Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Dolphins and consciousness

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Here is a link to an amazing new report on research that has been ongoing since 1984, recording the vocalizations of individual bottlenose dolphins (and including recordings going back to 1975).  Published on February 20, 2013 in the online Proceedings of the Royal Society B [Biology] and entitled "Vocal copying of individually distinctive signature whistles in bottlenose dolphins,"  the report demonstrates that bottlenose dolphins appear to develop their own signature whistle patterns, and that the animals will call out to other bottlenose dolphins with whom they have close relationships using the signature pattern of the other dolphin!

This is an astonishing discovery.

The report states:
Bottlenose dolphins produce a large variety of narrow-band frequency-modulated whistles and pulsed sounds for communication [12]. As part of their repertoire, each individual also develops an individually distinctive signature whistle [13,14] that develops under the influence of vocal learning [1517]. Individuals listen to their acoustic environment early in life and then develop their own novel frequency modulation pattern or contour for their signature whistle [15]. The result is a novel and unique modulation pattern that identifies the individual even in the absence of general voice cues [18].
The report goes on to explain that, while rare, instances in which other dolphins "copied" the signature whistle pattern of another dolphin have been observed in enough instances to suggest that it is not caused by chance. The researchers explain, "It has been argued that copying of signature whistle types is equivalent to addressing other individuals."  

The authors studied the dolphins extensively to try to determine whether the whistle copying was for affiliative (what we might call "friendly" or "bonding") purposes, aggressive, or deceptive purposes.  The research strongly suggests that this whistle-copying is affiliative.  For example, the researchers write, "The results of a permutation test clearly showed that signature whistle copying occurred between closely affiliated pairs of animals (p = 0.0006)."  They also state, "Frequent copying of signature whistles would therefore render the identity information of the whistle unreliable. The rare copying of signature whistles may, however, be particularly suited to addressing close associates [2325]."

Here is a Discovery News article which discusses the report, entitled "Dolphins call each other by name."

The implications of this report are profound.  It clearly indicates individual consciousness among these dolphins.  Not only are the dolphins aware of their own identity, crafting "their own novel frequency modulation pattern," but they are also aware of the specific identity of their fellow dolphins, sometimes calling out the name of another with whom they are closely bonded.  In one case, the report describes two bonding dolphins calling out one another's whistle patterns in a back-and-forth manner, with one dolphin doing so 13 times and the other 11 times!

While the report's authors declare that this self-naming behavior and bonding behavior is the result of Darwinian natural selection, that is complete conjecture on their part (based, of course, upon their assumptions about the origin of dolphins).  No evidence is presented in the report that dolphin species were observed before they evolved this behavior, and then were watched as they did develop this behavior (with those that did not develop it being killed off by natural selection prior to passing on their DNA).  Thus, the report's author's are engaging in conjecture when they write:
Bottlenose dolphins live in fluid fission–fusion societies with animals forming a variety of different social relationships [20]. This social organization, coupled with restrictions in underwater vision and olfaction, has led to natural selection favouring designed individual signature whistles [12,14] instead of relying on the by-product distinctiveness of voice features [19].
It is possible that there are other explanations for this behavior besides "natural selection favouring" it.   For example, it is possible that consciousness originates somewhere outside of physical beings, and that our brains transmit consciousness, in a way analogous in some manner to a radio or television which transmits a signal that originates elsewhere.  This possibility has been discussed in earlier posts such as this one, which also pointed to a fascinating examination of the topic by Chris Carter entitled "Does Consciousness Depend on the Brain?"  

In that case, as some have suggested, animals have varying capacities of transmitting consciousness, some possessing brains that are more capable of rendering a "clear transmission," and some less capable of doing so.  Dolphins may possess brain structures that are capable of channeling a very high level of consciousness, such that they actually give themselves names and know the names of their loved ones.

There is plenty of evidence to suggest that consciousness does exist outside of the brain, and that it does continue on even after the physical death of the body, just as the destruction of an individual television or an individual radio does not destroy the radio or television broadcast that was being received by that device.  Other posts that have explored this subject include "One of the most famous NDEs ever caught on film," "The ideology of materialism," and "A heartfelt portrait of John Blofeld from Daniel P. Reid."  

In fact, it is probably safe to say that there is at least as much evidence for this hypothesis than for the natural selection hypothesis, and that we have just as much right to conclude that dolphins vocalize the names of themselves and others because they are intelligent beings manifesting consciousness than because natural selection favored the survival of those who designed signature whistles.

Further, because dolphins have been known to surf, which is one of the highest activities that a conscious being can participate in, I think that we can argue that this hypothesis has a lot going for it.

I have surfed with dolphins before myself (or rather, I have been joined by dolphins while surfing), and had them playfully swim right under my board at high speeds in groups of three, and I can attest that they project a powerful sensation of their own consciousness (as do many other animals).  This study adds a whole new dimension to that evidence, and it should really cause all of us to reflect on the implications of this new information.

For example, in light of this new knowledge, is it really ethical to keep dolphins in captivity against their will?

How about training them to perform in live performances or play parts in television shows and movies?  Or conscripting them against their will to serve in the military?  Or killing them for food?

Thinking about the fact that dolphins appear to "give themselves names," it seems that doing violence against dolphins really highlights what Simone Weil wrote in her treatise against violence, that it "turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing."  It turns, as she says, a "somebody" into "nobody" -- it robs its victims (and ultimately its perpetrators as well) of their personhood -- the very thing that an individual name represents! 

This subject really points to the violence that is perpetrated against many other animals under various excuses, all of which were condemned by many ancient philosophers, including Plutarch and Ovid.  There is evidence that many other species of animals manifest consciousness to varying degrees (see for instance "Moving report of elephants mourning . . . ").  In light of that thought, should we be disturbed by the horrendous treatment meted out to animals destined for slaughter and conversion into food products?

This new information about dolphins who give themselves individual names is truly amazing, and the researchers who brought it to our attention should be commended for doing so.  It also appears to have many important ramifications which are worth pondering deeply.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Did an exploding meteor kill the mammoths?

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The recent explosion of a massive meteor over the skies of Russia captured the imagination of viewers worldwide, and sparked concerns about the dangers from other "potentially dangerous near-earth objects" among US lawmakers.  However, it also should bring into focus a story from five years ago, when scientists led by Dr. Richard B. Firestone of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory presented evidence showing that numerous mammoth tusks and a Siberian bison skull and horns all contained pockmarks containing metallic fragments, leading the team to conclude that a meteorite may have exploded over the Arctic, possibly killing the mammoths that have been found there over the years.

The scientists found that some of the tusks contained literally hundreds of these pockmarks, each 2mm to 5mm across, and always on the "skyward" side of the tusks (and skull).  The metal in the tusks is mostly nickel-rich iron, and it is very magnetic (Dr. Firestone used a small but powerful magnet attached to a string to test the presence of metal in some of the "peppered" tusks).  

News reports of the discovery quote Dr. Firestone as saying: ""We think that the micrometeorites came from an air-burst of a meteor 30,000 to 34,000 years ago. We think a wave of meteoric material sprayed the region."  Other reports on the "space shrapnel" in the mammoth tusks can be found here, here, and here.  

