Monday, October 14, 2019

Celestial foundations of Revelation 9

I've just published a new video entitled "Celestial foundations of Revelation 9."

In it, I discuss the pivotal importance of an assertion found in Appendix 36 of Hamlet's Mill, referring to the work of previous scholars including philologist and astro-mythologist Franz Boll (1867 - 1924), who believed that the figures and events depicted in the Revelation of John (the final book in the conventional arrangement of the canonical New Testament, so-called) are based on the stars and constellations in the region of the Milky Way.

Although the authors of Hamlet's Mill (Professors Hertha von Dechend [1915 - 2001] and Giorgio de Santillana [1902 - 1974]) do not actually walk the reader through the specific celestial correspondences in the texts of the Revelation, their mention of the events described in Revelation chapter 9 (in which the "fifth angel" is given the key to the bottomless pit, from which arises "smoke as the smoke of a great furnace," and from the smoke "locusts upon the earth," who are given "power, as the scorpions of the earth have power") and their suggestion that this passage -- along with the rest of the events in the book of the Revelation, as argued by Franz Boll -- is celestial in nature was absolutely pivotal in my own journey of realization that the characters and episodes of the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments (so-called) can be shown to be based on celestial metaphor virtually from start to finish.

I feel it is particularly important to realize that the texts of the Revelation of John (also anciently called the Apocalypse of John -- the word "Apocalypse" being derived from Greek and meaning "unveiling" and the word "Revelation" being derived from Latin and also signifying "unveiling" or "revealing") are not literal in nature but rather metaphorical, esoteric, and celestial.

The world's ancient wisdom, given to virtually every culture around our planet upon every inhabited continent and island, is not about literal and external personages and events, but rather about each and every man and woman in this life, and about our own internal and ineluctable connection to the infinite realm: the realm of spirit, the realm of pure potential, the realm of the gods.

I hope this latest video will be helpful and worthwhile to others. Please feel free to share with friends and family members who might find this discussion to be of value. And, as always, you can "subscribe" to my YouTube channel to receive notification whenever I publish a new video.

Friday, October 11, 2019

There's something big out there!

Above is a video from CalTech showing evidence pointing to some massive but thus-far undetected object far beyond the most-distant known players in our solar system.

The video, published in 2016, features astronomers and scientists from Cal Tech who noted that "the six most-distant known objects in the solar system with orbits exclusively beyond Neptune all mysteriously align in a single direction." The scientists go on to declare that "this orbital alignment can only be maintained by some outside force." See also this image showing those trans-Neptunian orbits, along with the caption explaining that their strange alignment must be due to some thus-far unknown outside force.

In other words: there's something big out there.

Only some outside force with significant mass can cause all the orbits of these distant extra-Neptunian objects to be pulled in one direction relative to the sun.

For well more than a decade, Walter Cruttenden -- author of Lost Star of Myth and Time (first published in 2005) -- has been presenting evidence arguing for the conclusion that our own sun is in a binary relationship with another star, likely a very distant but very massive star.

In the years since he has been making this argument, more and more evidence continues to surface which appears to support the hypothesis that Walter has been arguing -- including the orbits discussed in the video above, which caused the scientists at Cal Tech to conclude that there must be some outside force causing these orbits to align in a single direction.

The scientists at Cal Tech posited the existence of a possible "Ninth Planet" far outside the orbits of any of the known planets. However, in the ensuing years no such planet has been found thus far. 

This lack of discovery of the object whose gravity is acting upon the solar system objects which we can observe has thus caused astronomers to push their estimation of the postulated location of that hypothetical object further and further from our own sun -- and as they do so, they must then postulate that the object must be more and more massive (since it is farther and farther away, and yet still able to cause these effects on objects which we can observe in our solar system).

As Walter Cruttenden explained at this year's Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge,  which took place this past weekend October 4th through 6th, within just the past few weeks, researchers Jakub Scholtz of Durham University and James Unwin of University of Illinois at Chicago published a paper suggesting that the "anomalous orbits of trans-Neptunian objects" might be due to the presence of a primordial black hole (PBH), which would have the necessary mass but which would be difficult to detect (and thus explain why the proposed "Planet Nine" has not yet been detected).

In any case, it certainly appears that evidence continues to arise which supports the theories that Walter Cruttenden has been arguing for more than a decade prior to the Cal Tech proposal of 2016. In other words . . . there is something big out there!

How appropriate, then, that the Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge, which Walter Cruttenden launched nearly twenty years ago, also explores the overwhelming evidence which points to the existence of some lost civilization of tremendous antiquity, predating the oldest conventionally-known civilizations by many thousands of years.

Just as the astronomical evidence continues to mount which points to the existence of some very massive star (or even primordial black hole) far beyond the orbit of even the most-distant known objects in our solar system, whose influence can be detected due to its effect on the orbits of planets and objects which we can observe, even so we can also see compelling evidence from around the globe which points to the existence of some extremely advanced culture or civilization which is currently so ancient that the possibility of its existence is not acknowledged (or even admitted as a possibility) by conventional academia, because its "orbit" is so much farther back in time than even the most-distant conventionally-recognized civilizations (such as ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, and the ancient Indus-Saraswati civilization, for example).

