Thursday, August 17, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse: August, 2017

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

If it is at all possible for you to do so, and if you are still wavering or "on the fence" regarding whether or not it is worth the effort to try to travel to the path of totality for the upcoming solar eclipse crossing the continent of North America from shore to shore this coming Monday, August 21st (at the moment of New Moon), below are some quotations from the landmark text Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt by Jane B. Sellers, to help you with your decision.

Of course, if you've already determined that there is no possible or practical way that you can make it into the path of totality for this particular solar eclipse, these quotations might be best left un-read until later, when you can perhaps make plans to be present in the path of totality for another total solar eclipse -- because the descriptions in Sellers' book will probably make you want very much to travel towards the path of totality.

In Chapter 6 of that important book, entitled "Mighty is your Striking Power" (from Coffin Text 316, quoted on page 42 of the Revised 2007 edition of Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt), Jane Sellers writes:
The world fell silent, a marked chill abruptly arrived from nowhere and an otherworld twilight descended upon the sun watchers. The awesome show in the sky had arrived at its most dramatic moments. 
A row of small beads suddenly appeared at the periphery of the dark shadow that had finally completed its encroachment of the golden disk of the sun. Just as suddenly, one giant bead obscured all others on the brow of the emerging corona and in all too few seconds it too was gone. On the threshold of victory for the dark shadow, the flash of the bead had come, and now the whole of the fiery corona flared into view.
[ . . . ]
A total eclipse is the most spectacular of all natural phenomena. It is difficult to impress this on those who have only witnessed those that are partial. Jay M. Pasachoff, director of Hopkins Observatory wrote:
"Many people say, 'I saw the eclipse. It was 99 percent total.' But 99 percent doesn't count . . . with eclipses it is all or nothing; the 99 percent people' don't know what they are missing. People who have seen a partial eclipse may be likened to those who have stood outside an opera house before opening night, watching the beautifully dressed people going in. All the preparations take place and the orchestra tunes up. But just as the opera is about to start, the partial eclipse viewer goes home. He may well be content with what he has seen, but in reality he has missed the entire show."
I experience the same feelings when friends tell of having seen a total eclipse but when questioned about the Diamond Ring Effects, or the corona, or viewing totality with the naked eye, these things 'they do not remember.' I know then that they too, have 'missed the whole show.' [33 - 34, all punctuation, italics and bold-typeface as in the original, except for the block quotation from Jay M. Pasachoff, which is indented further in the original  text, rather than set off by double quotes].
In Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, the first edition of which was published in 1992, Jane B. Sellers put forward some extremely important analysis regarding specific myths of ancient Egypt and the general thesis of Hamlet's Mill and other related works as a whole. The entire text deserves to be read (and re-read), and indeed deserves a place on a physical shelf in your personal library, if possible. Some of the most important insights and arguments that she presents in her book include (among others): 
  • the argument that the myth of the death of Osiris relates to the "delaying action" of the ages-long motion of precession, 
  • the argument that the number 72 used in the description of the myth of Isis, Osiris and Set preserved by Plutarch also refers to the rate of precession -- and that there are other manifestations of this important precessional number in earlier Egyptian myths, long predating Plutarch and also predating the conventionally-accepted date that standard historians give for the "discovery" of the phenomenon of precession, let alone for the precise understanding of the rate of precession displayed by the number 72,
  • and the argument that the ancient descriptions of the "contendings of Set and Horus" in Egyptian texts include details specific to the awe-inspiring effects visible only during a total eclipse of the sun.

Numerous previous posts have described some of these connections between myth and the heavenly phenomena (see for example here, here, and here). As the authors of Hamlet's Mill have demonstrated, many other myth-systems around the world also make reference to specific precessional numbers (see for example here, here, and here). There are also countless ancient monuments situated around the globe which employ ratios within their construction or even within their siting on the earth which contain indisputable precessional numbers (see for example discussions here, here, and here).

In her book, Jane Sellers goes on to describe in detail and from personal experience the awesome effects of a total solar eclipse. Again, the full text is well worth reading -- and owning -- but a few selected descriptions may be helpful for those preparing to experience the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21 (or for those still trying to decide whether or not to make the trip, if it is at all possible to do so):
Totality can last from a few seconds to a maximum of seven and a half minutes. The very beginning is the 'first contact,' when the moon just begins to silhouette itself against the edge of the sun's disk. The period following is called the 'partial phase' during which more and more of the sun is covered by the moon. [ . . . ] 
'Second contact' occurs from one to two hours after first contact, at the instant when the sun becomes completely hidden behind the moon. In the few minutes before this second contact (the beginning of totality) the sky noticeably darkens; some flowers close, and birds return to their nests. Because the diminished light that reaches the earth must come solely from the edge of the sun's disk, and consequently from the higher layers of the atmosphere, the sky and landscape take on strange colors. This eerie half glow is accompanied by a noticeable stillness and cooling of the air. [ . . .]
In the last instant before totality, the only parts of the sun that are visible are those that shine through the lower valleys in the moon's irregular profile and line up along the periphery of the advancing edge of the moon -- a phenomenon called Baily's Beads.
What follows can be viewed with the unprotected and unaided eye: it is a brilliant solitary flash, or ball of light, that astronomers have named the 'Diamond Ring Effect.' This is the last of Baily's Beads and it has always appeared infinitely larger to me than the beads that preceded it. The effect is one of a large and brilliant diamond, or stone, with the emerging corona being the ring itself.'
[ . . . ]
The whole of the magnificent corona next flashes into view. This is the sun's tenuous outer atmosphere and consists of sparse gases that extend from the apparent surface of the moon for millions of miles in all directions. The usual photograph of an eclipse is a corona shot. Amazingly, and especially if it is cloudless, the sky darkens and brighter stars and planets can be seen. It is indeed 'darkness at noon.'
[ . . . ]
The total phase ends with the second Diamond Ring flash as abruptly as it began. The magnificent flash has come twice, once going into totality and once coming out, always on opposite sides of the sun. I believe that these two flashes are of prime importance in understanding the story of the battle between Horus and Seth, a key myth in the religion of ancient Egypt.
[ . . . ]
Anyone who has witnessed totality will understand how difficult it is to convey the sense of wonder that this phenomenon engenders. After viewing totality on July 11, 1991, amateur astronomer Barry Slavin wrote 'I hardly know what I did. My carefully laid plans were in ruins. I could not take my eyes off that terrible wonderful thing there in the sky over our heads . . . It was every artist's conception of totality, but more brilliant, delicate, and finely etched than I could have ever imagined.' The editors of the magazine Sky and Telescope followed this quote with the comment: 
'In truth, we see totality not with our eyes but with our souls.'
[ . . . ]
The ending of totality is called third contact, and here again, the eyes must be protected. Gradually the partial phases of the eclipse repeat themselves, but in reverse order. At last contact the moon has completely uncovered the sun. [34 - 39].
We should all be grateful to Jane Sellers for her evocative descriptions of the cycles in a total solar eclipse (only part of which I've quoted above), the best descriptions I've ever encountered, as well as for her groundbreaking analysis of the connections to ancient myth.

I truly hope that, if you are in any position to do so, you can experience the upcoming total eclipse -- and if not this one, then another one in the near future.

