The Alphabet

Great Symbols Series @ Theosophy Trust


THE ALPHABET


Letters, like men, have now an ancestry, and the ancestry of words, as of men, is often a very noble possession, making them capable of great things.

Frederick W. Goudy

 Gingerly, brushing the dust off its faded parts, the archaeologist unearthed the mysterious object from the hillside where he was excavating. He flipped the twenty-six little figures around the metal rod which skewered them to a flimsy rectangular frame and wondered what in the world they were. Made of a plastic sort of material, they seemed to have been of different colours, and each was a distinct shape. Mentally summoning a fellow archaeologist, he telepathically discussed the possible uses such a gadget might be put to. "Do you suppose it was used in magical rites or as a means of counting?" "But why would anyone count in sets of twenty-six?" countered the other. "Where exactly did you find it?" The discoverer pointed to the cavity in the hillside and identified the name of the particular stratum. "Yes," his colleague silently responded, "that dates it at about thirty-five hundred years ago, doesnt it? Certainly it is from the early Plastic period." "Yes, I agree, and yet the only thing these strange figures remind me of are the glyphs on those tablets we found last year at Pylos. Those were three thousand years or so older. Do you think there might be a connection?" "Well," the colleague responded, "this certainly looks more like a child's toy to me, but maybe you are right. Maybe they both have to do with some primitive form of communication. Perhaps if we try to analyse the shape of these figures something might suggest itself. Let's take it back to the lab and give it a good look."

A must stand for Alpha,
The first in all the row;
And B for our Beginners here,
The clever and the slow.
And C for all the Cramming hard,
With all its botheration.
And D for Drawing, Dancing, Dates,
And dreary dull Dictation.

 Not knowing this schoolboy rhyme chanted millennia before their time, and being both clever in some ways and slow in others, the two archaeologists examined the alphabet toy and tried to figure out what it was by analysing the shape and possible meaning of its twenty-six figures. "They could be charms or spirit shapes," suggested one, "or symbols of things or ideas", offered the other. "Well then, in a row like this, do you think they convey a message?" And so they puzzled and looked minutely at each one. The first they thought resembled a compass, the second two fingertips protruding from a straight edge of something. The third seemed to them an interrupted circle, while others reminded them of a serpent and a tree. Perhaps, they wondered, the whole may be read as pictures telling a story. The compass of God may be measuring by two fingers the incomplete circle or cycle of the world, involving various developments, including animals and plants. Or perhaps it was a series of twenty-six numbers which, added together, would produce a magical key to understanding or a measure of time or space. They questioned the frequency of circles, arches and straight lines. How often did they describe a golden ratio? What did the diagonals mean? Did the shapes attempt to illustrate powers, either divine or terrestrial? Being citizens of a world where universal mental telepathy had abolished the need for audible speech and writing, the two archaeologists questioned and compared notes in silence. Relying solely on a highly abstract form of mental language, humanity had long before dispensed with any alphabetical system and recorded its accumulated knowledge in memory banks, from which individuals could receive information in the form of subtle electrical impulses.Thus the two investigators were mystified by the quaint and crude learning device that must have once been toyed with in some child's nursery. Too many centuries of destruction, rebuilding, loss of knowledge and re-creation had intervened between their time and the early Plastic period for them to immediately grasp its significance.

