Monday, January 23, 2012
What the Ancients Knew
The beginnings of written history, approximately 3000 BC, saw some commonalities among people, such as the Egyptians, Aztecs, and Incas who had become the custodians of our planet.These people knew much more than their ancestors knew. They had learned to use animal skins for clothing. They learned to hunt and fish efficiently. The people of the ancient world built houses for themselves from the materials available to them, and learned to mine ore from the earth and smelt it into metal tools. They grew things.
Egypt was relatively free. It was an isolated land, built along a mighty river, surrounded by deserts. The Egyptians understood and adhered to the principle of hierarchy, with their gods on top, the populace on the bottom, and the pharaohs as liaisons between the human and spirit worlds. One of their secrets was tradition. They did not change for the sake of change. That is why their civilization endured.
In India, there was also a hierarchical caste system developed. Today, the modern world looks upon that system as primitive, without an understanding of the development of ancient cultures. In the Western world, we view class differentiation as social inequality. How many of us have researched the pride felt by the members of the lowest caste in that ancient civilization?
Similarly, the Chinese adhered to ancient hierarchical principles. Their dynasties lasted several millennia largely by focusing on three enduring concepts: merit-based bureaucracy, control over the economy, and the belief that all knowledge, while necessary for meritorious advancement, was dangerous.
I derived much of the information for this post from A History of Knowledge by Charles Van Doren. I found this book to be fascinating and very clearly written, with many examples in support of theory.
Upon completion of the book, I did ponder for quite some time whether twenty-first century people could understand and accept the reality of the ancients. We appear to be more focused on judgments.