Monday, June 29, 2015

Glorious Jupiter and Venus, and the Five-Husband Pattern in the Mahabharata and John 4

image: Stellarium (

Observers of the night sky have for some time now been watching with great anticipation the steady approach of the planet Jupiter to dazzling Venus in the western sky during the hours after sunset. 

The two are now extremely close, just over one degree apart on June 28. As described in the always-helpful "This Week's Sky at a Glance," from Sky & Telescope, the two will be a mere 0.6 degrees apart on June 29, and reach their closest point on June 30 when they will close to 0.3 degrees before Jupiter passes on and continues on his way. (Note that these dates are based on the the date effective for an observer located in most of the western hemisphere and North America in particular, but if you are located in another part of the globe you should be able to easily find a site on the web that will tell you what the calendar date will be in your area when these passages take place).

In the image above, you can see Jupiter approaching Venus directly above the letter "W" that signifies the cardinal direction west. Jupiter is located higher in the sky and towards the "left" for an observer facing west in the northern hemisphere -- Jupiter has been approaching Venus from further east on the ecliptic path that both the planets generally follow: that is to say, from the direction of the star Regulus which is also marked on the diagram above and which is located in the zodiac constellation of Leo the Lion, the importance of which will be discussed a bit later.

It is not hard to imagine why the approach of one significant celestial body to another in this manner was frequently allegorized as a seduction or a sexual liaison in the world's mythologies. During the buildup to a previous "close approach" of Jupiter to Venus, back in 2012, I discussed the fact that Zeus (Jupiter) was described in ancient mythology as pursuing Aphrodite (Venus) but being rejected by her and not actually having direct sexual relations with her, and that this detail from the myths is no doubt derived from the fact that Jupiter always passes close to Venus but the two never actually conjoin in the sky.

One might wonder why Venus is very often depicted as a female goddess, while Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are depicted as male gods. I believe it has to do with the fact that as an interior planet -- with an orbit that is within the orbit of the earth, relative to the sun (Venus orbiting on a path closer to the sun than does the earth) -- an observer on earth must always look in the general direction of the sun in order to see Venus (if you are having trouble visualizing this, there are some outstanding diagrams on the excellent website of Nick Anthony Fiorenza, here, and some further discussion of the celestial mechanics of our observation of Venus in a previous blog post here).

What this means is that Venus will never be seen to be very far from either the western horizon that the sun has just disappeared beneath (when the sun sets and Venus is on the part of her orbit when she is seen in the west) or from the eastern horizon whence the sun is preparing to burst forth in the morning (when the sun is getting ready to rise and Venus is on the part of her orbit when she is seen in the east). In other words, Venus will always be "tethered" to the sun and thus will never be seen ranging across the middle of the sky at midnight: Venus will always be seen above either the western horizon or the eastern horizon, in fairly close company to the sun (currently, Venus is seen above the western horizon, after the sun sets).

On the other hand, the "outer planets" whose orbits are outside of the earth's orbit around the sun (they orbit at a distance from the sun greater than the distance of earth's orbit) can be seen to range across the entire night sky. They always follow the same general "track" of the ecliptic path ( the path that the sun also follows, as well as the moon, although the moon like the planets can deviate by a small number of degrees either above or below the ecliptic line that the sun follows), but along this track they can be seen across the entire width of the sky -- unlike the interior planets who are "tethered" to the sun.

This means that Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn can be seen crossing the middle of the sky at midnight, when an observer on earth is turned completely away from the sun. A planet in the middle of the sky at midnight can only be located outside the orbit of the earth (because an observer on earth looking into the center of the sky at midnight is looking out into the heavens in the opposite direction from the sun, which is on the other side of the earth at that time). So Venus can never be seen out in that direction (neither can Mercury, whose characteristics will be addressed in a moment).

Because of these mechanics, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn can all approach Venus from the center of the sky, as Jupiter is doing now, and when they do so, they resemble a man pursuing a woman, or advancing their cause with a woman to seek either marriage or an amorous liaison with her.

Of course we all know that it is also possible for a woman to pursue a man, and such pursuits are certainly portrayed in the ancient myths -- but when Jupiter is striding across the sky in a long, purposeful pursuit of the beautiful shining Venus, as he has been doing for some time now and getting closer every night, the ancients allegorized this behavior in mythology as the confident but amorous leader of the gods chasing after the goddess of beauty in order to have an affair with her.

As for Mercury, his orbit is even closer to the sun than that of Venus, and so he can only be seen under the same conditions that we see Venus, but "even more so." Tethered even more tightly to the sun, Mercury can only be observed above the eastern horizon just before the sun comes up, or above the western horizon just after the sun goes down, and the planet has an even more limited range above the horizon (and away from the sun) than does Venus. Thus, Mercury is usually seen being approached by Venus, rather than the other way around -- and so he is the one who is described in myth as being pursued by the love goddess.

Once we understand that it was very common for these close conjunctions of celestial bodies to be described in mythology as sexual affairs, we can perhaps unravel what seems to be a very important theme found in more than one myth across different cultures: the situation in which a woman is described as having five husbands.

In the Mahabharata, for instance, one of the two epic Sanskrit poems of ancient India (and which by itself is equal to about 7.2 times the combined length of the Iliad and the Odyssey), the five principle heroes of the story -- the Pandavas or "sons of Pandu" -- are actually the children of the two wives of Pandu but by five different gods or divinities.

Pandu's two wives are Kunti (also known as Pritha) and Madri. Because of an incident in which the glorious Pandu while out hunting thoughtlessly shot a stag while it was mating, which turned out to be no ordinary stag but rather a powerful rishi in the form of a stag, who before expiring told Pandu that he would meet his death the next time he approached one of his wives out of desire, Pandu took vows of strict austerity and abstinence. Therefore, in order to obtain children, Pandu instructed his wives to use a powerful mantra which could instantly summon the celestial powers, which they did.

Kunti first summoned the god of justice in his spiritual form, and from their union was born the eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira. After that, she used her mantra to cause to appear the god of wind in his spiritual form, and from their union was born the mighty Bhima, who is also known as Vrikodara. Then, a third time, she used the mantra, and this time summoned Sakra, the king of the gods, and from their union was born the great hero Arjuna.

Then, Kunti told Madri the secret of the mantra, who used it to summon the divine Twins, known as the Ashvins, and from their union Madri herself had twins, whose names were Nakula and Sahadeva. The description of the births of Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva can be found in Book I and sections 123 and 124.

Together, these five heroes were known as the Pandavas. The Mahabharata relates many stories of their adventures during their upbringing, and how they were versed in the Vedas and in all the martial arts as they grew up. Their tremendous prowess caused their cousins, the descendants of Pandu's brother Dhritarastra, to become very jealous of them, leading to intense rivalry and eventually to the battle of Kurukshetra, which forms some of the central action of the Mahabharata, the celestial and spiritual aspects of which have been discussed in the two preceding blog posts and accompanying videos: here and here (with videos here and here).

Interestingly enough, when the mighty archer Arjuna won the hand of Draupadi, the Princess of Panchala and the most beautiful woman in the world, in a heroic test of his prowess designed by her father to test her many suitors, she becomes the common wife of all five of the brothers!

This situation arises because as they returned to the hut where Kunti was waiting for them, and called out to Kunti to see what they had won, she said (before they came into her view): "Enjoy ye all what hath been obtained," which leads them to decide to all share Draupadi (she appears to be amenable to this situation) but which is so directly contrary to custom and to the directives found in Vedic scripture that it leads to several discussions with leading human figures and with gods about whether or not such an arrangement can be proper, before it is finally decided that it is not usual but it can be condoned in certain situations (see Book I and sections 193 and following -- note that the Roman numerals used in the online version of the Mahabharata linked here are incorrect in this instance: the second "L" should be a "C," according to my analysis of the chapters and my understanding of the system).

However, as with so many other events described in the ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred stories, this is a situation which I believe has a celestial foundation and in no way reflects something that we should interpret literally -- any more than we should interpret literally the Old Testament stories about the rash vow of the reluctant general Jephthah, or about the two she-bears summoned by the prophet Elisha to rend the youths who taunted him.

To understand why this situation of Draupadi marrying all five Pandava brothers is almost certainly a celestial myth and not mean to be understood literally, first consider the fact that it seems to mirror very closely the five different divine fathers of the Pandavas themselves (although with two different women, Kunti and Madri, rather than with a single woman). What is it about five different "husbands" in mythology?

While we ponder that question, readers who are familiar with the scriptures of the Bible may be asking themselves whether there could be any relationship between these "five-husband" situations in the Mahabharata and the famous episode described in the New Testament book of John, chapter 4. There, Jesus is described as going through a city of Samaria, and coming to Jacob's well, and being wearied with his journey sitting down to rest at the well, where he encounters a woman of Samaria, and asking her for drink.

During the course of the conversation, he tells her to call her husband, and she tells him she has no husband, whereupon Jesus replies:
Thou has well said, I have no husband:
For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly [John 4:17 - 18].
This passage has been the subject of much interpretation and debate amongst those who try to understand it as if it were describing a literal and historical event, but I believe that here again we are dealing with a celestial allegory. It is certainly remarkable to find a situation with five "husbands" in the New Testament scriptures which parallels so closely the "five-husband pattern" that we have just observed operating not once but twice in the stories contained in the Mahabharata of ancient India (which scholars believe to have been in existence in many of its central details by about 400 BC, and to  contain stories and episodes whose origin goes back many centuries earlier than that).

