Monday, July 23, 2007

The Hidden Origin of the Alphabet

Lately I was wondering about the origin of our alphabet - where did it come from? We all know our ABCs, which we take for granted. But the alphabet was a revolutionary invention, and put writing into the hands of the common people. We do know that the Greeks and the Romans derived their alphabet from the Phoenician alphabet in the land of Canaan, as shown in the following chart:

So, where did the Phoenicians obtain their script? It dates back to around 1000 B.C. According to the wikipedia:
"Phoenician uses a system of acrophony to name letters. The names of the letters are essentially the same as in its parental scripts, which are in turn derived from the word values of the original hieroglyph for each letter. The original word was translated from Egyptian into its equivalent form in the Semitic language, and then the initial sound of the translated word become the letter's value. However, some of the letter names were changed in Phoenician from the Proto-Canaanite script. This includes:
  • gaml "throwing stick" to gimel "camel"
  • digg "fish" to dalet "door"
  • hll "jubilation" to he "window"
  • ziqq "manacle" to zayin "weapon"
  • na?š "snake" to nun "fish"
  • pi?t "corner" to pe "mouth"
  • šimš "sun" to šin "tooth"
The meanings given are of the letter names in Phoenician. The Phoenician letter names are not directly attested and were reconstructed by Theodor Nöldeke in 1904."
The alphabet is thus a Semitic invention - not only that, these Semites dwelled in Egypt and migrated to the land of Canaan. Sound familiar? Could it be that the alphabet originated from Moses, who led the Jews out of Egypt? If we look back even further, the Phoenician script, from which Aramaic and Hebrew were derived, dates back even further to a "Proto-Canaanite" script from about the 15th century B.C. One reconstruction proposes the following meanings for the characters:
  1. [?] Al "Ox head" (A, E)
  2. [b] Bet "Tent floorplan" (B, Bh)
  3. [g] Gam "Foot" (G)
  4. [d] Dal "Door" (D)
  5. [h] Hey "Man with arms raised" (H, E)
  6. [w] Waw "Tent peg" (W, O, U])
  7. [z] Zan "Mattock" (Z)
  8. [h] Chets "Tent wall" (Hh)
  9. [t?] Thet "Basket" (Th)
  10. [j] Yad "Arm and closed hand" (Y, I)
  11. [k] Kaph "Open palm" (K, Kh)
  12. [l] Lam "Shepherd staff " (L)
  13. [m] Mem "Water" (M)
  14. [n] Nun "Seed" (N)
  15. [s] Sin "Thorn" (S)
  16. [?] Ayin "Eye" (O)
  17. [p] Pey "Mouth" (P, Ph)
  18. [s?] Tsad "Man on his side" (Ts)
  19. [q] Quph "Sun on the horizon" (Q)
  20. [r] Rosh "Head of a man" (R)
  21. [?] Shin "Two front teeth" (Sh)
  22. [t] Taw "Crossed sticks" (T)
  23. [?] Ghah "Rope of twisted fibers" (Gh)
So, where did the Proto-Canaanite alphabet come from? There are two scripts, both dating to the Middle Bronze Age (2000 - 1500 B.C.) - the Proto-Sinaitic script and the Wadi el-Hol script, found in the Sinai and Egypt respectively. It again points to a Semitic people which came from Egypt. According to the wikipedia:

"The Egyptian hieratic script was basically logographic, but used rebus and acrophony extensively. There was a complete set of uniliteral glyphs from at least 2700 BC — that is, the hieroglyphic script contained an alphabetic subsystem within it. But while logographic systems such as Egyptian and Old Sumerian are extremely time-consuming to learn, they are sometimes considered superior to alphabets when it comes to reading. For literate Egyptians, there was little advantage to whittling their script down to a pure alphabet. Purely uniliteral (alphabetic) writing was used mainly to transcribe foreign names.
However, from the 22nd to 20th centuries BC, central rule broke down. John Darnell found contemporary references to an Egyptian named Bebi, General of the Asiatics. They speculate that,
In the course of reunifying his fragmented realm, the reigning pharaoh attempted to pacify and employ roving bands of mercenaries who had come from outside Egypt to fight in the civil wars. The Egyptians were the quintessential bureaucrats, and under Bebi's command, there must have been a small army of scribes in the military whose job it was to keep track of these "Asiatics". Inventive scribes apparently came up with a kind of easy-to-learn Egyptian shorthand to enable the captured troops to record their names and other basic information.
In other words, it was a utilitarian invention for soldiers and merchants. The assumption is that they developed a Semitic script based on acrophony, where the first sound of the Semitic word for an Egyptian glyph became associated with that glyph. Just as the numerals 1, 2, 3, etc. changed names but retained their graphic forms as they passed from the Indians to the Arabs to the Europeans, so the names of the letters were translated as they passed from the Egyptians to the Semites. The name of the hieratic glyph for house changed from Egyptian pr to Canaanite bayt, and therefore the glyph came to stand for /b/ rather than /pr/. House and most of the other letters were not uniliteral glyphs in Egyptian: the Semitic alphabet is not derived from the Egyptian alphabet, but rather from the full set of hieratic hieroglyphs. In fact, some of the letters, such as ? H, may have been ideographic determiners (taxograms) only, and thus had no sound value in Egyptian."

