Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Every human life is precious

Corpus Hermeticum:

Of all beings that have Soul,
only man has a two-fold nature.
One part, called 'The Image of Atum,'
is single, undivided, spiritual and eternal.
The other part
is made of the four material elements.
One comes from the Primal Mind.
It has the power of the Creator,
and is able to know Atum.*
The other is put in man
by the revolution of the heavens.

Man is the most divine of all beings,
for amongst all living things,
Atum associates with him only --
[. . .]

To speak without fear,
human beings are above the gods of heaven,
or at least their equal --
for the gods will never pass
their celestial boundaries
and descend to Earth,
but a man may ascend to heaven,
and what is more,
he may do so without leaving the Earth,
so vast an expanse can his power encompass.
[. . .]

Man is a marvel,
due honour and reverence.
He takes on the attributes of the gods,
as if he were one of their number.
He is familiar with the gods,
because he knows he springs
from the same source.
He raises reverent eyes to heaven above,
and tends the Earth below.
He is blessed by being the intermediary.
He loves all below him,
and is loved by all above him.
Confident of his divinity,
he throws off his solely human nature.
[. . .]

There are then these three --
Atum, Cosmos, man.
The Cosmos is contained by Atum.
Man is contained by the Cosmos.
The Cosmos is the son of Atum.
Man is the son of the Cosmos,
and the grandson, so to speak, of Atum.
Atum does not ignore man,
but acknowledges him fully,
as he wishes to be fully acknowledged by man,
for this alone is man's purpose and salvation --
the ascent to heaven
and the Knowledge of Atum.

-- The Hermetica, new version by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy (1999), 73 - 76.

* "Although we have used the familiar term 'God' in the explanatory notes which accompany each chapter, we have avoided this term in the text itself.  Instead we have used 'Atum' -- one of the ancient Egyptian names for the Supreme One-God.  We felt that using this unfamiliar Egyptian name would allow the reader the opportunity to build up their own conceptual picture of what Hermes means by the term, free of any associations they may have with the word 'God'" (Freke and Gandy, xxxiv).

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Catastrophic formation of the Grand Canyon: still more evidence, this time from the Mojave Desert

If Dr. Walt Brown's hydroplate theory is correct, and the Grand Canyon is a result of the rapid release of millions of tons of water that had been trapped in two massive inland seas (Grand Lake and Hopi Lake, shown in the image on this page of the online version of his book), then the release of so much water should have left evidence all the way along its path to the ocean.  The evidence of such an event would look very different than the evidence that we would find if the Grand Canyon was carved slowly over tens of millions of years by the action of the Colorado River (the conventional explanation).  

The previous discussion presented just that kind of evidence, in the form of six thousand cubic miles of sediments along the northern basin of the Gulf of California.  However, diving down to the floor of the Gulf of California is not an easy undertaking.  Fortunately, we should expect to find plenty more evidence in between the Grand Canyon and the Gulf of California which could provide clues as to the mechanism behind the Canyon's formation -- evidence that would look very different depending on whether its formation was caused by massive amounts of water moving at very high velocity after huge lakes breached, or whether its formation was instead caused by a relatively small river moving at normal speeds over millions of years.

The image above, from Google Maps, shows the distinctive terrain between the two features (Grand Canyon and Gulf of California), a desert region resembling a vast flood plain, marked by ridge line features that resemble lines of dirt left over by a drainage event.  This area is part of the larger "Great Basin" region, and contains the Mojave Desert.  If you can imagine lining the bottom of a bathtub with dirt, then filling it up with water, and then blowing a hole in the side of the bathtub with a large firecracker (like an M-80) [don't try this at home -- this is only a thought experiment], you might be left with a similar pattern of dirt "eddies" along the floor of the bathroom after all the water flowed out of the tub and out of the bathroom (assuming the water had someplace lower to run towards).

If you explore the terrain shown above in person (and I have spent quite a bit of time crawling around in the regions shown in the map) you will find that it is full of very interesting terrain, and that most of the ridge line features that rise up out of the desert are full of a mix of rocks and boulders of all sizes and shapes.  Some of these have been rounded into spheroid shapes by some process.  According to Dr. Brown's interpretation of this evidence, these provide further support for the hypothesis that the Grand Canyon was the product of massive volumes of high-velocity water, which removed thousands of cubic miles of sediments and flowed towards the Gulf of California like a massive tsunami.  

