Laird Scranton is a software designer from Albany, New York, USA. He is the author of two books on African and Egyptian cosmology and language. His third book on China’s Cosmological Prehistory is about to be released on August 28th this year 2014.
His focus is on the study of comparative cosmology, which is the study of the classic myths, symbols, deities, cosmological concepts, rituals and words of various ancient and modern cultures. His emphasis has been on defining fundamental similarities between the cosmologies of the modern-day Dogon tribe of Mali, ancient Egypt, and Buddhism. These studies have culminated in a new symbolic approach to interpreting Egyptian hieroglyphic words that is based on words and definitions drawn from comparative cosmology, rather than the traditional comparative texts of the Rosetta Stone.
His recent studies have extended to the cosmologies and hieroglyphic languages of Tibet and China, with focus on the creation tradition of the priestly Na-Khi tribe. His articles include three Dogon-related topics in Temple University’s forthcoming Encyclopedia of African Religion, and a recent article in support of Marcel Griaule’s Dogon cosmology in the University of Chicago’s academic journal Anthropology News. He has been featured in John Anthony West’s Magical Egypt documentary and Carmen Boulter’s The Pyramid Code. Links can be found on the internet to radio interviews on Coast-to Coast AM in the U.S. and Red Ice Radio in Europe.
Although evidence relating to early cosmology in China is often lacking, by comparison to ancient Egypt or India, what has survived suggests a high degree of commonality with cosmological traditions from Africa, Egypt, India and Tibet. Many signature aspects of those traditions are indicated in China. These include an ancient reverence for quasi-mythical ancestor/teachers who are credited with having brought instructed civilizing skills, concepts of creation that pertain all at once to the universe as a macrocosm, the microcosm of matter, and biological creation, and an outlook that is rooted in reconciling processes in the heavens (Above) with earthbound processes (Below). One major difficulty found in China lies with the fact that events that transpired circa 3000 BC are first reflected in texts from the era of around 300 BC. This long gap in written evidence has created an atmosphere in which virtually every key aspect of China’s cosmological history is subject to academic debate.
One important tool for reconciling some of these debates lies with the spoken words that define the cosmology we have been pursuing in other regions. The suggestion has been that the further back in time we look, the more commonality of cosmological language we encounter. One particular feature of these words is that each carries multiple discreet definitions. So when we find matching definitions that relate to the same cosmological concepts in other cultures, we’re in a position to assert a positive correlation. Likewise, the farther back we go, the more evidence we see that certain phonemes relate to predictable cosmological concepts. These commonalities make it possible for us to begin with a poorly-understood Chinese term of cosmology whose multiple outward meanings are known, and expand on the likely intended meaning through comparison to more well-defined words in cultures we have already studied.
The legitimacy of this approach is underscored by similarities that can be demonstrated to exist between early symbolic language in China and in ancient Egypt, where early written glyphs often reflect known cosmological shapes and meanings. As an example of the fundamental similarity of these systems of writing, both ancient Egypt and ancient China observed a 10-day week. An Egyptian hieroglyphic word for “week” is written with only two glyphs: The sun glyph (representing the concept of a day) and the number ten. A Chinese word for week is also written with the Chinese sun glyph and the Chinese number ten. In both cases, it can be argued that symbols are used to effectively define the meaning of the hieroglyphic word. Knowing this to be true, it becomes possible to elicit the likely meaning of a Chinese cosmological term by equating it to an Egyptian term and then simply interpreting the meanings of familiar symbols. Dogon and Buddhist definitions serve as credible cross-checks on the interpreted meanings.
Many of the best-known cosmological traditions of ancient China are rooted in concepts of cosmology that, through comparison to other cultures, often seem perfectly understandable. For example, the ostensibly theoretic Well-Field system of Chinese agriculture is a match for a Dogon tradition that is both well understood and was overtly implemented in actual practice. The cosmological foundation for civic centers in China reflects concepts and practices that are evident in ancient Egypt. Through comparison to traditions of the Dogon in Africa and the Buddhists in India, Daoism and the Yijing (or I Ching) are recognizable as coherent definitions of cosmological stages of creation.
Link to new book: