Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Trinomial Cube and Humanity's Ancient Myths

The origins of the myths are shrouded in mystery.

As the new video above, entitled "The Trinomial Cube and Humanity's Ancient Myths," explains, the conventional explanations for the origins and purpose of ancient myth are often both inadequate and patronizing, viewing myth as an obsolete relic from a supposedly primitive and pre-scientific past.

There is, however, one view of the ancient myths which argues that they are neither obsolete nor primitive (nor are they necessarily "pre-scientific"): the theory that humanity's ancient myths are based upon a system of esoteric, celestial metaphor.

According to some proponents of this view (myself included), the ancient system provides an elegant and awe-inspiring means of conveying to our understanding profound truths regarding an invisible realm.

And, as Alvin Boyd Kuhn has insightfully argued, such an incredible system of using the Visible World to convey truths about the Invisible could not have been conceived when only one realm (the Visible) was known.

In this way, the ancient myths of humanity may be very much akin to the ingenious Montessori teaching experience known as the "trinomial cube," which beautifully models in a three-dimensional wooden cube the abstract and much less tangible concept of a cubed polynomial of three terms.

In order to have conceived of this model in the first place, its brilliant designer had to already possess a deep understanding of the concept of a trinomial, and of the outcome of cubing a trinomial.

Please enjoy the new video, "The Trinomial Cube and Humanity's Ancient Myths," and please feel free to share it with anyone who may benefit from its message.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Martin Luther King's urgent message to us today

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., born this day in 1929.

Rather than listening to what others say about him, it might be best to listen to what he himself said in his own powerful voice.

This is especially true because there are certain forces at work which seek to contain his message within boundaries of their own definition, and for their own purposes -- just as there were during his own lifetime.

But Dr. King's message defies such boundaries and flows far beyond them.

One of his most powerful speeches is Beyond Vietnam, delivered on April 4, 1967. 

The injustices and issues he addresses in this speech have only accelerated since the day he spoke against them on that day, nearly 50 years ago.

Below are some quotations from that speech -- but the entire speech deserves to be studied carefully, and if possible heard in Dr. King's own voice, as do all his other messages (here is a link to text versions of many of his addresses). 

Here is a link to the text of the speech.

Here is a link to the original typewritten text of the speech showing annotations.

Here is a link to a video containing audio of much of the speech.

Here is a link to a box set of original recordings of Dr. King's speeches, including Beyond Vietnam.

That speech addresses the military and political actions of the United States government in Vietnam -- but as Dr. King makes abundantly clear, the issues that he is addressing go beyond Vietnam.

The speech addresses a situation that existed in 1967 -- but as we hear his words today we see that the injustices he is addressing go beyond the 1960s.

Here are some particularly hard-hitting quotations from that speech of fifty years ago which each one of us to would do well to consider carefully today.

There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America.
[ . . . ]
And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in the rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.
[ . . . ]
Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read "Vietnam." It can never be saved so long as it destroyed the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that "America will be" are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
[ . . . ]
We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls "enemy," for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
[ . . . ]
What do the peasants think as we ally ourselves with the landlords and as we refuse to put any action into our many words concerning land reform? What do they think as we test out our latest weapons on them, just as the Germans tested out new medicine and tortures in the concentration camps of Europe?
[ . . . ]
At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called "enemy," I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated must surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor. 
Surely this madness must cease. We must stop now. I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor in America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home, and dealt death and destruction in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours -- the initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: 
"Each day the war goes on the hatred increased in the hearts of the Vietnamese and the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and of militarism."
[ . . . ]
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit [ . . . ].
[ . . . ]
In 1957 a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. [ . . . ] I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin -- we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
[ . . . ]
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.
[ . . . ]
That is the calling of the sons of God, and our brothers wait eagerly for our response. Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message -- of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was treacherously murdered exactly one year to the day after giving this speech. 

Abundant evidence has proven that he was not murdered by the person on whom the blame for his murder was placed but by a powerful cabal composed of men with deep connections, including segments within the US government. 

This fact argues that the decision to murder him on the anniversary of this particular speech was intended as a message, that he had gone beyond the boundaries within which certain forces sought to contain his powerful work (and within which they still seek to contain it). 

But Dr. King's message will not and cannot be contained within those boundaries, and it cannot be stopped by those methods. It can only be delayed by our own apathy.

And his message is more urgent and more pertinent today than ever.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A celestial exposition of Revelation chapter 12

If you haven't been following some of the lively conversations in the Skeptiko forum since my conversation with Alex Tsakiris which was published last week in podcast form, you may wish to have a look if you're interested.