And as you do, you can contemplate the experience of those who were in position underneath the path of totality in other eclipses, many generations before our own, stretching back into the millennia, to eclipses thousands of years ago. 

It is very clear, from an overwhelming amount of evidence -- in myths and in monuments -- that the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity in virtually every culture on our planet, on every inhabited continent and island on the globe, employs the awe-inspiring heavenly cycles to convey profound truths to our understanding, for our blessing and benefit. 

And, as Jane Sellers demonstrates, among these heavenly cycles used by the ancient wisdom is (not surprisingly) the deeply moving experience of the total solar eclipse -- which Jane Sellers calls "the most spectacular of all natural phenomena."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Equal Rights and Justice

Peter Tosh, "Equal Rights."

The racism displayed this weekend at the so-called "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (including a torchlight gathering on the campus of the University of Virginia) should be strongly and unequivocally -- and publicly -- condemned by men and women of all backgrounds and beliefs. 

Racism, and white supremacist rhetoric in particular, should be strongly, unequivocally, and publicly opposed wherever it is published or aired, and countered with clear arguments showing it to be morally, spiritually, and intellectually bankrupt.

This condemnation and counter-argument should be done non-violently. There is absolutely no racist argument that can stand on its own. Racism is a lie, and cannot stand up to the truth. 

Because racism is not based upon truth, racism is spread primarily by tactics involving violence, rumor (the spreading of lies), and appeals to visceral emotions involving fear -- often including emotionally-charged sexual accusations. Techniques common to propaganda are not used in order to spread the truth: they are used in order to generate visceral emotional responses or reflexive behavior. Lies require propaganda -- the truth does not.

The ancient wisdom preserved in the myths, scriptures and sacred traditions of virtually every single culture on our planet, on every inhabited continent and island on earth, tells us that men and women possess both a physical nature and a spiritual nature: a mortal nature and a divine nature. For this reason, myths and sacred stories involving twins are found around the world, depicting the fact that each one of us in fact has a sort of "twinned" nature -- physical and spiritual. 

Similarly, numerous myths and sacred stories from around the world describe a main character as having two mothers -- indicating that we can think of ourselves as experiencing "two births," the first one when we are born into a physical body, and the second one when we begin to realize that we are more than our physical body and that we should be learning how to elevate our spiritual nature, or inner divine nature, rather than simply thinking of ourselves and those around us as merely physical beings.

Most people instinctively understand and perceive that they are more than their physical body -- and resist the idea of being "reduced" to the status of their physical nature, or categorized, valued, or viewed on the basis of their physical characteristics alone.

Additionally, the ancient wisdom encoded in the world's myths and scriptures often deals explicitly and extensively with the concepts of "blessing" and "cursing" -- concepts which I believe have much to do with the idea of recognizing, and to whatever degree possible, elevating the divine nature in one's self and others (in the case of blessing), and the contrary action of trying to deny that divine nature in one's self or in others, and reduce them to the status of their physical attributes: to reduce them to a body (or to a corpse), in the case of cursing.

Racism (and sexism), by their very definition, attempt to falsely define other men and women based on their external and physical aspects.

But doing so is a lie. We know instinctively that our value is not defined by the physical body, that we are possessed of a nature that is not defined by the aspects of our "first birth" -- and the ancient wisdom preserved in the original instructions given to every culture on our planet confirms what we instinctively perceive.

Because it is based upon a lie -- a very big lie, in fact, and a very pernicious lie -- proponents of racism must resort to distortion, to propaganda, and (in almost every case) to violence, as well as to an appeal to impulses related to fear of physical harm and to sexual doubt or discomfort. Proponents of racism deliberately seek to get others to react with what we might call the aspects of our physical nature (reflexes which we all have). It's very difficult to remember we have a divine nature, if we are being physically punched in the nose, for example, or being told (in graphic terms) that someone is going to rape us or rape someone we love or care about.

But I will go one step further in discussing the despicable events on display in the united states this weekend, and point out that those racists trying to provoke a visceral response in others -- by means of torchlight rallies, and chanted slogans referring to "Jews" -- chose to call their rally a "Unite the Right" rally.

While I would argue that the vast majority of those who identify themselves as being on the "right" of the ideological spectrum would vehemently and sincerely reject the bigotry displayed by the relatively small group of self-described "white nationalists" who converged on Charlottesville this weekend, and while increasing numbers of people today would reject the very notion of "right" and "left" (arguing that these terms are outdated, obsolete, or misleading), I believe the question is worthy of some examination, especially in light of the argument put forward by some that actions (including violence) on the part of representatives of "the left" were partly responsible for the mayhem witnessed in Virginia.*  

In examining this important question, I will first assert that the world's ancient wisdom universally declares that men and women are possessed of a spiritual nature, indeed a divine nature, which is more important than their physical nature (and that the world's ancient wisdom universally teaches that the "second birth" is even more important than the first, even though both are of course extremely important and both involve the blessing and indeed the active participation of the divine realm).

Every other human being we ever encounter is possessed of a divine nature, and that is what we should see staring back at us when we consider another man, woman or child -- regardless of the details of their physical nature.

Additionally, as I have argued at some length elsewhere, I believe that the ancient myths and scriptures can be shown to teach that the gods themselves (or the divine Infinite, if you prefer) are present in, and act through, individual men and women. We can see this demonstrated in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, for example, which declares at one point "There is no member of mine devoid of a god." We can see it demonstrated in the scriptures of ancient India, in which divinities appear in an instant when a mantra is uttered. And we can see it in the myths of ancient Greece, for example in the Iliad and the Odyssey, in which the gods and goddesses work out their will through individuals such as Odysseus or Achilles.

Based upon these demonstrable points, I would argue that one way of framing the question of "left" and "right" has to do with the question of whether some men and women are "more entitled" to the gifts bestowed by the gods (or, if you prefer, by nature) than others, or whether all men and women are equally entitled to those gifts. This question is discussed at some length in previous posts such as "Collaborators against the gods," "Privatization vs the gods (and the people)," and "Some lessons from King Midas, who discovered he could not eat gold."

If it is not clear enough from those posts (and even from the titles alone), I would argue that the gifts bestowed by the gods (or, if you prefer, by nature) belong to all the people of the land, without distinction. They do not belong only to the "best" people (as in a so-called "aristocracy"). They do not belong only to the people of a certain "race." They do not belong only to the people of a certain "creed" (all the world's ancient myths and scriptures can be shown to be based upon the very same foundation of celestial metaphor, and thus demanding that someone accept a certain interpretation of one set of ancient scriptures is gravely mistaken from the outset -- and this of course includes discrimination against those who follow the Hebrew scriptures, as well as any other group based on creed or faith). 

And I would argue that the (problematic, but nonetheless still useful) terms of "right" and "left" can be viewed from the above perspective -- with the "right" tending towards restricting or "privatizing" the gifts of nature (or the gods) to some subset of the people (often but not always including overt racial components in this restriction), and the "left" arguing that these gifts belong to the people as a whole.

