Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sun enters the Sign of the Lion

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

We're now traveling along our earthly orbit around our central star to the point where a month has elapsed since the point of the June solstice, such that we are entering the period of the year designated as the sign of Leo the Lion.

For those who wonder if the motion of precession, which inexorably "delays" the background of stars as the successive ages roll past, means that this period no longer corresponds to the characteristics anciently associated with the month governed by the sign of the Lion, the answer is "no" according to the analysis presented by Thomas Burgoyne (1855 - 1894) in the first chapter of the second volume of his two-volume Light of Egypt (1889), which argues that it is not the actual background stars which create the conditions and influences which correspond to any particular portion of the year but rather the angle of the sun's light which is a product of the relationship between the earth (and earth's axial tilt) and the sun at any given time of the year.

He explains that "the sunrise on the first of March is wholly different from the sunrise on the first of May" and that "it is the angle at which we, the inhabitants, receive the Sun's light that makes all the difference," and that just as this angle of incoming sunlight changes throughout each day as our globe rotates (changing the angle at which we receive the solar rays from sunrise to noon to sunset), so also it is the changing angle of incoming solar radiation throughout the year which creates the different characteristics of each zodiacal "sign," and not the particular background constellation which might be present from one age to the next.*

Thus, even though precession has delayed the background of stars since the Age of Aries (when Leo was the constellation in which the sun was located during this part of the year), it is still appropriate to refer to the period beginning around July 22 or 23 and lasting until about August 22 or 23 as the period corresponding to the sign of Leo, and to understand that the characteristics particular to this part of our annual journey have not changed. 

In his lectures on the celestial foundations of the ancient scriptures collected into what has come to be known as the Bible, the Reverend Robert Taylor of England (1784 - 1844) demonstrates that many of the descriptions of deity correspond to the Sun's movement through the different constellations of the zodiac band. 

For example, in a lecture on the identity of the Apostle Peter delivered on February 20, 1831, he argues that the verse which declares that "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head" (found in Matthew 8: 20 and Luke 9:58) indicates that while the twelve Apostles all have houses, the Christ moves through each house without ever making one of them his permanent home (see Devil's Pulpit, page 148).

Elsewhere, Taylor argues that different aspects ascribed to deity contain explicit references to the characteristics of the different signs of the zodiac, including the "everlasting arms" of the sign of Cancer the Crab (the sign which commences with the highest point of the year, at the summer solstice), which Taylor discusses in a sermon found in Astronomico-theological Lectures, pages 262 - 263, or the vision of the Four Creatures in the Prophecy of Ezekiel, which Taylor mentions in the same sermon, on pages 263 through 268 and which I examine in great detail in previous posts such as this one, this one and this one, as well as in my 2016 book Star Myths of the World, Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible).

Intriguingly, Taylor argues that the motion of the Sun through the sign of Leo the Lion, corresponding to the hottest time of the year and the time in which the Sun's path through the sky can still be said to be the highest path that it takes throughout the year helps us to understand aspects of the Most High, and that the very word "Lion" itself comes from ancient roots which evoke this concept. 

Taylor argues on page 261 that the word ON itself is an ancient name of the Sun. Note that the ancient Egyptian city of Heliopolis (the City of the Sun) was known as ON to the ancient Egyptians themselves (a word which also may have been pronounced AWAN). Taylor argues that this word may be the origin of our word "One" (also found in his discussion on page 261), as well as the word Aion or Eon, signifying a tremendously long Age, or by extension the concept of Eternity and the Eternal.

To this word was added another word for deity, El (and note that the name of another ancient solar god, Helios, is closely related to this same sound -- and may well be the origin of our common greeting "Hello"). Combining the divine names EL and ON or EON would give the origin of the ancient word for Lion (which in Greek is a very similar word, sounding like "leon," which comes down into modern English with very little change).  

Taylor asserts: 
To the Amonian title ON, or EON, was frequently added the universal name of God, El, and the compound word EL-EON signifying God Eternal, or the Eternal God; and also the name of the noblest of animals, the LION. The Lion was transferred to the highest domicile of the Zodiac, and became the type of the Sun, being then most high: the Sun in July, as having attained his highest altitude and splendor. 262
One need not necessarily agree with every assertion or argument that Robert Taylor put forth in his lectures (and I myself do not agree with him on numerous points) to perceive the significance of his larger thesis, which is that the ancient scriptures of what we call the Bible are in fact elucidating eternal truths using celestial metaphor, and that they employ the majestic and everlasting cycles of the heavens to convey to our understanding powerful concepts regarding the Invisible Realm to which we actually have access at all times.

By ignoring the undeniable fact that the Bible is built on celestial metaphor (as are all the world's other ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories), those who insist on interpreting them literally risk grievously distorting their message, and at the same time argue that the Biblical scriptures are somehow different from all the other sacred wisdom imparted in the form of myth to the cultures on every other part of our globe, on every inhabited continent and island.

In doing so, those insisting on literalizing the ancient scriptures also tend inevitably toward externalizing their message (because, almost by definition, if the ancient stories are describing literal, terrestrial history then they are describing things that pertain to other people, rather than dramatizing truths which pertain to each and every man and woman who has ever lived and to each and every man and woman alive today).

It is for this reason that Alvin Boyd Kuhn, in his 1940 masterpiece Lost Light, asserts that the ancient wisdom did not "leave out" or deny the existence of the Eternal, but that "it had the discretion to leave it alone!" He argues that the ancient teachers point us towards "contact with a god dwelling immediately within the human breast. No reaching after the moon of the Absolute diverted conscious purpose from actual touch with the god who stood at one's elbow" (45 - 46). 

This focus, Kuhn argues, implies no disrespect for the Absolute -- but instead urges "recognition of deity at the point where it was most accessible. The real heresy and apostasy," he asserts, "is to miss deity where it is to be had in the blind effort to seek it where it is not available" (46). 

With this perspective in mind, have a look at this article on "the Lion's Gaze" published by researcher and teacher Richard Cassaro, who has documented startling correspondences in architecture and symbology found in ancient monuments around the world -- correspondences which demolish the conventional historical paradigm which refuses to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence pointing to the existence of an ancient predecessor culture whose influence can be seen even in the earliest art and mythology of the most ancient civilizations known to us at this time.

In that 2015 article, Richard Cassaro points to an ancient parable, which is related in writings attributed to the 11th century Tibetan yogi Milarepa, which teaches that a dog chases a stick one throws, but a lion instead chases the thrower of the stick!

The meaning, as Richard elucidates in his exposition of the parable, is that like the lion we should not waste our effort chasing after that which is external (exemplified by the dog chasing after a stick) but rather that we should turn our attention to the heart of the issue -- which is to be found within ourselves and not in any external distraction.

In doing so, we ourselves can begin to manifest the characteristics associated with the Lion: majesty and dignity (attributes that cannot be approached by chasing after sticks, even if we dutifully retrieve thousands of sticks thrown for us). 

This is a very powerful teaching indeed, and one which we can profitably practice at any season of the year -- but perhaps most especially during this season of the Lion.


Note, of course, that just because I agree with Thomas Burgoyne's arguments on this particular point does not mean that I endorse everything else that he asserts in his encyclopedic Light of Egypt texts from 1889, or everything else that he ever wrote in other places.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Happy Birthday to George Clinton!

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Happy birthday to inspired Funk messenger, songwriter, producer, and creative genius George Clinton! born this day -- July 22 -- in 1941.

The music of Parliament and Funkadelic continues to testify -- for nearly fifty years and still going strong -- to liberation over repression, truth over the syndrome, and the irresistible unstoppable power of funky music. 

And, at the heart of the message of Funk is that you already have a connection to the Funk deep inside you -- you just have to get in touch with it and let it come out, in a world that does everything it can to get you to "fake the funk" instead (or to "trade your Funk for what's behind the third door").

"Ride On" (1975) proclaims: "It ain't what you know -- it's what you feel: Don't worry about being right -- just be for real."
"Flash Light" (1977) proclaims: "Most of all he needs the Funk: help him find the Funk," and "Everybody's got a little light, Under the Sun, Under the Sun, Under the Sun." 
"Deep" (1978) proclaims: "Everybody is deep! Everybody is deep!"
George Clinton's genius uses music to convey this vital message -- but he doesn't stop there: his genius is also to use drama (including memorable funky and un-funky characters, conflicts, and humorous dialogue) to play it out before our eyes (or in our mind's eye).

Below is an incredible twenty-eight minute version of "Flash Light" (complete with inspired musicianship) in which George Clinton leads and coordinates the action -- and in which Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk finds his inner Funk (with the help of the Bop Gun):

So wherever you are, raise a toast to George Clinton ("I'll toast to that! I'll toast to that! We'll Funk to that! Bottoms up!")  --

Happy birthday, Dr. Funkenstein! Keep on spreading your funky message to the world!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

How John Carter and others travel to Mars . . .

At least according to the accounts recorded by John Carter and Ulysses Paxton, the way you transport yourself to the realm of Barsoom involves:
  • Invoking the gods (in this case, the god associated with the planet Mars)
  • Stretching both arms towards Mars when you see the planet rising above the horizon, and
  • Earnestly desiring to be translated across the great void to the Red Planet.
Growing up, I read and re-read every single one of the books in the Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1875 - 1950).

The first book in that series was originally published in serial form (as a six-part serial) under the title "Under the Moons of Mars," in All-Story Magazine, running from February through July in the year 1912.

This six-part series was later published as a book in October of 1917, just over a hundred years ago. That first book was entitled A Princess of Mars.

Turning through the pages of that series now, there are certainly aspects of the writing which would seem on their surface to be racist, or at least obsessed with different races (both on Earth and on Mars), although giving Burroughs a closer reading and accounting for the fact that he was writing in the early 1900s, it turns out that his works consistently depict virtues such as courage, self-control, opposition to tyranny and devotion to duty as constituting a sort of universal ethos and bond that crosses boundaries of race, sex, or even species -- such that those who display these characteristics readily accept and admire one another, in contrast to those who display the opposite set of values, regardless of outward appearance or cultural origin. 

Additionally, the theme and plot of many of the stories involves the unmasking of notions of racial superiority as fraudulent and hypocritical (often bolstered by various forms of religious superstition and manipulation as well). Furthermore, in a later and shorter series of books which has as its setting the planet Venus (and which were written during the 1930s), the villains in at least one of the books are known as "Zanis" and bear a thinly-disguised resemblance to the Nazis who were then coming to power in Germany, revealing the low regard with which Burroughs viewed such ideologies. 

The technologies described in the tales of Barsoom are quite extraordinary, especially for the years in which they were written, when radio communication, aerial flight, and even automobiles were all in their infancy -- and should earn Burroughs a significant amount of respect for the way in which many of the concepts he describes anticipate developments that would become reality many decades later. Throughout the stories, the dangers inherent in excessive devotion to technology, and especially when divorced from a sense of responsibility towards the rights and dignity of others, are explored with an insight that remains extremely relevant to this day, a hundred years later.

According to the author, the stories themselves are not actually novels, but rather the published accounts from manuscripts which were given to him by those who had managed to cross the vast gulf of space through a kind of out-of-body travel or OBE. 

The first of these, from John Carter, describes how he was fleeing from a party of Apaches and sought refuge in an Arizona cave, where unexpectedly "I commenced to feel a pleasant drowsiness creeping over me which I attributed to the fatigue of my long and strenuous ride, and the reaction from the excitement of the fight and the pursuit" (7). Sometime during the night, he regained consciousness, but found that he was unable to move a muscle -- and then with a superhuman effort he wrests himself free from his body and finds himself looking down upon "my own body as it had been lying all these hours, with the eyes staring toward the open ledge and the hands resting limply upon the ground" (10). 

