Saturday, April 29, 2017

Yoga Sundial

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

During the months on the "upper half" of the annual cycle, I like to try to do my morning Sun Salutations outdoors, towards the direction of the rising sun.

Because I live in the northern hemisphere, these are the months between the March equinox and the September equinox, when hours of daylight are longer than hours of darkness, and when it is generally warmer outside than it is during the months on the "lower half" of the annual cycle. Even during the lower half of the year, I like to try to do my Sun Salutations outdoors if possible, on occasion and weather permitting, but as days get longer and warmer during the upper half of the year it is especially enjoyable to take advantage of those conditions and practice outdoors if at all possible.

Doing your Sun Salutations outdoors has numerous benefits. If the sun is already above the horizon, you can close your eyes as and feel the sun on your face and see its warm glow through your eyelids. Additionally, if you orient yourself and your Yoga mat towards the sun each morning, you will be able to follow its daily motion as it rises further and further north (during the "upward" progress from winter solstice up to summer solstice) or further and further south (after summer solstice, when the sun turns around and rises further and further south on its way "down" to the winter solstice).

In this way, you will actually become a sort of human gnomon or menhir, and will gain a good first-hand feel for the sun's annual motion along the horizon. Here's a link to a post from the early days of this blog which discusses this principle as part of an examination of the concept of "cross-quarter days" (one of which is coming up soon!) -- and here's a link to one more early post which contains a little sketch I made showing the same concept from a slightly different angle.

If the sun is already up in the sky and casting shadows, then you can easily align yourself in the direction of the sun by seeing that the shadows made by your arms and legs as you do your salutations are going "straight back" and not off at an angle from the point your hands or feet are touching the mat.

Below is a composite image showing my Yoga mat as it moves through the year, pointing towards the sunrise in the east:

compass rose: Wikimedia commons (link).

The top of the image is pretty much due east, and thus north is towards the left and south towards the right. At present, my mat is oriented as shown in the top image in the composite, facing towards "north of east" -- but not too long ago (prior to the March equinox) it was oriented as shown for "south of east." As most readers already know, the sun's rising-point moves back and forth along the eastern horizon between a northernmost point (reached at the June solstice) and a southernmost point (reached at the December solstice), passing through the "due east" rising point twice each year at the equinoxes (once on its way north, in March, and once on its way back south, in September).

By lining up your Sun Salutations to face the sun each morning, you will be aligning yourself with this annual motion as well! 

Note that we already do many things that correspond to the cycles of the heavens, often without even thinking about it. For instance, most of us take our sleep during the hours that our side of the earth is turned away from the sun, thus aligning our waking and our sleeping hours with the sun's progress across the sky or (figuratively speaking) "under the earth." Most of us observe our own birthdays, and the birthdays of our friends and family, which is a way of noting when the earth in its annual motion around the sun has returned to the same relationship it had on the day upon which we (or our friend or family member) was born. And there are many other examples, of course, that most of us can come up with, once we begin to consider the subject.

If you read translations of some of the ancient Sanskrit texts, including the great epics of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, you will see that the characters in those stories perform morning rituals at the sun's rising each day.

Additionally, there are passages in the Pyramid Texts which describe the gods giving their salutations to Ra. In Utterance 579, for instance, the text at one point says: "They praise thee; they come to thee with salutations, as they do homage to Re, as they come to him with salutations" (1952 translation by Samuel A. B. Mercer).

For more on the Yoga Sun Salutations, see this previous post (linked in the first line, above, as well). 

For those in the northern hemisphere, where the days are getting longer and warmer as we head towards our summer months, I hope that you can have the opportunity to do some Sun Salutations outside, oriented towards the sunrise, if at all possible!

Friday, April 28, 2017

I like to chant every day

I'm not sure who this person is (in the above video), but he likes to chant every day.

You don't have to have ideal surroundings in order to benefit from chanting.

Obviously, if you happened to live among the incredible ruins of Rajavihara (Ta Promh) at Angkor, you would probably not be self-conscious about chanting mantras every day.

But, just because the modern world is often covered with uninspiring architecture doesn't mean you cannot create vibrations around you as if you were at Ta Promh.

The chant in the above video is discussed in this previous blog post. As mentioned in that blog post, the sloka is repeated four times, beginning with the sacred syllable OM each time, and concludes with the repetition of the word "Shanti" three times (also preceded by the sacred syllable at the beginning of the three).

A technique for keeping track of the four repeated slokas using the thumb and fingers of one hand is illustrated. The thumb and index finger form a circle on the first sloka, then the thumb and middle finger for the second sloka, then the thumb and ring finger for the third sloka, and then back to the thumb and middle finger for the fourth and final sloka, so that you don't lose track of how many you have chanted.

Previous posts discussing the benefits of chanting and singing every day include:
There are many places where the power of the sacred syllable OM is discussed. A previous post which touches on this subject can be found here.

While, like me, you may not live among beautiful structures such as those found at Angkor in Cambodia (I've never even been there), I believe we can make our temple wherever we happen to find ourselves on this planet.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The beautiful and important constellation Coma Berenices

Right now is one of the best times of year to go out at night and try to locate the challenging but extremely beautiful and mythologically-important constellation known as Coma Berenices, or "Berenice's Hair."

The constellation is located just beyond the "outstretched arm" of the constellation Virgo, which is currently sailing across the heavens during the prime viewing hours after sunset and through midnight and beyond -- and when Virgo and hence Coma Berenices are near the highest point on their arc across the sky, they are farthest from the "ground haze" of light and dust and thicker layers of atmosphere that lingers near the horizon, and thus your best opportunities for observing Coma Berenices come when Coma is high in the sky.

Additionally, because Coma is such a challenging constellation to see, finding Coma Berenices is much more difficult (and often impossible) if the moon is anywhere in the sky. As we are now approaching the point of new moon (which will take place on April 26), the best times to try to find Coma Berenices will be up to the point of new moon, as well as the first few nights after new moon (but wait until the new waxing crescent has set -- it will be following the sun very closely for the first few nights after new moon).

