Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Years Eve: "In the midst of great abundance, our leaders promote privation"

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

As one year rolls into a New Year, it is only natural to contemplate the passing of time, and to consider the future.

Recently, I was reading Warren Mosler's essential book entitled The 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy, which he graciously makes available for free in the "Mandatory Reading" section of his website, and there encountered the following vitally important passage under the "fourth fraud" (regarding the notion that the social security system in the united states "is broken" and will eventually "run out of money" and, according to some proponents of neoliberalism, should be privatized.

After explaining that a sovereign government can always make social security payments, should it have the will to do so, Warren Mosler goes on to explain that (as with virtually everything else in economics) it is not the "payments" or the "availability of money" that are the real issue, but rather the availability of actual resources, and the ability to turn those resources into the goods and services men and women (and children) require.

Regarding the ability to provide for the aged in the future (the heart of the social security question), he writes:
Let's look at it this way: 50 years from now when there is one person left working and 300 million retired people (I exaggerate to make the point), that guy is going to be pretty busy since he'll have to grow all the food, build and maintain all the buildings, do the laundry, take care of all the medical needs, produce the TV shows, etc. etc. etc. What we need to do is make sure that those 300 million retired people have the funds to pay him??? I don't think so! This problem obviously isn't about money.  
What we need to do is make sure that the one guy working is smart enough and productive enough and has enough capital goods and software to be able to get it all done, or else those retirees are in serious trouble, no matter how much money they might have. So the real problem is, if the remaining workers aren't sufficiently productive, there will be a general shortage of goods and services. [. . .] 
And the story gets even worse. Any mainstream economist will agree that there pretty much isn't anything in the way of real goods we can produce today that will be useful 50 years from now. They go on to say that the only thing we can do for our descendants that far into the future is to do our best to make sure they have the knowledge and technology to help them meet their future demands. The irony is that in order to somehow "save" public funds for the future, what we do is cut back on expenditures today [he is referring to the various forms of "fiscal austerity" preached by proponents of neoliberalism in all its horrible and deleterious permutations], which does nothing but set our economy back and cause the growth of output and employment to decline. And worse yet, the great disappointment is that the first thing our misguided leaders cut back on is education -- the one thing that the mainstream agrees should be done that actually helps our children 50 years down the road. [link to source document here]
The heart of the issue are the resources given to a nation by the gods (or, if you prefer, by nature -- gifts which the ancient wisdom preserved in the myths, scriptures, and sacred traditions of the world universally saw as originating in the divine realm, the realm of the gods).

And the most important of all those resources given to any nation by the divine realm are the men and women whom the gods allow to be born into that nation.

If we allow those gifts to be wasted or squandered, we are going to have serious problems. And, judging by the level of unemployment, under-employment and homelessness in the united states (as well as in other nations, but the problem is reaching crisis levels in the united states), the gifts of the gods (or, if you prefer, the resources given by nature) are being wasted by bad economic policy.

Warren Mosler in his "Deadly Innocent Frauds" book takes the charitable view that this bad economic policy is "misguided" in its origin, as he says in the quoted passage above (in the final sentence of the cited text). In fact, while some of the bad economic policy may be innocently or naively "misguided," it is far more likely that these policies are deliberate, because fiscal austerity leads very directly to privatization, by the following mechanism:
  • Fiscal austerity, by definition, requires higher taxes and lower government expenditures, and demands "balanced budgets" 
  • This austerity policy seeks to take away fiscal authority from elected leaders and deliberately hinder their ability to provide proper infrastructure and services, which
  • leads to demands to "privatize" that infrastructure and those services (and, if "balanced budgets" are not met, the same policies can also lead to demands to sell-off the public domain in order to help "reduce the deficit")
Privatization is incredibly profitable for those connected insiders who are able to purchase the public domain and the services that properly stem from the gifts of nature to the people of a nation (such as privatizing rivers, forests, ports, roadways, and the electromagnetic spectrum).

Previous posts discussing the problems of neoliberal austerity include:

(among many others)

Indeed, as Warren Mosler (and other pioneering MMT economists) explain elsewhere (including in earlier chapters in his "Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds" book), the presence of widespread unemployment and under-employment is irrefutable proof that either taxes are too high, government spending is too low, or some combination of the two (i.e., "both!"). In other words, unemployment is a sign of the deleterious impact of fiscal austerity (which, by definition, demands higher taxes and lower government expenditures).

The reason high taxes and low government spending lead to unemployment is that the taxes remove the ability of the people (outside the government) to buy goods and services, and if the government does not spend a commensurate amount to countervail the impact of those taxes, then goods and services (including labor) will be left un-purchased.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

To correct the problem, the government can increase spending to purchase un-purchased goods and services -- and the most important thing it could offer to buy is any un-hired labor of those who wish to work but cannot find work (and do so at a living wage that enables workers to put a roof over their heads and food on their table).

If defenders of neoliberalism (as many will do) wish to declare that those who are homeless are homeless because "they don't want to work," they should see what happens if (as MMT proponents suggest) the government creates a "transition job" program, also known as a "job guarantee" -- using its power to purchase idle resources in an economy, including idle labor of anyone who wants to work, by providing voluntary (not forced) jobs for anyone who wishes to perform productive labor. 

Otherwise, it is extraordinarily callous (and almost certainly false) to declare that anyone who is homeless is making a choice to be homeless.

In another paper entitled "Soft Currency Economics," made available in his "Mandatory Reading" section of his website, Warren Mosler declares: 

"In the midst of great abundance, our leaders promote privation."