The above assertions will, no doubt, be angrily rejected by some who want to argue that the "left" has a history of being just as restrictive, and even just as racist, as the "right," but if we can just entertain this theoretical framework for a moment in order to consider any light it might potentially throw on the question, I believe there is an important point that can be illuminated. If those who object to the above assertion do so with the argument that groups claiming to be on the "left" have in the past been just as restrictive as those on the "right," then those who make this particular objection must be agreeing, in principle, that such restriction of the gifts of nature to one group is a bad thing -- and that the gifts of nature should in principle belong to all the people (so if those objectors want to label the idea that the gifts of nature belong to all the people with some term other than "left" in their own minds, that's fine by me for the sake of this particular discussion). 

The problem that I am trying to illuminate with this discussion is that, tragically, some of those moving towards what I would label as an "ultra-right" position (a racist and indeed a "white nationalist") position are doing so out of a stated rejection of neoliberalism, which I would argue is itself already an ideology of the right of the spectrum as defined above, in that the hallmark of neoliberalism is the privatization of virtually everything that those on the left of the same spectrum would argue should belong to the public.

In other words, they are responding to a problem that is created by an ideology that belongs to the right with an ideology that is even further to the right -- as if trying to counteract one poison with an even more destructive poison than the one to which they are supposedly objecting.

And this assertion -- which I believe can be fairly convincingly established, based on the writings and published arguments of those persons behind the "Unite the Right" rally -- brings up the possibility that this entire spectacle is actually designed by someone or some group to continue moving the united states further and further to the right. In other words, it brings up the possibility that some of those involved in planning the despicable displays this weekend are deliberate provocateurs, who know that the overt message will be roundly despised by almost everyone who hears or sees it, but who also know that it can be used to continue moving the country to the right -- a process that has been going on for decades. In fact, it can be incontrovertibly proven that violence was employed extensively in Europe during the 1970s by groups supposedly "on the left" in order to move populations of various countries towards the right prior to important elections -- and this sort of false-flag violence continues to be employed in order to move populations in the same direction.

I would also argue that the appearance of violent blocks claiming to be "anti-fascist counter-protestors" from "the left," engaging in acts of violence or vandalism or destruction, can be seen as discrediting (perhaps deliberately) those who want to denounce the self-proclaimed "right" element -- with the result that "all sides" can be denounced as somehow equally wrong, thus acting to move opinion to the right (by tainting and discrediting the left in this case by their violent and inappropriate actions).

The effect can be described using the metaphor of a large aquarium or "fish-tank," in which some fish are swimming around on the left side of the tank, and some swim more towards the right side of the tank -- but if we move the entire fish-tank further and further in one direction (in this case, towards the right), then after several decades, even the fish at the furthest left boundary of the tank will be farther to the right than the more "right" fish from previous decades.

See, for example, the illustration below (which I made using a composite of this image and this image, from Wikimedia commons):

We could label the fish-tank, as we face it, as having a spectrum that goes from "left" to "right," as we see in the image below. Note that there are fish seen on the left, and on the right. Note the position of the words "left" and "right" relative to the chairs around the table (interestingly enough, twelve chairs arranged in a circle) or the lamps in the ceiling (also twelve in number):

Now, over time, imagine if we could "move" the entire fish-tank towards the right, as we see in the image below:

Notice that the man reading at the table does not even seem to be aware that the entire fish-tank has been shifted to the right -- that's how subtle this process is!

Below, we have re-labeled the tank based on the new boundaries. We still have fish swimming towards the left and towards the right, but now look how much further to the right the fish supposedly on the "left" have become:

The founding documents of the united states (in which, by the way, the words "united states" are frequently not capitalized) declare that "all men are created equal" -- which was a conscious rejection of the foundations of European aristocracy. This lofty assertion was of course marred from the outset by the unconscionable crimes of the genocide of indigenous Native Americans and the importation of slaves from Africa and the enslavement of their children for generations, as well as by institutionalized forms of racism against Asian immigrants and many others in subsequent decades down to the present day. Institutionalized forms of racism have been active in the united states throughout its history, in countless forms (including systematic exclusion from ownership of property in desirable areas, historically one of the primary means of increasing one's wealth). 

The question facing us today is whether we want to move more towards a society that is based equal rights and justice, in recognition of the truth that all men and women are indeed possessed of a spiritual nature which transcends the surface physical details of their physical nature, or whether we want to move further away from it.

The terms "left" and "right" at this point are so contentious and so fraught that they may not be entirely helpful, serving to generate perhaps more heat than light. However, whatever labels we choose, the process described above, of "moving the entire fish-tank" further away from equal rights for all, and  further towards "more rights for some than for others," is a very real phenomenon and one of which we should all become aware, and one which I believe must be countered. 

It is certainly not limited to the united states -- the privatization of the natural resources of other countries to benefit the few at the expense of the overall populace is wrapped up in this entire subject of racism, and is yet another example of a set of facts which can easily show the positions espoused by "white nationalists" to be built upon a rotten scaffolding of lies (because the racially-homogenous Europe of previous decades or centuries that white nationalists sometimes reference as a model or an example can be shown to have supported its economic standard-of-living by exploiting the natural resources and labor of people in other parts of the world, particularly in their far-flung colonies in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific).

The truth expressed in the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity in the myths, scriptures and sacred stories around the world tells us that we are more than our physical bodies -- and that trying to reduce others to their physical form is a crime against the divinity present in each and every man and woman and child.

We all know these truths instinctively, at some level. It takes lies and propaganda to make people forget them. Those lies must be opposed, vigorously and passionately. But we do not need to be afraid that those lies might somehow be found to be true, or that our arguments against them might meet with an argument that we cannot counter. And in opposing them, we do not want to sink to the level of violence ourselves -- in fact, we should seriously question the motives of those who do so.

* Additional note (08/16/2017): Just to be perfectly clear, I do not agree with the argument that "the left" is responsible for the tragic violence and loss of life. It should be quite obvious from what I have written above that there is absolutely no moral equivalence between those who are advocating "white nationalism," or any other form of racism, and those who are opposing it. I am pointing out that we might want to be suspicious of people who use violence and claim to be representing "the left" --because there is a documented history during the 1970s of groups that used real violence and terror, and were presented as leftists, when in fact they were part of an operation to drive specific nations towards the right. I am suggesting that we might want to question whether that could still be going on in some cases today: provocative "right-wing" speakers or demonstrators create a spectacle, honest people come to protest those provocateurs, and then violent groups (claiming to be from the "left") are employed in order to try to discredit those opposed to the provocateurs -- or simply to create mayhem on both sides so that the general public asks for more restrictions (thus driving things towards "the right" over time). We should ask ourselves whether it is possible in some situations that the groups supposedly saying they are part of "the left" are in fact organized at some level by "the right" as well. And innocent bystanders can be hurt or even killed by these activities, as happened in the 1970s in Europe (see the link provided in the above post).

Wailers, "One Foundation"

Monday, August 7, 2017

The question of the Turin Shroud

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Special thank-you to a reader who recently sent me an important question about the Shroud of Turin.

The question had to do with whether I had considered and if so what I thought of the Turin Shroud, a piece of linen containing an amazing and thus far unexplained front-and-back image of a man who has apparently suffered from scourging with a whip over most of his back, as well as wounds consistent with crucifixion (through the wrists and feet). Additionally, rivulets of blood apparently dripping down from cuts to the top of the head (as though from a "crown of thorns") can be seen on the linen.

I felt that this was an important enough question to share with others, because it points towards a vital issue regarding literalism (a term which can mean lots of things, but which I am using here to designate the view that scriptures primarily describe literal, terrestrial, and historical events and personages). 