So, the alphabet was invented with the collapse of the Old Kingdom. It seems like it was invented long before Moses, or before the Jews even entered Egypt. But not is all as it seems. The dating of the Exodus from Egypt is a controversial subject - many history books will point to the time of Ramesses in the New Kingdom (ca. 13th century B.C.), which many favor due to a late geographic place name in the Torah. Others favor the time when the Hyksos, the shepherd kings, were expelled from Egypt in the 16th century B.C. But strangely enough, scholars have ignored a lot of evidence that indicates that the Exodus of the Jews from Egypt occurred during the collapse of the Old Kingdom, the exact time when the alphabet was invented. There was historical evidence that I gathered from the book of Jasher, a work that did not make it into the Bible, but then I discovered that someone else had already stumbled upon this. He gathered years of research and composed the book, The Riddle of the Exodus. Among his findings:

1. The book of Jasher states that one of the Pharoahs of the Exodus reigned for 94 years. One of the last Pharoahs of the Old Kingdom, Pepi II, reigned for 94 years.

2. There is an ancient Egyptian monument that commemorates the drowning of Pharaoh's army in the sea.

3. The ravages of the Ten Plagues are described on a 3,000-year-old papyrus.

I have not read the book, but the chronology would fit in with the dating of the collapse of the walls of Jericho by archaeologists.What this theory opens up is the possibility that the alphabet was an invention of the Hebrews - and as the characters originated from Egyptian hieroglyphics, and was invented for commanding the military of a Semitic people, the evidence begins to point to Moses, a scribe and ruler who was trained in all the wisdom of ancient Egypt. So what do those alphabetic characters mean? Is there a reason for the order of the alphabet? Indeed there is - I have been recently researching this, and the evidence points to Moses as the inventor of the alphabet. But before I could do so, I wanted to cover the date of the Exodus - how it is much earlier in history than we think. In my next blog I will show the hidden symbolism contained in the ancient Hebrew alphabet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Quantum Entanglement, and the Holographic Universe

In physics, it was once thought that all matter was composed of single point like units, known as atoms. The problem now is, the more we know about the atom, the more we discover about subatomic particles. Then Quantum physics came along, and it was discovered that there are no fundamental particles but rather wave-like probabilities. The current theories of physics revolve around "String Theory", which proposes that all matter is composed of vibrating "strings", some open-ended, others closed in a loop. What we are discovering is that the smaller we go, the more complicated things get. The bigger we go, the more simpler. This is the opposite of what many scientists had predicted.

In the 18th century Emanuel Swedenborg saw what the nature of the universe was - all was revealed to him in trance-like visions, where his breathing came to a stop. Here is what he said concerning the nature of matter:
"Many avow that there is a single substance which is also the first, from which are all things, but what that substance is, is not known. The belief is that it is so simple nothing is more so, and that it can be likened to a point without dimensions, and that dimensional forms arose out of an infinite number of such points. But this is a fallacy, springing from an idea of space. To such an idea there seems to be such a least thing. The truth is that the simpler and purer a thing is, the more replete it is and the more complete. This is why the more interiorly a thing is examined, the more wonderful, perfect, and well formed are the things seen in it, and in the first substance the most wonderful, perfect and fully formed of all. For the first substance is from the spiritual sun, which, as we said, is from the Lord and in which He is. That sun is therefore the sole substance and, not being in space, is all in all, and is in the greatest and least things of the created universe." (Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine, from Divine Providence, n. 6)
At the center of everything, is a Spiritual Sun from which all things were created. This is the light that everyone sees after they die, and has been reported from Near Death experiences. The smaller we go, the more inward we go, and the more we reach the Infinite. God is not "up there", he is "inside" all that is. One of my favorite books was the Tao of Physics, which compared statements of Quantum physicists with those of eastern mystics. They were both encountering the same thing: the mind of God.

