by H. Crosthwaite
SOME years ago, at my suggestion, Hugh Crosthwaite commenced this major work. Its first pages appeared in the mails as parts of personal letters. He called them notes. They were notes, yes, but like the "toying at the piano keys" of a maestro, they possessed authenticity, reflected a great repertoire, and hit upon original meanings in every direction a tone was struck. The notes began to modulate into cultures and tongues other than the classic Greek as the research continued.
I should be remembered, perhaps, for not having said to him, "Please cease to send me your notes and compose instead a proper monograph: thesis, proof, basta." Rather, as the messages kept coming, I redefined for myself, and I hope for hundreds of readers to come, the relation of form to value. The author carries, among other traits characteristic of English scholarship at its best, the famed stubborn empiricism that has so often been the despair of theorists and philosophers such as myself. The work is bound to factuality.
He loosens the reins in only two regards, both at my behest: the grouping of his facts in respect to electrical phenomena, and the testing of words and behavior according to whether they relate to divine behavior in the sky. In the end, this work by Crosthwaite, which we may call a Handbook, took on its own form. It is a dismemberment and reconstruction of Greek and associated myth such as has not occurred hitherto. Its hundreds of sketches and etymologies are grouped to follow a theme: the electric fire and destructive behavior of the sky gods, as these exhibit themselves in the language, rituals, myths, and behavior of the ancient Mediterranean peoples.
A surprising form of "Handbook" emerges, which renders too limited the very designation. For it appears that a major portion of the Greek language (and probably all others) derives from human readings of divine sky behavior, and transfers itself into the necessary language that guides mundane social life and thought. From far away China, the I Ching echoes this idea: "Heaven produced the mysterious things, and the sages modelled themselves on them... Heaven hangs out its symbols, from which are seen good fortune and misfortune, and the sages made symbols of them." (Sec. 1, Ch. 11)
Furthermore, this same "divinely inspired" language, along with the rites and practices associated with it, does not consist of independent etymologically-unique, tribally evolved vocabularies and perspectives. Rather, there appears to have been, among many ancient peoples, an ecumenical language of sacred, electrical, pyrotechnical ritual behavior.
Apparently, what had been happening, not long before the time our evidence comes into being, was similar to the development of modern language of the age of electronics and space-age technology, whereby Latinized English becomes a world-wide language among practitioners of the associated arts and sciences. Moreover, it was a language everywhere of fire, god's fire, electric fire or the closest simulations thereof.
The reader may express surprise and disbelief at the multiplicity of words concentrated in these areas: I would advise him of two considerations. First, a language can be composed of and reduced finally to a handful of syllables (with varying accents, intonations, and syntax), a score of them providing thousands (conceivably ~ 2 raised to the 20th power) of different words. Second, if the primal experiences of speechifying humans occur in conjunction with preoccupying celestial visions and effects tied to them, the corresponding preoccupation of a language, no matter how banal life will ultimately become and filled with ordinary trivial objects, can well be with these original syllables from which the language subsequently descends.
I have been continuously astonished at Crosthwaite's indefatigable and creative energy, not to mention the boldness with which he has attacked an immense set of challenges. The results make an important contribution to the study of linguistic origins and diffusion. The linguistic connections evidenced, as well as the sacral outlook and practices tied to them, are so close as to bring into question several dearly held beliefs regarding ancient chronology and the relative antiquity of the Mediterranean civilizations.
It begins to appear as if all that was contained in the minds, speech and practice of the ancients took place in the same skies and in everyone's sight at the same time. Greece, Italy, Illyria, Anatolia, Palestine, Egypt, Mesopotamia, the Danube Basin: indeed all are implicated.
Many pages of the present work suggest such a theory. A reading of the chapter on "Ka" will let one understand what is meant here. It will explain, too, why the short title of "Ka" is given the book: this favorite Egyptian monosyllable penetrates Greek and other languages as well; it testifies, not so much on behalf of Egyptian chronological precedence, as for an ecumenical, possibly even hologenetic development of religious and thence all language of the ancient world.
Alfred de Grazia Princeton, New Jersey