Friday, May 25, 2018

Was Mormon Playing Games With Us? – Part IV – Cardinal Directions

Continued from the previous post in which the Mesoamericanists’ narrow neck of land was discussed, along with the four seas and the island Jacob outlined. All of this still hinges on John L. Sorenson substituting his east-west Mesoamerica Land of Promise for Mormon’s north-south Land of Promise.
Sorenson’s map showing an east-west Land of Promise, instead of Mormon’s north-south descriptions

Regarding Sorenson’s change of directions, it should be understood that in a map, north does not have to be at the top. Most maps in medieval Europe, for example, placed east at the top (Snyder's Medieval Art, 2nd ed., Luttikhuizen and Verkerk; Prentice Hall, New York, 2006), pp226-227). Early Egyptian maps placed “south” at the top, perhaps influenced by the flow of the Nile River. The Chinese also placed “south” at the top of their maps and, in fact, state directions “dong,” “nan,” “xi,” and “bei,” that is: “east, south, west, north,” and their word for “compass” means “south-pointing needle (zhǐnánzhēn 指南针).”
    Very early T and O maps divided the world into three parts, with Asia at the top. And an early Babylonian map placed northwest at the top of the map. What is important, all these maps used a compass rose, showing the direction of north quite distinctly.
    It should also be noted that the direction of travel required to reach an exact destination is called the bearing, a general direction would be a heading. As an example, using the typical 360º compass headings (the military uses 6400 units or “mils” for additional precision when measuring angles, laying artillery, etc.), you might be heading north, but within that context, your bearing could be anywhere from about 320º to about 40º. Stated differently, if two people are heading directly toward one another, and one of them has a bearing of 135º, then the other has a bearing of 315º. Or, if not on the same direct route, one coming from the east on a bearing of say 97º and one coming from the southwest on a heading of say 213º, at some point they will meet.
A bearing compass divided into a 360º circle