In the book, The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot, both the universe and the human mind are likened to a hologram. A hologram is an image that is formed from the interference of two reflecting laser beams. When a three dimensional image is divided, we end up with two smaller images of the same thing. That is what science is discovering: the more we divide something, the more we see that the smallest of things is in fact a reflection of the universe: all that is, is a hologram, everything is reflecting the oneness of Being. A hologram is turning into something that best reflects how thoughts are stored in the brain: everywhere. The human mind, and the universe, share the same property. According to Swedenborg, all that is is the image of a form of a Divine Human, and we are a small microcosm of that form.

"In 1982 a remarkable event took place. At the University of Paris a research team led by physicist Alain Aspect performed what may turn out to be one of the most important experiments of the 20th century. You did not hear about it on the evening news. In fact, unless you are in the habit of reading scientific journals you probably have never even heard Aspect's name, though there are some who believe his discovery may change the face of science.
Aspect's experiment is related to the EPR Experiment, a consicousness experiment which had been devised by Albert Einstein, and his colleagues, Poldlsky and Rosen, in order to disprove Quantum Mechanics on the basis of the Pauli Exclusion Principle contradicting Special Relativity.
Aspect and his team discovered that under certain circumstances subatomic particles such as electrons are able to instantaneously communicate with each other regardless of the distance separating them. It doesn't matter whether they are 10 feet or 10 billion miles apart.
Somehow each particle always seems to know what the other is doing. The problem with this feat is that it violates Einstein's long-held tenet that no communication can travel faster than the speed of light. Since traveling faster than the speed of light is tantamount to breaking the time barrier, this daunting prospect has caused some physicists to try to come up with elaborate ways to explain away Aspect's findings. But it has inspired others to offer even more radical explanations.
University of London physicist David Bohm, for example, believes Aspect's findings imply that objective reality does not exist, that despite its apparent solidity the universe is at heart a phantasm, a gigantic and splendidly detailed hologram."
The two particles are not communicating faster than the speed of light, but in fact probably exist in a dimension that is outside space and time, and what we perceive as separate may in fact be a bilocation of the same thing, in two differents spots in space. Science is getting closer to the idea of proving "The Butterfly Effect" - actions we take, especially acts of Love, will have a ripple effect that are reflected in the people who surround us, even those we have never met.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Notes On Fairy-Stories, by Tolkien