The best way to locate Coma Berenices is to get away from any city lights, driving out to the country if possible. Once you know where to find this elusive constellation and have seen it in the heavens for yourself, you actually can find it on a dark night from within the "city limits" of a small town or suburban location, but only if you get away from any street lights and only if the constellation is high in the heavens and no moon is present.

Coma Berenices is made up of very faint stars, but (somewhat akin to the Beehive Cluster), you can almost "sense" it in the heavens when you are looking in the right place, and like the Beehive it does consist of a dazzling cloud of tiny stars, although covering a larger area than does the Beehive Cluster. Berenice's Hair is also not very far from the Beehive in the night sky -- you can see them both at this time of year. The Beehive travels ahead of the mouth of Leo the Lion, and the constellation Virgo (who is reaching up towards Berenice's Hair) follows behind Leo.

Below is a star chart showing the location of Coma Berenices, above the outstretched arm of Virgo and in front of the Herdsman, Bootes.  Bootes is fairly close to the Big Dipper -- his brightest star Arcturus is orange, and can be found by following an "arcing" line from the handle of the Dipper (the old saying says "Follow the 'arc' to Arcturus"):

The easiest way for me to locate Coma Berenices is to follow the line of the upward-reaching arm of the constellation Virgo. Virgo is particularly easy to locate right now, because the jovial planet Jupiter is presently traveling through the constellation. Jupiter is the brightest object in the night sky right now, until Venus rises in the early morning hours ahead of the sun. Of course, when the moon is up, it is brighter than both Venus and Jupiter.

If you follow the outstretched arm of Virgo, you will come immediately to the "handle" of Coma Berenices, which stretches upwards along roughly the same line as Virgo's arm (upwards, that is, for viewers in the northern hemisphere). To the right (or west) of this vertical "handle" you will see the shimmering cloud of stars which make up the "hair" of Berenice.

Here is how groundbreaking author H. A. Rey describes Berenice's Hair in his book, The Stars: A New Way to See Them --
Small and very faint. Contains a group of dim stars, visible only on clear, moonless nights when the constellation is high up. Shown here as a few strands of hair fluttering from a stick between the star Cor Caroli and the Virgin's outstretched arm. 
This constellation owes its name to a theft: Berenice was an Egyptian queen (3rd century BC) who sacrificed her hair to thank Venus for a victory her husband had won in a war. The hair was stolen from the temple but the priests in charge convinced the disconsolate queen that Zeus himself had taken the locks and put them in the sky as a constellation.
Of all our constellations, Berenice's Hair is the one farthest from the Milky Way [I believe he here means, "in terms of its location in the sky," as opposed to "farthest in terms of actual distance in space"]. With the queen's hair overhead you don't see the Milky Way: it [meaning "the Milky Way"] then runs along the horizon, blotted out by the atmosphere near the ground. Thus no hair can ever get into the milk, celestially speaking. Best time: April through August. 36. 
While it may be true that the constellation's present name stretches back to the name of the historical Egyptian queen Berenice (during the Ptolemaic period), the constellation figures prominently in myths around the world, sometimes involving the theft of the hair of a goddess (such as the myth of the theft of the hair of the goddess Sif, in Norse mythology), by which we can know with a great degree of certainty that this constellation and its mythological associations are much older than the 3rd century BC. 

Anyone who reads Star Myths of the World, Volume One will find that Coma Berenices plays an important role in myths found around the globe, including in myths from the Maya, from the cultures of the Pacific Islands, and from the Menri people of the Malay Peninsula. That volume also discusses an aspect of the Isis and Osiris myth from ancient Egypt which also involves Coma Berenices. I would argue that the mythological connotations associated with this particular constellation are so similar in so many different parts of the globe that they constitute more evidence for the possibility that the world's ancient myths may descend from some now-forgotten, extremely ancient common source, one which predates even ancient Egypt and ancient Mesopotamia by thousands of years.

Before we take a look at a few ways in which Coma Berenices appears in myth, let's look at the constellation itself. Below is a "close-up view" of the stars of Coma Berenices as they appear in the sky. The cloud of stars which gives the constellation its name can be seen near the top of the image, about three-quarters of the way across the rectangle:

Below is the exact same screen-shot of the region of the sky containing Coma Berenices, but this time the outlines of the constellation are drawn in and labeled, along with portions of the outlines of the nearby constellations of Virgo and Bootes:

Following the outlining convention suggested by H. A. Rey in his book, four "lines" have been drawn from the top of the "handle" towards the cloud of stars to the right (or west) -- but, as you may be able to see from the diagram, there are actually a lot more stars hovering in the region of the end of these four lines (to the right of the right end of each line, as you look at the image). These stars make the constellation quite beautiful, and extremely satisfying to gaze upon, if you are able to locate it.

Once you have successfully located the constellation under ideal conditions, you may be able to dimly perceive it even from locations that do not have the most ideal sky-viewing conditions, if you know where to look and what you are looking for. However, you will still need a pretty dark night, with no moon, clear skies, and Virgo high in the sky.

From the above images, you will be able to understand that, although the ancient myths do indeed incorporate Coma Berenices as a lock of hair that has been cut off (usually from a figure played by the constellation Virgo -- including Sif from Norse mythology, Isis from ancient Egypt, and the mother of Maui in the Pacific Islands), the constellation Coma will also appear in ancient myth as a torch, a whip, a bunch of flowers, or even as a "feather-duster" or "whisk" of sorts (usually of peacock-feathers).

Many goddesses associated with Virgo the Virgin are depicted in ancient myth and ancient artwork as carrying a torch, which I believe to be associated with Coma Berenices in most or all cases. For example, below is a piece of pottery featuring red-figure artwork, unearthed in the ancient city of Vulci along the northern coast of Italy (Vulci was an important Etruscan culture center in ancient times). In it, we see a goddess who is usually identified as Kore, the Maiden (a name for the goddess Persephone), in the act of sending forth Triptolemus to spread good agricultural seeds and farming practices around the world:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note that the goddess is holding what appears to be a long torch with some flickering flames turning upwards at the tip (which is pointed downwards in the image). The torch would not really seem to be an integral part of the scene -- it seems to be a little out of place, in fact. I would argue that it is a celestial detail, and that the goddess is associated with the torch because of the relative locations of Virgo and Coma Berenices in the actual night sky.