Some of those articles note that this new evidence points to a new mechanism that may explain the dead mammoths that have been found over a very wide geological range (some of them frozen and well preserved).  The BBC report says, "Their loss has traditionally been put down to either climate change and/or the efficient hunting technologies adopted by migrating humans."  The University of Alaska at Fairbanks article says that a meteorite might, in addition to raining dangerous shrapnel, have caused wildfires, mass burials, and finally thick debris clouds that could have "eliminated any mammoths that survived the meteor's hit."

However, it should be noted that Dr. Fairbanks is quoted at the end of the BBC article as saying, "Just as in a modern crime scene, it's very difficult to piece all the evidence together and say precisely what was going on; which event led to any particular outcome."  This is an excellent point and one worth repeating whenever investigating a complex set of evidence about an event that cannot be replicated in a laboratory today.  

The crime-scene analogy is one that has been discussed in many previous posts, such as "How history is like a Scooby Doo mystery."  It is noteworthy that in most "crime stories," the authorities tend to have an explanation for the evidence, but then an outsider -- often a marginal figure, such as Sherlock Holmes, or in the case of Scooby Doo, a gang of kids and a dog -- comes in and discovers problems with the first explanation, and proposes a new theory which better explains the evidence.  

Dr. Walt Brown, the originator of the hydroplate theory (which provides a very different way to explain the geological evidence we see all around us on our planet) believes in examining all the possible theories to see how well they can explain the evidence.  In the section of his book which deals with the mystery of the frozen mammoths, Dr. Brown examines no less than ten theories which have been put forward to explain the evidence, including the exploding meteor theory.

The first important point about these "peppered tusks" containing iron-nickel fragments is that eight of the traditional theories have no good explanation for this evidence.  Theories that involve mammoths falling into crevasses, drowning in lakes, hunting extinction by advancing humans, etc. do not have a good reason why the tusks would be peppered with "space shrapnel."  Here is a page from Dr. Brown's online book in which he compares ten competing mammoth theories, including a meteor theory and his own hydroplate theory.  Those ten theories are each summarized here.

A meteor, of course, would explain the "shrapnel" holes in the mammoth tusks, but Dr. Brown points to numerous other pieces of evidence surrounding the mammoths of the far north which the meteor theory has difficulty explaining.  Among these are the mammoth carcasses that have been frozen so quickly that the food in their stomachs has been preserved (along with other features of their bodies, including hair and skin).  As Dr. Brown points out, a meteor impact would not be expected to bring about a sudden cooling -- if anything, it might be expected to introduce intense heat rather than intense cold.  Also, many of the mammoths show evidence of having been suffocated, as this previous post on the hydroplate theory explanation for the preserved mammoths explains.  Further, the fact that this phenomenon has been found in remains from Siberia to Alaska, while not ruling out the possibility of a meteorite as the origin, suggests the possibility that the phenomenon was more widespread than what we might expect from a single space object.

There is also the evidence of unusual "type 3 rock ice" as well as unusual geological features known as yedomas and loess found in the areas that mammoths are found.  This evidence is beyond the scope of this particular post to discuss, but Dr. Brown covers it extensively in his chapter on the mammoth question, and the interested reader is invited to study it there and then pursue other resources discussing these fascinating pieces of evidence.  Perhaps future blog posts can discuss this topic more fully.  However, suffice it to say that there is no reason that a meteor would be expected to produce any of these features, and the meteor theory of mammoth extinction does not explain why mammoth remains are often found in conjunction with type 3 ice, yedomas, and loess.  The hydroplate theory, however, does.

Of the ten theories for the mystery of the mammoths, only the hydroplate theory and the meteor theory have a good explanation for the "peppered" tusks.  The hydroplate theory, however, does not propose that these tiny projectiles originated from a meteor.  Instead, it argues that the projectiles were part of the violent events surrounding the start of a cataclysmic global flood, and that this event also explains all the other evidence associated with the mammoth mystery.  

Indeed, the hydroplate theory argues that meteors themselves, including the ones that fall to earth today, originated at the same time, when the "fountains of the great deep" launched material from earth high into the stratosphere, and some of it out of the orbit of the earth and into space.  Some previous posts on this subject include this one, this one, and this one.

Dr. Brown's theory proposes that the events surrounding the violent eruption of floodwaters produced intense rain and also a gigantic hail storm composed of cold, muddy ice crystals:
On that terrible day, the rupture of the earth’s crust passed between what is now Siberia and Alaska in minutes. Jetting water from the fountains of the great deep first fell as rain. During the next few hours, some of the accelerating and expanding subterranean water that went above the atmosphere (where the effective temperature is several hundred degrees below zero Fahrenheit) froze and fell as hail.119 Some animals were suddenly buried, suffocated, frozen, and compressed by tons of cold, muddy ice crystals from the gigantic “hail storm.” Dirt in this ice prevented it from floating as the flood waters submerged these regions after days and weeks. Blankets of this muddy ice, hundreds of feet thick, insulated and preserved many animals during the flood phase. As the topmost layers of ice melted, the dirt in that ice remained and settled—blanketing and further insulating the deeper ice and buried animals.
Months later, after mountains were suddenly pushed up, the earth’s balance shifted, the earth slowly “rolled” 34°–57°, so Siberia and Alaska moved from temperate latitudes (similar to north-central United States today) to their present positions. [For details, see Endnote 66 on page 141.] As the flood waters drained off the continents, whatever icy graves existed in warmer climates melted, and buried animals decayed. However, many animals, buried in what are now permafrost regions, were preserved. 
There is extensive evidence for this "Big Roll" that shifted the remains of these unfortunate mammoths up to their present latitudes -- previous posts discussing this evidence include this one and this one.

Dr. Brown continues:
The jetting fountains of the great deep produced extreme winds. Dirt filled the atmosphere for a few hours before rain, ice, and falling dirt landed. This explains why Dima’s entire digestive and respiratory tract contained silt, clay, and small particles of gravel, and why high-velocity dirt particles peppered animals and even left “shrapnel,” on one side of hard mammoth tusks. [See Figure 143 on page 254.]
Some might object that the nickel-rich iron in the mammoth tusks is hardly "ordinary" dirt -- rather, it is consistent with the composition of asteroids and meteorites.   However, there is good reason to suspect that these "shrapnel" particles did in fact originate on earth.  First, they are magnetic, as all the articles quoted above clearly indicate.  The earth has a powerful magnetic field, unlike most other objects in our solar system, including asteroids.  Also, the presence of iron and nickel is difficult to explain originating in space.  Such metals can (and are) produced deep in the earth's crust, in conditions of great heat, but not in the cold reaches of space or in small bodies located in space that do not have a lot of their own heat (as earth does).  All these things actually argue that meteors and meteorites (as well as asteroids and comets) originally came from earth -- and this also argues that the fragments in these mammoth tusks could have had the same origin.

