Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John the Baptist

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Caution: this post will examine evidence that the stories in the Biblical scriptures were not intended to be understood literally. Those not comfortable examining such evidence may not wish to read further.

As we approach the "lowest point" on the annual wheel of the year, the winter solstice (which is the December solstice, for those in the northern hemisphere), we approach the celebration of Christmas and all the rich symbolism and powerful traditions which surround that special day on which the sun finally stops its "downward journey," pauses, and then turns back around to head back "upwards" towards lengthening days and the return of warmth and life after another winter.

The arrival of Jesus in each of the four gospels which were included in the canon is first discussed in conjunction with another extremely important figure: that of John the Baptist. He is the one who goes before the Christ, preparing the way, in fulfillment we are told in each of the four gospels of the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 -- "For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matthew 3:3). The gospel according to Mark cites the additional prophecy of Malachi 3:1 -- "As it is written in the prphets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee" (Mark 1:2).

The gospels of Matthew, Mark and John all introduce John the Baptist at the River Jordan, preaching a "baptism of repentance," baptizing with water, and announcing the impending arrival of one who will come after him: "There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost" (Mark 1:7-8). The gospel according to Matthew adds "and with fire" to describe the baptism of the one who will come after John (Matthew 3:11). 

The gospel according to Luke also introduces John the Baptist as the one who will go before Jesus, but does so by describing the announcement through the angel Gabriel to John's father Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth will bear a son, who will go before the Lord (Luke 1:13-20). The gospel of Luke also describes the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary the mother of Jesus, and from the details provided in Luke 1:36 and 1:56-57, we can conclude that John was born six months ahead of Jesus -- going before him in the order of their birth as well.

I believe that there is overwhelming evidence which supports the conclusion that the stories of the Old and New Testament describe the motions of the celestial actors in the heavenly realm: the sun, moon, stars, and visible planets. I further believe that this celestial foundation connects the sacred scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to the sacred scriptures and myths and traditions of virtually every other culture around our planet, which can also be shown to employ the same system of celestial metaphor. I discuss the evidence for this conclusion, and the implications of this evidence, in my book The Undying Stars (sample chapters available online here). I also discuss many examples of this system at work in previous blog posts examining the sacred myths from around the world, which I have indexed (with links) here

I believe that in the person of John the Baptist, and the details we are given about his life in the four gospels which made their way into what we today call the Bible, we are given an extraordinarily powerfully illustration of this system at work.

Cautionthis post will examine evidence that the stories in the Biblical scriptures were not intended to be understood literally. Those not comfortable examining such evidence may not wish to read further.

As Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend argue in their seminal 1969 work, Hamlet's Mill, one of the characteristics of the celestial system is the fact that the various heavenly "actors" will take on different roles, from one myth-system to another, as well as within the same myth-system (and even, at times, within the same story -- like an actor who appears as two or more different characters in different scenes of the same movie or play). This phenomenon is described in this previous post

Which of the celestial players is most likely to be the "actor" who plays the role of John the Baptist in the gospel accounts?

If we are familiar with the "cast" of possible actors who travel in cycles through the heavens, then the descriptions of John as one who is specifically described as "baptizing with water" (for instance, in Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, and John 1:26) should call to mind one particularly important zodiac constellation: the Water-Bearer, Aquarius. And indeed, there are numerous clues included in the text which appear to indicate that John the Baptist is associated with the constellation Aquarius.

Below is a screen-shot of the night sky as it appears to an observer in the northern hemisphere, looking towards the southern horizon, when the Milky Way is rising up like a shimmering stream across the sky, and the glorious and very bright zodiac constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius are flanking the base of the Milky Way on either side. Scorpio and Sagittarius are both constellations associated with the "lower half" of the zodiac wheel, when the annual cycle is descending towards winter solstice, because the "sign" of Scorpio and of Sagittarius both take place in the months just prior to the low-point "turn upwards" of the winter solstice. As an aside, the sign is derived from the month in which the sun rises in the "house" of that constellation -- the constellation's stars being visible above the eastern horizon just above the point where the sun will rise, and growing fainter and fainter as the sun approaches and the pre-dawn sky becomes lighter and lighter. 

Aquarius is visible on the left side of the image, just above the Goat outline of Capricorn. Just to the right (west) of Capricorn is Sagittarius (guarding the left-hand side of the rising Milky Way, as we look south), and beyond Sagittarius a bit further right (west) is the sinuous form of Scorpio, low down and close to the horizon, most of its body immersed in fact in the stream of the Milky Way. 

This screenshot is from the outstanding open-source planetarium app at It shows the outlines of the constellations (these can be turned on or off), but it does so with an outlining convention which I do not believe is the most helpful or useful for envisioning the constellations in your mind. I much prefer the outlining system proposed by H.A. Rey.

Below, I will draw in the outlines using the H.A. Rey system, and you will immediately see that Aquarius can be envisioned as a man holding a large pitcher of water, from which he is pouring two streams. This fact cannot be easily envisioned using the atrocious outlining system seen in the above image (the Goat and Scorpion outlines are OK in that system, but the outlines for Aquarius, Sagittarius, and many others are most unsatisfactory). We will see from the image with outlines drawn in that Aquarius, who is associated with water, can be seen as a strong contender for the role of John the Baptist, whom the texts describe very specifically as "baptizing with water."

In the image below, I also identify two additional clues from the Biblical texts, which I believe can be used to help bolster the case that this scene from the night sky is the origin of the descriptions of John baptizing in the wilderness. We are told that John's food consisted solely of "locusts and wild honey" (for example, in Matthew 3:4). In the image below, we see that the brightest stars within Sagittarius, which are often referred to as the "Teapot," can also be imagined to look like a bright celestial grasshopper: a locust. This identification of the Teapot asterism within Sagittarius with locusts described in the Bible is also supported by the celestial analysis of Revelation chapter 9, in which Sagittarius is almost certainly being described, and locusts are prominently referenced there as well. 

The locusts of John's diet live at the base of the Milky Way, near Aquarius, but where is the "wild honey" that the scriptures refer to? As we have seen in previous posts, the honey is located at the other end of the Milky Way, where it crosses the zodiac band again, this time just below the feet of the Twins of Gemini, who are located at the "top" of the zodiac wheel, just prior to summer solstice and just prior to the sign of Cancer the Crab. As we have discussed in previous posts, an important feature in Cancer the Crab is the famous Beehive Cluster, which finds its way into many myths around the world. So, John's food can be located at the "lower" and "upper" ends of the Milky Way stream, the locusts at the point where the Milky Way crosses Sagittarius, and the wild honey at the point where the Milky Way crosses near Cancer.

Additionally, as shown in the image below, John has a rather rough way of addressing the penitents who come to the River Jordan to be baptized of him. Speaking in particular to the Pharisees and Saducees, we are told that John asks: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (for instance, in Matthew 3:7). As we can see from the image below, the vipers are present, right next to the locusts:

As noted above, if the Milky Way is here representing the River Jordan, where John the Baptist is performing his baptism of repentance, it does appear that the "vipers" are at least getting in the river to be baptized!