This statement goes to the heart of neoliberalism and austerity, which are destroying people's lives around the world, including in the united states.

The ancient myths declare that the natural resources are gifts of the gods -- gifts from the divine realm -- and that includes the gifts and talents and abilities of men and women.

When we deliberately squander them, it is an affront to the divine realm, an affront to the gods.

The most important thing we can do for future generations, as Warren Mosler states in the passage cited above, is to ensure they have the skills and ability to provide the goods and services they will need, and at the heart of ensuring that is to provide education.

There are those who would deliberately sabotage such education of the next generation, in order to more easily impose austerity (and thus more easily privatize those gifts of nature which the ancient myths teach are gifts given by the gods to all the men and women of a nation).

The ancient wisdom preserved in the myths has lasted for untold millennia, having been passed down from generation to generation, and those ancient myths can continue to inform and educate us today. Although there are those who try to suppress the ancient message preserved in the world's myths, those myths still proclaim a message which is diametrically opposed to the austerity and false privation which is preached by the proponents of neoliberalism.

It is a message from the infinite realm. And it is a message of abundance, and not artificial privation imposed upon the people.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

New video: "Yule and the Wisdom of Odin"

Above is a new video I've just made, entitled "Yule and the Wisdom of Odin" (12 29 2019).

The Yule season in northern Europe spanned a period on either side of the winter solstice, and appears to have been closely associated with the god Odin the All-Father. Odin is a complex god and a boundary-crossing figure, which may help to explain his association with this great turning point of the year. The very word Yule is thought by some to be connected with one of the names of Odin. And even to this day, if you want to wish someone Merry Christmas in the language of Norway or Denmark or many of the other lands of the far north, you say “God Jul!” ("Good Yule!"). And in the song "Silent Night" in Norwegian, the lyrics are saying "Glade Jul, Hellige Jul," or “Glad Yule, Holy Yule.”

Other names of the god Odin include: 
  • Mimir’s Friend, 
  • Wolf’s Enemy, 
  • Gunnlod’s Embrace, 
  • the Wise Victory-Tree, 
  • the Raven-Tester, 
  • the Bale-worker,
  • the Spear-Lord, 
  • the Long-Beard, 
  • the Hanged One, 
  • the Hooded One, 
  • the Masked One, 
  • the Terrible One, 
  • the Wise One, 
  • the Concealer, 
  • the All-Father, 
  • the Yule-Father, 
  • the Wanderer, 
  • the Awakener, 
  • the Truth-Finder, 
  • the All-Wise, and 
  • the Sage (among many other names).
Odin is the god who sees through the surface appearances to the deep hidden heart of things, most clearly in his ordeal to gain the secret of the runes, but also in his quest to obtain the Mead of Poetry, as well as in his pursuit of the wisdom preserved among the oldest jotuns, the giants of Norse myth whose time predated that of the gods, and who were the first beings, before gods and men.

One such quest is described in the Vafthruthnismal, in the Poetic Edda, or Elder Edda, in which Odin seeks out the ancient jotun Vafthruthnir, and engages the giant in a riddle contest. 

Of this episode, Professor Carolyne Larrington of Oxford says (in her translation of the Poetic Edda):
[. . .] Odin is characterized by his obsessive quest for wisdom, particularly for information about Ragnarok. In this poem he sets off, against his wife's advice, disguised as a poor wanderer, to test his wisdom against the giant Vafthrudnir, known only from this poem. Once Odin has proved his mettle, by answering questions which the giant puts to him, he is invited to risk his head in questioning the giant. Vafthrudnir's Sayings (Vafthrudnismal) belongs to the genre of the wisdom contest, known in many other cultures. Two protagonists ask each other questions or riddles, until one fails to answer. Thus the questioner must know the answer to his question; the answerer corroborates the interlocutor's information, rather than providing new facts. The trick question with which Odin wins the contest seems to be a favourite of his, since he also uses it to secure victory in a riddle contest against King Heidrek in Heidrek's saga. Vafthrudnir's questions elicit simple mythological facts: the names of the horses who draw the day and the night, the name of the river which divides giants and gods and of the field on which the battle of Ragnarok will be fought. Odin's questions are more pointed: he draws out the history of the universe, its past (vv. 20 - 35), and present (36 - 43), culminating in questions about the future and Ragnarok (44 - 54). Some scholars have speculated that Odin's real aim is to discover his own fate (52 - 3); once he hears about the wolf, he brings the contest to a speedy end with his unanswerable question. Odin alone knows what he whispered into Baldr's ear [. . .]. As a contest between god and giant, Vafthrudnir's Sayings is mimetic of Ragnarok. Vafthrudnir's answers emphasize the ancientness and authority of the giants as the first of beings, but Odin's questions lead away from the giants and their claims, to the final triumph of gods and men. It is they, Odin's descendants and creations, if not Odin himself, who will survive the final conflagration. The giants may have had a past, but they have no future; Vafthrudnir's defeat in the contest symbolizes the final defeat in time of the giant race. [36]
Note that the Norse myths thus portray the pursuit of wisdom as a process of seeing through riddles. Odin, in disguise, gives his name in this contest as Gagnrathr, or "Riddle-Reader." The very nature of a riddle is the requirement of being able to see beyond the literal meaning, to see connections and patterns that are not necessarily apparent on the surface. The god who is called in other places the All-Wise gives his name as the Riddle-Reader: he is not content with surface or literal appearances. He is also the god of poetry – and poetry by its very definition eschews the literal, perceives and evokes hidden connections, and pierces through surface appearances.

