Time Stands Still: New light on megalithic science by Keith Critchlow, Gordon Fraser Gallery, London, 1979; 2nd edn. Floris Books, Edinburgh 2007; 240 pp.
Megaliths and maths
Keith Critchlow is a professor of art and architecture with many books to his credit. This is what would sometimes be called a `coffee-table' book because it is so beautifully produced on quality paper with 180 illustrations. About half of these are full-colour photographs while the other half are black and white line drawings, usually geometrical or astrological in nature. The author is a well-known scholar of the sacred geometry used in prehistoric architecture, so his studies described here could equally well be described as archaeology or anthropology - or even `history of numbers'. Amongst Critchlow's mentors was Richard Buckminster Fuller, creator of the geodesic dome.
Professor Critchlow shows us in this book that, long before the lives of Euclid or Pythagoras, ancient civilizations had extensive knowledge of geometry and astronomy and how to use this information in building their megalithic temples to honour their gods: `The manpower alone required to raise these monuments is astounding' - so we should also include civil engineering amongst their skills. The effort demanded for the construction of such structures is a clear indication that these peoples believed that there exists a numinous realm beyond the physical.
Modern determination to raise the living standards of `primitive' people has meant that we have influenced them politically, economically, theologically and ideologically, so that many ancient traditions have been lost in the process. Critchlow believes that `the greatest threat our modern industrial culture poses for mankind is the denial of its spiritual heritage'. Worship within their temples of megaliths was just one aspect of their culture, though clearly an important one. He suggests that human wisdom is to be gained as much from these megaliths located in their inspirational natural surroundings as from libraries, universities or new technology. Both trees and the megaliths of natural stones used to fashion the temples of early peoples were believed to be imbued with the spirit of the sacred. It is this spirituality that must surely have provided the incentive for the huge physical effort involved in the construction of these artefacts.
The modern archaeologist learns not so much from intellectual effort but from becoming part of the spiritual experience: `. . . more and more scientists and scholars are realizing that it is they themselves who are the ultimate instruments by which all their data . . . must be evaluated'. Synthesizing the work of other archaeologists, Critchlow claims that there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to suggest the existence of an extensive archaic Indo-European culture. The ancient myths frequently link together the psychology of their peoples with numerology, cosmic rhythms and thence astrology. Ancient languages - Latin, Sanskrit, Hebrew - have numbers associated with letters of the alphabet. These associations, which embrace also the Kabbalistic Tree of Life and the Vedic chakras, are well and copiously illustrated in the book but unfortunately there is no facility for reproducing any of these representations here.
From Chapter 2 on, Professor Critchlow goes on to explore the geometry behind the construction of various megalithic rings and artefacts found within them, calling on work from Plato to that of the Scottish engineering archaeologist, Alexander Thom. The perimeters of these temples are often elliptical or egg-shaped rather than circular but incorporate the symbolism of the circle and hexagon (representing heaven), the triangle as symbol of humankind, and the square representing the stability of earthly experience. The sophisticated geometry that has been found, with its relation to astronomical events, indicates that the builders of these monuments had a sophisticated knowledge of number, geometry and astronomy long before the time of the ancient Greek philosophers.
This is a lovely, fascinating book for anyone interested in the work of the ancient temple builders, but a feel for the beauty of geometry would be an advantage for readers. Only its rather specialized nature makes me feel I cannot give it a 5* rating.
Dr Howard A. Jones is the author of The Thoughtful Guide to God (O Books, 2006), The Tao of Holism (O Books, 2008), The World as Spirit (Fairhill Publishing, 2011) and Evolution of Consciousness (Fairhill, 2012)Sacred Geometry: Deciphering the CodeSacred Geometry: Philosophy and Practice (Art and Imagination)