Chipping at Blocks on Ancient Initiatory Tracks
“You know, for each step in evolution, in every niche, each type of creature has a whole lot of different variations of shape and form – but not humans.” Beamish Boy stared into the crystalline rock pool, watching a solitary water beetle disport and cavort in its enclosed universe.
I watched him watching the beetle as I stumbled after his train of thought. “In what way?”
“Well, most humans have the same basic shape and habits. And aside from Neanderthals there’s pretty well just us.”
“And pygmies, and the Indonesian Hobbits…” I reminded him. Beamish strode over these minor impediments; “True, but they’re more or less the same as us; just a little smaller. And I don’t think we interbred with Neanderthals at all.”
“That’s what the current data seems to indicate. When I was a kid I was taught that we interbred with Neanderthals, but recent genetic studies seem to show that we never shared genes with them at all. Strange, considering other supposed human ancestors like Homo habilis interbred with chimpanzees for at least a million years.”
“Uhuh.” I squatted down beside him on a mossy, lichen-encrusted boulder, tumbled all the way down from the mountainside to shade the small spring-fed pool. “Have a drink; this water is so good - so full of minerals - that you don’t need to eat as much when you have some.” I watched him stoop to drink from cupped hands before I practiced what I preached. “By the way, this is the rock pool where the ventriloquist frog lives – the one I told you about.”
“Really? What does it look like?”
“Tiny, and almost fluorescently pale. It took a long time to find it, because it threw its voice from under that rock overhang – the one the spring issues from. Its body was about an inch long and completely white.”
“Wouldn’t that be an unfortunate colour for a frog? What about predators – wouldn’t they see it more easily?”
“Maybe that’s why it’s such a good ventriloquist.” Beamish looked around as a flock of miniature finches fluttered through the gorge. They alighted on the convoluted trunks and branches of rare rainforest trees, patiently waiting for the pair of patchily furred simians to vacate their communal birdbathroom. “It’s pretty shady here,” he observed; “perfect for frogs.”
“Aye - I’ve been watching the canopy reform for seven years since the last pyromaniac fire. It’s recovering so well the pool doesn’t dry out any more.” The birds flitted to and fro, listening to the strange noises of our voices as faint echoes of our sounds resounded between the stony walls of the gully.
Beamish returned to the question which was uppermost in his mind. “How is it we never interbred with Neandrthals, then? We shared the same places for thousands of years…”
“Tens of thousands at least,” I agreed. “A very good question – and both Cromagnon and Neanderthals - and the pygmies and hobbits - somehow survived the great extinction event that occurred a little over seventy thousand years ago…”
“An extinction event that recently? What caused it?”
“It’s called the ‘Tola Event’, a huge volcanic eruption - at the very least – not far from the island where the hobbits were found on Flora. It’s a bottleneck in the genetic record, an event which reduced all the tribes of humankind to somewhere between one thousand and ten thousand individuals; at least, that’s how many lived on to become us. There were probably many others who didn’t. Whole cities seemed to have survived in India, for instance…”
“Really? And they didn’t make it?”
“Hard to say, in the long run; there have been many cataclysms since then, and each one provided fresh niches for adaptive new species and variants to fill.” The brightly coloured male finch flittered around us while his drabber harem watched from the foliage. “Let’s head on up to the cave,” I suggested. A moment after we climbed to our feet and strolled away along the creek bed the finches approached the rock pool and began their late morning bathing session.
“What were you saying about other animals being so different to us?” I asked as we began climbing the stony flight of a natural staircase. The young teenager stopped and stared up into the canopy while he retrieved the caboose of his interrupted train of thought. “Animals have so many different forms,” he said. “There are so many variations – all the different types of birds and reptiles and amphibians and mammals, with so many different shapes and habits…”
“When the first explorers and zoologists saw some of the birds over here in Oz they thought they were the same species as those on the other continents they’d arrived from. Some were so similar in shape and colouration, even down to the finest details of plumage and patterning. Nesting habits, egg colouration and their niches in the ecosystem all seemed identical to those of their counterparts in Eurasia or Africa, or the Americas for that matter. But in the last few decades we’ve discovered they originated from very different creatures after all, by examining their DNA.”
His expression was a question mark. “How could they?”
“It’s known as ‘convergent evolution’. The bioplasm of very different creatures alters to fill similar available niches.”