I have enjoyed engaging in some of the discussion, and answering a few questions to help clarify some of the assertions that I made during the interview and that I make in my writing and publications.

One of the conversations in the forum involved a question regarding an interpretation of Revelation chapter 12 which has been presented in a public video on YouTube and which employs some awareness of the celestial content in that chapter, but turns the analysis of that celestial content into a declaration that the passage is describing events which will happen in literal history and which will involve a literal "rapture of the church" -- going so far as to suggest a specific possible date for the beginning of those events in September of this year.

I believe that the interpretation which is being given in that video is mistaken, and that the analysis in the video arrives at a series of very highly charged conclusions which could easily mislead people who don't have a very thorough understanding of the language of celestial metaphor which the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories of the world use to convey their message.

In fact, this ancient language of celestial metaphor is not at all widely understood. Based on what I've seen in the video, the author of the video itself has a very incomplete understanding of the system of celestial metaphor, which is not surprising since there is plentiful evidence to argue that very existence of that system of metaphor was deliberately obscured during the rise of literalist interpretation of the Biblical scriptures (and during the period when decisions regarding which texts would be allowed into the Biblical "canon" were being made).

I use the terms "literalism" and "literalist interpretation" very broadly here, to refer to interpretation which argues that the scriptures of the Bible should be understood as describing literal events and people in terrestrial history, rather than as presenting profound esoteric metaphor which is not describing historical personages or events, nor intended to be understood literally in order to convey its message.

Because the video in question is coming from within a hermeneutic which I would say can definitely be described as "literalist," it tries to force the celestial metaphors which the author perceives in the Revelation 12 text into a literalist paradigm, and thus arrives at some conclusions which I believe to be extremely dubious.

Therefore, I offered my interpretation of some of the events and metaphors in Revelation 12 which I believe are being overlooked by those offering these types of very literalistic interpretations of the ancient scriptures. This video is by no means alone in offering these types of emotionally-charged pronouncements and "calls to action" based on what I believe to be a lack of understanding of the worldwide system of metaphor which operates in the ancient myths.

Since I went ahead and answered that question on the forum over at Skeptiko, I decided to also reproduce that answer here for the benefit of those who might not have seen it over there.

I also decided to create a short video (15:00 minutes) in order to illustrate the concepts a little more clearly.


Below is the written explanation (with diagrams) which I included in my reply on the forum:

Just as with the previous material on the star of Bethlehem by someone who wants to use it to support literalist teachings, I believe this video is deeply mistaken.

The events of Revelation are "fulfilled in the heavens" all the time, not just in September of 2017. That's because they are based on celestial metaphor. There is a chapter in my most-recent book, Star Myths of the Bible, which discusses Revelation in some depth and provides some specific explanation of a few of the Revelation episodes and events (if I were to cover all of Revelation it would be another multi-volume series of its own).

Let me specifically address the interpretations offered in the above video.

1. The author of the video has made some correct connections to specific constellations. The woman about to give birth described in the scriptural passage does indeed correspond to Virgo, in my analysis (this is almost indisputable, given the number of times and places around the globe that Virgo plays a role in myth as a woman about to give birth or who has just given birth). However, when the author begins to confidently match this constellation up with political states in existence today, and then relate it to geopolitical events, he is engaging in very misleading (dangerously misleading) exegesis. The fact that you have large numbers of people being told what to believe about politics, and where to send their money, based on misguided interpretation of "Biblical prophecy" is very dangerous. There are specific Biblical passages, including words attributed to Jesus, which pronounce dire warnings against teachers who mislead their followers.

2. The author of the video makes a couple of correct connections, and then completely misses many other important connections. I will explain some of them below. But let me say at the outset that if literalists who find these connections in the sky compelling would learn the rest of the system, then they would see that virtually every event described in the Bible can be seen in the constellations, including the crucifixion and the events described at the first Pentecost in Acts (I have a blog post which gives extended explication of the Pentecost event in Acts, which interprets that event celestially as well as showing some connections to similar episodes and symbology in the myths of ancient Greece, here). So, those literalists who start down this road of seeing connections between the stars and the events and episodes described in their ancient texts should be cautious, because they may discover that everything in those texts is based on the same system. This video even makes an allusion to the way Eve was taken from the side of Adam and notes how interesting parallels exist to the woman in travail in the Revelation text -- which is because they are both based on the same region of the sky (you can see the "rib" being taken from the side of the woman in my diagram below -- I believe it to be Coma Berenices, a faint constellation known as Berenice's Hair in English, which actually plays a role in a wide array of myths from around the globe).

