Monday, May 25, 2015

Pentecost, Gemini and the Scales of Judgement

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Warmest welcome to AJK!!!

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

Two Visions

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In Peter Kingsley's remarkable book entitled In the Dark Places of Wisdom, he describes the general condition of "the hollowness we feel inside" and for which "the world fills us with substitute after substitute and tries to convince us that nothing is missing" (33 - 34).

"But nothing has the power to fill the hollowness," he says.
Even religion and spirituality and humanity's higher aspirations become wonderful substitutes. And that's what happened to philosophy. What used to be ways to freedom for our ancestors become prisons and cages for us. We create schemes and structures, and climb up and down inside them. But these are just monkey tricks and parlour games to console us and distract us from the longing in our hearts. 35.
Dr. Kingsley states directly that this problem introduces a very negative aspect into the very heart of Western culture specifically. He says:
Western culture is a past master at the art of substitution. It offers and never delivers because it can't. It has lost the power even to know what needs to be delivered. 35.
And yet, In the Dark Places of Wisdom explores evidence that at least some of the ancients -- even in what was later to become "the West" -- knew what needed to be delivered, and what's more they knew exactly how to deliver it (or, perhaps more precisely, they knew "how it is delivered").

The paradox is that what we are looking for in all of the external substitutes and external systems cannot be found in that endless train of substitutes -- but that we actually "already have everything we need to know, in the darkness inside ourselves" (67). The ancient wisdom keepers, including the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides, Dr. Kingsley asserts, understood that the answer was "all a matter of finding their own link to the divine," and that the link was within us all along (64). It was "just" a matter of going within and turning ourselves "inside out until we find the sun and the moon and the stars inside" (67).

I believe that this profound message is very much at the heart of what the ancient knowledge in all its different manifestations was trying to convey to us, or to help us to discover. It is expressed in metaphor after metaphor -- the one I have used as a kind of "shorthand" for all of them is the concept of the "raising of the Djed," but it is also found in many other forms, such as the contrast between the good red road in the vision of Black Elk and the fearful black road of troubles.

It refers to the re-discovery of the divine within, an awakening to the fact that we are actually already connected to the entire universe outside, and the practice of going into the darkness and stillness of the invisible world and awakening to our connection to it on a regular basis -- "to find out," Peter Kingsley says, "how you're related to the world of the divine, know how you belong, how you're at home there just as much as here. It was to become adopted, a child of the gods" (64).

A society that has somehow lost or destroyed or buried this knowledge can be expected to be characterized by the kind of desperate pursuit of "substitutes" that Peter Kingsley describes in the quotations cited above. 

But what a different attitude and approach to life is offered in the understanding that we already have the entire universe inside of us, that we are already inseparably connected to the invisible realm, described as "the realm of the gods," that in fact we are just as much "at home there" as we are in the material realm, the ordinary realm. That we are each somehow "a child of the gods" -- bearers of a divine nature lost and almost forgotten within our physical and animal nature.

What is taking shape in this discussion is a framework of two very different visions of the world, two very different "paths." They can be seen to be very closely related to the two "paths" or "visions" articulated in all the world's myths and sacred stories and scriptures which express this contrast using (among other things) the great cycles of the heavens, including the cycle of the year and the "cross" formed by the "horizontal line" between the equinoxes and the "vertical line" between the solstices, expressed in the mythology of ancient Egypt as the "Djed column cast down" and the "Djed column raised up" (for some background on this central concept, see this video and this video, and numerous previous posts such as "Scarab, Ankh and Djed," or "O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree," or "The Djed Column every day: Yoga").

The "great cross of the year" is itself a metaphor for the crossing of the material and the spiritual, invisible, or divine which together express the dual nature of every human being -- as well as the dual nature of the world around us. To the extent that our vision is operating along the "horizontal" or material line, we can be expected to exhibit the frantic pursuit of external substitutes described in Dr. Kingsley's quotations above.

But if we can awaken to the truth that we are already connected to the invisible realm, the divine realm -- that we actually "belong" in the invisible realm just as much as in the material realm with which we are more familiar -- the entire paradigm shifts (to use a phrase that has been ruined by over-use, unfortunately, but which I choose to deliberately employ here to describe the situation, because it expresses the complete transformation of the entire framework or way of seeing). 