 It occurred to them, however, that the figures might be a series of mnemonic devices, of signs conveying a particular set of circumstances. They had in their collection some roughly fashioned notched sticks and belts with beads strung at intervals which they believed to have once performed that function in the pre-Plastic period. They realized that civilization was built upon an accumulation of knowledge, but they did not perceive that for ancestral races this had depended so much upon the written word or upon communicable signs. Thus, they considered the figures as a possible means of sending messages among a crude and relatively unsophisticated people who, though progressed in some ways beyond the pre-Plastic races, were, nonetheless, culturally primitive. They would probably have continued to think along these lines indefinitely had it not been for the astounding discovery of a remarkable text found in a small metal vault buried below several layers of ashes and rubble exposed by meanderings of a river near the Pylos site. It immediately became apparent that the figures strung on the plastic rectangle were repeated over and over again and in any number of combinations across the pages of the book. The archaeologists realized that they must be symbols of a language which had been visually recorded. They marvelled at the laborious means of transmitting ideas and wondered if such concrete signs could possibly, even in complex and clever combinations, relay anything remotely like the subtle thoughts and feelings which they shared telepathically. Subsequent finds related the antique alphabet and writing to a phonetic rendition of an oral tradition which had survived the vicissitudes of the centuries and had been recorded in its essential character in one of the early memory banks devoted to preserving knowledge of the past. Little by little and with painstaking study, the writing in the text was decoded. They uttered the sounds assigned to the letters and mouthed the words they comprised. Slowly, through painstaking translation from their sophisticated telepathic language to that revealed on its pages, they came to the wonderful realization that they had discovered a palaeographic text of the history of the alphabet.

 Identifying out of the alphabetical letters a series of numbers, they were able to establish a date on which the text seemed to have been written. It was some weeks, however, before they could place it in reference to their own system of marking time. The numbers 1-9-8-5 were eventually placed relative to columns of tens, a system not unknown to them. Thus they understood that the 1 stood in the one times ten, times ten, times ten position and so on, but where was the starting point? Obviously it must antedate the plastic toy alphabet by perhaps a thousand or even two thousand years, but it was hard to place it exactly. In the end the palaeographists and archaeologists decided that since the little alphabetical gadget could be dated back to around thirty-five hundred years, the zero reference date for 1985 must have occurred between one thousand and two thousand years earlier, making the text itself somewhere in the neighbourhood of three thousand to four thousand years old. It was an age that would have rendered into dust paper entombed in anything less than the air-tight conditions provided by the metal vault.

 Turning the brittle pages of the book with utmost care, they learnt that, according to the scholars of 1985, the earliest known writing had been comprised of pictographs, enabling one to read a sequence of events or ideas, a semantic representation (from the Greek sema, meaning 'sign') attempting to convey a narrative. They learnt that the earliest of these had been identified with petroglyphs of the later Palaeolithic period, which they recognized as a category corresponding to the Plastic period which they could relate to dates provided in the text. Geometric designs and zoomorphic symbols had been engraved then in stone in various orders, conveying a message which no one had ever been able to decipher. The next step towards the development of a true alphabet had involved ideographs, or pictures representing more the underlying idea associated with what was shown than the picture itself. Thus a picture of a bee closely followed by one of a leaf might have stood for the word 'belief, or a circle might have represented the sun, or light, or day or a god. After this, around 5000 B.C. (which the archaeologists discovered to be five thousand years before the zero reference date for 1985), a transitional form of writing had arisen with the Mesopotamians and Egyptians. Symbols referred to as cuneiform (from cuneus, meaning 'wedge', and forma, meaning 'shape') had been inscribed in clay tablets, cylinders and hieroglyphs (from hieros, meaning 'sacred', and glyphein, meaning 'to carve') which had covered the walls and pillars of great tombs. The transitional writing had been a mixture of pictographs, ideographs and phonetic symbols combined in various ways. Within three thousand years the cuneiform writing of the Akkadians had become the lingua franca of the ancient Mediterranean world, and the laws of Hammurabi, its most famous record. At about this same period a transitional system that would eventually include over eighty thousand symbols had arisen in China. Comprising very little internal development, Chinese characters mainly evolved externally, in terms of calligraphic considerations. The fact that Chinese was partly an 'isolating' language, where words and their roots were one and the same, and also an agglutinative language, wherein determining combinations of words took place, had led to characters increasing in a way similar to the fashion whereby the words 'house' and 'maid' in English had given rise to a third word, 'housemaid'.

