Wednesday, July 19, 2017

You have an energy body

In my latest book, Astrotheology for Life, in the chapter entitled "The Universe Within," I write that not only can the world's myths -- from virtually every culture and every inhabited continent and island of our planet -- be shown to allegorize the cycles of the heavens, but that the heavenly realms themselves also point towards and allegorize the invisible and infinite realm.

The chapter goes on to suggest that "the great cycle of the zodiac wheel, which forms the basis for the mighty 'battles' in many ancient epics, can also be show to have been overlaid in ancient times upon the human body, such that these great struggles can be understood to correspond not only to the endless interplay of light and dark that takes place in the great circle of the year, but also to the struggle between 'higher' and 'lower' in the human body itself, as we strive to elevate not only our consciousness but our vital energy" (223 - 224).

In his book entitled Chinese Shamanic Cosmic Orbit Qigong, Master Zhongxian Wu begins the book by recounting that,
When I was a child in China, I was curious about the way that the local Wu (Chinese shaman) would give treatments to patients. How could an acupuncture needle release the pain when the Wu placed it in a suffering patient's body? How could chanting, meditation, and use of talisman's help patients recover from illness? 11.
He remembers that as a child, he was not given answers to his questions on this subject -- but that later, through decades of dedicated Qigong, he gradually began to find the answers, and he eventually came to the realization, as he says, "that ancient Wu  (Chinese shamanism) is the root of all Chinese culture" (11). In support of this assertion, he explains that the observation of the cycles of the universal energies as they flow through Heaven, Earth, and Humanity "is the very source of classical Chinese culture, including Confucianism, Daoism, Classical Chinese Medicine and the martial arts" (14).

He explicitly relates the cycles of the heavens to the practice of circulating the flow of Qi (traditional character 氣 -- pronounced hei in Cantonese) when he is introducing the subject of that particular book, the Cosmic Orbit Qigong practice. Master Wu writes:
In Chinese, Zhou means cycle, circular, perfect, complete, and rotate; Tian means sky, heaven, and universe; together, the original meaning of Zhoutian describes the complete circle as made by the Earth's daily rotation around its axis. Commonly, Zhoutian translates as cosmic orbit. Through inner cultivation practices, ancient shamans discovered that the energetic patterns of human beings mirror those of the Universe. If the same patterns are reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest, macrocosmic (Universal level) scale to the smallest, microcosmic (e.g. living organisms and the cells, organelles, and particles within them) scale, they deduced that the flow of Qi in the body is just like the ceaseless rotation of the sun, moon, and stars. Therefore, in Qigong terminology, Zhoutian also refers to the specific pattern of Qi circulation in the body. The fundamental concept of balance in Chinese wisdom traditions holds that you will maintain health and experience well-being if Qi is free flowing in your body. 16.
Above is a video of Zhongxian Wu showing a some aspects of the Wu Cosmic Orbit Qigong practice. You can purchase the full instructional video of Master Wu teaching this practice on this page from his website.

The existence and circulation of qi (or hei) in the body is very real, and everybody who is alive in a physical body has this qi, whether he or she is aware of it or not. Previous posts touching on this subject including:


In an absolute treasure of a book entitled Daoist Nei Gong: The Philosophical Art of Change, Master Damo Mitchell expounds on this subject and explains that in addition to our physical body, we also have an energy body and a consciousness body. In describing the energy body, he writes:
The energy body sits between the physical body and human consciousness. It is usually completely invisible to those who have not reached an accomplished level in the internal arts and for that reason it is usually overlooked within Western concepts of health and existence. It is comprised of innumerable channels and pathways of energy which we know as meridian. These energetic pathways transfer the energy known as Qi throughout the human body to our organs and tissues. It would be impossible to map out the entire human energy body due to its complexity but we can identify and work with some of the major meridians which are commonly used within therapeutic treatments like acupuncture and shiatsu. 40.
As part of the disciplines described in that book, practices designed to help awaken the energy body (and much more), Damo Mitchell describes a set of eight qigong exercises called the Ji Ben Qi Gong or "fundamental qigong [qi gong can be translated as 'energy work' or 'energy exercises']." Below is a video in which Damo Mitchell demonstrates these qigong exercises -- but note also that in the book he gives extensive detail on each one, including instructions for matching the breathing with the motions of the body.

The benefits of incorporating the kind of qi work described by Zhongxian Wu and Damo Mitchell into your life, if at all possible, I believe are very great. In fact, I am convinced that on one level, the ancient myths (from around the world) are teaching us about this very type of practice: the reflection within our own "microcosm" (our own body -- which does not just consist of a physical body) of the endless motions of the heavenly "macrocosmic" cycles themselves.

It is also quite likely that the forms of shamanic travel, ecstasy (or ex stasis: outside of the "static"  physical body), projection of vision outside of the body or even into the body, and other manifestations of "out of body experience" is related to the integration and awakening of the energy body and the consciousness body -- a likelihood that Damo Mitchell in fact discusses at some length, such as on pages 218 and 219 (and elsewhere in the book). 

There are of course very many techniques which have been given to or developed by men and women over the millennia for achieving these types of ex stasis abilities, but qigong, Daoist meditation, and Daoist Nei Gong are clearly systems that include this important concept. And I would argue that, in fact, all of the ancient sacred traditions in every culture -- and the ancient myths and stories that they preserved -- had some aspect of ecstasy or techniques for transcending the physical body as part of their ancient wisdom. Previous posts which have discussed that assertion can be found here, here, here, here and here, for example.

Note also that Damo Mitchell's teaching has been discussed in another previous post here, from the first day of this year 2017.

The understanding that all men and women have an energy body is clearly very ancient -- although this knowledge has now been largely forgotten in much of the world (primarily those under the influence of centuries of literalistic interpretation of the ancient sacred stories, stories which I believe can be conclusively demonstrated to be anything but literal in nature). In fact, this understanding has been and continues to be actively suppressed and also ridiculed. 