3. The author of the video states that understanding this passage "requires a working knowledge of ancient Greek." I would respond by suggesting that "a working knowledge of the language of celestial metaphor" would be helpful as well. This author has encountered a small taste of that language -- if he were to learn more of it, he could (I believe) hear the message of the ancient texts of the Bible (as well as the message of the world's other related myths) more accurately.

4. Below is my diagram of the region of the sky containing my interpretation of the celestial referents for the events discussed in the video, so that I can illustrate some of the parts the author of that video has missed:

5. Here is my explication of the passage:
a) Woman in Travail (ie, in labor, about to give birth) -- VIRGO.
b) Great red dragon with seven heads (described as a "wonder in heaven" by the way) -- SCORPIO
c) The man child she brought forth who is snatched up to God and his throne -- CORONA BOREALIS, the Northern Crown (labeled "N. Crown" above). This is a very obscure connection, but it is borne out across the myths. If you want to see it in operation in the famous Old Testament story of the Judgment of Solomon, see my discussion of it in my blog post here and in a video here). 
d) God and his throne correspond to -- HERCULES (his throne is most likely Ophiucus, not drawn-in with an outline in my diagram above).
e) Angels blowing trumpets in the Revelation visions are most likely associated with BOOTES.
f) The description of the Woman being saved by Wings of Eagles likely refers to AQUILA, the Eagle (and note that this constellation looks much larger in the sky in real life than it does in my star diagram above, as does Scorpio when you see it in person -- this star-chart utilizes Stellarium, an outstanding free open-source planetarium app, which distorts the size of the constellations in order to simulate constellations to your left and right, such that those on either edge of the screen appear larger and those in the center appear smaller, as if projected on the curved walls of a planetarium, or as if you are seeing constellations on a flat page that you would have to turn to the left and the right to see if you were outside).
g) The "water as a flood" which is cast out of the mouth of the serpent (and which the author of the above video does not really know what to do with, so he makes the extremely dubious assertion that it represents an invading army on the world stage of geopolitical events) corresponds to the constellation HYDRA (which itself is a serpent, but which has in its name a reference to water). This flood is intended by the serpent to "carry away" the woman, which as you can see it appears to be doing in the sky.

6. Below is another star-chart showing HYDRA and VIRGO more completely:

7. Note that in the above image, I have also drawn the outline for LEO the Lion, using the outline suggested by H. A. Rey (which is far superior to the outline used in most modern planetarium apps, smartphone apps, and Wikipedia entries). Note that Leo has MORE STARS than the nine that the author of the above video counts for Leo. The number of stars in a constellation is of course a very subjective matter, and depends on which outlining system you choose to use. The author of this video puts a huge amount of weight upon his count of stars in Leo, requiring THREE MORE to fit the prophecy (as he interprets it), which he then declares to be PLANETS (this allows him to declare this date of 23 September 2017 for the fulfillment of the prophecy). I would submit that this is an extremely dubious interpretation. You could count a different number of stars for Leo and then find another date where there are only two planets needed to fulfill the "twelve" number. It also goes without saying that planets are not stars -- and the ancients did not think they were either. In fact they seem to have known quite a lot about the planets.

8. In other words, the "child snatched up" is celestial in nature, and does not necessarily represent a "raptured church" AT ALL.

9. The most problematic part of the video, of course, is the fact that in spite of his evident ignorance of the celestial language of the scriptures (and the rest of the world's myths), the author of the video feels perfectly comfortable making confident declarations that "this means the raptured church" and "this means an invading army and an occupation" etc. 

10. The most objectionable part of the video, of course, is the author's warning that you'd better come to the same "faith" that he represents, or else you will be in grave danger for your immortal soul. This represents ignorance of the fact that ALL the world's ancient myths and sacred traditions can be shown to be using THE SAME system of celestial metaphor that underlies the scriptures which he believes to contain the ONLY truth that matters to anyone.

11. All that being said, I do not discount the possibility that there are actually powerful persons in positions to wield a lot of money and political influence who either actually believe these passages represent "end-times prophecy" that will play out on the world stage, or who are willing to cynically use people's belief in said prophecy to their own ends. If geopolitical events are manipulated in order to try to make it look like such prophecies are being fulfilled right before our eyes, then many could well be deceived by such erroneous misinterpretation of ancient texts.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Kojiki of ancient Japan

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The Kojiki (is the oldest surviving chronicle of ancient Japan. 