The analogy comparing the influence of a distant object whose gravitational impact upon closer objects reveals its existence, even before it is actually discovered, to some more ancient predecessor whose influence can be detected in later cultures or texts is a very powerful metaphor, and it has in fact been made before, as long ago as 1908.

In 1908, Olive Bray wrote in the introduction to his translation of the Poetic Edda (also known as the Elder Edda) that the existence of this older body of texts, containing some of our most important surviving sources of Norse mythology, was postulated before the manuscripts of the Poetic Edda itself came to light. The existence of some older body of Norse mythology could be perceived, Bray explained, by the observations of texts that we did have (including the Prose Edda or Younger Edda, also known as Snorri's Edda).

Bray specifically compared the existence of this older body of mythic text, whose influence could be seen on later texts even before the older source was finally revealed, to the discovery of the planet Neptune, in his 1908 introduction. He wrote:
The finding of the first and most complete MS ["manuscript," referring to the text of the Poetic or Elder Edda] was somewhat dramatic, and resembled the long-awaited discovery of the planet Neptune. Magnus Olafsson had suggested the former existence of a more "ancient Edda," and we soon find this hypothetical work regarded in the light of a hidden treasure of wisdom and ancient lore, of which all existing fragments were but "the bare shadow and the footprint" [page small-roman-numeral ii].
You can read the entire introduction for yourself, along with Olive Bray's translation of the Elder Edda (and the Norse text as well) in its entirety online here.

As I go on to say in my own discussion of the Norse myths (and their celestial foundation within the very same world-wide system of metaphor which underlies virtually all of the other myths, scriptures and sacred stories preserved among cultures on every inhabited continent and island of our planet), in Star Myths of the World and how to interpret them, Volume Four: Norse Mythology, published just over one year ago,
This charming metaphor is all the more appropriate in that it can also be used to describe the postulated existence of some presently-unknown but extremely influential culture or civilization of extreme antiquity, whose system of spiritual metaphor or mythology has somehow influenced the ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred stories of virtually every culture on our planet, including those which (like the outermost planets known prior to the discovery of Neptune) are the "farthest out" civilizations known to current historians and academics, such as the cultures of ancient Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, ancient China, and the ancient Indus-Saraswati civilization. 
We can see the influence of this even more extremely ancient culture, one now forgotten or at least unacknowledged, in the myths of cultures as widely dispersed in space and time as those of ancient Greece and ancient Mesopotamia and those which survived right up to the present century among the cultures of the Americas, of the islands of the vast Pacific, and of the Aboriginal people of Australia, as if the gravity of some enormous but distant body is subtly bending their "orbits" towards itself [page 31].
Below is a short video I recorded using my mobile phone discussing this metaphor (an attempt to add a video to "Instagram TV" -- because I was asked so many times at this year's CPAK whether I was using Instagram that I decided to give it a try). While recording it, I mistakenly referred to the Younger Edda as the "Poetic Edda," which is obviously an error, but if you look past that mistaken reference the metaphor should be fairly clear.

Olive Bray in 1908 used the gravitational influence of Neptune as a metaphor to describe the perceived influence of some even more ancient body of myth -- the Elder or Poetic Edda -- prior to the actual identification and confirmation of that older body of texts.

The metaphor is just as applicable today, to the influence of some extremely ancient, and thus far still unacknowledged, culture whose influence can be seen on even the "most-distant" civilizations known to conventional history. Its influence can be detected in archaeological evidence, but its influence can also be detected in the ancient myths, and the fact that the myths of cultures around the globe, on every inhabited continent and island of our planet, can be shown to be built upon the same world-wide celestial system (a system which was already fully mature by the time the very oldest texts of Egypt and Mesopotamia were written).

In other words, the evidence points compellingly to the conclusion that "there's something big out there," in the far reaches of remote antiquity, farther back than the guardians of conventional history has thus far allowed themselves to look.

The evidence for something big "out there" beyond the most distant known solar system objects continues to mount, and will eventually bring about a change in the paradigm that has prevailed up to now regarding the structure and mechanics of our solar system.

The evidence for something big "out there" in the remote antiquity far predating any conventionally-known ancient cultures is equally irresistible, and will eventually bring about a change in the paradigm that has prevailed up to now regarding the ancient history of humanity and our planet.

The ramifications of this paradigm shift will be enormous.

Monday, October 7, 2019

An unforgettable weekend at CPAK 2019

photo by Anyextee, October 6th, 2019.

Still energized and ecstatic after an incredible weekend with everyone who attended the 11th Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge, which took place this year from October 4th through 6th in Newport Beach, California.

It was an unforgettable event with a very special and positive spirit, made possible by Walter Cruttenden and his family and the entire team at the Binary Research Institute and related organizations. Their hard work behind the scenes ensured that the event went so smoothly that everyone attending (some from other continents, even as far away as Aotearoa) could focus on the subjects being explored, and enjoy conversations that might not have been possible anywhere else.

