Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2006.06.32
ALSO SEEN: Thomas Dietrich, The Origin of Culture and Civilization. The Cosmological Philosophy of the Ancient World View regarding Myth, Astrology, Science, and Religion. Austin, TX: TurnKey Press, 2005. Pp. 357. ISBN 0-9764981-6-2. $18.95 (pb).
Reviewed by Eugene V. Afonasin, Novosibirsk State University, Russia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
This well produced and well illustrated book with an attractive title is a disappointment for readers. It consists of seven parts, subdivided at a number of small chapters full of speculations hardly suitable for a serious research.
Dietrich believes that human history can be explained in terms of two great cycles: a Cycle of World Culture which slowly moves from the West to the East, from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, and a Cycle of Civilization, which moves more rapidly in the opposite direction. This Spenglerian schema is given in the book a new 'astrological' value. According to the author, 'Classical mythology presents us with a sequence of the generation of the gods. This sequence is a scientific account of the history of Culture, and the progress of the astronomical Cycle of Culture' (p. 13). Then the author states that for the first time he has successfully deciphered ancient science (understood in the aforementioned sense, of course), which 'will guide us to discover a true and corrected viewpoint of the history of this planet' (p. 17). That is to say, all previous research in the field is now obsolete.
The main hypothesis of the study (which Dietrich accepts without any justification of a rational or historical nature) is that 'Greek, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Mediterranean, European, and Irish culture' has an Atlantic Origin. African Morocco is a colony of Atlantis, and from this place Culture progresses to Libya, Egypt and the Holy Land (p. 35, chapter 6 of Part III and elsewhere). In a style reminiscent of such interpreters of symbols as Philo or Clement of Alexandria Dietrich believes that ancient symbolism should be read on three levels: the hieroglyphic, the hieratic and the demotic (p. 99).1 The greater part of the book is an attempt to read ancient mythology in the context of this hypothesis. Part IV, entitled 'Astrology, the language of cosmology' (pp. 182ff), reveals the author's fascination with the subject, but really contains no reliable or substantial information of ancient astrology and astronomy. The next part deals with various matters, for instance, astrological justification of Jesus' birth in a given place and time. At p. 268 ff. the author discovers the method of prediction of earthquakes and makes his contribution in paleo-climatology. The last part is dedicated to 'the remaining jewel of Atlantic culture', ancient monuments of Ireland, such as the Killamery Cross, etc. (pp. 280ff).
I am sure that this very short summary of the content of the book under review is enough to show that the monograph by T. Dietrich could attract persons with interests in astrology, occultism and similar matters but has no scientific value whatsoever.
[For a response to this review by Thomas K. Dietrich, please see BMCR 2006.07.02.]
1. The distinction most famously made by Clement of Alexandria in the fifth book of the Stromateis.