 It was only with a purely phonetic system that what came to be called the alphabet had evolved. In it each written element corresponded with a specific element of speech. It could be read by anyone unfamiliar with the language whose sounds it represented because the signs no longer represented objects or ideas as in the more ancient systems. Letters or characters of early alphabets had often stood for syllables, like those in later Assyrian or Japanese, where consonants were usually followed by vowels in regular succession. As the archaeologists deciphered the text, the nature of the scholarship practised in the year 1985 was increasingly revealed to them, together with fascinating glimpses into the character of an even more ancient world. They were enthralled and continued their reading with enthusiasm. It seemed that the Egyptians had possessed a very elaborate transitional system of hieroglyphics which they themselves called mdw-ntr, 'the speech of the gods', considering it to have been of divine origin. Highly developed by mid-4000 B.C., it had included, along with pictographs and ideographs, seventy-five bi-consonantal phonograms, twenty-four uni-consonantal signs and, eventually, six later homophones which covered the whole range of consonantal sounds. In addition to this confused mixture, different signs could stand for the same sound, and to sort it all out, the Egyptians had become adept at the use of determinatives and word-signs, which they interspersed freely betwixt and between all these visually fascinating but lexigraphically daunting glyphs. One could, it seemed, enjoy the same visual beauty coupled with literal difficulty in the case of the ingeniously evolved cartouches of the Mayan civilization of Yucatan.

 The determinative signs had been placed before or after a character to show what class it belonged to. In the case of Sumerian writing, polyphone signs having more than one phonetic value, and homophones indicating similar phonetic values but representing entirely different sorts of objects, had jostled cheek and jowl. Determinative signs lent order to potential chaos by relating the character in question to a particular class of things such as deities, mountains, male proper nouns, plurality or birds. To convey the desired message, this system required an initial five hundred and seventy signs, which had been gradually evolved by the Assyrians into a simplified syllabic script and later into a quasi-alphabetical system by the Persians. Many great adaptations had taken place during this progression. Sumerian was an agglutinative language, neither of Semitic nor Indo-Aryan stock. Its written system was then taken over by the Semitic Assyrians and Indo-Iranian Persians, both of which peoples had developed consonantal syllabic systems wherein vowels were indicated only with diacritical marks. The archaeologists paused to wonder. What were people thinking of when they simplified pictograms or ideographs? Did they keep in mind the original object or idea, or did the symbol come to mean something totally unrelated or even only a syllable or sound? As they studied the text further, some of the complexities answering their questions began to reveal themselves.

And E for all our English tasks –
We hail with joy their turn;
And F for all the hard French words
We always hate to learn.

 However the borrowing took place, people seemed to have had a remarkable facility for adding, subtracting, and somehow bending an existing system around to suit their own language. The great thing about alphabets was the evolving idea behind them, though some people seemed to have done a better job of adapting than others. The old Greeks claimed that the raw material for the Greek alphabet had been brought to Boeotia around 900 B.C. [sic] by a Phoenician named Kadmos. Son and heir to King Agenor, Kadmos had also been brother to Europa, whom Zeus, in the form of a bull, had abducted. Kadmos, sent to search for her, consulted the Delphic oracle, who told him to follow a wandering cow and to found a city where it stopped to graze. Thus, they said, was the Boeotian city of Thebes established and sixteen letters of the Phoenician alphabet introduced to the native Greeks. As there had been twenty-two letters in the Phoenician alphabet, it was a mystery why Kadmos had transmitted only sixteen. But the Greeks had added ten, dropped two and ended up with twenty-four signs nicely adapted from a Semitic to an Indo-European tongue. Later, the Etruscans had found that they had sixteen phonemes in common with the Greeks and had borrowed the same number of signs from their alphabet just as they themselves were in decline and beginning to die out. Thus the Indo-Europeanized Greek alphabet had passed on again to a Semitic people (the Etruscans), only to be borrowed from them by the Indo-European Romans. In fact, the more they read, the more the archaeologists came to realize that in those days any people could borrow an alphabet without knowing or caring what the symbols derived from. They could modify them to suit their phonetic needs and then reduce them to the simplest and most convenient shape.