Note how this tendency is the very opposite of the inability to see through the “eye-illusions” prepared by the jotun Utgarda-Loki in the episode of Thor’s visit, accompanied by Loki and two mortal companions, to the realm of Utgard, where even Thor’s unmatched strength and power is defeated through illusion. That episode shows that if we believe lies about ourselves and about the world around us, we can be easily defeated, even if we are more than capable of  overcoming those challenges, based on our actual potential and ability. 

This is very much the situation that the people of virtually every nation on earth find themselves in at this very moment in history, living in a world of incredible abundance, but presented with the illusion of scarcity by the proponents of austerity, who want to take that abundance for themselves, and whose power depends on the inability to see beyond the literal, and therefore the ability to see beyond the illusion. 

At this Yuletide season of the year, associated so closely in the northern lands with the god Odin -- the god who is obsessed with seeing beyond the literal and surface of things, the god who introduces himself as the “Riddle-Reader” to the ancient jotun Vafthruthnir -- we should think very carefully about what these ancient myths, this ancient wisdom given to humanity for our benefit and blessing in this life, these stories of Odin and Thor and their visits to the realm of the jotuns, mean for our lives in this very present moment.

I am convinced that it is absolutely imperative that we stop allowing ourselves to be tricked, as Thor and his companions are tricked, by illusions that cause us to sabotage our own potential, illusions perpetrated by those who realize that we are actually far more capable than even we ourselves realize, and who don’t want us to reach our true potential (we ourselves often participate in that sabotage, by accepting the illusions and lies given to us by others, as Thor and his companions do in that story) – and instead that we begin to read the riddles and start to see the connections that may not be obvious on the surface. The ancient myths actually present this as a matter of utmost importance – indeed, a matter of life and death. 

And so, as they say in Norway and in other parts of the far northern region of our planet, God Jul!

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Winter Solstice, 2019

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The earth has now approached almost to the very point in its annual orbit where the north pole is pointed most directly away from the sun, the December solstice which is the winter solstice for the northern hemisphere. 

We will pass through the exact moment of the December solstice for 2019 at 8:19 pm Pacific time (which is 2019 hours) on the 21st of December, which is 11:19 pm Eastern time in North America (2319 hours on the 21st of December), and 4:19 am Greenwich time on the 22nd of December in England (0419 hours on the 22nd of December).

It is at this moment that the sun's southward progress across the heaven (bringing its journey lower and lower in the sky for viewers in the northern hemisphere, as its path arcs closer and closer to the southern horizon, causing days to be shorter and shorter and the angle of the sun's rays to be less and less steep as they strike the earth) finally reverses and begins to climb back northwards, causing the sun's arc across the heavens to be higher and higher above the southern horizon, and causing days to begin to grow longer and longer again, on the way back "up" to the spring equinox and eventually to the summer solstice.

The winter solstice appears to have been invested with tremendous significance in the ancient system of celestial metaphor operating within the world's myths and sacred traditions. It appears to have been associated with a "second birth" -- a spiritual birth -- which contrasts with the "first birth" that was associated with the point of the autumnal equinox (the point of "descent" into the lower half of the year, when darkness dominates over daylight, representing the descent of the soul into this incarnate life). 

For more discussion of these "two births," and the corresponding "two mothers" pattern which goes along with the concept of the two births, see for example this previous post from this year's September equinox.

One reason that the ancient myths describe the need for two births, I'm convinced, has to do with their illustration of the fact that our plunge into this incarnate life, and our subsequent entanglement with the norms and social structures which are in a real sense necessary for our very survival in this physical world, results in a separation from our own authentic self, a sublimation and a suppression of our essential and authentic self: a separation and sublimation and suppression which we typically do not even realize is taking place. 

The "second birth" involves the realization of the existence of that authentic and essential self from whom we have been alienated, and the beginning of the opportunity to restore our connection with our own self, who has always been present and available even before we even became aware of the existence of a self we had suppressed or forgotten.

The first birth in the ancient myths is often associated with the constellation Virgo, located near the point of the September equinox in the annual cycle, and the second birth is often associated with the constellation Sagittarius, located near the point of the December solstice in the annual cycle (and also with the nearby constellation of Ophiuchus, the shining column of the Milky Way which rises up in its brightest and widest region immediately adjacent to Sagittarius, and with other nearby constellations including the beautiful "great birds of the Milky Way," the constellations Aquila and Cygnus located above Sagittarius).

Thus, this great "turning point" in the annual cycle, when the downward plunge of the sun finally pivots and turns and changes to an upwards movement, was imbued with tremendous significance in ancient cultures, and can serve as an opportune time each year for us to consider these same themes in our own life -- the theme of our alienation from our essential self, and the way we can rediscover and restore our relationship with our own essential self. Previous posts dealing with the concept of the recovery of the self include (among many others):
The significance of this great turning point of the year to the ancients is also evident from the astounding monuments they have left to us, all over the planet, which contain alignments marking the sunrise and/or sunset points on the day of winter solstice. 

The awe-inspiring megaliths of Stonehenge, of course, contain a dramatic alignment which frames the last flash of the setting sun on the day of winter solstice -- and, as Professor Gordon Freeman explains in his beautiful and important book Hidden Stonehenge, the megaliths also contain a more subtle alignment framing the first flash of the rising sun on the winter solstice morning.