However, I believe it can be shown to be present in the ancient wisdom given to all people. It is very interesting to point out, for example, that in the Daoist cosmology, as Damo Mitchell describes it, "The Realm of Consciousness gives birth to the Energetic Realm which gives birth to the Physical Realm" (see pages 19 and especially 157). Similarly, on a completely different continent, the wisdom tradition of the Lakota of North America teaches, in the words of the holy man Black Elk (Hehaka Sapa) that when Crazy Horse had his vision, he went into "the world where there is nothing but the spirits of things. That is the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world." It should be evident that this description by Black Elk is describing a very similar understanding of the different realms as that described in the Daoist cosmology, in which this physical realm flows out of or is generated by the Invisible Realm.

Below is a series of human figures practicing postures as depicted silk panels discovered in an ancient tomb at Ma Wang Dui in China (probably dating to the period we describe as the second century BC or BCE). The figures clearly appear to be engaged in exercises very similar to the qigong forms described above (the figure second from left in the top seems to be performing something similar to the Diagonal Flying demonstrated by Damo Mitchell in the video above).

Everyone who lived back then had an energy body -- and so does everyone living today, including you. You may be interested in learning more about practices that can help you to awaken and become more integrated with your own, especially given the fact that there are today teachers such as Damo Mitchell and Zhongxian Wu who are able to assist in such awakening.

However, as Damo Mitchell also says in his book on Daoist Nei Gong, after initially trying to convince anybody who would listen that they should begin to practice this internal art, he now says that:
I have since come to realise that people simply move in to Nei Gong training when the time is right for them. It is more of a calling than anything else. [ . . . ] If you are not drawn to the practice then the time simply is not right for you. 21.
I hope that if you do feel called to explore these matters, you will find a way to do so. And I also believe that the wisdom preserved in the ancient myths may well contain additional insights for those undertaking this path, when the time is right.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Collaborators against the gods

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The city of Athens was famously the scene of contention in ancient Greek myth between the god of the sea and the goddess of wisdom and art, to see which could prove the greater benefactor. 

The wonderful 1962 edition of Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, which was a big influence on me when I was growing up, describes the contest this way:
Athena was very fond of a certain city in Greece, and so was her uncle, Poseidon. Both of them claimed the city, and after a long quarrel they decided that the one who could give it the finest gift should have it. 
Leading a procession of citizens, the two gods mounted the Acropolis, the flat-topped rock that crowned the city. Poseidon struck the cliff with his trident, and a spring welled up. The people marveled, but the water was salty as the sea that Poseidon ruled, and not very useful. Then Athena gave the city her gift. She planted an olive tree in a crevice on the rock. It was the first olive tree the people had ever seen. Athena's gift was judged the better of the two, for it gave food, oil, and wood, and the city was hers. From her beautiful temple on top of the Acropolis, Athena watched over Athens, her city, with the wise owl, her bird, on her shoulder, and under her leadership the Athenians grew famous for their arts and crafts. 36 - 37.
You can see various ancient versions of this account, including references in the works of Plato and of Ovid, here.

The gifts of the olive tree -- and of access to the mighty sea itself and all of its blessings -- were rightfully seen as gifts from the gods in the ancient myths, the ancient wisdom, given to the people of Greece in remotest antiquity. And the same understanding, that the blessings of sunshine and rain and fertile soil and harvest and wood-bearing forests and mighty rolling oceans and even the treasures of gold and silver and other mineral wealth hidden deep in the earth were all gifts from the gods, can be found in the other ancient sacred traditions -- which Peter Kingsley calls the "original instructions" -- which were given to every other culture on our green Earth in the earliest times.

And indeed these ancient sacred myths or "original instructions" can all be shown to be closely related and based upon a common, worldwide system of celestial metaphor. Indeed, some of the likely celestial patterns upon which the famous contest between Athena and Poseidon for the patronage of the city of Athens are discussed in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two, which focuses primarily on the myths of ancient Greece. And the evidence that this system is extremely ancient -- perhaps preceding the earliest admitted civilizations to conventional history, such as ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia and the ancient Indus-Saraswati region, by at least as many millennia as those ancient civilizations precede our own day -- is touched upon in my most recent book, Astrotheology for Life.

So we can say with a fairly high degree of certitude that the ancient pattern given to humanity and preserved from unbelievably ancient times includes the conviction that the blessings of the earth and the sea and the air and the sunshine, which modern economics generally categorize as natural resources, are blessings bestowed by the gods for our benefit. That these gifts are to be treated with respect, and not with disdain or ingratitude or with greed, is also attested to in many ancient myths and texts, including in the writings of the ancient philosopher Plutarch, who himself appears to have been an initiate in certain ancient mysteria, and who declares in the surviving fragments of his text "On the Eating of Flesh" that acting with greed to have more than the gods choose to give is in essence "slandering the earth" and acting shamefully towards the gods, in this case towards grain-giving Demeter and wine-giving Dionysus.

In light of this discussion, we should pause to consider the current situation in the modern country of Greece, where natural resources -- which under the world's ancient wisdom are seen as blessings given by the gods to the people -- are being sold off or "privatized" in order to benefit a few people at the expense of the people as a whole, to whom they were given by the gods. This is a pattern that can be seen to be taking place all over the world, and at an accelerated pace in recent decades, but it is especially visible in Greece, and especially poignant, given the fact that it is taking place in the very places spoken of by the myths of ancient Greece.

It is also especially significant, given that ancient Greece constitutes one of the cultures that gave birth to the concept of "the West," and whose ancient traditions and mythology and artistic achievements are preserved in abundance -- allowing us to see even more starkly the contrast between the ancient vision in which the fields and the mountains and the sunlight and the water and the rolling waves belonged to the gods and were given to humanity by the gods' good graces, and the vision that has characterized much of "Western history" since becoming cut off from the ancient pattern handed down to humanity, an alternate or inverted vision in which those gifts of the gods can be taken away from the people to whom they were given, and taken over by a few for their own enrichment.

