Sunday, September 22, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part VII

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of John L. Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise directions, and continuing with the four cardinal directions including the fifth, or Center of the Maya orientation.
    As can be clearly seen from the illustration regarding the directions in the previous post, there is nothing in any of this to suggest a fifth cardinal direction, other than the central “home” area to which all others are oriented. And as can be clearly seen, the four cardinal directions remain intact, with home identified within the four directions, and the creator god identified without as direction or cardinal point. In fact, there are several different designs, but they all follow one or the other of these two, clearly showing the four cardinal points and an all-important center.
Both the (Left) Mayan and (Right) Aztec calendars show the four cardinal points (yellow circles), the fifth or center point (white), which is home, and even shows the ordinal compass points, all in the same location as all standard western compass directions

The point should be clear, that no matter how much Mesoamericanists struggle to find a different directional compass or directional system for Mesoamerica, they all show the same so-called “western” compass rose with which we are all familiar. Thus, there is no validity to the argument that Mesoamerica used a different directional system than the rest of the world and a difference in Nephite directions cannot be justified by either Sorenson’s changing the directions, or Gardner’s trying to change their word meaning.
    To support this there are two very important factors that Mesoamericanists directional changers never address:
1. To the Nephite (all Hebrew/Jews, and Easterners), the “east” held a very important element in their religious beliefs and lives. God was represented by the “east,” temples faced the “east,” and that was where God dwelt, in the “east.” To think that they would have a different “east” than others is simply to not understand the importance of that direction in Eastern thought.
2. If “east” was really another direction when Mormon used it in his abridgement, then why did Joseph Smith, operating under the Spirit in his translation, not simply insert the correct direction. And, too, why did the Spirit acknowledge that the error was correct?
Joseph Smith translating through the help of the Urim and Thummim and the Seer Stone

As a matter of fact, a reader of this blog sent in a comment to further explain this: “Any claim saying that the directions in the Book of Mormon does not mean what they say throws the translation process into question. Let's assume that when Mormon said "West" he really meant "seaward" even though the sea was literally to the south. Wouldn't Joseph Smith have been prompted by the Spirit during translation to use the English word "seaward" so that the readers would understand what Mormon really meant? Why would the Spirit prompt the use of cardinal directions that would mislead readers of today, for whom the book was written. Claiming that Mormon meant to say something different than what we're reading is a claim that the translation was wrong. So it isn't just a question of whether or not Mormon knew his cardinal directions, but it is a question of whether or not Joseph Smith was guided to translate whatever Mormon said into words that we know and understand. Joseph would not have used the word "west" if the record had meant something completely different. Anything other than cardinal directions meaning what we understand them to mean would be misleading by Mormon, Joseph, or both. Why use those words if they aren't the right ones?”
    A very perceptive comment.
    However, undaunted by the reality of all these points and the viable different from his Compass points to that of major and credible scientists working in Mesoamerica, Gardner continues with his last points:
Gardner: “David Freidel, Professor of Archaeology at Washington University in St. Louis and Linda Schele, Professor in Art at the University of Texas, describe this concept for the Maya: “Just as the gods marked the periphery by placing the four sides and corners around the center, the Maya shaman creates a five-part image to sanctify space and open a portal to the Otherworld. Mayanists have adopted the Latin word quincunx for this five-point concept, although the Maya have many ways of expressing it in their own languages.
Response: This is a continuation from our last points in the previous post. Once again, the four points are the cardinal points of a modern compass, north, east, south and west. The fifth point is in the center, and not a cardinal compass point as such, but the fifth part of the Mayan compass of importance, i.e., north, east, south, west, and home or center.
The home/self or center is where the individual views the world. The major cardinal directions are how he views the world around him

Gardner: The discerning of the four sides or the four corners and the establishing of their position relative to the center point is what we mean by “centering.” The Yukatek farmers today “center” their fields ritually even before they begin to cut them out of the fallow brushland. They mark off their fields and the units within them with small piles of stones, just as villages mark off their lands from those of neighboring communities with large piles of stones.”
Response: Marking boundaries is nothing new, especially in building or in agriculture. Almost all fields are marked with boundaries, either stones, fences, roads, streams, irrigation ditches, etc. How a field is laid out may well determine on religious factors, since early man relied much more on God than does modern man. However, even in doing so, the Maya held true to their compass directions in that the four corners of the field represented the four cardinal points (whether or not they were correctly aligned, which often they were), and the center of the field was their ritual or “center” of everything, just as their homes were the center of their lives, and the main creator god the “center” of their religion, which was oriented toward the east in all things. The problem is in when we start adding ideas to these primitive beliefs, or when we start incorporating more modern theories to a far less modern world.
    In all cases, they either marked off the peripheral or outside boundaries, or started in the middle and measured from there. The latter is probably the simplest and the way the ancient Maya determined their fields, and being religious, they did so with ritual and ceremony, neither of which suggests anything about directions being different.
Gardner: “For Westerners, the very idea of a “direction” almost implies movement. Our system tells us where we are headed. The Mesoamerican system helped people define where they were. From small to large or large to small, Mesoamerican peoples centered themselves, their homes, and their cities at the crossroads of the world.
Response: Having built a large, 7400-square foot home on a ridge over-looking Cedar Valley in Utah. We did all the work, including the original design, its measurement, layout and finally the layout on the ground before foundations were dug and stem walls poured. The process was not much different than described above. Western though is not only in movement, but is also in design. That design begins in house-building with a center, sometimes a kitchen, sometimes a family room, sometimes a living room, but you start somewhere in a design knowing that is where you are going to spend your time or that is the important part of the house. This house was built on several acres, with the house the home/center of the world at th time. As for the acreage layout there was  access to street, where the garage would be and the front entrance, where the back patio should be located, the deck, etc., would be considering sun, wind, tree shade, etc. Direction was very important in this area because of wind and sun, yet there was no movement involved whatever.
Huillca Raccay in Peru, built strictly for defense, with high windows in a curved wall high up on the mountain side overlooking all approaches down a canyon where two valleys meet. Their center was safety and security as they looked out over a 240º view at all approaches up to the community

It should also be clearly noted that the early Nephites, in fact, for almost all of their 1000-year history, had one paramount factor involved in all their activities, movement, planting, building, home life, etc., and that was safety—knowing where the Lamanites were located, where their weapons were, and how far they were from walls or other features that were essential for their survival.
    Classroom style thinking regarding where the Nephites settled—Mesoamerican peoples might have centered themselves, their homes, and their cities at the crossroads of the world, but Nephites would have centered themselves in the real world which was fraught with dangers on almost every side—something not found throughout Mesoamerica.
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part VIII,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, along with our responses)

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