It should be evident that the first situation (frantic and endless substitution) would logically tend towards an attitude of scarcity, of always needing more (because desperately needing new substitutes when the old ones turn out to be as unfulfilling as all those that went before them).

It should be equally evident that the second situation, in which it is known that what we seek is already in our possession -- that in fact we contain the "entire universe inside," that we are in some way an "adopted child of the gods" -- points towards a vision of plenty (we don't have to worry that we won't get what we need, if it is already and always securely within ourselves, and impossible to be separated from ourselves). 

The second situation, it can be seen, also leads towards a sense of connection with all other beings, if we ourselves are always in deep connection with the invisible realm, if we ourselves already reflect and embody the entire universe, which they (all other living beings) are also inseparably connected to and which they also contain. 

But, if you are still in the mode of desperately cycling through "substitute after substitute" because you don't realize that you already have access to exactly what you seek, it might lead to profound division and competition and conflict between different men and women, and in fact it has.

I believe these two contrasting visions, and the attitudes of "plenty" versus "scarcity," and the understanding of "connectedness" versus "division and competition" can also be seen to be very close to the powerful message shared with the world by the Lakota holy man Black Elk and recorded in Black Elk Speaks, a message with tremendous importance for all people today.

Black Elk offers a very similar contrast between two approaches to life and the world, expressed in his vision of the two roads: the good red road which runs between the north and the south (which would correspond to the "vertical column" between the solstices on the great cross of the year, and to the Djed column "raised up") and the black road which runs between the east and the west, "a fearful road, a road of troubles" (corresponding to the "horizontal column" between the equinoxes on the great cross of the year, and to the Djed column "cast down"):

In his explanation of his vision recorded in Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk contrasts the very different way of walking found on the two roads: traveling the black road, the fearful road, the road of troubles, he saw "everybody for himself and with little rules of his own" (215), while along the good red road he sees a fleeting vision of "the circled villages of people and every living thing with roots or legs or wings, and all were happy" (22), along with symbols of life blossoming forth in the world and in the heart of the people.

These characteristics are important: the attitude of "everybody for himself" is contrasted with the attitude of harmony and cooperation, and they relate directly to the contrast between what a previous post labeled "Vision A" and "Vision B," in which people and all other living beings lived together "like relatives" and in plenty (Vision A) versus everyone making "little islands" that separate people from nature and from one another, and the islands are always becoming smaller and smaller as a "gnawing flood [. . .] dirty with lies and greed" seethes around them (8). 

Upon further thought, the terms "Vision A" and "Vision B" don't really convey these concepts very well. It might be better to call them the "spirit road" and the "fearful road," or some other terms. But, we can lay out some of the characteristics inherent to each of these two opposing visions in a table below, each of which could easily become the topic for much more discussion and examination in the future:

  • Unity and community, "circled villages" vs. "Little Islands" and "Everybody for himself"
  • Vision of plenty vs. Vision of scarcity
  • Attitude of confidence vs. Attitude of fear and resentment
  • Connection to nature and to other creatures vs. division from and hostility towards nature and other creatures, and a desire to subjugate them (all part of the same endless pursuit of something that can never be attained)
  • Awareness of the dignity in each man or woman vs. racism, endless categorizing and divisions of humanity into "my allies" and "everyone else"
And there are many more contrasts that could be added to the list above.

Some might object that the "spirit road" vision is nice, but not practical "here in the real world." This is a broad objection, but I would propose that it is at least possible that this objection basically stems from an attitude of fearfulness, rather than an attitude of confidence -- and from a vision of scarcity rather than a vision of plenty. The important ancient philosopher Plutarch addressed these kinds of arguments from his opponents, when he laid out his treatises against the eating of flesh.

Just think of the profound changes we might see in our lives if we were to suddenly realize, on a very deep level, that we already have access to that which we have spent so much of our lives chasing after. How it might change the way we speak, or drive in traffic, or go about our daily lives. And how it might change the way we think about some of the bigger issues that have impacts far beyond our daily lives. 

I believe this message is very central to the message contained in all the world's ancient wisdom, bequeathed as a precious inheritance to all humanity, in the esoteric Star Myths found in the scriptures and sacred stories of virtually every culture on earth.

They are telling us that the connection to the entire universe is already right inside of each one of us, all the time. And every culture has (at some point in time) possessed knowledge of some of the different techniques for accessing that connection, and entering the realm of the gods, a realm we belong to just as much as we belong to this one.

