When it comes to what the West identifies as astronomy, the Dogon cosmology continues to amaze us. The Dogon have charted the star Sirius A, which they called Sigui tolo. Additionally, they knew of its “invisible” (to the naked eye) companion star Sirius B, called Põ tolo. They knew the orbit of this star and that it was one of the heaviest white dwarf stars in the solar system. They maintained Sirius B took one earth year to rotate on its axis and that another star emme ya, which has a fifty- year revolution, also orbits Sirius A. The Dogon went on to show Griaule and his team, the arrangement of large stones, mountain caves, and altars over a wide geographic area that they used to chart the movement of planets. They knew of the Milky Way and its spiraling motion and that the earth rotates on its axis around the sun. In addition, they knew of Saturn and its rings, and of Jupiter and its moons. The Dogon even told of the effect four of Jupiter’s moons had on the growth of a certain plant, the sene.
The West has continuously attempted to discredit Dogon knowledge. These attempts no matter how cleverly disguised, are rooted in Western racism and cultural arrogance. An argument against the veracity of Dogon knowledge is for some in the West, an argument in favor of “extra-terrestialism.” Supporting van Daniken and extraterrestialism (a sub-theme in some New Age circles), Robert Tempels’ Sirius Mystery believes extraterrestrials helped to lay the foundations for ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, and Dogon societies. Because Tempels’ thesis rested on Griaule’s work, in order to discredit the Dogon (and extraterrestialism, which should be discredited based on of its racist implications) Griaule’s anthropological account of the Dogon had to be debunked. A recent attack on Dogon knowledge has come from Walter van Beek, a Dutch anthropologist, who spent twelve years studying the Dogon. In “Dogon Restudied: A Field Evaluation of the Work of Marcel Griaule,” Current Anthropology 12: 139- 167, van Beek states that he was unable to corroborate most of Griaule’s findings. According to van Beek, the Dogon have knowledge of Sirius but not of the other two companion stars Griaule mentions. He believes Griaule’s team read too much into the Dogon Sirius legend. He doubts whether Dogon knowledge could be so secret that most of his informants were unaware of it. (Other writers such as Filip Coppens and Bernard R. Ortiz de Montellano have joined the assault on the Dogon and Afrocentrism.)
For the West, further study will be needed before they can "discredit" Dogon knowledge. Dogon critics are forgetting that when Griaule provided his account, the West was yet to confirm much of the astronomical knowledge the Dogon possessed about the Sirius star system. Since then, Western science has confirmed some facts, but there is still information yet to be corroborated. For example, the second companion star emme ya, “the sun of women,” is larger but four times lighter than Põ tolo (Sirius B), and it has a near-circular orbit. Western science has not only been unable to corroborate this information; they have been unable to chart the star. However, Western science might offer a possible explanation as to why they have not detected emme ya. According to Dogon information emme ya would be a red dwarf star which can flare up drastically then “disappear” again. In the 1920s several scientists reported sighting a tiny star (which they named Sirius C) orbiting Sirius. Since then scientists have never seen it again. Could this have been emme ya (Sirius C)? Also, two astronomers at London University, Drs. Richard Donnison and Iwan P. Williams published a detailed paper on the likely orbit of Sirius C, concluding it would have a near-circular orbit. Thus despite attempts to discredit Griaule’s account of Dogon knowledge, available information and scientific research continue to support it. Why, we question, would van Beek be so arrogant as to expect the Dogon to accord him the same respect and access to information they afforded Griaule, who spent more than thirty years studying their society, showing a genuine respect and interest in their culture. Did van Beek warrant similar treatment?
Whatever means the Dogon used to obtain their knowledge, we can be certain they did not use the Western scientific method. Their worldview would not support ideas that alienate humans from Nature. In addition, Western technology is dependent on mechanistic devices. Afrikan cultures do not rely on machines in their acquisition of knowledge, as the human being is the primary tool of Nature. What she discovers is done through her. Even in Kemet, few “scientific instru- ments” were found. Afrikan cultures employ psycho-spiritual methods in their acquisition of knowledge, which brings us to the Afrikan concept of the soul. Throughout the continent, evidence can be found that the Afrikan conceives of the soul as multiple, having different aspects that together form a whole. The double is an aspect of the soul universally acknowledged on the continent. It is responsible for the human being’s many para-human abilities, such as clairvoyance, the ability to leave the body and to be at two places simultaneously. This soul, also known as the astral soul or astral body in modern spiritual traditions, explains many generally inexplicable phenomena. For instance, dreams, “mystic visions,” clairvoyance and so-called hallucinations are astral visions; deja vu, can be explained as earlier astral experiences; epilepsy, as the temporary dislocations of the astral body; unconscious states, sleep, fainting, catalepsy, as the absence of the astral body; trance, possession, as occupation of the physical body by another entity; shape-shifting, as the astral body of a living person taking possession of an animal body; and the experiences of priests, or initiates, as conscious astral travel or projection with retained memory. These different experiences of the double help to formulate the knowledge base in Afrika. The last application especially explains the Afrikan technique for the acquisition of certain knowledge.
In short, the Afrikan methodology for acquiring knowledge differs significantly from the Western scientific method. The Dogon, Kemeyu, and Afrikans in general use this aspect of the soul and its projection to determine and validate their knowledge. While the West likes to associate the double with phenomena of a “magical,” and “superstitious” nature, we see it actually is used to acquire knowledge that would be considered “scientific.” My book, Distorted Truths only approaches the field of what the West calls parapsychology, however, to grasp the Afrikan mind fully, certain experiences of a psychical nature must be incorporated into the analysis. The Afrikan worldview is predicated on human experience. For the Afrikan these experiences of an “extraordinary” nature (and they are only extraordinary in a Western scientific sense) are not explained away as illusory, but are “real” because they have been experienced. All phenomena have their genesis in the Supreme Being, therefore, all experiences are valid and included in the totality of life.