The alignment for the sunrise on winter solstice involves vertical gap or window between the mighty sarsen stones designated 57 and 58, which are the two enormous vertical stones forming the trilithon on the right side of the image above as you face it (with the lintel stone designated 158 resting atop stones 57 and 58 to form the trilithon)

You can see Gordon Freeman's diagram showing the alignments for the winter solstice sunrise and the winter solstice sunset at his publisher's website here. You can see glossy photographs showing the winter solstice sunrise alignment in Hidden Stonehenge, on pages 94, 95 and 96.

Of the alignments and sight-lines for the sunrise and sunset flash on this important day, Professor Freeman writes:
The Winter Solstice Sun set observation line was built for drama. It begins at a massive rock that from the Circle looks like a turtle's head, passes through the Circle along the axis of the Trilithon Horseshoe, through the narrow gap in the tallest of the five Trilithons, called the Great Trilithon, and ends at the groin of a burial mound on the horizon. 
Does this observation line symbolize a life story? It begins at a female symbol, birth from water, passes through the center of a complex structure, and ends where the Sun enters a death symbol. Does the entry of the low and weak Sun into the groin of the mound anticipate regeneration? Does the mound also represent a pregnant belly? A double symbol of death and rebirth? 
The entry of the Winter Solstice Sun into a mound on the horizon is somewhat analogous to its entry into a horizon-marker rock in Omahkiyaahkohtoohp
The Winter Solstice Sun rise observation line is almost hidden, perhaps known only to the Skywatchers, Priests and Priestesses. It passes through the southwest segment of the Sarsen building, along the Altar in the inner sanctum between the Trilithons.
The Winter Solstice Sun set and rise observation lines cross significantly in the middle of the Altar. 98.
Below is an embedded video of Gordon Freeman explaining some of these alignments at Stonehenge. Below that is another video of Gordon Freeman explaining alignments at the site called Omahkiyaahkohtoohp in present-day Alberta, Canada -- an ancient site which Gordon Freeman argues to be some eight centuries older than Stonehenge, and located along roughly the same latitude.

I hope that wherever you are, you will have an opportunity to observe the sunrise and sunset on the significant day of the December solstice, 2019 -- and perhaps to meditate upon the importance with which this day was invested in the ancient wisdom entrusted to our ancestors, and pointing towards the recovery and restoration of our true and authentic self.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

The story of Thor and Utgarda-Loki: new video with celestial connections!

Above is a new video I just published entitled "Thor and Utgarda-Loki: new version with celestial connections!" in which I read the story of Thor's visit to the realm of the giant Utgarda-Loki, which was probably my favorite of all the Norse myths as a child.

In this myth, even the great Thor is bested in contests he should easily win, as are his companions Loki and Thjalfi, because they are tricked into believing illusions and do not perceive the true situation (and their own power and ability).

As with other Norse myths, in common with ancient myths from other cultures around the globe, the characters and events described in this episode are based on a world-wide system of celestial metaphor -- and have direct application to our own lives in this very present moment.

For a discussion of the connections between the events in this story and the stars and constellations, as well as some discussion of significance for our daily lives, see my 2018 book Star Myths of the World, Volume Four: Norse Mythology -- and see also this previous post entitled "Thor and Utgarda-Loki -- and the lies we tell ourselves."

Monday, December 16, 2019

Alienation from and reconnection with our essential self

When I was young, I used to love to draw. Although I never actually took any formal drawing classes, I enjoyed drawing and spent a lot of time at it up through high school. 

I was particularly impressed by the drawings of Frank Frazetta, whose illustrations could be found in the famous Martian novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, stories which I read and re-read -- you can see a drawing I made in the 1980s imitating an illustration by Frank Frazetta found in the 1970 hardbound Nelson Doubleday edition of A Princess of Mars (on page 55 of that edition) reproduced in this previous post.

Above is a drawing I did more recently, in May of this year, based on an illustration by Frank Frazetta found in the 1973 Nelson Doubleday hardbound edition of A Fighting Man of Mars (part of a two-book volume which also contains The Mastermind of Mars, and features illustrations by Frazetta -- this one on page 138 of that edition).

I also enjoyed playing piano and did take formal lessons up through about fourth or fifth grade, when I stopped. 

Recently, I've had the urge to return to both of these areas of my life which I had neglected for decades, and I found myself wondering why I had ignored them for so long. 

In light of some of the lessons that I have learned from the ancient myths, I am now starting to realize that in response to the pressures and norms of integrating with society (and as a defense against the kind of teasing I encountered as a very introverted middle-schooler and early high-schooler), I had basically constructed a persona beginning about midway through high school and even more so once I went off to West Point and the military which (as the egoic personas we create tend to do) actually cut me off from aspects of my own self -- including pastimes like art and music which used to bring me so much pleasure.

