MYTHS ARE HISTORY
3. An Interdisciplinary Chronology ...
Consult with a wide array of scientific disciplines in order to
dismiss theological overlays, and pinpoint cross-cultural guides
and markers capable of establishing a firm chronology of events.
“It is clear that myths and motifs cannot stand alone. They need to be backed up by the kind of solid data that can be contributed by the relevant natural sciences, especially in the case of verifying putative cosmic events.”
— Barbara Rappenglueck, “Myths and Motifs as Reflections of Prehistoric Cosmic Events”
“Researching and writing this book, I would sit at the feet of the sages of many ancient civilizations—one day of the Egyptian learned scribes, another of the Hebrew ancient rabbis, the next of the Hindus, Chinese, or the Pythagoreans. But then, rising to my feet, I would confer with present-day scientific knowledge. At times I came to understand what perplexed the ancients, and at other times I found answers to what perplexes the moderns. This shuttle back and forth was a daily occupation for a decade or more, and it became a way to understand the phenomena: to listen to those who lived close to the events of the past, ... and to try to understand them in the light of the theoretical and experimental knowledge of the last few centuries, ... .”
— Immanuel Velikovsky, In the Beginning
Because the process of extracting a universal vision of prehistoric natural events from an enormous pool of myths alone is not so easy, the cross-cultural synthesis offered here also relies on many separate findings from other fields of study that might seem unrelated at first sight. — Nevertheless, in order to reconstruct the appearance of the ancient skies above, in relation to the living conditions, beliefs and practices of human beings<all around the world on the ground below, we must break down the artificial barriers that presently exist between the social sciences, the physical sciences, and the humanities, and indeed the longer-established barriers between science and religion.
The truly serious study of mythology demands our commitment across the boundaries of many fields of study. It requires us to reach a consilience between modern disciplines. Many scientific disciplines and sub-disciplines must be carefully conjoined and synthesized in re-evaluating the contexts, structures, and meanings of cosmogonic myths in order for us to truly see our planet’s history in a new holistic way.
The interpretations of events that follow take advantage of the contributions of many branches of study, thus employing a changing mixture of methods deriving from a range of different scientific disciplines, in close correlation with a wide variety of physical evidence and solid data gathered by other scientific means. Our exposition is not a mechanical analysis; rather, it is an interdisciplinary blend of applied historical astronomy. It is not a monologue, but rather an expository discussion that includes other voices by way of extensive quotations and extracts. These references are intended to lend a generally valid evidential character to the reconstructed narrative of events, and thereby convey the probable objective correctness of the basic ideas involved. We will not only be comparing and contrasting a large number of scientific disciplines and specialized sub-disciplines, we shall also be cross-cutting and blending their pools of data — in order to redefine problems outside the individual boundaries of isolated disciplines, and reach new conclusions based on a more integral and comprehensive understanding of multiple fields of study.
We have found strong hints and suggestions for what is said here in all kinds of scholarly books, whose subjects include:
astronomy (both ancient and modern),
history and historiography,
Overstepping the boundaries that usually divide the sciences, and entering into close and fruitful interaction with such a wide variety of disciplines and sub-disciplines, our study becomes potentially capable of reconciling the scattered details of both the humanities and the natural sciences into a more coherent bigger picture. Moreover, because past cultures worldwide often traditionally shared in a single cosmic vision among themselves, and as such did not fragment their knowledge of the orders of nature into specialized fractions, each of these disciplines has the potential to shed light on many different facets of the cosmological, geological and ethnological past — which, when joined together, may prove most illuminating.
Thus, when carrying out our research here, it is indispensable that myths and motifs be interpreted in concordance with the methods, results and criteria of the other disciplines involved in our investigation, in order to establish a good correlation between the interpretations of myth we are proposing and the available data drawn from the other disciplines that are involved. For in “transforming our present view of the past into a valid and comprehensible planetary history,” (Vine Deloria, "Catastrophism and Planetary History") a basic knowledge of each part of the story will be necessary for the understanding of the story as a unified whole.
“Such fables in their beginnings were all true and severe and worthy of the founders of nations, and only later (when the long passage of years had obscured their meanings, and customs had changed from austere to dissolute, ....) came to have the obscene meanings with which they have come down to us.”