In places where that knowledge has been lost (or deliberately destroyed), it is imperative that we find it again, for our own sanity and health -- and for that of the rest of the world.

The good news is that the answer is still there, in the stars over our heads -- which means that it is also right inside of us.

If we know about this, we owe it to others to tell them about it, because the substitutes "never deliver."

image: Wikipedia (composite of images here and here).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Mukasa, the Guardian of the Lake

The Ssese Islands, in Lake Victoria, indicated by the red arrow. Google Maps.

Among the Baganda people of eastern-central Africa, whose land in their own language is called Buganda but in the Swahili language is called Uganda, one of the central figures of the spirit world is Mukasa, the Guardian of the Lake.

Of this powerful entity we read in African Mythology by Geoffrey Parrinder (1967) that:
The greatest of the demi-gods of Buganda, Mukasa, was a great giver of oracles, a kindly deity who never asked for human sacrifice. Myths say that when Mukasa was a child he refused to eat ordinary food and disappeared from home, later being found on an island sitting under a large tree. A man who saw him there took him to a garden and lifted him onto a rock. People were afraid to take him into their houses, thinking he was a spirit, so they built a hut for him on the rock. They did not know what to give him to eat, for he refused all their food, but when they killed an ox he asked for its blood, liver and heart. Then people knew he was a god and consulted him in any trouble. Mukasa lived on the island for many years, married three wives, was cared for by priests, and at last disappeared as suddenly as he had come.
His temple was a conical reed hut, which was rebuilt at intervals on the express orders of the king. Originally it is said that Mukasa spoke his will directly to the priests, but later they used mediums who uttered his messages. The medium never entered the temple but had a special hut in front of it. When seeking to know the will of Mukasa she smoked some tobacco until the spirit came upon her, and then she announced in a shrill voice what was to be done. The medium was not allowed to marry, or walk about in the sight of men, or talk to any man but the priest, and once chosen held the office till death. 89-90.
This information is remarkable on several levels, and may immediately ring some bells for readers who have studied the previous two posts in which I presented arguments to support my theory that the details of the story of the Buddha underneath the bodhi tree, as well as the story of Jonah underneath the vine or "the gourd" or the palmcrist or the kikajon found in Jonah chapter 4, are based upon the celestial figure of Bootes the Herdsman sitting with his back to the glorious column of the Milky Way galaxy -- see "The Bodhi Tree" and "The sacred fig tree, continued: Jonah and the gourd."

The general details regarding Mukasa presented above are corroborated in other accounts of the Baganda. This page from the webiste, for example, discusses the understanding of a spirit world beyond this one, and Mukasa as one of the most important of the Lubaale or "Guardians" who dwell in the invisible realm. There, we see that the location of the oracle where the medium (or mandwa) obtained messages from Mukasa was located on Bubembe island, one of a chain of over eighty islands known as the Ssese Islands (after the tsetse flies which swarm there) in Lake Victoria. 

See the map above for the location of Lake Victoria -- which lake is known in the Luganda language of the Baganda as Nalubaale, or "Lake of the Lubaale" -- and the Ssese Island archipelago in that great lake. Nalubaale is the second-largest freshwater lake on earth, with a surface area of 26,600 miles, second only to Lake Superior in size measured by surface area (the subterranean freshwater lake of Lake Vostok in Antarctica has a surface area of "only" 4,800 miles although it is so massive that it contains roughly 1,300 cubic miles of water, compared to Nalubaale's 660 cubic miles and Lake Superior's 2,900 cubic miles and Lake Baikal's 5,700 cubic miles).