It contains three sections or books, the first of which recounts the age of spirit-deities (more properly known by the name, Kami) of ancient Japan, including a creation account and the adventures of the first and succeeding generations of gods and goddesses (such as Izanagi and Izanami, shown in the background of the center panel above, and Amaterasu shown at the top of the right panel above). 

The second volume recounts adventures in a heroic age in which legendary warriors, as well as warrior-kings and warrior-queens, battled one another as well as spirits and deities (beginning with the exploits of the first emperor Jinmu, the son of the goddess Amaterasu, who is depicted on the far right of the right-hand panel above, holding a tall bow with an eagle on top). The third book describes successive rulers, lineages, wars and feuds.

The ancient myths of Japan contained in the Kojiki can be conclusively demonstrated to share the same foundation of celestial metaphor which can also be seen at the foundation of all the world's other ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories, on every populated continent on our planet (as well as the islands scattered across the vast Pacific). 

For example, there is an episode in which a baby is cast adrift by his parents (who are the creator god and goddess Izanagi and Izanami), a story which most closely parallels the story of baby Maui in the myths and sacred stories of Aotearoa and the other Polynesian cultures across the Pacific islands. This story of the baby being cast adrift also of course parallels the story of baby Moses in the book of Genesis in the ancient Hebrew scriptures, as well as ancient legends surrounding the birth of the ancient king Sargon of Akkad, and the story of the birth of Karna (or Karnataka) in the Sanskrit texts of ancient India. All of these stories can be shown to be related to celestial figures, and set adrift in the band of the Milky Way in the sky.

There is also an episode in the Kojiki in which the Kami known as Great Deity has his hair tied to the rafters while he is asleep, by the Kami known as Great-Name-Possessor (see Kojiki volume one, section 23). When Great Deity's heavenly musical stringed-instrument is being carried away by Great-Name-Possessor, the instrument brushes against a tree and lets out a sound so resonant that the entire earth vibrates, awakening Great Deity, who shakes himself with his great strength and brings down the entire house, rafters and all. 

As the authors of Hamlet's Mill point out, there is a direct parallel here to the Old Testament story of Samson, during the contending with Delilah in chapter 16 of Judges, when she is trying to coax Samson into telling her the secret of his great strength. Samson at first tells Delilah various false methods of robbing him of his power (which she immediately tries upon him: if this were actually a literal and historical story, you would think that after two or three examples of her treachery, Samson would learn not to tell Delilah the real secret to robbing him of his strength). 

One of the false methods Samson tells Delilah involves weaving his hair into the web of her loom, which she promptly proceeds to do as soon as he is asleep -- and when he awakens, the ancient text tells us that Samson "went away with the pin of the beam, and with the web" (Judges 16: 14), in a direct parallel to the ancient myth recorded in the Kojiki from half a world away. The authors of Hamlet's Mill point out these parallels regarding pulling down buildings with one's hair on page 172, in the chapter entitled "Samson Under Many Skies."

All of these parallels are very unlikely to have simply popped-up independently of one another in the myths around the world -- the more so because they can all be shown to be connected to very specific constellations in very specific regions of the sky, constellations with features which manifest themselves in the Star Myths of the world by taking on the same familiar patterns over and over again. 

And yet, these constellational features are by no means obvious -- in many cases they are very obscure -- and therefore it is very difficult to argue that very different cultures around the world all decided to settle on the same way of incorporating these constellational features into their myths. It is far more likely that they all belong to some extremely ancient system which lies back of the different cultures of the world, some ancient system belonging to a culture or civilization in extreme antiquity, predating even the earliest Pyramid Texts of ancient Egypt and the earliest cuneiform tablets of ancient Mesopotamia (which can also be shown to be using the same system right from the outset) -- some forgotten ancient origin situated so far back in time that today we have no record of its existence.

Another ancient myth of Japan which is recorded in the Kojiki is an example of the "failed rescue from the land of the dead," which is also a familiar myth-pattern which shows up in many other cultures in lands very far removed around the globe and separated by vast oceans from the islands of Japan. The great goddess Izanami is burned to death while giving birth to the Swift-Burning-Flame-Child, and Izanagi buries her atop a mountain (he also grasps his awesome sword and cuts off the head of the Burning-Flame-Child). 

Later, Izanagi cannot bear to be without her, so he goes down to the underworld to ask her to come again and help him in the unfinished work of the lands of the world that they were creating together, but she laments and tells him that he is too late -- she has eaten of the food of the underworld and can no longer return (this is a clear parallel to the story of Persephone in the myths of ancient Greece: its celestial import is addressed in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two, which is all about the myths of ancient Greece).  