There are additional clues that Aquarius is the correct celestial origin of John the Baptist. First, when Jesus arrives, John is described as looking up and declaring, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). If John "goes before" Jesus and "prepares the way" for his arrival, then it could be expected that John is here referring to one of the zodiac constellations which he "goes before" in the nightly rotation -- and sure enough, the constellations which follow Aquarius in the zodiac band are Pisces (just visible in the above image, as a polygonal shape to his left, below the letter "J" in the "John the Baptist" label) followed immediately by Aries the Ram. And, as you can see from the H.A. Rey outline of Aquarius, his head is actually "looking" in that direction -- he really will be able to see the Ram (or Lamb) of Aries rising up behind him as the sky continues to turn from the east to the west (from the left to the right in this image).

We are also told in many of the gospels that John declares that "There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose" (Mark 1:7). This mention of "stooping down" is very helpful, because Aquarius does seem to be "stooping" in the sky, or pitched forward in his posture as he leans forward with his jug. 

Who is the one whose shoes he is not fit to untie? 

I believe this scripture refers in fact to Orion, who is indeed "mightier" than Aquarius, being a true giant in the sky and also the constellation with the highest ratio of bright stars to total stars of any in the night sky (in marked contrast to Aquarius, who is it must be admitted a constellation rather dim and difficult to make out). Orion has a significant "shoe" or "foot" in the bright star Rigel -- in fact, his "toe" is referred to in other myths from other cultures, as Hamlet's Mill discusses. Orion does indeed come after Aquarius in the sky -- his form is located just below Taurus the Bull, which is the zodiac constellation which follows immediately after Aries. 

But the clinching detail in the scripture which indicates that John is referring to Orion with this line about the one mightier than he who is coming after him is the fact that some of the gospels make mention of this "mightier one" carrying "his fan in his hand" (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17). The upraised arm of Orion (on the left side of the outline as we look at it in a star chart) is holding what is sometimes described as a club, but which is actually more like "a long rectangle on a stick" -- this is the object which I believe the scriptures are references in the mention of "his fan." It is the same "winnowing fan" that is mentioned in the final book of the Odyssey, and it is also the "paddle" carried ceremonially by chiefs across the islands of the Pacific:

These abundant details should be more than sufficient to establish the celestial foundations of the John the Baptist episodes found in all four gospels in the canonical Bible.

But that is by no means all of them. The story of John the Baptist contains a veritable plethora of celestial information. The next important clues can be found in the death of John the Baptist, which is described in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. In those gospels, we learn that "the daughter of Herodias"  came in to the birthday supper of Herod, and she "danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him," and he swore to her that he would give her whatsoever she should ask of him (Mark 6:21-25). She is instructed by her mother to ask for the head of John the Baptist (Mark 6:24 -- the Matthew account in Matthew 14 adds "in a charger" or platter). Herod is dismayed, but keeps his oath, and John is beheaded.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This gruesome scene can be observed in the icon-image above -- and readers can take comfort in the fact that the artist appears to be aware of the celestial origins of this terrible story (i.e. I don't think it happened on earth in literal history -- I think it happens in the sky above). We see John, pitched forward, just as the constellation Aquarius is pitched forward or "stooping down" in the sky. His hands are bound, but they project from his body at the same angle and attitude as the "leg" that can be seen protruding from the center of the constellation Aquarius. 

The daughter of Herodias is kneeling, with one arm reaching forward and holding a disc-shaped charger to take his head: these are the crucial characteristics of the constellation Virgo, as can be seen in some of the illustrations from ancient Greece shown in this previous post.

Finally, the artist in the scene at top has added an executioner who is depicted with many of the characteristics of the constellation Perseus. I think he is taking artistic license here -- there is no indication of a Perseus-figure in the Biblical texts. However, there is every indication that the story of the beheading of John the Baptist involves the constellations Aquarius (which we have already identified as the celestial actor playing the role of John) and Virgo (who plays the role of most queens, maidens, damsels, and goddesses in myths the world over). 

And, as Robert Taylor pointed out in the 1800s, in a sermon recorded in The Devil's Pulpit, the motion of the sky actually seems to "behead" the constellation Aquarius, when the figure's head is below the horizon and the rest of the constellation is above it. It just so happens that this "beheading" of Aquarius takes place when Virgo is setting in the west, and Aquarius is rising in the east:

Above, the line of the horizon is seen as a dark "arc" at the bottom of the screen, as we look to the south (from an observation point in the northern hemisphere). We can see the constellation Virgo, playing the role of the daughter of Herodias, dancing at the right-side of the sky (in the west). In the east, we see Aquarius, rising up -- and again in his peculiar pitched-forward or "stooped down" posture. His head is basically "trailing" the rest of his body as he rises -- and when he is actually coming up out of the horizon, his head will still be below the horizon as his body rises up (I have indicated the motion his constellation takes as it rises by adding a little blue arrow on the screen image).

This added episode should confirm the celestial foundations of the John the Baptist story, and his identification with Aquarius. 

But there is still more in this incredibly rich Bible story. Recall that the gospel texts make clear that John was conceived six months before the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, and that he thus "goes before" Jesus by six months as well. If we turn to our zodiac wheel, familiar from many previous posts such as this one, we will observe that it is divided into twelve segments, and that this means that two players who are "six months" apart will "mirror" each other as they go around the annual circuit:

Thus, John the Baptist is in many ways the "opposite" or the "dark twin" of Jesus. This is no doubt the celestial source of the famous quotation from John when he says of Jesus, "He must increase but I must decrease" (John 3:30), and possibly also the declaration by John that "He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me" (John 1:15). When two zodiac constellations or zodiac signs are opposed as shown above, it will mean that when one sign is rising or "increasing," the other will be descending or "decreasing." 

Of course, as with all the ancient scriptures and sacred myths of humanity, this passage (and all the episodes above) contain profound esoteric and spiritual truths, in addition to the specific celestial connections discussed here. But it is very difficult to deny that these specific details in the texts appear to be pointing the way to the conclusion that these episodes and characters have a celestial origin.

The implications of this discovery are profound. For one, this common celestial foundation which can be discovered in the stories of the Bible links those scriptures to the myths of the rest of humanity, which can also be shown to operate on the same celestial foundation. For another, the existence of this common system, with very specific details which can be shown to be in common across very broad geographic distances and even across vast stretches of time, argues that the ancient history of the human race may be very different from what we are taught by the conventional academic narrative.

And, the existence of this incredible system of celestial metaphor across all the myths of the world argues that these myths are trying to tell us something very important. I believe they are conveying ancient truths about the nature of our universe and of human existence, and that an understanding of their celestial and allegorical nature is extremely helpful in allowing us to perceive that profound message.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The death of Sitting Bull

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

On this day, December 15th, in the year 1890, the Lakota holy man Tatanka Iyotanke -- Sitting Bull -- was killed.

He was killed during a surprise pre-dawn arrest at the Standing Rock Agency, where he had been allowed to live after two years of imprisonment following his surrender. 

Sitting Bull had been one of the last leaders to hold out against being forced to abandon the traditional ways of his people and consent to being forced to live on an agency by the representatives of the government of the US, after the shameful and deceptive violation of treaty after treaty by the same government of the US. 

The most important of the treaties which the US government blatantly reneged upon was the treaty of 1868, described in this previous post, which was inked before a military expedition led by George Custer in 1874 confirmed the reports of gold in the sacred Black Hills region -- after which the US government completely changed its tune and basically sought to remove any opposition to their seizure of the lands that had been granted in the treaty of 1868. 