It is actually somewhat difficult to find a good detailed map labeling all the Ssese Islands and especially Bubembe island, the location of the oracle and primary temple of Mukasa, but I believe Bubembe is the island that I have indicated with an arrow in the map below, which "zooms in" on the Ssese archipelago from the map shown above:

The details regarding Mukasa given in the quotation above are further supported by accounts found in The Baganda: An account of their native customs and beliefs, by John Roscoe (originally published in 1911). There, we learn more information regarding the mandwa and her entering into a state of trance or ecstasy in order to receive information from the spirit world:
When she was about to seek an interview with the god, or to become possessed, she dressed like one of the priests with two bark-cloths knotted over each shoulder, and eighteen small white goat-skins round her waist. She first smoked a pipe of tobacco until the god came upon her; she then commenced speaking in a shrill voice, and announced what was to be done. She sat over a sacred fire when giving the oracle, perspired very freely, and foamed at the mouth. After the oracle had been delivered, and the god had left her, she was very fatigued and lay prostrate for some time. While giving the oracle, she held a stick in her hand with which she struck the ground to emphasize her words. 297-298.
Again, these details are extremely significant and noteworthy. First, they provide yet another example of a concept that can be seen to be absolutely ubiquitous around the world -- the understanding of the the existence of a spirit world with which it is possible to communicate and to which it is possible to journey even during this life, and the importance of doing so in order to obtain information or effect change which impacts aspects of this material world, which is intimately connected to and in fact can be said to be "interpenetrated by" and even "projected from" the spirit world in a very real sense. We have examined the importance of this concept in numerous previous posts including:
and many more.

Second, they again demonstrate that the actual techniques with which human beings may enter into a state of ecstatic trance or contact with the invisible realm are incredibly diverse, a fact borne out by the encyclopedic research presented by Mircea Eliade in the landmark text Shamanism: Archaic techniques of ecstasy (first published in 1951), and discussed in the previous post entitled "How many ways are there of contacting the hidden realm?"

But perhaps most importantly and most strikingly, the details provided above illustrate powerful and undeniable points of resonance with other sacred traditions from different cultures around the globe, and what is more these points of resonance can -- I argue -- be seen to be distinctly celestial in nature, relating very clearly to specific important constellations which are used in other cultures and other traditions to point the way to the importance of the realm of spirit within and around us, just as they do in the sacred traditions of the Baganda.

Let us examine some of those details more closely.

First, we see that Mukasa shares very clear points of correspondence with the story of the life of the Buddha: he seated himself under a tree, he refused ordinary food, he was against sacrifice (in the case of Mukasa, he was specifically against human sacrifice).

Further, the temple of Mukasa is described as a "conical reed hut," and the mandwa herself also dwelt in a special hut near the conical temple or shrine of Mukasa, although she did not enter it herself, even when she communed with the Lubaale himself, but instead smoked a pipe of tobacco in her hut and sat over a fire, perspiring and even foaming at the mouth. John Roscoe shows an image of one of the conical shrines of the Baganda in his 1911 book, and it looks very much like the image shown below of one of the sacred tombs of the Baganda:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

We also see in the accounts that the mandwa is always a woman, that she begins her contact with the god by sitting above a fire and smoking a pipe, but that at the end she falls down exhausted, and lies prostrate for some time.

All of these details have very powerful correspondences to the specific details of the constellation Bootes the Herdsman and the other surrounding constellations and celestial bodies near Bootes, which the previous posts on the Buddha and the bo tree and on Jonah and the gourd have argued to be the foundation of those sacred stories as well.

The clear celestial connection of the story of the Buddha, the story of Jonah, and the details of the powerful Mukasa of the Baganda is extremely significant, and extremely powerful evidence supporting the actual celestial connection of all of the world's ancient sacred wisdom.

Let's spell out those celestial correspondences (which will be illustrated in the planetarium image below):
  • The sitting figure of Mukasa on the rock, the Buddha under the bodhi tree, and Jonah under his gourd are all related to the constellation Bootes, who can clearly seen to be seated in the sky (and can also be envisioned to be kneeling). In fact, the figure of Bodhidharma who is known as Da Mo in China and who traditional legends describe as bringing Buddhism to China and kneeling in front of a stone wall for nine years without moving, and in some cases to have originated the martial arts as a way of strengthening the monks and giving them a physical-spiritual practice that would function as a kind of "moving meditation," can also be shown to be connected to Bootes, as I have demonstrated in previous posts such as this one.
  • The beautiful tree arching over their heads is the shining column of the Milky Way, which rises up behind the sitting or kneeling figure of Bootes in the heavens.
  • The "conical hut" (or the "booth" that Jonah makes under the gourd) is most likely the outline of the constellation Ophiucus.
The diagram below shows the major players in these Star Myths. The constellation Scorpio is also outlined, latching on to the base of the Milky Way, because Scorpio almost certainly plays the role of the worm who smites the vine that shelters Jonah, and causes it to wither away, much to Jonah's frustration and anger.