I believe that we can begin to unravel the celestial metaphor at work in these "five-husband" myths, based on the understanding of the pattern of sexual allegory observed in the approach of Jupiter to Venus with which we began this discussion, above, and which can also be seen operating in other ancient myths such as the Greek myth of the dalliance between Aphrodite and Ares described in the Odyssey, in which the rightful husband of Aphrodite, Hephaestus, springs a trap for his unfaithful wife -- and which the author's of Hamlet's Mill (basing their analysis on the work of previous researchers from the eighteenth century and even from ancient times) argue is an allegorization of a conjunction between the planets Venus and Jupiter in the vicinity of the Pleiades (which represent the shimmering net with which Hephaestus traps the adulterous couple).

Now, it is certainly possible to interpret the identity of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 as being associated with the zodiac constellation of Virgo -- and indeed, I believe the story contains clues to make an identification with Virgo in this particular story a correct connection, as we will see in a moment.

However, I believe that the part of the story of the woman at the well in which we learn that she has "five husbands" comes from somewhere other than the sign or constellation of Virgo.

Seeing that the woman in many ancient myths is often related somehow to the sign and the constellation of Virgo, we might first try to use that knowledge to find the origin of the multiple husbands. We might ask ourselves, how would an identification with Virgo explain this persistent pattern of "five husbands" which we have observed in both the Mahabharata and the John 4 episodes?

What could there be in the heavens that add up to the number five and that somehow pursue Virgo in a way that could be allegorized in this way? Well, we know that there are five visible planets which an observer on earth can easily see with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It could be that the "five husbands" represent the five visible planets, passing through the constellation Virgo at various times, and giving rise to these myths about one woman having five husbands -- but I do not believe that this is the correct interpretation, for a couple of reasons.

First, as we have already seen, out of the five visible planets, Venus and Mercury are "interior planets" and thus they stay closely "tethered" to the sun. Because of this fact, and because of the planet's brilliance and beauty in the sky, Venus is usually depicted as a female goddess, who is "pursued" by the outer planets. This would seem to disqualify Venus from being one of the "husbands" if we are trying to count the five visible planets as the five husbands.

More importantly, the interpretation of the "five-husband pattern" as being based upon the constellation Virgo being visited by the five different visible planets does not work very well as an interpretation of the myth of the birth of the five Pandavas by the two wives of Pandu, Kunti and Madri, because Madri is specifically described as calling upon the twin Ashvins using the mantra, and by union with these divine Twins she herself bears the twin Pandavas, Nakula and Sahadeva. The celestial Twins are associated not with two of the visible planets (none of which can really be described as a "twin" to any of the others), but rather with the constellation of Gemini, the Twins. Because the Twins of Gemini do not "make their way" across the sky to the constellation Virgo, it is likely that the solution to the "five-husband pattern" is something else.

I believe that in the case of the two wives of Pandu, Kunti and Madri, we are dealing with the two interior planets, Venus and Mercury -- with Kunti (the primary consort of Pandu) corresponding to Venus and Madri corresponding to Mercury. Additional evidence to support this interpretation is found in an episode related in Book I, section 125: after the birth of the five Pandavas, Pandu forgets his vows when he is overwhelmed by Madri's beauty as they are alone in a place of great natural beauty during the spring when all the trees are blossoming, and as he approaches her in his passion, he perishes because of the curse described above (from the time he shot the rishi, who had taken the shape of a stag).

Madri, stricken with grief, decides to immolate herself upon Pandu's funeral pyre. Again, I believe that this event is not to be taken literally, but rather that it describes quite well the behavior of the planet Mercury, which is very close to the sun and always seen near the sun (not far above the western horizon after sunset, or not far above the eastern horizon before the dawn). Mercury can only be seen by an observer on earth when its orbit takes it farthest out from the sun: during much of its orbit, Mercury is either in front of the sun or behind the sun, or too close to the sun on one side or the other to be seen by an observer from earth. To an observer on earth, Mercury is often "swallowed up" by the sun as its orbit takes it too close to the blazing orb to be seen by us.

I believe that in these myths, Pandu is the sun itself (and specifically the sun in the upper half of the zodiac wheel, as is Achilles in the Iliad), and his two wives Kunti and Madri are Venus and Mercury, respectively: the two planets closest to the sun, and always appearing in his close vicinity.

Who, then, can be the five husbands who become the divine fathers of the five Pandauvas? They cannot be the three remaining visible planets, which obviously do not add up to five, and who would not account for the fact that Madri has union with the divine Twins (and, as we have just observed with the planet Jupiter, its orbit does not bring it close enough to Venus to actually "consummate" the union: the two pass one another on either side of the ecliptic line).

The answer, I believe, lies in the detail of the Twins who are the divine progenitors of Nakula and Sahadeva: the five husbands are five bright stars along the ecliptic path, found in different zodiac constellations, whose location in the sky will cause them to pass close enough to Venus (or Mercury) to be envisioned as having a "sexual union" with them.

When one of the planets actually covers another celestial object (from the perspective of an observer on earth), this is known as "occultation" (similar to a solar eclipse, which uses the term "occultation" to describe the covering of the sun by the intervening moon). If Venus were to completely cover a bright first-magnitude star, for example, this would be referred to as "occulting" that star -- and it would create a situation that would allegorically resemble sexual union (even more than what will take place in the next few days between Jupiter and Venus).

It just so happens that there are three first-magnitude stars which are close enough to the path of the ecliptic to be occulted by the planets -- including by Venus. They are the stars

  • Regulus (in Leo the Lion, which is along the line created by Jupiter and Venus right now, and a little above and to the left of the two approaching planets, for observers in the northern hemisphere above the tropics), 
  • Antares (in the heart of the Scorpion), 
  • and Spica (the brightest star in Virgo).

I believe that these are the three celestial divinities who, in their spiritual forms, fathered the first three Pandavas by Kunti (producing Yudhishthira, Bhima, and Arjuna).

The other two bright stars in the zodiac close enough to the celestial equator to be contenders are in fact the two bright stars who form the heads of the Twins of Gemini: Pollux and Castor. However, they are not close enough to be occulted, although in the distant past it is likely that they were (due to the changing of the earth's obliquity over the millennia, and the motion of precession). In spite of the fact that they do not currently lie in a location that can allow them to be directly occulted, because the Mahabharata specifically states that Madri summoned the celestial Twins, it is almost certain that these two stars constitute the other two "husbands" and round out the five.

In the case of Draupadi, we no longer are dealing with "two wives of Pandu" but only "one wife of all five Pandauvas," and since she is described as being the most beautiful and the most dazzling woman on earth, she is almost certainly the brilliant planet Venus (Mercury is not part of this particular "five-husband metaphor"). But, she still takes as her husbands the three first-magnitude zodiac stars Regulus (probably Yudhishthira), Antares (probably Bhima) and Spica (probably Arjuna), plus the stars of the Twins: Pollux and Castor (Nakula and Sahadeva).

Here is a diagram of the night sky facing to the south for an observer in the northern hemisphere, showing Venus and Jupiter, as well as Regulus just to their "left" (or east of them), Pollux and Castor (to their "right" or west, not far from the glow of the sun which can be seen setting in the west), and further east the first-magnitude stars Spica and Antares:

Note that Spica and Antares are actually located "below" or south of the celestial equator, which is the "latitude line" of zero degrees that can be seen arcing between the letters "E" and "W" in the simulated celestial "globe" above. The "latitude line" (properly termed the "parallels of declination") above that celestial equator zero-line is the ten-degree parallel: stars located along it are said to have a "declination" of ten degrees north, or "plus-ten" degrees. The parallel of declination below (to the south) of the zero-line of the celestial equator is the minus-ten parallel. Stars along it have a declination of ten degrees south, or "minus-ten" degrees. Because the line of the ecliptic "yawns" above and below the celestial equator as we go throughout the year by as much as 23.4 degrees (due to the tilt of the earth's axial rotation, also called "the obliquity of the ecliptic"), the planets and the sun and moon (which basically follow the track of the ecliptic) can "occult" the stars north and south of the celestial equator.

Thus, it is my present belief that the "five-husband" pattern found in the Mahabharata and in the New Testament book of John with the Samaritan woman at the well can be understood as mythologizing the allegorical "unions" of the brilliant feminine planet Venus with the five stars Regulus, Antares, Spica, and the Twins of Gemini.

Trying to make sense of the Samaritan woman at the well when interpreted literally rather than celestially causes some difficulties, as the perceptive analysis here (from someone who believes the story was intended to describe a literal-historical event) points out. That analysis first discusses the textual clue of Jesus arriving at the well "at about the sixth hour" (John 4:6). He argues that this means the time corresponding to what we would call six in the evening, not twelve noon as other literalist interpreters have tried to argue as part of their thesis that the woman must have been an outcast (due to the community's rejection of her having had five husbands).

How could she have obtained five husbands, if she was supposedly rejected by the community, this interpreter asks? And why would the community have listened to her after her encounter with Jesus? And, most importantly, if the whole community rejected her because of her five husbands, then the fact must have been common knowledge, and the fact that Jesus told it to her would not have been all that surprising, and would certainly not have led to her realization that he was the Messiah!