That objective led to the ultimatum signed by President Grant ordering all Indians onto agencies prior to a stated deadline of January 31, 1876. When runners carrying this message came to Sitting Bull's camp, he politely said he didn't feel like it just then, perhaps he would consider the idea sometime in the future. He also returned the similar demands sent to him by General Custer, along with the message that he did not want to fight but to be left alone. 

During the spring and early summer of 1876, more and more Lakota and members of allied nations left the reservations to join Sitting Bull and the other leaders who had not come in. In the big Sun Dance held along the Rosebud in early June of 1876, Sitting Bull danced for eighteen hours straight -- into the night and all through the next morning -- and ultimately went into a trance or unconscious state in which he was granted a vision of US army soldiers falling into his camp "like grasshoppers," with their heads down and their hats falling off, and a voice declaring "I give you these because they have no ears." 

This vision electrified the gathered warriors, who subsequently defeated Custer's attack in late June and annihilated most of his forces, at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

After that battle, Sitting Bull continued to lead a band who refused to go in to the agencies for five years, through bitter winters and diminishing access to buffalo and the means of survival, and finally hunger and cold forced him to give up his dream of continuing the old way of life and surrender to agents of the US.

In Crazy Horse and Custer (1975), Stephen A. Ambrose describes the shameful treatment that he received after his surrender in 1881:
He was held prisoner at Fort Randall, South Dakota, for two years; in 1883 he was allowed to join the Hunkpapas at Standing Rock Agency in North Dakota. There he and his people began to starve because of government neglect. Sitting Bull rose to address one set of stuffed-shirt commissioners from Washington and said, "It is your own doing that I am here; you sent me here and advised me to live as you do, and it is not right for me to live in poverty." Senator John A. Logan of Illinois told him to sit down, that he had no right to speak, because he had "no following, no power, no control, and no right to control." 480.
In October of 1890, Sitting Bull joined the Ghost Dance movement, which was spreading through the western Sioux and which taught that by performing a five-day ritual dance which involved inducing trance-conditions, spirits of the departed would be moved to return from the west, driving the whites from the Native American lands, and initiating a time of peace and plenty and a return to the old ways. The dancing and the fervor that the Ghost Dance religion incited greatly worried the government agents in charge of the agencies, who generally opposed it and in some cases tried to limit it or suppress it as much as they could.

As James Mooney (1861 - 1921) explains in his detailed contemporary examination of the Ghost Dance religion and the subsequent massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 (which was connected to the US government's suppression of the Ghost Dance), the Ghost Dance leader Mato Wanatake -- Kicking Bear -- came to the Standing Rock agency on October 09, 1890 at the invitation of Sitting Bull to inaugurate the dance there. 

Mooney states that although the agents in charge of the various reservations were against the Ghost Dance itself, they did not see it as a precursor to violence. In fact, in May of 1890, a settler living in Pierre, South Daktoa had sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior John Willock Noble saying that he had information that the Sioux were secretly planning a violent outbreak, but when this letter was forwarded to the agents on the various agencies, "They promptly and unanimously replied that there was no ground for apprehension, that the Indians were peaceably disposed, and that there was no undue excitement beyond that occasioned by the rumors of a messiah in the west" (813).

Describing Agent James McCloughlin of the Standing Rock agency, where Sitting Bull was living in 1890, Mooney says:
McLaughlin, the veteran agent of Standing Rock, who probably knew the Sioux better than any other white man having official relations with them, states that among his people there was nothing in word or action to justify such a suspicion, and that he did not believe such an imprudent step was seriously contemplated by any of the tribe, and concludes by saying that he has every confidence in the good intentions of the Sioux as a people, that they would not be the aggressors in any hostile act, and that if justice were only done them no uneasiness need be entertained. He complains, however, of the evil influence exercised by Sitting Bull and a few other malcontents attached to his agency and advises their removal from among the Indians. 843 - 844.
However, in the same year (1890), official records indicate that the beef ration issued to the American Indians on the reservation, who were now dependent on the US government for their food having been denied their previous way of life, was cut by more than 50% of the levels that were stipulated in the treaties and that had been issued in the previous years (Mooney 845). At the Pine Ridge agency, Mooney reports that after repeated requests brought no change, "at last in the summer of 1890 the Indians at Pine Ridge made the first actual demonstration by refusing to accept the deficient issue and making threats against the agent" (845). 

At the same time, the Ghost Dance was spreading amidst these conditions of hopelessness and frustration, first among the agencies located to the south of the Standing Rock agency where Sitting Bull and the Hunkpapa were located, and the agents began to become alarmed and order it to stop. While they obeyed at first, one of the Lakota Ghost Dance leaders, Tatanka Ptecela (Short Bull) of the Sicangu or Brule said that, due to the interference with what they saw as their proper affairs, the time of the arrival of the spirit host would be moved forward, that the dancers from the various agencies should meet at a single location to assist the process by dancing all together, and that the dancing should continue even if soldiers were brought in to stop it (849). 

The arrival in October of the Ghost Dance leader Kicking Bear at the Standing Rock agency where he joined with Sitting Bull in initiating the dance there alarmed some of the agents still further. In response, Agent McCloughlin went in person to Sitting Bull, and in the words of Mooney "attempted to reason with the Indians on the absurdity of their beliefs. In reply, Sitting Bull proposed that they should both go with competent attendants to the country of the messiah and see and question him for themselves" (849). Mooney tersely explains, "The proposition was not accepted" (849).

Feeling that the situation was getting out of control, some of the less experienced agents began petitioning the War Department for federal troops, and in November of 1890 troops were dispatched from western forts to each of the agencies. Alarmed and in fear of an impending massacre, Kicking Bear, Short Bull, and others departed at the first appearance of the troops for the Badlands region located between the Pine Ridge and Rose Bud agencies and the Cheyenne River and Standing Rock agencies:

Mooney states that: "From the concurrent testimony of all the witnesses, including Indian Commissioner Morgan and the Indians themselves, this flight to the Bad Lands was not properly a hostile movement, but was a stampede caused by panic at the appearance of troops" (851 - 852). Commissioner Morgan notes that they took with them their women and children, and that during the flight to the Badlands, "no warlike demonstrations were made, no violence was done to any white settlers, nor was there any cohesion or organization among the Indians themselves" (cited in Mooney, 852).

Sitting Bull was still at his cabin home within the bounds of the Standing Rock agency. Mooney reports that Agent McLaughlin of the Standing Rock agency, "within whose jurisdiction he was," stated in writing as of November 22 that Sitting Bull did not need to be arrested at that time, but that they could afford to wait to see what would happen and arrest him later if necessary (852), but the federal military authorities had now preempted his authority and on December 12 the military order was given to Colonel William Drum to personally supervise the arrest, and to act in coordination with Agent McLaughlin (855). 

