Chinese, English, and Egyptian hieroglyphics

In the early hours of Tuesday morning (January 31), I had a dream which included the following scene: A uniformed official tried to stop someone from doing something by saying, “I think you’ll find you’re in violation of this,” and holding up a multipage document. The cover had the title, written in “Chinese” (but not in recognizable characters, at least not to me), under which was a list of other languages that it was written in: the word “Pona” (or something very like that), written in Roman letters and meaning English; a line of Egyptian hieroglyphics, indicating that hieroglyphics were included; and the English word “Non-lingual.”

My reaction on seeing this was that this was supposed to be some kind of futuristic “galactic federation” sci-fi setting, and that the choice of languages was odd — ordinary Chinese characters seemed jarringly un-futuristic, and revived Egyptian hieroglyphics? Really? As for “Non-lingual,” I immediately understood what was meant by that — a system of symbolic pictures with complex abstract meanings — and I had an image of one such picture with English notes scrawled on it (apparently a page from a student’s marked-up textbook). The image was a simple line-drawing (not quite stick-figures, but not much more complex than that: a standing person facing left, and behind him a much smaller person leaping into the air and plunging a spear into the larger person’s back. The notes said “He first,” meaning the smaller attacker, “and he second” (meaning the larger victim) — meaning that the picture always indicated situations in which what was symbolized by the attacker occurred first in time; and what was symbolized by the victim, second. The attacker and victim could symbolize many different things, and the notes gave three examples: “farmer and farm,” “diver and sea,” and “Great Mohammed and [. . .]” — the ellipsis representing a phrase that I can’t recall, but which I understood to be something like the Islamic equivalent of the Antichrist, an evil leader who was to appear just before the end of the world. I thought: Yes, that makes sense, because [this Antichrist-figure] comes much later than Great Mohammed but is nevertheless defeated by him.

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Some aspects of the dream were probably caused by recent reading. I’d just finished rereading Vico’s New Science, which emphasizes the development of language from pre-linguistic communication (Cf. “Non-lingual”) through “hieroglyphics” (under which heading Vico includes both Egyptian and Chinese) to “vernacular letters” such as the Roman alphabet. Vico also interprets anything and everything in mythology as a symbol of farming.

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On Tuesday afternoon, less than 24 hours after the dream, I went to a tourist site in Taoyuan called “Window on China,” most of which consisted of scale replicas of various landmarks in Taiwan, China, and other countries. Each had a sign in Chinese and English. One of the replicas was of the Taipei Grand Mosque. (The English sign explained that it was a “pray place for Moslems” — using the pre-PC spelling Moslem rather than Muslim, just as the dream had featured Mohammed rather than Muhammad.) There was also a section with an Egyptian theme, with Egyptian hieroglyphics all over the walls.

The visit to Window on China was not planned in advance, and I did not know at the time of the dream that we would be going there — nor that it featured hieroglyphics and a mosque.

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Update: On Wednesday evening, the day after the visit to Window on China, I read a few pages of George MacDonald’s St. George and St. Michael, which introduced a previously unknown character called the Great Mogul (a panther). Another possible sync with “Great Mohammed” and “Grand Mosque,” since the Mughals were Muslims. Also, Mohammed, Moslem, and Mogul are all dated Mo- spellings of names that are now generally spelt Mu-.

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