The Turin Shroud, it seems to me, powerfully illustrates the tendency of the literalistic approach to externalize the stories and characters found in the world's ancient myths and scriptures -- to see them as describing persons and situations outside of ourself, and to then venerate that externalized figure or situation, thus powerfully obscuring the possibility that the stories are actually about our own experience in this incarnate life.

I agree with Alvin Boyd Kuhn's assertion, in a passage I've quoted many times (from his address entitled "The Stable and the Manger," delivered in 1936), which declares:
Bible stories are in no sense a record of what happened to a man or a people as historical occurrence. As such they would have little significance for mankind. They would be the experience of people not ourselves, and would not bear a relation to our life. But they are a record, under pictorial forms, of that which is ever occurring as a reality of the present in all lives. 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! The Bible is about the mystery of human life. Instead of relating to the incidents of a remote epoch in temporal history, it deals with the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth. 4.
Note how well the question of the Shroud of Turin resonates with the ringing assertions of Alvin Boyd Kuhn in the above passage. If we focus on this piece of linen as being the very cloth which shrouded the body of a crucified historical Jesus, and as now containing an image of a literal Jesus (miraculously burned into the very top layer of the linen itself, perhaps by the energy released at the moment of resurrection), and even as containing remnants of his blood, as well as molecules of the dirt and dust from his knees when he knelt, or remnants of the flowers with which his body was adorned in the tomb, then our focus is relentlessly external. 

Our minds are asked to obsess over the details of (as Kuhn might say) "a person not ourselves" -- how tall he was, what his facial features and physique looked like, how he wore his hair, and even what blood type he had. From this perspective, the stories and characters we find related in the ancient texts become accounts of outward events, in a remote epoch, involving ancient occurrences, instead of "the drama of our history here and now -- the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth (regardless of their own physique, or stature, or hairstyle, or blood type)."

I have written extensively about the abundant evidence found in the texts themselves which suggests that the stories in the Old and New Testaments (so-called) in the Bible are based upon celestial metaphor from first to last, and that they thus can be shown (in common with the rest of the world's ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred stories) to be describing events which take place in the heavenly realms -- representative of the Other Realm (the realm of spirit, the Invisible Realm), thereby pointing us towards truths regarding the invisible and spiritual realities of this world in which we presently find ourselves, as well as the invisible and spiritual realities of our own nature.

Previous posts (some containing videos) which demonstrate that the stories and characters in the New Testament texts are founded upon celestial metaphor include:
and many others. For an even more extensive exploration of the celestial foundations of the episodes in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, see my 2016 book "Star Myths of the World, and how to interpret them: Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible)."

Based on the overwhelming abundance of evidence, I am quite convinced that the stories and characters described in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are based upon celestial metaphor and do not describe literal or terrestrial history. 

That conviction absolutely does not mean that I believe that these scriptures are somehow "not true" because I don't take them as literal, terrestrial history. On the contrary, I believe that the Biblical stories, like the rest of the world's ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred traditions from around the globe, are using celestial metaphor in order to convey profound truths of vital importance to our lives -- but that they are doing so esoterically (along the lines of the way Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-San in the original Karate Kid, or the metaphor of the "finger pointing a way to the moon" in Buddhist tradition, or the way that Montessori uses visual, three-dimensional representations to convey truths about invisible mathematical concepts such as the cubing of a trinomial).

But it does mean that I believe it is a mistake to become too focused upon the outward form of the metaphor rather than the esoteric meaning towards which it is pointing (this would be akin to becoming too focused upon the finger, thus missing all that "heavenly glory," or becoming obsessed with the types of cars that Mr. Miyagi has Daniel-San waxing in the "wax-on, wax-off" scene, as if the outward form of the cars themselves are a necessary component of the karate concepts that Mr. Miyagi is trying to impart).

In light of the foregoing, I believe that the Turin Shroud may be misleading in that it invites us to focus on those very types of external features and supposed historical settings (the composition of the dirt, the methodology of historical crucifixions), rather than pointing us towards the invisible and ever-present truths which the stories are intended to convey. 

Additionally, despite the fact that the image on the Shroud of Turin is indeed wondrous and mysterious, I am not at all convinced that it indicates that the characters and events described in the gospel accounts represent literal events that took place in terrestrial history. 

For one thing, the evidence that the stories in the Bible -- from Genesis all the way to Revelation -- are based upon celestial metaphor is extremely compelling, and what's more it is verifiable: open to examination by anyone who cares to consult the widely-available details in the stories, and look up into the night sky, where the constellations display characteristics that can be shown to match the details in the texts.

The same cannot be said for the Shroud of Turin. I cannot examine the object myself, and submit it to careful analysis. The Turin Shroud has occasionally been permitted to be examined, but only rarely, and not for many years. 

This inaccessibility, in and of itself, should raise serious questions about its authenticity. If the Shroud of Turin is indeed what it is claimed to be, then those who truly believe that it is what it is claimed to be should not be apprehensive about what detailed scientific study of the Shroud (with proper precautions to prevent damage) would discover -- especially because technological capabilities and methods of analysis pertinent to such an investigation have advanced at incredible rates over the past several years since close examination was last permitted.

Another reason that I am not convinced that the Shroud of Turin is the literal linen shroud which was once wrapped around the physical body of a literal and historical Jesus is the fact that it shows blood dripping down the forehead, presumably from the cuts inflicted by a "crown of thorns" as described in the gospel texts, but that these rivulets of blood create some serious doubts about the artifact's authenticity, in my analysis. 

As you can see from the image below, which shows the linen as seen by the naked eye on the left as we face the picture, and as seen in photographic negative on the right, there is a prominent trickle of blood descending from the area of the top of the head towards the right eye (on the left side as we face the image -- note that the full-length image at the top of this post appears to be inverted horizontally, compared to the images below):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

You can see that the bright line of blood shown on the negative image on the right represents what is ostensibly an actual blood-stain on the linen, as seen in the image on the left (as we face the page).

The question this raises to my analysis is why the blood that dripped down from the crown of thorns would not have been cleaned-off prior to wrapping the body in a fine piece of linen, and deposited in its resting place in the tomb (with flowers, if you believe that the flower particles that have been said to have been found on the Shroud actually represent remnants of flowers accompanying the body at the burial).

As you can see from the image on the left, the trickle in question certainly appears to have been "downward" in its flow-direction, beginning at the hairline and descending to the eyebrow, where it ends in a "droplet" shape. However, one would assume that this blood would have been wiped away prior to the burial -- and that if blood were to have continued to flow after burial (which is not at all normal) that blood would not have flowed from the hairline to the brow once the body was laid out horizontally in the tomb. You can verify this for yourself by lying supine upon a flat surface and then tracing a line with your finger from the hairline area towards the eyebrow, and you will see that this would mean the blood was trickling uphill across the forehead towards the eye-region.

For these and other reasons, I am not at all convinced that the Turin Shroud represents physical evidence of a literal burial and literal resurrection -- although, as I explain in Star Myths of the Bible and in some of the posts linked above, I certainly believe in the truths that these ancient texts are conveying to us, in the language of the stars.

This still leaves the question of how the remarkable front-and-back image came to be burned-in to the very upper layers of the linen of the Shroud of Turin. The image itself has amazing properties, properties which only came to be appreciated hundreds of years after the Shroud of Turin was famous. 