Mooney relates what happened next:
On consultation between the commandant and the agent, who were in full accord, it was decided to make the arrest on the 20th, when most of the Indians would be down at the agency for rations, and there would consequently be less danger of a conflict at the camp. On the 14th, however, late Sunday afternoon, a courier came from Grand river with a message from Mr. Carignan, the teacher of the Indian school, sating, on information given by the police, that an invitation had just come from Pine Ridge to Sitting Bull asking him to go there, as God was about to appear. Sitting Bull was determined to go, and sent a request to the agent for permission, but in the meantime had completed preparations to go anyhow in case permission was refused. With this intention it was further stated that he had his horses already selected for a long and hard ride, and the police urgently asked to be allowed to arrest him at once, as it would be a difficult matter to overtake him after he had once started. 
It was necessary to act immediately, and arrangements were made between Colonel Drum and Agent McLaughlin to attempt the arrest at daylight the next morning, December 15. The arrest was to be made by the Indian police, assisted, if necessary, by a detachment of troops, who were to follow within supporting distance. 855.
Forty-three agency policemen (Native Americans) and about 100 troops of the 8th Cavalry along with a Hotchkiss gun arrived at Sitting Bull's camp just before daybreak. Mooney narrates:
At daybreak on Monday morning, December 15, 1890, the police and volunteers, 43 in number, under command of Lieutenant Bull Head, a cool and reliable man, surrounded Sitting Bull's house. He had two log cabins, a few rods apart, and to make sure of their man, eight of the police entered one house and ten went into the other, while the rest remained on guard outside. They found him asleep on the floor in the larger house. He was aroused and told he was a prisoner and must go to the agency. He made no objection, but said "All right; I will dress and go with you." He then sent one of his wives to the other house for some clothes he desired to wear, and asked to have his favorite horse saddled for him to ride, which was done by one of the police. On looking about the room two rifles and several knives were found and taken by the police. While dressing, he apparently changed his mind and began abusing the police for disturbing him, to which they made no reply. While this was going on inside, his followers, to the number of perhaps 150, were congregating about the house outside and by the time he was dressed an excited crowd of Indians had the police entirely surrounded and were pressing them to the wall. On being brought out, Sitting Bull became greatly excited and refused to go, and called on his followers to rescue him. Lieutenant Bull Head and Sergeant Shave Head were standing on each side of him, with Second Sergeant Red Tomahawk guarding behind, while the rest of the police were trying to clear the way in front, when one of Sitting Bull's followers, Catch-the-Bear, fired and shot Lieutenant Bull Head in the side. Bull Head at once turned and sent a bullet into the body of Sitting Bull, who was also shot through the head at the same moment by Red Tomahawk. 857.
Thus ended the earthly sojourn of Tatanka Iyotanke.

He was shot during an arrest made to prevent him from making a visit to the Pine Ridge agency, a visit he had asked official permission through proper channels to be allowed to make, ostensibly for religious purposes.  

Mooney reflects upon the significance of his life:
Thus died Tata'nke I'yota'nke, Sitting Bull, the great medicine-man of the Sioux, on the morning of December 15, 1890, aged about 56 years. He belonged to the Uncpapa division of the Teton Sioux. Although a priest rather than a chief, he had gained a reputation in his early years by organizing and leading war parties, and became prominent by his participation in the battle of the Little Bighorn, in Montana, on June 25, 1876, by which Custer's command was wiped out of existence. Being pursued by General Terry, Sitting Bull and his band made their escape northward into Canada, where they remained until 1881, when he surrendered, through the mediation of the Canadian authorities, on a promise of pardon. To obtain subsistence while in Canada, his people had been obliged to sell almost all they possessed, including their firearms, so that they returned to their old homes in an impoverished condition. After confinement as a prisoner of war until 1883, Sitting Bull took up his residence on Grand river, where he remained until he met his death. Here he continued to be the leader of the opposition to civilization and the white man, and his camp became the rallying point for the dissatisfied conservative element that clung to the old order of things, and felt that innovation meant the destruction of their race. For seven years he had steadily opposed the treaty by which the great Sioux reservation was at last broken up in 1889. After the treaty had been signed by the requisite number to make it a law, he was asked by a white man what the Indians thought about it. With a burst of passionate indignation he replied, "Indians! There are no Indians left now but me." However misguided he may have been in thus continuing a losing fight against the inevitable, it is possible that from the Indian point of view he may have been their patriot as he was their high priest. He has been mercilessly denounced as a bad man and a liar; but there can be no doubt that he was honest in his hatred of the withes, and his breaking of the peace pipe, saying that he "wanted to fight and wanted to die," showed that he was no coward. But he represented the past. His influence was incompatible with progress, and his death marks an era in the civilization of the Sioux. In the language of General Miles, "His tragic fate was but the ending of a tragic life. Since the days of Pontiac, Tecumseh, and Red Jacket no Indian has had the power of drawing to him so large a following of his race and molding and wielding it against the authority of the United States, or of inspiring it with greater animosity against the white race and civilization." 860 - 861.
Mooney's defense of Sitting Bull was, as he says in the passage above, unusual at the time that he was writing (1895 or 1896 -- it was published in 1896), at a time when Sitting Bull was often being "mercilessly denounced." 

Nevertheless, while seeing very clearly the tragedy of Sitting Bull's life and its mirroring of the tragedy of the destruction of his people's way of life, the above passage does indicate some of the ways that Mooney himself may have rationalized to himself the clearly criminal actions that were employed against the Lakota and the other American Indians whom Mooney himself clearly respected and whose way of life Mooney shows clear appreciation for throughout his writings. Mooney explicitly states that the destruction of the Native American way of life was "inevitable" and that their way of life was basically "incompatible with progress." 

Both of these excuses can be seen as a way of attempting to rationalize or soften or veil the raw injustice of the genocide that was inflicted upon the Native American culture during this period of history. An atrocity cannot be excused by an appeal to fictional fabrications such as "inevitability" or "progress." This is a revealing example of what I believe can be broadly labeled "mind control," using an ideology to mask violation of what would normally be recognized as criminal violations or atrocities, and even getting people to condone these violations and atrocities and say that they are actually excusable or even commendable.

General Miles reveals another example which he apparently used himself, to help him to rationalize these crimes: "civilization." According to this concept, the rights of the Native Americans apparently had to be trampled upon because their rights were getting in the way of "civilization."

While Agent McLaughlin, who comes across in Mooney's account as a fairly sympathetic individual, one who did not believe in the need for federal troops to be deployed nor for the arrest of Sitting Bull during the time that others were fleeing to the Badlands, described Sitting Bull as a "malcontent" who had an "evil influence" over "other malcontents," it is not apparent that Sitting Bull actually violated natural universal law in any of the main outlines of his life. The actual resistance by the Lakota and other nations to the incursions of the army which culminated in the annihilation of Custer and his forces at the Little Bighorn can and should be seen as a justifiable resistance to an armed invasion, by troops who had perpetrated numerous massacres of women and children in surprise attacks on villages throughout their campaigns to drive the Native Americans onto reservations. What is more, the invasions were in clear violation of actual treaties and promises made by the US government to the Sioux.

His refusal to be forced onto a reservation after the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and his flight with others who felt the same way (including large numbers of women and children, who suffered terribly in the severe winters as they fled north to Canada to escape the pursuing US forces), was also not in violation of natural law: those who were trying to basically imprison him on an agency and reduce his status to that of a dependent were actually the ones in violation of natural law. His imprisonment for two years after his surrender, in which part of the terms of his surrender included a "pardon," can also be seen as a violation of his natural law rights.

Finally, his surprise arrest in the predawn hours on the morning of December 15th, to prevent him from leaving on a journey for which he had already submitted a permission request, on suspicion that he would "go anyhow in case permission was refused" and on the grounds that "it would be a difficult matter to overtake him after he had once started" can also be seen as fairly questionable.

