Monday, September 23, 2019

The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part VIII

Continuing with Brant A. Gardner’s rationale of John L. Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise directions, and continuing with the four cardinal directions.
Gardner: “Mary Miller (far left), Professor of History of Art at Yale and Karl Taube (near left), Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California Riverside, describe the way that the five-part concept influenced multiple levels of the Mesoamerican world: One of the underlying organizational principles of Mesoamerican religion is replication, in which essential patterns of everyday life and the surrounding world are copied and incorporated as models of religious thought and action. Basic features of the social world are often repeated on an increasingly larger scale to encompass the world and the workings of the universe. For example, in the Maya region, the house with its four walls and corner posts could stand for a maize field, the community, and the structure of the cosmos. Grand and abstract concepts are placed in human terms, and conversely, the ordered structure of the universe serves to sanctify and validate human social conventions.”
Response: All of that may be true (or not), on the other hand it may simply be modern Academia’s evaluation of what they believe, based on what they found in the ruins of Mesoamerica. Since none of this relates to the Hebrew/Jewish thought, and the Nephite nation pretty much followed that cultural heritage from Lehi’s time down to at least the time of the Savior’s advent in the Land of Promise—some 600 years—at 30 years per generation, about 1980 generations, the point seems rather moot.
Gardner: “There was no universal center. Each city was its own world–its own center. Each family home replicated the world and placed that family at its center.”
Response: Again, this is certainly not Hebrew or Jewish thought, and would not have existed within the Nephite Nation, where national identity was important, as well as government and religious centers, such as temples and synagogues. In fact, the placement of the Temple and its facing was extremely important in the Hebrew/Nephite scheme of things. In addition, the universal center was God, religion, and living a life to insure immortality and eternal life. What structure Mesoamerica had is immaterial to the structure of the Nephites and their religious observances, which would be well-known and documented, since they lived the Law of Moses until 33 AD (2 Nephi 5:10; 25:24; Jacob 4:5; 7:7; Jarom 1:5; Mosiah 2:3;12:28-32; Alma 25:15; 30:3; Helaman 13:1; 15:5; 3 Nephi 9:17).
    Much of what Gardner writes further is taken from others who build a very specific Mayan orientation about the Sun, directions, and relationships, as well as meaning of words used in the directional systems they claim existed, but much is couched in legend, myth and superstition, not unlike Inca and North American origin stories.
Gardner: “Not only does the “center direction” differ from our Western understanding, even the Mesoamerican directions that roughly correspond to our north, south, east and west were differently conceived.”
Mesoamerican Compass Rose. There is nothing unusual or” unwestern” about their compass rose. After all, the same interpretation can be claimed with our modern compass rose, since the person who uses it is always in the middle of the direction or compass wheel