In figure 136, which is found on this page of Dr. Brown's chapter on the Grand Canyon (under paragraph 13, "Missing Dirt"), he presents a photograph of two such spheroid boulders, located south of Bullhead City, Arizona about a mile east of the Colorado River and a hundred feet in elevation above that river (see image below).  The approximate location of this photograph is marked in the map above with a red arrow.  

What could have rounded these boulders into their smooth shapes?  One possibility is the action of high-velocity water, moving them along the bottom for miles at a rapid pace, and depositing them far from the present river and at an elevation high above it.

These boulders shown in Dr. Brown's book (the same image can be seen in the hardcopy version of his book, on page 205 of the 8th edition) are by no means anomalous to the region.  Other similarly rounded boulders can be seen in the Coachella Valley, far to the west and south of the red arrow in the image above, but still in the area that would have been flooded by the rapidly-moving water from the breaching of Grand and Hopi Lakes, if the hydroplate theory is correct.  See for example the photograph at the top of this page (linked) showing very spheroid boulders, some piled on top of one another with large gaps in between them.

There are a few possibilities for explaining the boulders in that image, which are located in Joshua Tree National Park at the approximate location of the marker (the red marker, with the letter "A" on it) in the image below:

That location can be found on the map at the top of this post as well -- it is just north of the Salton Sea and Interstate 10 (you can find the Salton Sea on the map at the top of this post -- it is about center from the left and right sides of the image, but closer to the lower edge of the image).

Those boulders could have been carved into spheroid shapes by the wind, although this explanation seems somewhat unlikely (especially as they are piled on top of one another -- the wind would not be expected to deposit large boulders on top of one another in that manner).  They could have been ejected from an ancient volcano in this spheroid shape and left in a pile as shown in the photograph (while this possibility does not seem to be the correct one, especially given the composition of the rocks themselves, it is a possible explanation).  Or, they could have been eroded into a spheroid shape by rolling for miles at the bottom of a huge flow of water, and left in the location we find them today by that water as it coursed down through the maze of mountainous terrain features towards the Gulf of California.

In his discussion of the evidence (again from paragraph 13 on this page of his online book), Dr. Brown writes:

At least 2,000 cubic miles of Mesozoic sediments were stripped off the layers surrounding and above what is now the Grand Canyon. Only then could the 800 cubic miles of sediments be removed from inside the Grand Canyon. All that dirt was spread downstream from the Grand Canyon, primarily into the northernmost 220 miles of the Gulf of California.
Relatively few sediments were deposited along the Colorado River as it flows south toward the Gulf of California. Rounded boulders mixed with sand and clay are often seen where today’s side streams have cut channels 100–200 feet deep. Those rounded boulders show that they were tumbled and transported by high-velocity water. Unsorted mixtures of sand, clay, and boulders show that the turbulent, muddy water suddenly slowed, depositing the unsorted mixture. [See Figures 136 and 137.]

Clearly, if the Canyon were carved by the normal action of the Colorado River over millions of years, we would have to find another explanation for the location and condition of these boulders.  It would be difficult (if not impossible) to explain this evidence by saying that the river has been flowing at a fairly uniform rate and volume for millions of years.

If you read further in paragraph 13 on the web page cited above from Dr. Brown's book, you will find a reference to a recent (2011) study of the very area under discussion, which looked at the geology of the area shown in the map above and said that although the sediments in the area in question have been widely studied for over a hundred fifty years, "their origin remains unresolved and their stratigraphic context has been confused" (Stratigraphy and Depositional Environments of the Upper Pleistocene Chemehuevi Formation along the Lower Colorado River, Malmon, Howard, House, Lundstrom, Pearthree, Sarna-Wojcicki, Wan and Wahl, 2012 -- link to full report).

They offer a new theory for the origin of the sediments in the vast flood plain between the Grand Canyon and the Gulf of California, namely "a single major episode of fluvial aggradation, during which the Colorado River filled its valley with a great volume of dominantly sand-sized sediment."

While it is nice to see conventional geologists arguing for an extraordinary event to explain evidence that clearly calls for such an explanation (and note that their study was published long after Dr. Brown wrote the discussion quoted above, which can be found in his 2008 hard-copy 8th edition, minus the reference to the 2011 study), their explanation still fails to explain the rounded boulders shown in the two locations discussed above.  A flooding river might move large rocks, but it would not be expected to have the velocity to roll them along for miles at high speeds and round them into spheroids, nor would it be able to pile them up in the jumble shown in the Joshua Tree image.