“A very good question; this is more evidence for a single field that underlies and patterns all life – all matter, really. Morphogenesis, as Rupert Sheldrake calls it.” We leapt over another rock pool fed by a crystalline trickle that poured down from twin mountaintops which loomed above the precipitous slopes; the breasts of a goddess to the local tribes and clans (and all wise moderns brash enough to clamber across her reclining form). “Over the last century it’s become an obvious truism that matter is composed of and patterned by energy…”
“It’s all made of electrons, protons and neutrons,” he agreed.
“That’s an adequate way of visualising it for now. Well, this was clearly stated in the Vedas thousands of years ago, but the Vedas went further; they said matter is composed of energy, energy is comprised of mind, and mind emanates from spirit – for want of a better word. And many physicists at the cutting edge seem to agree; they say that mind seems to pattern reality. The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle is based on the concept that every observer alters reality – or fixes it into its current shape.” Beamish was as patient as the finches as he watched my thoughts assemble themselves.
“All our language-based thoughts are travelling far below light speed,” I reminded him, “but they emanate from an unfiltered source of inspiration that instantly magnetises and shapes reality. If you meditate successfully and stop all linguistic thought you’ll find that the ‘real’ you resides around a tiny focused point of wordless consciousness, observing all the epiphenomena of thoughts and matter - all swirling around the still silent point at your centre.” I pointed toward the core of my skull. “This centre, at the pineal, and many others in your body; but this is the seat of higher consciousness; the centre of the cyclone; the core of a single cycle from which all forms emerge…”
“Uhuh… but that first little blob of amino acids or whatever – what caused it to want to continue being what it was? For that matter, what is it that allows a little blob of amino acids to move around and consume other matter?
“Everything is alive and all life is conscious, and everything has the same inner nature. Even electrons have needs and tendencies. A great magus once told me the entire universe was a result of life’s search for life – for itself, and the beloved other – and I think he was right.”
His eyes twinkled in a stray sunbeam. “Perhaps the will to live is the reason things are alive – what animates things, gives them the spark of life may just be the will to live.”
“The most basic drive, and one on which all others are built; according to Leary and others you need four basic drives to exist in this planetary realm, and another four to evolve beyond it. They correspond to the four drives of the four elements, which combine to create the base sphere of the Tree of Life; the realm of Malkuth. The first four are survival, social awareness, self esteem and self knowledge in Kabalistic terminology…”
Beamish clambered up a twenty foot slab of tilted basalt. “And so everything is conscious?” he asked when he reached the top.
“Aye, all alive and conscious - and beneath it all a timeless matrix of spirit, for dire want of a better word. We inhabit and create a fractal hologram where everything is a slightly altered representation of the whole. That way it all stays alive in time, and every component has free will. That’s the whole point, really; a universe of freed will…”
We clambered along the natural staircases and hallways of the stonewalled creek until we reached a hidden exit. “If we go any further this way we’ll have to climb a slippery waterfall,” I informed the fourteen year-old as I climbed around the bobbly bole of a three hundred year old Brushbox tree. Beamish placed his palm against the bark-skinned trunk. “It feels really cool,” he said. Our heads tilted back as our eyes followed the wooden column up towards the cloudy sky.
“It’s full of many tons of water,” I reminded him, indicating the trees surrounding and enclosing the rainforest gorge. “Most of the water in the forest is contained in these giant trunks – they’re giant standing cylinders of water.” He stepped ahead to take the temperature of another patient woody giant. “This one feels like body temperature.” I followed his lead, placing my palm beside his on the Turpentine’s strappy bark. “So it does,” I agreed. “Alive and pumping. They’re all interlinked dendrites – huge neurons in a matrix that once spanned the world.” Beamish tested his footing on a fallen slab of schist. “Is it up this way?”
“Aye,” I averred. He climbed upward, following a rivulet that cut a rocky track through the steep slope.
“So we didn’t evolve from Neanderthals?” Beamish Boy asked when we finally reach the lower entrance to the cave.
“Doesn’t look that way; not according to the most recent genetic studies, but they’re based on limited samples of very old DNA. Here, have some of these ginger berries if you’re thirsty.” He declined while I chewed a handful of the seedy round blue casings. “Nowhere near as spicy as the edible root.”
