Sample text for The science of the Dogon : decoding the African mystery tradition / Laird Scranton.
Bibliographic record and links to related information available from the Library of Congress catalog
Copyrighted sample text provided by the publisher and used with permission. May be incomplete or contain other coding.
from Chapter 6
Dogon Parallels to the Big Bang and Atomic and Quantum Structure
In the previous chapter, I demonstrated many superficial resemblances between the surface narrative of the Dogon creation story and the Big Bang theory of science. One of the primary functions of the surface storyline of the Dogon is to serve as a kind of mask for a more detailed body of knowledge contained within the deeper storyline. Therefore, if we are on the right track with our interpretation of Dogon symbols from the surface storyline, we should expect to find even more specific and recognizable details of the Big Bang theory incorporated into the deeper storyline of the Dogon creation story. When we carefully examine the elements of the deeper storyline, this is exactly what we find.
For the Dogon, the starting point for the deeper storyline is Amma's egg--the unformed universe that contained all of the seeds or signs of the world. According to Dogon mythology, it was the opening of this egg that created all of the spiraling galaxies of stars and worlds. This concept of the origin of the universe conforms nicely to the prevailing theories of astrophysics, which define the unformed universe prior to the Big Bang as a kind of ball containing all of the potential matter of the future universe compressed to an unbelievably dense state. Accordingly, it was the rupturing of this ball that ultimately scattered matter as we now know it to the farthest reaches of the universe.
According to most astronomers, the perfect unity that existed at the moment of the Big Bang--science's equivalent of Amma's egg--represented a singularity, like what we now know as a black hole. Stephen Hawking describes the concept of a black hole in the following way in A Brief History of Time:
According to the theory of relativity, nothing can travel faster than light. Thus if light cannot escape, neither can anything else; everything is dragged back by the gravitational field. So one has . . . a region of space-time from which it is not possible to escape to reach a distant observer. . . . Its boundary is called the event horizon and coincides with the paths of light rays that just fail to escape from the black hole.
The diagram provided by Hawking to describe this event horizon--the path of the light rays that are unable to leave the black hole--is in most respects the very image of the Dogon stone representing Amma's egg.
In many early mythologies, such as those of Hermopolis in Egypt and the Maori of New Zealand, the original creation of the universe is linked to the opening of an egg. The first entities to emerge after the moment of creation are the familiar triad of gods that we previously associated with the three physical states of water. Scientists believe that the plasma that emerged from the Big Bang was intensely hot and cooled rapidly to the near-zero temperature that we now see in the vacuum of space.
Astronomic theory explains that the first finished by-product of this cooling process after the Big Bang was the atom, and more specifically the hydrogen atom--the Dogon surface storyline's counterpart to the Nummo. Again, if our understanding of the structure of the Dogon religion is correct, we would expect the deep creation storyline to include specific information about the atom and its constituent components, and again in fact it does._
For the Dogon, the po is the name of the smallest grain and represents one of the tiniest building blocks of the universe: the nucleus of an atom. Dogon descriptions of the po at the opening of Amma's egg, forming like a central air bubble and scattering in a luminous motion, correlate well with scientific descriptions of the process of cooling of the quark-gluon plasma. When we suggest possible meanings for the Dogon symbols that are related to atomic structure, the idea is wholly and completely in keeping with how the Dogon understand their own symbols.
According to the Dogon, the po seed--already one of the most basic elements of creation--consists of four even more elemental components, referred to in combination as the sene seed. Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen say:
In this infinitely small thing [the sene] Amma then placed the four elements . . . The sene represents the first thing created by Amma . . . [Amma's first act,] called diagram of the sene seed, connotes the superposition of the four elements in the formation of the seed . . . In accordance with Amma's will, each of them extended its germ to touch its neighbor, from east to north, from north to west, etc. This crossing of the germs is compared to the intertwining of twigs forming a nest, senu. These germs then gathered at the center, where they mixed together and were transformed at the very site of the po, which was still invisible. Then, surrounding the seed, they made it visible . . .
This crossing of the germs in all directions is a very competent description aimed at a non-technical observer of the electrons in their crossing orbits surrounding an atom. These orbiting electrons, combined with their nucleus--the po--constitute a completed atom.
In The Pale Fox, Griaule and Dieterlen present a Dogon diagram of the sene seed that is a close match for typical scientific diagrams showing normal electron density and electron orbital shapes. Compare the scientific diagram reproduced below with the Dogon drawing beneath it.
Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Religion and science.
Astronomy -- Religious aspects -- Christianity.