In short, the evidence on the ground in between the Grand Canyon and the Gulf of California appears to support the hydroplate theory, and to refute the conventional explanations.  And that is in addition to the tons of sediments at the bottom of the Gulf of California (which suggest a rapid high-volume dumping, because if those sediments were deposited by a river over millions of years, it would have been expected to build up a large river delta, which is not present at the north end of the Gulf, as discussed in the previous post and in Dr. Brown's books).

All of this evidence can be added to the massive amounts of evidence in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon itself, which suggests that this incredible terrain feature is the product of a catastrophic event involving huge volumes of high-velocity water, and not the action of a normal river moving with normal volumes and normal velocities over the course of millions of years.  And yet teachers in school responsible for the education of children from the youngest grades through graduate school, as well as all the guides at the Grand Canyon itself, continue to insist on presenting the conventional theory as if it were settled fact, and as if anyone suggesting an alternative explanation is way out of bounds.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Missing dirt from the Grand Canyon found on the floor of the Gulf of California!

The Grand Canyon is often included on lists of the "Seven Wonders of the Natural World" (following on the tradition of creating lists of the "Seven Wonders of the World," a tradition which started in antiquity).  It is truly one of the most massive canyons on earth, stretching well over 200 miles, over the course of which its widths span from four to an incredible eighteen miles across, and reaching an average depth of a mile from the rim to the riverbed far below.

The amount of earth that had to be removed to form such an enormous abyss is truly staggering.  The US National Park Service web page lists the volume of the Grand Canyon as 5.45 trillion cubic yards.  This is an almost-inconceivable volume of dirt that had to be removed.  

Where did it all go?

Walt Brown, the originator of the hydroplate theory, who devotes an entire chapter of his book (available online and in print) to the Grand Canyon, recognizes the significance of this question.  He notes that the volume of sediments that had to be displaced totals about 800 cubic miles!  

He also explains that most conventional theories for the formation of the Grand Canyon, such as the idea that the Colorado River slowly eroded this massive canyon (averaging ten miles wide and one mile deep for well over 200 miles) have a real problem explaining where all that dirt went.

The Colorado River empties into the Gulf of California (the body of water between the Baja peninsula), and Mexico itself.  If that dirt was gradually eroded, there should be a massive delta where the river meets the gulf, but the delta there is tiny, containing not even 1% of the volume of dirt that must at one time have been removed from the Grand Canyon (see for instance point 20 on this web page from Dr. Brown's book).

Dr. Brown relates the story of one of the Grand Canyon's most colorful characters from the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, John Hance (known as "Captain" John Hance, or sometimes "Cap").  He became famous for regaling visitors with his tall tales, including his explanation of how the mighty canyon came into being.  Quoting a description of Captain Hance's famous account of the canyon's origin, given by former Arizona governor and former US Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, Dr. Brown relates:
Children loved John Hance, and to them he always explained how the canyon came into being.  "I dug it," he would say simply.  This story worked well for years until one little four-year old girl asked seriously, "And where did you put all the dirt?"  Hance had no ready answer; he never used that story again.  But it bothered him the rest of his life, and when he was dying he whispered to his waiting friends, "Where do you suppose I could have put that dirt?" (from this page in Dr. Brown's online book, quoting Bruce Babbitt -- see footnote 4. on this page).
For more of John Hance's deadpan tall-tales, see this description of the colorful Grand Canyon guide.  Apparently, the question of where all that dirt went made a deep impression on Captain Hance, and troubled him to the end of his days.  It is a question that conventional geologists have yet to answer.

However, the hydroplate theory of Dr. Brown provides an answer for the question of where all those cubic miles of dirt ended up.  As related in previous posts, and discussed in greater detail in his book, Dr. Brown's hydroplate theory argues that the Grand Canyon was not carved by the mechanism of slow erosion by the Colorado River over millions of years, but rather that it was created in a relatively short period of weeks or months by the catastrophic breaching of two enormous inland seas, each one of which were left over from a world-wide flood.  Previous posts pointing to evidence that makes the conventional theory difficult to accept but which support Walt Brown's theory for the formation of the Grand Canyon include:
If the Grand Canyon is a product of a massive, high-volume and high-intensity outpouring of millions of tons of water from two huge inland seas left over from the world-wide flood (you can see where Dr. Brown believes these two huge water bodies once stood on this map in his online book), then the final resting place for all that dirt would be very different than if the dirt were removed gradually over millions of years by a relatively small river.