Some of these properties include the fact that the image acts as a sort of "photographic negative," preserving data that could only be fully appreciated with the advent of modern photography in the nineteenth century, when photographs of the image revealed this remarkable property. 

Later still, in more recent decades, it has been discovered that the image even encodes three-dimensional data -- a fact which led to the creation of a physical model of these three-dimensional properties by professors at the US Air Force Academy (the model is on display in the cadet chapel at the Air Force Academy).

These amazing properties certainly argue that the image on the Turin Shroud is extraordinary -- but they do not necessarily indicate that it is supernatural, nor do they indicate that it is necessarily the literal shroud in which the body of a literal and historical Jesus was wrapped prior to the moment of resurrection. 

Note that, for the sake of argument, it could be conceded that the image with all its remarkable properties was burned into the surface texture of the linen by means beyond those known to materialist science without necessarily indicating that this cloth was wrapped around a literal and historical Jesus -- I certainly believe in the reality of what is called the "energy body," and would concede that it might be possible for certain advanced practitioners of certain ancient disciplines to accomplish remarkable feats that are not widely known and would not be easily understood by materialist science, even (theoretically) the ability to create burn-marks on the outer surface of fine linen, perhaps. 

In fact, I believe that the cultivation of disciplines involving these "invisible" aspects of our incarnate condition might be one of the layers of meaning that the celestial metaphors in the ancient myths of the world may be designed to esoterically teach.

However, I do not personally believe that the image found on the Shroud of Turin was created by supernatural or even "extra-normal" means at all. Some researchers have posited a very plausible hypothesis by which the image could have been burned into the linen, not by heat but by the activation of a light-sensitive chemical treatment in an early example of photographic technique.

This video series (and there may be others) describes this hypothesis, along the way giving a good overview of the amazing properties of the image on the Shroud of Turin and the reasons to believe that it was indeed created using extraordinary methodologies, although not necessarily supernatural in nature: 

The entire presentation is divided into six videos: each should start automatically after the preceding clip finishes, but if not, you can use these links for parts two, three, four, five and six.

One of the most astonishing aspects of the above hypothesis, of course, is the assertion of the possibility that Leonardo da Vinci may have been intimately involved in the creation of the images on the Shroud of Turin. Leonardo da Vinci, of course, was unquestionably endowed with unmatched intellect, deep learning and astonishing artistic and inventive powers. Less well-known, however, is the fact that his art also contains clear references to the celestial aspects of the Biblical characters and stories he painted -- indicating the possibility that he understood the esoteric (as opposed to literal and historic) nature of the ancient wisdom.

Previous posts have touched on this aspect of da Vinci's art -- for example, see "Scott Onstott reveals the profound message of Leonardo da Vinci and his art," as well as the extended discussion of the apostle Philip in the video on the zodiac and the disciples referenced earlier and linked again here.

To be sure, other artwork depicting Biblical scenes by other artists down through the centuries appears to contain clear references to the celestial connection to specific constellations, and it is very possible that artists were taught certain conventions regarding different characters, without even knowing that these conventions of depicting the characters related directly to the celestial outlines of specific constellations in the night sky. For numerous examples of this phenomenon, see for instance this previous post, and this video, as well as those presented in the Star Myths of the World books, particularly Volumes Two and Three.

Even if the vast majority of artists were not privy to the actual connection between the artistic conventions they were using and the specific constellational features of the characters (matching the constellations to which those characters correspond), if we had to posit an artist who would have known of those connections, Leonardo da Vinci would be a pretty good candidate.

The bigger point to keep in mind, however, is the one with which we began this brief examination of the question of the Turin Shroud, and that is the assertion by Alvin Boyd Kuhn (with which I agree) that the "full force and applicability" of the world's ancient scriptures and myths is not apprehended by any man or woman until he or she realizes the story describes the experience of his or her soul, sojourning in this incarnate life.

Da Vinci himself might have urged us to marvel, not at the bodily image of someone else's body, transmitted onto a piece of linen and thus preserved in remarkable detail, with a beatific expression intended to convey the dignity and divinity of the Christ, but instead to contemplate the miracle of the fact that we ourselves are possessed of a body, filled with miles and miles of veins and arteries and capillaries, with a heart that has been steadily pumping inside our chest without our conscious direction, and lungs that by their incredible design enable the transfer of oxygen to our corpuscles and the subsequent expulsion of carbon dioxide. Even more remarkable, this body in which we find ourselves in this incarnate life is animated by our consciousness, and imbued with the power of sight, and hearing, and taste and smell and touch. We can form thoughts in our minds and transmit them into words, something we take for granted but which is really so miraculous as to be almost inexplicable.

And beyond all of this, we too -- and everyone we ever meet -- are also possessed of the same dignity and divinity which the artists depict in their artwork, according to the testimony of the ancient wisdom given to humanity in the form of the myths. One of the central messages of the ancient myths, I'm convinced, is that a goal of our incarnate journey is the recognition and elevation of this divine nature in ourselves and in others.

To the degree that contemplating the beauty of the myths, or the beatific expression of the image on the Turin Shroud, can assist us in doing that, I believe such contemplation is beneficial. But, to the degree that we persist in externalizing that message -- in focusing only on the divinity and dignity of an external figure, and failing to work on recognizing and elevating that nature in ourselves and in others, then I believe it is possible that we are "focusing too much on the finger" and missing "all that heavenly glory" (in the words of the character played by Bruce Lee, in the movie linked above, and linked again here).

So, as you can see, I believe it was a very important question that was asked, and I am grateful to Mr. M.-H. for sending it to me, all the way from Western Australia! I hope other readers are also grateful for the question about the Turin Shroud, because it illuminates (I believe) some very significant points.

One other thought came to me as I watched the video series linked above describing the hypothesis that the image might have been burned-in to the top layer of the linen using an early and ingenious photographic technique, and that was prompted by the observation that the spectra of the image does not indicate that it was burned-in by heat, but rather by some other means (the researchers in the video believe it was burned-in by light, rather than by heat). It occurs to me that this mechanism might possibly be at work in some crop circles.

I recently (while at the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio) had the opportunity to meet with and see presentations from some of the world's premiere researchers of crop circles, and one of the things they showed me were close-up high-magnification photographs of the stalks of the individual plants which appear to have been burned on one side only, in order to cause them to fall over. It was also related to me that some observers have reported seeing the patterns in the crops actually "going in" by some unseen force, with the plants just falling over as if by themselves. Is it possible that some sort of "light-activated" burning mechanism, similar to the one described in the Leonardo da Vinci hypothesis for the creation of the Turin Shroud in the video above, might be at work in the formation of crop circles? Perhaps the application of some light-reactive agent, which causes the circles to form as the sun comes up and the light strikes the fields?

In any case, whether or not Leonardo da Vinci was responsible for creating the images we see today on the Shroud of Turin, the very possibility (and the achievements exhibited by da Vinci and, each in his or her unique way, every other man and woman) should remind us that each and every one of us -- and humanity in general -- are "fearfully and wonderfully made," as the ancient text of the Psalms declares (Psalm 139).