Stated additionally, if a distant object is on a bearing of 220º (southwest), you can follow that heading, but if at some point you take a wrong turn, or you make a stop and divert somewhere along that line of travel, you would need a new heading, which could be a few degrees, or several degrees different. As an example, before cars and roads, let’s say you are heading from Salt Lake City to Denver. Upon leaving Salt Lake City, you would follow a bearing of 100º. However, if for some reason when you reach Vernal, you decide to divert to Laramie first, then on to Denver, you would need to change bearing at Vernal to 74º to reach Laramie. Then, upon leaving Laramie, you would need a bearing of 166º to reach Denver.
    Obviously, since the real world presents numerous obstacles, a person must adjust his heading accordingly when traveling in the open by compass. Upon moving forward, the bearing will change so that it always points at the destination, thereby giving clues as to which way to turn.
    The point is, since man began to travel, and the creation of maps, there has been a standard orientation of the cardinal points of the compass that every nation has followed—if there were differences, communication, maps, and just about everything pertaining to geography would have been frustrated. Just because a society taught its following generations how to understand and remember (memorize) cardinal points is no criteria for how they later used and know those cardinal points.
    However, according to Sorenson, “Directions and how they are referred to are cultural products, not givens in nature. Both the conceptual frameworks which define directions and the languages of reference for them differ dramatically from culture to culture and throughout history.”
    While this may be true when man was limited in scope to his immediate vicinity, man  has been giving and receiving directions and those directions follow an accepted, standard orientation, no matter what exact words were used to describe them. East, or the direction of the sun, has always been known and understood. As an example, it was the Japanese sinologist Tachibana Shiraki in the 1920s who wrote of the need to unify with China and some other Asian nations (excluding Central Asia and the Middle East) in forming a "New East" that might combine culturally in balancing against the West (Lincoln Li, “The China factor in Modern Japanese thought: the case of Tachibana Shiraki,” 1881-1945. SUNY Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture, SUNY Press, 1996, pp104–105).
    East and West were not simply designations of countries—but their directional bearing from the point of those discussing the matter. On maps as well as in thought, Asia is “the east,” and America is “the west.”
    This continued through World War II by Japan, and by China during the Cold War in a 1957 speech by Mao Zedong (John K. Leung and Michael Y.M. Kau, The Writings of Mao Zedong, 1949-1976, M.E. Sharpe, London, 1992, p773), and more recently as an Islamic “East” verses an American and European “West” (Eugenio Chahuán, "An East-West dichotomy: Islamophobia,"in Schenker, Hillel; Ziad, Abu Zayyad. Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. A Palestine-Israel Journal Book. Markus Wiener Publishers, 2006, pp. 25–32).
“Everything is South from here—we don’t have north, east or west”
Sorenson stated in his book: “Moreover, the labeling of directions is not obvious nor intuitive but really highly cultural, that is, arbitrary and that ultimately we can only determine empirically what the ancients meant by their direction terms.” However, this should not be seen as a specific culture, since the directional names are also routinely and very conveniently associated with the degrees of rotation in the unit circle, a necessary step for navigational calculations (derived from trigonometry) as well as current use with Global Positioning Satellite GPS receivers. The four cardinal (“primary” or “of most importance”) directions correspond to the four degrees of a compass: North 0º/360º; East 90º; South 180º; and West 270º.
    This allowed for the development of accurate map making. An absolute requirement in all ages in order for maps to provide a systematic means to record where places are, and cardinal directions the foundation of a structure for telling someone how to find those places. Since maps first came into being (found on cave paintings as well as among ancient Babylonians, Greeks, and Asians, with the first map of the known world credited to the Greek Anaximander in the 6th Century B.C., who was followed by Hecataeus of Miletus; Decaearchus of Messana; Eratoshenes of Ptolemaic Egypt, Hipparchus of Nicaea; and Liú Ān  of the Han dynasty in China, all making maps in the B.C. period.
    It is not that north has to be at the top, and in many cultures, it is not, but the cardinal points need to be in correct position to one another. Thus a direction of travel required to reach an intended destination was necessary among all maritime nations at a very early period. Beginning in 21 A.D., it was critical for directions to be standard as was seen during the Invasions of the Roman Empire, and as the Empire fell, the Germanic, Slavic and other peoples moving into the territory of the Romans during what has been termed the Migration Period. By the time of the maritime involvement at the beginning of the Age of Discovery in the 13th century, Portolan charts showing compass directions and distances observed by the ship’s pilots at sea, were absolutely essential.
Beginning with the A.D. period, the Germanic language’s names for the cardinal directions entered the Romance languages where they replaced the well-used Latin names that had existed before that, i.e., borealis (or septentrionalis) with “north,” australis (or meridionalis) with “south,” occidentalis with “west” and orientalis with “east.”
In fact, the earlier Scandinavian names were as common in meaning as English terms are today:
north (Proto-Germanic norþ-) from the Proto-Indo-European nórto-s 'submerged' from the root ner- 'left, below, to the left of the rising sun' whence comes the Ancient Greek name Nereus;
east (aus-t-) from the word for dawn. The proto-Indo-European form is austo-s from the root is aues- 'shine (red)'; See Eostre;
south (sunþ-), derived from proto-Indo-European sú-n-to-s from the root seu- 'seethe, boil'. Cognate with this root is the word Sun, thus "the region of the Sun";
west (wes-t-) from a word for "evening." The proto-Indo-European form is uestos from the root ues- 'shine (red)', itself a form of aues-Cognate with the root are the Latin words vesper and vesta and the Ancient Greek Hetia, Hesperus and Hesperides.
    It should be noted that these words came through Indo-European, i.e., the family of languages spoken over the greater part of Europe and Asia as far as northern India; proto Indo-European means the unrecorded language from which all Indo-European languages are hypothesized to derive (the parent language); also the Greek and Latin, and Romance Languages—which pretty much covers almost all of the peoples of the ancient world with the exception of the Chinese and East Asia, and Semitic languages (Arabic, Amharic, 
The Semetic words for east and west have to do with the rising and setting of the sun, respectively, and west has the additional, related, meaning of “going away” or “departing,” from which is derived the word (gharīb), which means “strange” or “alien” or “foreign,” i.e., going away from the Sun or East. The words north and south meanwhile, both derive from terms for “side” or “flank” (north can mean “left” although which is an archaic meaning); also, the Arabic word for “right,” (yamīn) comes from a root that can also (if somewhat archaically) mean “south” (from which we get the name of the country of Yemen, which is in the southern part of the Arabian peninsula). East used to hold the “top” position among the cardinal directions, presumably due to the whole rising sun sequence, which would put north on the “left” and south on the “right.”

As was mentioned in the previous post, Sorenson stated: “The topic of directions still seems mysterious . . . to . . . critics and general readers of my work. I have tried several times to make the matter clear, but perhaps one more try here will make the crucial points unmistakable. Six ideas are worth noting:
1. All systems for labeling directions are arbitrary and spring from the unique historical, geographical and linguistic backgrounds of specific peoples. . . .
2. More than one system of direction labels is commonly used in a single culture. . . .
3. Various other criteria (e.g., the rising or setting of certain stars, seeing particular landmarks, or the prevailing wind) may take precedence over the sun.
4. When a people move from one location to another, their system of directions is quite sure to undergo change.
5. What exactly were the cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the directional terminology (or terminologies) used by Lehi’s family in the land of Judah? . . .
6. The Book of Mormon refers to directions at many points, but no attempt at an explanation of their mental model, however brief, is ever given.
    Sorenson resorts to such language because he has been challenged on several occasions about his interpretation of the Nephites’ directional system.
(See the next post, “Is Mormon Playing Games With Us? – Part V, for more information on John L. Sorenson’s directional change and Mesoamericanist theorists claims about their location for the Land of Promise).

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