These are notes I made in July/August of 2006 on Tolkien's essay, On Fairy-Stories, in which he tries to come up with a definition of what is a fairy story and what isn't. It reveals much of his inner thought concerning The Lord of the Rings. Quotes introduced by some of my comments are taken from The Tolkien Reader.
In the introduction to the reprint, Tolkien reveals that this essay is related to The Lord of the Rings. As for the story Leaf by Niggle, it is a parable of a painter whose painting is left unfinished, at which time the painter must leave to go on a journey. The painter then enters a land where he sees that his painting has come to life, and is complete. The painter Niggle is in fact Tolkien himself, and the painting is his imperfect vision of reality expressed in his writing.
"These two things, On Fairy-stories and Leaf by Niggle, are here reprinted and issued together. They are no longer easy to obtain, but they may still be found interesting, especially by those to whom The Lord of the Rings has given pleasure. Though one is an "essay" and the other a "story", they are related: by the symbols of Tree and Leaf, and by both touching in different ways on what is called in the essay "sub-creation". Also they were written in the same period (1938-39), when The Lord of the Rings was beginning to unroll itself…" (p. 31)
Tolkien describes a fairy-story almost as if it were a vision, in which the mind may not question what it is receiving. Once critical questioning comes to mind, the vision abruptly ends. Is Tolkien here describing some of his own private personal experiences?
"The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveler who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys should be lost." (p. 33)
Here Tolkien states that Fairyland is a realm that exists between Heaven and Hell. Why should he say this? And he even writes a poem in the middle of his essay:
"The road to fairyland is not the road to Heaven; nor even to Hell, I believe, though some have held that it may lead thither indirectly by the Devil's tithe.
O see ye not yon narrow road
So thick beset wi' thorn and briers?
That is the path of Righteousness,
Though after it but few inquires.
And see ye not yon braid, braid road
That lies across the lily leven?
That is the path of Wickedness,
Though some call it the Road to Heaven.
And see ye not yon bonny road
That winds about yon fernie brae?
That is the road to fair Elfland,
Where thou and I this night maun gae." (p.34-35)
Tolkien discusses how fairy-stories are related to visions of the Truth:
"…if elves are true, and really exist independently of our tales about them, then this also is certainly true: elves are not primarily concerned with us, nor we with them. Our fates are sundered, and our paths seldom meet. Even upon the borders of Faerie we encounter them only at some chance crossing of the ways. [Footnote: This is true also, even if they are only creations of Man's mind, "true" only as reflecting in a particular way one of Man's visions of Truth.]" (p. 38)
Interestingly, Tolkien comments that H.G. Well's The Time-Machine is more of a fairy-story than Gulliver's travels, as fairy stories are about the world of Faerie, not just creatures of small size. But why The Time-Machine? Tolkien was interested in time travel. He elaborates further:
"This enchantment of distance, especially of distant time, is weakened only by the preposterous and incredible Time Machine itself. But we see in this example one of the main reasons why the borders of fairy-story are inevitably dubious. The magic of Faerie is not an end in itself, its virtue is in its operations: among these are the satisfaction of certain primordial human desires. One of these desires is to survey the depths of space and time. Another is (as will be seen) to hold communion with other living things. A story may thus deal with the satisfaction of these desires, with or without the operation of either machine or magic, and in proportion as it succeeds it will approach the quality and have the flavour of fairy-story." (p. 41)
Here Tolkien acknowledges that dreams are a means by which one can enter into the world of Faerie, but states that any fairy-story must not mention any explicit reference to the dream itself as the source of the story. He speaks of certain dreams as if from experience. The source of The Lord of the Rings perhaps?
"Next, after travellers' tales, I would also exclude, or rule out of order, any story that uses the machinery of Dream, the dreaming of actual human sleep, to explain the apparent occurrence of its marvels. At the least, even if the reported dream was in other respects in itself a fairy-story, I would condemn the whole as gravely defective: like a good picture in a disfiguring frame. It is true that Dream is not unconnected with Faerie. In dreams strange powers of the mind may be unlocked. In some of them a man may for a space wield the power of Faerie, that power which, even as it conceives the story, causes it to take living form and colour before the eyes. A real dream may indeed sometimes be a fairy-story of almost elvish ease and skill – while it is being dreamed. But if a waking writer tells you that his tale is only a thing imagined in his sleep, he cheats deliberately the primal desire at the heart of Faerie: the realization, independent of the conceiving mind, of imagined wonder. …It is at any rate essential to a genuine fairy-story, as distinct from the employment of this form for lesser or debased purposes, that it should be presented as "true." The meaning of "true" in this connexion I will consider in a moment. But since the fairy-story deals with "marvels," it cannot tolerate any frame or machinery suggesting that the whole story in which they occur is a figment or illusion. The tale itself may, of course, be so good that one can ignore the frame. Or it may be successful and amusing as a dream-story. So are Lewis Carroll's Alice stories, with their dream-frame and dream-transitions. For this (and other reasons) they are not fairy-stories" (p. 41-42).
Again Tolkien discusses the relationship he sees between fairy-stories and time travel:
"For one thing [fairy-stories] are now old, and antiquity has an appeal in itself. …Such stories have now a mythical or total (unanalysable) effect, an effect quite independent of the findings of Comparative Folklore, and one which it can not spoil or explain; they open a door on Other Time, and if we pass through, though only for a moment, we stand outside our own time, outside Time itself, maybe." (p. 56)