In the past, I have written about the Norse myth involving the wisdom being Kvasir, who arises from the contributions (in the form of spit) of many other gods and goddesses and who is in some way wiser than each one of them individually. There is a profound teaching embodied in this ancient myth. As I said in a blog post from April of 2016 regarding the origin of Kvasir:
Somehow, when the Aesir and the Vanir reconcile their differences, and spit one by one in to the sacred vessel to signify their treaty, a being arises out of the spit-bucket that is so wise that none can put to it a question to which Kvasir does not know the answer, a being who travels the world imparting wisdom to all. 
This would suggest, on the most esoteric level, that when we come down into this incarnate life which embodies an endless struggle or "interplay" between material and spiritual realms, out of this struggle (if we can somehow integrate the two) will arise new wisdom which can be obtained in no other way: and which is so wise that there is no question whose answer cannot be found if we can access this being born of the struggle and subsequent pact. 
On a more practical level, it suggests that in the struggle and interplay between different people, new knowledge and wisdom can sometimes take shape that none of the individual participants could have seen on their own -- new insights which, like Kvasir, rise up out of the swirling "pot of spit" created by the interaction of all the different parties, but a being which is in some ways even greater than the sum of the individual "spitters."
I certainly felt as though the confluence of all the fantastic and engaged men and women who converged this year upon the 11th Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge in Newport Beach brought about this very spirit of new knowledge which in some way was greater than the sum of all the parts. 

And this mythological comparison is most apt (if I may say so myself) because the very struggle in the Norse mythology between the Aesir and the Vanir themselves has to do with the awe-inducing motion of precession, which of course forms the subject and unifying theme of this conference. For more on the precessional aspects of the Aesir - Vanir war, and of the future cataclysm of Ragnarok, please check out my 2018 book Star Myths of the World, Volume Four: Norse Mythology.

I felt particularly privileged to have had the opportunity to present a talk at this special conference this year, because I was speaking alongside some fantastic researchers, scholars, experts, and outright savants. I would highly recommend anyone who is interested in these important subjects consider purchasing the video files of some or all of the presentations (when they become available: at present, only video from the previous CPAK events up through 2016 are available on the following link), through the appropriate section of the CPAK website here.

One of the most touching moments of the entire weekend took place during the presentation by the pioneering researcher Robert Schoch, whose courage and insight in partnership with the late, great John Anthony West was absolutely instrumental in revealing the archaeological and geological and cultural evidence pointing towards the existence of an extremely advanced but now forgotten culture which must have predated all the conventionally-acknowledged civilizations (including that of ancient Egypt) by thousands of years.

This was the first CPAK since John West left this physical incarnation, and Professor Schoch was obviously very profoundly moved by that fact. When he asked for those present to give applause for his departed friend, Robert Schoch told us, "He's listening."

There was more than one ovation during Professor Schoch's presentation for John Anthony West.

At this year's event, it was my pleasure to meet Anyextee (pronounced "N - E - X - T" as if saying each letter individually) and his wife Karina, who worked closely with John West and who are continuing to lead tours exploring the profound esoteric mysteries of ancient Egypt, as well as tours to the great centers of the Maya civilization, and who are in fact working with the same Egyptian guide who participated in John West's Magical Egypt tours, as Anyextee explained in an interview earlier this year with Joe Rupe on Lighting the Void (to listen to that interview, you can go to the iTunes page for Lighting the Void and continue scrolling down until you get to March 12, 2019, or you can right-click (or control-click) on this link and either open the audio player to listen or download the file to a device. 

Anyextee was gracious enough to snap some photos during my presentation (which followed right after his own), one of which is shown above. This year, I spoke on the subject of "Stars, Myths, and Recovering your Self."

It was also an honor to meet the team behind the Lost Origins podcast, Andrew Tuczon and Christopher "C. K." Kingsley, who attended this year's CPAK as sponsors and who recorded live interviews with each and every speaker, which will be published as individual podcasts in the upcoming Third Season of the popular show. 

It is a completely different experience to record an interview in-person as opposed to over the web, and one I have only had the opportunity to do a couple of times previously. There is so much more personal interaction and communication via eyes and expressions and body language during an in-person conversation, and I really appreciated the in-depth questions and insights that Andrew and C. K. brought to the table. I think you will enjoy it whenever it is eventually aired -- as I'm sure you will enjoy their interviews with the other fantastic speakers over the weekend, from Robert Schoch to Carmen Boulter to Alan Green to Robert Edward Grant to Christopher Dunn to Steven Lin and all the others.

I cannot say enough positive things about all of the presentations given by the various authors and researchers at this year's event. I would highly recommend everyone interested in these important subjects visit the website of each speaker in order to learn more.

I also cannot say enough about the conversations I had with everyone I met this year. The level of engagement, sincerity, and goodwill towards others was remarkable and a big part of what makes CPAK so special.