These kinds of literal analyses, however, are probably missing the point of the story as celestial allegory. While I believe that the "five-husband" pattern found in this New Testament story is a feature of ancient myth (as evidenced by its existence in the Mahabharata, from many hundred years BC), I believe that the "sixth hour" reference in this passage specifically refers to the constellation Virgo.

As already discussed at some length in the video about the goddess Durga, and the reason that Arjuna is urged by Lord Krishna to utter his hymn to Durga upon "the eve of battle," the zodiac sign of Virgo is located at the very "gateway" to the lower half of the zodiac wheel: metaphorically the half of the wheel associated with incarnation, where we undergo the endless interaction and struggle between the realms of matter and spirit, and the half of the wheel allegorized as the underworld, as well as with the ocean (and with water, one of the two "lower elements," along with earth).

Hence, the "woman at the well" -- at the edge of the lower element of water -- would correspond nicely with the sign of Virgo: and the fact that Virgo is the SIXTH sign of the zodiac during the Age of Aries (as counted from Aries, the first sign after the "upward crossing" at the spring equinox, the beginning of the sacred year in many ancient cultures) makes the connection between the woman at the well and the zodiac sign of Virgo almost a certainty.

We are also told specifically in the New Testament passage that the Samaritan woman "left her water pot, and went her way into the city" in John 4:28. This is another detail which helps connect her with Virgo -- because right besides Virgo in the heavens is the sinuous form of Hydra, the Serpent, who carries on his back the constellations of Corvus the Crow (a bright little constellation very close to Virgo, and always staring at her brightest star Spica, in fact) and Crater the Cup -- which is also near to Virgo and which can certainly be said to resemble a "water pot," thus accounting for this detail in the text.

Now, the reader may be wondering at this point, "But what does all this mean?"

I believe, in fact, that the meaning of these Star Myths is quite profound, and that the message they are intended to convey is extremely helpful to us in our daily lives -- even extremely practical. Some aspects of that message are discussed in the previous posts and videos linked already (in the discussions of the Bhagavad Gita and of the Hymn to Durga, both found in the Mahabharata). See also the discussion and metaphor found in the post just prior to those, entitled "Self, the senses, and the mind."

Those previous discussions, of aspects of the Mahabharata, explained that these Star Myths may well be intended to convey the knowledge that we have access -- immediately and at all times -- to what we might call "the infinite" or "the absolute" or "the unbounded" (and which cannot in fact be defined, because the very act of "defining" something means to draw a boundary around it), and that this access to the infinite is found within us.

I believe that we can see this message being conveyed again in the mythical birth of each of the Pandavas, in which Kunti and Madri are depicted as uttering a powerful mantra which has the ability to immediately summon a divine celestial power. If reciting a mantra can summon divinity, and if that divinity actually appears immediately, then these are two clues to point us towards the possible conclusion that the divinity is actually within us, all along.

But we can also, I believe, see the same message being conveyed in the story of the woman at the well. There, Jesus says to the woman that if she would ask, he would have given her "living water." This water, he says, is such that whosoever drinketh of it shall never thirst: "but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).

Note that this water is described as being "everlasting" -- it is, in fact, infinite. It has no ending, and thus no "boundary" in at least one direction.

Secondly, note that the promised water is found "within" the one who is given it. The contact with the infinite, in other words, is somehow inside of us.

And, just like the story of Kunti and Madri, all we actually have to do in order to obtain this intimate union with the infinite, is ask.

When they ask, the divine powers appear immediately.

In the teaching of John chapter four, the infinite well of living water is obtained in a similar fashion: by simply asking -- because we are already in contact with the infinite.

Ultimately, these stories are not just there to entertain us: they have a very powerful message, and one that can actually transform our lives.

This gives us plenty to meditate upon, as we watch the beautiful near-conjunction of Venus and Jupiter taking place in the celestial realms this week.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Star Myths of the World: The Hymn to Durga in the Mahabharata

If the evidence presented in previous discussions for concluding that the Bhagavad Gita and the ancient Sanskrit epic Mahabharata which contains the Gita was not enough to convince the most skeptical reader that these ancient scriptures are indeed Star Myths, built upon the same system of celestial metaphor that can be shown to form the basis of virtually all of the myths, scriptures and sacred stories around the world (see here for links to evidence found in myths from ancient Japan to the Maya, from Africa to Scandinavia, and from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible as well as the myths of ancient Greece and ancient Egypt), the new video above examines another powerful and decisive piece of evidence from the Mahabharata: the episode prior to the great battle of Kurukshetra in which Lord Krishna urges the great warrior Arjuna to utter a hymn to Durga.

Entitled "Star Myths of the World: the Hymn to Durga in the Mahabharata," the video shows that this direction from Krishna to seek out the great goddess Durga helps confirm that the great battle in that ancient epic is indeed a metaphor for the endless interplay and "struggle" between the visible material world and the invisible world of spirit which is taking place in the universe around us and indeed within us at all times in this incarnate human existence.

There are abundant clues throughout the Mahabharata that the entire epic uses the endless cycles of the heavenly bodies -- the sun, the moon, the visible planets, and especially the stars -- to convey profound truths about the nature of our incarnation in this material plane, and about the existence and importance of the unseen realm.

Just as the Bhagavad Gita itself is presented as the song and counsel of the divine Lord Krishna to the semi-divine bowman Arjuna prior to descending into the great struggle, in the two sections of the Mahabharata immediately prior to the Bhagavad Gita we see Krishna telling Arjuna to utter his hymn to Durga -- and it can be conclusively shown that the goddess Durga is replete with imagery associated with the sign and constellation of Virgo the Virgin, the very sign which is located immediately prior to the autumnal or fall equinox on the great wheel of the zodiac: the point at which the sun's arc "crosses down" into the lower half of the year, towards the winter months and the December solstice, the half of the year in which darkness reigns and nights are longer than days, the half of the year associated with incarnation in this "lower world" of matter, when the soul clothes itself in bodies made of the lower elements of earth and water.

Thus the sign of Virgo (outlined in blue on the zodiac wheel shown below) truly does stand at the very "eve of battle" -- the final position before the plunge into the struggle of incarnate existence:

The goddess Durga, whom we can see to be associated with the sign and constellation of Virgo using the superabundant clues and references provided in the Hymn to Durga uttered by Arjuna at Krishna's request in Mahabharata Book 6 and Section 23, thus can be seen as preparing the soul for incarnation, sending the soul into battle, and (as we see in the events described in this section, in which Durga herself appears to Arjuna and gives him blessing and encouragement for the struggle) as the one who guides the soul along the difficult path and promises that the struggle will not be in vain.

More than that, however, the contents of the hymn identify the goddess Durga as "identical with Brahman," and the one who supports the Sun and the Moon and makes them shine: in other words, as the infinite and undifferentiated and eternal Cosmic Principle, the undefinable and the un-namable -- just as we see in the Bhagavad Gita the Lord Krishna declares himself (and reveals himself) to be.

And yet she is immediately available to Arjuna, and appears when he utters his hymn to the Goddess. This indicates that we, the human soul embarked upon this journey of incarnation, in actual fact are in the presence of the ultimate and the infinite at all times -- and that we have access to the supreme and undifferentiated and undefinable at all times as well.

And perhaps this is why at the end of the section describing the directive from Krishna to Arjuna to utter his hymn to Durga, and giving the contents of the hymn itself and the results (the appearance of Durga to Arjuna, and her promise to him that he shall conquer, that he is in fact invincible, and that he is incapable of being defeated by his foes), the text of the Mahabharata tells us to recite this same hymn every day, and to do so when we rise, "at dawn."

In doing so, we are focusing upon the infinite and connecting with the infinite: transcending the "chatter" of the mind and the senses (which are endlessly defining, and partitioning, and assessing, and evaluating -- all important and necessary functions, but functions that can keep us from being in contact with that undifferentiated and undefinable infinite which we in fact can and do have access to at all times and in all places, even in our incarnate situation).

By beginning each new day connecting with this ultimate principle, who is in fact always with us, the Mahabharata promises that we "can have no enemies," and "no fear," freedom from animals that attack with their teeth -- and "also from kings" -- victory in all disputes, freedom from all bonds, from thieves, and the enjoyment of victory in every struggle.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

For more on the importance of hymns and chanting of praise, see also:


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Star Myths of the World: The Bhagavad Gita

Here's a new video I made for you entitled "Star Myths of the World: The Bhagavad Gita."

The Bhagavad Gita is specific section of an ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, which -- on a literal level -- appears to be primarily concerned with a massive battle between two different branches of the same family, in much the same way that the Iliad of ancient Greece appears (on a literal level) to be primarily concerned with a massive battle between the Achaeans (or Danaans) and the Trojans of the windswept city of Ilium.

The Mahabharata is overflowing with human and divine characters and with adventures, battles, love scenes, and stories within stories. It consists of over 100,000 couplets of poetry, and because a "couplet" by definition is two lines of poetry, that means it has over 200,000 individual lines. For comparison, the Iliad has almost 15,700 lines and the Odyssey has just over 12,000 lines.

The Mahabharata is most particularly well known because it contains an extremely significant and beloved and revealing section known as the Bhagavad Gita -- "the Song of the Lord."