Tolkien here talks about his definition of "Imagination," which he seeks to separate from his definition of "Art," or the ability to create a story with an inner consistency of reality.
"The human mind is capable of forming mental images of things not actually present. The faculty of conceiving the images is (or was) naturally called Imagination. But in recent times, in technical not normal language, Imagination has often been held to be something higher than the mere image-making, ascribed to the operations of Fancy (a reduced and depreciatory form of the older word Fantasy); an attempt is thus made to restrict, I should say misapply, Imagination to "the power of giving to ideal creations the inner consistence of reality."" (p. 68)
After Tolkien associates "fantasy" with images of things "not actually present", he then discusses how it can be "maliciously" confused with dreaming and mental disorders. Is he again describing something from personal experience?
"Fantasy, of course, starts out with an advantage: arresting strangeness. But that advantage has been turned against it, and has constributed to its disrepute. Many people dislike being "arrested." They dislike any meddling with the Primary World, or such small glimpses of it as are familiar with them. They, therefore, stupidly and even maliciously confound Fantasy with Dreaming, in which there is no Art [Footnote: This is not true of all dreams. In some Fantasy seems to take a part. But this is exceptional. Fantasy is a rational, not irrational, activity.]; and with mental disorders, in which there is not even control: with delusion and hallucination." (p. 69)
Again another comparison between fairy stories and dreams:
"If you are present at a Faerian drama you yourself are, or think that you are, bodily inside its Secondary World. The experience may be very similar to Dreaming and has (it would seem) sometimes (by men) been confounded with it. But in Faerian drama you are in a dream that some other mind is weaving, and the knowledge of that alarming fact may slip from your grasp. To experience directly a Secondary World: the potion is too strong, and you give to it Primary Belief, however marvelous the events. You are deluded – whether that is the intention of the elves (always or at any time) is another question." (pp. 72-73)
Here Tolkien explains the primary and highest purpose of a fairy story:
"…At least I would say that Tragedy is the true form of Drama, its highest function; but the opposite is true of Fairy-story. Since we do not appear to possess a word that expresses this opposite – I will call it Eucatastrophe. The eucatastrophic tale is the true form of fairy-tale, and its highest function. The consolation of fairy-stories, the joy of the happy ending: or more correctly of the good catastrophe, the sudden joyous "turn" (for there is no true end to any fairy tale): this joy, which is one of the things which fairy-stories can produce very well, is not essentially "escapist," nor "fugitive." In its fairy-tale – or otherworld – setting, it is a sudden and miraculous grace: never to be counted on to recur." (p. 85-86).
In the above quote, Tolkien seems to be talking about a happy ending to a story. Actually he is talking about something much more than that. He almost ended his essay on this point, but then he felt a need to expand on it further in the epilogue. The "joy" he was speaking about is the sudden surprise that the fairy story is realized to be true, that it is describing something of reality:
"This "joy" which I have selected as the mark of the true fairy-story (or romance), or as the seal upon it, merits more consideration.
Probably every writer making a secondary world, a fantasy, every sub-creator, wishes in some measure to be a real maker, or hopes that he is drawing on reality: hopes that the peculiar quality of this secondary world (if not all the details) are derived from Reality, or are flowing into it. …The peculiar quality of the "joy" in successful Fantasy can thus be explained as a sudden glimpse of the underlying reality or truth. It is not only a "consolation" for the sorrow of this world, but a satisfaction, and an answer to that question "Is it true?" The answer to this question that I gave at first was (quite rightly): "If you have built your little world well, yes: it is true in that world." That is enough for the artist (or the artist part of the artist). But in the "eucatastrophe" we see in a brief vision that the answer may be greater – it may be a far-off gleam or echo of evangelium in the real world. The use of this word gives a hint to my epilogue. It is a serious and dangerous matter. It is presumptuous of me to touch upon such a theme; but if by grace what I say has in any respect any validity, it is, of course, only one facet of a truth incalculably rich: finite only because the capacity of Man for whom this was done is finite." (pp. 87-88)
So what is Tolkien talking about? Nothing other than the fact that a fairy story (i.e., The Lord of the Rings) is realized to have been a prophecy, and a prophecy relating to Christianity:
"I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt making-creatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels – peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: "mythical" in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Ressurection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the "inner consistency of reality." There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many skeptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads to either sadness or to wrath.
It is not difficult to imagine the peculiar excitement and joy one would feel, if any specially beautiful fairy-story were found to be "primarily" true, its narrative to be history, without thereby losing the mythical or allegorical significance that it had possessed. …It looks forward (or backward: the direction in this regard is unimportant) to the Great Eucatastrophe. The Christian joy, the Gloria, is of the same kind; but it is preeminently (infinitely, if our capacity were not finite) high and joyous. But this story is supreme; and it is true. Art has been verified. God is the Lord, of angels, and of men – and of elves. Legend and History have met and fused." (pp. 88-89).