had managed to remain in control of Germany after World War II, I suspect that Spengler (had he lived on) would have been tempted to "equate" Hitler's assumption of full power in 1934 - with Marius's elevation in status in 104 BC. This latter event is discussed on page 423 of volume II of The Decline of the West (English translation), including mention of a comparable occasion in China in 288 BC. That possible analogy with the Roman era is consistent with Spengler's commentary on page 18 of The Hour of Decision.

Perhaps more significant is the fact that Spengler actually voted to support the Nazis in 1932 and 1933. As reported by John Farrenkopf on page 236 of his Prophet of Decline (quoting Anton Koktanek), Spengler decided that the Nazi movement would at least prepare the way for a transition into Caesarism, despite his fear that Hitler's lack of foreign policy skills could be a serious handicap.

Thus, according to Spengler's "timetable", the 1930s and 1940s were indeed too early for (the equivalent of) Caesar Octavianus or Tiberius, but maybe those years could have witnessed the successful rise of a "Marius", if correctly handled.

David McN
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From James Bush, Spain, 2003:

What would you say is the relevance today of Spengler's writings? In particular, what points could be interpreted as "useful advice"?
 

Suggestions:

(i) Europe should be regarded as a single entity.

(ii) Democracy (with its universal adult franchise) is no longer an efficient form of government for Western Civilisation (- and even less so for the Third World).

(iii) The modern-day obsession with money is quite unhealthy - looking at the way it dominates almost every aspect of our lives.

David McN
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From Bridget Harding, Germany, 2004:

Very relevant to the present situation in Europe is the possibility that a High Cultural Organism may be constrained or even killed by outside forces, remembering how Russian involvement altered the outcome of World War II. Perhaps we should look carefully at other examples where that happened: (you do mention the Aztecs and the Incas).
 

Reply:

I suspect that the Indus Valley Civilisation was destroyed by Hindu invaders before it even commenced its imperial phase. Unfortunately, we have no written records describing that era.

In Spengler's Magian Culture, the Seljuk Turks managed to unite and rule most of Persia, Iraq, Syria and Anatolia. It was of course the 'heathen' Mongols who finally wiped out that empire: Genghis Khan invaded Khorasan in 1220 AD; his grandson captured Baghdad in 1258. Earlier, in 1141, the Seljuks had already been defeated in battle by a different Mongol tribe - the Kara Khitai.

The 'alien' Crusaders were also part of the equation, clashing with the Seljuks in a series of wars over the Holy Land.

In addition, it could be argued that the Magian Culture never completely recovered from the "pseudomorphosis" - which was of course imposed from outside. Before the Mongols appeared on the scene, the Seljuks' principal rivals were two other Magian powers - the Byzantines and the (Isma'ili Shi'ite) Fatimids, but the Seljuks never even managed to set foot in Greece or in Egypt. From 1090 onwards, the Isma'ili Assassins (a Fatimid offshoot) played havoc throughout the Seljuk dominions.

Spengler seems to suggest that the Sunni/Shi'a sectarian split was partly fuelled by Babylonian and perhaps Zoroastrian pseudomorphic influence - see The Decline of the West, volume II, p.176 and perhaps pp. 424 and 236. However, more research would be necessary to confirm that theory.

David McN
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To Roderick Mcintosh, Rice University, and to the Editor of Archaeology, USA, May 2004:

There are serious errors and misconceptions in your discussion of Ancient Zimbabwe [originally placed at http://www.archaeology.org/9807/abstracts/africa.html] - which was published in Archaeology volume 51 (no.4) in July/August 1998.

1. You state that "we now know that the plateau's rich gold deposits . . . were not exploited until perhaps a century after [Great Zimbabwe's] founding" - which you maintain (elsewhere in your commentary) was in the 12th century. However, there are several references to gold being mined there long before that. Two Arab writers - Masudi in 916 AD and Ibn Al Wardy in 957 AD - tell us that in their time it was being exported from Sofala (just east of Great Zimbabwe). Furthermore, in his book Topographia Christiana (written in the sixth century), Cosmas Indicopleustes refers to gold acquired from southeast Africa - "a place where winter occurred during northern hemisphere summer".