Note that in the diagram, the gigantic constellation of Hercules with his raised club is also outlined. This constellation plays a role in the legend of Da Mo (where, I argue, Hercules represents Shen Guang, the faithful follower and first disciple of Da Mo). Interestingly enough, the proximity of Hercules to the seated figure of Bootes provides an important confirmatory piece of evidence that this celestial interpretation is correct for the story of the Buddha as well. 

The image below, from the 2d century AD, shows the unmistakeable figure of Hercules (or Vajrapani) standing behind the seated figure of the Buddha underneath the bo tree, exactly as the constellation of Hercules can be seen to stand behind the seated figure of Bootes in the night sky. This confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ancients knew the connection between the Buddha and the celestial figures of Hercules and Bootes:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

What is perhaps most striking in the sacred Baganda tradition surrounding Mukasa is the way in which the mandwa herself enacts the postures of the celestial constellations when she makes contact with the spirit world: first she sits above the fire smoking a pipe, just as Bootes can be seen to be "smoking a pipe" in the outline shown above, and then she falls down prostrate just as the constellation Virgo (who is located directly below Bootes and whose outline is shown in the image below from the Jonah story) can be said to be "lying prostrate and exhausted" in the way the constellation is arranged in the sky:

Note also that the mandwa carries a stick with which she strikes the ground for emphasis while reciting the message from the spirit world during her trance. The constellation Virgo can be seen to have a distinctive "outstretched arm" (marked by the star Vindemiatrix), which in some legends from around the world becomes a stick (and in other world myths it is a sword, a bow, or another implement connected to the story in question). 

She is thus enacting, in the most direct way imaginable, the concept of "as above, so below," which conveys a number of deep teachings, one of them the fact that every single man and woman embodies within themselves, contains, and connects to the infinite universe itself: that we are each a microcosm which reflects and which in fact is not separate from the infinite macrocosm around and above us.

It is also extremely noteworthy that the famous Pythia who sat in the tripod at the oracle at Delphi can also be shown to reflect the constellation Virgo, who herself is in a seated position and who is directly above a celestial serpent, the constellation Hydra (corresponding to the dead carcass of the Python who was supposedly entombed deep beneath the temple at Delphi). In other words, the priestess at Delphi also entered into a state of ecstasy and communion with the gods by actually imitating the constellation Virgo, and embodying the concept of "as above, so below" and the microcosm/macrocosm.

Thus, we see that the sacred traditions surrounding the benevolent deity Mukasa of central Africa share extremely close and significant correspondences with the sacred traditions at the heart of Buddhism, ancient Greece, the scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures and specifically of the prophet Jonah, and the legend of Da Mo in China, and that they thus provide an extremely powerful and significant piece of additional evidence to support the thesis that the world's sacred myths, scriptures, and traditions all share a common celestial foundation.

This fact, if true (and I believe the evidence is overwhelming and nearly beyond dispute; dozens more examples are discussed in other posts and in my previous books, a partial but by no means exhaustive index of such discussions can be found here) is of incredible significance for world history, and for our lives today.

Some of the implications might be:

  • That the sacred myths, scriptures and traditions of the world are not literal but that they are sophisticated celestial metaphors and that they use the celestial realm to convey the reality of the invisible realm of spirit.
  • That we are not in fact separate from the realm of spirit, but that we are intimately connected to it at all times, and that it is also within us at all times (as above, so below: microcosm and macrocosm).
  • That if the various myths and sacred traditions teach that we are "descended" from figures in Star Myths, they are talking about our spiritual nature, and that such stories are not intended to be used to divide people on the basis of ancestry (or supposed ancestry) -- in fact, since they teach the existence and importance of the infinite spiritual nature inside each man and woman, this can be seen to supersede the far less important external distinctions which people have used to set men and women against each other based on external differences.
  • That we are all deeply connected to one another and in fact to all beings and even to the universe itself.
  • That on this basis, it is wrong to kill other beings, and especially that human sacrifice is profoundly wrong -- in fact, Mukasa's ordinance against human sacrifice can be seen as teaching that it is wrong to take the life of another man or woman, and that one cannot even use "religious devotion" as an excuse to harm another man or woman.
  • That the ancients clearly understood these sacred myths to be connected to the constellations over our heads, and that they consciously depicted this understanding in their art and in their ecstatic practices and techniques.
  • That this ancient understanding has been subverted, and that it has in fact been overturned or "stood on its head," such that for at least seventeen hundred years it has been taught that sacred traditions are only meaningful if taken literally.
  • That literalism tends to invert the original meaning of the myths themselves, including all of the points outlined above. 
  • Literalism tends towards creating divisions between different people and different groups based on supposed descent from figures in stories that were originally intended to be understood as celestial metaphor. 
  • Literalism has often been used to "excuse" (or, it should be said, only "supposedly excuse," since it does not in fact excuse) violence against other men and women.
  • Ultimately, all of these sacred traditions point us towards the importance of the spiritual realm, and especially the importance of the spiritual realm within ourselves and within everyone around us: the importance of recognizing and elevating and evoking the spiritual and the divine side of ourselves and of the cosmos, rather than demeaning and debasing and brutalizing and denying the spiritual and the divine in ourselves and in others and in the world around us.