In fact, the sudden breaching of two enormous water bodies of the size described by the hyrdoplate theory would have removed even more dirt than was in the Grand Canyon, as massive as that is.  According to the hydroplate theory, the breaching of these two inland seas removed at least 2,000 cubic miles of sediments above what is now the Grand Canyon, in addition to the 800 cubic miles of sediment that had to come out of the canyon itself.  You can read in his book how the removal of all that sediment caused the layers below to arch upwards, a phenomenon whose evidence is clearly visible in the geology of the region of the Grand Canyon, and in places to crack (Marble Canyon was caused by this upward arching and subsequent cracking motion).

All those cubic miles of sediments were washed away by the violent release of the two huge lakes, and they swept along until they dumped into the sea -- in this case, they dumped into the Gulf of California, where the Colorado River still meets the sea today.  Along the way, many sediments were deposited into the region between the Grand Canyon and the Gulf of California, but a huge quantity of them dumped into the gulf and they are still there today.

The image below, from Dr. Brown's book here (see section 13, "Missing Dirt"), contains modern three-dimensional imagery of the Gulf of California showing where all those sediments ended up.  Dr. Brown's caption for the image reads in part as follows:
Here's the Dirt.  It's right where we would expect it, if we understood the Grand Canyon's rapid and violent formation.  Hidden beneath the flat floor of the Gulf of California are at least 6,000 cubic miles of sediments.  That basin, bounded on the south by the largest islands in the Gulf, has an area of 15,000 square miles (220 miles long and 60-100 miles wide).  Sediment depths are up to 1.2 miles thick!  About half the basin's sediments were rapidly transported from the Grand Canyon (on the figure's northern horizon), along the path now occupied by the Colorado River.
Why is the Northern Basin's 15,000-square-mile floor so flat?  Within weeks, a few thousand cubic miles of sediments were swept into the basin.  The larger particles settled out first, near today's shoreline.  Finer particles settled out last, but until they did, the muddy water, because it was denser, flowed to the basin's deeper regions where the mud eventually settled, flattening the seafloor.
You can see water depths for the various parts of the Gulf of California in this 1956 study of the feature, "Oceanographic and Meteorological Aspects of the Gulf of California," by Gunnar I. Roden.  The excellent bathymetry charts on pages 22 and 23 of that study clearly show that while the northern portion of the gulf (where Dr. Brown's theory says the sediments were dumped) has depths below 200 meters, the rest of the gulf reaches depths of over 2,800 meters!  In other words, if Dr. Brown is correct -- and the evidence from the Gulf of California seems to support his argument -- then the depths of those sediments are truly astonishing.

This evidence is just one more of many pieces of evidence surrounding the formation of the Grand Canyon which appears to refute the conventional explanations and support the explanation put forward in Dr. Brown's hydroplate theory.  The evidence for the hydroplane theory from the Grand Canyon alone is extremely compelling, but that is just one geological feature among literally several hundred more that Dr. Brown examines in his book, all of which contain evidence which appears to support his theory.

Based on all this evidence, the conventional theories seem about as plausible as Captain John Hance's wry explanation for the origin of the Grand Canyon.  Or, to say it another way, Captain Hance's explanation appears just as good as the stories that park rangers tell visitors to this day regarding the origin of this "natural wonder of the world."  (But where did he put all that dirt?)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Shamanic journeys: Butchu and Koori and the constellations Eagle and Swan


The beautiful band of the Milky Way is now passing nearly directly overhead in the hour before midnight each night (it can be seen earlier than that as well, but it will be further to the east, still rising towards the center of the sky).  It is a spectacular sight and well worth walking out to see during the dark midnight hour, especially now when the moon is still very young and following close behind the setting sun, leaving the rest of the night very dark and very conducive to stargazing.

Two of the most distinctive constellations in the band of the Milky Way are the important celestial birds of Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan.  They are very easy to locate, especially since each contains one of the bright stars that make up the Summer Triangle (Altair in the Eagle and Deneb in the Swan).  

The diagram above shows the Swan and the Eagle in the Milky Way: the Swan is depicted at the top of the image and is "flying" towards the bottom (which is also towards the southern horizon, for northern hemisphere viewers), and the Eagle is depicted at the bottom of the image and is "flying" towards the top of the image.  This previous post (from which the above image is taken) discusses the importance of these two constellations in greater detail, and shows the Summer Triangle as well.