Last year, the government of Greece sold a majority ownership (67% ownership) of the port of Piraeus to a corporation (in this case, a global shipping company based in China, called Cosco), as described in this article from the Financial Times

The Piraeus, of course, is the famous port of Athens, and can be seen near the left edge of the aerial image above of the Greek capitol city (where there is a long diagonal "cut" or "corridor" of water protruding into the shore and fanning out into a wide, three-part "cup-de-sac" at the end, creating a curving peninsula just to the right of it). During ancient times, as you may recall from history, the Piraeus port was connected to the city of Athens by the "Long Walls," which created a protected corridor down from the polis to the port itself. The primary harbors of Piraeus were fortified by Themistocles in the 470s BC, after the Athenian fleet had played a significant role in the repulsion of the Persian invasions, and the Long Walls were completed under Pericles in the 460s or 450s BC.

Other ports and natural resources are also being sold off by the Greek government to corporations or large consortiums of private investors, including the port of Thessaloniki, Greece's fourteen regional airports, the Greek train company TRAINOSE, the water system, and many other resources over which corporations and private investors salivate due to their ability to collect what amount to tolls or recurring revenues through the control of vital infrastructure necessary to the conduct of business or the sustenance of human life.

The government of Greece is being pressured to sell these assets off to the country's creditors, while at the same time cutting social programs including pensions, education spending, healthcare, and other parts of the budget, also to pay their creditors (in the familiar pattern dubbed "austerity"). But, as economist Michael Hudson explains in several different essays, books and interviews (including this one, for example) when lenders deliberately extend loans that they know are beyond the ability of the borrower to repay, with the ulterior motive of seizing the assets of the borrower which the lenders or their friends covet for themselves, this behavior is a form of predation or indeed warfare by financial means -- and in any case, predatory or not, "no country should be obliged to impose poverty on its population, and sell off the public domain in order to pay its foreign creditors."

In his excellent recent book J is for Junk Economics, Professor Hudson defines "public domain" as:
The commons, consisting of land and natural resources, infrastructure and government enterprises. Natural monopolies such as canals, railroads, airlines, water and power, radio and television frequencies, telephone systems, roads, forests, airports and naval ports, schools and other public assets were long kept out of private hands. Their privatization since 1980 has turned them into rent-extracting opportunities for hitherto public services.
Financing their purchase on credit (often at giveaway prices paid to debt-strapped or corrupt neoliberal governments) enables these monopolies to include interest, dividends, and high managerial salaries in their cost structure. The most rapidly rising consumer prices in the United States since 2008, for instance, are for health insurance [ . . . ], education and  cable service. Privatization and economic polarization thus go together. 186.
Clearly, there is a connection between what the ancient wisdom describes as the "gifts of the gods" and what classical economists describe as the "public domain" or "the commons." In fact, some of the earliest classical economists, the French "Physiocrats" led by Francois Quesnay, specifically argued that the economic wealth that came from the land and which was demanded in taxes by the "nobility" was actually "not produced by the nobility's labor or enterprise (contra John Locke) but by nature, ultimately from the sun's energy" -- that is to say, from the gods (or, if you prefer, from Nature), as Professor Hudson explains on page 177 of J is for Junk Economics (and at greater length in his previous book Killing the Host, in a passage quoted in part in this previous post).

Under his definition for the "commons," which are synonymous with the public domain, Professor Hudson provides another specific list which includes "land, water, mineral rights, airwaves and other public infrastructure" and argues that these create "natural monopolies" which are best administered in society's long-term interest via government or a community, not monopolized by rentiers as the ultimate takeover objective of financial capital" (60).

But because they are natural monopolies, they are coveted by those who want to privatize them and erect tollbooths around them -- depriving the people of the gifts that are given by the gods (or, in the terminology of the Physiocrats, given by the land and ultimately by the energy of the sun). To cite a portion of just one more definition from J is for Junk Economics, Professor Hudson's definition of "privatization," we read that:
Since 1980 the main lever of privatization has been financial. Debt-strapped governments are forced to sell off the public domain as a conditionality imposed by the IMF in exchange for credit to avoid defaulting on bank debts or forcing debts (see Washington Consensus). The prime assets being privatized are natural monopolies able to extract economic rent by raising prices for hitherto public services. These rents tend to be paid out as tax-deductible interest to affiliates in offshore banking centers in order to deprive host economies of a public return on their land and natural resource patrimony or their immense capital investment in infrastructure -- much of which was financed by foreign debts for which governments remain liable.
Such privatization de-socializes public infrastructure, usually by rent extractors in partnership with government insiders. Access charges may be raised as high as users ("the market") will pay. Junk economics pretends that this will be more efficient than public investment to provide basic services at low prices. The reality is that countries that fail to invest in minimizing the cost of basic services (by avoiding tollbooths for financialized rent extraction) have a higher cost of living and doing business, making them less competitive in global markets. 181.
Note the clear resonance of what Professor Hudson is here arguing with the ancient idea that the bounties of nature (whether sheltered ports or mineral wealth below the earth's surface or even the electromagnetic spectrum) are actually each proper to a god or a goddess (the riches beneath the earth's surface, for instance, being proper to the god Hades or Plouton in ancient Greece, and the electromagnetic spectrum might be argued to belong to the god Zeus himself, wielder of the thunderbolt and ruler of cloudy air and the heights of Olympus) -- and that these resources are thus a sort of "patrimony" or inheritance given to all the people, and are not supposed to be fenced-off in order to enrich a few corporations or individuals who set themselves up in the place of the gods.

I would even go so far as to argue that the world's ancient wisdom teaches us that the gods in fact have their home in and express themselves through living men and women. We can see abundant evidence of this ancient understanding in passages found in the ancient Egyptian Book of Going Forth by Day as discussed in a blog post whose title is taken from a passage from that ancient Egyptian text: "There is no member of mine devoid of a god." We can also see evidence of this ancient understanding preserved in sacred traditions from other cultures, such as ancient India, where the gods appear in an instant when they are called -- indicating that they are always present and indeed that every man and woman has an inner connection to the Infinite realm, the realm of the gods. That same post notes that the god Thor, known in northern Europe, would also appear in an instant when called by name.

