Thursday, October 18, 2018

New video: Excerpts from Star Myths Volume Four (Norse Mythology)

It's a video of me reading an extended series of excerpts from my latest book. These passages focus on the incredibly important figure of the god Baldr (whose name is sometimes spelled "Balder" for speakers of modern English).

I hope you enjoy the message of this new video. As always, please feel free to leave feedback and if you feel moved to do so give it a thumbs-up or subscribe to the YouTube channel to receive immediate notification of future videos.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The antidote to censorship: "Like public land, water and the air itself, these frequencies are in the public domain"

image: Wikimedia commons (link, and background image link).

An extremely noteworthy and negative event took place last week, largely unreported by the corporate-controlled media: in a coordinated purge, Facebook and Twitter deactivated the accounts of hundreds of independent media pages, some of them with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers, just a few weeks prior to a major election.

Articles describing this coordinated purge of accounts can be found here, here, and here. Lee Camp and Eleanor Goldfield's overly profanity-laden but still substantive discussion of this important topic can be heard (or downloaded) here.

The fact that the personal Twitter accounts of some of the individuals associated with the pages that were purged from Facebook were simultaneously suspended for no specific reason (such as the Twitter account of Anti-Media editor Carey Wedler, discussed here) is a particularly ominous development and demonstrates that last week's deletion of accounts was coordinated across two major platforms for publication and political expression.

One standard response to this outrageous action by Facebook and Twitter (and to similar coordinated censorship involving Google and its YouTube platform in previous months) is that "these are private companies, and they can do what they want." 

This opinion is so widespread that it is raised as a possible counter-argument by both Carey Wedler in her video linked above and in the podcast by Lee Camp and Eleanor Goldfield, although in both cases they argue that the "private companies can do whatever they want" assertion is invalid. Carey, Lee and Eleanor are correct: the argument that private companies such as Facebook and Twitter can do whatever they want is invalid, although the counter-arguments offered in the video and podcast linked above are somewhat tentative.

It should be blatantly obvious that this coordinated act of political censorship is completely morally reprehensible and in fact patently illegal -- notwithstanding the fact that both Facebook and Twitter are private corporations. 

However, many in the "alternative" community are somewhat conflicted on this issue, because of the widespread adoption of the seductive but badly mistaken ideology of libertarianism, which believes there is little that cannot and should not be privatized, and rejects the idea that the government of the people should act as a counterbalance against the privatization of that which properly belongs to the public itself. As Professor Michael Hudson says in this regard, "Libertarianism thus serves as a handmaiden to oligarchy as opposed to democracy" (see full quotation on page 142 of his essential text, J is for Junk Economics, which is quoted in previous posts such as this one and this one).

The solution to the dilemma is to realize that the airwaves (or, more precisely, the electromagnetic spectrum) are part of the public domain: they are the gifts of the gods -- or, if you prefer, the gifts of Nature -- to all the people, not to a privileged few. Professor Hudson, who is deeply versed in the history of economic thought and in the counterattack that was launched by the proponents of "junk economics" against classical economics beginning at the end of the nineteenth century and on through the twentieth century, gets to the heart of this issue in a lengthy but extremely thought-provoking discussion that was recorded in 2004 with Standard Schaefer of Counterpunch, entitled "How Privatization Sterilizes Culture."

Note that this interview was recorded in 2004, the very year that Facebook was initially launched and long before Facebook was the media giant that it has since grown to become. Indeed, Facebook was not even opened up to the general public until 2006 -- and the very first generation of the iPhone (which would radically transform internet use and the power of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter) was not even launched until 2007. Twitter was not created until 2006 either.

In that 2004 interview, Professor Hudson declares that "the air waves are a natural monopoly" and that "like public land, water and the air itself, these frequencies are in the public domain."

The government, which in a democracy or a democratic republic should represent the people, has a vested interest in preserving the public domain for the use of all of the people. However, as Professor Hudson explains in that interview, the government failed to perform that duty during the first half of the twentieth century, and auctioned off the spectrum (the "airwaves") at fire-sale prices to be privatized, primarily to those with inside connections. 

And, as those who have read Yasha Levine's outstanding 2018 book Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet, the exact same pattern has been followed with the internet itself.

In Professor Hudson's 2004 interview, linked above, he explains that this pattern of giving away the public domain mirrors the giveaway of public land to the railroads during the nineteenth century (and created the same kind of multi-billion dollar wealth for those who benefit from these giveaways). Professor Hudson notes that the electromagnetic spectrum is technically not "owned" by the tech and telecom companies who license that spectrum from the government, but that they are paying 1920s prices for that spectrum, and that the government does not charge taxes anywhere near appropriate to the value of the public resource (the spectrum) that they are essentially giving away.

The classical economists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as Professor Hudson explains in J is for Junk Economics and in his other books, articles, and interviews, saw the gifts of nature (including "land, water, mineral rights, airwaves" etc, as he writes on page 60) as belonging to the public, and argued that these gifts were "best administered in society's long-term interest via government or a community, not monopolized by rentiers as the ultimate takeover objective of finance capital," which is exactly what has taken place in so many areas of society today under neoliberalism (accelerating, as Professor Hudson points out, after 1980).

Thus, the electromagnetic spectrum is a gift of Nature (or of the gods), just as are the air we breathe, the water in the streams and rivers and lakes, the growing power of the soil to produce crops and trees and lumber, the mineral wealth under the soil, the ports and harbors along the coastline, and indeed even the rays of sunlight which give life to every living creature and growing thing on our planet. 

The electromagnetic spectrum does not belong to Facebook.

It does not belong to Google.

It does not belong to Twitter.

It does not belong to Amazon.

It is a gift of Nature (or the gods) to all the people of the land, just as are the rivers and mountains and forests and the air we breathe.

The government -- which represents the people, according to the founding documents of this nation --  does not just have a right to administer that electromagnetic spectrum in society's long-term interest: it has an absolute duty to do so.

Facebook and Twitter, it should be pointed out, would not have much of a business without access to the electromagnetic spectrum over which their websites are broadcast -- and they are using that electromagnetic spectrum at the pleasure of the people, whose will is supposed to be represented by the government of the people, in a democracy or democratic republic such as that envisioned by the founding documents of this country. 

