The Dogon and Ways to Knowledge

By William Markiewicz

The human brain is the only one that wanders beyond basics like survival and reproduction. Inspiration is a form of information, a pathway toward attaining knowledge with no studies. How is this possible?

Artistic inspiration is a form of information via sensorial perception. Practically everybody sees, hears, feels, but the inspired person draws on data not accessible to others. The creator doesn't transform reality, at least not intentionally. The transformation occurs first in himself, then he projects it through musical instruments, on canvas, or in shape.

The same occurs even in literature. The writer, whether poet or reporter, transmits his data through "light," "rhythm," "melody"... Nobody asks the creators: "How do you know that it is correct?" because we respond to creators with feeling, not logic.

It's not so with the mystical interior illuminations, which mostly remain a private matter for the illuminati and, eventually, for their followers. So, it is a matter of faith and a subject of various psychological and philosophical theories.

Now let's reflect on the most fascinating field of mysterious knowledge: cosmogony like that of the Dogon.

The Dogon, a tribe in Mali, West Africa, carry astronomy legends dating from before 3200 BC. Their priests told two French anthropologists of secret Dogon myths about the star Sirius (8.6 light years from the Earth). The priests said that Sirius had a companion star, invisible to the human eye. They also stated that the star moved in a 50-year elliptical orbit around Sirius, that it was small and incredibly heavy, and that it rotated on its axis. The Dogon attribute to Sirius B its three principal properties as a white dwarf: small, heavy, white. All these things happen to be true.

When the anthropologists interviewed the Dogon priests, astronomers had not yet discovered those facts. I definitely reject the extraterrestrial visitor theory. May I propose another thesis which at present cannot be proved or disproved, perhaps the most elegant way to leave the question open.

Western creativity is the least ritualistic of all. It includes magic and religion, of course, but doesn't give them a predominant role. Western art has evolved mostly around human earthly preoccupations; love, death, war, joy, sadness... not necessarily with supernatural powers involved. Western art, partially liberated from dogma, let the brain plunge into the triviality of the daily world, its causes and effects, and evolve through experimentation and logic to the realm of craft and science.

Each inspiration needs specific conditions and a state of mind. So, if Western artists developed a vision of energetic universe (shape, color, sound), the mystics developed a metaphysical vision of the universe, then how about the Dogon priests developing a MATERIAL vision of the universe, which all the rest of us have to gain through studies. Inspiration, vision, are both accepted as the most mysterious pathways to knowledge; why not include one more mystery in the collection?

In some cultures where the brain is not particularly busy transforming sensorial impressions into "pure" art, with no metaphysical hunger, because all is settled through magic and ritual, such a free brain may suddenly find another gate, for instance, to some corner of the universe. Why Sirius? Why not? Perhaps, after all, God plays with dice ...

I share the mystics' beliefs with the difference that, if we last long enough, all will once be understood.

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