By Zulumathabo Zulu © 2015
In the book The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert: African Philosophical Transcendence and the scholarly paper Basotho Origin of Mathematics, it is reported that the Basotho, like other Africans, trace their genesis to the cosmos.
The planet earth is referred to as Lefatshe meaning the subset of the cosmos. This gives us an insight with respect to how and why they named the earth in this fashion. They were looking at the planet from the cosmic superset. This is a cosmocentric view of the universe using numerical logic of the Basotho.
To help you to appreciate this cosmocentricity, let’s take a look at the current views of the universe. For the longest time, Europe held a geocentric view that Europe was the center and the universe revolved around it. In the Dark Ages, Copernicus came along and revolutionized the thinking when he proposed a paradigm shifting heliocentric view which made the sun the center of the universe.
The heliocentric view does not give us a complete picture. The Basotho provide a cosmocentric explanation of the universe. They command an impressive knowledge of the starry universe. Of particular interest to us are the stars that are not visible to the naked eye such as the star systems of Tosamasiu (Sirius) and the Tosa (Jupiter) star system.
Both Tosamasiu and Tosa are visible to a naked eye but have orbiting satellite systems that are not visible to a naked eye. Tosamasiu refers to the ternary star system such as Sirius A, B and C respectively. Peomaha or Peo Ya Mahaha refers to the sacred seed named for the invisible star of Sirius B. The seed is Mabele (sorghum), a sacred crop among the Basotho. Lebeleha or Mabeleha refers to another invisible star of Sirius C. Lebeleha means the one who gives birth according to the seed of Mabele. The naming of star systems uses the female principle as is the case in the philosophical constructs of the Basotho.
Tosa refers to Jupiter. Tosa, like Tosamasiu is visible to a naked eye. However, the Sesotho axiom “Hobona Tosa le madinyana a yona” meaning Tosa and her youngs refers to the moons of Tosa. These moons are not visible to a naked eye. The light of Tosa is too protective to reveal its moons.
Peo ya Mahaha, as previously mentioned, is not visible to a naked eye. Mabeleha is not visible to a naked eye. The moons of Tosa Madinyane a Tosa are also not visible to a naked eye. How do the Basotho know of the invisible star systems without a technological instrument of any kind? How could they have accumulated this sophisticated astronomical knowledge without being assisted by a telescope of some kind? This confirms that the Basotho correctly know about the cosmos as a result of their genealogical connection to the cosmos. As the sons and daughters of the cosmos, they possess this astronomical knowledge without technological instruments because this knowledge is already part of their sacred mythology.
To put things in historical perspective, the Italian astronomer, mathematician and scientist Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter in 1610 using a telescope he had built himself. We are not sure of the optical resolution of his telescope considering that it was comprised by a convex objective lens and a concave eye piece. The optical lenses at the time suffered from impurities as opposed to modern optical lenses. The optical range of this telescope is reported between 9x and 30x. Which optical range did he use when he discovered the moons? Perhaps someone can reply to this?
The Basotho have ceremonially observed Tosa for millennia. This means that the African natives have known and worshiped Jupiter for thousands of years.
As a matter of fact, another African ethnic group known as Dogon in the West African country of Mali also trace their genesis to the cosmos. They even state that the African ancestors visited our planet earth more than 5000 years ago to update them about the cosmos. The Makhalanga of Botswana, just north of South Africa also trace their genesis to the cosmos. The Makhalanga people are known as the people of the sun. The Zulu people of South Africa are known as the people of the heavens. The Zulu indigenous doctoral system of knowledge is associated with the moon. They refer to a doctoral calling as Ubunyanga meaning the sacred medicine knowledge of the moon. Among the Zulu people, there is an ethnic group known as Mlangeni meaning the people of the sun or those of the sun in reference to their cosmic genesis. The Makhalanga and the Mlangeni are related.
As I mull over this cosmic genesis, the questions that course through my veins include: What does it mean to trace our genesis to the cosmos? How should we conduct ourselves in accordance with this sacred genesis? What kind of existential thinking should guide our way of life?