In this seemingly-connected era, in many ways it is easy to feel more disconnected than ever from our fellow men and women who are occupying this space and time along with us. I am convinced that it is vitally important for us to connect in person with friends as much as we can, and on a regular basis. Conferences like CPAK are a wonderful way to do this, if at all possible, but also simply spending time together with friends (in small groups or one-on-one) in a more familiar setting.

Thank you to everyone who attended this year's Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge, thereby making this memorable weekend possible, and to all those who worked so hard to make it a success.

image: Anyextee (left) and David Mathisen (right) after we both finished our presentations at CPAK XI, October 06, 2019. Photo by Karina Itzcoatl.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Perseus, Medusa, and You

Here's a brand-new video I just published entitled "Perseus, Medusa, and You."

It examines some of the evidence which shows that not only are the world's ancient myths built on a foundation of celestial metaphor, in which virtually all of the characters and episodes correspond to specific constellations and their heavenly cycles, but also that the original antecedent of the metaphors have their source and origin in the invisible realm, the infinite realm -- the realm of the gods.

The stories are not simply "based on the constellations" -- the celestial metaphor originates in the unseen realm, which is then mapped onto the constellations, which themselves (because they occupy the infinite realm of the heavens above) are perfect for helping us to "see" the realities of that Invisible Realm.

In this new video, I explore some of the aspects of the myth of Perseus, Medusa, and the Gorgons to demonstrate that the details of the story originate in the celestial realm -- but that beyond their correspondence to the constellations in the night sky, the figures in this well-known myth convey powerful truths regarding our own situation in this incarnate life, and regarding our own relationship to the realm of the infinite, which is in fact always present, always available, and indeed absolutely necessary to us as we navigate the pitfalls of life in the seemingly-material plane.

Please feel free to share with those who would find this information to be interesting and helpful!

Monday, September 30, 2019

The Practice of Watching for the New Moon

Every month after the day of the conjunction of the moon (when the moon passes directly between earth and sun) brings an opportunity to look for the first appearance of the new crescent, following closely behind the setting sun in the west.

Above is a photograph I took this evening (Sunday, September 29th just after sunset) of the extremely thin new crescent moon for this month (straight up from the highest part of the tree silhouettes). The moon is following the sun down towards the western horizon. You can see by the glow on the horizon that the moon is "to the left" of the point where the sun went down, because the arc of the moon's path is coming downwards from the left side of the image, which is the southern sky as we face west in this photograph.

In other words, the path of both the sun and moon arcs across the sky for viewers in the northern hemisphere (where this photo was taken) from east to west above the southern horizon, and south in this photo is to the left, so the moon is arcing down from the left after crossing the sky above the southern horizon.

Below is another photograph showing that downward arc (the blue arrow points to the thin sliver of the new moon, and shows the angle which the moon has followed from the southern portion of the sky down into the west):

Watching for the appearance of the first sliver of the new moon after conjunction was a very serious task for the priests in many ancient cultures. You can do an online search of the texts of the biblical scriptures to see how many times the words "new moon" are mentioned. The ancient Hebrew calendar began each new lunar months with this observation, which had to be confirmed by more than one witness -- but many other ancient cultures around the world appear to have used the very same process, and in many traditional cultures this system survived up through the twentieth century.

In ancient Egypt, observing the first crescent of the new moon following conjunction was extremely important and imbued with esoteric significance. Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907), writing in Volume Two of his Ancient Egypt, the Light of the World, argues that the crescent of the new moon seen in the sky was the "bow of promise" that the world would not be again destroyed by a deluge (a deluge which Massey argues was metaphorical, and having to do with the "overthrowing of the pole" (and hence the shifting of the ages due to the motion of precession -- see Massey, Volume Two pages 550 and following).