To illustrate the effects of societal pressure resulting in the creation of a persona or "egoic self," here are two photographs from my days at West Point, the first showing me (in the center) and my classmate Jerome P. (on the left of the photo) performing our table duties under some pressure (from the upperclassman on the right side of the photo) to conform to the norms and standards of the "fourth-class system" as it existed in the winter of 1987:

And below is another photo of me, less than three years later, now as an upperclassman tasked with dealing out exactly the same type of pressure to conform to the incoming cadets during the first and most stressful half of "beast barracks" during the summer of 1989, and adopting the persona of that role:
And while the overt and somewhat extreme levels of pressure and conformity found at West Point and expressed in these photos may seem different from other kinds of pressure exerted elsewhere in society, in point of fact every one of us encounters varying levels of pressure to conform beginning when we are still just infants, as a necessary part of integrating into the culture around us -- and this results in the creation of a "persona" (a word derived from an ancient Etruscan word meaning "a mask") which is a kind of defense mechanism which we create and which helps us to interface with the world around us, but in doing so excludes our authentic self, in an attempt to not get hurt.Teachers and healers such as Dr. Gabor Mate and Dr. Peter Levine explain that trauma, especially in early childhood, can and does result in the separation from the essential self.In a talk he gave in 2015, which is linked in this previous post, Dr. Gabor Mate said these powerful words:
We live in a world that rewards us for being inauthentic, and punishes us for being authentic. And we live in a world, and a culture, that seduces us from our true selves with every possible blandishment, reward, and promise of fulfillment through artificial means. [. . .] And the other problem, as Alma says, is that your mind, your egoic mind, always wants to invalidate your essence. Because the egoic mind develops as a replacement for the essence. When essence shows up, the mind is threatened -- the ego is threatened. So it wants to fight back.
Both Dr. Mate and Dr. Levine explain that we often do not even realize that we are disconnected from our essential self. So for many years, I didn't really even think much about drawing or playing piano, and now I am rediscovering how much I enjoy both of them, and this may or may not have anything to do with the process of being disconnected from the authentic self (a process which nearly each and every one of us goes through, according to the world's ancient myths, which devote a great deal of attention to this vital subject), but I thought it might be a helpful illustration for some -- and it certainly is a helpful illustration for me!And, as I think about it, both art (whether in the form of drawing, or painting, or sculpting, or pottery, or weaving, or photography, or many other media, too many to list here) and music were explicitly described as gifts of the gods in the world's ancient myths, with specific gods and goddesses presiding over these important gifts. I am convinced that both art and music can serve as very powerful and very beneficial pathways for transcending the egoic mind (which we construct as a "replacement for the essence") and for reconnecting with our essential self.Indeed, if art and music are described as belonging to the gods themselves, we might suspect that their very nature transcends the coils of this seemingly-material realm which constantly threaten to drag down the essential self and bury it forever.Their very purpose is to elevate and to transform, and we have very clear surviving examples from Greek myth in which the patron god of music (Apollo) and the patron goddess of artistic depiction in weaving (Athena) exact judgment upon mortals who subvert that purpose, in the story of Arachne (discussed in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two) and in the story of King Midas (discussed in this previous post).I am convinced that music, along with other forms of art including drawing (as well as various sports, and spending time in nature, and of course the practice of ancient disciplines including meditation) enable us to loosen the grip of the egoic persona and its layers of doubt which have been built up over years and years, and to connect with our essential self who is actually always present and waiting for us.Below is a video I made today of me working on Jon Lord's famous second keyboard solo from "Burn" (1974). I'm not satisfied with it yet, and still working on adding the left hand to this one (which is particularly challenging), but I present it here as part of the discussion of the way that music can be a pathway for cutting through the "doubting mind" and the persona we build up as part of our integration into society, and for reconnecting with our essential self.Playing this particular solo, and any other music really, requires quieting the constant internal narrative and doubts and questions which characterize the "egoic mind" (personified in the ancient myths in figures such as "Doubting Thomas," or Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita who is filled with doubts prior to the battle of Kurukshetra, or Psyche in the story of Eros and Psyche, who lets her doubts run away with her).You can hear some spaces in the segment below where doubt creates a moment's hesitation between musical phrases. But the "descending triads" which begin at 0:08 in the video are pretty much impossible for me to play at that speed if I am thinking at all about what others who are listening might be thinking, or thinking at all about "not making a mistake." I personally have to be "in the zone" to hit those descending triads, so I'm happy about how that turned out at least (it doesn't always happen).If you want to hear a truly inspired performance of this particular solo, I highly recommend Pierre Lelievre (here). But for me, the return to drawing and to playing music is a return to a part of my self that I had set aside for many years without even really thinking about it -- and (even more disconcerting) without even realizing that I was missing it. I am convinced that the ancient myths point us towards reconnecting with our essential self, from whom we become estranged through the pressures and trauma of this earthly experience, but who is always present and available and waiting for us to come back -- and I am also convinced that the myths imply that through this reconnection, we begin to become attuned to and aware of the wider realm of the gods.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Still more lessons from Andromeda and Perseus

The Perseus and Andromeda myth is so important that I decided I wanted to try to re-draw my earlier attempt to depict the scene, in order to make the figures more dynamic.

Above is today's version of the earlier drawing, the earlier version of which was included in the previous post from two days ago. 

That previous post included some discussion of the celestial foundations of this particular scene, including a star-chart juxtaposed with the original inspiration for this particular arrangement of the figures, from an illustration by William Hogarth which was done in the 1700s.

You can also view an ancient Roman painting of this same mythological episode, preserved within the famous villa of Boscotrecase, buried by the eruption of Vesuvius Mons in AD 79. Importantly, that ancient Roman artwork appears to me to be patterned upon the constellations Perseus and Andromeda and Cetus, rather than upon Aquarius and Sagittarius and Cetus as in the case of the composition by William Hogarth. 

For further discussion of Vesuvius, Pompeii, and the very obvious celestial patterns found in other ancient artwork preserved among the ruins buried by the eruption of that volcano, please see "Ancient mosaic with esoteric celestial elements discovered during recent Pompeii excavations" and also "The Divine Spark descends to the Mortal Realm."  