2. You also believe that "the poor soil would not have supported agriculture on a scale required to sustain Great Zimbabwe's burgeoning population, necessitating imports of grain and other staples from distant tributary sites". On the contrary, the Eastern Highlands of Zimbabwe do contain rich agricultural land enjoying abundant rainfall. Within the Inyanga area there, ancient terracing extends over many hundreds of square miles - that can only have been for agricultural purposes. Ancient gold workings and dry-stone ruins found in that same region, confirm its association with Great Zimbabwe.

3. Another passage in your text claims that "in Bantu, 'zimbabwe' means sacred house, or ritual seat of a king". It is true that this word occurs in Shona with that (approximate) meaning - but it is quite misleading to imply that it is widely spread throughout the Bantu family. As far as I know, it does not occur in SiNdebele, nor in SeSotho, nor Tswana, nor ChiBemba, nor Swazi: (these are of course other Bantu languages, all spoken in or near the Zambesi/Limpopo sector). We do need to ask whether the word 'zimbabwe' could be a purely local one - confined to southeast Africa. If this is indeed correct, then it could well have been adopted comparatively recently from a non-Bantu source: in other words, perhaps it is just a Shona adaptation of some foreign name. [As a tentative illustration, it may be significant that Ptolemy's map of the world places 'AgiSymba' in southeast Africa, or that 'Sin' was the ancient Sabaean Moon-god. In a similar vein, it has been suggested that the old name 'Abyssinia' contains that root-word 'Sin'.]

You do not mention the possibility that the ancestors of the Lemba people contributed to the development of ancient Zimbabwe. This alternative theory could answer two other questions which you pose, namely:

(i) How could such an influential power develop [there]? <Plausible answer: It may have been a colony, sustained to a large extent by its mother country>.

(ii) Archaeologists have been at a loss to explain its sudden appearance on the southern African landscape. <Comment: Its earliest roots may be much older than you imply - perhaps gold extraction commenced before the Christian era - with the colony therefore being built up over a period of many centuries>.

Here is a third extremely important question which you do not address:
(iii) Why did that ancient civilisation collapse so quickly? (at least, according to the dates you postulate: you believe it was still flourishing in the 15th century). Writing in the mid-16th century, de Barros asserted that (according to the Moors who had visited Great Zimbabwe) the stone buildings were already "extremely old" - such that people living there had "absolutely no idea who might have constructed them". At that time there was apparently an inscription above the entrance to the main temple, which nobody could read. <My comment on this point (iii): That colony was eroded gradually (not suddenly) - a process which probably started before the 15th century; eventually the settlements were all overwhelmed by the ever-increasing number of Shona invaders>.

David McN
 

Reply from Peter Young, Editor-in-Chief, Archaeology:
I do not think we want to return to the subject of ancient Zimbabwe at this time. But I appreciate your interest.
 

To Peter Young (but no reply was received):
Are there political reasons for that decision, and for your apparent reluctance to acknowledge the existence of the Lemba theory?

David McN
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From Richard Allport, Netherlands, June 2004:

It was some years ago when I read Professor Gayre's book The origin of the Zimbabwean Civilisation - but I believe he placed great emphasis on the numerous bird-figures which were discovered there, maintaining that they constitute strong evidence for an external influence.
 

Comment:

Yes indeed, he discusses that topic in some detail in his pages 139-142, and ends by asserting that "the bird symbol is one of the most convincing pieces of evidence for the origin of the people and the religion of Zimbabwe". He compares the bird-figures of Zimbabwe with those of ancient Egypt (including photographs between pages 104 and 105), and remarks that the Egyptian divinity represented by the falcon - was apparently associated with gold-mining.

To support his argument, several times he quotes from the book "The divine kingship in Ghana and ancient Egypt" by Eva L.R. Meyerowitz (Faber & Faber, London, 1960) - but unfortunately I have not yet had the opportunity of reading and evaluating her work.

It would probably also be fruitful to carry out some research into totems utilised by other southern and central African Bantu tribes, particularly those living near the west coast, i.e. in Namibia, Angola, and the lower Congo. If they revere any bird-figures, then it would be interesting to compare them with the soapstone carvings found in ancient Zimbabwe.

