Dolphin and Whale Magazine :  January issue 2011
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Reviews of Books and Films

Souls in the Sea:
Dolphins, Whales and Human Destiny

by Scott Taylor, 2003, Frog Ltd., Berkeley
This book goes much further than any other, including one by John Lilly and Gregory Bateson, on the dolphin in human history. It covers thousand of years of records from civilization, ranging from Sumeria to modern Europe, plus much older legends from Australia where author Scott Taylor now lives. It presents an encompassing view of dolphin influence in human life as the Delphic Wave.

The book reviews considerable evidence that suggests that mysterious, dolphin-like beings, the “Nommo,” played a key role in the origin and development of human civilization (also see “The Mystery of the Dogon and the Nommo” in this issue).

Taylor’s treatment of the delphic world of Greece is tantalizing in its breadth and depth. It illustrates the unparalleled respect, reverence and admiration the Greeks held for dolphins which were legally protected. Though it was permissible to kill a human slave it was a capital offense to kill a dolphin. To the Greeks dolphins were considered closer than any other creature to the gods. Considered demi-gods, the dolphins were messengers between the human and divine realms, and were sacred to Apollo who established the Oracle at Delphi (delphi means dolphin). Apollo’s full name was Apollo Delphinius.

When he was older, Plutarch became a high priest of the Dolphin Temple in Athens. Stories of boys befriending wild dolphins were common, and Plutarch tells the story of a boy in Iasus who befriended a dolphin he often rode, but when a storm drowned the boy the dolphin pushed his dead body to shore then stranded itself and died there by the boy.  In memory of the calamity, the people of Iasus minted a now famous coin depicting a boy riding a dolphin.

Another boy who befriended a wild dolphin was appointed by Alexander the Great as the High Priest of Poseidon at the Dolphin Temple in Babylon.

Dolphins were central to the development of the civilizing arts including the Olympic Games which were instituted by the Oracle at Delphi where the original arena still stands. The Games were meant to give anyone an opportunity to demonstrate perfection of the divine realm through beauty, grace and athletic prowess. Apollo’s Credo, “Know Thyself,” acknowledged the essential divinity of humanity’s innermost self.

Aristotle is credited with being the father of science. He wrote extensively about dolphins and recognized that they had a language. Apparently many of his observations were made of dolphins in man-made aquariums which may have been fairly widespread in the ancient world.

Taylor guides us through religious traditions with their numerous reference to dolphins as divine. The original teachings of Jesus were Delphic, Taylor proposes. He believes Jesus came to replace the Rule of Law with the Rule of Love. The Fisher of Men was an exemplar of the Delphic Path: he taught yielding as power; he encouraged people to gather in groups without leaders, without priests, to share goods, to raise children in extended families, to treat men and woman as equals.
Taylor sees dolphins as teachers for humanity, “Each of these(world religious) teachers has taught lessons that can be learned by the study of the lives of dolphins. Tolerance, equality, compassion, altruism, joyousness, gentle methods of teaching, community, sharing, celebration – all of these are attributes of the lives of dolphins.”

The scientists will have their doubts and point to the fact that some species of dolphins may at times exhibit limited aggression or that they can be dangerous to people.  But dolphins do not have standing armies nor do they make war, and I have found only one case of a lethal attack by a dolphin against a human being. The dolphin was being abused by two, drunk men and attacked one of them. Compare that with the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of dolphins by humans. Moreover, reflect for just a moment on the fact that even when dolphins were herded with their children into nets at Iki Island and systematically speared to death by men in the water with them, they did not attack their killers when they easily could have. Imagine trying to do the same thing to herds of captured elk, bison or deer, much less any species of terrestrial predator, and not being viciously attacked. The extreme rarity of aggression by dolphins to humans is quite remarkable. Is it “turning
the cheek”?

The book even examines the founding of the United States as an expression of Taylor’s Delphic Wave. It is true that many of the Founding Fathers were Masons, but Taylor says that their goal in creating the U.S.A. was to free humanity from  the petty prejudices of the Church, and to encourage members to honor all religious traditions with attitude of equality and fairness.

He says, “It could be said that the Delphic Spirit, a self-aware spirit embodying compassion, mutual benefit, joy and freedom, was brought to America in the vessel of Masonic tradition.” The masons employed many ancient symbols, not the least of which was the naming of the original capital as “Philadelphia,” which contrary to school teachings, does not mean “City of Brotherly Love,” but “Lovers of the Dolphin.”

It is to the credit of the Founding Fathers that they saw in the Iroquois Confederation a model of government which they adopted in part. What was left out is noteworthy: only women could own property, and woman had the power to oust heads of office who abused their power. A thousand years ago, the Peacemaker, who brought peace to the member tribes of the Confederation, also instituted voting rights for women, and approval of new policies required total consensus of all adults of every tribe.

The Iroquois Confederation comes close to orca society in which females govern though they are significantly smaller than males. Among dominant species on earth, the orca society is surprisingly stable and peaceful.

In the world of mammalian life, there have been two mountain peaks. One is Mount Homo sapiens, the other Mount Cetacea. How tragic it is that one has chosen to lay waste to the other. Scott Taylor’s overall view is that two great brains have evolved on earth, the human and that of the toothed whales (dolphins, porpoises, orca, beluga, sperm whale). One has been successful for many millions of years living sustainably in the oceans, but the other, “has yet to find the spiritual side of sustainable joy.”

Souls in the Sea will leave you with more questions than ever, and perhaps some discomfort, but that is the measure of a good book. It is provocative, insightful, scholarly and successful in interweaving the fate of dolphins and humans. Most of all it is courageous in an age when most academic and scientific inquiry conveniently avoids asking the really important questions.

- Randall L. Eaton, Ph.D.

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