 The Phoenicians had started this particular line of transmission by freely borrowing and interpreting from the Egyptian hieroglyphs. Ironically, the Egyptians themselves had the ingredients to evolve a true alphabet out of their own system. All that needed to be done was to take one simple but bold step and discard all the non-alphabetic elements, all the ideographs, homophones, polyphones and syllables to which the priestly scribes had so fondly clung. If they had done so, they would have revealed in its grand simplicity "the nearly perfect alphabet of which, without knowing it, the Egyptians had been virtually in possession for almost countless ages". Such was not to be, and even the hieratic script developed in cursive style for letters written on papyrus had really been only a transcription, sign by sign, of hieroglyphic symbols. As if to acknowledge the change in times and attempt to mark the transition into a new era, the hierophants had engraved in stone triplicate stanzas of hieroglyphics, cursive script and Greek. Standing on the threshold of a doorway leading out from a more ancient way of thinking and living, they had acknowledged their own passing while preserving their old sacred glyphs intact.

 Thus the Phoenicians had acted as a sort of alphabetical catalyst to the western world. While the western Greeks had passed on the results to the Etruscans, the eastern Attic and Ionic Greeks had developed the classical language to its peak and later passed on their alphabet to the Russians. In the meantime, the Romans had adapted their Graeco-Etruscan alphabet and spread it throughout Europe and the British Isles where, higgledy-piggledy, it had become the basis of the English alphabet. At this point the rather buoyant description of transmissions and happy adaptations began to break down. The intensely absorbed archaeologists noticed a note of dismay entering the discussion in the text. They were surprised and then amused to read how a Latin alphabet – the pronunciation of which had been unsettled - had been applied to a Teutonic language and how, after this first phonetic compromise, the alphabet had been further twisted and squeezed to accommodate a confused system of spelling that was part Saxon, part Norman, part phonetic and part traditional. On top of this, the caprices of printers and publishers had contributed idiosyncratic variations, all helping to evolve what must have been one of the least phonetic alphabets in the so-called civilized world of that time.

A more lying round-about, puzzle-headed delusion than that by which we confuse the clear instincts of truth in our accursed system of spelling was never concocted by the father of falsehood.How can a system of education flourish that begins by so monstrous a falsehood, which the sense of hearing suffices to contradict?

Edward Robert Bulmer-Lytton

 A perfect alphabet would have been made up of single symbols representing single sounds. The English alphabet in its spelling had differed so much from its pronunciation that with many words there had been almost an arbitrary symbolism. During the centuries spoken English had changed a great deal, while its spelling had altered much more slowly. Spelling at the time of 1985 had been etymologically rooted in the sixteenth century and at that time in its career each vowel had been assumed to have five or more phonetic values in addition to the wild variations attributed to combinations of consonants and aspirates. In contrast to this, the Devanagari alphabet used in writing classical Sanskrit and several subsequently developed Indian languages had been thought by most scholars to be "one of the most perfect systems of writing". Evolved by learned grammarians, it was nurtured and protected over the centuries by an exclusive priestly caste in proud custody of the "writing of the gods". The archaeologists noticed that the authors of their discovered text rather patronizingly glossed over such 'fanciful' ideas and stridently asserted the scholarly view evidently held in 1985 which, with Olympian confidence, traced the Devanagari script back through the Brahmi script to a 'possible' Semitic origin. They did state, however, that the Sanskrit alphabet had reflected with considerable accuracy the phonetic structure of Indo-European languages in general. So discriminating in representation were the various strokes and diacritical marks that could be added to the forty-nine well-distinguished phonetic symbols in the alphabet that it had stood as clearly the most subtle and truthful visual display of linguistic sounds known to man at that time.

 Continuing in the same, somewhat humouring tone, the text revealed that most of the really ancient cultures had, like the Aryans, Egyptians, Chinese and Maya, believed their writing to have come from a divine source. In Egypt it had been Thoth, the most mysterious and least understood of the deities, who, unlike the other gods, underwent no permutations from the first to the last dynasty. He had been the god of wisdom, the recorder and judge who totted up the thoughts and deeds of men and registered them on his great astral tablet. Weighing karmic increments in the balance, he had resembled the Lipikas of arcane tradition and, like Thoth-Hermes, gave to man numbers and the alphabet. Some thinkers seemed to have argued that language was not invented by man but that the alphabet was. Others had insisted that great teachers and divine kings 'invented' letters as part of a process wherein they (like the Rabin) had directed the mind with which they had endowed humanity. The idea that writing had been an extension of an awakening process husbanded by enlightened beings caught the imagination of the archaeologists. This was a notion not unfamiliar to them, for, though they no longer experienced a need for visual glyphs as such, the guiding presence of higher intelligences affecting their lives was something they were not in a position to doubt. Abruptly, however, they were jolted back into the perspective of 1985, for the text launched into an effortless dismissal of such non-empirical notions.