The Bhagavad Gita takes place in the overall epic of the Mahabharata as two great armies are drawn up for battle upon the sacred plain of Kurukshetra, and between these two armies (the Pandava, descended from Pandu, and the Kaurava, descended from Kuru), the great bowman Arjuna and his divine charioteer, who is none other than the Lord Krishna himself, ride out to have a discourse on the meaning of life, dharma, karma, incarnation, reincarnation, consciousness and enlightenment.

Arjuna is one of the leaders of the Pandava, but he is suddenly having second thoughts about the battle, because he knows that many of his close kin including cousins, uncles, and teachers are on the other side, and he expresses the belief that it would be better for him to throw aside his bow and arrows and allow himself to be killed, rather than participate in such a war.

Krishna responds by telling Arjuna that the right thing to do is for Arjuna to do his duty, engage in the struggle, act according to what is right, and to renounce attachment to the results.

Lord Krishna gives this message to Arjuna in many different forms throughout the eighteen sections of the Bhagavad Gita.

Here are some representative passages from Krishna, telling this to Arjuna (from the translation available online here; another version can be found here):
Do your duty to the best of your ability, O Arjuna, with your mind attached to the Lord, abandoning worry and attachment to the results, and remaining calm in both success and failure. The equanimity of mind is called Karma-yoga. Work done with selfish motives is inferior by far to the selfless service or Karma-yoga. Therefore be a Karma-yogi, O Arjuna. Those who seek to enjoy the fruits of their work are verily unhappy (because one has no control over the results) (2.48 - 2.49).
And again:
Therefore, always perform your duty efficiently and without attachment to the results, because by doing work without attachment one attains the Supreme (3.19).
And also:
The ancient seekers of liberation also performed their duties with this understanding. Therefore, you should do your duty as the ancients did. Even the wise are confused about what is action and what is inaction. Therefore, I shall clearly explain what is action, knowing that one shall be liberated from the evil (of birth and death). The true nature of action is very difficult to understand. Therefore, one should know the nature of attached action, the nature of detached action, and also the nature of forbidden action. Attached action is selfish work that produces Karmic bondage, detached action is unselfish work or Seva that leads to nirvana, and forbidden action is harmful to society. The one who sees inaction in action, and action in inaction, is a wise person. Such a person is a yogi and has accomplished everything (4.15 - 4.18).
Now, I believe that these words take on even greater meaning for us when we realize that this famous sacred text is not in fact about an ancient warrior who is preparing to engage in a bloody battle, but that it is actually about each and every human soul, figuratively contemplating the awful descent into incarnation, and the struggle of human life.

The battlefield being described in the Mahabharata is not a physical battlefield but represents the interplay, the give-and-take, the struggle between the physical world and the unseen spirit world, which exists in every aspect of the cosmos in which we find ourselves, and exists within each of us as well. 

When we come into this physical world and take on this physical form, it is a struggle to even remember the invisible spirit aspect within ourselves and in the physical world around us, even though it is there, present, all the time -- inside each one of us and in fact inside and shining-through every aspect and every molecule of this physical universe. But there appear to be forces arrayed all around us and even within us that seek to drag our spirit down to the level of the physical, and even to deny the very existence of the spiritual, to reduce everything to the material (for an interesting "blast-from-the-past" blog post related to this topic, see "The ideology of materialism," published here almost exactly three years ago in June of 2012).

Arjuna is understandably reluctant to plunge into this state of affairs, this incarnation. But Krishna tells him that it is his duty to do so -- and he counsels Arjuna that when he gets to the struggle, one of the most important principles is to avoid attachment to the outcome.

When Krishna tells Arjuna that he must strive to do right, without attachment, he is now talking not just about "right action" but also about what we commonly refer to as the "state of mind" while taking that action (but, do note that he is also talking about right action: action that does not harm others).

In other words, Krishna is not just talking about our actions in the external world but also about our inner state while performing those actions. 

And in order to have that detachment, we must be able to detach from the aspects of our incarnate state which, until we learn what Krishna is trying to convey to us, normally carry us off in all kinds of unproductive directions -- our passions, our emotions, our senses, our desires . . . and even what we call our mind.

As discussed in this previous post entitled "Self, senses, and the mind," we must understand that our True Self is not actually the same thing as the mind -- even though we generally tend to think of ourselves and our mind as one and the same. While the mind is an incredibly important part of who we are, the ancient Sanskrit scriptures describe its proper role as more of a wonderful tool, but only a tool and not properly our master or even our Self.

In the metaphor from the Katha Upanishad cited in that preceding post, the mind is described as the reins of the chariot -- not the actual charioteer.

In order to truly follow the advice that Krishna keeps repeating to Arjuna, we must be able to use mind like the reins of the chariot. This metaphor helps us to see that he is not telling us that we must "turn off our mind" or act as if we have "no mind" (although there is a famous expression from Buddhism called "no mind" or "mu shin," I believe the state this phrase is pointing towards is actually the same thing that Krishna is pointing us towards in the Gita as well). What I believe that it is saying in these passages from the Mahabharata and the Katha Upanishad is that our True Self is actually above and behind the mind, able to stand apart from it and not be carried away when the mind is trying to be helpful but is actually not being helpful at all.

And where and what is this True Self to be found?

The words of the Gita, the song of Lord Krishna, tell us quite plainly.

When Krishna tells Arjuna to do right but without attachment to the results, he also tells him to connect instead to the Lord, to attain the Supreme.

He then proceeds to describe himself as the infinite, the supreme, the unbounded, the unlimited . . . and he allows Arjuna to briefly see Krishna in his infinite universal form (in part 11):
with many mouths and eyes, and many visions of marvel, with numerous divine ornaments, and holding divine weapons. Wearing garlands and apparel, anointed with celestial perfumes and ointments, full of all wonders, the limitless God with faces on all sides. If the splendor of thousands of suns were to blaze forth all at once in the sky, even that would not resemble the splendor of that exalted being (11.10 - 11.12).
Elsewhere, Krishna tells Arjuna, "my manifestations are endless" (10.19). If so, then Krishna is beyond definition, beyond being bounded, beyond being described as "it is this, it is not that."

And this relates directly to the concept of not attaching to the mind -- which is a definer, an analyzer, a discriminator between "this and not that," and a creator of "verbal virtual reality," in the felicitous phrase of Dr. Darrah Westrup in the video discussed in the preceding post on Self, senses and mind.

Krishna is telling Arjuna to connect with the Higher Self who is beyond all of the mind's chatter.

The Lord Krishna is that divine charioteer.

And, because he is the infinite and the unbounded, this Higher Self with which we connect, this Atma, is Krishna. Krishna tells Arjuna outright:
O Arjuna, I am the Atma abiding in the heart of all beings. I am also the beginning, the middle, and the end of all beings (10.20).
Those who see me in everything and everything in me, are not separated from me and I am not separated from them. The non-dualists, who adore me as abiding in all beings, abide in me irrespective of their mode of living (6.30 - 6.31).
And so we see that when Krishna is sending Arjuna into the struggle, he tells Arjuna (the incarnating soul) to do what is right, but not to become attached to that which will drag him down -- and to connect instead to the infinite. 

The infinite that is above and behind even our mind -- as essential a tool as mind truly is.

To connect with this infinite, which is already "abiding in the heart of all beings," we do not have to "go anywhere." 

But, we do have to learn how, and practice. As discussed in the previous post entitled "The Djed Column every day: Yoga," there remains in the culture of India a broad and deep living tradition which flows unbroken back to remote antiquity and the ancient wisdom of the Vedas and Upanishads and other sutras, in the practice of Yoga -- involving meditation, breath control, chanting, right living, right eating, the asanas or postures . . . all of them intended as a path to our True Self.

The good news which Krishna imparts to Arjuna is that this connection to the infinite is already very close to each one of us -- "I am easily attainable, O Arjuna," Lord Krishna says, "by that ever-steadfast yogi who always thinks of me and whose mind does not go elsewhere" (8.14).

Interestingly enough, much of the Mahabharata and the Baghavad Gita can be convincingly shown to connect directly to the very same system of celestial allegory that forms the foundation of virtually all of the world's myths, scriptures, and sacred stories (including the stories in the Old and New Testaments of what we refer to today as the Bible).

In fact, I believe that the Baghavad Gita is an extremely clear and lucid example of the idea that these ancient Star Myths used their system of celestial metaphor in order to convey profound spiritual truths about the nature of our cosmos and our human condition within this dual physical-spiritual incarnate existence. 

When they are taken literally (as if describing historical events and persons), the myths necessarily become externalized to a greater or lesser degree: they become stories about other people, living in other times, in other places, remote from our experience.

But when their true celestial and esoteric nature is understood, they take on a new and (I believe) intensely personal aspect. 

They are not about ancient kings, warriors, or divine figures (see the wonderfully helpful quotation from Alvin Boyd Kuhn discussed in previous posts here, here and here). They are about each and every one of us. 

They are for you, they are all about you, and they were given to help you -- in this metaphorical battlefield of Kurukshetra.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Self, the senses, and the mind

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In the introduction to his famous Light on Yoga, Sri B. K. S. Iyengar quotes a passage from the sacred Vedic Upanishad Katha Upanishad, or Kathopanishad, regarding what Sri Iyengar calls the well co-ordinated functioning of "body, senses, mind, reason and Self" (30).

