Posted By Roger Stritmatter on February 24, 2012
I was musing today about whether people read the books they own or just collect them. I was sitting across from the shelf that contains my philosophy books, and I decided to ask that question of myself. The philosophy shelf looks like it holds about 80-90 books. I went over and counted how many I had read, either wholly or at least enough to have a very good idea of what they contained. I got to about 36 — including all the books by Hannah Arendt and Suzanne Langer, Mary Midgley on “man and beast,” J. Glenn Gray on war, and most of the others I had at least consulted at some point or in the worst case bought because I knew I would be interested in someday.
In the course of this inquiry I came upon a few books that immediately attracted my attention as being from that last category — that of books I would be interested in someday.
These included Richard Parkinson’s Cracking Codes: The Rosetta Stone and Decipherment, the story of what would seem to be among the most significant “decoding” of linguistic signs in human history. Robert Lawlor’s Sacred Geometry: Philosophy and Practice is a book I have read but still have not absorbed. But even more than these, I found myself drawn to Peter Tompkin’s magnificent 1971 Secrets of the Great Pyramids. I opened the book to page 159, where I read:
In his avant-garde book, The Dawn of Astronomy, written at the turn of the century, Sir Norman Lockyer minutely demonstrated how the Egyptians built and used their temples for astronomical observations from the very remotest antiquity. Lockyer shows how Egyptian solar temples were so arranged that at sunrise or sunset on the longest day of the year, a ray from the sun shot through a skilfully contrived passage into the dark interior of the inner sanctum of the temple. The illumination from the sun was cut off by means of pylon screens so that a concentrated shaft of light cut through the gloom.
Lockyer was the first English astronomer to conclude that Stonehenge had been accurately aligned in about 1680 B.C. to catch the first gleam of the midsummer sun at its solstice, a fact which was recently corroborated on the basis of computerized data by the astronomer Gerald F. Hawkins in Stonhenge Decoded.
Being just a little bit acquainted with who Gerald Hawkins is helps one to understand the seriousness of the implications that Tompkins is drawing from his survey of the essential literature.
According to Wikipedia’s account, when Hawkins claimed these astronomical dimensions of Stonehenge,
The archaeological community was [at first] skeptical and his theories were criticized by such noted historians as Richard Atkinson, who denounced the book as being “…tendentious, arrogant, slipshod, and unconvincing.” However, Atkinson later reversed his position in the face of intense research by A. Thom and associates, published in Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol 5, 1974.
But whatever the fate of Stonehenge, the astronomical features of the pyramids have not to my knowledge since first being proposed ever undergone any truly credible critique.
Experts disagree about the exact nature of the astronomical dimensions of the monuments — whether, for example, the locations of the three pyramids of the Giza plateau intentionally mirror the stars on Orion’s belt (I think they do) — but that they are carefully aligned according to geometric and astronomic coordinates is not generally disputed, nor to my knowledge has Lockyer’s original observation of the solstitial alignments ever been disputed. They were
so arranged that at sunrise or sunset on the longest day of the year, a ray from the sun shot through a skillfully contrived temple.
That brought me to this remarkable video.
Now, that is worth wondering at.
nota bene: Sorry, but the Youtube video has been cut, in the years since this essay was published. Once I can get to the wayback machine to find it, you’ll have to do without.