To conclude by repeating the insight of Alvin Boyd Kuhn: "The Bible is about the mystery of human life. Instead of relating to the incidents of a remote epoch in temporal history, it deals with the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth." 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A far deeper malady: August 6th, 2017

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

August 6th is the anniversary of the first use in recorded history of the use of nuclear weapons to kill millions of men, women and children. 

Between the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, hundreds of thousands of lives were ended, either immediately or due to the effects of injuries or radiation in the aftermath.

Previous posts have linked to the abundant quotations from US generals and admirals at the time -- all hardened veterans of years of combat in that brutal and destructive war -- who were appalled, sickened, and angered at the decision, and whose informed opinion was that the bombings were not militarily necessary.

That makes their use a criminal act, and one for which the government of the united states has never apologized. Last year, in fact, was the first time a sitting president from the united states ever visited Hiroshima.

This article by Peter Van Buren makes the insightful observation that the national belief which has been propagated since 1945 that "no moral wrong was committed with the atomic bombs, and thus there was no need for reflection and introspection" has been part of a deliberate manipulation of history in the united states -- a "post-war creation of a mass memory" -- with tragic and ongoing consequences. 

The author of that article argues that, in the wake of the first accounts of the actual effects of the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, the citizens of the united states were shocked. The government felt something needed to be done immediately, and hence an article drafted by McGeorge Bundy and James Conant and published under the byline of Henry Stimson was published in the February 1947 issue of Harper's magazine.  The purpose of this article was to declare that the bomb had been dropped out of military necessity. Van Buren writes: "Americans' general sense of themselves as a decent people needed to be reconciled with what was done in their name. The Stimson article was quite literally the moment of the creation of the Hiroshima myth [of military necessity and moral justification for the use of the atomic bombs two wipe out two cities]."

Van Buren also notes that one of the article's authors, who later went on to become the president of Harvard University (James Conant) later remarked, speaking of this article, "You have to get the past straight before you do much to prepare people for the future" (Universities and their Leadership, page 208). In context, the "preparing for the future" had to do with overcoming any tendencies towards isolationist or non-interventionist foreign policy in the years following the overt end of the war, and the "getting the past straight" meant casting the use of nuclear weapons by the united states as just and necessary.

As George Orwell (and Dr. Zaius of the original Planet of the Apes) understood very well: "Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past." Thus, considering the history of the use of atom bombs against civilians by the leaders of the united states seventy-two years ago -- and especially considering the way the "history" of those events has been stripped of any "need for reflection and introspection" -- is vitally important for the present, and the future.

This need is especially urgent at this particular juncture in history, during which the military of the united states is being used (non-stop for more than a decade and a half) to wage offensive war against country after country, with little sign of reflection or introspection -- to say nothing of vigorous protest -- on the part of the people who pay the taxes and supply their sons and daughters to the military machine that is waging that offensive war. 

Additionally, the provocative placement of anti-ballistic missile batteries in eastern Europe and south Korea indicates the possibility that there are people in high places of government who would actually contemplate the use of nuclear weapons in an offensive or "first-strike" capacity. Such contemplation in and of itself would demonstrate that the propagation of false narratives of past history, and the lack of reflection and introspection on the part of the people, has reached such a dangerous level that psychopaths and criminals believe they will meet no resistance from the broad general public or from the organs of law which are supposed to be preventing the illegal waging of offensive war.

It would also demonstrate an apparent belief in immunity from the consequences of divine displeasure from the realm of the gods. The world's ancient wisdom, in all its various manifestations in myth, scripture and sacred tradition, unanimously demonstrates that individual men and women each contain an inner connection to the Infinite, and that they are possessed of value and dignity, such that doing violence against men, women or children is a grave crime and one which the gods will invariably and unfailingly punish.

A previous post on this same anniversary explored this aspect of the crime of using nuclear weapons in light of the Bhagavad Gita, lines from which are often quoted (misleadingly, in my opinion) at the anniversary of the dropping of the atomic weapons on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.

In Martin Luther King's famous speech Beyond Vietnam, which is at least as relevant today as it was when he delivered it on April 4th, 1967 (exactly one year before he was treacherously murdered), Dr. King declared: 
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing "clergy and laymen concerned" committees for the next generation. [ . . . ]  
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. [ . . . ] 
War is not the answer. Communism will never be defeated by the use of atomic bombs or nuclear weapons. Let us not join those who shout war and, through their misguided passions, urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. 
[ . . . ] Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores, and thereby speed the day when "every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain shall be made low; the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain."

In that speech, Martin Luther King demonstrates keen awareness that the citizens of the country that was waging the war in Vietnam were the ones with the ability -- and the responsibility -- to work towards the end of that war. He also demonstrates the necessity of the very kind of reflection -- and admission of moral error -- that has largely been absent (deliberately absent) since the dropping of the atomic bombs, when he says: 
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 from 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. 
Then he declares: 
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 conditions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
Those who do not feel that offensive war, or even the use of nuclear weapons, are deeply and terribly wrong are not likely to protest. The deliberate manipulation of history has led to the situation we face today, and can indeed influence the future that we (and our children, and their children) will inherit.

Martin Luther King's speech ended on a soaring note, employing the rhetoric of the ancient scriptures which describe the righteousness of heaven rolling down as a mighty stream (from Amos 5:24). That verse and those which follow also describe judgment which runs down as waters, in consequence for forsaking the divine, for turning justice into wormwood and leaving off righteousness in the earth, for treading upon the poor, and taking from the laborer his wheat, for afflicting the just, accepting bribes, and turning aside the poor from the gates (Amos 5, entire chapter).

He clearly understood that there is a moral component to this subject -- and even a component which involves the displeasure of the divine realm for the injustices done in this material realm. And he clearly understood that the remedy for the problem involves actual admission of wrongdoing and concrete action taken to atone for past unjust behavior.

Martin Luther King also perceived that, although it is not too late to act, there will be a time when it will be too late. Towards the end of his speech, he declares:
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is the thief of time. [. . . ] 
We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action.

Video link.
Album link.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Privatization vs the gods (and the people)

image: Zeus with Thunderbolt, and eagle. Jean-Pol Grandmont, Wikimedia commons (link).

The world's ancient myths and sacred traditions speak with some clarity regarding the important subject which we usually categorize as "natural resources," declaring them to be the gifts of the gods, to be treated with respect just as the gods and goddesses themselves, who give these gifts to humanity, must be treated with respect.

In his Works and Days, the poet Hesiod of ancient Greece -- a poet of great antiquity who is thought to have lived during the eighth century BC -- advises:
Be careful to avoid the anger of the deathless gods. [ . . . ] (ll. 706).
Never cross the sweet-flowing water of ever-rolling rivers afoot until you have prayed, gazing into the soft flood, and washed your hands in the clear, lovely water. Whoever crosses a river with hands unwashed of wickedness, the gods are angry with him and bring trouble upon him afterwards. (ll. 737 - 741).
This should be sufficient to establish the fact that the ancients saw water -- and specifically "sweet" water (the kind fit for us to drink) -- as belonging to the gods, and as sacred.

Elsewhere, Hesiod displays the same understanding regarding the planted fields: what they produce is clearly seen as given by the gods: "Pray to Zeus of the Earth and to pure Demeter to make Demeter's holy grain sound and heavy, when first you begin ploughing, when you hold in your hand the end of the plough-tail and bring down your stick on the backs of the oxen as they draw on the pole-bar by the yoke-straps" (ll. 465 - 478). 