The passage he quotes from that Upanishad comes from the third chapter of Part I, beginning in the third verse -- you can read the entire Kathopanishad online here in an English translation, and find the passage in question beginning on page nine of fifteen in that file (the page itself bears the page number "7" at the bottom of the image of the page). There, we read:
3 Know the atman to be the master of the chariot; the body, chariot; the intellect, the charioteer; and the mind, the reins.
4 The senses, they say, are the horses; the objects, the roads. The wise call the atman -- united with the body, the sense and the mind -- the enjoyer.
5 If the buddhi, being related to a mind that is always distracted, loses its discriminations, then the senses become uncontrolled, like the vicious horses of a charioteer.
6 But if the buddhi, being related to a mind that is always restrained, possesses discrimination, then the senses come under control, like the good horses of a charioteer.
In the translation found in Light on Yoga (also given below for comparison), the first mention of Atman is capitalized, and next to Atman in parenthesis the text gives as a "gloss" or synonym the capitalized word: "Self."

Clearly, in this passage, there is a clear distinction being made between "body, sense, and mind" and "the atman -- the enjoyer" (or the Self) which is somehow separate not just from body and senses (which is fairly easy to understand) but also from "mind" -- which is a lot less intuitive.

We don't have much difficulty making a distinction between our "Self" and our body or our senses. However, we are usually accustomed to thinking about "ourselves" as being identical or co-equal with our mind. For example, someone might say they appreciate a man or a woman not for his or her physical beauty or for his or her body, but rather for his or her mind -- meaning, we usually think, who they really are, who they are inside

Why is this passage apparently making a distinction between our mind and the Self? Is this passage from the Vedas teaching us that our true Self is somehow distinct from our mind as well as from our body and our senses?

The distinction is even more evident in the English version of the same passage given in the introduction to Light on Yoga:
Know the Atman (Self) as the Lord in a chariot, reason as the charioteer and mind as the reins. The senses, they say, are the horses, and their objects of desire are the pastures. The Self, when united with the senses and the mind, the wise call the Enjoyer (Bhoktr). The undiscriminating can never rein in his mind; his senses are like the vicious horses of a charioteer. The discriminating ever controls his mind; his senses are like disciplined horses. 30.
How can we understand that we are not the same as our mind? Or, to put it another way, if we are accustomed to thinking of ourselves as co-existent with our "mind," then what definition of "mind" are the above ancient scriptures using, since they obviously are not using the word "mind" to mean our True Self?

Obviously, what they are calling "mind" is something from which the Self stands apart -- like a charioteer. The mind is compared to the reins, which the Self uses to control the horses, which themselves are connected to the senses. The mind somehow makes all the difference between being carried away by the power of the senses, and guiding the senses "like disciplined horses."

Recently, I saw a video of a talk given by clinical psychologist and author Dr. Darrah Westrup at the mindbodygreen "Revitalize 2015" conference, in which she discusses another metaphor that (to me) sheds a lot of light on this distinction between the Self and the mind which we see operating in the ancient Vedic scriptures.

Dr. Westrup's talk can be found as the last talk in the segment from "Friday Morning Session One" and it begins at approximately 1:03:00 on that video segment (embedded below):

In the beginning of her interview, which has been titled "Why Stress is a Healthy Part of a Meaningful Life," Dr. Westrup makes a very interesting comment in response to a question about "dealing with stress."

At about the 1:05:30 mark in the video, when asked about the source of stress and suffering, she identifies a culprit we might not have expected, when she says: "It turns out that our ability to develop and use language is a key player in this."

Interviewer and mindbodygreen CEO Jason Wachob then asks, "Like, just poor communication?"

But that's not what she is pointing towards at all: Dr. Westrup clarifies, "No -- just language itself."

It turns out, she says, that while language has tremendous benefits, it is also directly related to what the Kathopanishad calls "mind," and it can and does threaten to "run away with us" like the "vicious horses" described in the metaphor above.

With language, we are able to analyze, criticize, evaluate, and project. We can speculate about the future, and we can brood about the past. In fact, long before the invention of "computers" and "virtual space," we could create our own "virtual worlds" with language, in which we can test out ideas or think about future and past events and analyze them from every angle in a "virtual space," in much the same way that a modern aircraft design team might "construct" a jet airplane inside of a virtual "computer-modeled" space, in order to test out its strengths and weaknesses before the actual airplane is ever built in the physical world.

This ability to analyze actions and events from every different angle inside of the "virtual reality" of language, Dr. Westrup says, is an incredibly powerful and potentially beneficial ability and this aspect of language itself must be appreciated in order to understand how it can also lead us astray.

With our internalization of language itself, Dr. Westrup says, which she calls a sort of "verbal virtual reality," we create the virtual-world concepts of "future" and "past," neither of which actually exists in the present. And, while this ability is something we cannot actually get rid of (nor would we want to, she says), it is also the cause of stress and suffering. She says:
All those concepts -- all those concepts -- I'm inadequate, I'm too fat, I should've, if only -- those are all language-based. As far as we know, only humans have the ability to create constructs like that with words -- and then we carry them around -- and it causes a huge amount of suffering. We get ideas about what we should and shouldn't be experiencing; what is and isn't OK.
Again, Dr. Westrup never says that this ability to create such verbal mental constructs is not a good ability: it is vital and necessary to our lives in a myriad of different ways.

Some examples I might offer would be that through language, we can ask ourselves (about the future), "Should I go to that event this weekend, or should I work on the other project that I've been meaning to finish?"

We can ask ourselves (about the past), "Did I turn off the stove burner in the house when I left an hour ago?"

These can be helpful and useful and appropriate things to run through our minds -- as long as they don't get out of control.

But, as Dr. Westrup explains beginning at about the 1:08:00 mark, that is exactly what tends to happen, and why this incredible ability to create "verbal virtual reality" can become a problem, if not understood. And it is here that she offers a metaphor which may shed light on the passage from the Kathopanishad quoted earlier, and the distinction between Self and mind.

In response to a question from interviewer Jason Wachob about how we can "deal with stressful situations," Dr. Westrup says:
In my book, Advanced ACT, I talk about this metaphor called "the over-eager assistant." So this is the idea of that assistant that's really, really trying to help -- so we all probably may have encountered an assistant like this -- always in there, full of ideas, full of suggestions, commentary -- and, you know, a lot of times just not that helpful. And I think of my mind like that: my mind is on overdrive right now, for instance. She's -- my assistant -- is handing me commentary, writing little post-it notes, weighing in, telling me how I'm doing, grading, all of that, OK? And struggling with that assistant is not going to do -- it's not going to make her go away. I can't get her to stop -- she's not going anywhere. But what I can do is understand that she's doing her job. My mind in a stressful moment is doing what our minds are supposed to be doing, means well. And so understanding that, kind of allowing that to be there, it's kind of like, "Yeah, I know you mean well," but that allows me to be in this moment, vital and engaged here -- I'm not trying to get that to go away."
In this metaphor -- of the mind as the over-eager office assistant -- we can suddenly begin (I believe) to understand what the ancient Vedic scriptures mean when they describe Self as being separate not only from the body and the senses, but also from the mind as well (in her book on page 213, she also notes that she attributes this metaphor to a fellow ACT practitioner, Jeremy Goldberg).

In this metaphor, she explains, what she is referring to as "mind" is not the same as "who we are" but rather mind is there to serve us, and it does the best it can, but in many situations the observations or suggestions that come from this eager assistant are "just not that helpful."

We might think of a character from the long-running television comedy The Office, in which the character who may in fact resemble the above description of "mind" might be Michael Scott himself: usually well-meaning, but often not that helpful, and in many cases making the situation worse with his constant desire to give suggestions, commentary, and analysis -- even when his "help" is not needed.

You may prefer to think of another character from film or literature (or from The Office) who better exemplifies to you this concept of the "over-eager assistant," but Michael Scott may in fact be the perfect example, because Dr. Westrup has identified mind with the facility of language, and with the ability to create "verbal virtual reality" through language itself -- something that actually characterizes Michael Scott in The Office to an extraordinary degree.

And yet, as well-meaning as Michael Scott is, and as funny he can be, we really don't want to let him "run the office" completely unchecked -- and that is why Dr. Westrup explains that we have to cultivate the ability to sort of "stand apart from" the constant chatter of the mind, and analyze what it is doing and saying and suggesting, without letting it take things in whatever direction it wants to take them.

Towards the end of her discussion, in response to a question about what we should not do when we find ourselves in a stressful situation, Dr. Westrup suggests that one should not:
Really buy everything your mind tells you about it, which is, "This is not OK," "I can't tolerate this," "This means my life isn't working," "I'm never going to figure it out." Notice I'm not telling you not to have those thoughts -- good luck! But rather, when they show up, that doesn't mean that they're True with a capital T.
And this brings us back to the distinction that the passage from the Upanishad cited above is trying to articulate, between the True Self or Atman and the body, senses, and mind. It stands to reason that if mind is somehow related to the construct of language, and that its greatest strength (and greatest weakness) is its ability to create "virtual worlds" or "virtual realities" in which it can analyze, critique, judge, describe, compare, and contrast, then the higher Self, the True Self, the Atman must somehow exist beyond all of that.

It stands to reason, in other words, that the True Self is not constructed of language, or of modifiers and descriptors and adjectives and judgements and labels.