Able to move about (outside of his own body), he goes to the edge of the cave, and describes the night sky and a glorious planet shining above the horizon with a brilliance that is quite uncanny:
Few western wonders are more inspiring than the beauties of an Arizona moonlit landscape; the silvered mountains in the distance, the strange lights and shadows upon hog back and arroyo, and the grotesque details of the stiff, yet beautiful cacti form a picture at once enchanting and inspiring; as though one were catching for the first time a glimpse of some dead and forgotten world, so different is it from the aspect of any other spot upon our earth.
As I stood thus meditating, I turned my gaze from the landscape to the heavens where the myriad stars formed a gorgeous and fitting canopy for the wonders of the earthly scene. My attention was quickly riveted by a large red star close to the distant horizon. As I gazed upon it I felt a spell of overpowering fascination -- it was Mars, the god of war, and for me, the fighting man, it had always held the power of irresistible enchantment. As I gazed at it on that far-gone night it seemed to call across the unthinkable void, to lure me to it, to draw me as the lodestone attracts a particle of iron.
My longing was beyond the power of opposition. I closed my eyes, stretched out my arms toward the god of my vocation and felt myself drawn with the suddenness of thought through the trackless immensity of space. There was an instant of cold and utter darkness.
I opened my eyes upon a strange and weird landscape. I knew that I was on Mars [ . . . ]. 11 - 12.
Although A Princess of Mars was the first of the Barsoom series, it was not the first one that I read (it was the second). The first one I ever read, which introduced me to the series, was A Mastermind of Mars (first published in 1927), which remains one of the best and one of my favorites (although there are a couple others which became my all-time favorites).

In that account, ostensibly from a manuscript sent to Burroughs in 1925 from Ulysses Paxton, Late Captain, --th Infantry, US Army, a similar method of crossing the vastness of space between the ordinary world and the landscape of Mars is described. In a letter prefacing the full story, Ulysses Paxton (later to be known as Vad Varo on Barsoom), explains that, among the filth and the mud of the trenches in the First World War, there came at last to him "what had come to so many others upon those bloody fields," and after advancing with a small detachment, he had received orders to fall back to the new line:
That is the last I remember until I regained consciousness after dark. A shell must have burst among us. [ . . . ] For some reason I was not bleeding excessively, yet I know I had lost a great deal of blood, enough to put me out of my misery in a short time if I were not soon found [ . . . ]. Then my eyes suddenly focused upon the bright red eye of Mars and there surged through me a sudden wave of hope.  I stretched out my arms toward Mars, I did not seem to question or to doubt for an instant as I prayed to the god of my vocation to reach forth and succor me. I knew that he would do it, my faith was complete [ . . . ] Suddenly I felt myself drawn with the speed of thought through the trackless wastes of interplanetary space. There was an instant of extreme cold and utter darkness, then --
[ . . . ] I must have closed my eyes involuntarily during the transition for when I opened them I was lying flat on my back gazing up into the brilliant, sun-lit sky [ . . . ] 360 - 363.
Of course, some may have their doubts as to whether these stories are actually manuscripts from those who had managed to leap across the void of space to another world, or whether they are in fact fantasy novels. Nevertheless, some interesting principles are displayed in both of these passages, which make them worthy of at least passing comment: 
  • First, the gods respond in an instant when called upon, which is actually a characteristic attested to in myths and scriptures stretching back to the Sanskrit texts of ancient India, as discussed in previous posts such as this one (the god Thor from the ancient Norse myths displays the same characteristic of appearing whenever called upon in urgent need, as discussed in that same post).
  • Second, the invisible powers of the Other Realm are made visible to us when we contemplate the infinite heavens over our heads, as described in each of these passages.
  • And finally, in each case, a close reading of the texts (not all of which are cited in the above quotations) will reveal that what the narrator needs is actually already present, deep inside of them. This is one of the most central and important of the messages contained in the ancient wisdom given to all the different cultures around the world: the answer is already in our grasp, and is contained within.
The heavenly cycles have once again brought the planet Mars "close to the distant horizon," as described by John Carter in that very first installment of the Barsoom series, first printed in February of 1912. Indeed, the Red Planet is so brilliant and so dominant as it rises in the east during the hours after sunset and before midnight that it looks close enough to reach out (with both arms) and effect a transmigration across the "trackless immensity of space," if one so desired.

But whether, like John Carter and Ulysses Paxton, your wish is to leave the confines of Jasoom and bound across the landscape of Mars, or whether you have other flights of desire which are to you more urgent, I would suggest that you keep in mind the lessons revealed in the passages cited above -- particularly the final and most important point, that the solution is already available within, and that the gods (throughout all the ancient epics and poems) bring about the desired result through the very  actions and inner resources of the one who calls upon them in the first place.

These would be worthy concepts to think about, while gazing at the brilliant Red Planet in the night sky, shining with a light that is brighter than I ever remember seeing it display before.


Below is an illustration from the frontispiece of the 1962 Dover edition of Three Martian Novels cited above for the passage from Chessmen of Mars (I had this edition as a child, as well as others). This illustration is by James Allen St. John (1872 - 1957) and accompanied the original 1920 publication of Thuvia, Maid of Mars (also included in that Dover edition). It is accompanied by the following quotation from the text: "As the great that and his rider hurtled past, Carthoris swung his long-sword in a mighty cut."

The peerless illustrations of Frank Frazetta included in my 1970 hardbound edition of A Princess of Mars (from which the first quotation above was cited) are unfortunately not available on Wikimedia commons in the public domain, so I have included a pencil drawing of my own (at top) which I did in the 1980s of one of the amazing Frazetta illustrations in that edition, entitled "Scarcely had his hideous laugh rung out when I was upon him . . . " (and found on page 55 of the 1970 Doubleday hardback). You can find various websites showing the actual artwork of Frank Frazetta (1928 - 2010) on the web.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Venus, Jupiter, Saturn, and an amazing planet Mars now visible!

