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Ancient African's Dialectic Method

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Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D.
In the Ancient Egyptian Mystery Schools (?5500 BC) Dialectic consisted of an exercise designed to help students figure out the truth or to clarify an issue by recognizing and shedding what is false; by showing which aspects are wholly inconsistent with one another; and by determining aspects having a harmonious fit on higher planes of existence (Bailey, Supreme Thinking of Ancient Africans). Out of this process arose African Critical philosophy—a rigorous logical method that uses argument and logical analysis to clarify and critique existing beliefs on the way to discovering the truth. Aristotle (384-322 BC) recognized that Egyptian priests could reach such high levels in theoretical and speculative sciences by being freed from daily material worries as a result of the state supporting them (Diop, Great African Thinkers p82). The Ancient Egyptian approach to Dialectic was that of “Education” (“drawing out what is already in you”) to learn knowledge in ones inner world as well as in ones outer world. Behind this approach was the belief that the human mind can be satisfied by nothing less than understanding the concept of the unchanging Subjective, Spiritual, and Objective Truth and realizing that learning is a process of recollection.

Therefore, the proper form of education designed for self-cultivation is to “Know Thyself.” Then, from “Knowing Thyself” one has a foundation that serves as a means of acquiring knowledge about the Cosmos based upon the Egyptian Tehuti’s (?5500 BC) Principle of Correspondence: “As above, so below; as below, so above.” It embodies the truth that there is always conformity between the laws and phenomena of the various existence planes of Being and Life. Thus, once one “Knows Thyself,” that constitutes the “known” from which African Sages could infer (by Deductive and Inductive reasoning) much that would otherwise be unknowable in unknown and unseen realms. The platform of Egyptian priest-teacher was that self-cultivation is not about teaching (to show) or instructing (to build).  Instead, since self-cultivation relates to Education (drawing out one’s inner powers) then the best way to do this would come by questioning in order to bring out knowledge the student already possesses. The method these Sages used in Dialectic Education was to proceed with questions designed to be relentless criticisms and counter-criticisms of a subject during which internal contradictions and inconsistencies have ample opportunities to be unveiled by critical thinking.

Perhaps a generic process went like this.

Phase I—Starting by professing ignorance of the subject matter, the Sage lured his students into a display of supposed knowledge by carefully forming a series of questions. Students answered these as best they could. Out of the programmed questions and their answers came a fuller understanding of the subject. Phase II—the questioner then redirected the student to use the “Spl i tter-Lumper” (i.e. Aalysis/Synthesis) method in answering the same questions in order to arrive at a more satisfactory view. Phase III consisted of the comparison of Phase I and II answers so that the inadequacy of the student’s former opinions was clear to the student. Phase IV—students were required to test their best conclusions against reality and troubleshoot for contradictions.

Phase V—once this Dialectic skill was perfected, the student was urged to “mull” over inner information until he/she could behold the Forms themselves and thus grasp the First Principle of all knowledge. As a result, students were forced—step by step—to conclusions the priest-teacher had reached before the class began. If nothing else, such a dialogue helped students develop alternative explanations for future difficulties—“I’m no dishonorable person but I am ignorant of what is the right and decent thing to do under all circumstances.” This process was preparation for the student to figure out a path to mysticism. 

website: www.jablifeskills.com

Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D.

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