Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sacred mountain of San Diego?

My course on sacred mountains follows on another Sacred Himalaya Initiative-linked course, taught last semester by an anthropologist from Nepal who described herself as a "mountain girl." No mountain girl I, child of the coastal desert of Southern California, facing the ocean. But wait. There's a place not far from where I grew up. No, not the Sierras.

Having been ideally placed, by primeval creative forces, like a mighty sentinel meditatively on guard over that southwesterly region of the North American Continent, midway between Asia and Europe, its summit affords an unimpeded panoramic view of unique grandeur in every direction, limited only by the immense circle of the world's horizon. (Cuchama and Sacred Mountains [Athens: Swallow Press/Ohio UP, 1981], 10)


Thus W. Y. Evans-Wentz - the man who gave the Tibetan Book of the Dead to the world without even knowing Tibetan - about the mountain the Kumeyaay called Kuuchamaa (he calls it Cuchama), also now known as Tecate. Turns out this Jersey boy gravitated to San Diego to be with the Theosophists at Loma Land, and settled in a San Diego hotel after his travels in India and the Himalayas. Someone who claimed to sense energies, he felt the mountain's power and, er, bought it. Convinced it had once been home to a race of giants, as well as housing a magic cave, he spent the last years of his life researching it at the San Diego Public Library and developing an account of the superiority of the civilization of the "Red Men" over that of white interlopers. Oy vey.

His book includes a section on other sacred mountains of the world

So long as mankind inhabits this planet, its holy mountains will continue to be symbolical of human regeneration and triumph and of spiritual elevation to the altruistic heights of Freedom, above the lowly valleys of worldliness wherein men dwell self-enfettered to the idols of their own making. (41)

and, as one would expect from a work with a Foreword by Anagarika Govinda, Kailas features prominently. Can mountains be idols too?

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