I hope that you had the opportunity to go outside to view the very New crescent of the Moon in person this evening. It is always worthwhile to try to go outside to view the thin crescent of the New Moon if it is at all possible to do so.

Presently, all five of our visible planets can be seen in the evening sky, although not all at the same time. Mercury is the most difficult of the visible planets to spot at most times, because it orbits closest to the Sun and thus an observer on our planet must look towards the Sun in order to see Mercury -- just after sunset if Mercury is "trailing" the Sun from our perspective (after the Sun goes down, we can see Mercury before it too sets behind the western horizon) or else shortly before sunrise if Mercury is "leading" the Sun from our perspective (while the Sun is still below the horizon). This week, Mercury is trailing the Sun, so if you can get a good view of the western horizon, you might be able to see Mercury.

However, the other four visible planets are all very easy to locate right now, if you know where to look. 

The dazzling planet Venus dominates the western sky as the twilight deepens. Venus is unmistakeable in the west right now. The planet gives off a warm golden glow and is extremely bright. This evening as the thin crescent of the Moon sank towards the western horizon, Venus could be seen trailing the Moon along the same angle that the Moon is following the Sun (generally along the ecliptic path). Tomorrow night (July 15) the Moon will be almost on top of Venus, and the night after that (July 16) the Moon will be behind Venus along the same line. 

Below is a photograph I took this evening of Venus and the Moon with a simple phone camera, in order to show the relative positioning and the path of the ecliptic -- this photo doesn't do justice at all to the breathtaking sight in "real life" (in which the thin crescent of the New Moon appeared huge as it sank towards the horizon, and picked up its own deep golden color, almost orange-gold, with the rest of the black disc of the Moon also visible within the horns of the crescent):

In person, the thin crescent of the Moon looked much thinner, and much larger (almost as large as a silver dollar held at arm's length, and illuminated just along the edge facing towards the Sun which had already set). A better camera could have done a better job of capturing the view -- but no camera can really equal the experience of seeing the heavenly bodies "in person," so if you can do so it is always worthwhile to go out to a relatively dark location and do some skywatching for yourself.

Below is a star-chart showing the view to the west as it will appear on the evening of July 16, when the Moon will be a little higher in the sky (further east) and the crescent will not be as thin. Each night, the Moon's crescent will grow fuller, and the Moon will be higher, as we move towards Full Moon in a couple weeks -- thus the next few nights will offer the best opportunities to view the stars and planets until after Full Moon again.

In the star-chart above, looking south and west, I've labeled the constellations which you're most likely to be able to observe and identify (depending on your latitude). Note that Venus is passing through the constellation Leo the Lion at present. Behind Leo is the outline of the constellation Virgo, with her brightest star Spica appearing to be located on one hip. You may still be able to find Corvus the Crow, who always appears to be looking eagerly at the jewel-like star Spica in Virgo (see this and this previous post).

Further east from Virgo, you should have no difficulty identifying the planet Jupiter, crossing the middle of the sky as one faces south (for an observer in the northern hemisphere). This recent post discusses Jupiter's present location near one of the "corners" of the triangular upper beam of the Balances of Libra. You can see Jupiter's position indicated in both of the above star-charts (the one immediately above, and the chart at the very top of this post).

If you have not yet done so, it is a very worthwhile exercise to trace out the stars of the constellation Libra, as described in the post linked in the previous paragraph. Libra is not always the easiest zodiac constellation to identify -- but with Jupiter located in its current very helpful location, Libra becomes much easier to trace.

Close behind Libra you will see the brilliant sinuous form of the mighty Scorpion, rising up to dominate the center of the southern sky (for viewers in the northern hemisphere -- viewers in the southern hemisphere must of course look towards the north in order to see the zodiac constellations). See the star-chart at the very top of this post for a wide-angle view showing the entire outline of Scorpio. If you have never previously done so (or even if you have), now is also one of the best times of year to locate the Cat's Eyes, near the very end of the Scorpion's barbed tail (see this previous post for some tips on locating the Cat's Eyes). I've drawn a pointer to the Cat's Eyes in the star-chart below as well.

Following the constellation of Scorpio from east to west across the sky in the zodiac band is the constellation Sagittarius. The thickest and brightest part of the Milky Way galaxy rises up between Sagittarius and Scorpio. You can see the Galaxy in the star-chart at the top of this post. You should also be able to see both of the "great birds" of the Milky Way -- Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan, as well as the delightful little constellation Delphinus the Dolphin, which is "swimming" just below (east of) the Milky Way column, in between Aquila and Cygnus. 

The planet Saturn is also very easy to locate in the sky right now, if you can locate Sagittarius (which follows Scorpio). The brightest stars of Sagittarius make an outline which is commonly referred to as the "Teapot," because it very much resembles a teapot. See this previous post for some discussion, and see also the star-charts further down in this post from 2015. The planet Saturn is presently located straight above the highest point (or "peak") of the Teapot outline in Sagittarius (from the perspective of an observer in the northern hemisphere):

In the above star-chart, you can see the outline of the Teapot, and above the peak at the top (or "lid") of the Teapot you can see the planet Saturn. Saturn is farther away from us than is Jupiter, and the planet is much smaller to the naked eye than is Jupiter. It is also a duller yellow color than brilliant yellow Jupiter.

Finally, the planet Mars is presently traveling through the constellation Capricorn, which follows Sagittarius (and is visible in the star-chart above). You should have absolutely no trouble at all in locating Mars in the night sky, if you go outside in person: Mars is absolutely brilliant this month, the brightest and largest I have ever seen this planet. 