That passage concerns the acknowledgement of the gods when one first begins to plow -- and later, Hesiod repeats something similar when he describes the time of winnowing the fruits of the harvest, saying that it is time "to winnow Demeter's holy grain, when strong Orion first appears" (ll. 57 - 608).

In both cases, the grain which the land produces is explicitly described as belonging to the goddess Demeter, and as being set apart to her.

Much later, the philosopher Plutarch echoes this sentiment, when he describes the abundance of the crops as the gifts of the same goddess Demeter, and the gift of wine as being given by the god Dionysus, in his essay "On the eating of flesh," saying that to disregard these bounties or to imply that the crops and vineyards cannot satisfy our needs is to slander and shame the gods themselves.

And further evidence to establish this principle can be found in the many ancient sources which attribute all the riches of mineral wealth which are found beneath the earth's surface as belonging properly to the god of the underworld, Hades. This formidable deity so filled men and women with awe that his name was not to be spoken lightly -- and was frequently not spoken at all. Instead, men and women would refer to him by another name, Plouton, a name which itself sounds like the Greek word meaning "wealth" or "riches" and which probably included that reference to the god as the ruler of all that is beneath the earth, including gold, silver, gems, and other forms of sub-surface resources.

I would further assert that the ancient wisdom demonstrates that the sacred myths portray the people themselves in the same light, in that each and every birth of a child was seen as a gift from the gods, and presided over most directly by a specific goddess, the goddess Artemis (in the case of ancient Greece). 

From this fact I would argue that the gifts of the gods in the natural resources of the land (including the sweet water, or the bounty of the lands produce, or the underground mineral wealth, and even the blessings of the sunshine which makes the crops to grow and which ultimately sustains all life) are given as a bounty to all the people whom the gods allow to be born in that land! 

I would further support that assertion with the observation that the world's ancient wisdom in some places quite explicitly demonstrates that the gods and goddesses dwell in and act through individual men and women. We can see this expressed in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead (or the Book of the Coming Forth by Day), as well as in the fact that in the scriptures of ancient India (and other myths around the world), divinities can appear in an instant when a man or woman calls upon them -- which shows that we have an instant connection with the gods available to us at all times, and may in fact be telling us that the gods are present in or with us always.

This clear principle in humanity's ancient wisdom -- that the riches of the earth and the abundance of nature belong to the gods and must be respected as the gifts of the gods, as well as the assertion that these gifts are for all men and women whom the gods allow or cause to be born -- should be kept in mind when we consider the modern question of "privatization," which is the practice of taking the natural resources which the ancient myths clearly show to be the gifts of the gods, and "selling them off" to be the property of some men and women, rather than to all the people of that land.

As if someone can rightfully sell what properly belongs to the gods, and what the gods give to all people!

And yet there are those who wholeheartedly advocate for just such a principle, as if it is far more moral and righteous to take the gifts of nature -- the water supply needed for drinking, the mineral wealth of the earth, and a host of others -- and give them to enrich a favored few, at the expense of the rest of the people, than to see them as the bounty and blessing from the divine realm, for which no individual can take credit.

Here is a link to a host of articles from one such group, arguing that "Privatization has generally led to reduced costs, higher-quality services, and increased innovation in formerly moribund government industries." Some of the articles advocate privatizing virtually all public lands -- including national parks and forests -- and turning them over to the ownership of a few! Note that the very word "privatize" comes from a root that means to "take away" or "restrict" -- as in taking them away from the many for the benefit of the few: the word "deprive" contains the very same root. Other articles on the same page urge the privatization of roads, airports, and the postal service. 

No articles so far seem to explicitly argue for the privatization of the air we breathe -- but if technology were available to allow that, you can probably safely bet that these same authors would get busy penning arguments to convince us that privatizing the air (and no doubt the sunshine) would also lead to "reduced costs" and "higher quality."

The Libertarian Party in the united states propagates the same arguments, declaring in their "2016 platform" that, unlike governments, "Private landowners and conservation groups have a vested interest in maintaining natural resources. Governments are unaccountable for damage done to our environment and have a terrible track record when it comes to environmental protection." 

Apparently, these "vested interests" will somehow motivate those who claim ownership over the natural resources (which by definition are the gifts of nature) to not abuse their privileged access to those resources, or set up excessive toll booths for those who have been declared to not have such ownership. Once again, I would guess that if we could find a way to enable air and sunshine to be purchased and administered by these benevolent groups, that would greatly improve the situation in the opinion of these thinkers.

The same Libertarian Party platform also declares its unqualified support of "the removal of governmental impediments to free trade" and the "unrestricted movement of human as well as financial capital across national borders" -- which is draped in the language of freedom from tyranny, but which anyone with a passing familiarity with economics or with the history of the past 150 years should also be able to interpret as meaning unqualified support for the unrestricted access by trans-national corporations to the natural resources of any other country on our planet, regardless of the desire of the people of that country to use the blessings bestowed by the gods on their land (in the form of mineral wealth, drinking water, forests, etc) for the benefit of all the people in that land, rather than for the benefit of the trans-national corporations alone.

Below is a screen-shot of some of those positions (in case the 2016 platform that is up on their site now is later taken down):

The Libertarian arguments are seductive and attractive in the way that they are phrased, expressing concern for individual rights, but they are deliberately phrased in ways that evoke a mental image of a virtuous family pumping water at a hand-pump without being molested by an evil government, but they ignore the reality of the modern situation in which corporations are actively buying pieces of property and then building massive pumps to drain the entire aquifer underneath everyone else, which is in fact going on today, wherever there are good aquifers and wherever governments are not motivated or empowered to stop such draining by the few of the gifts of the gods which are intended for all the people.

Professor Michael J. Hudson, one of the most forceful and articulate defenders of the need for protection of the public domain from privatization, eloquently details the damaging features of privatization in an extremely insightful interview recorded back in February of 2004, which Standard Shaefer for Counterpunch. In that article, he discusses the problems with privatization in general, but focuses most especially on the privatization of "the airwaves" (aka the electromagnetic spectrum -- which I would argue would probably have been seen as belonging to the god Zeus, in ancient Greece).

Entitled "How privatization sterilizes culture," this interview features Professor Hudson's arguments that the airwaves properly belong to the public domain (they are a natural resource) and should not be sold off to unrestricted commercialization -- because doing so debases journalism, culture, and ultimately even conversation and thought.

This interview was recorded before the incredible revolution in mobile connected devices (three years before the very first iPhone was released, in 2007, for example), and before the popularity of sites such as Facebook. His arguments seem even more prescient today, when many people in fact get much of their news from Facebook -- a thoroughly commercialized platform and one that exemplifies many of the debasing aspects that Professor Hudson is describing.

