Here at Tikkun we receive many advance copies of books from amazing authors, artists, and activists every day. It’s encouraging to encounter the powerful work our peers are engaged in, not to mention inspiring to see the sheer volume of it. Unfortunately, as with most small non-profits, we are stretched pretty thin and often don’t have the time to read or review the vast majority of what comes in.
One book that did catch my eye this week, though, was a title by Gregg Braden, Deep Truth: Igniting the Memory of Our Origin, History, Destiny, and Fate (you can check it out online here). While I haven’t had a chance to read it through all the way, I was fascinated by Braden’s presentation of emerging scientific evidence that suggests our classic understanding of human history, which posits that civilization developed roughly 5,000 years ago out of the “Fertile Crescent” that spans the intersection of Africa and Asia, is incomplete and flawed.
Drawing attention to sunken archaeological sites at the Gulf of Khambat site off the coast of India and the Yonaguni monument site off the coast of Japan, as well as to carbon dating and other scientific investigations at sites in Turkey and Missouri, among others, Braden argues convincingly that the evidence suggests a relatively advanced civilization that existed at least several thousand years before the Indus Valley cultures that are widely considered the birthplace of civilization. The submerged nature of the sites in India and Japan lends itself to the hypothesis that a more ancient culture or cultures existed during the last ice age (which ended 10,000 years ago), only to be covered up by sea level rise when the glaciers melted. (If this all sounds a bit woo-woo to you, google it: Gulf of Khambhat; Yonaguni Pyramid- not without its controversies, of course.)
While the prospect of an ancient civilization that predates modern humanity is intriguing from a historical standpoint, Braden’s work got me thinking about our effort here at Tikkun for rethinking religion. Specifically, the thought of submerged ruins immediately brought my mind toward some of the stories we know from Genesis.
When it comes to the Bible, most spiritual progressives are not literalists – particularly when it comes to the seemingly nursery rhyme stories of Bereishit, the Book of Genesis. If we place any credence at all in the stories of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Babel and the Flood, it is likely through the Joseph Campbell-inspired lens of a mythologized history that reflects our inner genealogy as much as it does external or historical fact.
But what if the story of Noah and the Flood, as caricaturized and smoothed over as it may be (the ants come marching two by two…), were a preserved fragment of real historical experience? What if there was an ancient civilization in Noah’s day that was lost to the oceans – not because of God’s wrath (although who knows), but by the melting of the glacial ice caps? We know from our own historical moment that sea level rise is a real possibility, perhaps even an inevitability. We know from science that roughly 10,000 years ago, sea levels rose approximately forty meters. So who’s to say that the Flood didn’t happen – not metaphorically or allegorically, but quite literally, submerging the culture of its day?
The implications of such an interpretive shift are tremendous. Was there a real Tower of Babel? What does this suggest about the enigmatic and disturbing description of the Gods/Elohim who come to sleep with the daughters of man in Genesis 6? And was 9-11 an inside job?
Okay, maybe that last one’s another story altogether. And not to get too swept away in conspiracy theories. Nonetheless, as Jews begin the process this week of starting the Torah over from the beginning, we might ask ourselves how much the emerging scientific evidence draws us back toward stories that as moderns we’re reluctant to believe.
Gabriel Crane is Assistant Editor at Tikkun and Assistant to Rabbi Michael Lerner. He is also working on a novel that touches on such apocryphal topics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.