And, while the tenets of the Ghost Dance movement did include the arrival of supernatural events which would remove the invading settlers and government forces from the lands they had taken from the American Indian, and to restore the conditions they had enjoyed before that invasion and all its horrible consequences, there is no indication that the Ghost Dance practitioners were preparing to assist the spirits by their own use of force -- and in fact every indication that they were not in any way preparing to do so, including the written account of contemporary observers at the time.

The sending in of the federal troops which so alarmed the Lakota who had been forcibly confined to the reservations (and who had every reason to be very uncomfortable at such a development and to fear for their lives when the troops arrived) can be seen as a "solution" to a problem caused by unjust actions by the US government itself: their ordering of the dancing to stop, and, even more of a problem, the government's sudden and severe reduction of the rations they were issuing to the Indians whom they had turned into their dependents -- all clear violations of natural law.

The bigger picture is clear: the tragic end of the life of Tatanke Iyotanke reflected the tragic fate of his people, a tragedy he declared to be wrong, and which he faced with dignified resistance.

Long before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, when the Oregon Trail which ran through Lakota territory began to be more heavily traveled in the years following the discovery of gold in California in 1848-1849 and some of the Sioux began to crave whiskey, coffee, sugar, baked goods, metal implements, and guns and to settle along the Oregon Trail in order to trade pelts or other items for these products of western civilization, Sitting Bull already saw the danger. In Crazy Horse and Custer, Stephen Ambrose relates:
When Crazy Horse was still a small boy, the not-yet-famous Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Sioux, urged his people to leave the Oregon Trail and withdraw to the ways of their ancestors. "I don't want to have anything to do with people who make one carry water on the shoulders and haul manure," Sitting Bull declared. "The whites may get me at last, but I will have good times till then. You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hardtack, and a little sugar and coffee." 17.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Heart of Everything That Is

Now is an outstanding time of year to view what is sometimes referred to as the "Winter Circle" of dazzling stars, which includes Sirius (in Canis Major), Procyon (in Canis Minor), Menkalinan and Capella (in Auriga), and the Twins of Castor and Pollux (in Gemini). 

The Winter Circle was previously discussed in a post from 2011, which you can find here.

Now that the moon is declining towards the New Moon of December 22, it will be less and less of a factor in the night sky (it will rise later and later in the "wee hours" of the morning, or closer and closer to dawn, and as it does so it will also grow thinner and thinner), enabling you to really observe the starry sky in all its glory -- and the glorious constellations of winter are at center stage, featuring mighty Orion and the surrounding arc of bright stars mentioned above.

Below is an image from showing Orion and the stars of the Winter Circle, as they appear to an observer in the northern hemisphere around thirty-five degrees north latitude:

You can clearly make out the silvery band of the Milky Way, running up and to the right in the above image, almost through the center of the screen. Nearly half-way up the Milky Way band, look for the three distinctive stars of Orion's belt, in a tight line angled up and to the right. Following the line of these three stars and extending that line down and to the left you will find Sirius, which is labeled, and which is depicted as the largest star on the above chart, because it is the brightest star in our sky (other than the sun, of course). 

From Sirius, you can then trace the arc of stars named above, beginning at Sirius and moving clockwise up to Procyon (also labeled), Pollux and Castor (only Pollux is labeled but Castor is very close, up and to the right from Pollux in the screen above), then Menkalinan and Capella (only Capella is labeled, but Menkalinan is the star you come to first as you arc from Pollux and Castor towards Capella in a clockwise direction). From Capella, you can also cross the Milky Way again and find the gorgeous cluster of the Pleiades (not labeled on the above chart, but more on them in a moment).

This circle of brilliant stars is sacred to the Lakota, and are part of the area of the sky known as "The Heart of Everything That Is." The circle just described was also connected to the concept of the Sacred Hoop, discussed in this previous post. The celestial component of this sacred concept is discussed at length in a book entitled Lakota Star Knowledge, written by Ronald Goodman with help from many Lakota wisdom keepers, and with appendices which quote teachings preserved by Charlotte A. Black Elk.

The book is published by Sinte Gleska University which strives to perpetuate the values associated with the four Lakota virtues of the Lakota medicine wheel and Sacred Hoop, as explained on the back cover of the book. It is a book which those interested in this subject will want to have in hardcopy. 

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

As described in the vision of Black Elk, the Sacred Hoop consists of a sacred circle which contains the horizontal road and the vertical road (see discussion in this previous post and this previous post), a pattern which is also very reminiscent of the zodiac wheel crossed by the horizontal line between the equinoxes and the vertical line between the solstices:

Ronald Goodman's book explains that the circle of stars now visible in the night sky make this same Sacred Hoop pattern of a circle divided by two perpendicular lines. The two lines are envisioned as being generated by the line created by the belt of Orion (these stars are known as Tayamni by the Lakota) which can be seen as extending to Sirius in one direction and to the Pleiades in the other direction, and by the line perpendicular to that line which is created by extending the imagined line running between the two bright stars Betelgeuse (in Orion's shoulder) and Rigel (in his foot):

Above, I have sketched in the outline of a rough circle which connects the circle of stars: Sirius to Procyon to Pollux and Castor to Menkalinan and Capella to the Pleiades to Rigel and then back to Sirius. Within it, I have created dashed-lines which cross perpendicular to one another: one line along the line suggested by the belt stars and extending all the way to Sirius in the lower-left and to the Pleiades in the upper-right, and another running from Rigel to Betegeuse (and which can be imagined as continuing through all the way to the other side of the hoop from there).

This diagram is based on those drawn in the Ronald Goodman book in numerous places: I have just chosen to draw it on the stars as seen in the night sky using the image from It is hoped that this will help readers to go outside and actually locate this important set of stars.

Perhaps the most remarkable information expressed by Ronald Goodman and the Lakota wisdom keepers he quotes in the book is the fact that this celestial Sacred Hoop has a corresponding reflection on the earth, which the Lakota have recognized since time immemorial -- from before the horse arrived -- and that they would move to specific points on the terrestrial Sacred Hoop at specific times during the year, to reflect on earth the patterns of the stars in heaven, the motion of those stars through the year, and especially the rising of the sun in the different points along its ecliptic path as the earth progresses through its own annual cycle.

The reflection of the celestial Sacred Hoop was found on earth in the region of the Black Hills, or Paha Sapa in the language of the Lakota (I believe that this means "Black Hills").

Below is a diagram based on some of the terrestrial points in this Sacred Hoop, as explained in the book and drawn in some diagrams in the book -- I have chosen to use Google Maps with the "terrain" overlay, to show some of these points in a way that will enable us to visualize these sacred sites as we look at the map:

The first point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "1." and a small black arrow pointing to the right (difficult to see clearly at this resolution, but it is pointing to the right) is Inyan Kaga, also called Harney Peak, a very sacred site to the Lakota and one which is central to the vision of Black Elk and to the story of his life which he relates in Black Elk Speaks. The book by Ronald Goodman seems to indicate that Harney Peak is also called Opaha Ta I. This sacred mountain corresponds to the Pleiades, or Wicincala Sakowin.

The second point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "2." and a black rectangular outline, contains three peaks in a near-perfect line, pointing towards Harney Peak -- just as the three stars of Orion's Belt (Tamanyi) point to the Pleiades (Wicincala Sakowin). Below, some "zoomed-in" maps will show this in greater detail.

The third point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "3." and an small black arrow pointing down, corresponds to Pe Sla, the center of the Black Hills -- an area now labeled as Reynolds Valley on maps.