And this is exactly how Sri B. K. S. Iyengar -- and the sacred Vedas and other texts in the same tradition -- describe the transcendence of the mind and the achievement of samadhi. At the end of the introductory section, Sri Iyengar writes that in this state:
The mind cannot find words to describe the state and the tongue fails to utter them. Comparing the experience of samadhi with other experiences, the sages say: 'Neti! Neti!' -- 'It is not this! It is not this!' The state can only be expressed by profound silence. The yogi has departed from the material world and is merged in the Eternal. There is then no duality between the knower and the known for they are merged like camphor and the flame. 52.
Note the important observation that the state of samadhi is characterized by the complete absence of description, of modification by language: it can only be said that it is "Neti! Neti!" -- it is not whatever one wants to compare it to or describe it as.

It should be apparent that this is identical to the famous opening lines of the Tao Te Ching (at least as traditionally arranged for the past 1000 years) in which it is said of the Tao or the Way that
The ways that can be walked are not the eternal Way;
The names that can be named are not the eternal name. 
Translation by Victor H. Mair, p59.

The actual Tao is beyond description -- as soon as it is "named," we know that we are not actually dealing with "the eternal name." The very concept of "the Eternal" (which is mentioned in the Sri Iyengar quotation immediately above as well) means in a state which is still pure possibility, all possibility, containing all options, and thus not manifested in one form or another, and thus not able to be "pinned down" or labeled.

We might note that the divine name in the Biblical scriptures implies the same rejection of modification or description, the same Eternal potentiality and Eternal present (past and future being constructs of language, as we have just seen). For more on this subject, see the previous post entitled "PTAH, JAH, TAO, and BUDDHA," as well as some of the discussion of the Dream of Solomon in 1 Kings chapter 3 towards the end of the video entitled "The Blessing Mother, The Cursing Mother, The Dream, and The King."

To evoke the same ineffable concept, Sri Iyengar quotes the Song of Sankaracharya, the Atma Shatkam or Song of the Soul (Sankaracharya, pictured above, is also known as Adi Shankara and his song is also known as Nirvanashatkam):
I cannot be heard nor cast into words, nor by smell nor sight ever caught [. . .]
I have no speech [. . .]
Neither knowable, knowledge, nor knower am I, formless is my form,
I dwell within the senses but they are not my home;
Ever serenely balanced, I am neither free nor bound --
Consciousness and joy am I, and Bliss is where I am found. 53.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note that in the image above showing a shrine to Adi Shankara, the statue of Shankaracharya in its alcove is flanked on either side by twin female deities, each of whom is carrying a torch in her inside hand, pointed downwards.* This quite clearly links to the concepts discussed in the previous post entitled Isis and Nephthys: March Equinox 2015, as well as to equinox-and-torch symbology discussed here. Thus Adi Shankara and his message can be clearly linked to the central "Djed-column raised up" which is also depicted in between the equinoxes (and which is associated with the vertical column connecting winter and summer solstices), and all that it represents.

* Later note: Special additional thanks to correspondent Ramakrishnan T., who points out that these figures are known as Dwarapalakas, are found throughout India, are almost exclusively male, and are carrying a mace and not a torch! However, what is very interesting to me is that, while he is certainly correct, these figures do sometimes appear to have characteristics that are slightly androgynous, but even more interesting is that they often have their legs crossed in a very distinctive manner reminiscent of the equinoctial figures (who are also male) discussed in the link included in the above paragraph at the word here. And, there is also no doubt that the mace seen in the Dwarapalaka symbology is similar in form to the torch found in the symbology further west, raising interesting questions about possible common origin or cultural diffusion on this particular symbol.

Thank you to Dr. Darrah Westrup and Jason Wachob for sharing their helpful discussion of this extremely important subject!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Video: "The Blessing Mother, The Cursing Mother, The Dream, and The King"

I have just made a new video for you:

"The Blessing Mother, The Cursing Mother, The Dream, and The King."

From the description I posted with the video:

How the stories in the Bible are based on the motions of specific stars and constellations, this time examining the Judgment of Solomon.

And how you (yes, you) are the star of the story of the Judgment of Solomon (and all the other myths, sacred stories and ancient scriptures).

Although many of those who take these stories literally are motivated by the beauty and power of the sacred texts and stories that make up part of the precious inheritance of the human race, if these scriptures and sacred stories were not intended to depict literal events and were never intended to be taken literally, then it stands to reason that literalism (trying to take them literally when they are not designed to be understood that way) could lead to very serious errors in understanding their intended message.

If the scriptures are not intended to be understood literally, then literalism can in fact cause their actual intended message to be completely inverted! They can end up being used to teach a message that is "180-degrees out" from what they were originally intended to convey.

This video provides evidence that the myths, sacred stories and scriptures of humanity were not intended to be taken literally, and they do not depict literal, historical, earthly events. 

The scripture passage explored in this video involves the famous Judgment of Solomon, from the Hebrew Scriptures, and the book known today as the First Book of the Kings. 

Taking the world's myths, sacred stories and scriptures literally, will (almost by definition) lead one to think that they are about external actors and events: that they are about other people who lived thousands of years ago. 

But if the stories are not in fact about external, historical, earthly persons who lived thousands of years ago, then they must be about something else.

This video argues that they are about YOU: about each and every human soul. The events in the Judgment of Solomon are there to teach us about something incredibly important about ourselves, about the invisible and unseen world that is actually the true source of life and blessing, and about the fact that we have access to that invisible world of spirit at all times: that in fact, it is NOT external to us at all . . .

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pentecost, Gemini and the Scales of Judgement

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Welcome to all new babies born today! Those born at this time of year are born in the sign of Gemini, which is generally understood to stretch from May 21 through June 20.

This time of year is also associated with the Pentecost story described in the New Testament of the Bible: we are going to see that there is a powerful connection between the events of the Pentecost story and the zodiac sign of Gemini. In order to understand this connection, we have to first explore and understand a few aspects of Gemini: the constellation of Gemini (the Twins), its position on the zodiac wheel of the solar year, and some of the ancient mythological connections surrounding the Twins of Gemini.

Some of what follows has to do with "celestial mechanics," but don't be put off by that, even if it is a little unfamiliar to you. It is not that difficult to understand, with a little help (this video may be helpful as an overview). Additionally, it just so happens that right now the stars of Gemini are part of a beautiful display in the western sky, immediately following the setting of the sun behind the western horizon . . .

Because of the "delay" in the background of stars caused by the phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, the sun is actually in the constellation of Taurus presently, with Gemini "behind" Taurus in terms of east-to-west progression across the sky. Gemini has been "delayed" and thus the sun is not "in" Gemini yet: the sun would be in Gemini at this time of year during the Age of Aries, and we are now approaching the end of the Age of Pisces and the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. However, there are good reasons for continuing to understand the signs according to the Age of Aries, and for these reasons if you were born from May 21 through June 20 you are considered to have been born in the sign of Gemini (for more on the "mechanics" of the constellations moving through the sky, and the "delay" caused by precession, see also this video).

If you consult astrological descriptions of the sign of Gemini, you will find that it is considered the third sign of the zodiac (after Aries and Taurus, which shows that the Age of Aries system is still in use, because even to this day Aries is considered the first sign of the zodiac, Taurus the second, and Gemini the third). You will also find that most astrological descriptions of this sign will tell you that one of the traits of Gemini has to do with skill in speech and persuasion. The signs of the zodiac are also associated with parts of the body, and the sign of Gemini is associated with the two lungs, as well as the two arms, and this association with the two lungs logically connects to the association of Gemini as being skilled in speech (it is also a Mercury sign, and Mercury is a god associated with persuasive speech as well, being the messenger of the gods).

Gemini is also what is known as an "Air" sign. The signs of the zodiac are traditionally ascribed to one of the "four elements" of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water (Alvin Boyd Kuhn's Lost Light has at least one chapter dealing with the spiritual significance of each of these Four Elements, and he puts forth the argument that this division was more spiritual in nature than it was scientific). Because there are twelve zodiac signs, the division of the zodiac into these Four Elements means that three signs will be associated with each element. That association, as well as the numbering of Gemini as the third sign of the zodiac, is shown in the diagram below:

So, to summarize what we have learned so far, Gemini is an "Air" sign, Gemini is associated with speech, and Gemini is the third sign in the progression of the zodiac wheel (starting with Aries). Gemini is associated with the period between May 21 and June 20, as the sun enters one of the twelve "houses" of the zodiac in succession throughout the year, approximately one month per sign.

We can also note that Gemini is one of the "uppermost" signs of the year, as it is located immediately prior to the June solstice (summer solstice for the northern hemisphere). The point of June solstice (which falls right around June 20 or June 21 each year, depending on calendar "slippage" which the leap-year days are designed to correct) falls at the juncture between Gemini and Cancer. So Gemini is the sign that marks the approach of the summer solstice.

It is also noteworthy that the Twins of Gemini in traditional representation are often depicted as "seated" in their posture, just as they are in the diagram above from AD 1618. The constellation itself does not really make the Twins look "seated," at least the way it is outlined by H.A. Rey in his indispensable guide to the constellations, but that is the way the sign was often traditionally represented. You can see numerous posts that explain how to find Gemini in the handy "index" of previous mentions found here.