Sadly, you won't find any of these celestial connections to myth or ancient artwork discussed in any academic settings, despite the fact that I have tried to inform various university professors and scholarly publications about these patterns at various times over the past years and have thus far been met with general apathy.

In order to add greater dynamism to my depiction, I decided to try to add more twisting between the three "major blocks" formed by the head, the rib-cage/upper torso, and the hip-bones in each figure, following the recommendations and illustrations of George Brant Bridgman (1865 - 1943).

I also increased the immediacy of the threat from the approaching Ketos, while reducing some of the background detail in order to try to improve the focus of the scene.

Previous discussions, including this video, have explored some of the immensely important messages that the ancient myths involving Perseus, Medusa, and Andromeda may be trying to convey to us. 

The message of this myth-cycle clearly has much to do with the proper relation between the infinite or immaterial realm, and the finite realm of matter within which we now find ourselves sojourning for a time.

In my 2014 book The Undying Stars, I wrote:
If the ancient Gorgons and Medusa images depict some aspect of cymatics -- in which normally-invisible waves of energy take on visible, physical form -- then they must fall into the same category into which Dr. Waller believes Stonehenge falls: the ancient depiction of the "petrification" of wave energy, an acknowledgement that all that is physical is actually a form of wave energy made "static." How appropriate that the dreadful power of Medusa and the Gorgons was to turn to stone all who gazed upon them! 
[. . .] 
It is worth examining more closely the belt of intertwined serpents worn about the waist of some of these ancient Medusa figures, very suggestive of the intertwined strands of DNA (many have noted the similarity of the serpents on the caduceus to the double-helix of DNA, but the connection between Medusa and DNA may be equally significant). It is through the action of DNA that information is turned into matter -- the coded information in the twisted strands telling the proteins to make the parts of the body that will become an elephant, a palm tree, or a man or woman. Thus DNA is very closely related to the mythological function of the Gorgons -- it takes "potential" and "freezes it," just as the electrons in the famous double-slit experiment leave the realm of "pure potential" and "choose" a form, becoming a particle, and thus becoming a particular thing. 
The clear connections between the depictions of Medusa and the action of DNA, and between the depictions of Medusa and the wave-interference patterns which make possible the creation of holograms (but only after the invention of lasers), are simply astounding.  
[. . .] 
The Gorgons and Stonehenge depict the petrification of wave energy -- perhaps a metaphor for the imprisonment of the spirit in the physical. The techniques of ecstasy and the knowledge depicted in the celestial sacred scriptures and traditions of the world pertain to the opposite end of this process -- the release of the spirit from the illusory bounds of the apparently static, of the physical, of the holographic. 122 - 123.
Thus, as discussed in the video linked above, the quest of Perseus is in fact a metaphor -- a metaphor for a quest which each and every one of us must face: It is a quest to avoid being turned to stone. 

The plunge into this world, in which spirit is immersed and entwined in the realm of matter, confronts us in this life with forces working relentlessly to promote the lie that the material is all that exists, working relentlessly to try to reduce us and everyone else we meet to the sum of our physical and material nature.

As I have written many times in the past, the attempt to deny the spiritual and divine nature within ourselves and others defines the very nature of cursing and the very opposite of blessing.

The dreaded power of the Gorgons in the ancient story of Perseus can be seen as personifying this persistent and pervasive tendency of the world, to try to reduce us to the merely physical.

The sea-monster called "the Ketos" in some ancient tellings of the Perseus and Andromeda story can probably be seen as yet another manifestation of the same relentless downward-drawing opposition we face during this journey through the material realm -- the lower realm, associated with the lower elements of earth and water (in contrast to the upper elements of air and fire, associated with spirit).

Our bodies, after all, are composed of a mixture of earth and water (thus, the mortal clay) -- the great majority of which is water.

The stories of both Medusa and Andromeda can easily be seen to involve the mistaken elevation of the physical and mortal beauty to a rank above the spiritual and invisible realm -- a frequent error described in the ancient myths, and one which always meets with swift and terrible punishment from the divine powers.

In Andromeda's case, the culpability appears to lie entirely with her mother, Queen Cassiopeia, rather than with Andromeda herself (it is Cassiopeia who boasts that Andromeda is more beautiful than the very Nereids of the sea, resulting in the retribution of the gods in the form of the monster Ketos, sent by Lord Poseidon). Thus we see the principle illustrated which shows that inversions of the proper order between matter and spirit, committed by parents or by those in authority -- even if well-intentioned, as the pride of Cassiopeia in her daughter Andromeda's beauty almost certainly was well-intentioned -- can lead to negative consequences which impact the innocent party. 

We saw the same lesson illustrated in the story of the disastrous consequences of the insulting treatment of Chryses by Agamemnon, in the first book of the Iliad, consequences which impacted the Achaean warriors who had all with one voice called upon Agamemnon the king to honor the request of Chryses to release his daughter from captivity, but who nevertheless bore the retribution of the god Apollo for the king's behavior.

So how do we apply the lessons of the ancient myth of Perseus, who succeeds in his quest to defeat Medusa without being turned to stone himself, and who also rescues Andromeda from being chained to the rock (another metaphor for our human condition) and from being devoured by the sea-monster?

Well, as we see in the action of the myth, Perseus would most certainly have failed in his quest if he had not been attentive to the instructions given to him by the wisdom-goddess Athena and the messenger-god Hermes.

Perseus listens to the gods: he is attuned to the divine realm.

And the gods provide him with resources -- the very gifts he will need in order to successfully defeat the power of the Gorgons.

