Ancient mysteries

Mayan ball game

Forgotten cultures

A recent post in a sister-blog on the stone mysteries of southern England—the ancient, awe-full wonders of Stonehenge and Avebury—has been chipping away at my memory recently, and, seeing as I am incapable (for which there is a bullet-pointed list of personally applicable reasons) of writing about the topic of quantum physics, I shall follow this chalk-etched lead instead—a kind of Puppy Powers Revisited yet again, jumping on the bandwagon act of flattery by appropriation I suppose.

Here in New Zealand there is much to be proud of—clean air, clear skies and crystal waters, all so abundant that we take them for granted. We are much like children this respect, blissfully ignorant still of limitation in life, and it often takes a trip beyond the shores of "God's Own" to bring the realisation that, in the words of comedian and Kiwi cultural icon John Clarke, "We don't know how lucky we are, mate."

Did I say clear skies? Let me qualify that, for I meant free of pollution. The name for New Zealand in Maori, our indigenous Tangata Whenua or "People of the Land", is Aotearoa—the "Land of the Long White Cloud", and although assigned by a culture in general more poetic in these matters than my own, it has in this case a quite literal meaning. In Auckland, my home city and inspiration for the Crowded House song Four Seasons in One Day, the clouds are never far away.

The sphinx

Much older than currently thought?

In all this freshness and newness that to the locally spoilt is neither fresh nor new, there is the drawback that, in one of those you can't have your cake and eat it paradoxes—nothing here in New Zealand is ancient precisely because everything is so new. There was no known human civilisation until approximately a thousand years ago here—Phoenician hats and Egyptian coins supposedly unearthed aside—and a walk around, country-side or city-wide, elicits in me at least, no feelings of depth, memory or mystery. Everything is new, untouched and unconnected to a past which has yet to be written.

None of which explains my from an early age love of ancient cultures and their forgotten mysteries. I remember quite clearly first discovering the concept of history, I believe asking the question of my teacher-mother what one of her colleagues did, a question most likely prompted by the fact that he looked rather unusual, a parentally embarrassing line of inquiry favoured by my younger self, and oft conducted in a loud carrying voice. "He teaches history" was the answer, and personal revelation that there was a past to everything around me, a past that preceded myself and my arrival on this planet. The idea felt like something that could swallow me up.

Perhaps because we are mostly without historical memory in this country, lies the reason for my fascination with the greener grass of pastures further afield—forget untouched forests and pristine beaches, I've been to plenty of those. I prefer the pyramids of Egypt or the Mayan temples of the Yucatan Peninsula to the uninformed enjoyment of nature—an overarching backstory to add the flavour of meaning and significance to the present. And of course it is the concept, nay reality of reincarnation that truly brings the past to life, taking it out of the dry and dusty realm of history books and into the melting pot of inherited talents, tastes, preferences and inclinations that shape our present selves.

And so, along the well-trod path that led me to embracing meditation and the spiritual life like a long lost friend, I spent weeks at a time pausing to read every book I could find on places and times like, in no particular order, Japan, China, Egypt and the Middle East, Rome, Atlantis, the Mayans and the Incas, England of King Arthur and Scandinavia.

Which reminds me of a funny story. I once knew a person who had spent some time on a spiritual path where, amusingly, you could choose for yourself a spiritual name on day one, a name that you felt embodied the qualities that you yourself would most like to be. For reasons I still can not fathom, and no offense meant to those north and just south of the Arctic circle, he choose the name "Viking." God bless him for the mirth he unselfishly gifted us...

Columns

Ancient ruins

For me at least, the idea that there are many mysteries to our planet's past was a key factor in my questioning of the validity of where I found myself in the present. I grew up with a strong conviction that science had at best an incomplete hand of cards, only partial answers to the many forgotten realms of history, and also spirit. I was fascinated by anything that might suggest there was more to life than nine-to-five consumerism, the fallacies of the behavioural sciences and the limitations of Newtonian physics, and for a time considered a career in archeology and exploration, until discovering that they might involve just a little bit of science, my "favourite" subject which plain stubbornness rather than enjoyment saw me pursue right up until school's bitter end.

There is much in history which science cannot yet explain, and our sense of wonder at the world around us is much the richer for this. The visible only from the air lines of the Nazca desert, the seemingly haphazard stones of Incan walls fitted so tightly together you cannot pass a piece of paper between the joins, the weathering by rainfall of the Egyptian Sphinx, suggesting a time of construction many thousands of years previous to that currently "established", the underwater Bimini road and other ocean floor artifacts suggestive of a still yet to be rediscovered Atlantean culture, and quite recently, a vast city discovered underwater off the western coast of India which could be over 9,000 years old. All this and more suggests a depth and mystery to our world of which I am truly a fan.

Ultimately, a sense of history in a spiritual sense teaches us that we have been here before, most likely countless times, and that we have a very special reason for being here—again, again and over again. It is the promise of our soul to it's Creator, a promise to fulfill Him and thus ourselves, a promise which I personally fully intend to achieve.

My soul's highest promise
And my Lord's deepest Satisfaction
Are two immortal travellers,
Walking side by side
Along Eternity's Road.
- Sri Chinmoy

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