Further, we could look at the people who are born in any given land as being given by the gods themselves as well. As I discuss in the aforementioned Star Myths of the World, Volume Two, the goddess Artemis was understood in ancient Greek myth to preside over every single mother in childbirth -- and similar teachings can be found in the sacred traditions of virtually every other culture on our planet.

If you think about this line of reasoning, you will then see that it dovetails very nicely with Professor Hudson's assertion that privatization deprives the public, the people, of their "patrimony" or their inheritance, by taking away what belongs to the gods and which is given by the gods to all the people, and fencing it off for the benefit of a few (who thus by their actions attempt to usurp the place of the gods -- and who also by their arguments usually attempt to convince others that their usurpation is natural and right and in the proper order of things, an argument that the people in general almost always see right through, either immediately or else eventually).

It should be abundantly evident to anyone who is even casually familiar with the myths of ancient Greece (as well as with any of the other myths given in antiquity to the families of humanity around the globe) that the attempt by greedy or vainglorious or prideful mortals to usurp the place of the gods, or to fail to properly acknowledge that their gifts came from the gods, always ends in complete disaster.

When the vain and prideful Arachne boasted that her skill at weaving was superior to that of the goddess Athena, for example (thus failing to acknowledge that Arachne's very skill at weaving was a gift from the goddess herself), the goddess famously turned Arachne into a spider. According to some ancient sources, the beautiful maiden Medusa did not think it excessive to have others compare her beauty to that of the same goddess -- and was for her punishment turned into a monster. Many other myths involve maidens who declare that their beauty is as great as or even greater than that of one of the goddesses, always resulting in disaster.

It should not surprise us that societies characterized by the privatization by the few (usually by corporations or by well-connected individuals or families, and always in collusion with government insiders, who consent to giving away what is not really theirs to give away at all) of the gifts of the gods in the form of the natural resources of the land and the air and the sun and the waves will face similar negative consequences until the natural order is restored and the gods are again acknowledged and respected. As Professor Hudson explains in the "privatization" definition above (and as he demonstrates with more extensive proofs in many of his full-length books), when that which should belong to the people is instead fenced off with "tollbooths for financialized rent extraction," the cost of doing business and producing goods goes up (as does the price of hiring labor, since workers must necessarily spend more themselves in order just to survive, and thus will have to be paid higher wages as a result), and the country becomes less competitive, and is ultimately hollowed out economically if the process goes on long enough.

I would argue that this deprivation will also ultimately end up in the degradation of men and women, who are deprived of the blessings intended by the gods and properly belonging to the people themselves (the people that the gods cause, or allow, to be born in that land -- all the people, not just some of the people, but all of the people: who themselves come from the gods and through whom the gods work and in whom they have their home, in one sense, according to the ancient texts and traditions). When the people are not given the dignity they merit as men and women, when they are not allowed to manifest all the gifts of the gods, then the entire society suffers.

Ironically, or fittingly, it should be noted that the port of Piraeus was very close to the location that the participants in the ancient mysteria of Eleusis -- the famed Eleusinian Mysteries which are believed to have gone on for two thousand years in a row before they were shut down during the reign of the Roman emperor Theodosius, a literalist Christian, in AD 392 -- would go down to the sea and bathe while carrying a live piglet during the opening days of the annual ritual.

These sacred mysteries were open to all participants, male or female, free or slave, from whatever land of origin, just so long that the participant could speak Greek and had never committed the crime of murder. The rites of Eleusis were designed to elicit a connection to the realm of the gods in each participant, and can thus be said to have been a consummate representation of the ancient vision given to the cultures of the world that there is in fact a realm of the gods, and that we are supposed to recognize our dependence upon their gifts -- indeed, the dependence of everything in the material realm upon the invisible or infinite realm, which is the source or fountain of everything in this material realm, and of all good gifts.

Cut off from this vision, corporate entities, collaborating government insiders, and wealthy investors seeking to erect tollbooths upon the natural resources of the commons in order to enrich a few "within the fence" at the expense of everyone else "outside of the it" are thus setting themselves up against the gods, inverting the vision described in the world's ancient wisdom, and inviting disaster upon themselves and their entire societies.

I believe that the people in general know these truths, in deep way that comes from the fact that this wisdom was given so many thousands of years ago and has informed so many, many successive generations -- and that attempts to deny them or tell men and women that the privatization and degradation that they see accelerating around them is somehow natural, right, and just will be instinctually or intuitively rejected, even if they are not able to articulate the historical and economic connections the way that Professor Hudson is able to do in his books and articles and interviews.

But we have been deliberately and systematically cut off from the ancient wisdom by those who want to collaborate against the gods, in a campaign that started at least seventeen centuries ago and which continues to this day.

The good news is that the wisdom contained in the world's ancient myths, scriptures and sacred traditions is still available to us. And what actually belongs to the gods and is given to all humanity by the gods cannot in reality be given away or legally transferred to the ownership of those who think it belongs only to themselves.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Found: The Ark of the Covenant

Above is a new video I've just posted, entitled "The Ark: Found! In the heavens." ***

If you are curious about the identity, location, and ongoing importance of the ark described in the ancient scriptures, this video presents abundant evidence which argues that the ark is still very much in existence -- and that it is available to find by those who look for it, and contains a message for our benefit and blessing in this incarnate life through which we all are traveling.

As with the other Star Myths that I examine, I believe that its message is primarily a spiritual one, and that it is for all people. Unfortunately, when the world's ancient myths are "literalized" their message is often inverted into a message that divides people into different groups, instead of realizing that they are depicting for us the actual situation of each and every human soul, the reality of the realm of pure potentiality (the realm of spirit, the realm of the infinite: the realm of the gods), and the importance of recognizing the true situation and acting appropriately to elevate the awareness of the realm of spirit in ourselves and in others (rather than focusing on the physical externalities that are so often used to divide people from one another, to put them down, and even to exploit or oppress others).