Of this bow of promise, which he argues is seen in the new moon each month, Massey writes:
After the deluge in "the destruction of mankind" the god Ra establishes a covenant with those who have escaped from the flood. He says that what he commanded is well done, and that the destruction of his enemies removes destruction from themselves [i.e., from mankind]. "Said by the majesty of Ra,  It is well done, all this. I shall now protect men on account of this. Said by Ra, I now raise my hand that I shall not destroy men," i.e., not again. The making of this covenant after the deluge is followed by the establishment of the New Year's festival under the direction of the young priestesses of Hathor. "Hence comes it that libations are made under the directions of priestesses at the festival of Hathor through all men since the days of old," (line 25). When the lunar orb has been converted into the abode of Ra by night it is said, "And there arose the crescent moon of Taht [Thoth]." Now the lnar crescent is the mythological bow (Proc. Soc. Bib. Arch,. vol vi. p. 131). The speaker in the character of the solar god issuing from the crescent moon exclaims, "I am the lion-god issuing from the bow, and therefore I shot forth" (Rit. [i.e., the Book of the Dead, which in earlier centuries was often referred to as The Ritual], ch. 132). When this was written it had been apprehended that the moon derived its light from the hidden sun, and shot the arrows forth with the growing, stretching crescent that was drawn bow-like to the full with all the force of the young lion-god. It was for this that Taht the lunar deity was wanted by Ra as his bowman by night to shoot the arrows of his light with the crescent of the monthly moon for his bow. For this the bow was set in the nocturnal heaven by Ra: "And there arose the crescent moon of Taht" = the bow. The crescent moon was figured as the bow in heaven for a sign that there should be no further deluge of destruction, because the keeping of time and season did not now depend upon the setting or non-setting stars. When time was reckoned by Tehuti the teller [Thoth], by means of the dual lunation, a power was established that no flood which had submerged the pole or drowned the heptanomis, or the heaven in ten divisions, could in future overwhelm. Thus the deluge in the stellar myths being over, and the powers of darkness being defeated and destroyed, chiefly through the direct agency of the lunar goddess Hathor, the bow of Taht was set in heaven with its promise that the wrath of Ra should not again cover the earth. 
[. . .] 
It has now to be shown that the bow in the Kamite mythos, which we look upon as the original [i.e., which Massey believes to be the original pattern upon which the scriptures of the Bible were  later patterned], was not the rainbow, which was afterwards substituted as more natural by those who knew no better. The lunar crescent was not only the bow of the deluge and sign of promise for all future time, it was also an ark of safety from the waters of the Nun, in which the young child of light was bosomed and reborn of the lunar virgin mother. In the Osirian cult Osiris was reborn in an ark of crescent shape which was a figure of the crescent moon. It is said to Osiris in the preparatory pangs of birth, "Taht is a protection for thee. He placeth thy soul in the lunar bark in that name which is thine of god Moon" or god An, another name of Osiris (Records, vol. ii. p. 119). The ark of the new moon was a means of resurrection for Osiris on the third night after his death, if we count the 17th Athyr as one. The priests brought out the sacred coffer containing a little golden ark. They also modelled a little image of the crescent moon. 562 - 563.
Although I have found much evidence to suggest that the imagery of the deluge (found in the myths of cultures around the globe) is celestial in nature (to include the ark and the bow), this does not mean that the ancient myths do not also use lunar symbolism: the ancient system of myth imparted to humanity in extreme antiquity is amazingly sophisticated and can be shown to incorporate the movement of the sun, the planets, and the moon into its multi-layered profundity.

Thus, I have no doubt that the monthly cycle of the moon was imbued with deep esoteric meaning by the ancient system which was given to all cultures for our benefit and instruction. Massey was particularly attuned to the connection of ancient myth with the cycle of the moon (see  discussion in this previous post from 2014).

The interpretation given in the passages cited above suggests that the disappearance of the moon at the period of conjunction each month, followed by the reappearance at the first sighting of the very thin new waxing crescent following the period of disappearance, was associated with the death and rebirth of the dying god (in this case, Osiris) has profound lessons for us in this very present moment.

The disappearance of the god or goddess is one of the most important patterns in myth around the world, seen in the myth of Osiris but also in other cultures in the myth of Persephone, and of Tammuz, and of Baldr, and of Rabbit Boy, and of Amaterasu, and many more. This pattern may very well illuminate aspects of our own plunge into and entanglement with the material realm during this incarnate life -- and dramatize our separation from our own essential or Higher Self, which the myths around the world show to be a nearly universal aspect of the human condition.

Our separation from our essential self is a very serious issue -- but the myths also show us that this separation is not irreversible. We can recover our connection with our own essential and authentic self, and the myths (I am convinced) point us towards the ways we can do so.

Thus, every new moon we have an opportunity to consider this vitally important subject of the recovery of our essential self. 

We might even say that the ancient practice of looking intently for the first visible sliver of the new moon each month points us towards the intensity (and the regularity) with which we should be pursuing reconciliation with our own authentic self.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

The Pursuit of Mastery and the Road to Consciousness

Above is a video of an individual named Andrey Morozov who has achieved a certain very impressive level of mastery in playing the keyboard, demonstrating the ability to play one of the signature pieces by one of the greatest keyboard masters of the rock era, the incredible Jon Lord (1941 - 2012): the title track from the album Burn (1974) by Deep Purple. 

The song contains one of the most baroquely beautiful and aesthetically satisfying keyboard solos of the many virtuoso solos by Jon Lord, which you can hear in the above video beginning at 3:55 in the above video, with the most famous section of the solo beginning at 4:25, about 30 seconds in to the start of the solo.

You can hear Jon Lord playing the Hammond organ in this same song in a live performance at the California Jam in 1974, along with bandmates David Coverdale (lead vocals, swinging the mike stand around and wearing a white shirt with flower and butterfly embroidery), Ritchie Blackmore (lead guitar, wearing what looks like a black velvet dinner jacket with no shirt), Glenn Hughes (bass guitar and vocals, wearing a white suit with serious bell-bottoms and platform shoes), Ian Paice (drums, wearing a brown vest over a yellow t-shirt), and Jon Lord (keyboards, wearing a blue button-down shirt).

Thanks to the internet, you can now find dozens of excellent videos offering tutorials to help you learn to play this intricate musical creation by the tremendous Jon Lord (see also this one and this one).