Mars begins to rise above the horizon by about 8:30 pm (depending upon your latitude and the geography of the terrain to the east of your location). By about 10 pm the planet should be visible in the east, and by midnight it dominates the eastern sky. 

Both Mars and Saturn are currently in retrograde. For discussion of retrograde motion, see two posts published during a period of Mars retrograde in the year 2012, here and here.

Here are a couple previous posts discussing ancient Star Myths which appear to incorporate the motion of the planet Mars through various specific constellations (in this case, Aquarius and possibly Virgo):  "In a brazen cauldron (thirteen months)" and "A connection between the book of Ezekiel and the Iliad, via the planet Mars." 

The constellation Capricorn (through which Mars is presently traveling) is actually a very large constellation, but composed of fairly dim stars. The easiest parts of the constellation to locate are the constellation's "bob-tail" and "goat-horns." The bob-tail of Capricorn is presently fairly easy to see, above and to the right of brilliant Mars. Below is the same chart as that shown just above, but this time with the outline of Capricorn added:

You may notice that in the above star-chart, I have not used the usual outlines from H. A. Rey (whose constellation-outlining system is essential and the system which I use for almost all constellations).  The reason I usually draw Scorpio with "multiple heads" instead of with "pincers" as outlined by Rey is that the ancient myths of the world often envision Scorpio as a being having multiple heads -- sometimes three, sometimes seven, sometimes eight or nine, and sometimes even as many as fifty!

The reason I use a slightly different outline for Capricorn from that suggested by H. A. Rey is that the "two triangles" outline of the Goat as shown in the above star-chart makes it easier to spot Capricorn in the night sky when you are looking for the constellation "in person." Also, there seems to be very good evidence that this "two triangles" outline for Capricorn has been included in esoteric artwork for centuries. See for example the illustrations and discussion surrounding Capricorn in this previous post on the identity of the disciple Thomas, better known as "Doubting Thomas."

I hope you will have the opportunity to go outside at night and observe in person the planets Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars, and to contemplate the significance of these planets (and constellations) in the ancient wisdom entrusted to humanity in the form of the Star Myths preserved in the myths, scriptures and sacred stories of the different cultures on all the different continents and islands of our own planet. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Ballgames, Goals, and the Great Celestial Cycles

If you've been enjoying the World Cup soccer games (or, as most other countries call it, "football"), it may interest you to know that games involving the putting of a ball through a goal have a history which stretches back for thousands of years, and that they appear to have been connected to the awe-inspiring celestial cycles which form the foundation for the ancient wisdom imparted to the various cultures on every continent and island of our planet.

In this previous blog post, published on December 21 of 2011 and entitled "The staggering implications of the Maya Long Count," I linked to an article published in 2001 by John Major Jenkins entitled "Izapan Cosmos: A brief survey of Izapan iconography and astronomy in the Group F ballcourt."

John Major Jenkins was one of the most prolific researchers and authors on the celestial significance of the Maya Long Count, before his untimely death in 2017. In his books, and in the article linked above, he offers analysis which demonstrates that the alignment and iconography of the  ancient Maya monuments at Izapa, in the southernmost part of modern-day Mexico, incorporate solstitial alignments and artwork which suggests that the Maya Long Count pointed towards the era when the Milky Way would align with the horizon on the morning of the December solstice and the "rebirth of the year."

Not only does the December solstice signify the rebirth of the year, previous posts have provided extensive discussion arguing that the celestial metaphors employed by the world's ancient wisdom invest this great "turning-point" with profound spiritual significance -- see for example "Here it has reached the turning-point: the celestial map of the soul's spiritual trek." 

As John Major Jenkins explains in the articles and books linked above, the significance of the countdown to 2012 involved the additional celestial cycle of precession, a phenomenon which slowly but irresistibly "delays" the background of stars such that over long periods of time, the background of the heavens, including all the stars and constellations, will be slightly "delayed" from their accustomed positions on any given day of the year -- including the significant point of winter solstice. The turning of the great gears of precession is so slow that the background of stars will only be delayed by a single degree of angular distance after seventy-two years.

Previous posts which explain this phenomenon in greater detail include "Precession = The Key" and "If you were born in 1940 . . . "

The delaying motion of precession is most evident over periods of thousands of years. Thus, in the image at the top of this post, the moment of sunrise on December 21 (the winter solstice) is depicted for the years 2100 BC, 200 BC, and AD 2012. As you can see from the images, the constellations -- and the brilliant band of the Milky Way galaxy -- are delayed over the course of thousands of years, such that they are lower in the sky at the moment of winter solstice sunrise as the millennia roll onward, due to the motion of precession.

In the top image, showing the stars and constellations (as well as the Milky Way band) at sunrise on December 21 of 2100 BC, we can see that the Milky Way band has already risen well into the sky by the time the sun begins to peek over the eastern horizon:

In the image above, depicting the sunrise on December 21 in the year 2100 BC, we see the sun just cresting the horizon, in the constellation of Capricorn.

Nearly 2000 years later, in the year 200 BC, we see that the motion of precession has "delayed" the background of stars, such that the Milky Way has not risen as far above the horizon as it had on the same morning of winter solstice in the year 2100 BC:

Note how much lower the Milky Way is relative to the horizon and the sun's position cresting the horizon in the year 200 BC on the winter solstice, as shown above. The sun is now nearing the constellation Sagittarius at winter solstice, and Capricorn is still well below the horizon (because the entire background of stars has been "delayed" by the motion of precession).

As John Major Jenkins explains in the article linked above, the Maya site of Izapa in the region of modern-day Chiapas was most active between the years we designate as 300 BC and AD 50 -- thus the scene above showing the sunrise on the morning of December 21 in the year 200 BC is very similar to what would be seen at Izapa on during its heyday (although the star chart above depicts the sky as seen by an observer in a more northern latitude).