Obviously, the government can be captured by corrupt forces of cronyism who give away what rightfully belongs to the people (and thus give away that which by rights cannot be given away to be privatized for the benefit of just a few) -- and this exact form of cronyism and the pattern of giving away of the public domain to a few well-connected insiders has played itself out over and over in our nation's history (including in the examples cited by Professor Hudson in the above-linked interview).

However, the solution for that cronyism is for the people to wake up, and exercise their right to demand that such illegal giveaways be reversed. And, in the case of corporations who are using the public platforms they have built on top of what is, in fact, the public domain to abridge the freedom of speech, and the press, and the right of the people "peaceably to assemble," the people must demand that their representative government put an immediate stop to such illegal behavior by those companies -- which in this case includes Facebook and Twitter.

The supreme law of the land, enshrined in the Constitution, acknowledges that the freedom of speech, and of the press, and of the right to peaceably assemble are inalienable rights. Those rights are now being threatened, as a result of the egregious and lamentable giveaway of the public domain (discussed at greater length in the Michael Hudson interview) and the abject failure of the elected government (over the course of the past 100 years) to properly administer that public domain in the best interest of society and the people at large.

Because of that privatization, and that abdication, companies such as Facebook and Twitter have in large part become the public forum for the expression of ideas and political opinions. They must not be allowed to abridge the right of the people to peaceably assemble, or to express their ideas in a peaceable manner in the public forum. 

I would argue that this struggle goes all the way back to the destruction of the ancient wisdom that was given to all societies on earth in remote antiquity. The ancients understood that the gifts of flowing fresh water, or of the produce of the harvest, came from the invisible realm -- the realm of the gods. The story in Greek myth of the giving of the olive tree to the people of Athens, by the goddess Athena, is a good example which illustrates this principle. 

Staying with ancient Greece, they likewise understood the bounty of the harvest to be a gift from the goddess Demeter, and the riches of mineral wealth locked away beneath the soil to be given by the god of the Underworld. If we had to identify the god with whom the bounty of the electromagnetic spectrum would have been understood to be associated, it would most likely be Zeus himself (see image above).

The advent of literalist Christianity, and especially the series of events which led to its installation across the Roman Empire, led directly to the overturning of this understanding in the territories over which Rome exercised power -- and eventually to centuries of feudalism, during which the gifts of the gods to all the people were usurped for a small, well-connected segment of the population. The classical economists, with their focus on taxing rentier privilege and natural monopolies, wanted to undo the oppressive structures that characterized the feudal system -- and they were making significant progress in that direction throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, before the rentiers struck back.

But the cause of these rentiers and privatizers is ultimately doomed, because they do not have a leg to stand on. Their cause is not merely unjust -- it goes against the law of the universe itself. That which properly belongs to the gods, and which is given by the gods to the people of the land, cannot ever really be sold-off, or given away. It does not belong to the privatizers, who cannot claim to own the rivers, lakes, forests, aquifers, oil reserves, fresh air, or electromagnetic spectrum, any more than they can claim to own the sun itself.

To claim otherwise is to go against the deathless gods themselves -- and that path is always shown to be a path of folly and of ultimate destruction, in the timeless wisdom of the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories given to the ancestors of every man and woman on this planet.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Important article from Bibhu Dev Misra on the ancient petroglyphs of Maharashtra, India

Top left: Petroglyph in Maharashtra, India. From Bibhu Dev Misra's post, "12,000-year old petroglyphs in India show Global Connections." 
Top right: Winged scarab, tomb of Tutankhamun. Wikimedia commons (link).
Bottom: Screenshot from, showing stars of the zodiac constellation of Cancer the Crab. Colors inverted. Outlines drawn-in based upon constellation-outlining system suggested by H. A. Rey in 1952.

Several years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled "Gaps and Biases" in which I argued that the clues regarding humanity's ancient past resemble those we might encounter in a complex mystery story, and that the example of Scooby Doo and the gang (consisting of Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Velma, and Daphne -- each of whom clearly displays a variety of strengths and weaknesses, biases, predilections, and predispositions) might better illustrate what it will take to solve the puzzle than the example of Sherlock Holmes, who (while extraordinarily talented) was only one person.

In that post, I argued that unraveling the mystery of humanity's ancient past will likely require many different perspectives from many different researchers, all over the globe, bringing different perspectives, different approaches, different backgrounds, different strengths, and different suggestions.

One researcher might be most intrigued by the archaeological evidence found in the ancient monuments and megaliths around the world, while another might be most drawn to the evidence of a system of "scared geometry" encoded in the ancient art and symbols which have survived from antiquity. Another researcher might be drawn to the systems of gematria which are evident in many ancient sacred scriptures, while another might be predisposed to or especially experienced in the analysis of geology and the geological evidence which can help us to untangle the mystery of our planet's ancient history -- and of the timeline of humanity's distant past.

Additionally, the very fact of our different backgrounds and upbringings on different parts of the globe and in different cultures will naturally enable some researchers to examine and analyze evidence which might be more difficult for others to interpret.

In light of this assertion, I believe it is imperative for as many of us as possible to join the effort of examining the evidence available to us and to see what perspectives and insights we can offer in order to contribute to the task of recovering the truth about our planet's ancient history -- and the ancient history of humanity. 

A little over a year and a half ago, I wrote a blog post calling attention to the outstanding analysis which Bibhu Dev Misra has been publishing at his website entitled Myths, Symbols and Mysteries. In my blog post, entitled "An important article from Bibhu Dev Misra on evidence of Yoga in ancient Central America," I agreed that the connections which Bibhu was arguing between postures depicted in pre-Columbian figurines from the Americas and Yoga postures or asanas which have been practiced for thousands of years in India and other parts of Asia. 

Additionally, I offered the suggestion that some of the connections which Bibhu was finding between depictions of deities in Central America and depictions of deities described in the scriptures of ancient India (including depictions of the god Shiva) may in part be due to the fact that the world's ancient myths show unmistakable signs of being based upon a common, worldwide system of celestial metaphor -- and that the similar characteristics between the specific gods depicted in ancient India and ancient Central America may be due to the fact that both deities are based upon the constellation Ophiuchus in the heavens, and share the specific characteristics of that constellation.