The amazing discovery of the "shrapnel" holes in the mammoth tusks is a very important piece of evidence to help unravel the "crime scene," as Dr. Firestone calls it, and he and his team are to be commended for their diligence in locating these tusks and for their analysis of their discovery.  It seems that this new evidence argues against many of the conventional explanations that have previously been offered to explain the mystery of the mammoths.  It also seems that these "peppered" tusks may constitute yet another powerful piece of evidence arguing for the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Plotinus and the upward way

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A recent post discussed the well-known myth of the Judgement of Paris, and the fact that the second century writer Apuleius (born c. AD 125) somehow saw the "damnation of mankind" as connected to Paris' selling of his vote in that contest for the "lucre of lust."

The philosopher Plotinus (c. AD 204 - AD 270) may be able to shed some light on this interesting comment from Apuleius.  We last heard from Plotinus in the post entitled "giving forth, without any change in itself, images or likenesses of itself, like one face caught by many mirrors," after a line from the First Ennead of Plotinus (Enn.I, 1:8).

This idea of a mirror was clearly central to Plotinus' teaching on the nature of human existence.  Later, in Ennead IV, 3:12, he writes:
The souls of men, seeing their images in the mirror of Dionysus as it were, have entered into that realm in a leap downward from the Supreme: yet even they are not cut off from their origin, from the divine Intellect; it is not that they have come bringing the Intellectual Principle down in their fall; it is that though they have descended even to earth, yet their higher part holds for ever above the heavens.  translation by Stephen MacKenna and B.S. Page, 148.
Thus, Plotinus is teaching that the mirror is a good metaphor for the relationship between the Intellectual Principle and the souls of men.  In an essay entitled "Judaism, Judaic Christianity, and Gnosis," Professor Gilles Quispel explains:
The mirror is a powerful symbol in Greek and Gnostic religion.  Narcissus is said to have jumped into the water and to have embraced his own shadow and to have drowned, when he looked into the water and saw his own shadow and fell in love with it.  This is not true.  For he was not suffocated in the water but he contemplated in the transient and passing nature of his material body, his own shadow, namely the body, which is the basest eidolon of the real soul.  Desiring to embrace this, he became enamoured with life according to that shadow.  Therefore he drowned and suffocated his real soul and a real and true life.  Therefore the proverb says, 'Fear your own shadow.'  This story teaches you to fear the inclination to prize inferior things as the highest, because that leads man to the loss of his soul and the annihilation of the true Gnosis of ultimate reality.  Thus the Anonymus de incredibilibus IX.   
Nonnus tells us that the young Dionysus was looking in a mirror when the Titans tore him into pieces [. . .].  57.
Professor Quispel notes that French philosopher Jean Pepin (1924 - 2005) points to the Plotinus passage quoted above as the first conflation of the mirror myth of Dionysus and the reflection myth of Narcissus, which Plotinus combines in Enn. IV, 3:12 to illustrate the condition of the souls of men and women in this world.  Certain ancient traditions appear to have taught that the fall of mankind could be understood through the metaphor of Narcissus (or Dionysus), becoming enamored with a reflection in a mirror.

It is important to note that Plotinus does not teach that love of beauty is bad -- quite the contrary.  In his discussion of "the Upward Way," he notes that there are three paths which lead to the upward way: that of the musician, that of the "born lover," and that of the metaphysician (the philosopher).  In his description of the born lover, Plotinus writes:
The born lover, to whose degree the musician also may attain -- and then either come to a stand or pass beyond -- has a certain memory of beauty but, severed from it now, he no longer comprehends it: spellbound by visible loveliness he clings amazed about that.  His lesson must be to fall down no longer in bewildered delight before some, one embodied form; he must be led, under a system of mental discipline, to beauty everywhere and made to discern the One Principle underlying all, a Principle apart from the material forms, springing from another source, and elsewhere more truly present.  Enn. I, 3:2.
Thus, Plotinus seems to teach that love of beauty is an entry-gate to the upward way, but that the "lesson" for the lover of beauty is to learn to disentangle from being enamored with one specific embodied form (whatever form that lover of beauty is enamored with) and to see that specific form of beauty as a pointer to "beauty everywhere" (this being the very opposite of Narcissus, who could only see beauty in himself), and ultimately to the "One Principle underlying all."  Plotinus says that from there, "thence onward, he treads the upward way."  

In other words, although enrapture with the reflection of beauty led to the fall ("a leap downward from the Supreme," Plotinus calls it), love of beauty can lead back upwards, if the process can be somehow reversed (directing the gaze from love of the specific image back to the underlying One Principle).

These passages from Plotinus appear to shed light on the work of Apuleius, and help us to understand what he meant when he said that the Judgement of Paris was somehow the fall of mankind. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

Why meteors explode

Above is footage from the dramatic exploding meteor which streaked across the skies of Russia over the Urals on February 15 (Friday).

The billowing white trail has led some to conclude that the meteor was actually shot down by some sort of anti-aircraft or anti-missile system.

While all possibilities should of course be left open to examination based on the evidence, it is quite possible that the dramatic breakup of this meteor, as well as the white cloud trail, are consistent with a disintegrating meteor.

What would cause a meteor to come apart prior to hitting the ground?  If the meteor were a solid rock hurtling towards the earth, the mere fact of passing through the atmosphere would not be expected to cause it to explode.  Neither would it be expected to cause it to leave such a billowing trail of white cloud.

If you saw vapor of that color streaming out of the tailpipe of your car or truck, what would you immediately conclude?  White clouds like those seen in the video footage taken by those on the scene would, if coming out of your car, cause you to suspect that your engine was burning water.  Water can get into the engine cylinders on a car or truck engine through eroded rubber valve seals or through a faulty head gasket.  These problems can cause the engine to belch white smoke out the exhaust because water is being introduced into the internal combustion in the cylinders.

While conventional theories about meteors do not generally explain the amount of white smoke filmed by observers of Friday's meteor in Russia, the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown does.  On this page of the online book in which Dr. Brown presents his evidence for anyone to access free of charge, he explains that  according to the hydroplate theory, meteors (and meteoroids and meteorites) originally came from earth, launched by the tremendous forces that ejected water from under the earth and caused a catastrophic global flood, forces powerful enough to eject some material (both rocks and water) out of earth's orbit and into space.