David McN
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From Imran Sajwani, Illinois Institute of Technology, October 2004:

I read your article entitled The Aga Khan's Flock; you have done a great job in writing a brief introduction to the Isma'ilis.

As a member of that community, I would like to clarify our attitude to the various Hindu religious texts. They are not a part of our doctrine and teachings, so it is perhaps a bit too strong to say that they provide "inspiration". They are merely (as defined by the Aga Khan himself) "a wonderful tradition", containing beautiful poetry expressing devotion to Almighty God. But of course, they cannot be compared with the Holy Qur'an.

The early Isma'ili missionaries managed to relate the Hindu texts to Islam: this was indeed a very effective means of conversion.
 

Comment:

Thank you. Presumably we could say too that the (originally Jewish) Psalms in the Christian Old Testament provide another means whereby people (of all religions) may express their devotion to God.

Another example of a 'bridge' between those two southern Asian religions, is the similarity between the Isma'ili "tanasukh" and the Hindu belief in reincarnation; (see above).

David McN
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To Naveed Malik, Chicago, December 2004:

Younger religions are often happy to absorb some of the beliefs and doctrines of older ones - i.e. those which are already established. For example:

(i) Christians read - and regard as 'inspired' - the (originally Jewish) Old Testament.
(ii) Islam accepts as prophets many figures from the Jewish and Christian faiths, (as well as the Mandaean Messenger Yahya - see above).
(iii) The 15th century Nizari Isma'ili missionaries in India presented 'Ali as the tenth reincarnation of the Hindu God Vishnu.
(iv) Buddhism adopted the Hindu concepts of "dharma" and "karma" - as well as taking over certain Hindu motifs for part of its artistic symbolism.
(v) The Baha'i faith recognises Abraham, Moses, Krishna, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus and Muhammed as Divine Messengers.

However, most religions tend to be hostile to a new one which appears after them. Thus, the majority of Christians mistrust Islam, and Muslims regard Baha'is as apostates and heretics.

There is one interesting exception to the pattern of older religions being inherently hostile to younger ones. According to their Bhagavata Purana, Hindus accept Buddha as the most recent reincarnation of their Principal Deity, Vishnu.

David McN
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From Jo-Ann Lin, University of South Dakota, USA, 2001:

 I am currently doing a research paper on Buddhism, but cannot find a satisfactory answer to the question: "How did Buddhism become the predominate religion during the Tang dynasty in China?" I wondered, for example, if it was helped by the enormous power and influence enjoyed by that dynasty at its cultural zenith. However, I cannot find any evidence to support that. How do you think Buddhism managed to supersede Taoism and Confucianism?
 

Reply:

It would have been very difficult for Buddhism to penetrate a China controlled by a strong central government sponsoring a different religion like Taoism or Confucianism.

The foundations of Buddhism in China were in fact laid down long before the Tang Dynasty was established: many monasteries were constructed during centuries when life and society were disrupted by rebellions and internal conflicts. In addition, the Hiongu “barbarians” felt that it was appropriate to support and adopt the “alien” Buddhist religion - because they themselves were regarded as outsiders.

The subsequent consolidation of that faith owed a lot to the appearance, at suitable times, of capable or powerful personalities: [certain other incipient religions have been less fortunate in that respect]. In China, influential figures of that nature included Dharmaraksha (c.230-307 AD) and perhaps Kumarajiva (c.344-413 AD), both of whom translated a large number of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Chinese. Equally important, but for a completely different reason, was the Emperor Sui Wen, who had earlier been raised as a Buddhist ... he managed to reunite China under the Sui Dynasty after 370 years of division; in 581 AD he removed all obstacles to the spread of his religion throughout his realms.

It also seems likely that that Buddhism appealed to a wide spectrum of Chinese people by claiming that it was the path through which absolutely anybody could attain release from their suffering.

David McN
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From George Scott, USA, 2006:

I have long been fascinated by the ancient Mayans and Aztecs, but Spengler has disappointingly few comments on that 'Mexican' Culture.