In other words, this is in which evidence that we see in the archaeological and artistic record (in this case, depictions of a specific god in more than one ancient culture, from very different parts of the globe) can also be seen to be connected to evidence in another field of study: the study of the evidence that the world's ancient myths are all based upon a common system of celestial metaphor, and that the gods and other figures in the ancient scriptures and sacred stories correspond to specific constellations in the night sky.

This is a perfect example of the ways in which different researchers, looking at different evidence and bringing different backgrounds, can add evidence which suggests that the world's sacred traditions appear to share connections which defy the conventional narratives of humanity's ancient history -- and point to the possibility that our understanding of the remote past is in need of radical revision.

Last week, Bibhu Dev Misra wrote another tremendously insightful article, this time examining the magnificent petroglyphs of the Maharashtra region of India, many of which have only recently come to light. His article is entitled "12,000-year-old petroglyphs in India show Global Connections," and I strongly encourage everyone to read his analysis very carefully and consider its implications.

His arguments -- and the evidence in the massive petroglyphs of Maharashtra, which may date back to the incredibly remote date of 10,000 BC -- point to the conclusion that well-known symbols which can be found in other cultures (literally around the globe) may have already been in use several thousand years prior to the oldest civilizations known to conventional history. These symbols may belong to some now-forgotten predecessor culture or cultures, predating ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, ancient China, and ancient India by many millennia. 

The evidence which Mr. Misra presents in his article is extremely compelling. Equally astonishing is the fact that all of the examples which he discusses can be shown to have a celestial component as well -- and thus to provide yet further evidence that the world's ancient myths and scriptures (which, I have argued, can be convincingly shown to be based upon celestial metaphor as well, and to be using the same system of celestial metaphor in myths all around the world) are likely also descended from some now-forgotten predecessor culture -- and thus are all closely related.

For example, Mr. Misra begins by showing an enormous petroglyph found in Maharashtra, thought to date back to 10,000 BC -- and he argues that it bears close and unmistakable resemblance to the symbol of the "winged scarab" depicted in numerous inscriptions and surviving pieces of artwork from ancient Egypt. Below is an image from his article, juxtaposing the petroglyph on the left and a winged scarab on the right:

I would agree completely with Bibhu's analysis and his assertion that the petroglyph in Maharashtra is indeed a form of "winged scarab" -- and I would also agree with him that the implications of this similarity are profound. Ancient Egypt is believed to have flourished from about 3000 BC until the rise of classical Greece and Rome, thousands of years later -- going back to a time which is fully five thousand years before our present time, here in the twenty-first century AD (or CE, if you prefer).

And yet the petroglyphs of Maharashtra, India are thought to date to a time fully seven thousand years prior to the dawn of the civilization of ancient Egypt! In other words, the very earliest days of ancient Egypt are closer in time to us than the days of the architects of these ancient petroglyphs in India would be to someone at the dawn of ancient Egypt. We look back to the start of Egyptian civilization and imagine the gulf of time separating us from that day as a vast gulf of time indeed. And yet the gulf of time separating the first days of Egypt from the origin of these petroglyphs in India is greater still by fully two thousand additional years.

The implications are staggering -- and yet I'm convinced that there is still more to this story. Because, as I have argued many times in the past, in blog posts going back many years, the symbol of the scarab with its upraised arms can almost certainly be seen to be directly related to the constellation of Cancer the Crab in the night sky (a constellation whose most distinctive features include its outstretched arms, as well as its "Beehive Cluster" of stars in the middle of its forehead -- which relates to the location of the pineal gland, the Third Eye, and the elevation of the consciousness at the top of the Djed Column, all of which explain why the scarab would often be depicted with outstretched, upward-curving wings).

Previous posts which have argued the connection between the scarab and the constellation Cancer include:
I would argue that the evidence pointing to an identification between the constellation Cancer and the ancient symbol of the scarab with upraised arms is extremely compelling. Based upon this well-established correspondence, the appearance of a winged scarab petroglyph among the ancient artwork of Maharashtra, India argues that this connection may predate ancient Egypt (and any other ancient civilization known to conventional history) by many thousands of years!

At the top of this post is an image juxtaposing both the ancient petroglyph from India and a winged scarab from ancient Egyptian art with the outline of the constellation Cancer in the night sky. The similarities may not appear to be particularly striking, but when it is understood that Cancer the Crab also occupies an extremely important place on the great cycle of the year (near the "top of the year," and the summer solstice) then the significance of this constellation -- with its upraised arms and dazzling "Beehive Cluster" located in the forehead region -- may be more understandable. 

The other two examples offered by Bibhu Dev Misra in his important article on the petroglyphs of Maharashtra can also be seen to have strong celestial connections. The third example he offers in his examination finds an unmistakable similarity to the constellation Pisces, another zodiac constellation and one which also occupies a significant location on the great celestial cycle of the year. The arguments in Mr. Misra's article that one of the petroglyphs in India depicts the constellation Pisces are extremely compelling, and indeed I would argue that the identification is undeniable. 

This celestial correspondence, added to the correspondence just argued between the symbol of the winged scarab and the zodiac constellation of Cancer, adds to the evidence we find in the myths that some extremely ancient culture must have existed long before ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia and ancient China, and must have seen in the cycles of the heavens a way of conveying deep spiritual messages using an esoteric system of celestial metaphor.

Because there is such a clear depiction of a very familiar zodiac symbol, in the ancient petroglyph which evokes the Fishes of Pisces, the arguments that the other petroglyphs are also celestial in their origins is even more sustainable. 

The next petroglyph that Bibhu Dev Misra's article examines, after the symbol of the scarab, is a petroglyph depicting a pattern which is found worldwide and is often called the "master of animals" (or the "mistress of animals"). This symbol has been found by Richard Cassaro in artwork on many continents, including in the Americas -- and he often refers to it as the "god self" icon (see Richard's excellent analysis on his website here).