Note also that the goddess is sending Triptolemus forth in a chariot drawn by winged serpents, which she has loaned him for the task. I believe it is possible that the inspiration for the winged serpents comes from the constellation Hydra in the sky, which is a long serpentine constellation located underneath Virgo and which is also very visible at this time of year (and somewhat easier to see than Coma Berenices). Below is a star chart showing Virgo and Leo, with Hydra stretching beneath them (the head of Hydra is actually "ahead of" or even further west than the front of Leo the Lion, even though Virgo is  "behind" or further east than Leo in the sky):

Note in the above star-chart that the constellation of Crater the Cup, on the back of the serpentine figure of Hydra, could well be envisioned as the "wings" of the winged serpent in this particular instance. Note also that the figure of Virgo in the sky can be envisioned as being "seated" upon a throne or a chariot. Figures associated with Virgo are often depicted as riding on the backs of lions, or in chariots or carts drawn by lions, no doubt due to Virgo's proximity to Leo in the heavens. However, because Hydra is also adjacent to Virgo, sometimes the goddess also has access to a chariot pulled by winged serpents, as in the story of Triptolemus.There are literally hundreds of other myths which feature the constellation Coma Berenices which we could explore -- but what has been discussed already should be enough to establish the fact that Coma is an extremely important constellation in the world's ancient Star Myths. This fact makes finding Coma Berenices in the night sky all the more thrilling, in my opinion. On top of that, however, finding Coma Berenices is an exciting challenge, and once you are able to locate it, the constellation itself is also extremely beautiful, even if faint.For all these reasons, I hope that you will have an opportunity to try to observe Coma Berenices in the night sky over the next few nights -- and the next few months -- if it is at all possible for you to do so. 

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Earth Day, 2017: the choices of Midas and Solomon

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The egregiously bad judgment exhibited by King Midas is legendary.

Offered any gift he wanted by the god Dionysus, Midas chose riches. Specifically, he chose -- famously and foolishly -- to have anything he touched turn to gold. The results were, of course, devastating and life-destroying. 

He soon regretted his awful choice, and the gods were merciful to him and provided a way for his foolishness to be undone.

It would seem that no one could possibly be as foolish as Midas. His tale is practically laughable. Midas is a rather unsympathetic character, because we all smugly assume that we could never make choices that would be as stupid as the choices of King Midas.

However, looking soberly at the world in which we find ourselves on Earth Day 2017, we might want to think again before we complacently congratulate ourselves that our judgment, at least, is not so tragically foolish as that of the mythical king.

And, we should be very clear that the conditions we see in the world today are indeed a function of choices. There is a very well-known line of argument which declares that there simply is no possible alternative -- that things are the way they are today because the way we have structured the world is the only possible way that it will work. 

This line of argument, of course, is primarily advanced by those who benefit from the structures in place and who don't want to see them changed -- therefore, they argue that no change is even possible, and any alternative would either fail entirely or else be drastically worse than the current state of affairs. 

But, as the ancient myths tell us, King Midas had a choice. He chose stupidly, and his choice if left un-changed would have led to his own death by starvation or thirst (as everything he consumed turned to metal as it crossed his lips and entered his throat) and to the destruction of the next generations (as he famously turned his daughter into a lifeless golden statue). But he did have a choice. 

Other similar myths involving choices did not turn out so badly. For example, Solomon was similarly offered the granting of a single request, and chose wisdom -- specifically, wisdom in order to help the people, if you look closely at the actual text in the book of 1 Kings chapter 3. When he made that request, the text tells us that God was pleased, and specifically contrasted Solomon's choice with other possible choices, including riches or power over his enemies. Solomon in that ancient text chose rightly, in contrast to the bad judgment of King Midas.

There is an alternative -- but the world we have today has been shaped by choices of Midas-like bad judgment. 

Professor Claudia von Werlhof, of the University of Innsbruck, gave a presentation in 2005 which was later turned into an essay and published in 2008, and given the title in English: "Globalization and Neoliberal Policies: Are there Alternatives to Plundering the Earth, Making War and Destroying the Planet?" It was recently re-published on Global Research at the link given here.

In that article, Professor von Werlhof explains that neoliberalism -- a system with which we are all at least unconsciously familiar, since we are living in it, but about which we should all become much more familiar if we want to avoid the fate of King Midas -- was consciously implemented on a widespread scale in leading economies such as the United States, Great Britain, and (later) the European Union beginning in the 1980s, but that it had been carefully planned-for in advance and tested out in South American countries beginning with the violent US-backed coup in Chile in 1973. 

It's not that there was no alternative or no possible "other choice" -- but rather that neoliberalism was deliberately and systematically selected and implemented as a conscious choice by those hoping to benefit from its implementation.

Other professors have noted that the roots of what is known today as neoliberalism go back even further -- especially to economic thought that arose during the 1930s, as explained by Professor Linda Cooper from the University of Sydney in a recent interview on This is Hell! radio (an example of  the kind of independent media that has always been marginalized to some degree but that is now coming under increasing pressure, and that you may want to consider supporting if possible).

In Professor von Werlhof's essay, she explains that neoliberalism is based upon a deliberate decision to choose values such as:
self-interest and individualism; segregation of ethical principals and economic affairs, in other words: a process of 'de-bedding' economy from society; economic rationality as a mere cost-benefit calculation and profit maximization; competition as the essential driving force for growth and progress; specialization and the replacement of a subsistence economy with profit-oriented trade ('comparative cost advantage'); and the proscription of public (state) interference with market forces. [quoting her colleague Maria Mies -- see the extended list of works cited at the bottom of Professor von Werlhof's essay].
In his new book J is for Junk Economics (discussed in this previous post), Professor Michael Hudson  adds some additional insights to the definition of neoliberalism, defining it (in part) as:
An ideology to absolve banks, landlords and monopolists from accusations of predatory behavior. 
[ . .  . ] 
Turning the tables on classical political economy, rentier interests act as plaintiffs against public regulation and taxation of their economic rents in contrast to Adam Smith and other classical liberals, today's neoliberals want to deregulate monopoly income and free markets for rent seeking, as well as replacing progressive income taxation and taxes on land and banking with a value-added tax (VAT) on consumers.
Endorsing an oligarchic role of government to protect property and financial fortunes, neoliberalism loads the economy with an exponential growth of debt while depicting it in a way that avoids recognizing the rising rentier overhead (rent, interest and insurance) paid to the FIRE sector. Neoliberals want to privatize public infrastructure. They defend this granitization by depicting public ownership and regulation and less efficient than control by financial managers, despite their notorious short-termism. 167 - 168.
The result is a world of which King Midas (before his change of heart) might have been proud.

As Professor von Werlhof explains, the results of neoliberalism turn everyone and everything into commodities -- which is exactly what Midas (blinded by his lust for riches) was in the process of doing. She writes:
Today, everything on earth is turned into commodities, i.e. everything becomes an object of "trade" and commercialization (which truly means "liquidation": the transformation of all into liquid money). In its neoliberal stage it is not enough for capitalism to globally pursue less cost-intensive and preferably "wageless" commodity production. The objective is to transform everyone and everything into commodities (Wallerstein 1979), including life itself. We are racing blindly towards the violent and absolute conclusion of this "mode of production," namely total capitalization / liquidation by "monetization" (Genth 2006).
She cites numerous examples. Perhaps the most visually-powerful involve the privatization of water. "In Nicaragua," she notes, "there exist water privatization plans that include fines of up to ten months' salary if one was to hand a bucket of water to a thirsty neighbor who cannot afford her own water connection (Sudwind 2003)." And, equally awful to contemplate:
In India, whole rivers have been sold. Stories tell of women who came to the river banks with buffalos, children and their laundry, as they had done for generations, only to be called "water thieves" and chased away by the police. There are even plans to sell the "holy mother Ganges" (Shiva 2003).
This story is extremely telling -- because it shows how the use of force is inextricably connected to the implementation of neoliberalism (just as it was during its first big modern "test run" in Chile in 1973). Neoliberalism and the perpetual wars that are being waged by the most economically-developed countries on the planet (against people in the least-developed) are closely related, as Professor von Werlhof explains.

The reason violence is required for its implementation, beyond the obvious fact that it involves the taking of public resources for a smaller private group of beneficiaries, is that neoliberalism is inherently contrary to nature -- both to human nature and to Nature in general. In another visceral description, Professor von Werlhof describes its ultimate end, if left unchecked:
One thing remains generally overlooked: The abstract wealth created for accumulation implies the destruction of nature as concrete wealth. The result is a "hole in the ground" (Galtung), and next to it a garbage dump with used commodities, outdated machinery, and money without value.
Once again, however, we should remind ourselves that this outcome is not a necessary outcome. The path of Midas is a choice, and one that the ancient wisdom of the world tells us is a terrible choice and a choice to be avoided. The ancient myths provide an example of a different choice, in the choice of Solomon, who did not choose riches but rather wisdom in order to judge rightly and help the people. Midas did not judge rightly. He chose gold over life itself.

To undo his choice, Midas turned to the gods for mercy, and was granted the ability to un-do his decision. Professor von Werlhof explains that neoliberalism also involves making the wrong choices on very much the same moral level (choosing the wrong gods, so to speak). She writes that, 
We are not only witnessing perpetual praise of the market -- we are witnessing what can be described as "market fundamentalism." People believe in the market as if it was a god.
And, it is true that massive amounts of propaganda-like reinforcement are employed in developed countries such as the US to inculcate just such a quasi-religious "market fundamentalism" which declares that any alternative to neoliberalism as defined above is not only mistaken but actually morally pernicious.

Clearly, this is not merely an "economic" issue but in fact a spiritual one.

Later, Professor von Werlhof expands on the spiritual aspect of this question, saying:
We have to establish a new economy and a new technology; a new relationship with nature; a new relationship between men and women that will finally be defined by mutual respect; a new relationship between the generations that reaches even further than to the "seventh"; and a new political understanding based on egalitarianism and the acknowledgment of the dignity of each individual. But even once we have achieved all this, we will still need to establish an appropriate "spirituality" with regard to the earth (Werlhof 2007 c). The dominant religions cannot help us here. They have failed miserably.
I would argue that she is absolutely correct -- but that the ancient wisdom of the world as given in the myths and sacred traditions found in virtually every single culture on the planet, including the ancient cultures of Europe and the Mediterranean, did not fail miserably: but they have in some cases been hijacked and turned on their heads.

We need to think very carefully about the choice of Midas, because not only have we demonstrated that we are not "above" making the same kind of foolish choices that he displays in the ancient myths -- and in fact, as Professor von Werlhof so eloquently demonstrates in her essay, we have made those very same choices and are rapidly in the process of turning the world into lifeless gold (or perhaps plastic).

The ancient myths, however, are not about fantastic actions made by kings or heroes in the distant past (as Alvin Boyd Kuhn explains, in a lecture cited many times on this blog). Solomon was not some external figure who was gifted with wisdom that we can never hope to access ourselves, and Midas was not some external figure who was filled with foolishness beyond any other human being. We ourselves are always capable of accessing the wisdom of the Infinite (like Solomon) or of foolishly ignoring the goodness of the gods (like Midas). 

And we are also capable, like Midas, of turning to the divine realm and saying we have made a very foolish choice, and asking for help in un-doing it.

Before the world ends up as one giant hole in the ground, and next to it a garbage dump.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Media, Mushrooms, and Mysterious Matters

I've previously posted about my belief in the importance of regularly tuning in to independent or alternative media sources, as well as providing support (if possible) to alternative media that you find valuable. See for example this post from November, 2016, entitled "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past" (a title taken from a line in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four).

Above is a short message from Bob Bain, host of the Mysterious Matters podcast (you can listen to the message via iTunes by following this link and looking for the "Future of Mysterious Matters message posted on April 14, 2017).

In it, Bob describes the devastating financial impact on content creators who rely on ad revenues sold by Google-Alphabet against YouTube videos that the content creators post, due to Google-Alphabet's response to complaints from some corporate ad buyers about totally unrelated content, which led to ads being pulled (by Google) from all kinds of other content creators (such as Mysterious Matters) deemed to be "on the fringe" in any way.