Response: We h ave discussed this previously, but it should always be pointed out that academicians and a tendency to find something and create extensive details about it based upon a predetermined criteria. As the old saw goes, give an anthropologist a ceramic shard and they will create an entire civilization, along with legends, myths, way of life, and development experiences. The point is, one look at the Mayan compass rose clearly points out four cardinal directions and also four ordinal directions, along with the center of self (or family or god) is unmistakable, and exactly the same in both cases.
Gardner: “Susan Milbrath, affiliate professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida, describes the Mesoamerican mode of orientation using a Maya community as her example: “Analysis of Chamula astronomical concepts indicates that the primary axis is an east-west direction based on the sun’s daily path...Even though they recognize that the zenith position is overhead, the east is visualized as the ‘up’ direction and the west as ‘down.”
Response: This is from The Star Gods of the Maya: Astronomy in Art, Folklore and Calendars (1999). It hardly fits the Nephite people.
Gardner: “A universal aspect of Mesoamerican directional systems is that they are based on the path of the sun. They encode that path throughout the year, tracing the shifting rising and setting of the sun from solstice to solstice.”
Response: While this would be true of any agrarian society anciently, for the movement of the sun would determine their growing season, harvest, time etc. However, to take this beyond that purpose is to move into the realm of sun-worshippers who held the sun as their god, and certainly would not apply to the Nephite Nation where their Land of Promise was located. From all of this, it sounds harder and harder to put the Nephites in Mesoamerica.
    It might be important to consider that the Nephites, despite all their building achievements, business (shipping and trade), and other accomplishments, were:
The Nephites lived during a time when their existence rested on two things: planting and harvesting their food, and building walled cities for defense. Their religion was not complicated and lived under the Law of Moses
1. An agrarian society, reliant upon what they could grow (or hunt/fish) for their sustenance;
2. A warrior society, in that they were dependent upon the sword and other weapons for their daily safety, often fighting numerous battles and lengthy wars;
3. Neither PhDs nor Academicians working on philosophical matters of great import, but rather simple men interested in family and their religious development and relationships with God (at least until their last century);
4. While they had observatories, these were more for tracking the year in terms of growing seasons, planting, harvesting, solstice times, etc., and it is doubtful they would have spent much time in deeper astronomical thought, such as “quadripartite systems surrounding the center” of their solar system.
    It is one thing for academicians to sit in their offices or classrooms and debate or design interstellar thinking, while ordering out for a ham sandwich and a coke. The Nephites were heavily involved in their society, building massive structures, temples, synagogues, defensive walls, forts, and resorts, and keeping them in good repair—for their very lives depended upon it. They were also involved in movement into opening lands to strengthen defenses, cities, and borders, frequently involved in constructing homes for themselves and structures for their religion and communities. Though they had chariots and horses, it is doubtful they had so many everyone had “wheels,” but more likely they spent much of their time moving by foot and taking considerable time overcoming the hardships that modern man has little understanding of and probably even less, if any, involvement in.
    This is mentioned here because much of Gardner’s further comments are geared to a less knowledgeable, but highly involved people with such areas as directional understanding, spatial reasoning, and vertical (heavenly) thinking. Not very long ago (during the Great Depression), men often did not go beyond the grade level in school, yet married and raised children, sought work wherever they could find it, never spent a day in the type of thinking and involvement Gardner now attributes to the Nephites as he describes the Mayan culture and their relationship with directions. And because of the type of constant fear and concern the Nephites would have lived under, with a hereditary enemy bent on their total destruction, which they eventually achieved, they would have had no more time for such matters than they actually had.
Gardner: “Analysis of Chamula astronomical concepts indicates that the primary axis is an east-west direction based on the sun’s daily path. . . . Even though they recognize that the zenith position is overhead, the east is visualized as the ‘up’ direction and the west as ‘down.'” A universal aspect of Mesoamerican directional systems is that they are based on the path of the sun. They encode that path throughout the year, tracing the shifting rising and setting of the sun from solstice to solstice.”
Response: As any agrarian society would have done in any early age.
During the spring and fall equinoxes, the sun shines equally on both hemispheres, and rises and sets directly to the east and west. Obviously, at any given time, the Sun will likely line up with some point or points that exist. Anciently, this was critical for survival
Gardner: “Western cardinal directions are conceptually a +, with each direction directly and cleanly associated with the “pure” direction equidistant from all other directions. The Mesoamerican system, on the other hand, is better represented in the form of an ‘x.’ East is not a line toward the sun at the equinox, but the entire wedge created by tracing the passage of the sun along the horizon from solstice to solstice from the center.”
Response: There are many people today who live by the compass, especially when in the military and in environments where no other means of direction is possible, yet, never give thought to such matters as Gardener describes. To most people, even today, east is a direction to travel or avoid, or partially travel until another path is taken, or just a general idea of where the sun rises. Without watches or clocks, one wonders how many Nephites knew that at equinox night and day were nearly exactly the same length of 12 hours all over the world.
    Or, for that matter, that at equinox, the daylight and nighttime were equal and that the tilt of the Earth toward the sun was equal. What they would have known, perhaps, was that the sun would stop traveling away from them on those two calendar periods of the solstice, and begin its long march back to the center, and that the equinox, whatever they called it, was the halfway point of that movement.
(See the next post, “The Mystifying Rationale of Mesoamerican Directions – Part IX,” and the continuation of Gardner’s rationale of Sorenson’s skewed Land of Promise, along with our responses)

1 comment:

  1. I have yet to see how Gardner's arguments actually show that the Mesoamericans would call the sea to the north of them as "the east sea". Maybe I just need it explained in more simple terms.