Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Alphabet of Neptune

Last April, I shared many of my weird thoughts about signs, symbols, and alphabets.  Turns out, I left out something quite important!  I remedy that by presenting to you, for the first time in history, the alphabet of the planet Neptune...

How did this humble blogger come across such a rare piece of linguistic arcana?  I take you back to the late 1970s, to an elementary school in Springsteen County, New Jersey.  Young Cygnus lived in a town with a significant population of Asian immigrants with a Tibetan Buddhist lineage.  Getting to see their shiny, colorful temples was probably a formative experience in my learning there are many paths up the mountain.

I had a friend from this community who was, shall I say, a bit of an oddball?  I'll call him B.  In some ways he was very traditional and devout (he got to meet the Dalai Lama when very young, I think), but in other ways he was a pure American original.  After seeing one of the Roots miniseries, he wanted everyone to call him Cambay Bolongo, and thought of himself as the reincarnation of an African ancestor spirit.

B told me a lot about the details of their Tibetan traditions -- the beads, statues, flags, and bells -- but not much about their actual beliefs.  Well, he did say that their holy books were transmitted to them by aliens from the planet Neptune.

Um, yeah.  He stuck with that story for a while, though.  He said that he snuck into the temple at night to copy down some of their writings, which he brought to school, complete with the helpful alphabetic cipher given above.  Even at age 11 or 12, whatever it was, we all knew he was pulling our legs.  But he spun a fun yarn, and I played along.  He went through all that work, after all!  I borrowed his transcriptions and was genuinely curious to "translate" them back into the regular alphabet.  It's so nice that the ancient Neptunian progenitors of Tibetan Buddhism wrote in plain English!  :-)  Here's a low-quality cell-phone picture of the only scrap that I still have:

Translation:  Unknown Scriptures Auricle 40.  Darned if I know what it means... I do recall that B wrote in these "scriptures" about weird alchemical recipes and potions that would produce wondrous effects if made properly.  I wish I remembered more; I never tried to make the potions.

I hope it's not coming off like I'm making fun of B.  He was a genuinely nice, if somewhat troubled, kid.  I've just been fascinated with his strangely evocative alphabet, and the tales he told about it, for more than 30 years.  Suffice to say, when I first heard about the Voynich Manuscript, my first thought was "Been there... Done that!"  :-)

The kicker:  B eventually engaged much more with his faith in a real way in his 20s and became a Buddhist monk.  His superiors soon recognized him as the reincarnation of an ancient spiritual teacher, and today he is the leader of a large Buddhist community.  (I'm one of thousands of fans of his on Facebook.)  I won't say more, since I don't want to give away his identity, but he's lived a really amazing life.

Still, nowhere in his published works -- and I've searched -- is there any mention of the planet Neptune.


  1. I wish you remembered more, too. Cyg, I loved this post! I felt like I could have kept on reading and reading. These kinds of reminisces are typically one-hit wonders, inspired by a scrap here and there and then something lovely like this spills out. If you are further inspired, though, write on!

    I like the way you ended it, too. The whole thing has this Reader's Digest for the mythically-inclined sort of feel. :)

    1. Thanks, Suze. There are folders in which I could rummage for some additional bits of Neptunian, but I fear it's all gone. There's a lot more I could say about B himself, but I'll let discretion be the better part of blogging. :-)

      "Readers Digest for the mythically inclined:" Have you ever picked up a copy of Parabola? Certainly could fit that bill. I haven't bought one for a while -- recent ones look a bit fluffy -- but older ones, especially from the 70s and 80s, were really good.