 The authors smiled at the quaint Burmese tale which told of how, when God created the human races and gave them all alphabets, the hillmen received theirs inscribed on animal skins. Their supposed inferiority was thus indicated, for when they ran out of food, they ate the skins and became, ever afterward, subjugated by their literate lowland enemies. They smirked at other stories about Nebo, Moses, Itzamna and Hermes, and then proceeded to outline what they considered to be the hard facts. They had wondered about a Palestinian origin of the alphabet, perhaps at a town called Qiryat Sepher ('the City of the Letter'). And they had sought to trace what they called a proto-Semitic alphabet which apparently had existed along with the more formal cuneiform script. They theorized that this had been part of a democratic movement during the Hyksos period (evidently about seventeen hundred years before the zero reference date) and placed much weight upon such a spread of writing as being fundamental to civilization. They asked if the reader could imagine an accumulation of wisdom without glyphs or writing (the archaeologists smiled), and they asserted that "without letters there can be no knowledge of much importance" and that man's spiritual and intellectual advances "are firmly linked with them and thus occupy only the last few thousand years".

And G for all Geography,
And Master's old Greek Grammar;
And H for all the History
In our poor Heads He'd Hammer.

 In an obscure footnote the authors of the text deigned to mention further heretical claims that must have been advanced at some point in time near enough their own to elicit a more determined dismissal. These caught the eye of the archaeologists and held it as soon as they had translated the term for 'Atlantis'. They read that an occult tradition had persisted, even in the dryly empirical age during which the text had been written, which had assigned the origin of writing to the Atlanteans and spoke of sacred glyphs in an ancient Senzar script that had been preserved for millennia by secret fraternities. The possibility of truly sacred glyphs interested the archaeologists very much, and they wondered just what the connection between the conservative priestly castes and the older glyph systems and the democratic movements and a more phonetic alphabet might have been. The Egyptian and Mayan glyph writing had been understood and transmitted by initiated members of a select and enlightened group. The common man had looked upon them with awe and ignorance, never penetrating their hidden secrets. They wondered about this question and would probably have kept on wondering indefinitely had it not been for a further record-breaking discovery. At a site some miles to the south of the digs at Pylos, buried in a stratum belonging to the pre-Plastic period, the archaeologists found an even more ancient manuscript. Written in faded ink, its papyrus pages had been miraculously preserved in the dry and airless confines of a metal-lined tomb. Although it did not bear a date and was written in what the archaeologists determined to be Greek, they identified its style and many of its references on the basis of discussions in the 1985 text they had been studying. They thought it must have been put into the tomb about one thousand years before 1985 and written probably several hundred years before that. With painstaking care they studied the comparative scripts in the text which laid the basis for their growing understanding of the Greek. Like Champollion, who, they had read, had deciphered the triplicated script of the Egyptian Rosetta Stone, they laboured to unlock the secrets the manuscript had to divulge. What it revealed immediately cast light on the questions they had been asking themselves about sacred and profane writing.

 The faded letters came alive under their gaze and the heavily textured paper yielded up the light of insight within and about their curving and geometrically bold shapes. They learnt that the religion and esoteric history of ancient cultures had never been written down in so many words but had been embedded in symbols which were capable of reflecting in their design and essential history all the thoughts, emotions, learning and knowledge of the early races which had been passed down otherwise in allegory and parable. The shape of letters such as the alpha, A (which they realized was the same as that which they had first examined on the little plastic toy so many months earlier), did indeed seem to bear a significance. The archaeologists were pleased to read that their idea that it resembled a compass (a tool used by them for rough mapping of archaeological sites before their detailed, three-dimensional complexity was reduced to a pattern of electrical impulses in the memory bank) was not far off from the manuscript's suggestion that it symbolized the first emanation of the Divine Architect of the universe, that it was the beginning of things just as omega, O, was the end. The association of the A was made with a word borrowed from an older Indo-European source (pronounced phonetically as AUM), where it was identified as the first sound uttered by a newborn babe, being the open passage of pure, unmodified sound followed by its gradual containment and final closure. The shape of the A certainly suggested a coming forth from above of some sort of energy, but they puzzled over the meaning of the crossbar.