After more than 2000 years of continued "delay" due to the phenomenon of precession, the Milky Way will be "held back" to the point that at the time of winter solstice in 2012 (and for many centuries thereafter), the sun's rising on the significant morning of December solstice -- the point of "rebirth" and of "spiritual birth" as explained in some of the articles linked above -- will actually be within the brightest and widest portion of the Milky Way, as depicted in the star-chart below for December 21, 2012:

Observe that the "delaying motion" of precession has now "held back" the Milky Way band such that it is basically lying horizontally along the eastern horizon as the sun crests over the hills on the morning of December solstice. The background of stars has been delayed such that the sun is now rising between Scorpio and Sagittarius on the morning of December solstice in the present epoch, and as we see in the above chart both Sagittarius and Capricorn are still well below the horizon as the sun is making its appearance (the upper portion of Scorpio is seen rising above the horizon, beneath the looming figure of the constellation Ophiuchus).

As John Major Jenkins explains in his writings, and as can be observed in the star-chart above, the bright portion of the Milky Way in the vicinity of Scorpio, Sagittarius, Ophiuchus and the other constellations in the chart above is marked by a dark pathway which is known as the Great Rift or the Dark Rift of the Milky Way -- and which was explicitly referred to by the Maya as the "Birth Canal." Thus, by the year 2012, the "delaying motion" of precession has "held back" the Milky Way to the point that the winter solstice sunrise (which already signifies "spiritual birth" or "rebirth" by virtue of its place in the annual cycle) is now aligned with the great galactic "Birth Canal" signified by the Dark Rift in the Milky Way band.

All of this analysis is explained in greater detail in the writings of John Major Jenkins -- including in the article "Izapan Cosmos" linked above, which contains illustrations demonstrating his arguments that the iconography and alignments of the stones and artwork at Izapa (and in particular "Group F" at Izapa) point towards this alignment -- which was still thousands of years in the future during the time Izapa was most active.

Intriguingly, John Major Jenkins observes that the long axis of the Ballcourt in the Group F section of Izapa is also aligned to the winter solstice sunrise. While we do not know all the details of the "Maya Ballgame" which would be played on these celestially-aligned stone Ballcourts, we know that they involved putting the ball through a circular "goal" -- and thus likely dramatized the arrival of the sun itself at significant points on the annual cycle, such as the solstices and the equinoxes. The alignment of the axis of the Ballcourt at Group F in Izapa with the sunrise point on the morning of December solstice reinforces this conclusion.

Scholars also believe that the battle between the two sides during these ancient Mesoamerican Ballgames was seen as being representative of the endless struggle between daylight and darkness -- which makes the alignment of the Ballcourt axis with the sunrise axis of winter solstice all the more meaningful, in that the points of the solstices and equinoxes are especially evocative of the endless interplay between light and darkness throughout the year (with hours of daylight being longer than hours of darkness during the "upper half" of the year between spring equinox and fall equinox and including the summer solstice, while hours of darkness dominate over hours of daylight during the "lower half" of the year between fall equinox and spring equinox and including the winter solstice). The point of winter solstice, again, is the great "turning-point" when days stop growing shorter and finally "turn back around" and star to grow longer again (for those in the northern hemisphere).

This endless interplay of daylight and darkness was invested with spiritual significance in the ancient myths imparted to the various cultures around our globe in remote antiquity. While we might jump to the conclusion that daylight signified "life" and darkness signified "death," Alvin Boyd Kuhn actually argues the opposite in his 1940 masterpiece, Lost Light. There, he argues that the upper half of the year (dominated by daylight) signifies the realm of spirit in the code employed by most of the world's ancient myths, while the lower half of the year (dominated by darkness) represents our plunge down into this "lower realm," in which the divine spark of our spirit is entangled for a time with the lower elements of matter, as we journey through this incarnate life.

The analysis of John Major Jenkins regarding the cosmic significance of the monuments at Izapa is extremely significant, with profound implications. His work deserves to be studied in its entirety.

The discovery that the long axis of the Ballcourt at Izapa in Group F aligns with the rising of the sun on the morning of winter solstice is also extremely significant -- and indicates that these tremendous heavenly cycles, imbued as they were with deep spiritual meaning, were not only encoded in the artwork and monument stones and stelae of the ancients, and not only personified in the Star Myths of the cultures of the world, but that they were also acted out in hard-fought Ballgames involving the sending of a spherical ball through a stone goal, almost certainly representative of the sun's "crossing through" the major stations that framed the year and the Age.

While I cannot help but observe that the sport of basketball perhaps has a goal which is most reminiscent of the goals used in the ancient Mesoamerican Ballgames, it is certainly likely that the sport of soccer (or "football") contains elements which connect with and perhaps even descend from the ancient games played by our distant ancestors as a way of dramatizing the endless struggle of light and darkness, spirit and matter which we encounter in our journey through the "lower passage" of this incarnate life.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The people are the government

On September 12, 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered an address on the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation, in which he began by declaring that, "If our nation had done nothing more in its whole history than to create just two documents, then its contribution to civilization would be imperishable."

The two documents to which he referred were the Declaration of Independence and the Emancipation Proclamation, as he states in the next sentence -- after which he proclaims: "All tyrants, past, present, and future, are powerless to bury the truths in these declarations, no matter how extensive their legions, how vast their power and how malignant their evil."

The Declaration of Independence of July 4th, 1776 proclaims the inherent equality of all humanity -- declaring as Dr. King says: "that the dignity of the human personality was inherent in man as a living being." 

It simultaneously declares that governments are instituted in order to secure these rights: that the sole purpose of governments is to protect the inherent, inalienable rights of the men and women from whom that government derives its just powers. 

The Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1862 proclaims that "persons held as slaves" shall be "then, henceforth, and forever free" and that the government will recognize and maintain their freedom.

Dr. King of course was well aware of the historical imperfection of application in this country of the ideals proclaimed in both documents (to put it mildly).