Dr. Brown provides evidence that the rocks launched into space by the events surrounding a global flood on earth often formed large orbiting bodies composed of many smaller chunks of rock held together by frozen water acting as a weak glue.  He explains:
The fountains of the great deep launched rocks and water from Earth. Later, most of those rocks merged within their growing spheres of influence (and the help of gravity and water vapor) to become asteroids.  [. . .]  Water droplets in the fountains partially evaporated and quickly froze. Large rocks had large spheres of influence which grew as the rocks traveled away from Earth. Larger rocks became “seeds” around which other rocks and ice collected as spheres of influence expanded. Because of all the evaporated water vapor and the resulting aerobraking, even more mass concentrated around the “seeds.” [See page 294.]  Clumps of rocks became asteroids.  [see "Hydroplate Explanation," near the top of this online page]. 
Among the evidence that Dr. Brown offers in support of this theory is the spin rate of the objects orbiting the sun that are classified as asteroids -- most of the larger objects, with diameters greater than 200 meters, do not spin faster than ten times per day.  He explains that if they did, the weak ice bonds holding these clumps of rock together would be overcome, and the larger clumps of rock would break apart into smaller pieces:  
Clumps of rocks in space, held together only by their weak mutual gravity, will fly apart if they spin faster than ten times a day. Asteroids larger than 200 meters across never spin faster than ten times a day, so those bodies may be clusters of loose rocks. Asteroids smaller than 200 meters often spin hundreds of times a day. Therefore, they are probably single rocks,9 although it is possible that multiple rocks are held together by ice. 
One of the strongest arguments in favor of Dr. Brown's hydroplate theory is the fact that his theory enables him to make predictions.  He has published many predictions based upon his theory which have later been found to be correct. In the case of his theory that asteroids, meteoroids, and comets are formed from material that was originally ejected from earth itself, Dr. Brown has offered some predictions, including this one, which was later discovered to be correct:
Prediction 36. [. . .] Most asteroids are rock piles, often with ice acting as a weak “glue” inside. Large rocks that began the capture process are nearer the centers of asteroids. Comets, which contain much ice, have rocks in their cores.
Four years after this prediction was published in 2001 (In the Beginning, 7th edition, page 220), measurements of the largest asteroid, Ceres, found that it does indeed have a dense, rocky core and primarily a water-ice mantle.10
All of the above discussion is significant when trying to determine what happened in the sky over Russia this Friday.  If the object seen streaking across the sky in the video was a large meteor, one that was composed (in accordance with Dr. Brown's theory) of smaller rocks ejected from earth during the events surrounding the flood, and held together by a weak "glue" of internal ice (formed from the ejected water when the "fountains of the great deep" erupted), then this theory would explain why the meteor might come apart during its violent encounter with the earth's atmosphere.  It would also explain the trail of white smoke from the disintegrating meteor.  It might even explain the series of explosions heard by those on the ground and recorded in many of the videos posted to the web.

The hydroplate theory would seem to support the explanation that a large meteoroid, a composite of smaller rocks held together by a weak ice "glue," intersected earth's atmosphere and the heat of the friction of this hurtling object caused the frozen water to vaporize, leaving the dramatic trail and also leading to the breakup of the composite object into many smaller pieces.  Some of those pieces may have actually hit the ground, with explosive effects (the video above seems to support that assertion).  Previous posts have also discussed this phenomenon, in conjunction with the disintegration of comets, such as Comet Elenin in 2011 (Dr. Brown's theory asserts that comets, asteroids, and meteoroids are all related phenomena, caused by the catastrophic flood on our planet).

Of course, it is always possible that something else took place over Russia -- that this dramatic footage was not caused by a meteor at all but was some form of man-made rocket or weapon over the Urals.  However, if indeed it was a meteor, the white trail does not mean that human missiles of some sort actually shot it down.  It is quite possible that, if it was indeed a meteor, the footage now appearing on the web provides yet more evidence that the hydroplate theory of Dr. Walt Brown is correct.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Precession in the Nag Hammadi Gospel of Philip

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Previous posts have discussed the vitally important discovery of the "Nag Hammadi library," a group of ancient codices which were probably buried shortly after the the Festal Letter of Athanasius was published in AD 367, condemning "heretical texts" that were not included in the list of "canonical texts."

One of those long-lost texts, rediscovered in 1946 (and taking a rather circuitous route to the awareness of the academic and scholarly community, who took decades to get around to really studying them in earnest) was the Gospel of Philip

Marvin Meyer, in his 2005 book The Gnostic Discoveries: The Impact of the Nag Hammadi Library argues that the Gospel of Philip is a Valentinian text, displaying characteristics of the system of understanding developed by Valentinus, who was born in Egypt around the year AD100 and lived to the age of about 75.  Meyer tells us:
The Gospel of Philip is a Valentinian anthology of meditations on a variety of gnostic themes.  Philip is referred to by name once in the text, and that may be the reason the text is attributed to him.  The arrangement of meditations in the Gospel of Philip seems to be more or less random, though it is possible that sometimes they may be connected to one another by catchwords or the sequence of similar themes.  We do not know where these meditations originated, but presumably they come from different sources.  Layton guesses, "It is possible that some of the excerpts are from Valentinus himself."  [. . .]  Still, through the juxtaposition of ideas and the repetition of themes, this anthology of meditations is able to communicate a Valentinian message of mystical oneness and sacramental joy.  128.
In one of the sayings, the text declares:
God is a dyer. As the good dyes, which are called "true", dissolve with the things dyed in them, so it is with those whom God has dyed. Since his dyes are immortal, they become immortal by means of his colors. Now God dips what he dips in water. 
[. . .]
The Lord went into the dye works of Levi. He took seventy-two different colors and threw them into the vat. He took them out all white. And he said, "Even so has the Son of Man come as a dyer."
translation by Wesley W. Isenberg, available here.
The prominent mention of the number seventy-two here appears to be very significant.  As discussed in previous posts, and in greater detail in the Mathisen Corollary book, the number seventy-two is a close approximation of the precessional constant, the number of years that it takes the background of stars to slip by one degree (see for example the illustrations and discussion in this previous post).  The actual rate is one degree of precession every 71.6 years, but for ease of transmission through ancient myth and sacred tradition, that number was usually rounded to 72 years (it is not too easy to tell a story about 71.6 evil murderers, or 71.6 different colors).

What is remarkable about this appearance of 72 is the fact that detecting and then calculating the precessional constant is extremely difficult -- so difficult that even Ptolemy in his Almagest could only guess at the exact rate of precession and state that it was some number less than 100.  He was not able to pin it down to the actual rate of 71.6 years, or even to the nearest whole number of 72 years.  But many other ancient scriptures and traditions, some long before Ptolemy, use the number 72 in myths that clearly contain strong precessional themes (such as the Osiris tradition), as do many ancient monuments of extreme antiquity (the Great Pyramid is full of precessional numbers).  Clearly, the Gospel of Philip in the Nag Hammadi collection falls into this category of ancient writings.

What is also striking about this passage from the Gospel of Philip is the clear connection between this precessional number and a profound teaching about the human condition.  We are told that "God is a dyer" and that the process of dying makes "those whom God has dyed" immortal.  The image of a "dye works" has something to do with the immortality of the human soul.

We are then told that "The Lord went into the dye works of Levi.  He took seventy-two different colors and threw them into the vat. He took them out all white."  What this teaching is trying to tell us can certainly be vigorously debated.  It is possible that the "dye works of Levi" (who is described in other sacred traditions as a "tax collector") refer to our solar system, where human psyches come to labor under a kind of "taxing" system, but one that apparently causes them to come out a dazzling pure white.  But other interpretations are of course possible.  It may well also have something to do with the concept of "differentiation" and a return to "undifferentiated one-ness" or "unity."