Thus, I have been trying to figure out and define the character of the Mesoamerican soul. For them, the universe comprised a "heaven" containing 13 layers and an "underworld" with 9 layers. Earth's surface was regarded as the lowermost celestial layer as well as the uppermost of the nine subterranean ones. Architecturally, the stepped structure of Mexican pyramids seems to reflect that view of the cosmos.

Additionally, I'm seeing layering in the pictoral compositions on Mayan ceramics.

So - while our Faustian 'prime symbol' is infinite space and the Classical one was point-present, we could perhaps describe the Mexican 'prime symbol' as layer-lamination.
 

Comment from John Reilly, USA:

One of the most notable features of the Mayan Culture was their obsession with time - in fact, we could almost call them "time worshippers". For example, they assumed that times "rhymed" - i.e., dates from their mythical past and from their (still) distant future appeared on stellae which marked significant historical events. As an illustration, it was as if the American Congress had dated the Declaration of Independence not just July 4, 1776, but also 753 BC to connect the document with the founding of Rome - quite possibly with yet another reference to an expected event in the far future - 2528 AD, say.

Time cycles certainly were an essential component of their concept and treatment of history. So, if we are searching for a 'prime symbol' from Mesoamerican art, we might take a look at those round calendars.
 

Additional observations:

Sometimes Spengler suggests more than one 'prime symbol' for a particular High Culture. For example, the Arabian/Persian one has a 'cavern-symbol' (deduced from its architecture) as well as its 'alchemy' - see page 248 of The Decline of the West, volume I. Those two symbols reflect the Magian obsession with secret attributes and with hiding or concealing:  see DoW I pp. 184, 200, and 224.

So, coming back to the Mexican Culture, we should perhaps try to marry the two ideas mentioned above - i.e., the architectural one and the time-cycles.

Also important was the sacred "ceiba" tree, sometimes described as the "axis of the Mayan world". With its roots penetrating deep into the ground and its shoots reaching high into the sky, the role of that tree was to bind together the celestial domain, Earth's surface, and the underworld, i.e. symbolising or providing a link between those three 'cosmic layers'.

No other Culture seems to have had such a strong inclination to focus its attention downwards - in this instance, towards the sacred Mayan "xibalba" (underworld) - accessible, they were convinced, through their "cenotes" (deep wells).

But the Mayans also expended a great deal of effort gazing upwards - judging by their relatively advanced astronomy as well as by the long, steep stairways leading to the tops of their temples.

In addition, the Mayans did believe in active contact with their ancestors - who were residing either in the underworld or in the celestial domain, but still quite capable of influencing terrestrial affairs. Furthermore, they did not view death as the 'end-phase' - instead, it was the means by which new life-forms were generated.

It is not difficult to extend these concepts to a notion of cyclic alternation linking Past, Present and Future, permitting certain exchanges between those three time-states. In other words, the Mayans did not regard time as just a smooth linear progression, which is of course how Westerners and Ancient Egyptians view it.

>> There is another technique Spengler sometimes uses to analyse the form and 'personality' of a High Culture: he implies that the type of landscape influences and determines the character and nature of its soul.

One of the easiest examples to understand is Ancient Egypt: their 'unidirectional notion' of Life was supposedly linked to the River Nile. We could also concede that the Ancient Greek Culture straddled the Aegean Sea with all its islands and promontories - (their cities on the west coast of Anatolia were almost as significant as those of Athens, Sparta, Thrace and Macedonia): that configuration was supposedly linked in some mysterious fashion to their obsession with the corporeal and with the "here-now".

According to Spengler, the Russian 'prime symbol' is the unlimited horizontal plane, i.e., their (principally two-dimensional) outlook is somehow conditioned by their vast steppes - whereas Western Culture (with its excellent appreciation of three-dimensional space) formed around the Alps and the Pyrenées.

I personally am not sure what to make of all this. It involves deep metaphysical, spiritual, quasi-religious considerations, such that Spengler does not even attempt to explain how the mechanism operates - but he nevertheless believes that it does - see DoW I p.203, and maybe also DoW I pp.174-175, 188-190 and DoW II pp.295 (footnote), 119.

