During the early colonial period, many Indigenous Tasmanians believed they would go to London when they died.
You can understand the thinking in a way. Here were a group of ghostly looking humans with an inarguable technological superiority, appearing on the horizon in these fantastical machines, coming to claim and reshape the physical world in the name of this far-off, all-powerful place called London. It probably also says something heartbreaking poignant about how the Tasmanian tribes saw their prospects in this new regime.
Inevitably, this belief was patronisingly included in a list of funny little idolatries the empire builders encountered across the world. In later decades, sacrifices to the Great White Queen were made in African and Indian holdings, for instance.
But I can’t help thinking something more nuanced wasn’t going on here, and that it has wider implications for how we interrogate hunter gatherer cosmologies. What we see is an incorporation of additional landscape, additional terrain, into an animistic worldview. And, as is covered in Star.Ships: A Prehistory of the Spirits, particularly when it comes to Aborigines or Pacific Islanders, when they ‘incorporate additional terrain’, they really bring their A-Game.
In fact, I’ve cut together some of Permaculture-founder, Bill Mollison’s stories and experiences about Aboriginal and Pacific Islander mathematics, star lore and navigation. Watch. At around the six minute mark, he says “the great preoccupation of Aboriginal peoples is dimension. And they can actually manipulate time.” It’s interesting to consider in light of MMTP’s experience with Aboriginal women in a sacred setting.
I find it interesting in the light of Mollison’s stories to iterate out from this apparently posthumous London visit. These nonphysical visits need not only take place after death, but let’s stick with those that do. In some cases they could have even be curses: Instead of ‘I will go to London when I die’, perhaps ‘I will come to London when I die’.
Here’s a thought experiment for you. What would have happened if the British had just… left? Dismantled their buildings, tore down their fences and departed. The local tribes would have a spirit location, London, whose appearance in their cosmology has no discernible antecedent, no known vector for it to be there when examined by anthropologists. But this belief would also correspond with a physical location here on earth.
This brings us inevitably back to the book and some of the media discussions/interviews that have already begun in advance of its publication next week. In his incompetently maligned The Sirius Mystery, Robert Temple made the case for what he called the Contact Era; that period from about 5,000 BC to 3,500 BC that saw the instantaneous, simultaneous emergence of literate cultures in several places on earth. There are some shortcomings to the thesis that I address in the book but its broad strokes have much to recommend it.
When you widen it out, two things become apparent:
- There has been more than one Contact Era in observable history.
- The fact that this is so suggests we need a more sophisticated way of interpreting this than saying ‘aliens’ and moving on.
This is largely why I think animism in particular has an overlooked usefulness when it comes to interrogating history. It allows for events like a Contact Era to happen -particularly when you widen it out into what I glibly call space shamanism. But it also has models for understanding how ideas/concepts/spirits persist in the absence of physical evidence in ways that I believe are superior to Idealism… and any form of materialism, obviously. One can begin to unpack the regularly-misunderstood concept of cargo cults from within an animist worldview in such a way that it might lead… if not to answers… then at least to operating hypotheses.
When you stop to think about it, it’s materialism that has given us the farcical, so-absurd-I-would-not-be-surprised-if-it-was-a-psyop phenomenon of Ancient Aliens. It’s a model error. Does history show signs of extradimensional contact? Yes, pretty consistently in fact. Therefore it must be little green men in flying saucers because materialism does not allow for the nonphysical by definition. If you say ‘the precision building skills observed in Old Kingdom Egypt were obtained in the spirit world’ to someone who believes that there are hieroglyphics of helicopters and Luke Skywalker’s landspeeder, he will look at you like you’re the crazy one. Because spirits don’t exist. Stop and process that for a minute.
Here, then, is the persistent error with materialism, even when the evidence is staring them in the face. Let’s return to the
tragedy story of the Tasmanian Aborigines for a final example. When the last full blood Tasmanian Aboriginal male -given the cruelly racist name of King Billy- (who lived above a Hobart pub) died, there was a fight over his bones. The Royal Society of Tasmania was insistent on getting them for their collection. Having lived through the forced ghettoisation on Flinder’s Island, he was one of the few who survived to return to Tasmania, by which point Darwinism had kicked off in earnest in all the best-informed circles. So the Victorians believed he was a literal missing link between humans and lesser species. Less than a month before he died, he was even introduced to Victoria’s son, Prince Albert, so fascinated were they with this ‘link to the past’.
There is a horrifying poetry to King Billy’s tragic end. He actually was a link to the past. It’s now known that Tasmanian Aboriginal stories accurately recorded the end of the ice age -the event that cut the island off from Australia- in their stories. That’s a ten thousand year old story. What else might they have accurately retained over such a span of time that is now lost to us? But the Darwinist materialists looked instead for their link in the butchered remains of a lifelong victim of state crime.
So it is when we render unto materialists the interpretation of our history. How can they ever hope to find something they don’t believe exists? Let me give you a bit of medical advice:
If your oncologist does not believe in cancer, you should probably get a better doctor.