— Giambattista Vico, New Science 81
As we continue to draw more and more elements of a universal macro-history out of these myths of creation, interdisciplinary analysis will also support our continued focus on the visual eyewitness accounts behind the cultural narratives under examination, and greatly assist in further demystifying the mythological past. — For the physical observations recorded in myths seem fairly accurate (at least as far as the human eye can see), and clearly alert us to events of genuine interest that were observed from particular places at particular times. — But because our ancestors tended to present their observations and their assumed explanations of these observations all tangled up together, we will need to strip away the underlying theological explanations and unstated moral assumptions being suggested — even while retaining the visual vocabulary by which they vocalized their observations.
Critically reassessing the older theological or moralistic explanations we find embedded in the narrative framework of creation myths, we will discover that some of these interpretative overlays originally came bundled with the contents of the myths themselves, while others arrived by way of later mythologizing. Traces of the original eyewitness accounts have remained buried under these palimpsest-like layers of misinterpretation all the while, however, and can now be more easily reached as we clear the mass of later opinions and mistakes away.
— Once we have completed such an analysis, we should have a greatly improved understanding about many mysterious events from the prehistoric past — events that can then be more accurately placed in both space and time, and linked to various types of physical evidence for actual historical happenstance.
“Chronology and geography are the two eyes of history.”
— Giambattista Vico, New Science 17
Correlating the insights and memories of all peoples, by applying data from a large spectrum of scientific disciplines in a new holistic synthesis, will also, in turn, help guide us in the construction of a more coherent and detailed chronology of prehistoric planetary affairs.
— Thus far, however, most comparative studies in world mythology have only offered composite "cubist" views of correlated archetypes, with little to no attention on how these archetypes may relate to one another geographically or chronologically. Instead we are left with piecemeal collections of torn off fragments, abstracted from the larger context of their culture’s overall cosmovision, let alone the larger global scope of related themes and tropes.
— Yet it remains difficult to avoid the assumption that there must indeed have been real historical connections to these themes and tropes when so many of the same elements occurred in so many places at once. After all, our earliest known written sources of myth (such as Hesiod’s Theogony, or the Babylonian Enuma Elish) themselves recounted their sagas in carefully arranged chronological chains of events. All were concerned with beginnings, with moments in time by which a longer series of cosmological happenstances were anchored. Even in the absence of detailed genealogies or other means by which to fix the initial appearance of specific myths in archaeological contexts, many sets of myths still encode memories of multiple catastrophes in meaningful chronological order. The chronological sequences of these sagas undoubtedly seem to have been very important to our ancestors, and the neglect of this factor in the study of comparative mythology may be a fundamental reason why myths are no longer commonly understood as having an historical basis today.
Nevertheless, as we shall continue to see, myth and history have always quite naturally been completely interdependent. Highly interesting and useful information regarding natural history has always been lurking in the large body of world mythology. — What is simply needed now is the reinstatement of an applied historical approach to this data. Taking it all at face value, stretching the global narrative from one culture to the next — via their respective fields-of-view, in a series of snapshots running from East to West — allows us to position a large assortment of cosmogonic tropes and themes into a working panoramic framework outlining the larger saga of comparative world myth.
In the tentative synthesis that follows, special attention will be given to the succession of Celestial Kings, World Ages, and Generations of Man so central to the old epic storylines. By carefully correlating these contexts as the connecting links between one cosmological incident and the next, it may be possible to extend our chronology further back in time to conjecture previous events which occurred before detailed astronomical records were kept.
As we continue to chart large-scale destructions of human settlements from the Paleolithic era forward into the early Iron age and beyond, dates and periods which seem to fit the presumed geophysical and ethnological effects of such destructions will here be interpreted as boundary markers delimiting one or more catastrophes induced by cosmic events. The chronological spacing of these individual events or clusters of events will provide us with a yardstick against which additional cultural traditions can be collected, analyzed and fitted into the larger global sequence.
— From there, as more and more factual elements of world myth can be clearly identified, each part can be assigned a proper place in time and in space in a continuous chronology, in which the histories of all people are bound up with the universal history of humankind and with the overall history of planet Earth herself. This sequential way of grouping them will ultimately serve our purposes far better than any other outline or organization, because it interferes least with the retelling of the myths themselves, and allows us more room to reconcile as many traditions as possible along the way.