I have corresponded with Richard and offered my opinion that this "god self" symbol (which is also referred to as the "master of animals," or -- when female -- the "mistress of animals" symbol) is almost certainly indicative of the constellation Ophiuchus. Below is the image from Bibhu Dev Misra's article about the petroglyphs of Maharashtra, showing the "master of animals" petroglyph juxtaposed with a similar icon from ancient Mesopotamia:

And below is an image of the stars of the constellation Ophiuchus, from the free online planetarium app Stellarium, with the constellation's outline as suggested by H. A. Rey in 1952:

Note the oblong central body of the constellation Ophiuchus, as well as the serpents held on either side of the figure. These serpents give the constellation the name by which we know it, which means "Serpent-holder" -- but the wiggly lines on either side of Ophiuchus could be interpreted as other types of animals, or as lightning bolts or other symbols, in the many different variations of the "god self" or "master of animals" symbol found in ancient artwork from around the world.

Below, for example, is an image of the famous "Portal of the Sun" at Tiahuanaco (or Tiwanaku) in the modern state of Bolivia, in South America. At the top-center of the gate, we see a "god self" icon (as Richard Cassaro has pointed out):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The fact that the figure on this ancient gate or portal has a long tunic-like garment, reaching down to cover most of its legs (so that only the feet are visible) is indicative of the outline of Ophiuchus in the sky as well. Even more revealing, of course, is the fact that this figure is holding linear shapes in either hand, on either side of its body.

Previous books analyzing the Star Myths of the World, and especially Star Myths Volume Two (Greek Myths) and Star Myths Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible), have provided abundant examples which prove beyond any reasonable doubt that the constellation Ophiuchus was associated  with gates and portals in ancient myth -- just as we see here in the great Portal of the Sun at Tiahuanaco.

Thus, in addition to the petroglyph of the winged scarab and the petroglyph of the Fishes connected by a distinctive band (indicative of Pisces) from the Maharashtra region of India, the petroglyph of the "master of animals" motif (or the "god self" icon, as Richard Cassaro names this pattern) can be shown to be related to an important celestial figure -- and one which plays an important role in the world's ancient myths and scriptures.

Finally, Bibhu Dev Misra's important new article examines a petroglyph from a different part of the state of Maharashtra in India -- this one thought to date to about 7000 BC by contemporary scholars. Mr. Misra argues that the ancient petroglyph (which still predates the earliest dates of ancient Egyptian civilization by about four thousand years) is related to the famous "imperial eagle" motif found in ancient Rome -- and in many later imperial crests particularly in Europe and Russia many centuries after  the apparent "fall" of the Roman Empire. Indeed, this "spread eagle" symbology is also found in the great seal and iconography of the united states.

Below is an image of the eagle from ancient Maharashtra, juxtaposed with an imperial eagle from the heraldry of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Below, I have added the stars of the constellation Aquila the Eagle, upon which I believe this very ancient "spread-eagle" motif is almost certainly based. Note the stars which form the two legs of the "spread-eagle" in the night sky, beneath the outstretched wings of Aquila. Note also that the stars of Aquila, three in number, could easily be envisioned as giving the constellation a "two-headed" outline, with one "beak" pointing to the left and one to the right -- a common motif in the "imperial spread eagle" in heraldry:

Top left: Petroglyph in Maharashtra, India. From Bibhu Dev Misra's post, "12,000-year old petroglyphs in India show Global Connections." 
Top right: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note that seeing the outline of Aquila "on paper" (or on a tiny screen) does not really do it justice: in the night sky, this constellation is much larger than it appears in any illustration. In the night sky, this constellation resembles a tremendous bird of prey (or even a bat), flying upwards through the Milky Way. This time of year is actually a very good season for viewing Aquila in person, if you are able to do so.

Either way, it should be readily apparent that the petroglyph from ancient India which Mr. Misra is discussing, and which predates any civilization known to conventional history by thousands of years, may well be based upon the outline of Aquila the Eagle in the night sky -- as are (I am convinced) the "spread eagle" symbols found in heraldry throughout Europe and Russia, as well as during the days of  the ancient Roman Republic and the Roman Empire.

Thus, there should be little doubt that the ancient petroglyphs recently discovered in Maharashtra, and analyzed by Mr. Misra in his insightful article, do indeed have worldwide connections -- likely indicating the existence of some extremely ancient culture, predating any known to conventional history by thousands of years, whose symbology is reflected in later cultures literally around the globe.

Further, these connections reveal the importance to that now forgotten ancient culture of the celestial figures found in the infinite heavens -- figures which also play a vital role in the sacred myths and scriptures of cultures around the world.

As Bibhu Dev Misra notes in his article, these petroglyphs indicate that the system of envisioning the constellations must be much, much earlier than is presently admitted by conventional history. This discovery, as he points out, "pushes back the date for the origin of astrological symbols to the period around 10,000 BCE or earlier, and raises the very real possibility that our astrological knowledge is the legacy of a lost civilization that flourished during the Ice Age."

He further points out that "such complex esoteric concepts and associated symbolic imagery" as that found in these 12,000-year-old petroglyphs are almost certainly not the product of the so-called "primitive hunter-gatherers" or "early humans" that we read about in our classroom textbooks predating the earliest civilizations of ancient Mesopotamia or ancient Egypt. Indeed, Mr. Misra suggests that these ancient petroglyphs may reflect "the esoteric knowledge of an erstwhile 'Golden Age' civilization that perished during the cataclysms of the Younger Dryas epoch (10,900 BCE - 9700 BCE) when our planet was struck by multiple fragments of a giant comet" (a theory that has been advanced by Graham Hancock and Randall Carlson, and see also the similar arguments of Professor Robert Schoch, who argues that an advanced ancient civilization may have been nearly completely obliterated and driven underground not by the impact of a comet but rather by violent outbursts of solar radiation and radioactivity around the same epoch).

In any case, it should be clear that evidence in the world's ancient mythology -- and particularly the existence of a worldwide pattern of celestial symbology, found in the myths and also in the world's ancient artwork and symbology -- is an extremely important line of evidence in the quest for the truth regarding the mystery of humanity's ancient past. I am convinced that the mythological evidence -- and in particular the celestial mythological evidence -- stands alongside the archaeological and the artistic evidence, all of which points towards the undeniable conclusion that the conventional narrative of humanity's ancient history is gravely flawed, and in need of radical revision.

Kudos to Mr. Bibhu Dev Misra for his outstanding analysis of the ancient petroglyphs of Maharashtra, India -- and their relation to ancient symbology. I would recommend adding his blog and his analysis to your list of regular reading.