Then, Izanami tells Izanagi that she still desires to go with him, but that she must go discuss the matter with the deities of the underworld -- and warns him sternly that he must not look back at her if she is allowed to follow him. As in so many other manifestations of this pattern around the world, of course, Izanagi fails to heed her warning, and he breaks off one of the end-teeth of his comb which he carries in in his piled-up topknot of hair and lights this broken-off tooth as a torch. He is horrified to find that Izanagi is rotting and swarming with maggots -- and he flees in fear, as she sends out beings of the underworld to pursue him (the episode is described in the Kojiki, volume 1 and section 9).

This pattern, of the failed underworld rescue, repeats itself around the world, such as in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice in ancient Greece and in the story of Balder in the Norse myths of ancient Scandinavia. There is also a Lakota myth about an encounter with a powerful spirit-being named White Buffalo Woman which contains some parallels to the episode in the Kojiki. 

Just like all these other patterns found in the myths of ancient Japan which appear in the myths of other cultures around the globe, this one too can be shown to be based on the stars. In this particular version of the "failed underworld rescue," Izanagi is almost certainly associated with the figure of Hercules in the heavens. The details of the comb, and the torch which he makes from one of the teeth of his comb, are clues to that (as is the fact that the constellations Hercules and Virgo are sometimes paired in ancient myth, and probably represent Izanagi and Izanami, the first two Kami, while Izanami is still alive and before her descent to the underworld):

Another major clue regarding the celestial identity of Izanagi, of course, is his irresistible "ten-grasp sword," which is a weapon that strongly suggests a correspondence with the constellation Hercules in the sky. We have seen in our examination of numerous other Star Myths that Hercules-figures in the world's myths often carry a powerful club, mace, sword, or even thunderbolt. 

In this episode from the Kojiki, Izanagi draws his ten-grasp sword to cut off the head of the final child he has with Izanami, Swift-Burning-Flame-Child (who is so fiery that Izanami dies after giving birth to him). In the star-chart above, we see that Bootes is almost certainly the Burning Boy to whom Izanami gives birth, and we see the menacing figure of Hercules just behind Bootes, preparing to cut off his head with his massive sword. This detail from the story pretty much confirms beyond doubt that Izanagi is associated with the powerful constellation Hercules.

After Izanami goes down to the underworld, however, she rots and becomes covered with maggots. There are many Star Myths from around the world in which the multi-headed, serpentine form of the constellation Scorpio is described as a worm or a mass of worms (including in the Popol Vuh of the Maya of Central America, as discussed in Star Myths of the World, Volume One). In this particular version of the "failed rescue from the land of the dead" as it appears in the Kojiki, Scorpio almost certainly plays the form of Izanami, after she has descended to the underworld.

The detail about "not looking back" which is found in virtually all of the "failed rescue from the underworld" myths around the world is also connected to a specific constellation -- the constellation Sagittarius. As can be seen from the outline in the star-chart above (the outline suggested by H. A. Rey in his indispensable system of outlining the constellations), Sagittarius very clearly appears to be "looking back" over its shoulder (towards the right, as we face the diagram above) while walking the other way (towards the left, as we face the diagram above).

This is why, in the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, Orpheus is said to look back, and Eurydice disappears back into the realm of Hades when Orpheus looks. Note that Orpheus is renowned for his divine skill in playing the lyre and singing -- and the constellation Lyra the Lyre is located just beside the form of Hercules. Orpheus is almost certainly associated with the constellation Hercules (and with the Lyre), except when he descends to the underworld in order to try to rescue his beloved Eurydice, at which point he takes on the role of Sagittarius, looking back when he should not.

It should be abundantly evident that these myths did not pop up independently of one another all over the world -- they are part of a shared ancient system, based on the stars.

One of the most important of the sacred stories in the Kojiki, the account of the sun goddess Amaterasu retreating into a mountain after being offended by her impetuous brother Susanowo (or Susa-no-o), and having to be coaxed back out by the assembled gods and spirits, is also treated at some length in Star Myths of the World, Volume One

That story, too, can be shown to be based upon the constellations in the heavens -- and it too has its parallels around the world. Not only does the story of Amaterasu have parallels in the solar figure who withdraws for a time and has to be coaxed back (see Achilles in the Iliad, for example), but also in the "obscene dance that makes a female figure smile," which is again found in the myths of ancient Greece (in one of the stories surrounding the myth of Demeter and Persephone, when Baubo causes Demeter to laugh with an obscene dance) and in the Norse myths (in the story of Skade or Skadi, when Loki causes her to laugh with an obscene performance). Some discussion of the celestial elements of that story can be found in a previous blog post here.