What is so significant about this text, I think, is the fact that the process of purification is linked to a celestial number associated with a celestial or astronomical function (precession).  This clearly illustrates that to the keepers of the ancient wisdom traditions, the knowledge of the subtle astronomical mechanism of precession was far more than simply an amazing piece of scientific understanding (although it was certainly that as well).  The motions of the heavens were perceived as having an intimate connection to a process that was essential to the human soul, purification, and immortality 
This passage all by itself establishes beyond a doubt that the authors of the Nag Hammadi texts possessed subtle and sophisticated scientific astronomical knowledge.  It also appears to establish the fact that they possessed a subtle and sophisticated spiritual understanding as well.

The Judgement of Paris (Happy Valentine's Day)

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The Judgement of Paris is a well-known ancient myth, in which three goddesses -- Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite -- contend for a golden apple and the title of most beautiful, to be judged by Paris.  To sway the judge of the contest, each offers a gift should she be chosen: Hera offering rulership and power, Athena fame and heroism, and Aphrodite offering the most beautiful woman in the world as a lover.  Paris' choice leads to the Trojan War, as the most beautiful woman in the world (his choice, of course) is already married.

Surviving accounts from many ancient authors depict the Judgement of Paris, stretching back at least to the sixth or seventh century BC.  A version of the Judgment of Paris takes place near the climactic point of the Golden Ass (or the Metamorphoses) of Apuleius, near the end of Book X.  In this case, the famous judgement is enacted in the arena, and Apuleius has his protagonist Lucius (still trapped in the form of a donkey) relate the deciding moment, along with commentary on the decision:
Presently the flutes began sweetly to harmonize in the honeyed Lydian modulations, which thrilled and relaxed the audience.  But that was nothing to the thrill when Venus began to dance quietly in tune with the music, making slow delaying steps, sinuously bending her body, and moving her gracious arms.  Every delicate movement that she made was answered by the warbling flute -- one moment her eyes were gently drowsy; the next moment they flashed passionately; and sometimes she seemed to dance with her eyes alone.  As soon as she had come near the umpire, she was perceived to promise by her tokening arms that if he selected her as winner she would grant him as wife the most beautiful woman in the world -- a woman like Venus.  Gladly then did the Phrygian youth hand her the golden apple, the symbol of her unconquerable beauty.

O why do you wonder if those dregs of humanity, those forensic cattle, those gowned vultures, the judges now sell their decisions for cash?  Even at the world's infancy a bribe could corrupt judgement in a question agitated between gods and men; and a young fellow (a rustic and a shepherd) appointed judge by the counsels of great Jove sold the first judicial decision for the lucre of lust, thereby entailing damnation on mankind.  232, translation by Jack Lindsay.
 The concluding comment by Apuleius (through Lucius) is very interesting --  it seems that he is blaming the "damnation" of mankind on the Judgement of Paris, or more specifically on the choice of Paris to be captured by lust for beauty.  

In an essay entitled "Prudentia and Providentia, Book XI in Context" (beginning on page 86 here) Luca Graverini of the University of Siena at Arezzo argues that The Golden Ass is in many ways a study in judgement, and more often than not, a study in bad judgement (most often the bad judgement of Lucius), saying "Lucius is like an Odysseus without his traditional prudentia, an Odysseus who gave in to the enchantments of the Sirens" (93).

If so, and if (as is fairly apparent from the entirety of the Golden Ass) the tale is an exploration of the human condition, trapped in the form of a brute and struggling to transcend the ridiculous and often violent conditions he finds all around him, then it is quite likely that Apuleius, who brings the Judgement of Paris into his tale at this climactic moment, saw it as something more than just a tale of the choice between three different goddesses.  

Given the mystical aspects of the tale, particularly at the end immediately following this arena scene, it is not too much of a stretch to say that the Golden Ass is probing the nature of the psyche itself (given that the tale of Psyche and Eros also occupies a very prominent and central point in the narrative) -- in other words, examining the question of how our psyche or animating and spiritual aspect came to be enmeshed or enfleshed in a physical existence, and what our purpose is while we are in this material world.  

That this judgement concerns every human being and not just some individual named Paris who lived centuries ago is also intimated by the fact that the Judgement of Paris is usually depicted as taking place upon a mountain, or even within a mountain -- which is often a mythological way of saying within the dome-shaped "mountain" which every person possesses; in other words, the head.  Most often, the Judgement of Paris is said to take place on or within Mt. Ida, and indeed in Apuleius' version a wooden mock-up of Mt. Ida is present in the arena to make this clear.  

Santos Bonacci would point out that the human body has a corresponding Ida, along with the Pingala, which are the intertwined channels which convey consciousness within the microcosm of the human body.  In fact, the Ida (appropriately enough for the Judgement of Paris) is considered to be the feminine of the intertwined Ida and Pingala, while the Pingala is considered to be solar and masculine.  

All of this is worth deeply considering and meditating upon.

It is interesting to conclude by noting that while Lucius seems to condemn the decision of Paris, it is the goddess Isis who rescues him in the resolution of the conflict of the tale in the next chapter, in which he is finally granted the ability to shed his beastly hide and proceed along a path of successively greater understanding. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Observing the planet Mercury

Here's a link to an excellent video with Tony Flanders of Skyweek, discussing the night sky for this week, and featuring the planets Mercury and Mars.  The embedded video above is a shorter version, three minutes in length -- the link takes you to a longer, five-minute version with additional fascinating detail on the planet Mercury.

As Mr. Flanders explains in the video, this is an excellent week to observe Mercury in the west after sunset, trailing behind the sun and becoming visible after the sun sinks below the western horizon and the sky begins to darken.  He explains why Mercury is the most difficult of the visible planets to observe, and why this week is such a terrific opportunity to spot the speedy "Messenger of the Gods."  Mercury reaches its peak from Friday through Sunday this week.

As the video shows, Mercury is actually above Mars this week, and much brighter than Mars (who progressively sinks further below the horizon before the sun-glow fades, until he is no longer visible).

As explained in this and other previous posts, most people are taught that the planets were named after the mythological gods, but as Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana argued in Hamlet's Mill, there is plenty of evidence which argues that the myths actually encode ancient understanding of the planets -- that the myths encode scientific knowledge of our solar system and that rather than the planets being named after the gods, it is the stories that take their inspiration from the motions of the planets.

If so, then we should be able to find myths about Mars and Mercury (or, as the Greeks named them, Ares and Hermes) which correspond to the scenes that we see in the heavens during weeks such as this one.  This process was demonstrated for myths about Mercury and Venus (Hermes and Aphrodite) and Jupiter and Venus (Zeus and Aphrodite) in a post from a year ago entitled "Dangerous Liaisons: Jupiter, Venus and Mercury."