I hope that this discussion of the ongoing significance of the sacred and awe-inspiring ark of the covenant will be a blessing to you in some way.


*** Note: If you are having any trouble seeing the video on YouTube, such as seeing an "Unavailable" message on the video, you can view the same video on the Vimeo platform by following this link or clicking "play" on the video below.

The Ark: Found! in the heavens from d m on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Panic, hubris, and rage -- and their antidote in ancient myth

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In a previous post, I linked to a video in which I explore a reader's question about how exactly the power of the zodiacal constellations manifest themselves in men and women.

Part of my response involved my conviction, based on what I've learned from studying the patterns of ancient myth thus far, that the constellations themselves are representatives of and pointers towards the powers known in the world's ancient myths and scriptures and sacred traditions as the gods (or by other names depending on the culture and language, such as the neteru of ancient Egypt, or the Kami of ancient Japan, or the Orisha of the Yoruba, etc).

While the specific constellations all have distinctive characteristics and even "personalities" within the ancient worldwide system of celestial metaphor which are associated with or correspond to the characteristics of specific gods and goddesses, the constellations are not the gods themselves, but rather a way for us to learn about and better understand the powers of the invisible realm -- a way for us to "see" into that infinite realm, which cannot ordinarily be seen.

In other words, my response to the reader's question alleges that it is not actually the power of the constellations that manifests in men and women, but rather the power of the gods themselves.

As part of the evidence to support that assertion, I referenced a recent blog post entitled "There is no member of mine devoid of a god," a title which is taken from the 42nd section of the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (or the Book of Going Forth by Day) as arranged in the Papyrus of Ani.

Additionally, as part of the same response, we explored a specific passage from the ancient text of the Odyssey, in which the hero finds his mind "running away with him" and leading to a condition which I argue could accurately be described as panic -- until the goddess Athena intervenes and inspires him to get his mind back "in hand" and take appropriate action.

Indeed, that particular passage in the Odyssey is very revealing, because in it we actually get a glimpse into the thoughts of the hero and his "inner dialogue," and we see his mind considering different contingencies and courses of action, and spinning out of control towards a point of despair, before Athena reels him back (see Book 5 and lines 450 through 467).

The interesting aspect of this revealing episode is the fact that Odysseus is notable for his ability to consider all the possible courses of action, and for almost invariably selecting the right one and carrying it out to successful completion -- a skill which serves him in good stead throughout the many adventures described in both the Iliad and especially the Odyssey. In this case, however, his ability to envision all the possibilities seems to get out of control, to the point that he begins envisioning sea monsters which are not even present at that point, and reaching the point of not knowing what to do (again, until he is inspired by the goddess).

As I have quoted many times before, Alvin Boyd Kuhn argues that the world's ancient myths and scriptures are not in fact about "old kings, priests and warriors; the one actor in every portrayal, every scene, is the human soul" -- and so it is here with Odysseus as well. I would argue that the ancient epic depicting his struggles to find his way back home while being buffeted about the vast sea domain of the god Poseidon was given to impart wisdom we ourselves need in this incarnate life, and that one level of that ancient knowledge involves the proper relationship between our mind and the gods.

Throughout the Odyssey, one of the signature features of Odysseus is his discretion, his judgment, and his self-control -- in marked contrast to his companions and to many of the other characters we encounter in the poem. However, I would argue that there are three notable points in the Odyssey in which the hero forgets his characteristic sagacity and self-control, each time with nearly disastrous results: the first is when he is overwhelmed with despair at the sight of the waves dashing against the enormous cliffs after swimming for days and nights through the open ocean (described above, in the passage from Book 5), the second is when he taunts the cyclops Polyphemus after the memorable escape from the giant's cave (against the protests of his crew in this case, who realize that his arrogance and pride at that moment could easily get them killed -- and in fact it results in the prayer to Poseidon by Polyphemus, which is responsible for the active opposition of the powerful sea-god from that point forward), and the third is when Penelope deliberately tests his identity by telling him that she has moved their bed (which causes Odysseus to fly into a rage and forget his ordinary caginess, but which in this case does not result in disaster but rather in the reunification of the long-separated Odysseus and Penelope, because she was actually using a ruse to cut through his disguise).

We might characterize the three emotions or mental states that cause Odysseus to abandon his characteristic self-control as fear or panic (in the encounter with the surf-pounded rocks and cliffs in Book 5), pride or hubris (in the taunting of Polyphemus by Odysseus, which is found in Book 9 and lines 529 and following), and rage or out-of-control anger (in his response to Penelope's baiting, found in Book 23 and lines 193 and following).  

One lesson that we might take away from this observation (and there are of course endless layers of wisdom contained in the ancient myths of the world, such that we could consider this aspect of the Odyssey alone for years without exhausting the lessons that it holds for us) is that these are probably the three emotions or "programmed responses" that most often override our "better judgment" or mental equipoise and which can easily carry us away, with potentially disastrous consequences. Many of us have probably had the experience of looking back on things we said or did while carried away by such a state of mind and wondering who it was who was speaking or acting during that moment, so out of control were our runaway thoughts and their outcomes.

And, if someone like Odysseus -- who is able to control himself in some of the most difficult and harrowing situations imaginable -- can succumb to nearly out-of-control panic, arrogance, and rage, then what hope do ordinary men and women like us have of maintaining control when it matters the most?

The answer, I'm convinced, has to do with another signature characteristic displayed by Odysseus in the epic -- his receptiveness to the inspiration of the gods, particularly to the goddess Athena in his case. When we see his thoughts running away with him in the passage in Book 5, when he is in fact in great physical danger, physically exhausted from paddling through the ocean and now being carried towards a rocky shoreline pounded by enormous breakers, it is the inspiration of the goddess that enables him to pull himself together and get out of the situation safely.

I would argue that in order to be able to keep our mind from running into complete despair in certain situations, or from flying off into a rage over injured pride, or from giving free rein to the hubris that is depicted as the downfall of so many protagonists in the ancient Greek plays, the ancient myths indicate that the assistance and inspiration of the gods is actually necessary and essential.