And I believe we must all continue to analyze and discuss the evidence and the possible explanations for that evidence, keeping an open mind and a positive attitude as we explore various hypotheses, in the quest for the truth about our remote past.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Thor and Utgarda-Loki -- and the lies we tell ourselves

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

When I was growing up, one of my favorite Norse myths was the story of Thor's journey to the realm of Utgardsloki (also spelled Udgarda-Loki).

The story is found in the Gylfaginning, in the Prose Edda -- and as a child I read the lively retelling found in Norse Gods & Giants, by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire, a book which formed a very influential part of my childhood.

In that Norse myth, Thor and his companions are defeated by the jotuns led by Utdgarda-Loki -- not by greater strength or because Thor and his companions are not more capable, but rather because the jotuns cause Thor and the others to accept lies as though they were the truth, and it is the lies which defeat them (or through which they in fact defeat themselves).

Like the world's other ancient myths which make up the incredible inheritance imparted to humanity in remote antiquity, this amazing episode is esoteric in nature -- intended to convey profound truth which is absolutely vital to our lives today. When we tell ourselves lies, or accept the lies about ourselves which are given to us by others, we defeat ourselves. 

If even Thor, the strongest of the Aesir gods, can be defeated by accepting lies, how much more can the same apply to our lives?

We can know for certain that this Norse myth is esoteric in nature because it can be shown to be based on the stars in the heavens, as can so many of the other ancient myths and sacred stories from around the globe, from virtually every culture on every inhabited continent and island of our planet. My latest book, Star Myths of the World, Volume Four: Norse Mythology, goes into some detail examining the celestial foundations of the characters and events upon which the story of Thor's visit to Utgarda-Loki are based.

Of course, as a child, I simply enjoyed the myth itself, and did not perceive its esoteric nature. This pattern is actually the very definition of the esoteric -- just as a child in a Montessori program will learn how to construct a "trinomial cube" before he or she is even introduced to the concept of a trinomial (see discussion here).

It was only when I began to explore the Norse myths and their connection to the stars -- as well as to the world's other Star Myths from many different cultures -- that I began to perceive the message of the episode of the voyage to the realm of Utgarda-Loki (and many other episodes described in the Norse myths) for my own life, and its esoteric meaning.

What lies are you telling yourself that are causing you to "defeat yourself" in spite of your capabilities, in the same way that Thor defeats himself during his encounter with the jotuns?

What lies are we accepting, as a society, that allow us to be made fools of, like Thor and his companions?

Certainly one of the most pervasive lies, which robs us of strength in much the same way that Thor's great strength is defeated in the story, is the insistence of the unreality of the Infinite Realm, and the denial of any possibility that we might ourselves possess an inner connection to the Infinite. This doctrine, that everything is finite and that there is no Infinite Realm (no divine realm -- no realm of the gods) may well be the most central dogma of the modern world, impressed upon us constantly from all sides.

This teaching is so central, that it practically defines the world-view or "vision" that Black Elk described as the vision that was brought by the invaders and which opposed the Lakota understanding of a world of plenty (see previous posts entitled "Two Visions" and "Vision A or Vision B").

If we are all undeniably connected to the Infinite Realm, then it logically follows that we have access to what we need -- and that we are all in some way connected one to another (and to all the other plants and creatures on our planet). This vision is described by Black Elk as the vision which prevailed prior to the coming of the Europeans, when he says: "Once we were happy in our own country and we were seldom hungry, for then the two-leggeds and the four-leggeds lived together like relatives, and there was plenty for them and for us."

But if we are falsely told (and if we falsely believe) that we are not connected to the Infinite Realm -- and that, in fact, there is actually no such thing as an Infinite Realm -- then it stands to reason that we must live in a world of finitude, which is a realm of limits and ultimately of scarcity, in which resources are finite and there is not enough to go around. Such a vision will naturally disconnect men and women, not just from the Infinite Realm (which is their birthright), but also from one another -- as they try to grab for themselves the things that they need, before someone else does (since the vision of plenty has been replaced by a vision of scarcity).

This vision is also described by Black Elk, when he says that the invading Europeans cut everyone up into tiny islands, separated from one another and from the other creatures of the earth -- tiny islands around which a dirty flood of lies and greed surges, gnawing away at the islands and making them grow smaller and smaller.

Such is the power of the lie, and its consequences.

What is the antidote? What is the solution?

The antidote is the truth -- the solution is to stop believing the lies we have been told, and which we then begin to tell ourselves.

Where is the truth to be found?

It is found in the world's ancient wisdom, imparted in ancient times in the form of sacred myths and sacred scriptures, sacred stories and sacred traditions, given to every culture on our planet, full of truth for our benefit and blessing, as necessary today as the day they were first told (and perhaps even more necessary now than ever).

Properly understood, the ancient myths connect us all to one another, and to all the other creatures on our planet -- even as the enemies of the truth want to divide us (using lies).

Properly understood, the ancient myths also show us the existence of the Invisible Realm -- the realm of spirit, the realm of infinite potential, the realm of the gods. And yet the enemies of the world's ancient wisdom want to deny the existence of the Infinite Realm, and the vision that it leads to.

The enemies of humanity (and the enemies of the gods) want to deny the Infinite Realm, because they want to impose a vision of scarcity upon the people -- a vision of austerity. They want men and women to learn to "do without" their birthright -- and they want to teach lies so that men and women will believe those lies, and tell those lies to themselves, even as Thor (with his virtually limitless strength and power) believed the lies of Utgarda-Loki and was thus easily defeated and humiliated, over and over again.

In this way, the modern-sounding scourge of "neoliberalism" (with its emphasis on "austerity" for the men and women of earth, so that a corrupt few can abscond with the gifts of nature, the gifts of the gods, which are actually given to all) is actually just the latest manifestation of a very old con -- a con which seeks to supplant the truths of the world's ancient myths with clever lies, by those who hate the old gods and who hate the general "mass" of the world's men, women and children (from whom they feel cut off, just as Black Elk described).

But the ancient myths make clear that, even after we have turned our backs on the world's ancient wisdom, and accepted the lies of the collaborators against the gods, it is never too late to change our minds, and to stop accepting the lies which we have been telling ourselves. The gods actually manifest themselves through the actions of men and women (this much is demonstrated again and again in the world's ancient myths), and they are always ready to assist us, as soon as we are ready to become attuned to their presence.