These constellations feature prominently in shamanic tradition and practice in the parts of the world in which shamanism survived into the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  One of the most distinctive capabilities of the shaman is his or her ability to fly, possibly indicating the ability to deliberately undertake an out-of-body experience, often by transformation into a bird such as an eagle.  The fringed garments worn by shamans around the world (an example from North America is shown in this previous post) very likely indicates this ability to transform into a bird, and the celestial aspects of the shaman's journey are very evident in the traditions that have been recorded around the world, and are discussed by the authors of Hamlet's Mill.

It is my belief that it is the spirits of the constellations of the Eagle and the Swan which bring back the Goldi (or Nanai) shaman from his journey into the other world, as described in various accounts by those who witnessed their ceremonies.  In his landmark work Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1964), Mircea Eliade describes the nimgan ceremony of the Nanai of north-east Asia, during which the shaman guides the departed soul of a deceased person to the other world:
At sunset preparations for the departure are made.  The shaman sings, dances and daubs his face with soot.  He invokes his helping spirits and begs them to guide him and the dead man to the beyond.  He leaves the yurt for a few minutes and climbs a notched tree that has been set up in readiness; from here he sees the road to the underworld.  (He has, in fact, climbed the World Tree and is at the summit of the world.)  At the same time he sees many other things: plentiful snow, successful hunting and fishing, and so on.
Returning to the yurt, he summons two powerful tutelary spirits to help him: butchu, a kind of one-legged monster with a  human face and feathers, and koori, a long-necked bird.  Without the help of these two spirits, the shaman could not come back from the underworld; he makes the most difficult part of the return journey sitting on the koori's back.  211.
Here is another mention of these two important spirits, from Shamanism in Eurasia by Vilmos Diśzegi and Mihály Hoppál.  On page 209 of volume 4, again recording the shamanic practices of the Goldi or Nanai, we read:
on your chest and on your back, you will hang the toli  that will protect your body from the arrows of the shamans’ enemies.
Then you will make a belt out of rattles : ... and
the drum will take you to the buni any time you want; you will be helped by the spirit Butchu and by the bird Koori, who will always bring you back from the buni.
To support the theory that the spirit Butchu and the bird Koori are connected to the Eagle and the Swan, we can first note that the Milky Way was seen as the road that the departed spirits traveled after leaving this world, as well as the road down which spirits traveled before entering a new baby being born.  The evidence for this assertion is discussed at length in Hamlet's Mill.  Some of this evidence is discussed in this previous post.  This fact reveals the significance of the description from Mircea Eliade, in which the shaman "sees the road to the underworld."  

If this road is the Milky Way, then that fact sheds light on the tradition in which two beings associated with the stars we know as the Eagle and the Swan are the beings essential to bringing the shaman back to this world.

As for the identification of Butchu and Koori with the Eagle and the Swan, look again at the description recorded by Mircea Eliade.  The spirit Butchu is described as being "one-legged" -- look again at the diagram of the constellations at the top of this post, and you will see that this description is quite apt for the arrangement of stars in Aquila the Eagle.  

The bird Koori is described as "a long-necked bird" -- and again, if you look at the diagram of the stars in the constellation Cygnus the Swan you will see that it indeed does have a very long neck.

One other detail, this time recorded in the passage above cited from Shamanism in Eurasia, provides a further clue that this identification for Butchu and Koori is on the mark, and that is the mention of arrows ("the arrow's of the shamans' enemies").  Right between the constellations of the Eagle and the Swan is the small but distinctive constellation known as Sagitta, the Arrow.  It is diagrammed and discussed in this previous post.  Its shape is such that it can hardly be viewed as anything but an arrow when you find it in the sky.  The mention of the arrows in conjunction with the safe passage given by the spirit Butchu and the bird Koori may be further evidence that these aspects of the shamanic ritual indicate the travel of the shaman guiding the departed soul is a journey to the macrocosm of the celestial realm, and that the portion of the Milky Way containing the Eagle, the Arrow, and the Swan is being indicated by that part of the ceremony.

The image below, from Wikimedia commons, of the ceremonial dress of a Nanai shaman is significant to the themes discussed above.  Note that it has tassels on its fringes, very similar to the example from North America linked above.  It also depicts, in its lower half, the World Tree mentioned by Eliade.  And, at the base of that World Tree, we see a distinctive image of a Swan drawn on the clothes.

I believe the connection between the shamanic journey and the celestial realm is very important, especially in light of the connection between the shamanic journey and the ancient Egyptian Pyramid Texts alleged by Dr. Jeremy Naydler.  The possibility that the Butchu and the Koori are associated with the constellations of the Eagle and the Swan in the Milky Way should be explored further.