We see this necessity portrayed in many other ancient stories from many other sacred traditions in other cultures. For instance, Arjuna is basically in a state of complete despair at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, and the situation is not remedied until he is able to turn over the "control of the horses" to the divine charioteer, the god Krishna. Similarly, "Doubting Thomas" is basically in a similar state until he brings his mind's capacity for being skeptical and suspicious (which are actually good and necessary characteristics, as long as they don't get out of control) into the proper relationship with his "divine twin," the Lord Christ.

Our mind's ability to think of different contingencies, and to play out different scenarios down into three or four branches of possible outcomes, is a good and necessary function -- one that we see as saving Odysseus from falling into various traps time and again during the episodes of the Odyssey. But the same capacity, if it runs amok, can easily lead us into panic (if our mind starts spinning out of control as it considers all the things that could cause us harm in a certain situation) or into rage (if our mind similarly starts spinning out of control by following the various branching pathways that begin with, "if this thing hadn't happened," or "if that person hadn't done this," etc).

In order to prevent that good capability of our mind from spinning out of control or running away with us, the ancient myths imply that we must bring it under the control of the powers that are beyond the visible realm. Arjuna must place the reins of the horses in the hands of the Lord Krishna, and Thomas must place himself in the proper relationship with the Lord Christ. In the examples from the Odyssey, Odysseus must remain attuned to the inspiration of the goddess Athena (and he usually does).

The connection with the powers of the Higher Self or the Other Realm is shown to be essential. The wise advice of friends or counselors, while very important for good decision-making in many situations, is not sufficient for those moments when our mind runs away into rage or panic or overweening hubris -- as we see, for example, when Odysseus ignores the pleas of his comrades to desist from his taunting of the cyclops in Odyssey Book 9 (and there are many similar examples in the Mahabharata of ancient India, and in other myths and scriptures the world over).

It is only by being able to put our mind into the proper relationship with the available assistance from the realm of the infinite that we can overcome the sudden burst of speed and power when the "horses of the mind" start to really run towards the cliff at full clip (the Katha Upanishad and other ancient texts describe our strongest senses and emotions as powerful horses that must be brought under control).

To that end, I believe, we have been given a variety of disciplines and practices which can facilitate our need to achieve the right relationship with our Higher Self and with the other powers in the realm of non-ordinary reality. Among these are meditation, mantras, chanting, Yoga, and many others (this subject is explored further in my latest book, Astrotheology for Life).

Interestingly enough, all of the above episodes in the Odyssey, in which Odysseus gives in to fear, rage, or overweening arrogance, can be shown to have connections to specific parts of the heavens and specific positions in the great wheel of the annual cycle marked off by the zodiac. The journey of Odysseus in the Odyssey can be shown to move through very distinct parts of that heavenly cycle, and to correspond to very specific challenges we face on our own journey through this "lower realm" of incarnate life. 

The hero ultimately transcends the "spin cycle" of Poseidon's realm when he begins to travel "upwards" towards greater integration and harmony with the Infinite realm -- to which he actually has a connection at all times, as do all of us (the ancient text seems to say). You can read much more about the celestial aspects of the events in the Odyssey, and their spiritual implications, in Volume Two of my multi-volume series entitled Star Myths of the World, and how to interpret them.

While we ourselves are down here undergoing that same "spin cycle," the runaway situations of panic, rage, and overbearing pride constitute real dangers that can lead to disastrous consequences. The ancient wisdom found in the world's myths points us towards the place where we can learn how to listen to the inspiration of Athena in such a situation, or to hand the reins over to Krishna before the horses take the chariot over a cliff.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The gorgeous night sky of June and July -- and mythical links from Greece to Kauai

This time of year provides some of the most dazzling star-gazing opportunities and some of my favorite scenes that can be seen in the infinite heavens during our annual circle. I would strongly encourage making the effort to get outside to a relatively dark location, away from city lights, in order to see it for yourself, if at all possible.

The diagram above, which is based on a screen-shot from the outstanding free and open-source planetarium app Stellarium, shows the view facing south for an observer in the northern hemisphere (in this case, at about latitude 35.6 north), at about 10pm. The outlines of the constellations as suggested by H. A. Rey (with some modifications of my own) have been added for some of the most prominent constellations, and simulated horizon has been added with a heavy green line.

Right now, the full length of the glorious constellation Scorpio can be seen stretched out near the very top of its arcing path between the eastern and western horizons during the prime-time viewing hours after sunset and before midnight. 

Note that Scorpio in the sky will look absolutely enormous -- far larger than it appears in the screen-shot above. Stellarium alters the size and shape of the constellations to simulate the "curve" that you are able to see when you step outside, "wrapping" the sky so that those constellations you will see when you turn to your left or right (outdoors) can be seen on the flat screen. In doing so, the program causes the constellations on the left and right edges to appear larger, and those in the center to appear smaller (as if farther away, so to speak). Thus, in the image above, Scorpio appears smaller than Leo -- but if you go outside and look at them, Scorpio will actually appear much larger in the sky than Leo. 

Also, Leo will be arcing steeply down towards the western horizon at this time of night and this time of year. That's why I drew-in the horizon line for you in the above diagram: if you imagine that horizon as being level all the way around (instead of "wrapping" upwards towards the upper left and right corners of the image), you will realize that Leo is actually angling downwards towards the horizon, head-first, in the image -- just as Leo is doing in the night sky.

The full body of Scorpio is visible above the horizon for most viewers in most latitudes, depending on the skyline to your south (if you are observing from a point in the northern hemisphere). This allows a beautiful view of the entire breathtaking constellation. Below is a closer view of Scorpio, also taken from Stellarium, which may give a better impression of the size and beauty of this amazing -- and mythologically important -- zodiac constellation:

Can you trace the line of the sinuous body of the Scorpion, which makes a shape like a large letter "J" in the sky, beginning at (or one star above) the bright red "heart" of the Scorpion, Antares? Above Antares, the constellation branches out into multiple "heads," and below Antares it follows a graceful curve down and then back up to the close-together stars of the "Cats' Eyes," then a sharp angle down to the "barb" of the Scorpion's tail.

Below is the same image, with the outline of Scorpio ("multiple-head" version) drawn-in:

When you go outside, you may only be able to make out the brightest three "heads" of the Scorpion (indicated by the largest-sized dots in the star-chart above). These give the constellation a real "T" shape at the top (or capital "J" if envisioned with a wide cross-bar at the top of the "J"). You can also envision these brighter stars as forming the claws of the Scorpion. 

In any case, you can no doubt see why I believe that the sinuous form of this constellation forms the famous fish-hook of the great Maui in the myths and sacred stories of the cultures of the Pacific. I have also explained in various places (including in my latest book, Astrotheology for Life), that there are traditions in the Pacific which describe Maui as having eight heads (which is why he is cast into the ocean by his parents, in some versions of the legend) -- no doubt because of the multi-headed aspect of the constellation Scorpio, which is positioned below the constellation Virgo in such a way as to appear to be a child to whom Virgo has just given birth.

In order to see why, look again at the "full-sky" star-chart at the top of this post, and find Virgo. Then, go out into the night sky and find Virgo (assisted by the fact that the brilliant planet Jupiter is presently moving through the constellation), and you will see that the effect is even stronger when looking at the actual stars themselves than it is when viewing a star-chart on a screen.

Directly above the stars of Scorpio is the towering figure of Ophiucus.

Ophiucus is a very satisfying constellation to identify in the sky, but it can be a bit challenging if you are not yet very familiar with its outline. This previous post gives some pointers on locating Ophiucus in the sky. Right now, Ophiucus will not be seen to be standing "straight up" in the hours before midnight -- at this time of year, Ophiucus is still rising from the horizontal position it assumes as it clears the eastern horizon towards the vertical position it makes when it crosses the midpoint of its arc (due south line, for viewers in the northern hemisphere). If you look back to the top star-chart and remember that the green horizon line "wraps" upwards to the left and right -- but that this is a convention of Stellarium to simulate the horizon to your left and to your right when you are outside, and that the horizon will actually be "flat" in real life -- then you will be able to see that Ophiucus is still largely "horizontal" in the image above (still mostly parallel to the eastern horizon, although starting to straighten up as it arcs upwards on its journey to the west).

Ophiucus can be seen to be "standing" on the head (or "heads") of the gigantic form of Scorpio -- and this fact points us towards some of the important myths which make reference to this relationship between Scorpio and Ophiucus.

Perhaps most notably, there is a famous verse in the text of Genesis in which the LORD is pronouncing judgments upon the serpent, the woman, and the man after the tasting of the fruit from the tree at the center of the garden, and just prior to the expulsion from Eden. In that verse (Genesis 3: 15), the LORD says to the serpent: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel."

We just saw that some myths envision the constellation Virgo (the woman) as giving birth to a figure associated with Scorpio (such as in some versions of the Maui cycle of myths). However, this passage from Genesis shows that Virgo can also be envisioned as giving birth to the figure of Ophiucus. In Genesis 3: 15, the text says there will be enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman, and the seed of the woman will bruise the head of the serpent, while the serpent will bruise his heel. It should be fairly clear that this is referring to the relative positions of Ophiucus and Scorpio in the sky -- with Ophiucus being described as the seed (or offspring) of the woman:

In the image above, I have highlighted in red the part of the sky in which Ophiucus can be seen to be "bruising the head" of Scorpio, while Scorpio reciprocates by "bruising the heel" of Ophiucus.

This same distinctive aspect of the relative positions of Ophiucus and Scorpio can be seen to play an important role in other myths from around the globe -- showing yet again that all the world's ancient myths and sacred traditions are in fact using a common system of celestial metaphor, and that the stories in the Bible are without doubt part of that ancient world-wide system.

For example, in the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice from ancient Greece, the beautiful Eurydice is bitten on the foot by a poisonous adder on the day of her wedding to Orpheus -- setting the stage for the story of the unsuccessful attempt by Orpheus to rescue his beloved from the land of the dead, which is an example of a myth-pattern that is extremely prevalent around the world and which is discussed at some length in Astrotheology for Life (and which I also mentioned in the presentation I gave last weekend at the Summer Solstice Celebration at the Great Serpent Mound).

The fact that Eurydice is bitten on the foot by the serpent in the various versions of the story of Orpheus and Eurydice shows that she is almost certainly associated with the constellation Ophiucus. Skeptical readers may object, saying that we might expect snakes, which live on the ground, to bite maidens on the foot, and that this aspect of the story does not necessarily indicate that Eurydice is connected to Ophiucus. This objection is a valid one, and in the book I give some other reasons for suspecting that Eurydice (at least before she descends to the underworld) is associated with Ophiucus in this myth. The strongest argument for an association of Eurydice with Ophiucus (besides the fact that she is always described as being bitten in the foot) is probably the fact that we can see Orpheus himself immediately above, in the celestial figure of Hercules. Hercules often plays the role of a divinely-skilled player of the harp or the lyre -- because the constellation of Lyra the Lyre is located immediately adjacent to Hercules: you can see it in the night sky now, marked by its very bright star Vega.

Of course, once Eurydice descends to the underworld, Orpheus goes down to try to retrieve her -- and when he does so, I believe he moves down to the position of Sagittarius for that part of the story (when he is leading her out of the underworld, with the strict admonition that he must not look back). Sagittarius is just now beginning to rise up from behind the eastern horizon in the hours before midnight -- you can definitely make out the brightest stars in the constellation, which form the shape which is often referred to as the "teapot" (also discussed in the video above from my talk last weekend).

Between Scorpio and Sagittarius you can see the dazzling band of the Milky Way, arching across the sky. It too is still somewhat "horizontal" to the eastern horizon, but throughout the night it will rise towards a vertical orientation as it crosses from east to west -- and over the coming weeks it will start out further and further along until we will see it in a fully vertical position during the prime-time viewing hours before midnight.

You can also make out both of the "enormous birds" who fly towards one another in the Milky Way band at this time of year: Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan. Because the Milky Way is still somewhat horizontal, you may notice that the wings of Aquila are pointing up-and-down, with the body of the Eagle basically pointing left-and-right, parallel to the horizon. Between the two great birds, you may also be able to make out the form of Delphinus the Dolphin, swimming along just below the band of the Milky Way between the two of them.

There are literally hundreds of other important myths which refer to the constellations in this part of the sky, and right now (and the weeks ahead) are some of the best times during the entire year in which to go out and view this beautiful celestial region, if possible.

The connections between the Genesis passage cited above and the story of Orpheus and Eurydice provide further evidence that the world's ancient myths are all built upon the same worldwide system -- a system which appears to have been given to humanity at an extremely remote date, a system which is shared by virtually all cultures on our planet, and which should thus be seen as uniting us, because we all share this incredible common inheritance.

It is also a system which I believe was intended to convey vital and powerful truths for our benefit during this incarnate life, using a sort of "language" or "code" in which certain parts of the sky indicate certain points on the various heavenly cycles, corresponding to certain aspects of the interplay between the Visible and Invisible realms.

The constellations and celestial features (such as the Milky Way band) which are now coming into view form an extremely significant region of the sky. I hope that you will have an opportunity to go out and see them for yourself, if at all possible, and to contemplate the profound teachings which that extremely ancient source of the world's traditions connected to this specific part of the sky for your benefit and blessing.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Lesson from Odysseus

Above is a new video just published, entitled "A lesson from Odysseus." 

This video is a project I was working on towards the end of May (2017) in response to a question sent to me via Facebook from a reader who had recently finished The Undying Stars, and who asks: "how exactly, in themselves does the power of the zodiacal constellations manifest 'in man'?"

This question is an excellent one, and concerns a very important subject. To try to begin to answer it, I consult a passage in the Odyssey, in which Odysseus receives inspiration from the goddess Athena. Because ultimately, as you will hear in my answer to that question, I believe that the constellations act as visible representatives for the powers in the Infinite and Invisible realm -- and that they take on the role of the gods and goddesses, although I do not believe the constellations are the gods themselves.

Undoubtedly, there are many, many layers involved in the answer to this question. And I am convinced that these layers of understanding are available to us by going to the ancient myths themselves, and listening to them in the language that they are actually speaking, which (at least on one level) is a language of celestial metaphor.

Thank you to the one who sent this question -- please feel free to contact me through any of the various available channels, including the public "comments" section of my main website (Star Myth World dot com), which can be reached via a link at the bottom of any of the pages on that site and which also includes a link for contacting me directly, as well as through Facebook, twitter, or in the comment section under the video itself on YouTube. And, as always, please feel free to re-post or share any of my videos with those who might find them to be of value.

Ultimately, I believe that the ancient knowledge contained in the myths is wonderful to learn on an intellectual level, but that it is really intended for us to put into practice in our daily lives. The "Lesson from Odysseus" described in the video above is, I believe, a very profound lesson, and one which involves bringing the power of the senses, the body, and the mind into control -- and one which the world's ancient myths and sacred traditions describe as requiring receptivity to inspiration from the Infinite, to which we actually have access at all times.

And because that receptivity does not always come naturally to all of us, many disciplines and practices have been passed down since ancient times in order to help facilitate greater integration with and sensitivity to the Invisible and Infinite realm -- among these we might include meditation, chanting, recitation of mantras, practices such as Yoga, and many others, some of which are discussed in my most-recent book, Astrotheology for Life (which, as its title implies, explores some of the ways that we can apply the wisdom contained in the ancient myths to our lives today).

For previous posts which deal with other aspects of this important subject, see also:
Also, if you wish to download an "audio only" version of the above video (so that you can listen to it on the go, or while doing dishes or working in the garden), you can right-click or control-click on this link in order to get a menu that should enable you to download an mp3 version of "A Lesson from Odysseus."

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Reflecting the Heavens in Star Myths & Sacred Sites

Big thank-you to everyone who attended my presentation at this weekend's Summer Solstice Celebration at the Great Serpent Mound. The talk was entitled "Reflecting the Heavens in Star Myths and Sacred Sites," and was given on Friday, June 16 (2017).

Above is a video of the presentation for those who were not able to attend in person, and also for those who did attend but who may have had trouble seeing the slides in the lighting conditions, or just want to review the material for any reason.

Additionally, the slides are posted online if you would like to examine any of them more closely. To see the slides from this presentation, you can go to the "Resources" section of my main website, which is called Star Myth World (dot com). Note that there is a link to the "Resources" section at the very bottom of any page on that website.

After watching and listening to the video recording of my own presentation, I did notice one or two mistakes, as well as things I could have said more clearly:

At 17:28 through about 17:36 in the video, I quoted John 1: 29, but say that it is John 1: 26 (this is a case in which a six turns out to be nine).

At 48:05 through 48:09, I say (of the various manifestations of the "Failed Retrieval from the Underworld" pattern, found around the world) "and also it shows that we're not immortal." What I might have said in order to be more precise at that point would have been "and also it shows that we're not immortal in the physical body (that we cannot prolong a single incarnate life forever, although some do teach that this is indeed possible)." It should not be taken to mean that I do not believe that the soul is immortal: on the contrary, I do believe that the soul does not die.

If there are any other points of confusion or questions raised by this presentation, please feel free to contact me via one of many different methods -- whether through the public forum at my main website (link to the "Comments" page can be found at the bottom of any page in the site), or through the direct message link in the same "Comments" section, or through twitter or Facebook, or via a message on the video itself (on YouTube).

And, of course, please feel free to link to or re-post this or any of my other videos, or to share them with friends or family who might find the information to be helpful or valuable in some way.

I hope this information will help you to approach the ancient wisdom in the world's myths and sacred stories; I am convinced that the ancient myths contain precious wisdom, vital to our individual journey as well as to the situation in which humanity finds itself today, and that they are intended for our benefit and blessing in this incarnate life.