In one of his early versions of his famous "I have a dream" speech, delivered in mid-1963, he stirringly declared:
I have a dream this evening that one day we will recognize the words of Jefferson that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." I have a dream this afternoon.
In the most famous version of that same speech, he echoed this theme -- that the realization of the actual meaning of the words in the nation's founding documents are still elusive -- when he says: 
I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." [page 4 of the linked transcript of the speech].
In his speech entitled Beyond Vietnam, delivered on April 4th, 1967, acknowledging the "sad fact" that the nation founded upon those declarations had become "arch anti-revolutionaries" and aligned its energies on the side of "governments which were singularly corrupt, inept, and without popular support," Dr. King expressed a similar sentiment when he said of his country that "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."

Sadly, while today it is more widely acknowledged that the application of the ideals expressed in those historical documents has not been realized, this realization has led some to the conclusion that those documents were thus so hypocritical and flawed that the values expressed in them are not worthy of study, consideration, and (as Dr. King said) working towards the dream that they will one day be lived out.

Indeed, many of those who are waking up to the "Westworld"-like or "Truman Show"-like aspects of the current political and social and intellectual landscape have turned against the concept of "government" altogether -- moving towards various forms of libertarianism and anarchism.

In doing so, they are failing to grasp the truth of the Declaration of Independence that governments properly derive their just powers from the people -- and that governments are a tool of the people to secure their inalienable rights. Indeed, the sentiment of the Declaration of Independence (regardless of how well this creed has actually been lived out in history) could not be more clear: the people are the government. 

The document explicitly states that governments are instituted in order to secure the rights of the people, and that governments have no inherent rights of their own but derive their powers from the consent of the governed: from the people.

Libertarianism and anarchism explicitly reject this proposition in that they reject the idea of "government" altogether (to a greater or lesser degree) -- which is why those who dislike the power of a truly representative government to properly restrain tyranny and protect the inalienable rights of the people are not threatened in the least by the writings and speeches of libertarians and anarchists: in fact, they agree with them and with anyone else who doesn't want the government to do what the Declaration of Independence declares to be the sole purpose of the government ("to secure these Rights").

Indeed, in an excellent definition of "libertarianism" given by Professor Michael Hudson in his indispensable book J is for Junk Economics: A Guide to Reality in an Age of Deception, which I have quoted previously (see here and here), Professor Hudson explains that there are some forces within a society which are so powerful that the only thing powerful enough to oppose them is the government (Wall Street is one example which should be readily understandable by just about everyone, but there are many others) -- and that opposing government has the effect of blocking the only thing capable of restraining such forces. 

"Libertarianism thus serves as a handmaiden to oligarchy as opposed to democracy," Professor Hudson concludes (142).

Recently, Darren and Graham of the Grimerica Show prevailed upon me to discuss this subject in an interview entitled "Is libertarianism a trap?" which you can listen to (and download) by becoming a supporter of their show in any dollar amount and receiving a link from them to their "black budget feed" which contains that interview and others.

Dr. Martin Luther King did not want us to reject the Declaration of Independence or the Emancipation Proclamation, just because they have (obviously) not been properly acted out in history thus far. He encouraged us to "rise up and live out the true meaning" of what those history-making and anti-tyrannical documents proclaim -- and to rediscover their truths which no tyrant of the past present or future can ever bury.

In that same speech delivered in preparation for the centennial of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1962, Dr. King concluded by declaring that: 
There is but one way to commemorate the Emancipation Proclamation. That is to make its declarations of freedom real; to reach back to the origins of our nation when our message of equality electrified an unfree world, and reaffirm democracy by deeds as bold and daring as the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Today, on the day when the Declaration of Independence is commemorated, this moving message from Dr. King is equally true:

There is but one way to commemorate it and the truths it proclaims to an unfree world, and that is to make real its declarations of freedom, equality, and the proper role of government deriving its just powers from the consent of the governed, and established for the sole purpose of securing the inalienable rights proper to each and every man, woman and child by virtue of his or her inherent dignity and divine gift of life.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Älvalek, or "The Dancing Fairies," by August Malmström

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

If you go out for an evening walk or a night of star-gazing, you may have an opportunity to witness the Moon rising, about an hour later each night, and slightly less than completely full right now (waning but still over 90% full on June 30).

Above is a digital image of an oil painting by Swedish painter Johan August Malmström (1829 - 1901), entitled Älvalek (literally "Elf-sporting" or "Elf-play"), which is usually translated into English as The Dancing Fairies.

In the painting, the artist has depicted a secluded country setting, with a wandering stream, over which a full moon is rising. A mist seems to be moving over the water, and hovering over the grassy meadow, and winding among the more distant trees -- but upon closer inspection we perceive translucent spirit forms in the mist, and discover that what we may at first have taken to be a fog is alive with motion, filled with fairy figures involved in a mysterious nighttime dance.

I like this painting for the way it evokes the interplay between the Invisible Realm and the Visible Realm, between ordinary reality and non-ordinary reality, between the world of spirit and the world of matter. In this incarnate life, we are accustomed to what (to us) might be termed "ordinary reality" -- but there is another reality, "non-ordinary reality," which (although not as familiar in our day-to-day life) is just as real: an Invisible Realm which is always present, although not always perceived.

The ancient myths describe the reality of this Invisible Realm -- the realm of pure potentiality, the realm of the gods. It is no less real just because we cannot (ordinarily) see it. And the myths help us to understand it by describing it to us using the language of the stars and the motions of the heavens above -- making it visible to us by employing the figures in the glorious night sky above our heads, which itself is an infinite realm into which we can gaze for ourselves in order to learn about the infinite realm which intertwines with and interpenetrates every aspect of this seemingly-material universe in which we currently move.

In Älvalek, August Malmström gives us a glimpse of the Invisible Realm, temporarily making itself visible to us, on an enchanted evening as the Moon is rising and the spirits are at play.

Notice the juxtaposition of the solid realm of manifestation and the immaterial spirits coursing over the water, such as in this portion of the painting, in which some of the plants on the nearer shore are visible as the spirit-forms glide past over the stream:

I particularly like the detail in this part of the painting, because we can see how the artist has created the suggestion of a translucent veil, streaming down from the passing fairy figures, using a few lines of paint to suggest the wisps of the immaterial gauze.

I also like the juxtaposition between the plant-life and the spirit forms. As discussed in previous blog posts such as "Two metaphors for the Material and Non-material realms" and "Every fountain has its nymph," as well as in my 2014 book The Undying Stars, the world's ancient myths all appear to teach the existence of a realm of pure potentiality -- the realm of the gods and spirits -- the realm which forms the pattern for this material realm in which potentiality manifests in specific form. 

In some traditions, in fact, this Other Realm is called the "seed realm," which is a perfect metaphor for this realm of pure potentiality. When still a seed, how many branches does an oak tree have? The answer is that, while still in seed form (an acorn), the potential tree has a infinite number of potential combinations of branches and twigs -- but that once it actually "comes down" from the seed world and manifests in this finite realm, the oak tree will manifest a specific and finite number of twigs and branches.

The plants shown above in the image detail from the painting by August Malmström have manifested into specific shapes and forms. The spirits gliding by, however, are ethereal -- they do not have finite forms, because they exist primarily in the Other Realm, and are only temporarily visible in this one.

Although we cannot ordinarily see it, this world in which we are moving is actually always in a state of interplay between the finite and the Infinite realms. In fact, as discussed at some length in The Undying Stars, the discoveries which necessitated the new way of understanding our reality which is encompassed by the general label of "quantum physics" acknowledges the fact that at the subatomic level, particles seem to move between the realms of pure potentiality and the state of finite manifestation quite fluidly. Theoretical physicist David Bohm came up with the terms "implicate order" and "explicate order" to describe these states, out of which our reality is continuously "unfolding" and then "folding back" in again.

Below is another fascinating portion of Malmström's painting, this time showing one of the spirit forms gazing down into the water and seeing her own reflection:

This detail may be the central focal-point of the entire painting. Notice how the ethereal figure gives off her own light, and can be seen (in the image of the entire painting, at the top of this post) to be the brightest area of light in the entire composition, other than the Moon itself. We cannot see the facial features of the spirit floating over the water, but we can see them in the reflection in the still waters of the stream.

This focal-point of the painting recalls the myth of Narcissus, who gazed at his own reflection in the water and became enamored with it -- but note that ancient philosophers such as Plotinus (AD 203  - AD 270) appear to have understood this myth in an esoteric fashion, as explored in a post from 2013 entitled "Plotinus and the Upward Way." That post quoted chapter 3 and verse 12 from Ennead 4 by Plotinus as saying that: 
The souls of men, seeing their images in the mirror of Dionysus as it were, have entered into that realm in a leap downward from the Supreme: yet even they are not cut off from their origin, from the divine Intellect; it is not that they have come bringing the Intellectual Principle down in their fall; it is that though they have descended even to earth, yet their higher part holds for ever above the heavens. Translation by Stephen MacKenna and B.S. Page, 148.
Plotinus appears to be using the metaphor of a mirror as representative of our condition in this incarnate life. From the realm of spirit, we have made a "leap downward" into this "mirror realm." Out of the realm of spirit, air and fire, we have taken on a form made of the lower elements of earth and water -- much like the spirit in the painting who is contemplating her reflection in the watery stream.

But, even though we have descended to this lower realm, Plotinus tells us, we still have a connection to the higher realm -- and indeed we even have a higher part which "holds for ever above the heavens."  This reality is a common theme of the world's ancient Star Myths, across virtually all cultures -- and has been discussed in several previous blog posts, including "Eros and Psyche" and "You may have a Higher Self, and He or She wants you to know it." 

Thus, our condition here in this incarnate life is only seemingly material -- we are actually in a condition of constant interaction between the visible and the Invisible, and we always have a potential connection to a Higher Self who never left the spirit realm, even though we often do not avail ourselves of that opportunity.

Finally, note the path which the coursing spirit company is taking across the lonely countryside in the painting. They appear to be making a circuit or a loop -- but not just a simple loop. Rather, they are making a large figure-eight through the meadow and around some of the distant trees along the rolling hillocks. 

Below, I have taken the liberty of adding some red arrows in order to show how the fairy company is making a large figure-eight across the landscape:

The sideways figure-eight, of course, is a symbol for Infinity, as August Malmström would undoubtedly have known, whether he consciously planned that out for his painting or not (perhaps he did not even think about the connection to the symbol of Infinity, but merely painted the fairy host as he saw them one night in the countryside, or as he saw them in the vision of his mind, inspired by his Higher Self).

However it came about, this aspect of the painting only reinforces its depiction of the presence of the Infinite and Invisible Realm around and among us at all times, although most of the time we do not even perceive it. 

Malmström appears to be telling us to open our vision and become more attuned to the present reality of this spirit world, all around us. 

If it is at all possible to do so, he seems to be saying, it is good to get out into a secluded night-time spot, such as the one he chose to depict in his painting, in order to perceive the Infinite Realm as it courses around and through our supposedly "ordinary" reality.

Those interested in seeing the close-up details of this provocative painting by August Malmström from 1866 can go to this high-resolution image of the original, where you can zoom in to the level of perceiving even the brush-strokes in some cases.

If you direct your gaze skyward in the painting, you will even be able to perceive a few stars.

The Invisible World is all around us, at all times, and we ourselves possess an inner connection to this Infinite realm, if we learn to avail ourselves of it. Malmström's Dancing Fairies impresses upon our senses the truth that this Infinite world is always interacting with the finite realm, and the importance of becoming attuned to that reality.