“What about Cro-Magnons, then? It’s hasn’t been as long since they were around. Didn’t we evolve from them?” I stared at the semi-prominent zygomatic ridges and arches that delineated Beamish Boy’s skull. “Cro-Magnons are the real ‘Homo sapiens’, I told him as we picked our way around a guardian tree that almost filled the cave’s lower entryway. “Modern humans are ‘Homo sapiens sapiens’ – the so-called sedentary humans who actually coexisted with Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals for tens of thousands of years.” His brow furrowed at the revelation of this old news. “Modern humans are ‘sedentary’ people who like sitting around for much of the time…”
“From the Latin; ‘sedet’ means he, she or it sits. Cro-Magnons are more robust than modern humans, who are relatively gracile compared to them; they had wider hips, too – adapted to a more active lifestyle.”
“So modern humans didn’t evolve from Cro-Magnons, either?”
I paused in readiness to climb up into the main chamber of the cavern. “If anything, we devolved from them.”
“They had brains which were ten to fifteen percent larger than most moderns… probably about the same size as yours, or mine,” I replied, eyeing his brow. “They also had superior bone density and better dentition – stronger teeth – and were generally far healthier than today’s specimens. Those facts aren’t mentioned much in schools.”
“How strange,” he said with a prematurely developed tone of cynicism-tinged irony.
The large chamber that opened out before us nestled beneath a gargantuan tilted slab of water-formed lava rock. “See that huge flat boulder that we had to climb around? It must have fallen from up there.” I pointed out the jigsaw fit of the tumbledown slab and the convoluted shelf above our heads. “This big cave would have been twice as large once; that overhang may have snapped off during the logging, decades ago.” I indicated a large crushed boulder propping up part of the cave’s surviving overhang. “Or maybe an earth tremor like the one that moved the entire hillside a few years back and crushed that support; I remember when it happened. It made it harder to squeeze through that hole into the hidden chambers beyond.”
A Yellow-breasted robin streaked into the cave and settled on a vine a few yards away. I pursed my lips and chittered to the wee avian while concentrating on communicating our good intent, and announced our identities in the ancient tongue of the once-local Gumbaynggirr clan under my breath. Beamish produced the calls of a variety of finches while the robin flitted closer. “A perfect place for cavemen,” he observed.
I recalled the last time an aboriginal man had visited this sacred initiatory site with me. “When Billy Jack slept here he said that we were the cavemen; after all, we Gubbas spend so much of our time indoors, unlike Goories. He said it was the first time he’d stayed in a cave overnight for the last forty thousand years - ever since the Gumbaynggirr first set foot on the coast, at what’s now Middle Head Beach; mind you, it was an ice age then and the Pacific was much further away, on the edge of the sunken lands that are now the continental shelf.”
Beamish Boy’s eyes wandered across the frozen lava surfaces of the cavern’s roof. “How is it that white powder gold doesn’t damage DNA, like other nanoparticles?” he asked out of the blue.
I described the ubiquity of ‘monatomic’ elements in all Earth’s soils and seawater while I rolled a smoke - slowly progressing to the principles of alchemy and methods for producing the crystal of the Philosopher’s Stone, outlining the processes of herbal alchemy and telling him how they apply to the higher learning of metallic alchemy. “Almost all the written form of the knowledge is gone now, after the churches killed all the alchemists,” I told him. “And almost all that survived is cloaked in codes that were necessitated by the horde of ravaging ignoramuses who descended on those who practiced the Art - and their jealous religious competitors who wanted the knowledge for themselves alone. But as you can see, the oral tradition still exists…”
Later that afternoon we begin to return to the floor of the valley by a roundabout route, following flattened wallaby trails across otherwise steep hillsides. I point out the lack of water erosion in the stone-bottomed lava flows that comprise the creek beds and the overlying beds of ashen clays - ten to thirty feet thick – that cloak the lava flows with a fleshy semblance of soil. “And over that there’s only a metre of topsoil, tops, even where the forest has never been logged or eroded – which means these lava flows and ash falls are probably only thousands of years old, not millions as everyone seems to think.
“A few thousand years ago – maybe tens of thousands at the very most - everything here was covered with lava and shitloads of volcanic ash. No-one’s ever really dated it; all the official datings are based on untested assumptions.” We walk back homeward, skirting the margins of a basalt clifftop which is occasionally submerged beneath layers of clay, compacted mulch and burnt forest. We soon reach a steep ridge that leads directly back home, down to the valley where the platypus dwells in an ancient waterhole beside our little cabin.
Time appears to flow onward…
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