Saturday, February 6, 2010

Who Made the West

i just started reading Stolen Legacy by George GM James this week. while i find its re-evaluation to be admirable - and sometimes pretty persuasive - i can't stop thinking about one particular issue. but before i get to my thoughts, i should provide a little background.

with this book, James aims to prove that the Greeks pillaged and bastardized the teachings of the Egyptian Mysteries. in doing so, he hopes that the philosophical and scientific contributions of Africa will be illuminated and that the perception of the continent as "backwards" will dissipate. on top of this, he writes it in a manner that attempts to break from traditional European academia. clearly, pretty great aspirations.

now, the school of the Egyptian Mysteries ran off of a hierarchical model and had very strict tenets - particularly those dealing with secrecy. (all knowledge was to be passed down to Initiates through tradition, never written down. societal structures determined eligibility.) tenets like this obviously fostered exclusivity within ancient Egyptian society - a trait that defined academia in ancient times and to this day.

what is vexing me is that in establishing Africa's contributions and simultaneously attempting to escape traditional academia, James suggests drawing pride from a philosophical tradition that was just as rooted in exclusivity - and therefore, oppression - as any other.

i just wonder if it is something he considered while writing this book.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, everything I've read about classical Egyptian society makes it out to be pretty despicable: cruel, elitist, wasteful, obsessed with death and conspicuous consumption at the expense of everything that actually matters. Not a very humanistic foundation for any sort of pan-African nationalist movement.

thebaronette said...

this is really my first exposure to it that falls outside of traditional academic perspectives and isn't contained within the imagery of Afrocentrist/Afrofuturist free jazz. i definitely want to better understand its significance within the Pan-Africanism movement, but i'm not particularly sure what to make of it right now.

nice use of implied parallels in that, by the way.