We actually have an unbreakable connection to the Infinite Realm -- one which no amount of lies can ever completely sever -- even if we have been told that no such thing exists, and even if we have lived for years without availing ourselves of this promise.

Indeed, Thor himself (who must have learned his lesson from his voyage to the land of Utgarda-Loki) once showed up and said as much during an encounter with Olaf Tryggvason and his men, in an incident recorded some centuries after the realm of the north had been conquered by literalist Christianity and the sworn enemies of the old gods and the old ways.

His message: that the gods always stood ready in time past, to help men and women in time of need, even when the people were beset by giants, of tremendous strength and size, who "lorded it over" the men and women of the land, and greatly troubled them, and "straitened their condition" (which is to say, imposed austerity upon them, and deprived them of what should have been theirs). And, by his visit, Thor implied that the same could always be true again.

The story of that encounter was probably written sometime in the 1100s. Today, almost a thousand years later, its message seems more urgent than ever.

We truly face giants. And we have been tricked by illusions. We have swallowed lies, which we have then repeated to ourselves as if they were our own.

But the antidote to lies is the truth -- and the ancient wisdom still speaks to us with truth, if we can learn to listen to what it is telling us.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

The hideous "Salesforce Transit Center" as a metaphor for neoliberalism

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

If you need a good metaphor for the ravaging effects of neoliberalism, you can hardly do better than the aforementioned debate published in the San Francisco Chronicle and the related online journal SFGate over selling off pieces of artwork in public museums in order to help keep the museums open without having to raise the admission prices to levels higher than they already are (see "Transforming everyone and everything into commodities: arguments that museums should sell off their art expose the self-devouring rot at the heart of neoliberalism").

However, if the image of selling off (and thus privatizing) museum pieces does not convey the self-devouring rot at the heart of neoliberalism strongly enough for you (along with the fact, revealed in the above-linked blog post, that it was actually a neoliberal professor in the school of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley who argued the position that selling off artwork is a terrific idea, which is ironic given the fact that when the University of California was established in 1868, its founding charter established the goal of providing education free of tuition to all qualified attendees who are residents of the state of California [see section 14], a vision which was upended with the advent of neoliberalism in California under a certain governor who would later go on to implement similar policies nationwide as president) another perfect illustration has recently arisen in San Francisco, with the discovery of alleged cracks in the main support beams of the newly-opened "Transbay Transit Center," causing it to be closed until a strategy for repair can be implemented.

As a metaphor for the woeful state of public infrastructure in the united states under neoliberalism during the 21st century, this predicament would be hard to top -- but the symbolism is even better than that because the actual name of this public-transit center (as can be seen in the image above) is the "Salesforce Transit Center," named after the publicly-traded corporation, which contributed some money to the project to revamp the previous transit center (which was  damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake and is only now being completely repaired and refurbished). 

Apparently, the public funding for the project was not sufficient or the temptation to sell off the naming rights to the new landmark was too great for the officials in charge, so in exchange for some corporate donations the transit hub envisioned as the new heart of the (woefully inadequate) public transportation system in San Francisco will henceforth be emblazoned with a corporate identity. A more fitting metaphor for the state of the infrastructure in the neoliberal united states (beginning in earnest with the election of Ronald Reagan as governor of California, appropriately enough) would be difficult to imagine. 

The fact that the newly-opened center has now been abruptly closed-down due to cracks found in two central support beams is so fitting that, if the cracks were not actually real, someone would have had to invent them and broadcast the story to the public, just to perfect the metaphor.

Indeed, this article from yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle purports to show one of the cracks in the central steel beam, although despite the fact that I graduated from our nation's first engineering school, I myself would be hard-pressed to actually point out the insidious cracks themselves, and the photographs certainly do not label them (image included below, so that readers can do some building inspection for yourselves):  

I'm guessing that the crack in question can be seen snaking down from the right-angle intersection in the grey-colored support structures seen on the left-hand edge of the photograph as you face the image, but that's just a guess because the image is not exactly self-explanatory, and as mentioned the Chronicle itself provides no additional insight (their editors may have been too uncertain to hazard a guess either).

Of course, I'm certain that the cracks in the central beams are real, because later in the same story the Chronicle provides two photographs, each with a caption that tells us what is taking place: "construction crews corona off a section of the third-level bus terminal" inside the damaged transit center (see below). 

I personally have never heard of an engineering operation which involves the need to "corona off" a section of anything, although when I was in the 82nd Airborne Division we did a lot of training for operations known as "cordon and search," which involved "cordoning-off" sections of villages as part of "humanitarian operations" or other forms of "low-intensity conflict." 

Based on my later research, I know that a Corona is a kind of a beer, as well as the main part of the names of two very important constellations, which leads me to wonder if the entire story about two columns being cracked is some kind of elaborate celestial code or inside-joke between and among the elements who are happily privatizing that which properly belongs to all the people of a nation, using the cover of the depraved doctrine of neoliberalism (a term which Michael Hudson explains can be accurately understood as a form of neofeudalism), and laughing at the people as they do so through the medium of the vestigial organs of what was once known as "a free and independent press." 

Interestingly enough, Michael Hudson also insightfully points out, in his book J is for Junk Economics (which is essential reading on this and many related subjects), the very words "private" and "privatize" come from the Latin word whose root means to "take away" or "cordon off" (or, if you prefer, "corona off"), and which is the same Latin root which gives us the modern English words "deprive" and "privation" (see page 186 in his book, and see also my previous essays "Privatization vs the gods" and "Collaborators against the gods").

So, for a three-dimensional visual panorama of what neoliberalism (and its agenda of privatization, deprivation, corporatization and, especially, austerity for those "outside of the cordon") are doing to the world, the recent debacle at the "Salesforce transit center" seems to have a memorable image for everyone.

Once again, I must repeat that just because cracks in the twin center beams of the corporate-sponsored public-transit center provide a metaphor that even the most accomplished poet of bygone centuries would envy, this does not mean that I believe said cracks are not real, and a danger to the structural integrity of said transit center (not to mention a danger to the public themselves, who also provided some of the moneys used in the construction of the structurally-flawed public-transit center).

