top of page

A Right thought on the Toynbee Tiles Mystery

Being an Artist and having a curios and inquisitive mind things like myths, legends and mysteries have often captured my imagination. I don’t always believe them to be true but I still find them interesting and I like to imagine a world where they are true. We all know about government conspiracies and cryptozoological animals like big foot and the loch ness monster but the mystery I’m writing about has a lot more physical evidence. Anyone living in New York can find them scatted all over its streets, I’m of course referring to the Toynbee Tiles Mystery.

What is the Toynbee Tiles Mystery?

The Toynbee Tiles have been appearing since the early 80’s, they are embedded in the asphalt of many streets in cities all over the United States and South-America. Nobody knows for sure who’s laying them or what exactly the message they carry mean. The message appears as follows-


IN MOViE `2001



The words are cut from the tiles using a tile cutter and the tiles often seem quite artistic, even if they aren’t meant to be art pieces. Many theories about what the message mean exists, but the most popular one and the one explored in the highly acclaimed documentary Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles is the one I personally think to be the right one.

The Message

The message seem to refer to the writings of historian Arnold J. Toynbee . In his book, Experiences, a passage reads-

“Human nature presents human minds with a puzzle which they have not yet solved and may never succeed in solving, for all that we can tell. The dichotomy of a human being into 'soul' and 'body' is not a datum of experience. No one has ever been, or ever met, a living human soul without a body... Someone who accepts—as I myself do, taking it on trust—the present-day scientific account of the Universe may find it impossible to believe that a living creature, once dead, can come to life again; but, if he did entertain this belief, he would be thinking more 'scientifically' if he thought in the Christian terms of a psychosomatic resurrection than if he thought in the shamanistic terms of a disembodied spirit.”

The ideas contained within said passage and book have been explored further in the Ray Bradbury short story , The Toynbee Convector, and elements of them appear in 1968’s Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey which in turn was based on the Arthur C. Clarke short story, The Sentinel. All of these stories contain, at least in part, a message that can be watered down to the following- In order to survive as a species we should keep evolving, advancing and broadening our horizons inevitably heading into space and maybe one day colonizing other planets. We might be moving into the realm of sci-fi but the message still rings true. We should always be willing to evolve and better ourselves. So let’s summarize the Toynbee Tile message as follows.

(TOYNBEE IDEA)The writings of Arnold J. Toynbee as( IN MOViE `2001) explored in the film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, about(RESURRECT DEAD) obtaining immortality or evolving as a species through(ON PLANET JUPITER) broadening our horizons into space.

But why is this message so important to the person laying the tiles?

The documentary, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, has a lot of evidence alluding to who the tiler might be, but not much is known about him. It’s clear from the little information given in the film that he is a sensitive soul and a recluse. I always think he might have lost someone close to him and taking the idea about resurrecting the dead on Jupiter literally, he started spreading this “idea” in the hopes of maybe bringing this person back to life.

We should also consider the possibility that it’s nothing more than a guerrilla art project or someone’s dedicated social experiment spanning decades. Whatever they are, or there reason for them existing, I find them interesting from an artist’s point of view.

What are your theories on the Toynbee Tiles? Be sure to sound of in the comments bellow!!

Franscois Potgieter

Founder, Artist, The Mind Is Right


Recent Posts
bottom of page