And there are many other implications, in addition to those listed here.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The sacred fig tree, continued: Jonah and the gourd

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The previous post on The Bodhi Tree examined the very strong evidence that the imagery of the sacred fig tree under which the Buddha is described as attaining enlightenment has powerful points of resonance with the "vertical Djed" symbology found throughout the mythology of the world, and associated with the invisible, divine, spirit-component in human beings and indeed in all the universe.

This "vertical component" symbology can be shown to be directly related to the "vertical component" of the great cross of the year which runs from the winter solstice (at the "bottom of the year") straight up to the summer solstice (at the very "summit" of the year), in contrast to the "horizontal component" that connects the two points of equinox and which represent the "crossing points" between the worlds of spirit and matter. In contrast to the vertical spirit-component of this great cross, the horizontal component almost always pictures the physical, animal, material nature into which we are "cast down" when we incarnate in this mortal life, during which time we are "crossed" in the human condition of being simultaneously spirit and matter, divine and animal, vertical and horizontal.

Hence, the vertical-component symbology of the bodhi tree under which the Buddha achieves enlightenment can be shown to be related to the reconnection with the divine and the transcendence of the dual and conflicted condition in which we find ourselves: a spiritual transcendence which can only be achieved by actually entering into the lower or material realm (in much the same way that plants  and trees which grow up towards the heavens must first begin as seeds planted in the "lower realm" of the earthy soil, as Alvin Boyd Kuhn frequently explains in his writings on the subject).

Readers who are familiar by now with the thesis that a common system of celestial allegory can be shown to run through virtually all of the world's ancient myth and sacred tradition may have already begun to question whether this sacred fig tree under which the Buddha achieves the height of divine consciousness has any echoes in other sacred traditions around the world -- and indeed we would probably be very surprised if a symbol of such central importance did not have echoes in other world mythology.

Students of classical literature, and especially those who love the Odyssey of Homer, might immediately think of the fig tree which saves Odysseus from certain destruction between the whirlpool of Charybdis and the ravenous snaking heads of the monster Scylla, in the Odyssey's Book 12 (particularly lines 464 - 478). This fig tree is almost certainly connected to the fig tree of the Buddha -- because I believe that in addition to being associated with the vertical "Djed column" which runs through the great circle of the year from the lowest point at winter solstice up to the highest point at summer solstice, the "fig tree" of sacred tradition can be shown to be associated with a very prominent feature of the starry heavens, the same feature that runs between Scylla and Charybdis, to which Odysseus is described as clinging to "like a bat" in order to escape being sucked down into the vortex.

Students of the Hebrew Scriptures may have read the previous post about the Buddha sitting beneath the sacred fig of the bodhi tree and been reminded of the numerous passages in which the promise that "every man should dwell safely . . . under his vine and under his fig tree" is given as a formula that describes the golden age under King Solomon in 1 Kings 4:25 and which is referenced in many other passages in the books of the prophets, including the scrolls of Isaiah and Micah and Zechariah.

Students of the New Testament scriptures may have considered the discussion of the Buddha underneath the bo tree and been suddenly reminded of the passage found only in the gospel according to John, in which Jesus calls Nathanael and tells Nathanael that he saw him "when thou wast under the fig tree," before Philip had told Nathanael to come and see Jesus (John 1:46 - 51).