Are there any myths which involve a brighter Mercury and a fainter Mars, and -- what is more -- Mercury in something of a "superior" position to Mars?  Indeed, Homer recounts just such an episode in the 5th book of the Iliad.  There, we learn that Dione the goddess mother of Aphrodite attempts to comfort Aphrodite when she is wounded by the Greek warrior Diomedes as she attempts to bear away her son Aeneas from the heavy fighting that is not going his way.  Dione tells Aphrodite to be brave in bearing a wound from a mortal, for even the god of war, Ares, had to endure such discomfort, saying:
. . . Patience, oh my child. 
Bear up now, despite your heartsick grief.
How many gods who hold the halls of Olympus 
have had to endure such wounds from mortal men, 
whenever we try to cause each other pain . . .
Ares had to endure it, when giant Ephialtes and Otus,
sons of Aloeus, bound him in chains he could not burst,
trussed him up in a brazen cauldron, thirteen months.
And despite the god's undying lust for battle
Ares might have wasted away there on the spot
if the monsters' stepmother, beautiful Eriboea
had not sent for Hermes, and out of the cauldron
Hermes stole him away -- the War-god breathing his last,
all but broken down by the ruthless iron chains.  432-445, translation by the superlative Robert Fagles.
The same passage is rendered by Richard Lattimore (1906 - 1984) as saying (in prose):
Ares had to endure hard pain when strong Ephialtes and Otos, sons of Aloeus, chained him in bonds that were too strong for him, and three months and ten he lay chained in the brazen cauldron; had not Eeriboia, their stepmother, the surpassingly lovely, brought word to Hermes, who stole Ares away out of it, as he was growing faint and the hard bondage was breaking him.  (translation here).
The two translations together help us to see how this mythological event might well describe just such a heavenly spectacle as that put on by the planets Mars and Mercury this week.  Mars is faint, and sinking down (about to "breath his last," to paraphrase the Fagles translation).  Mercury, above him, appears as a bright and heroic rescuer.

What do we make of the reference to "thirteen months"?  It seems that the Aloeidae (the giant sons of Aloeus, whose names were Ephialtes and Otos) had stuffed Mars into a brass jar and held him there for thirteen months before he was rescued.

My suggested celestial interpretation from this detail in the Homeric passage comes from the fact that the brightness of Mars to an observer on our planet varies as the two planets orbit the sun.  This excellent webpage from Nick Anthony Fiorenza explains that "Mars grows larger and brighter every time a Mars opposition occurs, about every 26 months (780 Earth days)."  In other words, Mars has a cycle which causes it to become brighter and fainter, and the period between the brightest manifestations of Mars is about 26 months.  This may explain why the god is described as being "imprisoned in a brazen cauldron" for a period of half that time -- because for half of his cycle he is growing fainter and half of the cycle he is growing brighter.

If this interpretation is correct, then it adds further support to the thesis of Hamlet's Mill.

In any event, this is an excellent time to observe the gorgeous night sky, and especially the important planet Mercury, the swift-as-thought messenger of the gods.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Year of the Snake

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Happy Chinese New Year!  The new moon (when the moon passes most directly between the earth and the sun -- explained in numerous previous blog posts, such as this one) takes place in about an hour from now (as this is published), ushering in the first day of the Chinese lunisolar calendar for this year.

This year is the Year of the Snake.  

In his definitive examination of symbolic Egypt, Serpent in the Sky (discussed in previous posts here and here), John Anthony West discusses some aspects of the profound significance of the serpent as a symbol in the ancient esoteric traditions of the world.  Elaborating on the work of R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz, who in Sacred Science wrote "The snake is the symbol of duality: it separates the right and left sides of the brain" (151), Mr. West explains:
At first glance the serpent was the symbol for duality or, more accurately, for the power that results in duality.  And that power is itself dual in aspect; it is simultaneously creative and destructive: creative in the sense that multiplicity is created out of unity, destructive in the sense that creation represents the rupture of the perfection of the Absolute. 70-71.
Interestingly, the reverent examination of the symbolic power of number is most commonly associated with the Pythagorean school (a central topic of Mr. West's Serpent in the Sky), and as Ross Hamilton discusses in his outstanding book probing the amazing Great Serpent Mound in Ohio, Mystery of the Serpent Mound, Pythagoras' name is probably connected to Python, the great serpent or dragon slain by Apollo at Delphi.  In a section of his book entitled "The Python of Protagoras," Mr. Hamilton writes:
Few people know that the proto-philosopher, Pythagoras, is believed so named for the reason that his parents, Mnesarchus and Parthenis (later Pythasis) were deeply impressed by the words of the Delphinian Oracle.  It was prophesied to them that they would have a son who would surpass all other men in beauty and wisdom.  He would be a great benefactor of the human race, and his service would be recognized for generations and generations.  111.
Mr. Hamilton explains the important connection between the serpent Python and the Oracle at Delphi in the previous section, entitled "Apollo and the Python."  He recounts the myth that the god Apollo, wishing to create an oracle, found the perfect location at Delphi, where the formidable serpent Python lived in a deep crevasse or cave in the rock beside a sacred waterfall.  Mr. Hamilton's additional commentary on the well-known myth are very revealing:
It was believed that the Great Serpent had always lived in the "womb" of Gaia and was in fact the mother goddess' original mouthpiece before any formal oracle had been considered.  The Python had survived the great flood or cataclysm from the previous age and was thus the sole transmitter of knowledge to the kings of the world.  Python, however, was not accommodating to the majority of visitors seeking advice and wisdom. [. . .]
In accord with the traditional myth, after the death of the beast, Apollo let the body rot in the sunlight for a while.  He then removed the skin, and carefully slicing the body into a number of parts, threw it down the abyss from whence the serpent came.  Over this entry to the underworld he erected his famous golden tripod, covering it with the skin of the creature like a drum.  Within the tripod, he placed the sacred bones of the Python.  [. . .]
Once this Great Serpent (the Universal Word) was slain and sliced, it fell literally into many distinct "vowels" and "consonants."  Through the interment of the bones beneath the Oracular Seat, the Pythia was able to utter the prophetic truths once reserved only for those bold enough to petition the living Python itself.  109-110.
From the above analysis by Mr. Hamilton, it is clear that the ancients saw a profound connection between the serpent and the giving of wisdom to humanity.  

Later in the same book, Ross Hamilton also muses on the connection between the serpent and the phoenix, in that the mythical phoenix was said to grow from a worm that remained in the ashes of the self-immolating and self-renewing phoenix.  In an important passage, he writes: "The worm, serpent, dragon, and phoenix all appear to be linked as successive stages of an ideal belief that the ordinary man and woman may transcend the lower worlds of matter, overcoming all to reign supreme in the principle of the Divine" (134).  In other words, the phoenix may be another embodiment of the concept of the "winged serpent" found in other traditions from other parts of the world, most notably the Quetzlcoatl of the high civilizations of the Americas.  

In an inset quotation on the page discussing the importance of the serpent symbol, John Anthony West cites this sentence from page 387 of Peter Tompkins' 1976 book Mysteries of the Mexican Pyramids: "To Sejourne, Teotihuacan was the place where the serpent learned miraculously to fly, that is 'where the individual, through inner growth, attained the category of a celestial being'" (71).

One could go on and on exploring the central importance of the serpent, a symbol which clearly carries a vital connection to revelation, wisdom, and enlightenment.  But, to conclude this short exploration of this profound being, we can return to Schwaller de Lubicz (whose quotation started us on this journey) for a clue as to where this mystical serpent with the power to enable "the ordinary man and woman" to "transcend the lower worlds of matter" may reside. Immediately after telling us that the "snake is the symbol of duality," he says that "It separates the right and left sides of the brain" (151).  He then goes on to say, "Likewise, the nervous system is dual: sensory or motor, active-solar through the sympathetic, or passive-decontractile through the vagus or parasympathetic" (151).  