The planetarium image below shows the constellation Gemini with the sun in the constellation Taurus, just "ahead" of Gemini on the east-to-west progression (this image is taken as if facing to the south, with east thus on the left and west on the right, such that constellations will move across the sky from left-to-right as we look at this image, due to the earth's rotation towards the east):

Obviously, you won't be able to see the stars like this when the sun is up in the heavens as it is in this image, but there is a reason for this image showing Gemini at zenith which we will get to shortly. However, as the earth continues to turn and the sun dips below the western horizon (to the right of the image) then you can imagine that Gemini will still be above the western horizon just after sunset, and the two bright stars of Gemini will be seen in the west hanging above the horizon, just as they in fact are right now.

In fact, if you look to the west after sunset, you can see a dazzling lineup of stars and planets and the moon. Venus is just below the two stars Castor and Pollux, the "heads" of the twins in the constellation Gemini (see inside the blue rectangle in the center of the image above). Above them (at an angle) will be Jupiter, and then the moon, all of them heading towards the western horizon in that order. You can see a good discussion and some diagrams of that sunset lineup in Sky & Telescope's weekly discussion notes here.

Again, the point is that the sun is not exactly in the constellation of Gemini right now -- precession has "delayed" Gemini in the heavens over the course of thousands of years -- but Gemini is close behind the sun, and if we were living back in the Age of Aries about 2,200 years ago, the sun would already be "in" the constellation of Gemini at this time of year (that is to say, from our position on the earth, looking towards the sun would be looking towards the "wall" of the dining room where the picture of Gemini is located, in the analogy of the earth going around the sun inside of a dining room, a helpful analogy that I explain here). 

All of this background is a prelude to the examination of the celestial foundations for an important episode described in the New Testament of the Bible -- the Pentecost, found in Acts chapter 2. Pentecost Sunday is celebrated by churches even to this day on the Sunday falling seven weeks after Easter Sunday. Seven weeks is of course forty-nine days, and the word "Pentecost" itself means "the fiftieth," meaning that it falls fifty days after the celebration of the Resurrection -- counting the day of Resurrection as the first of the fifty will end up with seven weeks later.

This New Testament event is closely connected and parallels an Old Testament event celebrated seven weeks after the Passover: the Feast of Weeks (or Shavuot). The Feast of Weeks celebrates the giving of the Law upon Mount Sinai, traditionally taking place seven weeks after the Passover and the episode of the Exodus from Egypt and crossing of the Red Sea (for more on the Red Sea and its zodiacal connections, see this previous post).

Because of the way the date of Easter is calculated, Pentecost will fall between May 10 and June 13 using the Western church reckoning of Easter, and between May 23 and June 26 using the Eastern church reckoning of Easter. In other words, it will usually fall within the sign of Gemini.

Here is a portion of the New Testament account of the episode celebrated at Pentecost, from the book of Acts of the Apostles, chapter two:
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya around Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
Now, having examined the characteristics of the zodiacal sign of Gemini, in which this "fiftieth-day" event takes place, several specific details in the above passage should fairly jump out at the reader:

  • There is a sound of rushing mighty wind (Gemini is an Air sign).
  • The sound filled the house where they were sitting (the sign of Gemini is one of the twelve houses of the zodiac, and the Twins are traditionally depicted as sitting).
  • The effect of the miraculous wind is the ability to speak with other tongues (Gemini is associated with Mercury, the messenger of the gods, with the lungs and with speech).
  • When some mocked this miraculous ability, and said they were full of "new wine," Peter stands up and his speaking ability is emphasized in the text, which says that he "lifted up his voice," and then declared, "be this known unto you, and hearken to my words" (Gemini is associated with Mercury, the messenger of the gods, with the lungs and with speech -- same as the previous point).
  • Peter then declares that these who are declaiming in various tongues are not drunk, as some suppose, and could not be, "seeing it is but the third hour of the day" (Gemini is the third sign of the zodiac).
The abundance of clues that we are dealing with a "Gemini event" is truly compelling, especially in conjunction with the fact that Pentecost falls within the sign of Gemini.

Added to these clues from the second chapter of Acts is the traditional understanding that the above events took place while Peter and the other disciples were gathered in the Upper Room, most likely in celebration of the Shavuot or Feast of Weeks. In the first chapter of Acts, in the thirteenth verse, the text itself tells us that the disciples "went into an upper room" and there abode in prayer and supplication awaiting the power of the Holy Ghost that was promised in Acts 1:8.

As has been pointed out already, and as can be seen in the zodiac diagram above, Gemini is an "upper room" constellation (for more discussion of the Upper Room, in conjunction with the events of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem described in the four gospel narratives, see this previous post). Gemini is located at the "top of the zodiac wheel," immediately prior to the point of summer solstice, which itself is the very summit of the year, and the highest arc that the sun will make across the sky before beginning its "downward journey" towards winter solstice again.

Some astute readers may be wondering at this point about the famous "cloven tongues like fire" which come down and sit above each of those gathered after the sound of a mighty rushing wind which filled the room where they were sitting. The mighty rushing wind can be confidently connected with the fact that Gemini is an Air sign -- but how can we reconcile the fact that Gemini is an Air sign with the image of tongues of flame coming down in conjunction with the wind and stationing themselves over the heads of each of them, as the text says in verse three? 

The presence of fire would seem to confuse all the previous arguments based on Gemini as an Air sign.

However, the fact that tongues of flame come down and sit on or over each of them, far from being a problem for this argument, turns out to be one of the most conclusive details in this story pointing to the identification with Gemini.

The most prominent aspect of the constellation Gemini in the heavens, of course, is the fact that the two stars marking the heads of the two Twins are very bright stars: you can verify this for yourself by going out tonight just after sunset, where the two bright stars of Castor and Pollux are clearly visible even in the fading glow of the sun and the waxing brightness of the moon. Indeed, the heads of the Twins are so bright in relation to the other stars in the constellation that the Twins themselves are associated with fire -- see for instance the depiction of the Twins as carrying torches in the Roman sculpture below (and see also previous discussions about the Twins as "fire sticks" in myths and sacred traditions literally around the world):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

It turns out that the episode of a mighty rushing wind and heavenly fire descending to rest above the heads of "each of them" has a history in mythology that precedes the traditional dating of the New Testament cycle of stories -- and that it is in fact explicitly associated with the Twins of Gemini, the mythological heroes named Castor and Pollux (or Polydeuces).

These two mythical Twins were the sons of Zeus by a mortal mother, and traditionally one of them was immortal and the other was mortal. Because they were the sons of the god Zeus, they were also referred to as the Dioscuri (sometimes spelled "Dioscori," although this is not as common today), which means "sons of god" or "sons of Zeus."

Some of the ancient mysteries are thought to have been devoted to the Dioscuri, including the mysteries of Samothrace; the ancient mysteries are very important -- one of the most important of the mysteries of the ancient world took place at Eleusis and is discussed here -- and their significance is discussed in my book The Undying Stars (including some discussion of the mysteries at Samothrace).

In Book IV of the very important multi-volume history written by Diodorus Siculus (who lived and wrote during the first century BC), of which just under half has survived to this day (perhaps the other texts will be discovered someday), Diodorus relates an episode from the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts (who were pursuing the Golden Fleece, a goal that is clearly connected to the sign of Aries the Ram). See if you can spot some elements in this account, which historians believe was published sometime between 60 BC and 30 BC (but which relates mythological details which were certainly much older), that remind you of elements in the Pentecost story:
As for Heracles, after he had been splendidly honoured with gifts and the appropriate tokens of hospitality, he left Hesione and the mares in keeping with Laomedon, having arranged that after he had returned from Cochis, he should receive them again; he then set sail with all haste in the company of the Argonauts to accomplish the labour which lay before them. 
But there came on a great storm and the chieftains had given up hope of being saved, when Orpheus, they say, who was the only one on shipboard who had ever been initiated in the mysteries of the deities of Samothrace, offered to these deities the prayers for their salvation. And immediately the wind died down and two stars fell over the heads of the Dioscori, and the whole company was amazed at the marvel which had taken place and concluded that they had been rescued from their perils by an act of Providence of the gods. For this reason, the story of this reversal of fortune for the Argonauts has been handed down to succeeding generations, and sailors when caught in storms always direct their prayers to the deities of Samothrace and attribute the appearance of the two stars to the epiphany of the Dioscori. [From Book IV, end of chapter 42 through beginning of chapter 43,  translation of C. H. Oldfather, 1933: available online here].
The parallels between the above account from the mythical journey of the Argonauts and the events in the second chapter of Acts are striking: there is a "great storm" which is characterized primarily by wind, because after Orpheus offers prayers to the deities of Samothrace (which deities the text makes clear are the Dioscuri themselves) we read that "immediately the wind died down."

Then, we read that "two stars" fell over the heads of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux were members of the heroic crew of Jason's ship, the Argo -- a detail that is a little strange, since Orpheus is praying to them, when it seems they should be able to just stop the storm directly, but remember that this is a myth, and these sorts of seemingly contradictory details actually reveal that this myth is in fact very ancient and that even at the late date that Diodorus Siculus was writing, in 60 BC to 30 BC, the myth already involved layers of mythical tradition that had come down through the centuries, to the point that it was already "hoary," or covered in cobwebs and dust).

Finally, we read that "the whole company was amazed" and they went about telling this story everywhere, and handing it down to succeeding generations.

