SPACE AS AN OCEAN
LESSONS FROM THE AGE OF EUROPEAN MARINE EXPLORATION FOR THE SPACE AGE.
From the Book "PROTOCOLS" (c) 2012 by American Admiralty Books
SOMETIMES MYTH HAS A PROFOUND EFFECT ON HISTORY
Today, young adults have a very detailed vision of the coming age of faster than light space travel, exploration, trade and development via the televisions series related to the Star Trek franchise and movies going back as far as ET and Star Wars. While these visions are very fanciful, they are also incredibly detailed through the magic of cinematography. Undoubtedly these visions enliven the imaginations of countless future astronauts, physicists, astronomers, and taxpayers. There is no doubt that present and future generations have been and will be reaching for this fanciful but detailed vision of the future and make something happen. (Note: Italian laboratories accelerated micro waves to 30 times the speed of light, and an American lab accelerated light itself to 200 times its natural speed about a decade ago. So the "warp drive" of Star Trek while not even close developmentally is none the less now theoretically possible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faster-than-light http://gizmodo.com/5951184/faster+than+light-travel-may-be-possible http://gizmodo.com/5942634/nasa-starts-development-of-real-life-star-trek-warp-drive
Looking at the science fiction media today, one theme that comes through a vast body of work is the naval like organization and society to be found on "star ships". This is not a surprise since we have only one model of society aboard a small vessel, engaged for prolonged periods in voyages of discovery. That model is from ships of oceanic exploration and is of necessity naval in character. The model while somewhat evolved over the centuries,served us well in the period of oceanic exploration known as the "European Recognisance"and every indication is that it will continue to serve us well as it evolves in space exploration.
The vision of the future offered by the Gene Rodenberrys of our time is the stuff that myth is made of. It is a filling in of the unknown details from imagination fueled with the possible and probable. Society engaged in such myth making long before the advent of the modern electronic media. Sometimes such myth took on the wide spread perception of truth. At least once in the period just before the great age of oceanic exploration such a myth helped drive reality. The myth itself influenced real events in very unexpected ways. It is worth a few minutes to examine this power of myth. We will not engage in an exhaustive study. Let us simply review a single myth from the age of oceanic exploration and the actions of a single naval intelligence agent.
PEDRO de COVILHAO, AND THE SEARCH FOR "PRESTER JOHN"
Pedro de Covilhao was born into a world partly unknown. The known world of his time and culture had been at war for centuries before his birth. That known world was divided into two religious based alliances, one Christian, and the other Muslim. For centuries these two loosely organized powers fought over the Holy Land. The Christian understanding of the world beyond their own borders was limited by partial Muslim blockage of their communications with Eastern powers broadly thought of as "India", and a vast, trackless, and as yet uncrossed ocean to their west. Hundreds of years before the birth of Pedro de Covilhao the Christian world came to believe in a Christian kingdom in the eastern rear of the Muslim world anxious to link up with the western Christian coalition and retake the Holy Land. Belief in this kingdom lasted for generations. The West referred to the sovereign of this unknown kingdom as "Prester John". The belief in, and hope, represented by the myth of "Prester John , along with the desire for the riches of the East helped fuel the the search for the routes to "India". "India" in the time of Pedro de Covilhao meant virtually everything beyond the Muslim World. Mohammedan forces conquered the Holy land in 637 AD. They allowed the lucrative Christian pilgrimage trade to continue and Christian missionaries to pass through to "India", until the occupying forces of Caliph Hakim leveled the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in 1010 AD. This act predicated the launch of the first of the Crusades and Jerusalem would fall to Christian forces in 1099 AD.
Jerusalem would periodically change hands as Europe attempted to expel the forces of Islam from the Mediterranean world. In 1145 a strange rumor would spring up concerning a Christian king of great military power living beyond the eastern borders of the Mohammedan Empire. This priest-king would come to be known as "Prester John". The myth of the priest -king, possibly the result of an Islamic disinformation operation, would have a profound effect on the course of the Christian Islamic conflicts and subsequent history. Great efforts would be made in attempting to make contact with him. Attention would be diverted from efforts at converting the Islamic rear, based on a belief that there was already a Christian power there. In the end the desire to make contact with the mythical priest-king would provide no small part of the incentive for the voyages sponsored by Henry the Navigator, though the original "Prester John" would of course be long since dead and buried, the Europeans believed in dynasties and presumed the realm continued. In the end only one Westerner, the Portuguese naval intelligence agent Pedro di Corvilhao , would ever stand before any priest- king behind Muslim borders centuries after 1145 AD.