These insights hint to us that this celestial serpent is in fact inside us as well as "in the sky."

Gung Hay Fat Choy!  Happy Chinese New Year!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Plant fossils in the deep ocean trenches?

The Mariana Trench is famous for having the deepest known point in the ocean, Challenger Deep (36,000 feet), which was discussed in this previous blog post.  However, prior to the Challenger Expedition of 1951, the deepest known point was the Galathea Depth (34,600 feet), at the bottom of the Philippine Trench, at the area indicated by the large arrow in the image above.  This point, named for the Galathea Deep Sea Expedition of 1950-1952, remains the third-deepest known location in the world to this day.

The Galathea Expedition was a Danish oceanography expedition whose purpose is described in this report from the expedition itself, beginning on page 26.  That purpose was "to explore the ocean trenches in order to find out whether life occurred under the extreme conditions prevailing there -- and if so, to what extent" (26).  In addition to making extensive notes on deep-sea life that it discovered, the Galathea Expedition also reported plant remnants and fossil plant remnants from the lowest depths of the Philippine Trench -- a truly remarkable discovery.

How did plant material find its way to the bottom of the Philippine Trench, and how did plant fossils occur there?  It is quite clear that no plants can grow at such depths, isolated from the light of the sun by six miles of water above them.  The discovery of fossils of organisms that could only grow on land or perhaps in very shallow waters at some of the deepest points in the ocean parallels the discovery of marine fossils atop Mt. Everest, earth's the highest point (those fossils are discussed here).

Dr. Walt Brown, the originator of the hydroplate theory, discusses both sets of evidence, and argues that his theory provides a more reasonable explanation for these remarkable discoveries than the conventional theory.  The discussion of the deep ocean trenches, and the mechanism that caused them according to the hydroplate theory, can be found here.

The reports from the Galathea Expedition, such as this one which discusses this material on pages 15 - 17, propose that turbidity currents may have carried the plant material to these depths, and that is certainly a possible explanation.  However, even if we allow that such currents could have moved plant matter down that far, we still must account for the fact that they turned into fossils.  As we have discussed in many previous posts (such as this one), unusual conditions are necessary to create any fossils, whether on land or in the ocean.  Organic matter must generally be buried rapidly in something like thick wet mud, to keep bacteria from breaking it down -- given enough time, these bacteria would even break down bone, preventing the formation of a fossil.

Again, the turbidity currents could have been accompanied by mud flows which then buried the matter and allowed it to fossilize.  Another possibility is that fossils formed in shallower water and then the "conveyor belt" action proposed by plate tectonics drew the plates along over the millennia until the land fossils (or shallow-water fossils) ended up in the deep-sea trenches.  

Arguing against this explanation, however, Dr. Brown points out that "Because plants float and quickly disintegrate, they should not be buried and preserved in one of the deepest parts of the Pacific Ocean" (see point 24 on this page of his online version of his book).  He also points out that the sedimentary layers in the deep ocean trenches are undisturbed -- if plates were truly subducting the way tectonics advocates say that they are, these sedimentary layers should be violently disturbed by this ongoing activity.  This argument is given as one of the sixteen reasons he shows that plates are not subducting in the ocean floor, found in Table 4 on this page of his book.

On the other hand, Dr. Brown's theory has no trouble explaining the presence of fossils at the bottom of the deepest ocean trenches.  He argues that these deep ocean trenches were caused by downward pulling pressure from beneath the Pacific basin itself -- that they were basically sucked down, not pushed down by subduction.  The force that pulled the floor of the Pacific toward the other side of the globe was the result of the powerful mechanism that unleashed the global flood itself: a powerful rupture releasing water that had been trapped under the earth's surface, which jetted upward and eroded the crust above the rupture, allowing the basement to spring upward as the weight above was released.  When the earth bulged upward on the Atlantic side, creating the Mid-Atlantic Ridge and initiating the slide of the continents away from the rupture, the floor of what would become the Pacific, on the opposite side of the globe, was sucked downward towards the center of the earth, creating the deep ocean trenches which form distinctive "arc-and-cusp" patterns that are much more consistent with this explanation than with the theory of subducting plates.

This explanation is consistent with fossils from land or shallow-water plant species now located at the bottom of the deepest trenches.  As Dr. Brown explains, "It should be no surprise that the global flood, which fossilized trillions of animals worldwide, also formed fossils in places that later became ocean trenches. Rapid burial, necessary to form and preserve fossils, was quickly followed by the subsidence of the Pacific plate and the downward buckling of trenches" (this page, point 23).

The evidence from the bottom of the deepest parts of the ocean should be considered along with all the other extensive evidence from around the globe, and then the theories that attempt to tie all this evidence together should be compared to see whether they can adequately explain all of the evidence, and to see which theories have difficulty with various pieces of evidence.  In my opinion, there is really no comparison.  There are literally hundreds of pieces of evidence which appear to be better explained by the hydroplate theory than by the tectonic theory.  The tectonic theory certainly explains evidence better than the theories that it replaced, but it has major problems with many pieces of geological evidence that the hydroplate theory explains quite well.

The fossils at the deepest ocean trenches appear to join with the fossils at the highest mountain tops in declaring the truth about the earth's violent past.

Monday, February 4, 2013

"giving forth, without any change in itself, images or likenesses of itself like one face caught by many mirrors"

In the First Ennead, Tractate I.8, the philosopher Plotinus asks:
And how do we possess the Divinity?
In that the Divinity is contained in the Intellectual-Principle and Authentic-Existence; and We come third in order after these two, for the We is constituted by a union of the supreme, the undivided Soul -- we read -- and that Soul which is divided among bodies.  For, note, we inevitably think of the Soul, though one and undivided in the All, as being present to bodies in division: in so far as any bodies are Animates, the Soul has given itself to each of the separate material masses; or rather it appears to be present in the bodies by the fact that it shines into them: it makes them living beings not by merging into body but by giving forth, without any change in itself, images or likenesses of itself like one face caught by many mirrors.  Trans. Stephen MacKenna and B.S. Page, 1952.
From the above, we can venture to assert that Plotinus and the other masters of ancient philosophy in the tradition of Plato and Pythagoras would not be in the least surprised about the contents of the previous blog post indicating the possible mirroring of the shapes in the Orion Nebula on the Nile River delta, the works of numerous master artists including Michelangelo, or the shape and structure of the human brain.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Danny Wilten and the Orion Nebula

Above is an example of the astounding analysis by Danny Wilten, in which he demonstrates incredible correspondences between Michelangelo's famous Creation of Adam fresco and the imagery of the Orion Nebula taken by the Hubble Telescope in 2006 (link to the video).