The ability to play that piece with that level of skill at that speed undoubtedly requires hundreds of hours of practice (almost certainly on top of thousands of hours of building a foundation including the mastery of chord progressions).

And, although YouTube allows them to share this achievement with a wide audience, I would suggest that the hours which went into achieving that level of mastery would provide tremendous benefits even if they never shared their performance with anyone else.

In a discussion of this very subject, the late great John Anthony West (1932 - 2018) argues that one of the primary byproducts of the pursuit of mastery is "the development of individual consciousness," and that this consciousness can be developed even if we are forced to work within very strict boundaries (including playing someone else's music, note-for-note): indeed, he argues that striving towards a certain level of mastery even within very strict boundaries is far more beneficial to the development of consciousness than any so-called "self-expression" with no boundaries at all.

In his masterpiece Serpent in the Sky, originally published in 1979 (I own the 1987 Julian Press edition which has 256 pages and features a preface by Peter Tompkins), John Anthony West explores the connection between art, mastery, and consciousness.

He asks what could have led the artists of ancient Egypt to deliberately select the most difficult materials from which to carve their sculptures: "what kind of 'logic' dictates a preference for working with difficult material?" (88). He then presents counter-arguments to possible explanations, shooting down the suggestion that they selected such difficult material (such as diorite and granite) primarily for purposes of durability or economy. 

John Anthony West then presents his hypothesis:
The Egyptian artist was not free to choose his material or his subject. Thus, it would seem that those in command deliberately chose difficult mediums in order to create difficulties for their artists. As I have mentioned, it is universal law, dictated by necessities of number, that achievement takes place only in the face of commensurate opposition. 
By forcing artists to work with the most intractable materials [. . .] the sages of Egypt provided their artists with a challenge that gave them an opportunity to achieve a pitch of mastery they might never achieve left to their own devices. 
[. . .] 
The chief beneficiary of art is the artist. He can put into his work only as much as he personally understands. In the exercise of his art, he develops his understanding. 
[. . .] 
In Egypt, the anonymous sages were the artists, in our modern inspirational sense. They designed the temples and the statues and the wall friezes. The sculptors, painters and masons were but interpretive artists, this is true. But there is no ignominy in this position. We do not think the violin virtuoso 'repressed' because he must play Beethoven's or Bartok's notes. Moreover, within the restriction of the imposed piece, there is ample opportunity for the exercise of creativity -- otherwise all virtuosos at a given level of professionalism would sound the same. And if the virtuoso is a real virtuoso, then he will share in Beethoven's revelation. 89 - 90.
In other words, John Anthony West argues that the high civilization of ancient Egypt saw the pursuit of mastery, working with a deliberately difficult medium, and even within very strict boundaries, as transformative in a positive way and a means of pursuing one of our central tasks within this human existence. He writes:
Leaf through any pictorial survey of Egyptian art and architecture, and you will get some idea of the magnitude and mastery of their works; a moment's reflection will give some insight into the encompassing nature of the activity that must have been required to produce it. Then, if instead of passively accepting the orthodox conclusion that all of this was the product of organised delusion carried out to satisfy priestly and pharaonic megalomania, we look at it as a continuous exercise in the development of individual consciousness, we will be coming somewhere close to what must have been one aspect of Egyptian motivation. 90.
When he argues that putting in the hours required to express the kind of mastery that ancient Egypt demonstrates in the artwork of its artisans is a kind of "continuous exercise in the development of individual consciousness," I would add that this kind of "development of consciousness" may well have to do with the reconnection with the essential self.

I would argue that the kind of mastery demonstrated in the keyboard videos above, for example, facilitates (and even at some level requires) the transcendence of the chattering, doubting, endlessly analyzing, endlessly assessing and comparing persona of the "egoic mind." At first, of course, the egoic mind will be very much involved (and even very necessary) in the initial hours of practice and skill-building -- but at some point, after hundreds of hours have been devoted towards the chosen form of expression, the level of skill that begins to develop will enable the state of "flow" or "no mind" or "playing above yourself" which transcends the egoic self and facilitates the emergence of the (often repressed and therefore elusive) authentic self.

Indeed, in order to demonstrate the level of keyboard virtuosity demonstrated in the above videos, I would argue that a state beyond the chattering of the egoic mind is practically a necessity.

Playing a musical instrument is just one option of a path which we can choose in order to pursue that vital goal of mastery within a difficult medium, leading to "the development of individual consciousness" and the reconnection with the essential self. Below is another example of an extremely high level of mastery, demonstrated within the difficult medium of balancing on a foam-and-fiberglass surfboard angled into the face of a moving, triple-overhead-plus ocean wave by championship surfer Coco Ho at Honolua Bay on the island of Maui:

And here is a link to a split-screen video clip showing Coco Ho surfing within the rather more-restricted confines of an artificial-wave tank at a recent competition, and showing how her artistry on that wave is very similar to that of her father, championship surfer Michael Ho, surfing the same wave.

