Rosicrucian Writings Online
Along Civilization's Trail
By Ralph M. Lewis, K. R. C.
[From The Rosicrucian Digest July 1938]
Editor's Note:--This is the fifteenth episode of a narrative by the Supreme Secretary relating the experiences he and his party had in visiting mystic shrines and places in
A STRANGE EXPERIENCE
WE BOTH concentrated our digging and probing on the one place in which we had made our discovery. We were soon rewarded for our efforts and we turned up brick after brick, each weighing about ten pounds, all deeply and clearly inscribed in cuneiform, some bearing the inscription of Nebuchadnezzar's name. Turning them over, we saw that they had a sticky black substance smeared on them. "Looks and smells like asphaltum," said Brower.
"It is," I replied, "the Babylonians had asphalt or bitumen pits, and they used this substance to coat their bricks just as we use the same material today as a preservative on our roads and highways." "And you will observe," I continued, "that it has done an excellent job." We hurried, for the hour was getting late, to reduce the size of the bricks--because of their weight--with a hammer we had for the purpose. We knocked away all except the area containing the inscriptions. We soon had a very representative collection, and one quite heavy. We intended to take them back with us to
In this same palace where we were making our discoveries an outstanding tragedy had happened. Alexander the Great, after successfully putting to rout the army of Darius, the Persian king who occupied Babylon at that time, and taking over Babylon himself, was murdered in this palace at the height of his power, and, it is said, while in a drunken stupor. Near here, in this series of earth mounds, was the ruins of a library. Ashurbanipal, last Assyrian king, and grandson of Sennacherib, built himself a great library at
The great library of Nineveh has been found; that is how we know of these books and their classification, and most of its stone books which lay in a heap when the building crumbled are now in the British Museum in London. On some of these tablets are found parts of the story of the flood mentioned in the Old Testament. The legend, as it also appears in the Old Testament, tells of the hero building a large boat on which he took his wife and a pair of each of the animals, and that all other humans and animals were destroyed by the deluge, and that finally when the flood subsided, he and his wife and the animals were left to perpetuate themselves as the only living things. This story is undoubtedly based upon an actual local flood within that region, and of course it was thought by the early writers to have been a deluge of the whole world. It was passed perhaps by word of mouth, or even by tablet, to the Egyptians, thence to the Hebrews, and it was finally incorporated in the Christian literature.
We loaded our camera equipment into the car, also the inscribed stones, for our porter would not help us with them. They were to him taboo; that is, untouchable. A curse, so the natives believed, would be inflicted upon those who disturbed the property of the dead. The Assyrians, like the Egyptians, threatened trespassers and those who would violate their sacred precincts with oaths of vengeance. Ashurbanipal, for example, declared in cuneiform writing on each stone tablet of his library (each book, in other words), that "whosoever shall carry off this tablet or shall inscribe his name upon it side by side with my own, may Assur and Belit (gods) overthrow him in wrath and anger, and may they destroy his name and posterity in the land." Now we began to realize why they feared to visit this site. Strange, too, since working in the palace rooms I felt rather ill. Beads of cold perspiration stood out on my forehead, unusual for this climate. I felt exceptionally tired. My head throbbed slightly. I laughed to myself, and said, "the power of suggestion."
Relieved of our burdens, we climbed over several mounds to another large pile of crumbling brick. It is referred to by some authorities as the remains of the Towe[r] of
Koldewey, German excavator and archaeologist, has reconstructed, from the plans he made of the ruins of Babylonian tower temples, complete models showing how they actually appeared in ancient times. The highest of these towers was probably some four hundred feet, which, like the great pyramid of Gizeh, looked by comparison to the surrounding level terrain much greater. Of course, to the captive Hebrews, this god of the Babylonians was a false one, and the worship of him on such a high edifice, reaching, it seemed, into the clouds, was a defiling of the sanctuary of their own god, consequently the story of the
As we pondered among these ruins, in our mind's eye we could see the Hebrew slaves, naked except for loin cloth, with matted hair and beards, fettered with bronze chains and anklets, toiling, sweating, and stumbling in their misery and near exhaustion, in the blazing sun under the lash of the whips of their Babylonian captors, making and carrying the brick which was raising a tower for the worship of the god of their oppressors, offering prayers silently for their deliverance--prayers, the echo of which still ring in the chapters of the Old Testament. Cruelty, yes. Unnecessary--yes, also. But the custom neither began with the Babylonians nor did it end with them. This much can be said of the Babylonians: Their persecution of the Jews was not primarily a religious one, but a political one.
I found it difficult to draw myself back into my immediate surroundings. My thoughts seemed so easily to restore these ruins into the gloriously beautiful structures they once were. Ethereal throngs pushed by me, jostled me; strange sounds came to my ears. It seemed that the citizenry of this ancient place were again going to and fro, attired in their costumes of yore, occupied with their interests of four thousand years ago. I was an unseen spectator of their daily life. My own life and times became a vague dream, difficult to realize. To think of the present was an effort. In fact, the present was unreal. I was slipping back into the past where I felt, somehow, I rightly belonged. Further, I felt as though I were relieved of a burden, like one returning from a journey of responsibility in a distant land. I was now among friends, yet something continually annoyed me, a voice, faint, distant, but distinct, kept calling me. I could not avoid it. If I listened, this joyous procession, this
Then the sound of my name crashed down upon me like a bolt of lightning. It shattered the vista before me; towers, palaces, streets, peoples, slaves--they all fell into mere parts like a jigsaw puzzle dropped abruptly on pavement. They melted before my eyes, and through the mist there appeared the face of Frater Brower. He was speaking, but his voice was still distant; then it gradually grew stronger as though it were approaching me from afar. He was shaking me by the shoulder and saying, "What is the matter with you? Why don't you answer me? We must get back. Are you ill? You are extremely pale." I realized now I must have fainted momentarily while seated on the sub-foundation wall of this tower temple. And yet, how clear had been my experience, how vivid in all its details, hardly like an hallucination that comes from an ordinary lapse of objective consciousness. I was ill, extremely so; I burned with fever. My mouth was parched and I was badly nauseated.
Over and over again, like a leer, the words of the Babylonian execration imploring the gods to punish despoilers coursed through my mind. I attempted to ridicule myself as I lay in the back of the bouncing car heading again toward
Several days of quiet, after a diagnosis of my case as mild tropical fever combined with intestinal influenza, caused possibly by an insect bite on the desert, saw me rally sufficiently to prepare for the trek back across the desert. Our trail was now to lead northward and westward like the flow of the ancient civilization whose sites we had been visiting.
(To be continued)
|Section Index||Home Page|
|Copyright © 2007 Aswins Rabaq. All Rights Reserved.|