In other words, fig trees feature prominently in myths and sacred stories around the world! There are many more like these, including from sacred stories in the Americas, some of which are examined in Hamlet's Mill (1969). Many readers will also have thought immediately of Adam and Eve, whose story certainly involves a central tree, and who are specifically described as making coverings for themselves out of fig leaves in Genesis 3:7.

What celestial feature might be playing the role of the fig tree in all of these celestial allegories?

Perhaps the most revealing passage which helps to decode this vitally important symbol, and one which was the first one that I myself thought of when reflecting on the image of the bodhi tree, is the story in the book of Jonah, which describes Jonah as taking shelter beneath a friendly kikajon or vine, translated as a "gourd" in the 1611 English translation.

There, in the fourth chapter of Jonah, after Jonah has been persuaded (by a stint in the belly of the fish) to preach to the Ninevites (whom he begrudged God's grace and did not want to see spared), we read:
5 So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.
6 And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceedingly glad of the gourd.
7 But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.
8 And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.
9 And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.
10 Then said the LORD, Thou has had pity on the gourd, for the which thou has not laboured, neither maddest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:
11 And should I not spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?
And on that note the book of Jonah ends.

There are certainly deep subjects being treated here in these passages, but it also seems that Jonah sitting under his gourd has some points of resonance with the Buddha sitting under the sacred bo tree, even though the vine that shelters Jonah is not specifically described as a fig (although other passages in the Old and New Testaments specifically indicate a fig and characters who sit underneath one, as we have already seen).

As with so many other sacred myths around the world, and so many other passages based on celestial allegory in the passages of the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, enough "clues" have been included in the passage above for us to determine with some confidence just which celestial figures this ancient sacred story brings down to earth and clothes in "terrestrial form," so to speak.

Perhaps the feature of this story that does the most to unlock its celestial correlatives is the figure of "the worm" in verse seven, which is depicted as gnawing at or "smiting" the sheltering vine and causing its demise. If you are familiar with the night sky, you might immediately recognize this "worm" at the base of a glorious vertical tree or vine in the heavens as the sinuous constellation Scorpio, one of the most beautiful constellations in the heavens and one that is situated right at the very "base" of the thickest and brightest part of the shining band of the Milky Way galaxy, as it rises out of the southern horizon during the summer months (for observers in the northern hemisphere).

Below is my interpretation of the celestial figures depicted in the events of Jonah chapter 4, beginning with the "worm" of Scorpio, and working around to the rest of the events depicted in the chapter:

This is a modified Stellarium screen-shot of the night sky as it looks to an observer at a latitude of about 35 north, looking towards the southern horizon (almost due south), such that east will be to the left and west to the right. There, stretching upwards like a mighty tree, is the shining "trunk" of the Milky Way galaxy, and directly at its base or its "root" we can see the dreaded worm, in the zodiac constellation of Scorpio.

Just above Scorpio is a constellation we have not previously discussed on this blog (you can see a handy index of many of the stars and constellations that have been discussed in previous posts here), and we won't really discuss it at length in this post either, except to remark that its outline may well be the explanation for the line in Jonah 4:5 cited above in which we see that "Jonah made him a booth," in which to get a little shade as he sat looking towards Ninevah. The outline of Ophiucus is indeed somewhat suggestive of a "booth" or a narrow peaked tent, and although the interpretation of Jonah 4 does not stand or fall on the identification of Jonah's "booth" with the outline of Ophiucus, this correspondence appears to be a strong possibility. 

Just outside the "booth" (if that's indeed what it is), we see Jonah himself, sitting with his back to the vine. It is almost certain that the constellation of Bootes the Herdsman is playing the role of the seated  (and sulking) prophet Jonah in this chapter, and you can see that the constellation Bootes itself does indeed have a seated posture. In fact, the same seated posture can also be envisioned as being a posture of kneeling, or of sitting "cross-legged" or even in a "lotus position," if we envision a horizontal line connecting the two lowest points on the constellation as shown above.

We have already seen strong evidence that the constellation Bootes plays the role of the kneeling sage Bodhidharma or Da Mo, who knelt against a wall for nine years without moving (in some versions of the story, without even blinking), as discussed in a previous post entitled "Bodhidharma, Shen Guang, and the Shaolin Temple." 