How the myth of the priest-king came about is a marvel of the power and errors associated with oral tradition, possibly nudged in particular directions by written disinformation which may have even been of Islamic origin. History now demonstrates that in the Islamic rear were basically pagan powers, some of which practiced a high level of religious tolerance. Mixed in with these pagan populations were both Nestorian Christians and Islamic converts. In the beginning of the 12th century a presumed Nestorian Christian Chieftain known as Yeliutashi reached considerable power
as the leader of a tribe called the Kara-Kitai. In 1141 Yeliutashi defeated an Islamic Seljuk army near Samarkand, Turkestan. These facts filtered and confused by distance, time, and perhaps Islamic "spin control" formed the factual basis for the evolution of the myth of "Prester John."' Yeliutashi died in 1144 AD and his empire faded almost immediately after his demise. The Mohammedans had no reason to fear a second front from any real "Prester John". Yet religious tolerance in their rear, coupled with some sincere invitations to Christian missionaries by Moguls and others opened the possibility of a large scale conversion and the creation of an actual enemy. The best course of Islamic action, given their informational superiority about conditions in their rear may well have been a disinformation campaign. Send the Christians searching for a nonexistent "Prester John" and distract them from efforts at creating one.
Largely ignored by the Islamic powers , a Christian king did exist in the rear, and Pedro de Corvilhao would one day find him. The first documentary evidence of a "Prester John" or an islamic disinformation forgery, arrived in 1145 AD. A Syrian Christian Bishop informed one Otto Fresing, a historian in the service of the Pope, of a Nestorian King who had defeated the Meades and the Persians. It was believed that the King intended to lend his army to the support of the Christians at Jerusalem. Supposedly this King encountered difficulties in crossing the Tigris and was forced home where he intended to regroup and again march on Jerusalem. The "News" electrified the leaders of Europe, but the ongoing crusade failed and no help came from the East. Then in 1165 letters were received by the Emperor Fredrick Barbarossa, the Emperor Manuel Comnenus of Constantinople, and the Pope. The sender of these letters described himself as "Johannes Presbyter...."/
The letters mostly introduced "Prester John' and described his Christian kingdom. The Pope dispatched an emissary with a responding letter in 1177 AD but the emissary was never heard from again.
In 1221 the Bishop of Acre wrote to the Pope. In his letter he described a "King David" "by the people called Prester John". Supposedly this "Prester John was about 15 days march from Antioch and intended to take Jerusalem. In fact there was a King David. He was a Georgian and defeated a large Islamic army, but he was not on the march and may have been dead by the time the West learned of him.
The Mohammedans had borders and contacts with the Europeans and so undoubtedly had agents in the European camps and capitals. They had the means , the motive, and greatly benefited from the disinformation concerning "Prester John". Is it such a stretch of the imagination to consider that the Mohammedans themselves were the source of the "proofs" (letters and detailed reports about) "Prester John". If the myth of "Prester John" was created by Islamic informational warriors, their side benefited in the short run. But the myth of "Prester John" may have partly driven another force of history that would ultimately shift the locus of power to the North Atlantic nations.
Enter, Henry the Navigator. By 1415 Christian and Islamic forces were still engaged in parts of the Mediterranean world. There were rumors and widespread belief in a "Prester John"(the 5th no less). The "modern age" with it's shift of the locus of power to the North Atlantic regions and away from the Mediterranean Basin began in 1415 when the Portuguese took Ceuta on the coast of North Africa opposite Gibraltar. With Ceurta secure the Portuguese began the great period of exploration that would ultimately lead to the colonization of the New World. This era, however, began not with a push out into the Atlantic but with a southward push into Africa. South of the Sahara, the 15th century kings of Portugal hoped to find some vitally important objectives; gold,silks, spices, and a communications link to "Prester John".
In 1787 Covilhao's monarch John II of Portugal would make a full court press for "India". First he would dispatch Covilhao on a secret mission to reconnoiter "Indian" as well as Muslim ports, and later make contact with "Prester John". That same year he would dispatch Bartolomeu Diaz with three ships to circumnavigate Africa.
Pedro de Covilhao spoke fluent Spanish and Arabic and had undertaken secret missions for his King previously to Morocco before he received his most important and final orders from the sovereign of Portugal. On May 7, 1487 he would embark on a naval intelligence gathering operation from which he would never return to his native Portugal. In the process he would see much of the world beyond the borders of Christendom, provide valuable naval intelligence to his sovereign, and live out the rest of his life in the court of a king the Christian world thought of as the legendary "Prester John".
Covilhao was forty when the King dispatched him and a companion, Alfonso de Paiva , another agent fluent in Arabic on a mission to "India" and Africa . Their tasking was to visit all important ports in Arabia, East Africa, and with making contact with the "priest King', "Prester John".
On May 7, 1487 Covilhao received his credentials from his sovereign and a purse of 400 cruzados. (By 1457 the Cruzado was a gold coin, previously it had been silver. The probable value of Covilhao's purse was about $680,000 in today's dollars , possibly much more.) When Covilhao and Paviva reached Lisbon they exchanged their purse for a letter of credit from the Italian banker Marchioni. By horseback they traveled to Valencia and then to Barcelona. At Barcelona they embarked in a ship for Naples. from Naples they embarked in another ship for Rhodes. In Rhodes they stayed with two Portuguese Hospitallers. The Hospitallers advised them to continue their journey disguised as merchants. As part of his merchant cover Covilhao bought a shipment of honey and crossed over to Alexandria with it. Once in Alexandria both Covilhao and Paiva became seriously ill. While they were ill the honey shipment disappeared and they were told that the Sultan's Chamberlain had confiscated the shipment because he believed they would not recover. Covilhao persuaded the Chamberlain to pay a reasonable price for the honey. With the money Covilhao purchased other trade goods and pressed on to Cairo. In Cairo Covilhao courted the company of other merchants and eventually made friends with a pair of Moroccans bound for :India" and sailed from Egypt in their company. The first port they reached was Tor on the Sanai Peninsula. From there they went to Aden where Paiva was to embark for Abyssinia on his own to attempt contact with "Prester John". Meanwhile Covilhao still with the Moroccans, joined a pilgrim ship returning from Mecca and sailed with the south west monsoon across the Indian Ocean to Cannanore on the Malabar Coast of India. In Cannanore he was told that nearby Calicut was the richest port in all of India and that the shipping there was controlled by Islamic merchants. Covilhao proceeded to Calicut where he observed that ships arrived in August and September with European goods, and left in Winter on the north east monsoon with cinnamon, cloves, spices, silks, porcelain, pearls, and precious stones. From Calicut, Covilhao traveled north to Goa and then crossed over to Africa visiting many ports. While in Africa he became convinced that Africa could be circumnavigated and near the end of 1490 Covilhao returned to Cario where he was supposed to meet Pavia.
Instead he was met by a messenger of the King. Pavia had died before completing his mission of contact with the "Priest King" and Covilhao was to complete Pavia's mission. Covilhao was to find "Prester John" in Sub-Saharan Africa in the Kingdom of Abyssinia . Covilhao wrote a dispatch to his sovereign describing his travels and observations and sent this back via one of the messengers. The other messenger was a rabbi, Abraham of Beja. Before contacting the priest king Covilhao was to take Rabbi Abraham to Ormuz. In his dispatch Covilhao described ports of India, Arabia, and Africa that he had visited. He described "Moon Island"(Madagascar) and most probably expressed his belief that Africa could be circumnavigated.
Covilhao escorted Rabbi Abraham to Ormuz and then, contrary to his sovereign instructions, took ship for Jidda across the Red Sea. From Jidda he accompanied some pilgrims to Mecca where he wanted to see the sacred Kaaba, the black stone believed to have fallen from heaven long before the arrival of prophet. After Mecca he proceeded north to the monastery of St. Catherine in the Sinai. Covilhao's delays in proceeding to Abyssinia seemed almost a premonition of his fate at the hands of the "priest -king".
Finally in 1493 Covilhao arrived at the court of the Negus in Abyssinia. While treated well, Covilhao was detained against his will and prevented from sending any dispatches to Lisbon. The legendary "priest king"so long sought by the Christian alliance turned out to be the sovereign of a poor and virtually powerless kingdom. It was the Negus who needed and sought an alliance with the West, precisely because of the weakness of his position. The West was interested for two reasons, the "priest-king's" position in the rear of the Muslim world and his legendary strength. If his weakness became known, the West would quickly lose interest. Covilhao would be detained for life in a sort of gilded cage. A Portuguese ambassador would finally visit him in 1520 and reported that Covilhao was still alive, married to an Ethiopian woman, held in high esteem with the court of the Negus. Covilhao died in Abyssinia, one of the earliest documented cases of a naval intelligence agent who never came in from the cold. Even if the West had learned of the weakness of "Prester John"in 1493 interest in the route to "India" around Africa was about to take second place in Western navigational interests.
On March 4, 1493 Christopher Columbus arrived in Restello, Lisbon's outer harbor. The attention of Europe would turn westward across the Atlantic. The quest for "India"and Christian / Muslim conflicts took a back burner to the exploitation and development of the "New World". Covilhao's astounding mission with its potential for changing the balance of power , would be relegated to a curiosity of history. Undertaken a few years earlier and Covilhao might have been one of the few naval spies who changed history.
And so we see the tremendous effect on reality that widely held myth , particularly myth with some remote basis in truth can have on history. The new physics and astrophysics tells us that the universe and physical laws are more complex than either the Newtonian clockwork universe, or relativism. possibilities appear infinite. In the mind of our youth the "warp drive" (space propulsion systems capable of breaking the light barrier) are just around the corner, a myth with some basis in truth. In the mind of our youth the universe has in relative abundance water, oxygen, heat, and planets do circle distant stars; all of this we now know to be true. Some of these children will become heads of state and government, and others officers. One day one or more of these children will send another out to learn just how close to myth is the reality. The children have no obsolete views of the universe as a clockwork or a dustbin to unlearn. Aided by cinematic vision, a compelling myth has formed and is widely held. Driven in part by the power of this myth, like the searchers for "Prester John" the Children will reach for the stars. The lessons from the era of 1415 through 1542 if well studied could help them avoid repeating the mistakes of the last era of great exploration. There are of course other reasons for this coming exploration. But the power of the myth fuels those unschooled in physics and astrophysics, or disinclined to read volumes of technical data. The myth of the resource filled and lively universe is clear and detailed as Hollywood special effects could possibly make it. More over, as was the case several times with the myth of Prester John, facts keep coming in supporting the myth. This myth isn't just something for the scientifically educated. It is firmly planted in the minds of future tax payers all over the world. This generational myth will propel action. Mankind is space bound.
* The Caliphate: Muhammad as prophet could not be succeeded. However, the continuity of Islam as a political-social community required succession to his civil and military functions. Upon the prophet's death his father in law was proclaimed "Khalifa Rasul Allah"(Successor of the Apostle of God). As Islam spread and eventually divided into different schools and sects the Caliphate expanded to incorporate regional Caliphs. Dynastic succession introduced stability into the Caliphate during the Umayyard period (661-750 AD). THE PERSIAN GULF STATES A GENERAL STUDY , John Hopkins University Pres. See Also ARABS, ISLAM and the ARAB CALIPHATE by E.A.Beiyaeu.
* For brief biographies and explanations of secular and religious titles see: NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
* "SELJUK refers to the Rulers of Persia circa 1141
"NESTORIAN DOCTRINE became the official teaching of the Persian Christian Church whose missionary activities over a number of centuries were the rival of Rome itself.-New Catholic Encyclopedia
*"Chief of the Kari Kitai or more properly the Kahan of the Kara-Khytay defeated the Seljuk King of Persia in 1141 see p. 92 THE QUEST FOR INDIA by Bjorn Lanstrom and the NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA
* For time lines, biographies, etc. see: THE EMPIRE OF THE ARABS by Lt.Gen.Sir John Glubb, HISTORY OF THE ARABS by Philip K. Hiti, and THE ATLAS OF THE ARAB WORLD by Rafie Boustand and Philippe Farques