Content creators such as Bob, whose Mysterious Matters podcast has tens of thousands of followers, can generate ad revenues by allowing Google's YouTube to sell ads against that content. Those paying for the ads don't know what content their ads will be sold against, and those providing the content (such as Bob) don't know what ads will be placed on their videos. Therefore, when some corporations paying for ads told Google's YouTube that they were unhappy about the content (videos) that some of their ads appeared against, Google responded by pulling ads from a wide swath of content creators -- including Mysterious Matters.

Apparently, hosting interviews with guests who discuss techniques for inducing lucid dreaming, or the relative merits of various "ancient alien" theories, or paranormal encounters from the state of Tennessee, is now categorized as being as "potentially objectionable" as incendiary, racist, or misogynistic content. I certainly have not listened to every interview Bob Bain has ever done, but those I have listened to are enough for me to feel safe in saying that he does not deserve categorization as "objectionable content" -- and in fact he does not even curse on his show (except very rarely and reluctantly and when he is really upset about something) and most of his podcasts are rated as "clean" in iTunes.

The fact is that there has been a sudden and fairly massive push to identify everything that is an "alternative" to the dominant neoliberal and neoconservative paradigm or worldview advanced by the corporate-sponsored media outlets as being racist or incendiary or misogynistic -- a weaponization of the term "alternative" which recalls the deliberate weaponization of the terms "conspiracy theory" as a way of stifling the proliferation of dissenting voices in the united states in the wake of the Warren Commission that was supposed to investigate the John Kennedy assassination.

Threats to the economic viability and survivability of alternative sources of information is a very serious subject, as discussed in the blog post linked above whose title comes from an Orwell quotation. The need to have avenues and sources of information that are beyond the tremendous monetary influence of massive corporate interests should be a concern of everyone who values the open investigation of  explanations for the evidence we see in the world around us which might not be popular or which might not serve the interests of certain industries (or which might in fact expose wrongdoing by certain powerful persons or business interests).

Ultimately, the ability to construct a "narrative" or a "paradigm" to "excuse" or to (supposedly) "justify" certain practices is an essential aspect of getting away with fraudulent, oppressive, or criminal behavior -- and thus everyone who opposes oppression should recognize the importance of investigating and "trying on" alternative  paradigms and frameworks that might better explain the events of the past -- and the present.

If fewer people can find a way to provide independent platforms for independent voices to be heard, the result is unquestionably negative and detrimental to open discourse and critical thinking -- and open discourse and critical thinking are vital to democratic society (and anathema to oppressive regimes, as Orwell demonstrated so memorably in his writing).

There are other ways to support such independent media sources besides the ad-based model, of course -- as Bob says in the address above, he made the mistake of relying on ads sold against his many YouTube views, and he won't make that mistake again. In the meantime, he notes that any donations to help replace the sudden loss of ad revenues are appreciated. I would urge anyone who listens to his show to try to do so, if possible.

Kudos to Bob for explaining what is going on and the impact it is having in such a clear and concise way -- I myself don't have any ad-based revenue and so I was unaware of the impact of this recent development.

Below is a link to his most-recently published interview -- ironically, his 100th episode, a real milestone for any podcaster, coming right at the time when the survival of his show is in doubt.

This is a fascinating interview on many levels. It deals with the work of Jerry and Julie Brown, who have written a book -- The Psychedelic Gospels -- examining the many instances of the depiction of psychedelic (or entheogenic) mushrooms in Christian art in chapels and frescoes in Europe and the Mediterranean across several centuries and dozens of countries.

The evidence they've found of the depiction of mushrooms in sacred artwork from Christian sites is undeniable. At the top of this post is an example from a chapel in France which is featured on their website, where there is a better photograph taken by Julie Brown. The image shown above comes from two images found on Wikimedia commons, here and here.

These findings are very significant, and they resonate very well indeed with findings of mushroom imagery in Buddhist iconography, for example, or even the possibility some scholars have suggested linking some aspects of the Norse god Odin to sacred mushrooms (see this post for some discussion of both those links, from Buddhist art and Odin myths).

I myself am very open to the potential validity of such connections, although some readers may at first wonder if allegations of "mushroom connections" would be contradictory to allegations of "celestial connections" in the myths. 

In fact, they may actually be complementary, rather than contradictory. For one thing, the celestial connections are undeniable at this point, in my opinion -- so I do not feel threatened in any way by discoveries of other connections. There is so much evidence that the myths around the world are based on heavenly cycles that it really is difficult to dispute. 

In fact, I am quite convinced that these Star Myths (from around the globe) are pointing us towards the existence of an Invisible and Infinite Realm -- and I am quite open to the suggestion that the use of powerful and naturally-occurring entheogenic mushrooms to facilitate the connection and integration with the Invisible and Infinite Realm was central in some (or even many) ancient traditions. I believe that we are actually "hard-wired" with many different available avenues for connecting with the Infinite Realm -- and one of these avenues is certainly the effect that certain widely-occurring mushrooms can have on human consciousness.

There are many other methods of becoming more attuned to and integrated with the Invisible Realm besides the use of outside substances, of course -- some of those discussed by Mircea Eliade are listed in this previous post.

As you can see from the fresco shown above, the presence of mushrooms in a depiction of the Triumphal Entry, artwork that dates to the early 1100s according to most researchers, cannot be denied. Of course, I disagree with the conclusion that this artwork necessarily indicates the existence of a literal, terrestrial and historical Jesus, even one who understood the power of entheogens, as was asserted in the interview by Dr. Brown. 

In fact, the Triumphal Entry itself can be shown to be filled with episodes that are based directly upon specific constellations and relate to very specific points on the zodiac wheel. I explored some of these in a blog post and video a couple years back, and since then I have found more connections (many of which are presented, with star-charts, in Star Myths of the World, Volume Three -- Star Myths of the Bible).

One significant aspect of the Triumphal Entry is the fact that Jesus is described as riding on a donkey, or even on two donkeys (obviously a difficult description to understand literally) -- and that there are two stars known as the "donkey colts" in the constellation Cancer the Crab, located at the very top of the zodiac wheel, at the point of Summer Solstice.

Between these "donkey colts" (Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis) lies the beautiful Beehive Cluster. For tips on finding it, see here, here, here, or this video starting at about 11:00 minutes in. It is actually a very good time of year to go looking for the Beehive Cluster right now.

