gbsteve (gbsteve) wrote,

T.F.G. Dexter and the Eastern Origins of British Culture and Religion

I picked up four books from the great Hurley Books in St Austell. I talked to the bookseller by phone which made me feel like a character in a 50s novel. The four books, or pamphlets really, around 60 pages each, were in published in the early 1930s in the New Knowledge Series. The series includes five books (as far as I can ascertain) and I have the four of them that were written by T.F.G. Dexter Ph.D. BSc BA. He was a Cornishman (I'm assuming) and his doctoral thesis was in archaeology concerning Perranzabuloe and St Piran's Oratory and Monastery in Cornwall.

The four books are:
  1. Civilization[sic] in Britain, 2000 B.C.
  2. The Pagan Origin of Fairs
  3. The Sacred Stone
  4. Fire Worship in Britain

At the front of each is the synopsis of the series which present's Dexter's thesis on the settlement of Britain and which bears repeating in it's entirety:


  Scholars are now in general agreement that the Britons who opposed the Roman Invaders possessed and archaic civilisation of no mean order.  The problem upon which Scholars are not yet agreed is:  Whence was this Civilisation derived?

  Dr. Dexter, following the lead of Professor G. Elliot Smith, Professor Sir Arthur Keith, Mr W. J. Perry, the late Dr. Rivers and other scientists, is of opinion that this culture was introduced into parts of these islands by "Easterners" (some probably Egyptians), who were here searching for pearls and gold (to them sacred things) as early as 2000 B.C. Later, other "Easterners" came for tin to harder their copper and convert it into bronze.

  This theory, which is not yet accepted by the orthodox archaeologist (and what new theory is ever readily accepted by the Orthodox?), has many sound arguments in its favour, as clearly as is shown in the development of the subject.

  Dr. Dexter is of the opinion that the History of these Islands should commence, not with the Roman Invasion, but with the coming of the builders of Avebury, circa 2000 B.C.: further, in that the history of our civlisation too much importance has been attached to the influence of the Saxon and of the Celt, to the neglect of the "Easterner" and of the "Primitive".

  He commences by taking a subject which has received but scant attention from the archaeologist and the folklorist - The Origins of Fairs. He proves that most of the fairs are pagan, not Christian, in origin, and establishes a strong presumption that some of them date from the Bronze Age or, perchance, even earlier.  Now fairs imply organisation --cooperation--civilisation, and are witnesses of an early civilisation, perhaps of more than one early civilisation, in these Islands.

  The Easterners who introduced an archaic civilisation here appear to have been devotees of the cult of stones and of the sun. The evidence of stone-worship is more apparent than that of sun-worship; so "The Sacred Stone" is taken first, and interesting instances are detailed of former and present beliefs in living, healing and magic stones.

  Reviewing the evidence so far obtained, instead of a Britain wholly given to barbarism before the Roman occupation, we envisage parts of Britain as peaceful, contented, prosperus, civilised, with much trading at home and abroad. So we have been "a nation of shopkeepers" from time immemorial! We also call up an intensely religious Britain, full of many and divers cults, of such great antiquity and of such high esteem, that the Christian Church had, willy-nilly, to incorporate some of them. Religion and culture were once pratically synonymous, and as the late Professor Robertson Smith saud: "If we wish to know any religion thoroughly, we must learn all we can about the religions that produced it." So, if we desire to appreciate the full origin and development of culture in Britain, we must learn about the gods once worshipped here and the ritual connected with their cult. Paradoxical as it may seem, the dark and dead past may be made to illuminate the living present.


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