There are actually many other episodes in the Kojiki which can be shown to be based upon the same world-wide system of celestial metaphor -- and to have parallels to other Star Myths around the world (including episodes described in the Bible). 

In fact, I would argue that it would be very difficult to properly interpret the Kojiki at all, without some understanding of its foundation in the system of celestial metaphor. There are episodes and events in the Kojiki which are extremely confusing and even nonsensical without the understanding that they are actually allegorizing specific constellational features. Some of the episodes in the Kojiki are so obscure or unusual that I myself have no idea of their celestial interpretation, even though I have now become very familiar with these patterns and have looked at a great many myths from around the world. 

Nevertheless, there is obviously plenty of evidence that the myths of ancient Japan related in the Kojiki and other sources share the same ancient system of celestial metaphor which underlies the other myths and sacred stories found around the world.

It is very unlikely that the myths related in the Kojiki were influenced by the stories in the Bible, or in the Greek myths, or in the Norse myths. As we have seen, the parallels are not just with one culture but with many cultures, all of them very remote and separated from Japan by great distances (we've just witnessed evidence that some of the Kojiki episodes discussed above include parallels to the Bible, to the myths of ancient Greece, to the myths of ancient India, to the myths found among the Polynesian cultures stretched across the vast Pacific, to specific episodes in the Popol Vuh of the Maya, to events in the Norse myths, and to a sacred story from the Lakota of North America). I believe it is far more likely that the ancient myths of Japan, as with all the other world's ancient myths, have very deep roots, stretching back to some now-forgotten source of incredible antiquity.

As such, they are part of the precious inheritance of ancient wisdom which was given to mankind by some now-unknown benefactor to whom we should be extremely grateful -- and they form another very important body of evidence that should be seen as uniting us all.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Welcome to new visitors from Skeptiko -- and to returning friends!

Thank you to Alex Tsakiris for having me over to Skeptiko: Science at the Tipping Point for a conversation about Star Myths and humanity's ancient past.

Skeptiko takes its name from the ancient Greek philosophical school which held that everything should be questioned and that certainty and dogma often function as a dangerous trap or mental prison (according to some traditions, the school was influenced by contact with the sadhus of ancient India). The Skeptiko website proclaims its ambition to:
Follow the data . . . wherever it leads. Explore the possibility that science-as-we-know-it might be at a tipping point. Engage the top thinkers in pointed discussions about the questions that matter most. Treat all guests with respect.
These are worthwhile goals, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to engage in "pointed discussion about the questions that matter most."

Alex skillfully guided the conversation in a direction that examined some aspects of the Star Myth theory that do not always come up in other interviews on the subject -- I hope you will find it to be thought-provoking and enjoyable, as I did.

Here is a link to listen to the interview in your browser.

Here is a link you can use to download the interview file (you can "right-click" or "control-click" and then select "download linked file as . . . " in order to save the file to a folder and then transfer it to a device such as an iPod or other mp3 player).

In the future, the interview may also appear on YouTube; if so, I will link to that video here as well.

Also, there are a series of images referred to during our conversation, beginning at about 55:00 into the discussion. Those images are shown below (at the bottom of this post).

The following are some links to further reading about some of the subjects discussed in this interview, for those interested:

  • The "dining-room table" mental model for understanding the rotation of the constellations throughout the year.
  • The crucial concept of your Higher Self, found in many myths around the world, and its relation to practices such as meditation (and to the message of the Bhagavad Gita).
  • The evidence that an ancient cataclysm or catastrophe may have played an important role in the destruction of much or all of that lost ancient civilization (or civilizations). 
  • Sample content from the books published so far in the Star Myths of the World series, as well as my other publications.

This interview was recorded on December 08, 2016.

Images used in the interview for reference (this part of the discussion begins at about 55:00 into the conversation):

image 1:


image 2:


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image 6:

Sunday, January 1, 2017

"A blueprint that sits behind creation"

Above is a remarkable and very helpful presentation from a master teacher of Daoist arts and inner alchemy, Damo Mitchell (see websites here and here and bios here and here).

A number of extremely notable points jump out from this discussion, worthy of careful consideration.