These parallels should absolutely cement the identification of the account in Acts 2 with the zodiacal  house of Gemini, especially when considered in conjunction with the abundance of clues that we have already examined above.

To put it as plainly as possible: the descent of tongues of heavenly fire which came down and rested upon the company in the upper room in Acts 2 is an image anciently associated with Castor and Pollux, the Twins of Gemini, and known to have been described in literature written prior to what is considered to be the time of the New Testament.

Many other important elements of the Acts 2 account, including the powerful wind, are also associated with the Twins of Gemini and can be shown to have been associated with the Twins prior to the appearance of the Acts account.

And yet there is actually even more evidence which supports this interpretation of the Pentecost story, and of the associated Old Testament commemoration of the Feast of Weeks which corresponds to the Pentecost story (and which most interpreters say that the disciples and the visitors to Jerusalem from other lands who are described in the Pentecost account in Acts 2 were there to celebrate -- that is, they were celebrating Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks when Pentecost took place, which is why there were so many visitors from other lands in Jerusalem who could be amazed at the speech of the disciples and who all heard the messages in their own native language or mother tongue).

The Feast of Weeks, as mentioned previously, celebrates the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, after the crossing of the Red Sea. The previous post discussing the episode of the crossing of the Red Sea gave evidence that this event refers to the crossing of the equinox point at spring equinox, in which the sun (or the earth on its annual orbit, depending on the point of view we wish to use) crosses up out of the lower half of the year and into the upper half of the year (when days become longer than nights again, and continue lengthening on their way to the very summit of the year at summer solstice).

We can see that "going up a high mountain" after crossing into the upper half of the year at equinox corresponds rather nicely to the going up onto Mount Sinai after crossing the Red Sea out of the house of bondage in the lower half of the year. But what about the giving of the law?

The Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844), whose interpretation of the Pentecost event informs all of the arguments outlined in this blog post so far, gives a very good explanation of why the sign of Gemini is associated with the giving of the law, and the balanced scales of justice. He explains that when the Twins of Gemini are at their zenith point on their arcing path across the sky (as they are in the planetarium screenshot presented above, in which I have outlined the constellation of Gemini with a light-blue rectangle), the two equinoctial guardians of Virgo and Pisces are rising in the east and setting in the west, creating an image of balance and harmony.

You can see that this is the case from the image above: Virgo is rising along the eastern horizon (left side of the image, because we are "facing to the south"), and Pisces is setting towards the western horizon. The head of Virgo and her distinctive "outstretched arm" (marked by the star Vindemiatrix) are above the horizon. Most of Pisces is visible -- only the lower of the two fishes has disappeared under the western horizon, but the "fish-band" that holds the two fishes together, and the other fish, are clearly visible above the horizon.

To understand why these two signs are associated with the equinoxes and with the scales of justice, please go back and read through the arguments and evidence presented in previous posts "Isis and Nephthys: March equinox 2015" and "The horizon and the scales of judgement."

Thus, when Gemini is high in the sky (at its highest point), it basically creates an image of the scales of justice, equally balanced -- with Virgo the sign just prior to the fall equinox on one side, and Pisces  the sign just prior to the spring equinox on the other (during the Age of Aries, the sign of Aries was the first sign after the spring equinox: Pisces was the last sign before it).

And, there are ancient sources which attest to the fact that the Twins of Gemini were associated with the concept of justice. For instance, in the quotations about the Twins collected on this page, we see that in the Nemean Ode of Pindar (an ancient Greek poet who lived from 522 BC to 443 BC), in the second sentence cited on that page, it is said of these two divine twins: "And due regard have they for men of justice" (Nemean Ode 10: 3 -5; italics added here to make the connection).

Again, in fragment 6 of Book VI of the history of Diodorus (also quoted on the page linked in the preceding paragraph) we find the Twins described as follows: "And, speaking generally, their manly spirits and skill as generals, and their justice and piety as well, have won them fame among practically all men, since they make their appearance as helpers of those who fall into unexpected perils" (and at this point, the editor of that page explains, "that is, they appear to mariners in storms"). In the preceding quotation, I have added italics to the word "justice," to make it clear that ancient authors associated the Dioscuri with justice.

Thus, the episode of the giving of the law upon the high mountain of Mt. Sinai, which is also associated in the New Testament with the feast of Pentecost and the descent of holy fire over the heads after the visitation of a divine wind, can be seen to contain details or symbology which connects to the zodiac sign of Gemini, the Twins.

In fact, there are so many points of correspondence here that the association is practically undeniable. And, the fact is that the same kinds of celestial correspondence can be demonstrated over and over again all throughout the stories in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible -- as well as throughout  the myths and sacred stories found in virtually every part of the globe in every culture (see for example some that have been discussed previously, listed in this "Star Myth index").

Now, to those who have been told that the stories of the Bible are meant to be understood literally, as events which happened on earth to historical figures, and who have believed that this is how they are supposed to be understood and for whom such an understanding is an important part of their personal identity and life (and I used to be one who understood them in just such a way, and for whom such a literal interpretation was an important part of my personal life and identity), the discovery of overwhelming amounts of evidence which shows that these stories are in fact clear celestial metaphor rather than literal history can be quite a shock, to say the least.

Such a discovery can lead one to feel as if the entire meaning of the stories has been lost.

However, after long and careful consideration of this very question, I believe that this discovery actually enables us to understand their intended meaning -- while trying to force a literal reading onto scriptures that were never intended to be understood literally will almost certainly force us to misunderstand their meaning, perhaps quite egregiously.

I believe that their true meaning is far more profound than simply "stories that embody the motions of the heavens." In fact, although one might conclude from the foregoing explication that these stories are actually all about the constellations, the zodiac, and the motions sun's progress through the background zodiac stars in the annual cycle of the year, I would argue that in spite of all that has been demonstrated above, in one sense the true meaning of the stories has little or nothing to do with the stars at all!

That's because I believe that in these stories, the entire celestial realm and all the actors in the heavens above (sun, moon, planets, and stars) are themselves metaphors or allegorical pointers towards the spiritual truths that the myths of the world are all trying to convey, using the heavenly actors to convey invisible concepts that are very difficult to grasp directly and must be explained through poetry, comparison, allegory, and myth.

In other words, as many previous posts have explained, these stories are not actually about disciples who were gathered in an upper room, nor semi-divine heroes who were sailing on the ship Argo in the quest for the Golden Fleece, nor even about the glorious sun passing through the glittering constellation of Gemini on its way to the summer solstice at the top of the year. These stories are about the human soul, the condition of the human soul in a physical body, and the condition of the human soul in a universe that is simultaneously physical and spiritual at the same time (a universe which has an invisible component which is not so easy to grasp but which is extremely real, nonetheless, and which is even more important in many ways than the physical and material side of the universe that we more easily see and experience every day).

In other words, in an important sense, these stories are all about YOU.

(For more discussion of that critical assertion, see previous posts such as this one, this one, and this one).

The story of Pentecost has many important and profound messages which can be incorporated into our everyday life, far more than can be elucidated here, and so just a few will quickly be touched upon, although each could be the subject of much more elaborate investigation and consideration.

For one thing, it shows the connection between the visible and the invisible world -- the immediate presence of the divine or the infinite, which rests upon each person, and which is dramatically depicted in the story of the events in the upper room. Previous posts which have dealt with this subject include "The peace of utter stillness," "Epiphany: revealing the hidden divine nature," and "Amen and Amenta."

Connected to this theme, which is vast in its import, is the related concept of ecstasy, which can be argued to be absolutely central to almost every ancient sacred tradition around the world -- including the scriptures that made their way into what we call "the Bible," as I have argued in previous posts such as "The Bible is essentially shamanic," "The centrality of ecstasy, according to ancient wisdom," "The shamanic foundation of the world's ancient wisdom," and "Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: Paul the Gnostic opponent of Literalism" (among many, many others).

Certainly the "Pentecostal" event has been associated with the idea of ecstasy and the ecstatic in some interpretations of its significance, although to greater and lesser degrees which have varied widely among different approaches to these texts.

Finally, the above discussion and the clear connections to the concept of law, judgement, and the "celestial scales between the two horizons" shows that while we transit between the "two horizons" in this incarnate existence, we are indeed passing through the scales of judgement, or what the ancient Egyptians called the Hall of Two Truths: the Hall of Judgement. Our actions in this world are in some way profoundly important to the condition of our soul, and they are in a very real sense being "weighed in the balance."

One of the most urgent themes of the Hall of Two Truths scene in the Egyptian Book of the Dead is the admonition to not tell lies, and the "negative confession" by the subject of the weighing that he or she has not told untruth during this life. Taking these scriptures and teaching that they mean something that is virtually the opposite of what they were intended to mean would thus appear to be a grave mistake indeed.

Ultimately, these passages have a very uplifting message about the dignity and indeed divinity of each and every human being, man, woman, or newborn child, and about our connection to the infinite, even as we pass through this incarnate realm of material existence. For although incarnation was allegorized as the "lower half" of the zodiac wheel (between incarnation at the fall equinox and re-ascent to the spirit world at the spring equinox), even so we are connected to the very top, the "upper room," and the world of spirit which is always present, even if not always visible.


Warmest welcome to AJK!!!

Also, special thanks to reader and correspondent Pat B. for sending his own thoughts and analysis on Pentecost and the stars!