As discussed in some of those posts linked in the previous paragraph, the sign of Cancer (marking the point of Summer Solstice) is associated with the "top" of the year, and with the top of the Djed-column of Osiris -- and with the top reaches of the chakra system in the human body. The "upraised arms" of the constellation Cancer itself can be seen to correspond to the upraised claws of the scarab beetle symbol of ancient Egypt, as well as with the upraised arms of figures such as Moses at the battle with Amalek, and also the upraised arms of the god Shu in ancient Egypt.

Thus, I believe that the Beehive between the upraised arms near the top of the Djed column may well correspond to the pineal gland in a man or woman or to the upper chakras in general -- which makes the presence of mushrooms in an artistic depiction of the Triumphal Entry very intriguing indeed!

I am very grateful to Jerry and Julie Brown for their fascinating research, and to Bob Bain and his podcast for allowing them to tell more people about this research -- I might not have heard of their work had it not been for Mysterious Matters!

I hope that everyone involved in the search for truth will pay close attention to the state of independent media in the weeks and months and years to come. While there are serious challenges, it is also safe to say we are in a "golden era of podcasting" right now, as well. Let's all do what we can to support independent media outlets -- by listening, by rating, by encouraging, by sharing, and (if possible) by donating when and if appropriate!

Monday, April 17, 2017

A visit to the mysterious and beautiful Carrizo Plain

Here are some photographs from the wildflower bloom in the Carrizo Plain in California.The pictures were taken this past Friday, April 14, 2017.The Carrizo Plain is an arid valley with no outlet for runoff -- and contains an alkali lakebed known as Soda Lake which is usually completely dry and chalky, similar to alkali lakebeds located throughout the southwest in other areas with extremely high salt content, such as the Great Salt Lake in Utah.Below is a satellite map from Google Maps showing the Carrizo Plain and Soda Lake, with the approximate viewing area for the above panoramic photo indicated with red lines representing the left and right boundaries of the panorama:
The ridge line which bounds the valley along the left side of the photograph (the northern boundary of the valley, known as the Temblor Range) follows the line of the San Andreas fault as it runs from the northwest to the southeast in the above satellite image. The ridgeline on the south which forms the western and southern boundary of the Carrizo Plain is known as the Caliente Range.This year, due to unusual volumes of rain (after several years of drought), Soda Lake is still covered with water -- which has also contributed to a spectacular wildflower bloom. Below is a photo looking across Soda Lake, in which you can see the shallow water coming almost to the edge of the alkali flats:
As you can see from the photograph, the eastern side of the lake (far side of the lake from the perspective of this photograph) is blanketed with wildflowers, as are many of the slopes and ridges of the Temblor Range. The wildflowers become thicker the further south along the lake you go. Below is another satellite image, showing the location of the photographer's point of view in the above photo looking east across Soda Lake, with red lines to indicate the approximate left and right boundaries of the above photograph's field of view:
There are several articles which describe this year's incredible wildflower bloom in the Carrizo Plain, such as this one from the Los Angeles Times (includes some beautiful photos of the wildflowers) and this one from Tom Stienstra of the San Francisco Chronicle.What those articles don't mention, however, is the fact that this same valley is also the home to the Native American sacred site known as Painted Rock. 
Several previous posts have discussed Painted Rock, and its important ancient petroglyphs (now severely damaged by vandalism, which probably took place beginning in the 1930s). For previous posts about Painted Rock, see:
As the third of the posts listed above explains, the geology of the Carrizo Plain, as well as the geology of Painted Rock itself, provide important evidence of cataclysmic events in earth's distant past -- evidence which adds to the abundance of other geological and archaeological evidence around the world which argues for catastrophic models of earth's ancient history, despite the fact that for the past two hundred years or so, such models have been shut out of conventional academia, which enforces a strict doctrine of uniformitarianism.

Not only does Painted Rock itself bear unmistakable signs of being a liquefaction mound, a phenomenon described in detail by catastrophist geologist Dr. Walt Brown, originator of the hydroplane theory, but the abundant salts in the lakebed of Soda Lake itself argues that the Carrizo Plain was at one point in the distant past covered with water containing a high volume of dissolved salts, which were left behind when that water was trapped with no outlet and eventually evaporated. We would not expect normal rainfall to produce alkali flats such as those found in Soda Lake or at the Great Salt Lake under uniformitarian circumstances.

Previous posts in this blog from all the way back in 2011 and 2013 quote Walt Brown on the subject of trapped floodwater in regards to the Golden Gate (at the entrance to the San Francisco Bay) and the arid and salty Tarim Basin (in the eastern reaches of China, home to the famous mummies of Urumqi, also spelled Urumxi or Urumchi).

Further, as this excellent geological guide to the Carrizo Plain explains, the plain itself contains U-shaped geological formations known as synclines in which layers are uplifted and exposed along the two sides of the "U" -- which often produces distinctive parallel razor-edge ridgelines and "hogbacks" which often make good sites for the discovery of metals and minerals: see this discussion from 2012 of the geology in the location of the ancient copper mines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. 

I wonder if the unique geology of the Carrizo Plain may also contribute to lines of earth-energy, which contributed to the selection and use of Painted Rock as a sacred site by Native peoples stretching back for thousands of years. Authors such as Walter Bosley and Joseph P. Farrell have discussed the existence of an earth-grid of telluric energy, the currents of which may be influenced by the shaping of the terrain (along with other factors) and which appears to have been understood by ancient cultures and civilizations in the remote past. Author John Michell has also explored this subject in depth. For previous posts discussing this fascinating possibility, see for example:
Below is another satellite image, showing the location of Painted Rock in relation to Soda Lake and the photographs above (the plain around Painted Rock was also blanketed with beautiful wildflowers on Friday when I visited). The red arrow drawn onto the map points to Painted Rock, barely visible at this scale as a tiny circular form above the tip of the arrow. Note that a prominent ridgeline running north from the Caliente Range, just to the right of the arrow in the image, points almost directly to Painted Rock (perhaps this feature, along with other aspects of the terrain and geology of the Carrizo region, contribute to the sacred power of the site):

Perhaps such currents correspond to increased receptivity or capacity for connection with the Invisible or Infinite Realm -- a possibility which would argue that we should all spend as much time as possible visiting national parks and monuments and other locations with distinctive and majestic terrain features.I also found myself wondering during this recent visit why the wildflower bloom was so spectacular in the vicinity of the southern end of Soda Lake and the Carrizo plain -- and why there were not similar blooms taking place on the miles of winding roads leading up to the valley.Perhaps earth-energy currents have something to do with wildflower blooms as well!
above:  Close-up of some of the flowers from the vicinity of the first photograph at the top of this post. Present in this image we can see an abundance of tidytips (layia platyglossa) as well as some intermittent blue lupine (lupinus albifrons).