Some which strike me as especially noteworthy include the explanation of the nature of jing (Cantonese pronunciation zing, "essence") beginning at 04:45 in the clip, in which Damo Mitchell explains that jing not only functions as the base and foundation for the "Three Treasures" of jing, qi      (Cantonese pronunciation hei, "breath," "vital energy") and shen (Cantonese pronunciation san, "spirit"), but that jing itself originates in another realm of existence which is not physical, material or tangible (contrary to common misunderstanding). 

He explains:
Your jing is a frequency, a substance, an information that sits behind the realm of existence. It is not physical; it is not tangible.
He further tells us (beginning around 19:15 in the clip) that:
Jing, your essence, is a blueprint that sits behind creation -- ok, so it is not physical, it is not a thing I can grab, it's not a substance: it's an intangible information source that sits behind manifestation of physical matter. So, just like shen (your spirit) is not something you can grab, qi (your energy) is not something you can grab (it's an information source in the body), your jing is also not something that is tangible.
And further, following directly from the above, Damo Mitchell explains that jing is traditionally understood as the "fuel" which sees you through your path in life, or ming (命 Cantonese pronunciation meng). 

With this understanding of the vital importance of jing, we can better appreciate the emphasis -- present in the virtually all of the manifestations of ancient wisdom preserved in the myths, scriptures and sacred stories of humanity -- on the cultivation of practices which enhance jing, and the avoidance of habits and activities which deplete it.

As Damo Mitchell also explains in the remarkable video above (beginning around 27:00 in the clip), practices which are understood to enhance the quality of our jing are grouped under the label of Yang Sheng Fa ( literally "nourish-life-law" or "nourishing-life-principles;" Cantonese pronunciation joeng saang faat). 

These, he explains, can simply be translated as "healthy living" and include getting enough sleep (but not too much), not smoking or eating unhealthy foods, maintaining balance in terms of food, rest, and intake of alcohol -- all things that people commonly resolve to do at exactly this time of year, when we observe another circle around the sun and the beginning of a new calendar.

In addition, Damo Mitchell explains beginning around 29:30, is maintaining balance in the mind -- for which he recommends twenty minutes a day of calm, relaxed seated observation of the breath. This may be a practice you want to consider incorporating into your own daily life in 2017!

Another important aspect of the above video is Damo Mitchell's discussion of the esoteric Daoist chart known as the Neijing Tu or  -- literally the "internal warp diagram" (Cantonese pronunciation noi ging tou). This discussion begins at around 23:30 in the clip -- and continues throughout the remaining discussion.

This chart, which is discussed in greater depth in his books on Daoist internal alchemy or Nei Dan, specifically depicts the inner energetic landscape of a man or woman in terms of the external landscape of the mountains, streams, and fields -- not only providing us with a conceptual metaphor to aid our understanding, but also implicitly teaching us that our individual situation is intimately connected to the wider cycles of our planet and of nature, and even to the larger cycles of the heavens.

As Damo Mitchell writes in Heavenly Streams (2013):
It is an interesting characteristic of existence that life repeats itself on every level. That which takes place within the wider macrocosm of the universe is directly reflected within the microcosm of the human body. The same force which dictates and directs the movements of the stars and planets also shifts various energies within the human mind and body. This force is known as Qi and without it life in all its various forms would cease to exist. The ancient cultures of the world understood this intrinsic link between human beings and the wider environment. The Daoists were no exception and all of their many arts, practices and philosophies are based upon this rule of micro and macro systems. The ancient Daoists studied the shifting energies of the skies above them and grew to understand how all life upon Earth not only relies upon the movements of heaven but also how it matches it on every level. 22.
These are powerful concepts and, as the author points out in the above-cited passage, clearly present in virtually all of the world's ancient wisdom traditions -- which I believe to share a common, now-unknown, source. 

The fact that the world's ancient myths, scriptures and sacred traditions are closely related is strongly argued by the evidence that virtually all of them can be shown to share a common esoteric system of allegory to convey their profound knowledge, a system based upon the awe-inspiring motions of the sun, moon, visible planets, and stars and heavenly cycles (heavenly motions which are reflected in the cycles on our earth and within our own self as well).

Even the ancient traditions of Daoism or Taoism can be shown to share important aspects of this world-wide system of celestial metaphor, even though the way these metaphors manifest themselves in Daoist texts and tradition have a very different feel from some of the more elaborate myth-systems with extended pantheons of gods and goddesses, and elaborate and adventure-filled myth-traditions such as those we find in the Mahabharata of ancient India or the Iliad of ancient Greece or the stories of the Norse gods and jotuns or the adventures of the hero-twins in the Popol Vuh.

