VOLNEY'S RUINS

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#1 Tue, 1997-08-19 09:30
JAMES L WOLF
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VOLNEY'S RUINS

Next up, "The Ruins of Empires" by Constantin-Francois Chassebouff comte de Volney. The edition I read was a recent reprint of the 1802 translation, started by Thomas Jefferson, finished by someone else, and supervised by Volney himself, since the first English translation had excised the sentences declaring Africa the origen of mankind and civilization. A version of this edition is available through Black Classic Press, while a reprint of what might be the first translation is available throgh Kessinger Publishers, a Masonic reprint house, which also does the Anacalypsis by Godfrey Higgens, Two Babylons by Hyslop and other books mentioned by Szwed as influential on the young Sonny Blount. The appeal of this book to someone like Sun Ra is not immediately evident. To summarize, it's a diatribe against pretty much all religion and all philosophical systems save that of "rationalism". The rub is that the whole book is set forth as a Romantic-style alegorical vision provided the author by a Muse. This tension between form and content makes for strange reading. I'm still not quite sure what to make of it. It some ways, it seems Masonic in tone and intent, but in a couple passages, the author denounces Freemasonry and all other such socities as being locked in ritual and superstition of one sort or another. The references to Africa as the cradle of mankind and Ancient Egypt as the origen of civilization are brief, few, and without fanfare. I almost didn't notice them. But of course these are not strange ideas anymore. I would guess that Sun Ra took from this book its mostly healthy skepticism, and perhaps he also liked its visionary setting as well. It doesn't have much of a vision of the destiny of humanity that Sun Ra would have taken to, or any at all, save rationalist representative government. Heirarchy and the world of Spirit are pretty much denounced. There may be clues concerning the meaning and destiny of the United States, or something like that. In any case a quick, easy read, and a cornerstone of early American thought if nothing else. James

      P.S.   For those wondering about the Sun  Ra library list, I will
      be e-mailing the list with corrections and additions to Saturn in
      the near future. 'Twill save me mucho hassle and  make looking up
      the authors a lot easier. Thanks.
         James