Without assistance from the divine realm, from the invisible realm, we cannot hope to successfully negotiate our own encounter with the Gorgons.

And yet despite the fact that they provide Perseus with the resources he will need in order to be successful in his quest, Perseus still must act himself. He himself must face the Gorgons. Hermes and Athena equip him with everything he will need, but they do not go slay Medusa for him. This too is a picture of our situation here in this mortal life.

A major aspect of the message of this myth, I am convinced, has to do with the recovery of our relationship with our own essential self, from whom the weighty forces of this world work most incessantly to separate us. 

We have access to everything we need -- if we avail ourselves of the resources available to us in the infinite realm, which is always present, no matter where we are and no matter what circumstances we face.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Another fantastic conversation with Andrew and CK of Lost Origins!

Once again, thank you to Andrew Tuzson and Christopher "C.K." Kingsley of Lost Origins for having me over for another enjoyable conversation -- this time, an in-person conversation which was recorded at this year's Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge over the weekend of October 4th through 6th of 2019 in Newport Beach, California (the interview itself was recorded on October 5th).

Welcome to any new visitors learning about my work for the first time through this particular podcast (and welcome back to returning friends)!

You can listen to (or download) our conversation using the embedded player above, or by visiting this page on the Lost Origins website.

I hope you will agree that the insights, background, personal experiences, and thoughtful questions which Andrew and CK bring to the conversation make for an extremely worthwhile and interesting discussion, touching on a variety of important and intriguing subjects related to the connection between the world's ancient myths and the aspects of the heavenly realms and celestial cycles.

For those who were not able to attend this year's Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge, you can purchase streaming video of most of the presentations -- including my presentation on "Stars, Myths, and Recovering your Self" -- by visiting this page at the CPAK website. As you can tell from some of the things Andrew and CK were saying in the "intro" and "outro" segments of this podcast, there were many amazing presentations given by fantastic researchers who have spent years researching in their areas of focus, and whose talks are very much worth hearing, watching, and pondering!

Below are some links to other posts and videos for those who wish to explore further some of the subjects we visited during our conversation:
I hope you will enjoy this episode of Lost Origins as much as Andrew, CK and I enjoyed recording it! Please visit their site to hear conversations with the many other speakers from this year's Conference on Precession and Ancient Knowledge, some yet to be released, and thank you for listening and sending feedback. 

Perseus and Andromeda, revisited!

The myth of Perseus and his quest to slay Medusa is one of the first myths I ever learned: it was featured in one of the Sullivan Programmed Reading workbooks that children who grew up in the early 1970s may remember (below is the cover of workbook number twenty):

Somewhere in those old reading books, the story of Perseus and his mother Danae and the wicked king who sends Perseus off to slay Medusa was retold with great verve and vigor, along with vivid illustrations -- including the scenes in which Perseus uses the severed head of Medusa to turn his enemies to stone! So, somewhere between first and third grade, I learned about the Greek myths from these memorable reading workbooks, and the story of Perseus and the Gorgons and his rescue of the maiden Andromeda.

Later, I also devoured the D'Aulaire's books of Greek Mythology and Norse Mythology, which I recommend for the personal library of every home, if at all possible.

The myth of Perseus is one of the easiest myths to illustrate the undeniable fact that the world's ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories are based on celestial metaphor. We happen to have a constellation named "Perseus" in the sky, which makes it very easy to identify which constellation might play the role of the hero in this famous ancient myth.

It is important to point out that just because the constellation is named Perseus and does indeed play the role of the hero of the myth of Perseus and the Gorgons, this does not mean that the constellation Perseus can only be associated with that specific hero in that specific story. Constellations "play multiple roles" in different myths -- and sometimes will even play multiple roles within the very same myth. The constellation Perseus is an extremely important constellation and plays the role of many different figures (including King Midas in other Greek myths, and the prophet Balaam in the book of Judges in the Old Testament of the canonical Bible, among many others from cultures around the world).

In the story of the rescue of the beautiful princess Andromeda by Perseus, which takes place after the hero has already slain Medusa with the help of the gods Athena and Hermes, it is fairly easy to find a constellation associated with Andromeda in the heavens as well: of course, she is associated with the constellation Andromeda, adjacent to Perseus in the night sky and featuring short lengths of "chain" upon either wrist (check out H. A. Rey's indispensable book The Stars: A New Way to See Them for more explanation and diagrams).

However, this well-known myth also provides us with an important illustration of another aspect of the world's amazing ancient Star Myths, and that is the fact that for some myths, the "action" of the story will sometimes "move through" other constellations as well (often nearby constellations, or  constellations found along the zodiac band, or constellations arranged along the line of the Milky Way, in some important examples discussed in my Star Myths of the World series, such as with the figures of Moses in the Bible or of Dionysus in ancient Greece and Rome).

In the story of the rescue of Andromeda by Perseus, Andromeda has been chained to a lonely rock upon a cliff facing the sea, as a human sacrifice to a sea monster described by ancient sources as "The Ketos" or "Cetus." The reason for this horrible situation appears to be yet another example of a mortal failing to acknowledge that the divine realm is the source of all the gifts we enjoy here in this mortal life, and instead declaring that one of the gifts of the gods (in this case, the beauty given to the princess Andromeda) was superior to the beauty of immortal beings who dwell in the infinite realm.