 The manuscript went on to focus upon the beta, Β, of the Greek alphabet, pointing out that it formed the second part of the word itself and that it was conceived of as a symbol representing 'how the ox plows', referred to as boustrophedon. Starting at the left hand, the ox moves to the right, curves and doubles back in a new row. Doing this twice, he completes the glyph Β, which describes how the more ancient forms of Greek writing were meant to be read – left to right, right to left and back again. But what did this have to do with the sound associated with beta? Was there something about the soft labial sound produced in the speech of the Greeks that could be associated with the divine beginnings of the alpha preceding it? Turning the yellowed pages, they came upon a discussion of the alphabet associated with cosmology. According to this, the crossbar in the A anticipated the full crossbar closing the triangle of the fourth letter delta, D. It marked the descent of sound into what would become a world of form, its vibration initiating the bold affirmation in anthropos ('mankind') and andros ('man'). The Β sign of the beta was identified as the Logoic spirit waving along its serpentine pattern through the matrix that would yield the substance of forms. The gamma, G, that followed represented Gaia, the Earth, and, anticipating the tau, or Tree of Life, was composed of the horizontal line of its material surface penetrated by the vertical axis of spirit. Out of Gaia came gamos ('marriage'), 'gamete', 'genetic', and a score of concepts having to do with generation. After the completion of this initial triad of symbols was formed, the delta closed the bottom of the triangle first suggested by the A. Unmodified open sound had thus taken on the fricative aspects of the B and soft G, to be followed by a dental-aveolar plosive, a true stopping of air passing through the mouth.

 All the subsequent letters in the alphabet seemed to be associated with recapitulations of this process in varying order, causing the readers to marvel that such patterns continued to reflect abstract metaphysical ideas despite all the borrowing, adding and subtracting that had gone on. Looking at a comparison of ancient Semitic, Minoan, Phoenician and Greek letters, they could see that, in the case of these first four letters and the majority of those following, they were very similar and had evidently perpetuated in their shape some very ancient and sacred ideas. This was particularly interesting because the Greek alphabet had not been composed of sacred glyphs known only to priests, but was used in a demotic script available to anyone. Perhaps it was simply a case of tracing back through the phonetic, the syllabic and the ideographic to the sacred glyphs which were the source of these letters. But where were they to be found? As was written at the beginning of the manuscript, the wisdom of really ancient cultures had been embedded in symbols of great potency because of their association with sound. It had been believed that in uttering the sounds and tones represented by these glyphs, one could awaken powers related to the four elements in their essence. The manuscript went on to reveal that this was why sacred events having to do with the Mysteries were recited only by the initiated. In all the older cultures the privilege of speaking the words descriptive of arcane stages in cosmology or human spiritual enlightenment had belonged to those who had inherited by merit (not by caste or lineage) the right of hearing of these sacred events from the lips of those initiated before them. Having heard, they then recorded the words in symbols drawn out of their own mind and examined by their Master before they had been finally accepted as initiated. This, it was written, was the sacred process that had laid the basis for the glyphs used in Egyptian and Chinese writing.