The Meaning of Cosmic Genesis
The genesis is about our origins. The genesis is about our erudite foremothers and forefathers. We learn from Africa’s sacred legends, ancient sacred manuscripts and other sacred artifacts that our ancestors came out of the stars. They came into existence from Mokgubu wa Kganare (the galactic core) of the heavens. Popelo ya Kganare (the cosmic womb) delivered them. This cosmic genesis is about the revered cosmos. The cosmos is the centre of our genesis. This genesis is special and sacred because it is guided by the order of the heavens. The star systems are the cosmic principles that direct the thoughts, the logic and the behaviour. The thoughts, the logic and the behaviour of the erudite ancestors are encapsulated in symbolic knowledge systems so that we can refer to them as symbolic thoughts, symbolic logic and symbolic behaviour.
The Symbolic Thought
Symbolic thought is about trans-disciplinary thinking. Symbolic thought is about strategic thinking. Symbolic thought is about the vision and the direction. Symbolic thought is about the compass. Why so?
In ordinary life, people think, care and worry about their material existence i.e. the food on the table, the shelter over one’s head and the comfort of earthly living. These are legitimate goals but cannot be the main core of our existence. However, the philosophy of science has injected itself into this lifestyle of literal and mundane existence.
Western philosophy of science is premised on a philosophy known as Materialism. This is the same philosophy that was advanced by Karl Marx into what is known as Dialectical Materialism. Essentially, a materialist philosophy says that there is only one basis of the universe and that is matter. The philosophy goes on to define matter as the material that occupies space and has mass. In a place or space where the scientists don’t find matter, they refer to that space as vacuum space.
The Basotho, like other Africans, transcend this materialist thought by engaging in symbolic thought. Symbolic thought says that a literal existence cannot be the source of the principles that we live by. We need to transcend this material thought by using symbolic thought. This thinking is a radical departure from the Western philosophy of science because the scientific thought is about the literal thought. Western science is about providing a literal account of the phenomenon and selling this mindset to the rest of humanity so that we analyze our existence at a material level since matter is the basis of existence. When you go to a Western trained medical practitioner and tell them about your condition, they will provide a narrow technical solution in a form of tablet in order to solve the medical condition. In this case, they are applying another version of philosophy known as reductionism. The purpose of reductionism is to reduce the problem to a small isolated case that can be solved by a small technical solution. . If they are unable to solve the problem then they escalate the solution to a surgical procedure whereby they surgically remove the offending part of the body.
Symbolic thought seeks to correct these invasive materialist and reductionist methods by teaching us that the material is about the operational details of existence which is a small part of our existence. It’s the symbolic thought that must direct our problem solving behaviour.
An example of this materialist approach is the way they teach mathematics in schools. They spend the majority of time teaching and practicing computation like solving for x.
From a materialist point of view, this style of mathematics teaching is the correct way of doing it. However, from a symbolic point of view this is not the right way of teaching mathematics. Computation is only a small part of mathematics. Mathematics is mostly about relations, patterns and logic and less about computation. In fact, computation should be relegated to a machine in order to allow humans to do what they do best which is pattern recognition. A super computer fails dismally in pattern recognition. So why train people in something that they are not good at when you could be teaching them something that they are going to excel in?
To read more about this philosophical approach with respect to the teaching of mathematics as practiced by the erudite African ancestors, you should read the books Sesotho Dictionary of Mathematics, The Sacred Knowledge of the Desert, and African Origin of Mathematics in which I outline a relational method of computation.
An interesting archaeological discovery was made in South Africa in a place called Blombos just outside Cape Town which confirmed that the African natives in South Africa were the originators of symbolic thought. This archaeological discovery is extremely important because it rewrites the pages of history by restating that it is not the Europeans, as previously recorded in Eurocentric pages of history but rather the Africans who originated symbolic thought. The African natives beat the European record of symbolic thought by more than 30,000 years. These kinds of numbers are staggering! It is a serious business and a paradigm shift which the Africans must take a page from. The rest of the world has already accepted this archaeological record but the Africans are still not aware or at least not living according to this profound and paradigm shifting discovery.
What does symbolic thinking mean and how does it compare with other forms of behaviour? Suppose that we need to feed our family. Using a materialist or literal thinking behaviour, we think of the quickest, cheapest and most convenient way of doing this. This means heading to a grocery store where we can conveniently do the shopping, check out and come home to eat together with our kids and other members of the family. In this case, the means of getting the food is the end.
Using symbolic thinking, we would solve the puzzle differently. We would ask ourselves about the sustainable ways of feeding our family. Some of the questions will revolve around: Who are the food producers? Who controls food production? Who must control food production? By implication, who controls our economic destiny? Who must control our economic destiny i.e. someone else or us?
To be continued…