The fourth point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "4." and a small black arrow pointing down, corresponds to Mato Paha, or Bear Butte. This site appears to have been considered the terrestrial reflection of the point marked by the star Capella in the celestial Sacred Hoop.

The fifth and final point labeled on the map above, identified with the numeral "5." and a small black arrow pointing down, is Mato Tipila Paha, or Devil's Tower. This majestic geological formation was considered to be associated with the constellation of Gemini, and the summer solstice. Note that on the zodiac wheel diagram above which I believe can be seen to correspond in many ways to the Sacred Hoop, the sign of Gemini is located immediately before the point of summer solstice. Lakota Star Knowledge explains that prior to summer solstice, all the Lakota would converge on Devil's Tower, for an important gathering which included the most important Sun Dance of the year.

It should be noted that the Sacred Hoop in the sky as shown in my Stellarium diagram must be rotated in order to correspond to the sacred terrain of the Black Hills: the line running from the rectangle at "2." to the Inyan Kaga (Harney Peak) at "1." corresponds to the dashed-line running up and to the right in the star chart, from Orion's belt to the Pleiades.

Below is a closer "zoom" into the area containing Tayamni (Orion's belt) on the terrain:

In this map, we are still "far enough out" that you can see Inyan Kaga (Harney Peak), indicated by the small black arrow to the lower-right of the larger rectangle. If you imagine three peaks within that rectangle, aligned in such a way that they create a mental line pointing to Harney Peak, then you can see that Orion's belt in this map will point "down and to the right" to get to the Pleiades (represented by Harney Peak).

Below, we zoom-in on the area in the black rectangle from the map above:

You should be able to plainly see the three stars of "Orion's belt" -- they are marked with the "hourglass" symbol of a "cone inverted over a cone," which Ronald Goodman explains in his book should be thought of as a vortex over a vortex: the upper vortex being the star and the reflected vortex below representing "the related earth site" (page 2 of the book). I have placed the double-vortex star symbols just below and slightly to the left of each mountain on the terrain map: hopefully you can make out the three peaks, pointing in a line towards Harney Peak (which is not visible in this map, but would be located off the map, down and to the right -- see map immediately above this one).

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the sacred Black Hills to the Lakota. Their movement throughout the year to the various sites were seen as participation in the renewal of the world. Appendix D of the book contains words from Charlotte A. Black Elk, in which she says that the pattern of movement through the sites in the Black Hills is "traces the renewal of creation and the spiritual regeneration of the Lakota" (50).

Later, she says:
We say that Wakan Tanka created the Heart of Everything That Is to show us that we have a special relationship with our first and real mother, the earth, and that there are responsibilities tied to this relationship. Wakan Tanka placed the stars in a manner so what is in the heavens is on earth, what is on earth is in the heavens, in the same way. When we pray in this manner, what is done in the skies is done on earth, in the same way. Together, all of creation participates in the ceremonies each year.
[. . .]
So, tonight, walk outside and look up. See the Black Hills Sacred Ceremonies of Spring, and you will understand and know why this place is special and stands first among all places of Maka. And return, in the manner the Lakota have done for thousands of years, to the Heart of Everything That Is, to the heart of our home and the home of our heart. 52.
There is much to contemplate deeply in these things. I hope that if you are able to do so you can go outside at this time of year, and observe the stars, and as you do so you can reflect upon the Sacred Hoop and the Heart of Everything That Is.

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Crossing of the Red Sea

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The response to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal entitled "How Did Moses Part the Red Sea? The science of tides may have saved the Israelites from the Egyptians" has been quite interesting. 

Since its publication on December 5th, it has been the "most popular" story listed in the right-hand column for several days in a row, and only today slipped to the "second-most-popular" position. Further, the story has stirred up an often-contentious train of reader comments now over six hundred in number. 

Clearly, the subject of the historicity of this story from the ancient Hebrew scripture, as well as the possible "mechanics" of this particular miracle, remains extremely compelling to many men and women to this day.

The article in question was written by Dr. Bruce Parker, former chief scientist of NOAA's National Ocean Service, now a visiting professor at the Stevens Institute of Technology, and author of a new book on The Power of the Sea: Tsunamis, Storm Surges, Rogue Waves, and Our Quest to Predict Disasters. The hypothesis he presents in his article, in short (please read his actual article for full details), is that Moses used his knowledge of the tides to spring a nature-based trap on the pursuing armies of Pharaoh:
Moses had lived in the nearby wilderness in his early years, and he knew where caravans crossed the Red Sea at low tide. He knew the night sky and the ancient methods of predicting the tide, based on where the moon was overhead and how full it was. Pharaoh and his advisers, by contrast, lived along the Nile River, which is connected to the almost tideless Mediterranean Sea. They probably had little knowledge of the tides of the Red Sea and how dangerous they could be.
Dr. Parker even speculates that Moses might have used the observation of the dust clouds thrown up by Pharaoh's army and their chariots, and used their progress to time his springing of the trap. He posits that Moses could have gotten all the people across to safety in advance, and then "sent a few of his best people back onto the temporarily dry sea bed to entice Pharaoh's chariots to chase them."

As Dr. Parker is someone whose professional interests involve awareness and prediction of the powerful ebbs and flows of the sea, such an explanation would certainly seem to appeal to him, and his expertise in the area would make him capable of assessing the possibility that tides changes could have been involved. Predictably, however, his hypothesis has raised a chorus of protests from a wide variety of readers, many of them upset that he is suggesting a natural phenomenon to replace direct supernatural intervention, and many others upset at the suggestion that there is any history to the story at all, or that he is discussing the Red Sea as the body of water that Moses and the Israelites crossed in the Exodus story, rather than some other body of water such as the Nile delta.

Having just completed a series of posts arguing that critical analysis should include consideration of every possible explanation, and the examination of evidence in order to help determine which explanation best fits the evidence, I believe that Dr. Parker should be commended for offering a hypothesis and for bringing his professional knowledge and experience to bear on the question (those previous posts on the importance of analysis include "Analysis: Against mind control, for human consciousness" and "Thomas Jefferson and Immanuel Kant on reason, analysis, and mind control," plus my recent interview with Professor James Tracy of MemoryHoleBlog in which the same important subject was a topic of conversation).

While I don't believe this particular explanation is the best fit for the body of evidence available, I do not believe it should be rejected out of hand as some of the comment-writers seem to be doing, simply based on  commitment to a prior dogma, whether literalistic Biblical dogma, "ideology of materialism" dogma, or some other.

I believe that it can be demonstrated that the overwhelming bulk of the evidence strongly argues that the stories of the Old Testament and New Testament are esoteric metaphors built upon the motions of the sun, moon, stars and planets through the sky, and the daily, monthly, yearly, and even multi-year cycles created by these heavenly bodies.

Previous posts have outlined the numerous, detailed points of correspondence between the celestial actors and specific stories in the Old and New Testaments, including the story of Adam and Eve, the birth in the manger and the visit of the Magi, the events foretold in Revelation chapter 9, the story of Elisha and the two she-bears, the Ark of Noah and the dove, the episode Noah's sons Shem, Ham and Japheth, the episodes in the life of Samson, the sacrifice of Jephthah's daughter, the near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham, and many, many more.

Further, it can be demonstrated that myths from around the world also appear to follow the very same pattern of celestial metaphor! This index lists many of those, along with links to previous posts discussing them -- and it is by no means exhaustive but merely scratches the surface of the available stories which could be examined and found to be built upon the motions of the heavens.

