Saturday, September 12, 2015

North – South And the Argument Goes On…Part I

There is so much written by so many theorists regarding the directions of the Land of Promise. Each new article seems to challenge the very fiber of the integrity of the scriptural record and the reason for our continual responses to these directional claims. 
    In a recent article, the author states: “General north-south direction. Sorenson's argument about directional systems is that they are cultural and not necessarily transparent.”
    Response: You have to love theorists who try to be scholarly that they tend to lose the understanding of the reader and certainly cloud the issue. However, so authentic they sound that the reader tends to more often than not accept them, though they may not be completely understood.
You can twist, turn, cajole, make outlandish claims and even alter a compass, but in the end, Mesoamerica still runs east and west while Mormon describes the Book of Mormon Land of Promise as running north and south
    First of all, the biggest problem most scholars/writers have on this issue with the scriptural record is in 1) trying to deal with the problem that directions in the Book of Mormon present, otherwise they cannot “prove” the change in directions of the scriptural record, though they claim over and over again that they are not doing this (not changing the scriptural record); and 2) thinking that directions generally have more or less changed over time in some cultures (a culture is a group of people that can be set apart from another group because of their human intellectual achievement, such as arts, i.e., building technique, murals, crafts, pottery, etc.)
    It is always amazing to me that scholars want to keep selling the idea that directions have changed over time, or even are different among different people (cultures). However, based strictly on Astronomical Alignments of Ancient Structures, what has been found through modern computer technology, is that ancient cultures understood the four cardinal points as well as we do today, and aligned their construction of buildings, including the pyramids, on a strict orientation to the cardinal points. Ancients, as we do today, use the sun and the stars as the guide to determining directions; however, Polaris, or the North Star, was far less reliable at the time ancient monuments were built as we have discussed in earlier posts. Still, has Gerald S.Hawkins showed in his Stonehenge Decoded (1988), the ancient builders knew the directions so well, that they perfectly aligned their structures to the cardinal points perfectly.
In fact, the ancient Egyptians managed to line up the sides of their pyramids to the points of the compass with extraordinary accuracy. The most accurate is the Pyramid of Khufu also called the Great Pyramid, with the east and west sides off from true (geographical) north by less than three minutes of arc. In fact, it took over 4,000 years before the astronomer, Tycho Brahe, was able to take astronomical measurement to a greater accuracy. 
    For those who are unaware of the technique, true geographical North can be determined by noting the rising position of the Sun in the East, and the setting position of the Sun in the West, and halving the angle between them, which gives the direction of true North. Or you can find true North at night by looking at the circle of stars and their path through the sky and pinpoint the hub of the circle—which today is the North Star, or Polaris, but in 1000 B.C., it was Kochab, and before that Thuban.
Left: The circumpolar stars viewed from a northern hemisphere trace circles around the Celestial North Pole—a point in the sky about which the stars appear to rotate; This time lapse photo over a full night, shows that all of the visible stars appear to move in circles (some big and some small). The star Polaris makes today an incredibly small circle because it's right next to the Celestial North Pole 
    Likely, the pyramids were oriented by the stars, and the position of the meridian could have been obtained by bisecting the angle formed by the two extreme positions of a circumpolar star, such as Vega, i.e., bisecting the angle between the set and rise of Vega would reveal the exact location of the meridian—true North.
    Comment: “Soliciting directions in a sun-centered system is like asking someone to identify the shady side of a tree. This simple request should elicit more questions because shade pivots with the sun through the day and across the year.”
    Response: Such a comment is fallacious. In all ancient societies, the day was known by following the arc of the sun across the sky. At almost any time of the day, an ancient man (unlike modern man) could tell within minutes the time of day. They had no watches, no clocks, no other way to know the time, and so relied on the arc of the sun, which was a constant factor, taking roughly twelve hours to cross through the sky (depending on time of year), and since early man’s very survival rested on his knowing the Sun, the Stars, and how to read them for such mundane factors as planting and harvesting, to disregard his awareness and reliance upon the Sun is absurd.
    Comment: “That celestial-dependent directions such as east and west are a bit sloppy—seasonally, topographically, latitudinally, and culturally—is such an anthropological commonplace that I have difficulty understanding why Sorenson's proposal for directions has become so controversial.”
Response: An interesting comment. One can only wonder what prompted it other than trying to cloud the issue so that Mesoaemrican directions can be better accepted. First of all, celestial dependent directions is all that early man had—he knew of no other directional system. That the sun rose in one direction and set in the opposite direction taught him the sky and world was divided into halves, that were obviously subdivided into quarters—four of them. To those four quarters, he gave names. The first direction he knew would have obviously been East, since that was where the sun came up, where his day began, and from which came his blessings of light, heat, food, and life.
    In one of the earliest cultures, that of the semetic Hittite, the word dutu-az, meaning “sungod,” is literally “from the direction of the sunrise,” or more simply, “from the east.” In Sumarian, the cuneiform sign “dingir” or “digir”  (pronounced “din-jer”) had the meaning of god or goddess, but more accurately light, sky, heaven, or “light in the eastern sky.” Later, Middle English “est,” German “ost,” Latin, “aurora,” Greek “auos,” all meand "east," with Old Norse “austr,” meaning “from the east” and “aster” meaning “eastward.” 
    In the orient (mizrah) meant "the rising of the sun." Thus "the east country" is the country lying to the east of Syria, the Elymais (Zechariah 8:7). Properly what is in front of one, or a country that is before or in front of another; the rendering of the oft-used word by theorists, the word kedem.” In pointing out the quarters, a Hebrew always looked with his face toward the east. The word kedemwas used when the four quarters of the world are described (Genesis 13:14; 28:14); and mizrah when the "east" only was distinguished from the "west" (Joshua 11:3; Psalms 50:1; 103:12). In Genesis. 25:6 "eastward" is literally "unto the land of kedem" i.e., the lands lying east of Palestine, namely, Arabia, Mesopotamia, etc. 
The point is, the direction of “east” has always been known, understood, and used.
    Comment: “Sorenson's critics, among them Allen and Warr, insist that directions are universal absolutes that conform to American common sense. In this regard it is worth stressing that "common sense" is cultural code for culturally dependent knowledge that makes little sense outside one's own time or place.”
    Response: It is also interesting that when Mesoamericanists, especially scholars, critique someone’s writing that is not the same as their own, they often resort to an argument that is neither scholarly nor factual. Common sense is defined as “good sense and sound judgment in practical matters,” it is also defined as “sensibleness, levelheadedness, prudence, discernment, astuteness, wisdom, insight, perception.” Thus, one cannot isolate it to a culture, to just America, nor can it be said to mean “culturally dependent knowledge that makes little sense outside one’s own time or place.” As an example, it is common sense not to swim alone; not to jump off a cliff into an unknown water area; not to pass on a mountain turn; not to allow your baby to crawl into the street; not to walk across a field full of bulls; pay your bills on time; don’t spend money you don’t have; etc. Common sense is called “common” because it relates to all areas at all times, among all people, in all circumstances.
(See the next post, “North – South and the Argument Goes On…Part II” to get more of this line of thinking about Mesoaemericanists and other theorists trying to change the scriptural record or its meaning)

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