Thus, I have wondered how Spengler might have tried to extend his thesis had he known about the Mayan dynastic date-cycles. For example, he might have regarded it as significant that the Mesoamerican landscape consists of three well-defined levels or 'layers' - i.e., coastal plains, high plateaus, and mountain areas. Alternatively, he might have focussed on three features of the middle-American isthmus - namely its northwestern extension and its southeastern one, with no clear limit or boundary lying beyond either of them - together with the compact Yucatán peninsula (the centre of Mayan Culture) leading off to one side. Could we somehow relate those three features to 'Past, Future and Present'?

Here, I am reminded of the Mayan motif featuring a serpent with two-heads (one at each end, and without a tail) - which therefore looks forwards and backwards.

David McN
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From Professor Ioannis Liritzis, Archaeometry Laboratory, University of the Aegean, Greece, 2012:

Regarding the ancient temples of Zimbabwe, it should be feasible to use surface luminescence dating to calculate when the stones were actually placed in the buildings.
 

Comment:

A really excellent, constructive suggestion - Many thanks! ... Carbon-dating does admittedly tell us when growth stopped in certain pieces of wood which were found in the walls, but that wood may have been utilized for later repair-work. As you imply, thermoluminescence and optical dating techniques relate more directly to the stonework.

David McN
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To Professor Tudor Parfitt, SOAS, London, 2012:

During the 19th century, there were  reports by Selous, Bent and others of wild lemon groves in Mashonaland. They were sited in permanent wetlands (often near ancient gold-workings or stone ruins), but were not being cultivated at all, nor were they harvested by the local population. It is therefore relevant to ask who might have planted them: (the Portuguese did not ever settle in that area).

Selous remarked that the lemons tasted significantly sweeter than those which he knew from England.

So - this leads to the question whether a detailed genetic analysis of those wild Zimbabwean lemons might be feasible - and fruitful... In particular, it might be possible to relate them to lemons grown in the Yemen or southern Oman. Many of those ancient Zimbabwean lemon groves are still flourishing naturally.

David McN

REFERENCES
F.C. Selous, Travel and adventure in Africa, 1893.
J.T. Bent, The ruined cities of Mashonaland, Longmans Green, London, 1896.
 

Reply from Professor Tudor Parfitt:

The question regarding the lemons is indeed an old one. No-one has investigated it as you suggest, but that could well be worthwhile.

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To Professor Magdel le Roux, University of South Africa, Pretoria, 2012:

After reading your book "The Lemba, a lost tribe of Israel in southern Africa?" (particularly pages 43 and 127), I could not help wondering whether archaeological investigations in the Dumbghe Mountain (Mberengwa, Belingwe) would yield fruitful information and evidence with regard to Lemba origins. Because it is their 'sacred place', however, they would probably not be too happy with that suggestion?

David McN
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From Zhuldyz Zhumashova, Kazakhstan, July 2014:

I am wondering whether, in philosophy, the terms "world picture" and "world view" represent the same concept, or whether there is sometimes an important difference between them. As far as I know, Oswald Spengler was the first writer to employ the expression "world picture".
 

Reply:

Indeed, Spengler describes and discusses ways of forming a "world picture" on pages 94 to 103 of volume I of his Decline of the West (referring here to the English version). The original German word used, was "Weltbild". He was probably anxious to distinguish it from "Weltanschauung" - which is often translated as "world view", and which was coined much earlier by Kant - because Spengler maintains that Kant's 'methodology' is completely different from his own. Spengler criticised Kant for being too rigorously systematic, whereas Spengler's approach (which he calls a "physiognomic" process) is much more intuitive. This may become clearer if (at the bottom of page 55 in volume I) you look at his distinction between experience as lived, or "Erleben" - and experience as learned ("Erkennen", which he regards as less meaningful). On pages 55-56 (and 94-97) you will notice that Goethe helped Spengler formulate these ideas. In Spengler's vocabulary, the act of "World picturing" ("Weltbildung") may be either systematic (i.e., following Kant), or intuitive and "physiognomic"; in fact it can sometimes be a mixture of the two!

David McN
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