 Of this ancient occult alphabet little had been known, even at the time the manuscript had been written. By the time the 1985 text was written, all traces of it had been utterly lost and scholars had not acknowledged even the possibility of such a system. The manuscript, however, did mention that the seven Gnostic vowels "uttered by the Thunders of St. John" could be unriddled only by the primordial wisdom of Aryavarta, "brought into India by the primeval Brahmins, who had been initiated in Central Asia". Their utterance, it said, marked the beginning, middle and end of vast cycles. The archaeologists pondered this and, recalling the passages they had read in the later text about Sanskrit, wondered if there was a connection between the mystery of these seven vowels with their forty-nine powers and the forty-nine signs in the Sanskrit alphabet. If there was, then there might have been a forgotten link between the glyphs handed down through divine kings and Initiates through systems like that associated with the mysterious Senzar (as well as better known hieroglyphic systems) to certain phonetic alphabets that retained the sounds and shapes capable of evoking real power when understood and used correctly.

 The archaeologists realized that in this process there had been a dynamic current flowing from pure sound to the visual and back again to an emphasis upon sound. With pictograms people had focussed upon things and events in natural or symbolic forms which were whole in themselves and could be isolated. This served well in conjunction with an 'isolating' language, but expanding self-consciousness would eventually necessitate more economical ways of handling abstract ideas. Syllabic symbols had identified roots, suffixes, prefixes and gender. Focussing upon categories, such a system was useful in establishing a sense of order in the interplay between objects and activity. Many languages utilizing this type of system had been, evidently, agglutinative, tending to focus consciousness upon the modification of action associated with certain classes of things or conditions. From the point of view of their own telepathic ease of communication, the archaeologists knew that this sort of system had been well suited to human beings who saw the world as made up of forces in whose continual action they were collectively bound up. With the dominance of phonetic alphabets, a significant shift again had taken place. They could see that mankind had become much more self-consciously involved in separating out and discriminating things, ideas, feelings and sounds. Ideas accepted as God-given had begun to be examined and questioned. The visual impact of glyphs for their own sake had been shattered with the unprecedented freedom of possibilities that had opened up with phonetic symbols capable of infinite numbers of arrangements. Thoughts galloped after the expanding possibilities as though after melodies which, through spelling, cast a spell upon the mind.

 At this point the archaeologists rested from their studies and communed in silence. Great cataclysms, man-made and natural, had wiped away most of the traces of the centuries separating them from the time of the 1985 text and the earlier manuscript. And yet they could follow a hidden thread of developing intelligence. Somehow, despite the mistakes of previous centuries, they themselves had not been thrown back into a mental dark age. The thread had survived, probably in many periods, hidden and carefully nurtured by only a few. But the need for inward growth had prevailed and the unknown pioneers of a consciously global human community had succeeded in transmitting a living sense of solidarity to the generations that had followed. It had been only a matter of time before objectified written or spoken communication could have been dispensed with. Sound, of course, existed and began to be used for healing and affecting all manner of harmonious growth. Glyphs and symbols continued to exist but came to be used as sacred reminders of beauty which is truth, rather than as limiting approximations of human thought. But the realization that impressed them most strongly, over which they deeply marvelled, was that the evolution of the alphabet from its hieroglyphic predecessors to its most sophisticated phonetic expression had been paralleled by an actual loss of knowledge of the very abstract concepts it should have fostered. They saw that the differences between their own motives and methods involved in their archaeological studies and the assumptions and empirical modes of the scholars of 1985 were as great as the latter's were from the Egyptians or Mayas who claimed their alphabet divine. They felt much more in common with the more ancient cultures and considered that perhaps the extreme objectivization of thought and expression that seemed to have characterized the Plastic period had been a painful but necessary step in the progress of humanity towards its present state. For their own part, they knew that the alphabet had been divinely given. After all, their memory bank itself was just a toy. They knew what lay beyond it. Quietly they returned the manuscript and the text to a small vault in the wall of the laboratory. Then, taking seats opposite one another, they jointly in consciousness abstracted the essential patterns revealed in their pages, sifting them and reducing them to mental impulses which flowed together in tandem to be indelibly impressed in the collective human mind. They smiled and, having finished their work, rose together to walk to the door.

Divine Kings and Masters
Have ever held the key;
And letters may reveal it
Or plunge it in the sea.
In words a magic sounds
And yet they often lie;
To find the silent syllable
May not require the eye.
So look within your heart
And see what's written there;
The glyphs inscribed by sages
You surely will lay bare.