In this particular case, it was Andromeda's mother, Queen Cassiopeia, who proclaimed that either she herself or (in other variations on the story) her daughter Andromeda, was more beautiful than the Nereids who swim in the sea. For this grievous inversion of the proper order of the cosmos, the kingdom of Cassiopeia and her husband Cepheus (ancient Ethiopia, according to some sources) was flooded by the sea and assaulted by the dreaded monster Ketos.

An oracle informed the people of the kingdom that the only way to rectify the situation was to sacrifice the girl to the monster, by chaining her to a rock until the Ketos emerged from the sea to seize her and devour her. Andromeda appears to have been innocent in this situation, her mother the queen being the one who had made the ill-advised boasts, and in most versions of the story the king and queen do not want to follow the direction of the oracle, but the people of their country force them to do so, from fear of the Ketos.

There, Andromeda awaited her fate, chained to a lonely rock on a cliff overlooking the sea. And thus it was that Perseus spied the beautiful princess, as the hero sped homeward from his successful quest to slay Medusa. Perseus was flying back towards his home, using the winged sandals loaned to him by the god Hermes, when he happened to fly past the jagged cliffs and saw Andromeda in her precarious position.

He was none too soon either, for just as he pulled to a halt from his speeding flight, arrested by the incredible beauty of the unfortunate maiden, the waters of the sea began to boil and foam, announcing the arrival of the dreaded sea-monster, coming up from the depths to seize Andromeda.

Quickly, Perseus shouted to Andromeda to avert her eyes, and he drew forth the severed head of Medusa, which he was carrying safely within a special pouch loaned to him by the gods (this purse or pouch is called the kibisis). Flying fearlessly towards the Ketos with the head of the Gorgon extended before him, Perseus attracted the monster's attention -- and that was the end of the terrible Ketos, for when it beheld the head of Medusa, it was immediately turned to stone.

Below is an illustration by a rather famous and important artist from the 1700s, William Hogarth (1697 - 1764), showing this very moment from the story, when Perseus has drawn forth the head of Medusa and is flying towards the approaching sea-monster (while the princess Andromeda is chained to the rock below the hero):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note that the famous illustrator has very clearly patterned his composition after the constellations of the heavens, with the sea-monster Ketos (or Cetus) patterned after the constellation which bears the same name, Cetus the Whale, and Perseus flying towards the monster holding the severed head (still dripping with gore) in very much the same posture and location as the constellation Aquarius, the outline of which appears to be holding a water-vessel pouring out streams of water (but which could also be envisioned as a severed head, still dripping blood).

Below Perseus (who in this scene is associated with the constellation Aquarius, rather than the actual constellation Perseus) we see the beautiful Andromeda, walking in one direction and looking over her shoulder in the opposite direction -- a distinctive characteristic of the constellation Sagittarius, and one which features prominently in many ancient myths and sacred stories, including the story of Lot's unfortunate wife (who looks back at Sodom as her family is leaving the doomed city, and is herself turned into a pillar of salt, in Genesis 19: 26).

Note that the arms of Andromeda are even positioned on the same side of her body as the "bow" of Sagittarius, which I have demonstrated to sometimes be envisioned in various world myths as hands which are bound or tied (such as in the story of Joseph in the book of Genesis, sold into captivity by his brothers) or which in other cases are folded in reverence or in meditation.

Below we see the same illustration from the 1700s, juxtaposed with a star-chart showing the constellations as they appear in the night sky, with outlines based on the outlining system first published by H. A. Rey in 1952. It should be quite evident that Rey's system actually corresponds to a much, much older system, one which in fact can be shown to go back as far as ancient Egypt, ancient India, and ancient Mesopotamia and to correspond to artwork and scriptures which have survived from those ancient civilizations:

Note that in the heavens, the "water-vessel" carried by the constellation Aquarius can be seen to be pointing directly towards the "face" of the constellation Cetus, which explains why this ancient myth describes Perseus flying with the severed head towards the Ketos and turning it to stone. Other figures who carry severed heads in other myths (such as Gilgamesh carrying the severed head of Humbaba, in the texts from ancient Mesopotamia) are also likely to correspond to Aquarius carrying this "water-vessel" feature of the constellation.

In the star-chart above the illustration, we can also see why Sagittarius is often envisioned as walking in one direction and looking in the other direction, and why Andromeda is likely to be associated with Sagittarius in this particular scene (even though the mythical figure Andromeda is also associated with the constellation Andromeda itself). 

Finally, the rock to which Andromeda is chained in the illustration corresponds in its details to the outline of the nearby constellation Ophiuchus, which plays the role of a hill or mountain in so many myths that the association is really beyond any doubt (see discussion of this aspect of the constellation Ophiuchus in my most-recent book, for example, which is called The Ancient World-Wide System).

At the top of this post is a drawing I made today based on the original by William Hogarth from the 1700s. I decided to depict Perseus with his famous harpe sword (a hook-shaped sword which is actually based on a feature in the outline of the constellation Perseus in the heavens), as well as his characteristic Phrygian cap (which is how the cap of invisibility, loaned by the god Hermes, and closely associated with the hero Perseus as well as with other figures in the ancient world, is usually portrayed). I have argued that the features of the Phrygian cap itself are likely inspired by the outline of the constellation Perseus in the heavens.

I also chose to change the shape of the Ketos a bit, even though in doing so I have made the sea-monster less like the outline of the constellation than the monster envisioned by William Hogarth in his artwork.

If you would like to further explore the important ancient myth of Perseus and Andromeda and the quest to slay Medusa, and some of its amazing messages for our lives right now in this very present moment, you may also enjoy this video which I published in early October of this year: