Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Birthday of Marc Bolan (September 30)

One of the clear messages of all of the Star Myths of the world is that you and everyone else you meet is a precious star, connected with, reflecting and containing the entire cosmos.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節 and the Total Lunar Eclipse ("Blood Moon") of September 2015

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This Sunday, September 27, marks the beginning of the traditional celebration of mid-Autumn festival in China and Vietnam. It is a very ancient holiday, its observance stretching back to as early as 3600 years ago, and perhaps even earlier, and it is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. Great effort is usually made to travel and be with family on this day, much like Thanksgiving in the US, and for several days around the holiday many businesses and markets are closed as people make their way back to the places where they grew up, in order to celebrate with their extended families.

The Chinese characters for this holiday are 節 which is pronounced Zhong Qiu Jie in Mandarin and Jung Chau Jit in Cantonese, and which translates literally into "Mid-Autumn-Day" or "Middle-Fall-Holiday" (or even more literally the "Mid-Autumn-Node").

Jung Chau Jit is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, the fifteenth day corresponding in general to the full moon in a lunar month (because a lunar month commences with a new moon, and the moon waxes for fourteen days to become full, which happens on the fifteenth day, and then wanes for fourteen more days to the point of another new moon), and so this festival always falls very close to or directly upon the day of a full moon, as it does this year.

Thus, the Mid-Autumn Holiday is also a Moon Festival, and is in fact often called the Moon Festival, and an important tradition during the days (weeks!) leading up to this holiday and on the day of the holiday itself is the giving of round "mooncakes," light gold in color and filled with a variety of different kinds of heavy, sweet fillings, and sometimes with a candied egg yolk:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

These are traditionally served by being cut carefully into four equal quarters (a little combination cutting-and-serving implement, something like a small version of a cake trowel, is often included in commercially-sold mooncake boxes or packages), with each person present being given one section. The cakes themselves often have "blessing" words baked into the top of them. 

Being a Moon Festival, the holiday is also closely associated with the Moon Goddess, pictured at top, whose name is 
which is pronounced Chang Er in Mandarin and Seung Ngo in Cantonese and translates rather directly into "Chang the Beautiful" or "Seung the Beautiful." 

There is a legend about Seung Ngo and her husband, 
being banished from the heavenly realms by the Jade Emperor (whom we met in the earlier discussion of the Lantern Festival, which takes place in the first lunar month) and having to live down upon the earth as mortals (his name is pronounced Hou Yi in Mandarin and Hau Ngai in Cantonese, and it means something like "King Archer").  

In the legend, he is distraught at the idea that his beautiful wife, having been banished from the celestial realms, is now faced with mortality, and so he seeks and eventually obtains an elixir of immortality which will restore their immortality to them. However, as so often happens in such myths, the plan goes awry, when she is forced to drink it all herself (either to keep it from a marauding robber who breaks in to steal it from her while her husband is away, or because she is overcome with curiosity while he is asleep, and drinks the whole elixir without knowing the consequences).

As soon as she does, she feels herself floating up into the heavens, without her unfortunate husband, who is left behind as a mortal. The two are thus separated forever, but Seung Ngo settles on the Moon, where she can look down upon Hau Ngai, and he can gaze up to her new home and think of her.

Having examined some of the most prominent aspects of this important ancient holy day, we are now in a position to benefit from the deep knowledge contained within its symbols and forms.

Because this poignant myth, and all the other symbols of the Mid-Autumn Festival, are powerful symbols which speak to truths about our incarnate existence, this existence in which we find ourselves crossing the "underworld" of the material realm in a physical body -- which is closely associated with the figure of the moon in the ancient system of celestial metaphor -- but doing so with the dimly-remembered awareness that we are separated from our true home (and disconnected from our higher "divine twin") during this earthly sojourn, and that we are in fact actually spiritual beings as much or more than we are physical beings.

The festival, positioned in the time of year next to fall equinox, contains the same symbols of a goddess and the fall from the celestial realm into the mortal incarnate life associated with the point of autumn equinox literally worldwide in the ancient myths.

Among them:
  • The presence of a goddess-figure (in this case, the goddess Seung Ngo, or Chang Er), goddess figures being shown in the previous post to be associated in ancient myth the world over with the point of fall equinox and the plunge into incarnation.
  • A myth in which there is a prominent theme of expulsion from the heavenly realm and banishment to the earthly realm (the plunge into this lower realm), featuring a duo in which one of the pair is mortal and one divine: just as we, in this incarnate life, find ourselves "crossed" with a physical body and an internal divine spark. 
  • The incorporation of moon-themes to go along with the incarnation theme of the fall equinox (dominated by the presence of a goddess at the point of incarnation). As Alvin Boyd Kuhn demonstrates in extended discussions found in Lost Light, published in 1940, the ancient myths  and sacred traditions very often used the moon to symbolize our incarnate form, and the sun our divine spirit, which lights up and animates our physical body in the same way that the sun gives its light to the moon (see pages 115 and following, for example, or 520 and following, or 139 and following, or 521 and following). In that exploration of ancient myth, Kuhn says quite explicitly: "The sun types soul, always, the moon, body" (479), and elsewhere: "The moon being the parent of the mortal body, lunar symbolism was prominently introduced into the portrayal "(140).
  • The connection of the moon (our incarnate side) with the idea of water, seas, oceans, and incarnation (through the tides, and also through the internal tides of our body), which also connects with the goddess-ocean connection discussed in the previous post (with examples which demonstrated the "mother-ocean" connection inherent in the names of Mary, Tiamat, and Aphrodite, as well as in the Chinese ideograms for mother and ocean).
  • The tradition of gathering together with family at the Moon Festival, representative of the idea that we align the cycle of our personal lives and our physical motions (often traveling great distances) with the cycles of the earth, sun, moon and stars: reinforcing the profound connection between "microcosm" and "macrocosm" discussed in the preceding post (and many others), a connection which the ancient myths and sacred traditions of the human race the world over all seek to convey. 
  • The tradition of gathering together with family at the Moon Festival, which also commemorates our physical, material entry into this incarnate life, which is celebrated when we honor our family and especially our parents.
  • Traditions in this holiday (especially as celebrated in Vietnam) which focus on children and proclaim it to be a holiday which honors young children, who are just embarking upon their journey through the incarnate human life.
  • The tradition that mooncakes are cut up into four quarters, which is clearly connected with the lunar symbology, but also with the concept of "crossing" or the crucifixion of this incarnate life (see numerous previous posts which demonstrate that the Great Cross of the year was associated in ancient myth with the twin components of incarnate human existence: the horizontal component representing the physical, "dead," "animal" nature of our body, and the vertical component representing the spiritual, divine, celestial component of the invisible and infinite realm which the ancient myths tell us is actually all around us and also within us and within every other being with whom we come into contact).

Clearly, then, the Mid-Autumn Festival preserves a great many symbols which carry a profound spiritual message, using the symbology of the moon (associated with incarnation), the casting down from the spiritual realms into incarnate existence (in the story of Hou Yi and Chang Er, or Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo), the myth regarding a married couple who are extremely close but who find themselves in the condition of one divine and one mortal (the "divine twin" pattern found around the world, including in the myth of Castor and Pollux but also of Jesus and Thomas and many others), the traditions of gathering with family and ordering our lives in accordance with the cycles of earth, sun, moon and stars, and the traditions of honoring our physical family and our parents, who brought us into this incarnate body in the first place.

It is also worth pointing out, in passing (although it could become a full-length examination and discussion) that a great many Chinese characters which use the symbol for "the moon" actually refer to our physical human body. The Chinese ideogram for "moon" is:

Other words whose ideograms use this as a "radical" in their Chinese character, and which relate to the physical human body, include:

The liver: 

The ribs or chest: 

The armpit, or arms:

The elbow:

Pelvis, groin or thighs:

The diaphragm:

Internal organs, guts, viscera:

A gland:

Fat, plump, or obese:

And there are many others.

Some scholars or those familiar with Chinese radicals may argue that none of the above characters are actually connected with "the moon," even though the radical looks just like the Chinese symbol for the moon, because the actual radical for "meat" -- which looks like this --

ends up looking like the symbol for "the moon" when it functions as a radical in a compound character. 

That is a valid argument, but we must ask ourselves why that "meat" symbol turns into a "moon" symbol in all of these ideograms? The answer, of course, could very well be the fact that the ancient wisdom of the human race universally acknowledged an esoteric connection between the moon and the physical, corporeal, carnal ("meat") body.

And so it becomes clear that all of the symbology of the culturally significant and anciently-established Mid-Autumn-Festival can be shown to be connected to other mythological symbols used in other myths around the world -- all of them designed to impart to us profound gnosis regarding our human condition here in this incarnate life, including the fact that we are not merely physical beings but that our human nature consists of both a physical and a spiritual component, that our physical "moon" form (associated with water) is illuminated by our spiritual "solar" and divine nature (associated with fire and with air -- or spirit).

Now, very briefly, let us also note the fact that because the Mid-Autumn-Festival always falls on or very near a full moon, it will also periodically happen that this anciently-ordained observation will coincide with a lunar eclipse. Previous posts on the actual celestial mechanics of the moon phases (see here, here, and here) have explained why lunar eclipses must always coincide with a full moon, and why solar eclipses must always correspond to a new moon (not every full moon is a lunar eclipse, of course, nor every new moon a solar -- but every lunar eclipse occurs at full moon, and every solar eclipse occurs at new moon).

This September 27 full moon also happens to take place when the moon is passing through a "lunar node" (a "crossing point" with the plane of the ecliptic of the earth) and will therefore result in a total lunar eclipse visible for most of the Americas, Africa and Europe (see resources from Sky & Telescope regarding this eclipse available here).

Not only is this a total lunar eclipse, but it is also a total lunar eclipse which corresponds to the moon's closest approach on its orbit around the earth, when it is physically closer to us and thus appears physically larger in the sky -- all of which add up to the promise of a spectacular heavenly event this weekend.

This particular moon (all month long) is in fact known universally as the Harvest Moon (in China also), which is traditionally understood to be the brightest moon of the year.

All of these factors argue that this weekend's lunar eclipse should be worth going out and watching, if at all possible in your particular global location and circumstance.

As the moon enters the shadow of the earth, it will take on a dusky red hue -- which (only recently) has begun to be designated as a "blood moon" by some in the popular media and in certain evangelical circles (largely based upon a literalistic interpretation of certain Old and New Testament scriptures which I believe can be definitively shown to be esoteric in nature and not literalistic in nature). Scriptures in the Old and New Testament which describe the moon as turning to blood or being bathed in blood include the following texts:

Joel 2:31 "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come."
Acts 2:20 "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:"
Revelation 6:12 "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;"

Alvin Boyd Kuhn actually addresses many of these Biblical passages directly, and argues (with extensive textual evidence) that the description of the "moon becoming as blood" only emphasizes even more dramatically the esoteric symbolical connection between the moon and our physical body in this human life.

Discussing the passage cited above from Revelation 6, he explains among the metaphors given: 
along with the darkness over the earth, the veiled sun, the blood-stained moon, is that "the stars from the heavens fell." In the same place we read that "when the message of the third angel was sounded forth, a great star went down from heaven and it fell upon the earth." Another star fell at the sounding of the trumpet of the fifth angel. The various legends, then, of falling stars become invested with unexpected significance as being disguised allusions to the descent of the angelic myriads to our shores , -- to become our souls. 116.
In other words, Kuhn here argues that the metaphors in Revelation 6 (and indeed throughout the Bible) all have to do with our incarnate condition, consisting of a "crossing" between spirit (symbolized by the sun) and matter (our material bodies, symbolized by the moon). 

This interpretation (according to Alvin Boyd Kuhn) would include the metaphor of the earth being enshrouded by darkness -- because we plunge down to incarnation in the lower half of the zodiac wheel, as described in numberless previous posts. The lower half of the wheel is the half in which night triumphs over daylight (initiated by the fall equinox, when the hours of darkness begin to be longer than the hours of light, in each 24-hour period):

It would include (according to Kuhn) the moon being bathed in blood -- because the moon represents our incarnate condition, our sojourn in a body composed of water and blood and clay, our crossing of the "Red Sea" (which can be metaphorically seen to be the crossing which each and every human being undertakes, going through life in a human body through which courses the "red sea" of the blood in our veins and arteries).

It would include (according to Kuhn) the stars being cast out of heaven and forced to "fall upon the earth" -- for this is the very condition in which we find ourselves, as human souls who dimly realize that we come from a spiritual home, but who have been exiled (just like Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo) upon this material plane.

In other words, the passages in Revelation (and all the other esoteric Biblical scriptures) are describing our own human experience, our experience as divine beings who have been "crossed with" physical, material, animal bodies during this incarnate life.

And this is just what all the other Star Myths of the world are trying to convey to us as well! (Note that it can be conclusively demonstrated that the passages of the book of Revelation involving the opening of the seven seals are absolutely based upon metaphorical descriptions of the constellations in our night sky, as I demonstrate briefly in this previous post regarding Revelation Chapter 9: they are all allegorical celestial metaphors which use the awe-inspiring motions of the heavenly cycles to convey truths to us about the invisible realm).

Indeed, all of these metaphors and sacred scriptures are designed to convey to us the very same truths conveyed through the ancient metaphors connected to the Mid-Autumn-Festival celebrated in China and Vietnam and some other surrounding cultures from time immemorial.

As the day of the first full moon after fall equinox approaches, it is a time for contemplation and reflection upon our human condition in this incarnate life -- our "plunge into matter" which in ancient myth was associated with the point of the fall equinox, with the goddess at the edge of the ocean (or the goddess of the Moon), and with the "crossing" of our divine nature with a physical body.

And yet, even as we are plunged into this physical human form, we are given forms and symbols and myths and stories and scriptures to remind us that this material world that is visible and perceptible to our senses is not all that there is, and that this physical "animal" human body we inhabit is not all that we are. 

Just as the moon is illuminated by the fire of the sun's life-giving rays, so our material nature is illuminated and animated by a higher spiritual self that exists "above and beyond" our merely physical carcass. 

Just like the mooncake in the Jung Chau Jit celebration, which is divided and quartered into four equal sections, we ourselves are made up of a "cross," a "crucifix," a "quartered whole" consisting of both a horizontal line (between the equinoxes, and associated with matter) and a vertical line (between the solstices, reaching towards infinity, and associated with all that is spiritual, and with raising the spiritual aspect within ourselves and with calling it forth in those we meet and indeed in all of creation around us).

I sincerely wish you a very blessed Mid-Autumn Festival, and harmony between the microcosm and macrocosm. May all beings be freed from suffering and filled with peace and joy, love and light.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Chinese characters and the moment of Equinox

The ancient wisdom imparted to humanity in the myths, sacred stories, and scriptures found literally around the world is built upon a system that ties our motions in this incarnate life to the great cycles of the heavens -- the motions of the sun, moon, stars, and planets, and the multiple cycles of the earth including its rotation, annual orbit, and ages-long precessional motion.

Our lives here on earth, in our human bodies, reflect and echo the great movements of the celestial spheres -- and the motions of those celestial orbits can be seen as depicting the spiritual drama of each and every human soul journeying through this incarnate existence on earth.

All the sacred scriptures and stories of the human race can be shown to dramatize the great heavenly cycles in order to convey profound spiritual knowledge for our benefit during our human experience.

Amazingly enough, the very symbols and characters with which those sacred myths were recorded (for those that were written down in texts) also reflect and embody the very same heavenly cycles and the spiritual teachings conveyed by those celestial motions!

In other words, just as each individual man or woman is a "microcosm" who can be said to contain and reflect the entire infinite universe (that is to say, the "macrocosm"), so also each individual letter or hieroglyph or symbol can be seen to act as a sort of "microcosm" of its own, containing and conveying the same spiritual message that is found in the body of sacred scripture which is made up of all those individual letters and symbols.

Today, at a special point in the heavenly cycles seen as having great significance in the ancient myths of the human race, we will examine some ways in which the individual letters and symbols contain and reflect the same message conveyed by the ancient scriptures and myths themselves.

The earth will cross through the point of autumnal equinox at 01:22 am Pacific Time on September 23 this year (2015). This is the same as 08:22 am Greenwich time on September 23. 

The "calendar date" of the solstices and equinoxes shifts slightly from year to year, due to the fact that the earth does not rotate on its axis an exactly-even number of rotations from one point of equinox or solstice to the next from year to year: in other words, it rotates 365.242 times before coming back to the same point relative to the sun from one year to the next, which is why measuring from solstices and equinoxes is actually more precise than using the various calendar systems when figuring out where we are relative to the sun, and why calendar systems have to use various types of "correction mechanisms" (such as intercalary days or leap-years) to keep the calendar days from "slipping" too far from the mechanics of the earth-sun relationship.

Because of this fact, we can expect the autumnal or fall equinox to occur on September 22 in most years, but it will occasionally take place on the 21st or the 23rd.

The point of fall equinox is a "crossing point" at which the ecliptic path of the sun during the day crosses below the celestial equator, after being above it through the summer months (in fact, from the point of spring equinox, up through the summer solstice, and all the way back down until reaching fall equinox). In other words -- and all descriptions here are for an observer in the northern hemisphere -- the arc of the sun's path through the sky has been higher than the celestial equator, which is that invisible line in the sky that traces an imaginary great circle 90-degrees down from the north celestial pole (very close to Polaris, the North Star).

The arc of the sun through the sky during the day has been north of that line (closer to the north celestial pole, higher-up from the southern horizon) as it traverses from east to west.

Now the arc of the sun will be lower than that celestial equator-line in the heavens, and closer to the southern horizon, and thus the angle of the sun's rays on the northern hemisphere will be less steep and more shallow, and the hours of darkness will begin to be longer than the hours of daylight. This effect will increase as we hurtle towards the point of winter solstice: the arc of the sun's path will be lower and lower, the angle of the sun's rays will be shallower and shallower, and the hours of darkness will be longer and longer.

(Of course, for observers in the southern hemisphere, this point of fall equinox for the northern hemisphere is actually their spring equinox, because as the sun's arc gets further and further south, it is actually higher in the sky for them, as it gets closer and closer to the south celestial pole, and higher and higher above the north horizon).

As has been explained in many previous posts on this subject, the ancient scriptures of the world used these awesome heavenly cycles to depict truths about invisible aspects of our simultaneously spiritual-material universe, and about our human condition as spiritual beings "cast down" into physical-material bodies here in this incarnate life.

The point of equinox, at which the sun's path falls below the celestial equator-line, plunging the world into the half of the year in which darkness dominates over daylight, was used as a metaphor to convey truths about our plunge down from the realm of pure spirit into the realm of matter. Here at the fall equinox, the upper half of the year (associated with the spiritual realm and the "higher elements" of Air and Fire) gave way to the lower half of the year (associated with the material realm and the "lower elements" of Earth and Water).

Below is a diagram, familiar to regular readers of this blog from previous posts such as this one, this one, and this one, showing the Great Circle of the year with the points of equinox marked with a red "X" at each equinox: the spring equinox for the northern hemisphere on the left  (in the "9 o'clock position" if this was a clock face) and the fall equinox on the right (in the "3 o'clock position"). The progress of the earth through the year is clockwise in this diagram (from the spring equinox "X" at the "9 o'clock position," we proceed upwards to the summer solstice at 12 o'clock, and then start back downwards to the autumnal crossing point at 3 o'clock).

The "upper half" of this circle of the year is the fiery half, the heavenly half -- representative of the realm of spirit, the realm of the gods, and the spiritual part of our nature.

The "lower half," on the other hand, was the realm of matter and gross incarnation in bodies of "clay" (combining the "lower two elements" of earth and water) -- and it was often metaphorically connected with water, the ocean, the sea, the deep, and the underworld.

In the diagram above, I have attempted to illustrate this metaphor by adding watery ocean waves to the lower half of the circle.

The point of autumn equinox is the point at which we "plunge" down into this incarnate lower realm: the point at which we dive down into the sea, so to speak. And there, at the autumn equinox, guarding the gate to the incarnate realm, standing at the point of the plunge into the ocean, we see the zodiac sign of Virgo the Virgin (for the Age of Aries, which can be seen to be operating in many of the ancient myths of the world, although there are also abundant references to the earlier Age of Taurus and the even earlier Age of Gemini in the world's myths as well).

Interestingly enough, figures in the ancient myths associated with the sign of Virgo and with the plunge down into incarnate existence are often goddess figures, often mother figures, and often have names  or mythological attributes which explicitly connect them with the sea or the ocean.

The most obvious of these, perhaps, is the New Testament figure of Mary (or Maria) -- whose name contains a root word mar or mare which means "ocean" or "sea" (and which can be found in many English words connected to the sea, such as "mariner" or "marine life" and even "to marinade").

Another example is Tiamat, a creator goddess of ancient Sumerian and Babylonian myth associated with the primordial sea, and whose name was similarly synonymous with the ocean.

Even the goddess Aphrodite or Venus was strongly associated with the sea -- and in fact, with the very "edge of the sea" or the "verge of the sea," and with the sea-foam in particular (the name Aphrodite, in Greek, was associated with the word aphros, meaning "sea-foam," although some scholars also attest there may be an etymological connection as well to the name of the goddess Ishtar or Astoroth or Astarte).

All of these heavenly figures are mother figures (Aphrodite or Venus was the mother of Aeneas, for example, the central figure in the Aeneid) and are simultaneously associated with the sea -- and this is appropriate for the fact that our plunge down into this incarnate life, this "lower half" of the wheel, this crossing of the Red Sea, begins for each of us at our human birth. Every person who ever lived has a mother, to whom we each are indebted for our material life, our very incarnate existence.

It is fascinating to observe that this connection between "mother" and "sea" or "ocean" is contained in the very letters or symbols with which we convey thoughts in the form of writing: for instance, the words for "mother" in many, many languages of the world begin with the sound we write in the alphabet that is derived from Phoenician, Greek, and Roman sources as "M" or "m" -- a symbol which is clearly reminiscent of waves of water or the ocean's rollers.

In the Chinese characters, this connection between "mother" and "ocean" is even more clearly visible, in the characters for "mother" and "ocean," of which the symbol for "ocean" is built from the symbol for "mother," with a "radical" known as the "three water dots" or drops added, as well as a kind of crowning symbol sometimes known as the "top of mei" radical (radical 20 in the chart of modern radicals).

Here is the Chinese character for "mother" (pronounced mu in Mandarin and mou in Cantonese, both of which preserve the "m-sound" associated with the word mother around the world):

And here (and also at the top of this post) is the closely-related Chinese character for "ocean" or "sea," which is pronounced hai in Mandarin and hoi in Cantonese, and can be found in words such as Shanghai and hoi sin sauce:

In other words, the Chinese characters themselves (which are very ancient) appear to convey the same connection between "mother" and "ocean" which is found in the figures of Mary, Tiamat, Aphrodite and many others, and which is connected to the celestial cycle associated with the fall equinox and the plunge down into this lower realm, this world of matter (the very word "matter," as has been pointed out by many observers, also being linguistically very close to the word for mother or mater from which we get modern English words such as "maternal").

The characters themselves contain "microcosmic" representations of the spiritual messages conveyed by the ancient myths and sacred stories.

Nor do the esoteric connections of the ancient Chinese characters stop there. If they did, some might argue that attempts to find spiritual messages in the characters are stretches of the imagination, built upon mere coincidence or the "random," undirected development of the characters over the centuries.

But, this same sort of connection can be seen in other Chinese characters as well.

For example, the character for a "temple" is composed of the character for "earth" (which interestingly enough is symbolized by a "cross of matter" upon a horizontal "ground" that is wider than the cross-bar of the cross) above the symbol for a Chinese "inch" -- an "inch of earth," so to speak. The "inch-measurement" symbol is shown below, and was apparently derived from a symbolic depiction of a thumb (appropriately enough, for the measurement of an inch):

So, that is the symbol for an "inch," and if we write the symbol for "earth" above that, we get the character for a "temple," shown below:

This connection of an "inch of earth" with a "temple" is full of important meaning worthy of careful consideration.

A temple is a sacred space -- a place which is set apart from the simply material and which is specifically designed to invoke the invisible realm, the world of spirit, the world of the divine. And yet it is clearly a space that is connected with the measurements and the motions of the great spheres of the heavens and the great sphere of the earth -- because we ourselves reflect and embody the infinite universe in our individual bodies, and because the teachings given in the various temples and sacred spaces around the world have to do with harmonizing our motions with the motions of the spheres and cycles of the heavens and of the earth.

The fact that the character for a temple in the Chinese calligraphy is composed of the characters for "an inch" of "earth" connects the idea of the sacred space with the measurements and motions of our planet and the cosmos. Note that a measurement of distance on our planet is always simultaneously a measurement of time: "seconds" and "minutes," for example, are obviously measurements of time, but they are also defined as a specific distance-measurements, and are intended to relate to the amount of distance the earth rotates in those periods of time.

We should not be at all surprised, then, to find that the Chinese character for "time" is composed of the symbol for "temple," with the addition of the symbol on the left (the radical) which represents the sun.  Thus, a temple is connected not only to an "inch of earth" but also to specifically evoke the presence of the sun in addition to the rotation of the earth, and by extension could be though of as the space in which the rays of the sun move across the rotating earth.  The ancient Egyptian Temple of Karnak comes immediately to mind.

Here is the character for "time":

Note, too, the significant fact that the word for "temple" in English contains the root temp which means "time" and which forms the basis for many other "time-related" words such as "temporary" or "tempo" or "tempest" or "temporal." In other words, both the Chinese characters and the western-language words for a temple preserve this connection between the sacred space and the majestic motions of the sun, moon, stars and planets which translate into our understanding and measurement of time.

Finally, it is also very interesting and significant that the character for "poem" or "metered verse" in the Chinese calligraphy once again contains the character for a "temple," this time adding the radical for "words," which is the flattened-square character symbolizing a human mouth, with four lines above it as if they are words or lines of speech floating upwards from the mouth, just the way that words or letters sometimes float up out of the mouths of characters on Sesame Street (and which, when I was little, I thought would visibly float up out of my mouth also, if I made the sound of a "z" for example).

And so this character seems to be telling us that poetry is a form of sacred speech, or speech for the temple, or words that connect to the invisible realm -- and indeed many ancient myths are written in verse form (from the Vedas of India and the Mahabharata with the Bhagavad Gita, to the poems of Homer and Pindar and Ovid, to the verses of many of the Biblical scriptures).

It is also indicating, of course, that poetry is a form of metered (or "measured") language, which is to say that it is language that has a "time component" to it (a certain number of beats per line), and which thus connects it to the motions of the spheres and to the temp in temple and tempo, as well.

Below is the Chinese character for poetry (the word shi in Mandarin and si in Cantonese): 

In all of these investigations of the symbols used to convey and preserve the ancient wisdom of the human race, we can clearly perceive the thread of the same central teaching: that we have plunged down into a material world, but that the material world is only "half" of the circle, so to speak. 

We are being reminded in all of these myths and in fact in the very letters and characters and symbols used to preserve the myths themselves that we are also spiritual beings, intimately connected to the heavenly realm, the spiritual realm, the realm of the divine, the realm of the infinite.

The ancient traditions involved aligning our lives to the motions of the planets and stars, in part through the recognition of certain special points on the great cycles -- including the point of the equinoxes, two of the most significant stations in all the motions of the heavens and the earth. The aligning of our microcosmic motions to the macrocosmic spheres involved the creation of and visits to sacred spaces, as well as the recitation of verses (sacred speech, or "temple speech" -- metered language) and the singing of certain songs (singing also being a form of poetry or special metered speech).

All of this ancient knowledge can be found literally around the globe, embodied not only in the myths and stories but also in the writing-systems and in the geometry and architecture and measurements and alignments used in the temples and monuments found all across our planet.

On this moment of autumnal equinox, we might all want to pause to reflect upon and be thankful for our own human mother, who gave us this human form we inhabit (the body being specifically referred to as a temple in ancient scripture) and indeed this very life itself.

Which brings us to one more Chinese ideogram, this one for the word "good," which is literally composed of the symbol for a "woman" (slightly different from but symbolically related to the character for "mother" that we have already seen) plus the symbol for a child (the mother first, on the left, and the child character found to the right). It is very good that we each had a mother, or we would not even be here in the first place! And so we should all be able to agree that depicting the character for "good" as a mother with child is extremely appropriate, and relates on some level to all of the other concepts that we have been exploring in this little study.

Below is the character for "good":

In all of the above calligraphy, I am indebted to the outstanding teaching found in the indispensable little volume, Learn to Write Chinese Characters, by Johan Bjorksten (1994), which examines the aesthetics and "design" of the characters, their balance and form and shape and harmony.

In it, he explains the tremendous importance of calligraphy in Chinese culture, and the great weight attached to writing the characters correctly. On page 2, he writes:
Calligraphy, the art of writing, is considered in China the noblest of the fine arts. At a  very early stage in history it became an abstract and expressionist art form, where meaning is of secondary importance and aesthetic expression the prime concern. Many Chinese hold that calligraphy prolongs the writers' lives, sharpens their senses, and enhances their general well-being. By practicing calligraphy you can achieve a glimpse into Chinese aesthetics and philosophy and learn to appreciate an abstract art form.
He also explains that Chinese calligraphy is traditionally learned through writing-out classic poetry -- which clearly connects yet again to all the concepts we have been exploring here (i.e., the letters themselves are sacred and relate to the realm of forms, and they are explicitly connected to and practiced through the medium of poetry, which is a form of special metered speech, the very character of which is connected to the character for a temple).

Writing Chinese calligraphy, in fact, can be a form of meditation -- in which doubts and second-guessing will ruin the desired outcome and the best results require a kind of "action without action" described in the Tao Te Ching or the Bhagavad Gita. The structure of the characters themselves obey certain principles of balance and proportion and architecture, as Johan Bjorksten beautifully conveys in his text and his examples, and thus can even be thought of as "sacred spaces" all their own.

Any egregious errors or disharmony in the above examples of Chinese characters, of course, are entirely my own responsibility and no reflection on anyone else.

Wishing you harmony and balance at this moment of September equinox, 2015.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Meditation, detachment, and working for the welfare of all living beings

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The Bhagavad Gita explicitly connects the state of "action without attachment to results" and the ability to bring the mind under the control of the Higher Self.

In order to achieve the state of acting without attachment -- which some verses also describe as "actually doing nothing at all" even while acting -- it says that the mind must be brought under control.

In the sixth verse of the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that, for the one who has learned how to control the mind, the mind is the best of friends -- but for the one who has not, the mind can resemble the worst of enemies. 

The good news is that Krishna explains that we can, with practice, bring the mind under our control -- and that this practice is also the best way to come into contact with the Higher Self.

In chapter 6 verses 33 and 34, Arjuna expresses doubts about the ability to ever bring the mind under control, due to its flickering and unsteady nature. 

"For the mind is restless, turbulent, obstinate, very strong, O Krishna," Arjuna says, "and to subdue it, I think, is more difficult than controlling the wind" (6.34).

Krishna acknowledges that it is "very difficult to curb" the mind, but also tells Arjuna that "it is possible by suitable practice and by detachment" (6.35).

He advises the regular practice of meditation in a secluded location, while alone, providing some very specific instructions which begin in verse 10 of chapter 6:
10 One perfecting the science of uniting the individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness, consistently residing alone in a secluded place engaged in controlling the mind, desireless, free from proprietorship [translated here as "feelings of possessiveness"], should meditate on the inner self.
11 In a sacred and purified place after establishing a seat neither too high nor too low of kusa grass, deerskin or natural cloth; 
12 thereupon sitting firmly on that seat controlling the mind and activities of the senses making the mind one-pointed; one in realization should meditate by the science of uniting the individual consciousness with the Ultimate Consciousness for purifying the mind. 
13 Holding the physical body, head and neck straight, unmoving and stable, gazing upon the tip of the nose and not glancing in any direction, fixed in the vow of celibacy,
14 with an unagitated mind, fearless, completely subduing the mind; the renunciate should sit concentrating upon Me as the Ultimate Goal.
Thus, in verse 14, the Lord Krishna explains that the yogi should focus entirely upon Krishna -- while only a few verses later, in verse 19 of the same chapter, the Lord Krishna describes the mind thus concentrated as focused upon or resting steadily in the Higher Self:
19 As a lamp in a windless place does not waver, so the transcendentalist, whose mind is controlled, remains always steadying his meditation on the transcendent self.
From these passages, then, I believe we can make the case that the teaching described using the imagery of Arjuna and the divine Krishna is teaching very much the same thing as that which is being conveyed through the parallel imagery of Thomas and the Divine Twin found in the New Testament gospel of John and in texts found at Nag Hammadi such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Book of Thomas the Contender (see previous posts discussing these texts herehere and here).

Or, stated the other way around, the metaphor of Thomas Didymus (the Twin) is trying to give us the same understanding that Krishna is here imparting to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita.

The mind is always unsteady, prone to rushing off in different directions -- as is Thomas in the New-Testament-era texts discussed in the posts linked above. It is full of doubts, as is Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, when Arjuna expresses to Krishna his doubt that the mind can ever be controlled at all.

And yet, Thomas has a divine counterpart with whom he is already inextricably linked -- with whom he is "twinned," one who is already "closer than a brother" to him, although he does not always act like it. This is the divine twin -- the transcendent self or the Higher Self described in the Bhagavad Gita using different language, and described in the letters of Paul as the "Christ within."

We can catch glimpses of this unwavering, transcendent divine twin below or beneath the endless flickering of our mind as we learn to stop letting the mind carry us wherever it is "blowing" from one moment to the next -- and when this happens our mind stops becoming our "worst enemy" and begins to become a tool that we control instead of one that controls us.

Beginning each day by following some of the specific recommendations given in the sixth chapter of the Gita (such as the recommendations of using a meditation cushion, one that is neither "too high nor too low," assuming good upright posture, not closing the eyes completely but rather gazing downward in the direction of the tip of the nose [or, as 5.27 and 28 say, "keeping the eyes and vision concentrated between the two eyebrows," in the region of the third eye], and focusing the mind on one point, while "suspending the inward and outward breaths within the nostrils [5.27-28]) can help us to begin to gain control over the mind, which Lord Krishna tells Arjuna in 6.36 is -- in his opinion -- the most practical and appropriate path towards uniting with the Higher Self.

Interestingly enough, in light of the assertion being made that the allegory of Thomas and the Divine Twin is intended to convey the same message found in the Bhagavad Gita chapters 5 and 6, Krishna tells Arjuna that the one who gains full consciousness of the Higher Self -- the one who attains awareness of Krishna -- will "attain peace" (5.29).  

It is quite evident from a reading of the New Testament scriptures that the Christ regularly greets his followers with the word "peace" and that he very memorably promises them his peace, such as in John 14:27.

The Bhagavad Gita suggests that it is only by bringing the mind out of its "flickering, doubting" mode and under the control of the Higher Self that we are able to achieve this peace, which is characterized by complete detachment from either the fear of the consequences of right action or desire for benefits from its successful outcome. Instead, we can simply focus on doing what is right, without being beset by doubt. In 5.25, for example, Krishna tells Arjuna:
Those who are beyond the dualities that arise from doubts, whose minds are engaged within, who are always busy working for the welfare of all living beings, and who are free from all sins [which 5.10 has already explained comes from freedom of attachment and surrender to the Supreme], achieve liberation in the Supreme.
Incredibly enough, the bringing of the mind beneath the control of the Lord, and the release from doubt through the surrender to the Supreme, appears to be exactly what is dramatized in the famous episode of "Doubting Thomas" found in John, chapter 20.

I believe that the Gita tells us how to pursue this uniting of the "Thomas-mind" to the Supreme Lord every single day, through very practical direction and the promise that, while at first difficult, with discipline "it is possible," through suitable practice and detachment.

When the two "twins" are united, then our mind can begin to become our "best friend" rather than our "worst enemy."

Because, as we learn to become less attached to the outcome and more in touch with the Higher Self, we are less "blown about by the wind" (the exact same metaphor used in the Bhagavad Gita 6.19, 33 and 34 is also used in the New Testament, in James 1:6), less wracked by doubt, and more prepared to do what is right, without attachment to the outcome.

And, Krishna also appears to be telling us in the Gita, this detachment is essential in order to be "always working for the welfare of all living beings," which is our duty.

Note that by explaining what I see in these ancient texts, I am not trying to imply (at all) that I myself have achieved this state! It is one thing to know what the texts are telling us, and quite another to achieve what they are describing. 

But, even though Arjuna expresses his doubts to Krishna, and says that all of this seems to be harder even than controlling the wind, Krishna promises him that the path can be successfully followed -- and what is more, that eventually we are assured of success in this regard (although perhaps over the course of many incarnations). 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Two visions: Beyond Vietnam, by Martin Luther King, Jr.

(source link -- full transcript available here).

It is safe to say that the size, visibility, and intensity of the protest against the Vietnam War -- not only within the US but worldwide -- dwarfs anything that has developed during the fourteen years of US military action in the Middle East and elsewhere since 2001. 

To say this is not to cast aspersions at those who are raising their voices for peace and against war in the present day -- far from it. It is simply stating an objective fact, impossible to deny, to say that the level of widespread turbulence that rolled through nearly every aspect of society during those years, focused primarily although not exclusively on opposition to that war, was on quite another level than anything seen since then, in terms of opposition to a war or military intervention.

For instance, there are a huge number of popular songs from that period which were seen as anti-war anthems. Just about anyone today, off the top of their head, could easily name one or more of the major antiwar songs from that period (especially if the person you ask is over the age of 40).  On the other hand, trying to name an anti-war song with the same widespread impact from the past fourteen years would be much more challenging.

It is also a nearly undeniable fact that the size, breadth, and intensity of the anti-war sentiment during those years was a major factor in finally bringing about the end of the direct US military involvement in Vietnam. 

image: Vietnam War protest, May 1970 (link).

If someone from 1967 who opposed that conflict were to be transported suddenly to today, he or she might be astonished at the lack of widespread voices for peace and against military intervention and war which continues with an intensity and level of destruction of human life that is as horrible as that which took place in that now-bygone decade.

The protests and outrage seem to have drained away between that era and this.

And yet many of the circumstances and US policy actions which led to the widespread moral outrage voiced from so many different outlets and from men and women of so many different walks of life during the 1960s and early 1970s can be applied directly to events taking place at home and abroad today.

In fact, when one reads the statements from some of the leading voices against the war from that time, such those delivered with such power by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. in the speech above, from 1967, it feels as though they are talking directly to us today, and describing circumstances and actions and situations all too familiar.

For example, consider the following hard-hitting arguments found in the extended quotation from the speech below. Note first that one need not simply "read" the quotation -- you can actually hear Martin Luther King delivering them himself, in a recording made on the day he gave this speech in New York City, on April 4, 1967 -- exactly one year before the day he was murdered.

Most people have heard at least parts of his famous I Have a Dream speech. However, it is incredibly sad but true that far fewer have heard this speech, entitled Beyond Vietnam, at all -- let alone in its entirety. And yet, as Dr. King himself makes abundantly clear throughout this speech, he saw the issues he was speaking against with regard to the Vietnam War as stretching beyond Vietnam, and as related to all the other issues which he addressed and for which he is so well known.

They go so far beyond Vietnam that they apply very distinctly to this day and age in which we now find ourselves living.

The entire speech deserves to be heard in order to feel the full force of Dr. King's moral clarity, as well as to see the full scope of his carefully-developed argument.

If you have never listened to that speech which Martin Luther King gave on that day, I urge you to listen to it in its entirety. The full text and a link to the audio can be found here (and other speeches by Dr. King are available at that same site, in a list found here).

You can also find it in the form of a file (options here) that could be downloaded to a portable device or onto a CD, in order to listen to it while driving, and by hearing it more than once gain a greater appreciation for the connections he is pointing out.

Lest some mistakenly protest that by speaking against the US war in Vietnam, Dr. King was displaying a lack of concern for the people of Vietnam, who had experienced severe oppression and brutalization under corrupt and criminal leaders, or for the "troops" -- the masses of largely conscripted draftees sent from the US and other countries to fight in Vietnam -- please consider carefully the following extended quotation from Dr. King's speech that day:

Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read: "Vietnam." It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So those of us who are yet determined that "America will be" are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
[. . .]
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the ideologies of the Liberation Front, not of the junta of Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them, too, because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.
They must see Americans as strange liberators. [. . .] Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They known they must move on or be destroyed by our bombs. 
So they go, primarily women and children and the aged. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers roar through their areas preparing to destroy the precious trees. They wander into the hospitals with at least twenty casualties from American firepower for one Vietcong-inflicted injury. [. . .]
We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops. We have cooperated in the crushing of the nation's only noncommunist revolutionary political force, the unified Buddhist Church. We have supported the enemies of the peasants of Saigon. We have corrupted their women and killed their men. [. . .]
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.
Surely this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: Thegreat initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote:
"Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the hearts of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism." Unquote.
If we continue, there will be no doubt in my mind and in the mind of the world that we have no honorable intentions in Vietnam. If we do not stop our war against the people of Vietnam immediately, the world will be left with no other alternative than to see this as some horrible, clumsy, and deadly game we have decided to play. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of the Vietnamese people. The situation is one in which we must be ready to turn sharply form our present ways. In order to atone for our sins and errors in Vietnam, we should take the initiative in bringing a halt to this tragic war.
I would like to suggest five concrete things that our government should do to begin the long and difficult process of extricating ourselves from this nightmarish conflict:
Number one: End all bombing in North and South Vietnam.
Number two: Declare a unilateral cease-fire in the hope that such action will create the atmosphere for negotiation.
Three: Take immediate steps to prevent other battlegrounds in Southeast Asia by curtailing our military buildup in Thailand and our interference in Laos.
Four: Realistically accept the fact that the National Liberation Front has substantial support in South Vietnam and must thereby play a role in any meaningful negotiations and any future Vietnam government.
Five: Set a date that we will remove all foreign troops from Vietnam in accordance with the 1954 Geneva Agreement.
Part of our ongoing -- [applause continues] -- part of our ongoing commitment might well express itself in an offer to grant asylum to any Vietnamese who fears for his life under a new regime which included the Liberation Front. Then we must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed, making it available in this country if necessary.  Meanwhile -- [applause] -- meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. We must continue to raise our voices and our lives if our nation persists in its perverse ways in Vietnam. We must be prepared to match actions with words by seeking out every creative method of protest possible.
As we counsel young men concerning military service, we must clarify for them our nation's role in Vietnam and challenge them with the alternative of conscientious objection. I am pleased to say that this is a path now chosen by more than seventy students at my own alma mater, Morehouse College, and I recommend it to all who find the American course in Vietnam a dishonorable and unjust one. Moreover, I would encourage all ministers of draft age to give up their ministerial exemptions and seek status as conscientious objectors. These are times for real choices and not false ones. We are at the moment when our lives must be placed on the line if our nation is to survive its own folly. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
Now there is something seductively tempting about stopping there and sending us all on what in some circles has become a popular crusade against the war in Vietnam. I say we must enter that struggle, but I wish to go on now to say something even more disturbing.
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality -- if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation.  They will be concerned about Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy. So such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God.
[. . .]
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, "This way of settling differences is not just." This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.
[. . .]
We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.
[. . .]
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Now, some readers may be wondering what yesterday's post and today's topic, as important as they are, have to do with the subject of ancient wisdom and the analysis of the sacred myths, traditions, and scriptures of humanity.

Let me take a moment to clarify the connection.

First, it is quite evident from Dr. King's speech that he was in large part motivated, moved, and compelled to take the stand that he took from his correct reading of the true message of the ancient wisdom of humanity, preserved in the scriptures of the human race.

I believe that a central message in the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred traditions (which we can refer to as the "ancient wisdom" for the sake of brevity) entrusted to the human race is the message that each individual man, woman and child is not just a physical, material, "animal" being but instead is a spiritual, invisible, immaterial, and in fact divine nature which is "crossed" with a physical and material component during this incarnate life.

That this invisible and spiritual component in each individual man, woman and child is in fact infinite in nature and reflects and resonates with the entire infinite cosmos -- a concept expressed in the principle of "as above, so below" and in many other allegorical ways that the ancient wisdom traditions use to try to convey this truth to us.

As such, each and every individual man, woman and child has inherent and inalienable dignity and inherent and inalienable rights, and that violence against the person or the dignity and rights of any individual man, woman or child is a crime against the entire balance of the universe, and is in fact a crime of infinite proportion (because the invisible and spiritual component in each person is infinite in nature, reflecting the infinite universe around and within him or her).

This message is so clearly present in the ancient myths that it hardly bears debate or discussion -- although it is true that mistaken and especially literalistic misinterpretation of the ancient wisdom of humanity can lead some to obscure, miss, or even totally invert that message (see for example previous discussions here, here, here and here).

I believe it can also be shown that another very central (and closely related) message in the collective body of scriptures, traditions and myths containing this ancient wisdom is the admonition to do what is right, without attachment to the consequences of doing what is right. 

This aspect is of course related to the first aspect, in that doing what is right generally involves upholding and enhancing the dignity of others, working towards the elevation and acknowledgement of the spiritual aspect within ourselves and others and indeed in the rest of creation around us -- and simultaneously working against that which tends to degrade or deny or beat down the spiritual aspect and to "reduce to the physical" or "reduce to the animal" in ourselves and in others and indeed in the rest of creation around us.

This can also be expressed as blessing rather than cursing (a theme which is powerfully evident throughout the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as well as throughout other containers of humanity's ancient wisdom found literally around the world).

The central message of doing what is right, without regard for the outcome can be found at the heart of the Bhagavad Gita, for example, where the Lord Krishna begins an extended teaching to Arjuna in chapter 6 with the words: 

anasritah karma-phalam karyam karma karoti
yah sa sannyasi ca yogi ca na niragnir na cakriyah. 

Which the translation found on this website indicates to mean (I paraphrase):

without expectation of the result of the actions
enacting obligatory prescribed actions
that one is truly a yogi
not one without prescribed duties (i.e. the definition of a yogi is not to be misunderstood to mean "one without prescribed duties")
nor one who merely follows the ascetic path of renunciation.

In other words, the path of ancient wisdom was not meant to be misunderstood as teaching "non-action" or abdication of one's duty and obligation towards the cosmos and other creatures and other human beings -- far from it.

The paradox of "non action" means "acting as if not acting" -- that is, as if completely unattached to the outcome in terms of "fear of consequences" or "hope for reward."

That is: Acting with the calm tranquility of one who is not acting.

Not "not acting at all," but rather "acting with the calmness of one who is not even doing it."

Krishna spends much time elucidating this concept of "acting without acting" in the Gita, and the Tao Te Ching dwells upon the same message as well, using closely-related language and closely-related imagery, as explored by Professor Victor Mair in the afterword to his translation of the Tao Te Ching (an afterword which all by itself is worth more than the price of the book, even without counting the tremendous value of Professor Mair's translation of the Tao Te Ching, which of course is priceless).

Which brings us to the conclusion that the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity teaches us that we have a duty to do what is right, and teaches us to do that "without expectation of the result," or "without attachment to the result."

In that famous speech delivered in Riverside Church in New York City, the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. articulated a powerful message against the US war in Vietnam, and expanded that message to extend "beyond Vietnam" -- to encompass a duty to stand against brutalization and violence in other spheres of life including at home.

During that speech, he expressed the fact that he felt a duty to speak out about what he was seeing -- even while acknowledging that the issues were perplexing in their complexity, and that "the ambiguity of the total situation" and our own "limited vision" as human beings often brings us to "the verge of being mesmerized with uncertainty." He admits how difficult it is to move "against all the apathy of conformist thought within in one's own bosom and in the surrounding world" (and note that the Bhagavad Gita also portrays Arjuna as filled with doubt, mesmerized with uncertainty, acknowledging the doubts within his own bosom -- and it is here that Krishna meets him and explains to him about doing what is right regardless of and without attachment to the result).

And in that speech Martin Luther King also states quite explicitly what moves him to speak and act against the institutionalized violence and oppression he saw taking place, even in spite of all the internal resistance of doubt within his own bosom and in spite of all the external doubts expressed by others around him -- and he states quite clearly that it was the message he received from the ancient scriptures contained in the Bible, and the change that message had awakened in him, and the relationship he had with those teachings and with the personal divine force he encountered through them, that caused him to speak and to act, even in spite of all the misgivings from within and without him, as best as he could see  to do from one day to the next.

And, to conclude (although much more could be said), Dr. King explicitly articulated the theme of the "Two Visions" which has been the subject of many previous posts. That is to say, the two different views of the world which come from the realization that we already have an internal connection to divinity, and thus everything that we truly need -- and the vision that comes from the loss of that knowledge, characterized by a chasing after of external substitutes, none of which can ever satisfy.

In the same speech cited above, Dr. King says:

We must rapidly begin, we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

This important speech, and Dr. King's genius in writing it and his courage in saying it, remain as relevant today as when it was first delivered -- or more relevant.

It is up to us to consider his words and the path we want to pursue.

image: Wikipedia (link).

Linked here are instructions on registering for the draft in the US, with conscientious objector status.