I believe it is very likely that the seated prophet Jonah, the kneeling sage Da Mo, and the meditating figure of the Buddha underneath the bodhi tree, are all manifestations of one and the same celestial figure in the sky, the constellation Bootes beside the glorious vertical column of the Milky Way.

This identification, at least in the case of Jonah, is strengthened by the events described in verse 8, in which the worm has destroyed the gourd, and the sun comes up and beats upon the unprotected head of Jonah, who then faints. While the constellation Virgo located below Bootes figures in numerous Star Myths around the world as the wife or lover of the figure played by Bootes, such as in the story of Adam and Eve in which Bootes is almost certainly Adam and Virgo is almost certainly Eve, in this particular passage it seems quite likely that the figure of Virgo stretched out below Bootes represents Jonah having fainted from the sun beating down upon his unprotected head (and indeed Bootes does have a prominent and rather bulbous head, based upon the outline of the stars themselves in the constellation). The many places in Jonah chapter 4 in which Jonah says he might as well die or he is angry "unto death" would seem to add support to this identification in this particular part of the Jonah story.

Further confirmation that the fig tree of the world's sacred myths is indeed identified with this portion of the Milky Way can be obtained by considering again the story of Odysseus escaping from Scylla and Charybdis: in this story, Scylla is undoubtedly Scorpio, which appears to have multiple long heads emerging from its body on snaky necks, while the "top" of the Milky Way stretches towards the point of the north celestial pole, around which the entire "starry ocean" of the northern celestial sky appears to turn, just like a whirlpool.  

Between these two mortal threats, Odysseus is rescued by the friendly fig tree, to which he clings "like a bat" -- and you can easily confirm for yourself that just above the Scorpion in the shining path of the Milky Way there are two great bird-constellations, Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan, either of which might be playing the role of the hapless hero Odysseus, clinging for dear life to the fig tree in order to avoid being sucked down into the vortex of Charybdis (a vortex which is actually located in the "up" direction, for observers on earth, but not for players upon the great stage of the heavens, where "up" and "down" can take on different meanings in order to make the poetry work).

Still further confirmation is provided by the fact that the head of the constellation Bootes actually appears to resemble a "gourd," and is so described or depicted in many another Star Myth around the world. See for example the illustration of Da Mo shown on this page, (scroll down to the image in which Da Mo has a crooked staff over his shoulder, from which a gourd can be seen to dangle), or the image of Daikoku and Otafuku from Japanese myth shown and discussed in this previous post (scroll down for the discussion of the image, in which Daikoku represents Bootes and holds an enormous gourd, while Otafuku represents Virgo and holds a wand in one hand).

Thus, we have fairly strong evidence from literally around the globe to support the identification of Bootes with Jonah when Jonah is sitting "under the gourd," and fairly strong evidence from many of the world's myths to support the identification of the ubiquitous fig tree with the "vertical trunk" of the Milky Way as it rises up from the horizon.

Of course, the figure of the Buddha sitting under the bo tree achieving the state of highest divine consciousness, and the figure of Jonah petulantly nursing his anger that the LORD God has shown mercy to Ninevah could not present a greater contrast.

But note: the scroll of Jonah ends abruptly with the verses quoted above. We are not told anything more about Jonah. We only see that he is being admonished for his failure to have pity upon the people of Ninevah, whom he apparently hates because they are of a different family of humanity than he is -- and the divine voice tells Jonah in no uncertain terms that Jonah is wrong to think of them in this way.

We do not know at all whether or not Jonah ever achieved enlightenment, like the Buddha who likewise sat beneath the same celestial tree.

And here once again we must return to the incredibly helpful quotation from Alvin Boyd Kuhn, who reminds us that these stories are not about an external figure but that they are in fact about each and every man and woman on earth, and the experience of each and every human soul.  

In other words, we are both Jonah and the Buddha.

The depiction in one story describes one aspect of our journey, while the depiction in the other depicts another part of our ultimate experience. We should not spend too much time wondering about whether Jonah ever changes, and spend perhaps more time considering our own state of mind and consciousness. 

As well as our concern for our fellow human beings, whether they live in Ninevah or elsewhere. 

Blessing and not cursing.

Ultimately, these stories point us towards the concept of "raising the Djed" (or "the fig tree") and all that concept appears to have entailed, in the ancient system of sacred wisdom imparted to the human race.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).