As I discuss in Star Myths of the World, Volume One (for example), the character of Laozi (sometimes rendered as Lao Tzu or Lao-tse in the Latin alphabet) is almost certainly related to the same system of celestial metaphor found in the world's other myths and sacred traditions. For instance, he is said to have dictated the Tao Te Ching as he departed into the west, through a gate, while riding upon a water buffalo or an ox -- all of which can be seen as celestial in nature (below is a famous painting of Laozi riding on his ox):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The Tao Te Ching itself explores deeply the endless cycles and unfoldings and passings and unfoldings of the "myriad things," which are allegorized in all of the world's esoteric myth traditions using related metaphors involving the heavenly cycles -- including the cycle of the year with its endless interplay of light and dark.

In many of these ancient myth-systems, for instance, there is a great battle between opposing forces representing the upper and lower halves of the great wheel, such as in the conflict at Kurukshetra in the Mahabharata (and the Bhagavad Gita), or the conflict between the Achaeans and the Trojans before the walls of Troy. Many of these involve precessional imagery as well (as the Odyssey of ancient Greece clearly does, and as the descriptions surrounding the day of Ragnarrok of the Norse myths does as well).

Laozi riding off into the west on the back of an ox clearly invokes the same metaphor, with the departure of an ox or water buffalo invoking the end of the precessional Age of Taurus.

But note also that the very name of the Old Master to whom the authorship of the Tao Te Ching is traditionally ascribed should also alert us to the fact that this ancient tradition employs the same esoteric system found in the other ancient myths in which the cycles of the cosmos in which we find ourselves embody and depict the interplay between the invisible, energetic, divine Other Realm and the physical, material, Visible Realm which unfolds out of that Other Realm and remains intimately connected to it at all times.

Lao Tzu or Laozi's name is composed of two Chinese characters, 老子, the first of which means "old" or "old man" (pronounced lou in Cantonese and actually used as an informal title of respect or affection when placed in front of the family-name, as in "Old Man Jones"), and the second of which means "child" or "son" or "scion" (pronounced jai in Cantonese, such as in the famous 1981 Hong Kong kung fu movie 敗家仔 which is usually rendered, somewhat loosely, as Prodigal Son in English).

The fact that this name is almost certainly related to the heavenly cycles is immediately apparent from the illustration below, in which I have placed the two characters which make up Laozi's name upon a New Year's postcard from 1910 showing the common tradition of depicting a youthful "Baby New Year" replacing the Old Year, who is depicted as an old man:

image: Wikimedia commons (link); Chinese characters for "Old Man"  and "child" added

The symbolism, of course, comes from the fact that on a great circle or cycle, and endpoint of one cycle is also simultaneously the beginning of another one. We can see this truth being explored in the Tao Te Ching, and its discussion of the endless unfolding and folding-in-again of the "myriad things." In the scriptures of the Bible (both Old and New Testaments), we see a similar concept in the discussions of  the last who becomes the first, and in "the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last."

I have also published some discussions in the past of the fact that the legends surrounding the figure of Bodhidharma (whose name becomes Da Mo  in China and Daruma in Japan) can be shown to be based upon the same system of celestial metaphor which underlies virtually all of the other ancient myths and scriptures preserved by humanity around the globe.

Note that both Laozi and Da Mo are depicted near the top of the Neijing Tu diagram (the version in the White Cloud Temple in Beijing to which Damo Mitchell makes reference can be seen here -- many other later paintings and charts based upon that one can be found on the web).

Thus, such symbology would seem well-suited to the task of conveying the understanding of the principle by which that which "sits behind creation" or "behind the realm of existence" comes to manifest in the realm of physical matter, as Damo Mitchell describes it in the above video and in his writings and teachings. Note the important part of Damo Mitchell's video in which he explains that the traditional or classical terms and concepts seem to be far more helpful for conveying this information to our understanding, and for developing higher levels of mastery in our practice, than attempts to "intellectualize" or "westernize" the descriptions of the transformations taking place in the Daoist arts.

This discussion also seems to be appropriate for this particular time in the year, when we observe the end of one year and the beginning of another -- often accompanied by resolutions concerning habits and practices we want to incorporate during the upcoming year, in hopes of manifesting something in our lives.

I would humbly submit that some of the practices which Damo Mitchell writes about and teaches about, and discusses in the video above, might be good candidates for "resolutions," if you're so inclined! We should be grateful for teachers and sages who are willing to share their knowledge with us about such things.

I would like to again extend my wishes for a Happy New Year to everyone and blessings in 2017!

image: Wikimedia commons (link).