Indeed, based on my own professional opinion, I would not be surprised if the cracks in the main beams are the direct result of the hideous and visually oppressive aesthetic of the transit center, which appears to be almost purposely designed to send shivers down the spines of visitors, not to mention down the central columns supporting the entire structural monstrosity. 

Several of the articles linked above dutifully inform us that the "Salesforce Transit Center" has been dubbed "The Grand Central Station of the West" (by whom is not specified). If so, then the comparison only serves to call attention to the impoverishment of architecture and public works wrought by neoliberalism in the years intervening between the opening of Grand Central Station in 1871 (when nominal GDP in the united states was about $7.6 billion, which is calculated to be about $133 billion in 2012 dollars, and the population of the country was about 41 million souls, according to data found here) and 2017 when Salesforce made a deal to have San Francisco's new public transit center named after the company (and real GDP in the united states topped $19 trillion, with each single trillion equal to a thousand billions, which equates to about $18 trillion in 2012 dollars, and the population of the country was about 326 million, according to data found here).

In other words, although the country's population today is eight times larger than it was when Grand Central Station opened in New York City, and the country's economic output is more than 135 times greater, the newly-built "Grand Central Station of the West" (situated among some of the largest corporations on the planet, many of whose individual market capitalizations are greater than the entire real GDP of the entire united states from 1871, even if measured in 2012 dollars) is not only immeasurably uglier than the original Grand Central Station, but also so architecturally deficient that it could not even stay open for two months before it had to be shut down again for repairs.

Below for comparison is a photograph of the Main Concourse of the actual Grand Central Station:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Please note the uplifting atmosphere created by the architectural elements, and especially by the celestial vault of the ceiling, which is in fact painted blue and adorned with constellational imagery evoking the night sky. Below is one more photo of the same Main Concourse, this time with more daylight streaming in and greater visibility of the ceiling design:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

And now, please sit down before viewing the awe-inspiring grandeur of the modern rival to that 1871 edifice, seen below:

image: the above-linked Chronicle story.

Far from lifting up the spirit of the visitor, which is the effect of the architecture in the original Grand Central Station, it could well be argued that the designers of the "western" version have labored to bring to life a creation that would give the impression of thousands of pounds of institutional slag and high-school ceiling-panels, pressing down upon the unfortunate users of the Bay Area's public transportation systems -- and if this was their intention, then the designers appear to have succeeded beyond their wildest imaginations.

Indeed, in a blog post written all the way back in 2011, entitled "Mild but persistent torture" (after a phrase in the masterful Serpent in the Sky, by the late John Anthony West), I cited John West's observation that:
In the cathedrals and sacred art and architecture of the past, we see the knowledge of harmony and proportion employed rightly, provoking in all men who have not had their emotions permanently crippled or destroyed a sense of the sacred. It therefore takes not great leap in imagination to conceive of the same knowledge put to an opposite use by the unscrupulous. In principle, buildings, dances, chants and music could be devised that would reduce the mass of any given population to helplessness. (page 38).
That book was primarily about the "high wisdom of ancient Egypt," and the incredible level of harmony and proportion which infused the art and architecture of that civilization, still visible today even in its ruins. John Anthony West clearly saw evidence of "the same knowledge put to an opposite use by the unscrupulous" in the world around him -- and a brief examination of the architecture of the latest "public works project" in San Francisco (or, we should say, "public-plus-corporate works project") should leave little doubt as to which category this "Grand Central Station of the West" can properly be said to belong.

A brief examination of the image of the two massive pillars on either side of the entrance to the "Salesforce Transit Center," in the picture at the top of this post, reveals the overtly Orwellian design details which abound in modern public spaces. The pillar on the left (as we face the image) sports a spherical black surveillance camera, dangling from a little arm jutting out of the pillar about half-way up the photograph. The pillar on the right appears to have a low tubular railing all the way around its base, a few inches above the ground. The intended purpose of this decorative accessory is not immediately clear, but I suspect it was bolted there in order to prevent anyone from comfortably sitting at the base of the pillar and resting their back against it.

Below is another image from inside the transit center (this being the other image with a caption that tells us we are looking at a picture in which "work crews corona off a section of the third-level bus terminal," although in this photograph no one appears to be actively corona-ing (although a few workers are standing around in the background, and they may be Corona-ing, although it is difficult to tell from this distance).

Note that in this photograph, another oppressive-looking pillar is present (again giving almost entirely the opposite impression to the visitor from that imparted by the architecture of New York's Grand Central Station), and once again we see the same thin metal halo circling the base of the massive column, a few inches above the floor. One can only deduce that this barrier is added in order to make sitting down at the base of the pillar impracticable or at least extremely uncomfortable for the human body -- but not to worry, since the station's designers appear to have scattered a few groups of four chairs here and there, in similar fashion to those found in an airline terminal (although far fewer in number). 

Even though airline terminals have many more chairs available than these, I'm sure many readers have, like me, found them all filled up at various times, and have been forced to try to find a spot to sit on the floor. Don't try that in here, however. 

If you look at the pleasant orange-colored walls of the blockhouse shown in the center of the above picture, you can just barely make out what appears to be a similar sort of railing or barrier around the base of those walls as well (look especially at the corner at the right-hand edge of the blockhouse, as you face the image). This might be seen as a way of dealing with your homeless problem -- you can either solve the structural issues underneath the surface which are creating that problem (some of which are discussed below), or you can build metal halos around the base of every structure against which someone might wish to rest their old bones for a spell.

Without doubt, the Salesforce Transit Center is equipped with a veritable plethora of metaphorical details for those seeking a manifestation of neoliberalism in all its apathy.

Perhaps, however, these metal halos are not a sign of lack of empathy at all but rather a safety feature, since based upon the building's cracks along the central beams, it may be inadvisable to get too comfortable anywhere within the confines of the structure itself.

Please note that I do not actually fault the leadership at the corporation for making the decision to contribute a few million dollars towards the multi-billion dollar project, in order to get their company's name on the city landmark. The project was looking for corporate sponsors and making the offer of selling off the name, and they made a business decision to "invest" in it. The decision may even have been influenced by a sense of civic duty and pride, in addition to purely corporate marketing motivations.

The real problem is not with this particular corporation, or the structurally-flawed transit center which it chose to sponsor, but rather with the deeper structures of the society itself, of which this cracked and oppressive edifice functions a rather apt and visually-striking symbol. The reasons that California has a difficult time funding public transportation projects in the first place, and a difficult time funding necessary infrastructure in general (just try driving around on the freeways in the Bay Area, to say nothing of infrastructure in the rest of the state), has to do with structural features which are common to the neoliberal economy that dominates the modern world. 

The contrast is particularly stark in California, which is home to some of the wealthiest and most successful corporations in the world (and certainly in the united states, during a period in which many other industries across the country are faring much more poorly), and which is also home to some of the most expensive real estate in the world -- and yet which is also a state with some of the most criminally-neglected infrastructure, including the public school system, in the country. 

One of the main reasons that California has so much difficulty funding necessary infrastructure (and which, paradoxically, is also in large part responsible for the soaring real estate costs in the state, which make housing among the least affordable in the world) is the state's neoliberal property tax laws, beginning with Prop 13 (also known as "Jarvis-Gann," enacted in 1978), which I still remember being hotly debated at family gatherings in the year before it was passed (when I was just a child).

Unlike a sovereign government, which can (and actually must) run a deficit in order to inject money into a growing economy (see discussion here, and also see the voluminous material available online regarding Modern Monetary Theory and how fiscal policy works in a modern economy, some of which can be found here), a state such as California cannot create its own currency, and thus must run a balanced budget over time. This means it must fund its expenditures either with taxes or with borrowing (or by selling off the commons, all of which appear to have been used during the funding of the Transbay Transit Center).

Proposition 13, which passed by an overwhelming margin, stipulated in 1978 that property taxes in California would be locked in at 1976 valuations for all property owned at that time, and subject to no more than a 2% increase in valuation per year thereafter, until the property was sold to someone else, at which time they would receive a new valuation, although the same 2% maximum increase per year would still apply going forward from the sale. In case anyone is not aware of it, property values in California have increased at a bit more than 2% per year since 1976, to put the situation mildly.

What this unburdening of real estate from taxation did to California was place a big anchor on the state's ability to meet its infrastructure spending obligations in the subsequent decades, especially as population increased dramatically. 

As for making housing more affordable, you can ask residents of California whether the law has had that effect on affordability. In actual fact, as Professor Michael Hudson explains in this video clip (embedded below) from November 2016 (and as he explains in many other interviews, essays, and books), lowering taxes on real estate actually has the effect of making housing much less affordable -- because the banks end up getting what would have been paid in taxes, and because lowering taxes on real estate makes rentier activity much more affordable (and encourages people to hold on to more property, restricting supply and driving up both rents and property costs). 

However, before those who voted for Prop 13 get too angry, let me note that I personally would argue for eliminating the property tax on the place of residence (where someone is living, as opposed to a rental property), as well as on small farms up to a certain size. The classical economists argued for taxing rentier activity -- and it is rentier activity that neoliberalism consistently want to un-tax, forcing the tax burden onto productive activity instead (including small businesses and wage earners).

If you are a landlord who owns vast tracts of land, or dozens (or even hundreds) of vacation houses or apartment complexes that you rent out, removing the ability of the state to increase the tax on those business properties commensurate to their actual rental value means that you will be much less likely to decide to sell them, all other things being equal. This means less property coming to market, and higher rents and higher property prices. 

And, as Michael Hudson explains, when the tax burden is removed from rent-producing properties, then buyers simply calculate that they can make a larger mortgage payment in order to buy the same property and bring home the same amount of profits (paying the bank in interest the dollars that would otherwise have been calculated as going to the state in the form of property taxes), and will thus bid up the prices of properties based on the calculation of what they can afford to borrow to get the income from the rent-producing property. The dollars which are lost to the state end up in the profits of the banks -- and the banks are not responsible for public infrastructure such as roads, schools, or Transbay Transit Centers.

The whole purpose of Prop 13 / Jarvis-Gann was to prevent homeowners from being priced out of their own homes by rising property taxes every year -- this is how the proposition was sold to the public, and this is why the public voted for it in overwhelming numbers in 1978. That goal could be accomplished by making someone's primary residence tax-free (or keeping taxes very modest on the primary residence), while increasing the taxes on income-producing properties. Doing so would change the calculation of owning income-producing real estate, and would make more property available. Instead, by throwing enormous tax incentives at rental real estate, those with large portfolios of income-producing properties are incented to hold onto it as long as possible, even if it would be uneconomical to do so if it were not for the stupendous tax advantages afforded to real estate at the expense of infrastructure.

Thus, the "Salesforce Transit Center" debacle has roots which go much deeper than the landfill on which that particular egregiously-designed building is constructed. The causal factors of this problem, of which the transit center is only the barest tip of a very large iceberg, go down to the very structures of neoliberalism, which have been enacted around the world with extremely deleterious effects, and which are also directly related to the illegal wars being waged in many parts of the globe at this very moment.

Apologists for neoliberalism will perhaps point out that the original Grand Central Station itself, as well as many other train stations around the country, were also built in part (or in whole) with private funds, many of them by railroad companies. However, that argument would only serve to prove the point, because as Michael Hudson points out elsewhere (see for instance some of the quotations cited in this previously-linked article), the "land grants" given to the railroads during the nineteenth century in the united states turned the railroads (and their owners) into the largest real estate holders in the country, and were essentially an egregious example of a privatization of that which belonged to all the people (or, it could be argued, to the Native Americans first and foremost), with results that are still being felt to this day. 

That giveaway was an earlier manifestation of the very same kind of neofeudalism which we see spreading into advanced stages in recent decades. Pointing to the "railroad barons" of the late nineteenth century and saying, "See, what we're doing today is nothing new" is not exactly a very compelling argument, if you want to try to defend the current system.

In point of fact, it is absolutely true that neoliberalism's central tenets are indeed nothing new. I have argued in previous posts that the suitors in the Odyssey of ancient Greece, who lounged around the home of Odysseus in his absence, devouring the substance of his household while plotting ways to sleep with his wife and murder his son, are another apt metaphor for the rentier behavior that the classical economists sought to reduce, and that the neoliberal backlash against the classical economists seeks to enable.

The Odyssey demonstrates to us that the behavior of the suitors was an affront to the gods.

The ungainly saga of the "Salesforce Transit Center" in San Francisco, right down to the cracks in its central steel beams, should show us the same thing.