Here are some selected quotations from Michael Hudson during this interview from 2004. Beginning with a portion discussing land grants to railroads in the united states during the 1800s (based upon the same kinds of arguments put forth by advocates of privatization today), Professor Hudson says:

The land grants were supposed to enable the railroads to provide transportation and freight services so that the government would not have to undertake, plan and pay them. But the cost of privatization ended up involving a giveaway to insiders who gained control of the economy's commanding heights, much like Yeltsin's kleptocrats did in the 1990s in Russia. 
The land grants made the railroads the nation's largest real estate companies. Their financial managers were interested in supplying transportation only to the extent that it helped increase the value of their stocks and bonds, which dominated securities markets by the late 19th century. [ . . . ] A parallel development has occurred with the broadcasting companies, which have all but abandoned the public-interest dimension of the bargain originally envisioned in the 1920s. The difference is that they have not yet officially bought their frequencies, but are still nominally leasing them from the government for merely nominal sums, much like mining companies and paper companies lease mineral, oil and timber lands out west. [ . . . ]
Like the railroad land grants, most of the media deals for positions on the radio and TV dial were insider arrangements. This is a common denominator of privatization in almost every country throughout history. [ . . . ]
Governments are supposed to determine the public interest and defend it. Their sovereign duty is to protect their citizens against the private appropriation of the public domain -- essentially, opportunities for rent extraction -- to be taken over. This problem becomes especially important in view of the fact that the financial sector's objective is to disable the government's sovereign power and its threat of regulation.
The effect is to derail economic growth into rent-taking.
This is the financial sector's own path of least resistance to appropriate [i.e. "take"] resources whose revenue can be converted into interest payments. It is what makes finically controlled policy-making so destructive.
Finance is inherently rent-seeking. It searches out all the areas of the economy that can siphon off the fruits of economic growth as a monopoly charge. These are the best opportunities for lending money, because so many buyers want to obtain rent-yielding resources because their price rises as population and prosperity grow. Land is the prime rent-yielding asset, because all real estate needs a land site. Tat is why 70 percent of bank lending in the United States and Britain take the form of mortgage loans. Most of the remaining bank loans are for rental sites or monopoly positions of one form or another. This explain's the financial sector's interest in lobbying for their privatization. The air waves are a prime example. 
The effect on culture -- on TV and radio -- is indirect, but major. Under privatization these sites will be sold to the highest bidders. And the highest bidders are those who will rent these sites for commercials or for mass-market media. Noncommercial culture cannot compete on price, because it is not selling anything. So it is outbid. In fact, the aim of culture throughout the ages has been to minimize personal self-indulgence and to promote altruism, just the opposite personality characteristics promoted by the commercial media. Society loses culture, and gets nuisance value of commercials instead.
Somebody needs to write a new history of how the great American fortunes of the 20th century were formed. You would find that they came largely from insiders grabbing rent-yielding activities from the public domain. 
Economic rent is a kind of super-profit. It is best thought of not as profits that are earned by producing output, but are a free ride simply from charging more for natural monopolies. Finance has promoted privatization and provided loans to buyers, recognizing that this is its major market, after real estate mortgage lending. [ . . . ] So the financial lobby has backed the monopolies in urging deregulation of the checks and balances put in place from Teddy Roosevelt to Franklin Roosevelt during the first three decades of the 20th century. The more monopoly rent can be extracted (or real estate rent, for that matter) the more revenue can be pledged as interest to creditors putting up the money to buy these assets. 
[ . . . ]
Banks and brokerage underwriters have long seen that privatization creates a market for buying public enterprises and assets to be financed on credit.
[ . . . ]
Privatizing the airwaves has decoupled broadcasting from traditional culture and its educational functions, promoting cultural values that are opposite from those traditionally held. The object of TV and radio programs is to serve as a vehicle to attract an audience to commercials. [Note that the same can be said of sites such as Facebook today, but not just to sell ads -- also to collect data on the audience and sell that as well]. This is achieved more by absorbing attention than by engaging the mind. The cultural effect of this media and data overload is a spread of Attention Deficit Disorder. This particular form of alienation is a thus a byproduct of privatization. [. . .]
At the end of this process, monopolists such as Microsoft's Bill Gates head the list of "most admired men," along with Donald Trump and even Citibank's Sandy Weil [remember, this interview was recorded in 2004!]. I guess Enron's Ken Lay used to be on this list. Even more confusing, they are admired as industrialists, not as exploiters whose main achievement was to get something for nothing. 
[ . . . ]
This is just the inverse of what culture traditionally promoted. The function of culture traditionally has been to deal with the most important spheres of life [ . . . ]. It dealt with basic socialization issues to shape personality, and specifically to promote altruism. That is why so much art was linked to religion. Instead of seeing a moral, active personality actuating itself through labor, the mass consumer personality is that of passive conformity and escapism. Today's mass consumer culture encourages consumption and narcissism and promotes self-indulgence. There is a tendency to dumb down culture to the most common denominator in order to turn audiences into extroverted brand-name consumers.
These are amazing insights into the impact of privatization in just one (albeit extremely important) arena -- and its detrimental influence on culture and discourse. This process obviously did not begin in the twentieth century, or with the "airwaves." In fact, much of Professor Hudson's work details the way that the "classical economists," beginning in the seventeenth century, were trying to undo the arrangement of the so-called nobility of Europe, who had long ago created the same kinds of "privatization" or monopolization of the gifts of the gods (primarily over the land and the produce of the fields). 

As Professor Hudson shows, the progress made by the classical economists from the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century eventually sparked a major backlash by the interests who didn't want to see their monopolies ended. The campaign to paint "privatization" as moral and ethical (rather than as a deprivation by a few of what rightfully belongs to the gods, and is given by them for the benefit of all the people) is a manifestation of that counterattack.

As discussed in the previous post entitled "Collaborators against the gods" (and in my 2014 book, The Undying Stars), this campaign against the gods has been going on for a long time.

It is dismaying to see so many of those in the non-corporate media (including podcasts) and those listeners and readers and thinkers who are aware of the level of manipulation taking place in the corporate media and in world events around us embracing "libertarian" (or anarchist, or voluntarist) agendas. It is understandable that some people might explore those philosophies as a rejection of and reaction against many of the ills brought about by the kind of degradation of culture that Professor Hudson describes above. In fact, I myself was attracted to libertarian and voluntarist rhetoric for some time (if you search this blog, you might find some evidence for that in years past). 

However, as Professor Hudson's arguments in the above 2004 interview (and even more forcefully elsewhere) should make perfectly clear, the so-called "libertarian" position is an abdication of our responsibility to demand democratic government that prevents the kinds of kleptocracies in which the birthright of the people is wrongly and fraudulently "sold" (or given away) to benefit the few (all the while telling the people that it is for their own good that this happen). This is the main responsibility of government by the people -- and only government (held accountable by the people) is strong enough to stop the kinds of machinations that will be employed to try to grab natural resources such as the land's mineral wealth, or monopoly access to swaths of the electromagnetic spectrum, or the life-giving water upon which all people and animals and plants depend.

Ultimately, the libertarian (and all other "pro-privatization") philosophy is not moral at all, no matter how much it drapes itself in words like "liberty" and "freedom" and "prevention of tyranny," because it advocates the giving away (or the selling for a mess of pottage) the birthright of the people (in whom the gods dwell), which cannot be rightfully given away, or owned by the few. The land and the water and the electromagnetic spectrum belong to the gods -- to Zeus and to Plouton and to Demeter and to Dionysus, whose names may change from one to another culture, but whose reality does not change. 

They cannot be sold, or "privatized."

image: Persephone and Hades, Wikimedia commons (link).

"Be careful to avoid the anger of the deathless gods."

 -- Hesiod