Again, as John Anthony West points out, just because she and her father are surfing a nearly-identical wave, and shredding it using nearly-identical moves, "we do not think of the violin virtuoso as repressed" just because he or she is playing a song by Beethoven, and in West's observation it is within the restrictions set by the challenging medium within which the artist is displaying his or her mastery that the "continuous exercise in the development of individual consciousness" takes place.

Obviously, we will not all be able to achieve the same level of skill exhibited by masters who have risen to the very highest levels their art such as Coco Ho and Michael Ho in surfing, or Jon Lord in keyboard virtuosity, but I would suggest that if we devote thousands of hours to a chosen area of human endeavor, we can achieve a level of mastery which can enable us to connect with our authentic self.

John Anthony West continues in his discussion of this vital subject:
Even today there is a kind of 'art' that is intended to guide the performer along the road to consciousness, though we tend not to think of this as 'art' but rather as exercise or discipline. Into this category of art fall Zen archery and painting, tea-making and the martial arts, and the dances of the Dervishes and of the temple dancers of India and Bali. 92 - 93.
If the medium of music or the medium of ocean waves are not your first choice for pursuing the "road to consciousness," you may want to consider one of the martial arts of China or the surrounding cultures. Just as I would argue that we can greatly benefit by putting in the hours to master the chord-progressions in a challenging Jon Lord solo even though we ourselves will never actually achieve the level of mastery of the late Jon Lord himself, I would argue that we can discover a way to reconnect with our essential self by pursuing a martial art for many years, even while realizing that not all of us will achieve the level of the top masters in that art.

Below is a video clip showing Chen Taiji master Chen Yu demonstrating a level of mastery that testifies to thousands of hours of disciplined training in his art:

And below is a video showing a demonstration of Taiji drills by master Marin Spivak, who trained for many years with master Chen Yu in China:

These are just a few examples out of the nearly limitless areas of human endeavor and art from which we can choose a path to pursue mastery. As John Anthony West explains in the quotations cited above, it may be that the entire civilization of ancient Egypt was built around the concept of such disciplined pursuit, "as a continuous exercise in the development of individual consciousness."

I would add that when we begin to achieve the levels of mastery demonstrated by the individuals in these videos, we are likely to reach a place where we begin to transcend the egoic mind (because mastery at these levels actually requires reaching a "flow" state in which we must transcend the egoic mind and its characteristic doubting, critiquing, and self-sabotaging patterns). During the early stages of our pursuit, however, the exact opposite will be the case: the egoic mind will actually be in overdrive!

One final thing to point out from John Anthony West on this subject is his opinion, voiced in a 2008 interview, that although it is possible to pursue such mastery on one's own, "you're much better off with a teacher. You can learn it by yourself, and then when you get to a certain point you have to get a teacher to teach you what you're doing wrong, so you can do it right."

But whether or not we have access to a teacher at any given time, I would argue that putting in the hours to pursue mastery in some area of human endeavor is a vital and essential path for reconnecting with our self.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

September Equinox, 2019

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In less than twelve hours, the earth will hurtle past the point of the September equinox, at 12:50 am Pacific time on Monday, September 23rd, which will be 3:50 am Eastern time in North America. 

Those times are actually given using the misleading system of "daylight savings time" (which continues this year until November 3rd), so in terms of where we actually are on the turning of the earth in relation to the heavens, add an hour to those numbers. In other words, earth will speed through the exact point of equinox at 12:50 am Pacific time, but "daylight savings time" misleadingly tells us that it is 11pm when our part of the globe is actually at the hour of midnight, when the part of the world upon which we are standing is turned most directly away from the sun -- so if we were to do away with "daylight savings" then we would call the moment we speed past that point of equinox 1:50 am in the Pacific time zone and 4:50 am in the Eastern. As it is, however, clocks set to daylight savings time will say 12:50 am in the Pacific zone and 3:50 am in the Eastern.

The Greenwich Mean Time at the point of equinox will be 7:50 am on 23 September. This should help you to calculate what time it will be in your part of the globe when earth hurtles past the equinox point.

A long time ago, I wrote a blog post using a metaphor which compares the earth to an old sailing ship, with the bowsprit representing the north pole and the stern lantern representing the south pole. 

This metaphor helps us to understand the celestial mechanics behind the solstices and equinoxes. As the ship orbits the sun, the orientation of the bowsprit (representing the north pole) and the stern-lantern (representing the south pole) remain the same -- they point in the same direction in space. 

The point of summer solstice for the northern hemisphere is reached when the bowsprit of the ship sweeps past the very point where it points most directly towards the sun. There is one specific moment where this takes place during the orbit. Similarly, the point of winter solstice for the northern hemisphere takes place when the ship reaches the opposite end of its orbit from the summer solstice, at which point the bowsprit is pointed most directly away from the sun and the stern-latern (representing the south pole) points most directly towards the sun (which explains why it is summer time in the southern hemisphere when it is winter in the northern).

The points of equinox take place halfway in between these two points, when the ship is arranged "broadside" to the sun, and there is one specific moment in time where earth passes through the exact point of equinox.