This evidence is absolutely astonishing. It suggests that the conventional paradigm of the ancient history of the human race may be grievously incomplete. It also suggests that the stories recorded in the Old and New Testaments -- like the sacred myths and legends from the other cultures around the globe -- are not a record of literal, historical events enacted by human actors upon the earthly terrain, but rather poetical, metaphorical, esoteric stories describing the stately motions of the majestic celestial actors upon the infinite stage of the heavens.

In other words, we do not actually need to get too narrowly-focused upon the details of Professor Parker's theory which tries to fit the events of the Red Sea crossing described in Exodus into the tidal mechanics of our terrestrial oceans and seas, if the overwhelming bulk of stories in the Bible contain abundant clues indicating that they are celestial in nature. We need not point out that the "tidal trap" theory requires the armies of Egypt to show up at almost the exact perfect moment to venture out into tidal flats and then get swallowed up by the incoming tide -- a rather unlikely scenario -- or that the region uncovered by the low tide would probably have been fairly uninviting for masses of chariots and horses in the first place. Such details do seem to argue against Dr. Parker's hypothesis, but they are actually quite tiny details once we "zoom out" to survey the much wider landscape composed of Bible story after Bible story after Bible story which each testify to their celestial foundation. To argue that this one story, the crossing of the Red Sea, was an historical event which somehow managed to be preserved in scrolls filled with celestial metaphors on either side of it as far as the eye can see would appear to be a bad fit for the majority of the evidence.

Further, the fact that we can find very compelling evidence within the Red Sea crossing narrative itself pointing to its own celestial nature provides even more conclusive proof that this crossing is a heavenly and metaphorical event, and not an earthly and historical-literal one.

In order to explore some of this evidence within the Red Sea episode, we must understand the important "zodiac wheel," which depicts the cycle of the year using the background of the twelve zodiac signs within which the sun successively appears to rise each morning on the eastern horizon as we progress throughout our annual circuit (for some visual discussion of what causes this, see the "dining room table" analogy depicted in this video I made some years back).

This annual circuit, with its backdrop of the twelve zodiac signs, is conveniently divided into four quarters by the important "station points" of the two solstices and the two equinoxes (numerous previous posts have tried to illustrate the mechanics behind these four points using various metaphors -- one metaphor I find to be helpful is the "earth-ship metaphor" described in this post).

Previous posts have already discussed the evidence that this ancient world-wide system of celestial metaphor often depicted the equinox points, where the sun's ecliptic path crosses back above the celestial equator during the day (initiating the half of the year in which days are longer than nights) and back down below the celestial equator during the day (initiating the half of the year in which days are shorter than nights) as places of sacrifice -- see for example this post, this post, and the discussion of the sacrifice or near-sacrifice of Iphigenia discussed on pages 34 through 37 in the online preview chapters from my book, The Undying Stars).

In those stories of sacrifice, which contain clues to indicate that they pertain to one or the other of the equinoxes, there is almost always a direction mentioned: the sacrifice is at a crossing going up (the spring equinox) or at a crossing going down (the fall equinox). Is it possible that the crossing of the Red Sea, in which the ancient scriptures tell us that Moses led the children of Israel up out of Egypt,* also represents an equinoctial crossing? I believe there is good evidence to suggest that this is the case.

Below is the zodiac wheel, with the two crossing points of the equinoxes marked with a red "X" at each equinox point. The horizontal dividing line separates the "lower half" of the year -- from the fall equinox through winter and then back to the spring equinox, the half of the year when days are shorter than nights -- from the "upper half" of the year, which stretches from the spring equinox up through the summer solstice and then back down to the fall equinox at the other "X":

It can be demonstrated rather conclusively that the start of the year among many ancient cultures, including the ancient Hebrews, was associated with the point of crossing of the spring equinox (the "X" located on the left side of the wheel as laid out above). Thus, the zodiac sign that metaphorically could be said to "lead" all the other signs (the zodiac sign at the "start-point" of the circular train of signs) would be the one who was "leading" across that "starting line" at the spring equinox (the "left-side X" in the diagram).

In the wheel above, which depicts the Age of Aries, that leader is the zodiac constellation of Aries the Ram (you can see that it is the first sign "above the line" at the left of the diagram, at the equinox crossing-up point). This is the sign who leads the "children of Israel" (the other eleven signs) up "out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage." In this version of the metaphor, the lower half of the year, the wintery half of the year, the half of the year in which the forces of darkness oppress the forces of light, is allegorized as the land of Egypt, "the house of bondage." In other myths, this lower half is allegorized as Hades, or Tartaros, or Sheol, or the land of Troy in the Iliad of Homer, and many other depictions in many different cultures.

Thus, Moses can be seen as playing the role of Aries the Ram in this particular story, leading his people up out of bondage (the lower half of the wheel) and making the upward crossing at the spring equinox over to the other side, where there is much rejoicing (days once again becoming longer than nights). Further evidence to support this reading can be found later, at the incident of the golden calf (Exodus 32), when Aaron the brother of Moses makes the idol of a bull-calf and tells the people that "These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt" (Exodus 32:4). Moses is furious at this declaration: Taurus the Bull is not the leader of the zodiac band: the precessional Age of Taurus preceded the Age of Aries, but it is over and now the declaration that the bull led them up out of Egypt is infuriating to Moses.

Further confirmation that this entire episode is metaphorical and based upon the zodiac wheel comes from an examination of the chariots and horsemen that the Exodus account is very careful to describe as being destroyed by the sea. The actual crossing of the Red Sea is described in Exodus 14, and in verses 18 and 19 the Egyptian army is twice described in identical terms, as consisting of "Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen," as if we are to be very clear that horses are present. But this emphasis on the host of chariots and horsemen, as the Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844) points out in his Astronomico-Theological Lectures (see especially 393-394), creates a significant problem for those who take the Exodus account as intending to depict literal terrestrial events, because in Exodus 9 just a few chapters before, God declared in no uncertain terms to Moses to tell Pharaoh that the next plague visited upon Egypt would be upon "thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep" (Exodus 9:3), and that on the next morrow "all the cattle of Egypt died: but of the cattle of the children of Israel died not one" (verse 6).

It is possible, of course, to argue that the plague promised only sickened the horses of Egypt and did not kill them all, but even so it is rather astonishing to see the mighty armies of Pharaoh which pursue Moses and the children of Israel so full of chariots and horses -- unless the entire story is describing the celestial cycles involving the zodiac wheel and not a literal and historic event that took place on the earth.

Also, the following plague described in Exodus 9:19 and following -- the plague of hail -- would seem to be designed to kill off any remaining beasts from Egypt that were not killed by the previous plague just described. There, God tells Moses to have the children of Israel bring their beasts out of the fields, because when the plague of hail comes, "every man and beast which shall be found in the field, and shall not be brought home, the hail shall come down upon them, and they shall die" (Exodus 9:19). Between these two plagues, it is difficult to argue that many horses would be left in Egypt, and even if there were some left, they would hardly be in a condition to swell a mighty army to pursue Moses.

Again, however, this is only a problem if the event is not a metaphor -- and the evidence outside of this story, from many, many other stories within the Bible itself and from myth around the globe all argue that it is.