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Difficult Crossing

image: Crucifixion, Giovanni di Piermatteo Bocatti, c. 1420, Umbria. Wikimedia commons (link).

In a passage quoted many times before on this blog, Alvin Boyd Kuhn declares:
Bible stories are in no sense a record of what happened to a man or a people as historical occurrence. [ . . . ] They mean nothing as outward events; but they mean everything as picturizations of that which is our living experience at all times. The actors are not old kings, priests and warriors; the one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul. The Bible is the drama of our history here and now; and it is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it! 
From the lecture "The Stable and the Manger," delivered in 1936.
This pronouncement holds true for all the stories preserved in what we call the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, as well as for the rest of the myths, scriptures and sacred stories preserved in cultures found on every inhabited continent and island across our planet -- all of which can be shown to be closely related, and built upon the same world-wide system of celestial metaphor which appears to pre-date even the most ancient civilizations known to conventional historical paradigms, including those of ancient Egypt, ancient Mesopotamia, ancient China, and the ancient Indus-Saraswati civilization.

In Lost Light, published in 1940, Kuhn notes that the "three-day pause" found in the gospel accounts of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, as well as in the account of the crossing over Jordan to enter the Promised Land which also involves a three-day pause (see Joshua chapters 1 through 3, and particularly Joshua 1: 11 and Joshua 3: 2), "is emblematic of the three 'days' in the bleak underworld without the sustenance of the solar light" which takes place at the winter solstice during the annual cycle each year, as well as during the monthly cycle of the moon at the time of New Moon each month, and that the Passover and Easter observations thus involve both the cycles of sun and moon, at the restoration of the sun at spring equinox and the first Full Moon after that crossing-point on the annual cycle (405).

Many writers who have perceived that the world's myths involve connections to the cycles of the sun, moon, stars and visible planets tend to stop there, as if the connection to those heavenly cycles were the entire purpose of the myths, and that these connections thus indicate some kind of "nature worship" (whether sun-worship, or moon-worship, or star-worship, or nature-worship in general), but as the first quotation from Kuhn indicates, the ancient myths use the heavenly cycles themselves to explain the experience of the individual human soul -- and that the meaning is not apprehended in its full power until we understand that the drama in every case applies to our own situation at this very moment in our lives.

According to Kuhn's understanding of the myths, an understanding which is supported by an overwhelming volume of evidence, every single human soul is in fact experiencing the Crucifixion and the Passover while "crossing" through this incarnate life, in which spirit is "crossed" with matter and the two struggle together in order to elevate both.

Many previous posts have shown the great "cross" of the year which informs myths from around the world, in which the spirit is cast-down into matter at the point of fall equinox, and upon which the "lower crossing" of the cycle represents the struggle to re-erect the Djed-column which has been thrown down:

This "lower crossing" is the one through which we are all now struggling, crucified in a sense between matter and spirit. The same concept is presented in many different metaphors and stories in the world's myths -- Samson, for example, has his hair shorn off and his strength taken from him, but as the verses immediately following those describing his shaving, blinding, and enslavement tell us, "the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven" (Judges 16: 22).

Kuhn argues that the accounts of Easter and of Passover may be seen as relating specifically to the precise point at the far end of this "lower crossing" (the ascending crossing-point, at spring equinox, seen on the left-hand side or "nine o'clock" position of the circle in the above diagram), but they can also be seen as referring to the entire process the soul undergoes in this incarnate life as it struggles through the experience of this arduous journey. He writes (at one point referring to the soul by the Latin term "manes"):
The significance, then, of the Passover festival becomes clear in relation to the only cosmic or anthropological datum to which it could have any reference. In its widest sense it memorialized simply the passing of the soul over the flowing stream of this life. It was the pilgrimage of the Manes across the sea of experience that lay between the mortal and immortal life. It must never be lost sight of that the Jordan was a stream that marked the boundary line between the desert and the Promised Land. To migrate from animal existence to godlike stature of being we must cross the boundary line separating the two kingdoms. The soul plunges in this water on the western marge, swims or sails across and reaches the "farther shore" on the eastern boundary where he rises to a new day like the sun. As the final stage and termination of the passing over came at the equinox of spring, this date, the first full moon after the equinox, was invested with cumulative and culminating significance of the whole pass-over. It was the fourteenth or the fifteenth of the Hebrew month Nisan. But after all it is a question of minor difference whether the term "Passover" is taken to embrace the whole extent and duration and experience of the passing across life's sea, or more specifically the crossing of the final boundary line at the Easter equinox; whether the passage is over the lines at beginning and end of the journey, or over the entire space between then. It may mean the passing into, the passing out of, or the passage across, the realm of bodily life, and has apt significance in any case. 405.
The fact that these events are commemorated at times relating to the first full moon after the spring equinox indicates that they have to do with heavenly cycles and not with literal and terrestrial history. 

But this realization does not "rob" them of their significance -- in fact, as Kuhn indicates in the first quotation above, the world's ancient myths convey their full force and power when we realize that they signify internal truths and an internal struggle which applies to each and every man and woman, and a connection to an Infinite Realm to which we actually have constant access even during the depths of this material incarnation, rather than signifying external events which represent something that is outside of us, applying only to one specific person or one group of people, a misunderstanding which tends to focus our attention on external things we must chase after, or external factors which are actually the very opposite of the internal truths which the stories were intended to convey.

The gospel accounts of the Crucifixion and Resurrection contain numerous details which indicate that, like the rest of the world's Star Myths, they are based upon celestial metaphor rather than terrestrial history. Many of these have been discussed in previous posts and videos, such as this one and this one, and many more are discussed in greater detail (with diagrams) in Star Myths of the World, Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible). 

Many of the pieces of fine art down through the centuries dealing with the subjects described in the Biblical narratives, including the Crucifixion and the Resurrection, include details which suggest that the celestial foundation of these narratives was preserved and passed down from generation to generation in some way, although the extent to which those individual artists understood the connections they were depicting remains a mystery. 

For instance, in the painting at the top of this post, by the Umbrian artist of the early Renaissance period Giovanni di Piermatteo Bocatti, thought to have been completed around the year 1420, we see a number of noteworthy details which can be argued to correspond to celestial antecedents (in this case, very specific constellations), including the contorted postures of the two outer victims (a common feature in Crucifixion scenes: see for instance here, here and here), the skull positioned at the base of the central Cross, and -- unique to this particular depiction by Bocatti from the 1400s -- the plethora of scorpions depicted on shields, on banners, and on the trappings of the horse and riders included in the scene!

Additionally, while the outward form of the world's myths vary significantly in their details and characters and storyline, common patterns which manifest across cultures and which can also be shown to relate to specific characteristics of well-known constellations indicate that the Star Myths of the world are all in fact closely related in some way. Most likely, in my opinion, is the possibility that they all preserve the remnants of a system of incredible spiritual sophistication from a culture or cultures in remote antiquity predating all the world's known ancient civilizations, perhaps from a culture predating the construction of Gobekli Tepe

The entire cycle of the gospel narrative, for example, can be shown to have very strong parallels to events described in the Odyssey -- which is itself a narrative of an "ocean crossing" (a crossing-over). While the characters and action of the Odyssey are (on their surface) very different from the characters and events described in the gospels, I am convinced that both are informed by the same system of celestial metaphor and treat the same profound themes relevant to the life of each and every man and woman undergoing the "arduous crossing" of the lower realm in which we now find ourselves. 

Examples of parallels found in the Odyssey include the descent of the goddess Leucotheia in the form of a bird prior to the "plunge into water" that Odysseus undergoes during his initial escape from Ogygia, the foot-washing scene in which Eurycleia recognizes the returning Odysseus by a scar from a wound he received as a youth, and the rolling-away of the stone at the mouth of the cave of the Cyclops, which has parallels to the rolling-away of the stone at the mouth of the tomb at Easter and which I believe to be based on the very same constellations and region of the sky in both cases. 

The celestial connections in the Odyssey are explored in great depth in six chapters in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two (which focuses on the myths of ancient Greece).

As Kuhn also notes in Lost Light, strong parallels exist in other myths from around the world and across the millennia -- and this should not surprise us if in fact the world's Star Myths are descended from some very ancient common source. 

For example, he references the early twentieth-century translations by E. A. Wallis Budge of the Pyramid Texts of ancient Egypt, which constitute some of the most ancient surviving physical texts anywhere on the planet, dating to 2300 BC (and incorporating material which was already well-developed at the time of their inscription at that remote date) in which a rebirth after three days is indicated. In Volume Two of Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection (1911), which is available online in its entirety here (and Volume One is available here), a text from the pyramid of Pepi II (who reigned as king during the period from 2246 BC though 2152 BC) is cited which declares:
They transport father Osiris Pepi in their boat, to the eastern side of heaven, to the place where the gods were born . . . father Osiris Pepi is brought forth there in the place where the gods are born. This star cometh on the morrow, and on the third day (page 338, in the translation of Spell 614).
This passage clearly describes another "water crossing" which parallels those Kuhn describes in his discussion of the Passover cited above (which involves the crossing of the Red Sea and which is later echoed by the crossing of the Jordan at the edge of the Promised Land), as well as the arduous "water crossing" undergone by Odysseus. It is a crossing which is described as going to the "eastern side of heaven," which is the place where the stars (including the sun) can be seen to re-emerge from the "underworld crossing" and which is described as "the place where the gods are born." 

Elsewhere in the study of Osiris and the Egyptian Resurrection (also in Volume Two), Wallis Budge also points to a myth from the Nandi people of what is today the country of Kenya, which was recorded by Alfred Claude Hollis in The Nandi: Their language and folk-lore (1908), in which a dog requests of the people that he be fed milk from their own drinking-gourd and beer through their own drinking-straw, and that if they will do this for him, he promises that in return, the dog says, "If you do this, I will arrange for you to go to the river when you die, and to come to life again on the third day" (Volume Two, page 146).

Kuhn notes that here, once again, we have the pattern of the third day, as well as the pattern of the crossing of the river (akin to the crossing of Jordan in the book of Joshua). None of the commentators noted above seem to have noticed that the giving of beer and milk from a gourd and through a straw could also be seen as being a strong parallel to the giving of Jesus wine and vinegar from a sponge lifted up on a reed during the accounts of the Crucifixion (see for instance Mark 15: 36). In both cases, I believe that distinctive features of the constellation Ophiucus (located immediately above the constellation Scorpio, whose symbol is so prominently featured in the painting by Bocatti) are involved.

It is in my opinion most regrettable and indeed tragic and also criminal that the incredible myths given to humanity have been used to divide us, and to teach that we need to pursue something (some salvation or redemption) external to ourselves, and that based upon literalistic interpretations of these esoteric stories entire cultures have had their own preserved sacred traditions destroyed at the hands of those desiring to impose literal interpretations of other stories in their place.

Because of these kinds of abuses, many people today also have such strong negative reactions to the stories in the Bible that they have a difficult time realizing that, like all the other world's ancient myths, they have incredible truths to offer for our benefit today -- because they are describing the very "crossing" that we ourselves are currently going through. We should be able to maintain a clear distinction in our minds between the ancient stories themselves and the teachings and actions of those who interpret them in subsequent centuries -- no matter which ancient stories we are talking about.

Overwhelming evidence points to the conclusion that all of the world's ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories are surviving streams from some even more ancient common source -- and that they therefore constitute a precious inheritance that should unite all of us, and should be treasured as a gift from those very ancient ancestors, and consulted as a source of guidance, benefit and blessing for our journey across this difficult sea.