This particular video shows how the patterns of darkness in the Hubble image have unmistakeable parallels to the patterns of shadows and outlines in Michelangelo's masterpiece.  Here is a link to a file of that 2006 Hubble image of the Orion Nebula on Wikimedia Commons, where it was a candidate for "Picture of the Year" in 2006.  The description of that image at the site explains:
In one of the most detailed astronomical images ever produced, NASA/ESA's Hubble Space Telescope captured an unprecedented look at the Orion Nebula. This extensive study took 105 Hubble orbits to complete. All imaging instruments aboard the telescope were used simultaneously to study Orion. The Advanced Camera mosaic covers approximately the apparent angular size of the full moon.
After watching Danny Wilten's video, it is quite clear that the patterns of light and dark in this amazing nebula correspond to the shadows and outlines of many of the personalities depicted in Michelangelo's fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which was painted in 1511 or 1512.  For example, the shadows that make up the woman's face below the crook of the left arm are quite distinctive, and in fact can be easily made out in the Hubble image linked above at the Wikimedia Commons site.  Below is a screen shot from the 8:54 mark in the video above, showing a zoomed-in detail of this portion of the Orion Nebula:

The correspondences to the detail in the fresco are unbelievable.  The woman's face in the image above is located directly below the word "in" along the top of the video frame, looking towards the left of the screen.  Watching the video will make the connection quite clear.

Since the Hubble Telescope did not exist when Michelangelo painted his fresco (and in fact, as far as we know, the first telescope would not be invented until 1608 in the Netherlands), what can possibly explain these uncanny parallels between a piece of art completed in the early 1500s and a high-resolution mosaic created by the Hubble Telescope during the course of 105 orbits in early 2006?

Danny Wilten discussed this and other profound questions during a recent interview on Red Ice Radio with host Henrik Palmgren, who is (in my opinion and that of many others) one of the best and most insightful interviewers alive today.   The first hour of that interview is available to all for free (and is embedded below), and the second hour (also very worthwhile) is available to Red Ice subscribers.

At about 31 minutes into that first hour, Henrik explores the possible explanations for this incredible connection between art and nebula:
HENRIK PALMGREN: Again, I want to go back to the idea of how we explain this.  There's a few different possibilities.  As far as I know, as you said, then, Danny, the Orion Nebula is something that you can't see with the naked eye.  Obviously, you can see the stars of the Orion constellation, but -- if you want to try to explain it there are a few different possibilities and I want to get your take on this.  I mean, either we're looking at ancient technology, and there can be very, very old -- this could literally be a telescope, maybe even more advanced than that -- something happened, major catastrophe, we're smacked back into, you know, kind of a prehistoric state, and we have to do it all over again, and then eventually we develop technology, develop telescopes, and it's now at this point again where we can kind of confirm, if you will, the imagery.  That's one take on it.  Another one is that someone has given the knowledge to some of us humans in the past -- or it's completely subconscious: the Muse, if you will, of these artists have given the imagery to them, for some reason, because this, well, there's a drive here, something important with it, and we're simply tapping into the importance of it.  Or, maybe the fourth option would be that, in the past, people actually went on hallucinogenic trips, and they actually visited, if you will, the area, in spirit if nothing else, and managed to see how it looks, pretty much, and thereby being able to pull it out -- what do you think, when you're looking at all this stuff, Danny?
DANNY WILTON:   Well, based on the evidence that I have found, I would probably go with the last two that you just mentioned there.  I would probably go with either that it was a subconscious thing, or maybe they used plants [. . .]
This exchange illustrates the "due diligence" process of considering all the reasonable possible explanations for a set of data, and it is something discussed in many previous blog posts (for example, there are many possible explanations for geological phenomena that we see on the earth today -- it is important to consider all the possible explanations, and consider each one fairly, examining the strengths and weaknesses of each explanation with respect to the evidence in question; see here and here and here for some previous discussions).

Note that all of the above explanations which Henrik offered have some merit.  There is abundant evidence that ancient mankind possessed extremely sophisticated awareness of the earth, the solar system, and the starry heavens -- including evidence which suggests that they were aware of bodies in the solar system (such as Jupiter's moons) not visible without a telescope.  There is plenty of evidence suggesting the possibility of ancient advanced technology.  See for example discussions here and here and here.

Henrik's second suggestion, that mankind was "given" this knowledge by someone else (perhaps suggesting the possibility of ancient alien contact) has some connections with the topics of other previous posts, such as this one and this one.

The possibility that our consciousness is somehow connected to a sort of "universal consciousness," which Danny Wilten indicates is one of the possibilities that he prefers and which in fact he explores at greater length in his e-book on the subject (which I also highly recommend) ties in with the important and ancient issue of the macrocosm-microcosm, discussed in many other previous posts such as this one and this one.

Finally, Henrik's fourth possibility, that mankind in the past was able to tap into advanced knowledge through some form of "hallucinogenic trips" actually has extensive evidence in the important subject of shamanism (see here, here, and here for instance) and in the connection to the Pyramid Texts and the possibility that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt were taking just such "hallucinogenic trips" as discussed by Professor Jeremy Naydler.  There is also the possible mushroom connection between ancient civilizations and higher consciousness.

There are other possibilities, of course, which should be considered before reaching conclusions on the remarkable evidence presented by Danny Wilten.  One that we might consider is the possibility that NASA is tricking us -- that the Hubble image of the Orion Nebula was purposely created to mimic the fresco of the Creation of Adam!  This seems like a pretty far-out suggestion, but it would be a possible explanation.  We would have to try to consider what possible motive NASA could have for such a deception.  It is also pretty difficult to maintain in light of the numerous other incredible connections in other pieces of art that Danny Wilten examines in his book -- connections that are literally breathtaking.  If the Creation of Adam were the only piece of art that matched the Orion Nebula, then we could entertain the possibility that some NASA scientists were having some fun at our expense, but because Mr. Wilten shows conclusive connections to so many other pieces of art (some also quite famous masterpieces), this possibility becomes very difficult to maintain.

Also, in order to argue that NASA tricked us with that image, we would also have to maintain that satellite imagery of the Nile delta has been altered to fit the Orion Nebula as well, as Mr. Wilten also demonstrates amazing correspondences there as well.  Is it possible that both Google and NASA are part of a larger conspiracy to create imagery corresponding to the Orion Nebula?  That seems difficult to believe, and one of the four suggestions put forward by Henrik Palmgren above seem to be more likely.

The second two of his four suggestions (which Mr. Wilten also indicate are his favorites of the four) also seem to be more likely in light of the fact that the Orion Nebula and the many pieces of art that he examines (including Creation of Adam) appear to have strong connections to the cross-section of the human brain, complete with cerebrum, cerebellum, medulla oblongata, and pineal gland!  Here again, the correspondences are quite compelling -- in fact, Mr. Wilten discusses the fact that neurosurgeons and other doctors have already reached the startling conclusion that the Creation of Adam depicts the structures of the human brain!

All of this appears to mesh with the Hermetic dictum of "as above, so below," as Danny Wilten points out in his book and in the interview.  It also resonates quite strongly with the teachings of Santos Bonacci discussed in previous posts.

The correspondences that Danny Wilten has discovered, without a doubt, contain tremendous significance.  We should all be grateful to him for his work and his analysis, and wish him the best in his ongoing endeavors.