The exact date of the equinoxes and solstices "slips around" due to the fact that earth does not make an exact round number of spins on its axis during the period it takes the planet to come back to those exact points of solstice or equinox. That's why the September equinox date is usually the 22nd, but sometimes falls on September 21st, and this year falls on September 23rd. It's not the equinox point that is changing but rather the calendar itself, which fits rather "loosely" over the year due to the fact that there is not an exact fit between days (spins on the axis) and orbital period.

The points of equinox are days of "crossing over" in the world-wide system of celestial metaphor which forms the foundation for the ancient myths of cultures on every inhabited continent and island of our planet. At the equinox. the path of the ecliptic "crosses" the celestial equator, and at the equinox we "cross over" from the "upper half" of the year when hours of light are longer than hours of darkness to the "lower half" of the year when hours of darkness are longer than hours of light (at the fall equinox), or vice-versa from the "lower half" of the year when darkness exceeds daylight back to the "upper half" in which daylight again exceeds darkness.

The ancient myths dramatize the equinox crossing in many different ways, but one of the most important ways in which the myths allegorize this "point of transition" is by likening it to the transition of our soul into (or out of) the material realm. The point of the autumnal or fall equinox (the September equinox for the northern hemisphere), the "crossing point" where we transition "downwards" into the half of the year in which hours of darkness are longer than hours of daylight, was particularly associated with the plunge down into this "lower realm" of material existence which each of us undergoes when we are born into this physical body.

This physical birth was seen as our "first birth," but it was nearly always paired with our "second birth" or spiritual birth -- and this, as Alvin Boyd Kuhn explains in his masterful 1940 text Lost Light, explains why there are so many examples of myths featuring "two mothers" or "two-mother symbolism." On page 8 of that text, Kuhn writes:
The ancient books always grouped the two mothers in pairs. They were called "the two mothers" or sometimes the "two divine sisters." Or they were the wife and sister of the God, under the names of Juno, Venus, Isis, Ishtar, Cybele or Mylitta. In old Egypt they were first Apt and Neith; and later Isis and Nephthys. Massey relates Neith to "net," i.e., fish-net! Clues to their functions were picked up in the great Book of the Dead: "Isis conceived him; Nephthys gave him birth." Or: "Isis bore him; Nephthys suckled him," or reared him.
What can this ancient teaching possibly mean, and how can it help us where we are, in this present moment?

I am convinced that one of the powerful teachings contained in the myths for our benefit and blessing in this life concerns the recovery of our authentic self -- our essential self or Higher Self, sometimes referred to as the "divine self," and associated in the ancient myths with the symbolism of the second birth, rather than the first (material and physical) birth.

The ancient myths, over and over, and from all parts of the globe, dramatize a story of trauma: a story of separation from who we actually are -- a story of loss of connection with the essential self, and a need for reconnection and reconciliation with Self.

The symbolism of the two mothers -- and the two births -- is one of the powerful ways in which this teaching was dramatized within the incredible esoteric teachings given to humanity in their "original instructions" in myth.

We see this imagery, for example, in the story known as the Judgment of Solomon, which is related in the third chapter of the book of 1 Kings in the scriptures of the Bible. In that story, we see again the pattern of the two mothers, and of two births (represented by two babies). One of the babies is a living baby, and one is a dead baby. Solomon must use his judgment (itself a gift from the divine realm, as discussed in this recent video) to solve the dilemma of how to proceed when faced with these two mothers.

The ancient myths consistently associate our physical or material birth -- and our physical and material body -- with death and mortality (hence the dead baby in the Solomon story). The second birth is associated with the spirit, with the divine, and with the essential self, the authentic self, the Higher Self.

The second birth, and the reconnection with our own essential self, is not something we achieve by reaching for anything or anyone outside of ourselves -- how could it be? 

It does, however, have at its core the realization that the "lower self" or the natural self, perhaps best referred to as the egoic mind (which all of us create for ourselves, as part of the process of becoming entangled in this material realm) must relax its grip and allow room for the Higher Self to come back.

This profound teaching is dramatized again and again in the world's ancient myths. Previous posts which discuss this vitally important subject include:
Thus, as we reach this point of September equinox -- which in the world's ancient myths is associated with our plunge down into matter (even as the northern hemisphere plunges down into the "lower half" of the year, when hours of darkness begin to outweigh hours of daylight) -- we should consider not just our "first birth" but the fact that the ancient myths nearly always pair the births (and pair the mothers, as with Isis and Nephthys, or Apt and Neith, or the two harlots in the Judgment of Solomon, or the two Mary's in the gospel accounts).

In other words, as we reach these significant points in the great cycle of earth and heavens, it is an occasion to contemplate the urgent work of recovering and reconnecting with our essential self, who in fact is always available to us, always with us, and through whom we come into connection with the wider realm of nature and even beyond it, to the Other Realm, the realm of pure potentiality . . . the realm of the gods.

No one else can do it for us. But I am convinced that the myths are there to point the way. 

image: Wikimedia commons (link).