Tepe, not the archaeological site itself, but – it’s sort of a long story.

I began studying with Sensei Nakazono in 1982.  He lectured every Monday night on the Kototama Principle and over time we all became familiar with his pretty distinctive view of human history which was that an original human civilization, in the very ancient past, had discovered, not through divine intervention but through countless generations of hard work, the secrets of human existence, which happened to parallel the secrets of the existence of the universe.  Yeah, it was pretty audacious.

I’m writing about it now specifically because of the time frame Sensei discussed.  This original civilization peaked, as I understood his views, about 11-12 thousand years ago, and I can still see him cocking his head, as if recalculating the exact date, “about 10 thousand years ago” it was decided to hide this perfect knowledge.

I make no arguments one way or another about this view of human history.  In conjunction with the rest of Sensei’s teaching, to me it seemed possible, at least on a metaphorical level, for two reasons:  one is there seems to be a deep wound at the very center of human existence, cross-culturally, across time, etc, but also for me personally as a young American growing up in the fifties and sixties, a young adult in the seventies – well I think the Fugs put it best in a song – a general sense of “Who dealt this mess?”  The second reason is I thought then, and still think, in reading ancient texts that the stories from the old days about the really old days, the ideas of a lost Golden Age, have the ring of something more than simple superstition.

Again, I am not arguing about that one way or the other.  I am just saying I was open to the idea.  The part that makes me angry, in a calm, reasonable, detached sort of way, is I remember talking to a few people with educational backgrounds in anthropology and archaeology and so forth, mentioning my studies with Sensei Nakazono and his ideas about human pre-history.  It was a hoot to them, is what I am saying, almost beyond ridicule, the idea that thousands of years before the Pyramids there was a thriving spiritual community, with a very deep understanding of what was really going on.  

So then Gobekli Tepe comes along in 1996, an almost unbelievable archaeological site going back 11 thousand years or more which was purposely hidden (buried) 10 thousand years ago, and which immediately, irrefutably, upends all our ideas about human history – and still it hasn’t sunk in, it doesn’t seem to me, even in the scholarly community.  It reminds me of reading about a surgical procedure whose value had been pretty much discredited.  The question was raised about when the procedure would be discontinued and the answer was when a new generation of surgeons had been trained in more effective methods.  (And of course I’m being petty about this, but it’s not like all the people that dismissed you with a horse-laugh 30 years ago call up and say, “Uh, sorry about that.”)

Now, I’m not arguing Gobekli Tepe is validation of the Kototama Principle, or anything else.  Even if underneath one of the monoliths a stone carving, unquestionably carbon-dated, in English script, is uncovered saying:  “Douglas Adams was right – it’s 42,” undeniable proof of Something, in other words, it’s not the main thing to me.  I do think, with all the anticipation of “Atlantis” emerging dramatically at some point, it’s entirely possible that Atlantis is in fact rising as we speak, slowly from the Turkish landscape, in the form of those astonishing stone structures.

After the night of 12-17, it’s funny to me that I began aligning stones in a meadow behind our house, making a row in line with the sunset at the summer solstice, for example, as closely as I could considering I live in the woods, around an old metal campfire ring we had.  It’s funny because I knew how silly it could be – I’ve been to a few sacred sites, like Chaco Canyon and the remarkable Medicine Wheel in Wyoming, and I had to laugh at the image of myself as a kind of Richard Dreyfus from Close Encounters, dabbling obsessively in my backyard in late-middle age goofiness.

But that’s as self-deprecating as I’m going to be.  All those stones aligned in medicine wheels to me in one way or another are human vertebrae, which originally to me are human sounds, and I say again for me a human being is a person breathing in air down to the center at what we call tanden (a point in the lower abdomen) and speaking the sacred sounds up the channel of the spine to the brain.  That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

There is something I’d missed in one of Sensei’s books that I came across a couple of months ago.  It’s from My Past Way of Budo, which I hadn’t looked at in a long time, a line to the effect that the reason our ancestors could feel with certainty that the Kototama Principle would reemerge is simply that the meaning is in the sounds themselves.  That’s the point here – at virtually the same time I’m learning that ancient human history could have happened the way Sensei described it, I’m also learning that the only reality of any consequence is this moment, this sound practice, this sense of wonder and gratitude for life.