Now, we might ask ourselves: if the event actually is a heavenly metaphor, then why would there be such an emphasis upon there being horses and chariots in the army that is "left behind" to be buried at the bottom of the sea, when the children of Israel led by Moses "cross over" (or up) to the other side?

Following the analysis of Robert Taylor, I believe the answer can be found if we look again at the zodiac wheel, and at the very bottom of the lower half of the year (the half which I believe -- in this particular metaphorical telling -- represents the oppressive forces of Pharaoh) you will see the sign of Sagittarius, positioned at one side of the winter solstice point, the very lowest point on the entire zodiac wheel.

Sagittarius is a horseman, and archer (sometimes a centaur) -- and just as the Ram is crossing up over the horizontal line towards the "promised land" of longer days and the rule of light over darkness, Sagittarius is left below at the very bottom of the year: in fact, at the very bottom of the sea.

Further support for this interpretation is provided by the actions of Miriam the sister of Aaron, after the safe crossing is accomplished. In Exodus 15:20 and following, we are told that she "took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances," and sang that the LORD had triumphed gloriously, and "the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea" (Exodus 15:20 - 21). The text is here giving us a very strong hint that Miriam in this case is played by the important zodiac constellation of Virgo, whose constellation actually includes a faint circular disc of stars which is allegorized in ancient myth in many ways, but sometimes as a "timbrel" or "tambourine" (see discussion here).

If you look again at the zodiac wheel, you can see why Miriam is the one who "answers" the song of Moses (also presented in Exodus 15): she is the other constellation located "just above the line" which separates the "upper half" of the year from the "lower half," if she is indeed associated with the constellation Virgo (as her timbrel indicates that she is). If you look at the zodiac wheel diagram, you will see Virgo located across the wheel, just above the horizontal line and just before the "X" on the right-hand side of the diagram as we look at it on the page. Thus, she and Moses are "above" the line (they have "crossed the Red Sea," and escaped from Egypt) -- and both of them are glorying in the fact that the "horse and his rider" are "cast down" in the depths, below the line. They are almost certainly referring to Sagittarius in these verses.

Thus, I believe that the efforts to try to find "natural" explanations for the events of Exodus, including this episode of the crossing of the Red Sea, are misguided. In fact, the Greek philosopher Plato made much the same argument against the kind of explanations that Dr. Parker is pursuing in the article mentioned above, in the dialogue known as the Phaedrus (circa 360 BC).

In that dialogue, Plato has Socrates gently ridicule such efforts to use natural phenomenon such as unusual weather in trying to explain the myths (in this case, of course, Socrates discusses Greek myth and not Hebrew scripture). And, in doing so, Socrates also drops a hint as to what these celestial metaphors are actually to be used for instead.

In the Phaedrus, as discussed in this previous post, the young Phaedrus is walking with Socrates along the banks of the river Ilissus, and Phaedrus asks: "Tell me, Socrates, isn't it somewhere about here that they say Boreas seized Orithyia from the river?" Phaedrus then presses the question further, and gets to what he really means to ask, which is: "pray tell me, Socrates, do you believe that story to be true?"

Socrates gives a most revealing answer:
I should be quite in the fashion if I disbelieved it, as the men of science do. I might proceed to give a scientific account of how the maiden, while at play with Pharmacia, was blown by a gust of Boreas down from the rocks hard by, and having thus met her death was said to have been seized by Boreas, though it may have happened on the Areopagus, according to another version of the occurrence. For my part, Phaedrus, I regard such theories as no doubt attractive, but as the invention of clever, industrious people who are not exactly to be envied, for the simple reason that they must then go on and tell us the real truth about the appearance of centaurs and the Chimera, not to mention a whole host of such creatures, Gorgons and Pegasuses and countless other remarkable monsters of legend flocking in on them. If our skeptic, with his somewhat crude science, means to reduce every one of them to the standard of probability, he'll need a deal of time for it. I myself have certainly no time for the business, and I'll tell you why, my friend. I can't as yet 'know myself,' as the inscription at Delphi enjoins, and so long as that ignorance remains it seems to me ridiculous to inquire into extraneous matters. Consequently I don't bother about such things, but accept the current beliefs about them, and direct my inquiries, as I have just said, rather to myself [. . .]. From the translation of Reginald Hackforth (1887 - 1957), found in this edition of Collected Dialogues, page 478.
Note that Socrates, in Plato's telling of it, offers up a theory that he imagines might be current among "clever, industrious people who are not exactly to be envied" and who are in fact wasting their time. Instead, Socrates says it is better to just accept the stories and concentrate on the enjoinder of the famous inscription of Delphi: "Know thyself."

I believe it is entirely possible that this is Plato's way of telling us that the actual message and purpose of the myths is to help us to pursue that very command from the temple at Delphi: "Know thyself." The message of the myths has to do with understanding who we are, a curious mixture of spirit and matter, like stars cast down from the proper realm above (the spirit realm) to be plunged into this "underworld" of incarnation in the physical and material realm of earth and water (imprisoned in bodies of "clay," as Genesis describes it). This is the "house of bondage" below the horizontal line of the zodiac wheel, where we toil towards the point of ascent again into those "upper realms."

And, as we do so, we are in fact "crossing the Red Sea" -- we are toiling along as spirit-sparks encased inside a material body: a material body animated by the pumping tides of our own internal Red Sea. Alvin Boyd Kuhn elaborates on this interpretation at great length in his 1940 masterpiece, Lost Light.

This, at least according to Plato and Socrates, may be the real message of this story -- and naturalistic explanations involving "gusts of wind" may be superficially attractive, but ultimately they lead us off the trail. Unfortunately, this is what I suspect Socrates might say about the theory of Dr. Parker.

However, if we read the final lines of Dr. Parker's article in a more metaphorical sense, rather than the apparently literal sense in which they are written, perhaps they contain a profound message for us after all. He says: "If the tide was indeed involved in Moses' 'parting' of the Red Sea, it has to qualify as the most dramatic and consequential tide prediction in history."

In fact, Alvin Boyd Kuhn would argue that this "crimson tide" does indeed qualify as "the most dramatic and consequential" concept of them all, for he says:
It can indeed be said that the one sure and inerrant key to the Bibles is the simple concept of fire plunging into water, the fire being spiritual mind-power and water being the constituent element of physical bodies, -- as well as the symbol of matter. Soul (spirit) as fire, plunged down into body, as water, and therein had its baptism. Hence soul's incarnation on earth was endlessly depicted and dramatized as its crossing a body of water, a Jordan River, Styx River, Red Sea, Reed Sea. Since the water element of human bodies is the "sea" which the soul of fire has to cross in its successive incarnations, and it is red in color, the "Red Sea" of ancient Scriptures is just the human body blood. Esoteric Structure of the Alphabet and Its Hidden Mystical Language, 20.
And so, although this Red Sea is "just" the human body blood, it is indeed the "most dramatic and consequential tide" of them all, and the question of the meaning of this "crossing of the Red Sea" is the question of the meaning of our human existence here in these material bodies! And that is indeed a question that merits the kind of intense attention that this article by Bruce Parker has been getting this week, and that the question of the crossing of the Red Sea has commanded for millennia.


* Examples of verses in which the motion of the children of Israel out of Egypt is described as a motion up abound in the scriptures: see for example Numbers 32:11 ("Surely none of the men that came up out of Egypt . . ."), Amos 2:10 ("Also I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and led you forty years through the wilderness . . ."), and Joshua 24:17 ("For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage . . .).