Reprint from RUNESTONE #8, SUMMER 1994
Future Past/Past Future
If you were around back in the Sixties, you must have seen it. The movie opens on a Pleistocene dawn, with primitive hominids trying to survive in a parched land. Their lot is not a pleasant one. Though they share their environment with sizeable mammals - meat on the hoof, naive and ready for the killing - the proto-humans know only hunger because they haven't figured out how weapons work. What's worse they are thirsty, too, because a rival band of ape men continually contests ownership of the only water hold in the area.
We see their misery, articulated only with the grunts and screeches of their kind, for several minutes. This is long enough to realize that this band is losing the battle for existence. Then, accompanied by the sound of a spectral choir singing from another dimension, a strange rock-like thing appears in the midst of the primitive pack. Is blacker than obsidian, twice the height of one of the primates, and utterly featureless. Agitated, they draw closer - one of them touches it - and some sort of astronomical alignment flashes on the movie screen. Our hairy ancestors are zapped with a jolt of energy, and things begin to happen.
At this point, the book goes into much more detail, telling us how the mystery monolith literally puts ideas in the heads of the struggling hominids. They are induced to imagine what it would be like to have full bellies, and their clumsy fingers are taught to fashion rudimentary knots of grass. The seeds of upward evolution are tenderly planted and determinedly nourished. But the most important single step was graphically shown in the movie.
One of the almost-humans picks up a long bone. Idly, he smashes it into a pile of similar bones at his feet. Whitened fragments fly about, and we see an idea thrust through the obtuseness of our protagonist's mind. A revolution takes place, and the hominids will go hungry no longer. They learn to hunt game with their newly-found weapons, and the additional protein gives them definite advantages over their grub-gathering competition.
Finally comes the showdown at the drinking hole. The club-wielding tribe meets the crowd that until now has ruled the best source of water in the vicinity. The standard ritual screeches are exchanged - and the monolith-trained faction gets down to business. The new weapons technology proves decisive, and it's "Darwin-in-action" time! Exultant in victory, the winning ape throws his bone high in the air - and the scene dissolves into a rocket ship homing in on an orbiting space station.
Throughout Stanley Kubrik's and Arthur C. Clarke's , mankind is led from one evolutionary milestone to another by the intelligence behind the original monolith. The club is first, then a second slab on the moon urges us on to Jupiter (Saturn, in the book), and finally a third serves as a "star gate" which transforms our hero into a sort of demi-god.
So what, you say? What does this have to do with Asatru? Why are we doing quarter-century old movie reviews in THE RUNESTONE? Because the connection between the film, upward evolution, and prehistoric European megalithic monuments only just clicked into place. I guess we needed a dose of monolith-inspired intelligence...
In hindsight (as usual), some similarities are obvious. There's the monolith/standing stone, and an astronomical alignment (Day-break? Something more exceptional and unexplained?). The singing sound is less a matter of common knowledge, though.
Sacred stones in Northern Europe are a noisy lot. There's the famous Stone of Destiny in Ireland, for example. It was discovered by the Celtic hero Conn one morning while he was climbing the hill of Tara to look for any threats from the Otherworld. He stepped on a particular rock - and it cried out. The legend tells us that this magical monolith spoke only when the foot of one destined to rule Ireland trod upon it. This same stone may or may not be the Stone of Scone, on which the leaders of Scottish clans were crowned. European folklore abounds, on a more local level, with rocks that talk or make sounds. The monolith in 2001, with its choir of singing voices, is only another version of this idea.
The link between the marvels of this classic movie and our ancient heritage can be summed up in one word - evolution. We've made a big deal of that concept in THE RUNESTONE, even to the point of subtitling our quarterly "A journal of evolutionary Asatru". Most of our emphasis has been on "personal evolution", on pushing your limitations, changing yourself, and going beyond the ordinary. We've done articles on everything from rune study to lifting weights. But in connecting hoary megaliths with the futurism of Clarke's and Kubrik's dream, we confront the evolution of the group. It is no accident that the music to which Hollywood hominids bash bone piles is Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra", the same title as Friedrich Nietzsche's thundering call for the Overman, when he described humanity/man as "a rope across an abyss" leading to a higher form of life.
It is time we pondered the age-old stone monuments of our European homeland, and the Northern religiosity they represent, as agents of evolution. Ice and stone, hardship and culling; these are the essential words describing our historical experience. Eschewing softness and pity, embracing instead that which is hard and heroic, we have forged the spiritual and genetic templates that have made us what we are. This is what evolution is all about. In time, if we do not turn our back on this principle, it will take us to the stars just as surely as it did the protagonist in 2001.
The stone enigmas dotting the European landscape stand silent to the ear but eloquent to the soul, nudging us toward higher destiny. What secrets will they tell us? Touch them, feel the planets slip into alignment, and prepare to receive the wisdom of our Folk!