Wednesday, October 31, 2012

War of the Worlds, 1938

It was the end of October -- 1938.  Everything seemed to be business as usual (although the weather reports did describe an atmospheric disturbance, causing a "low pressure area to move down rather rapidly over the northeastern states") . . .
Yet across an immense ethereal gulf, minds that are to our minds as ours are to the beasts in the jungle -- intellects vast, cool, and unsympathetic -- regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.

In the thirty-ninth year of the twentieth century came the Great Disillusionment, near the end of October.  Business was better.  The war scare was over.  More men were back at work -- sales were picking up.

On this particular evening, October 30th, the Crosley Service estimated that thirty-two million people were listening in on radios . . .

The lesson of that famous (infamous) broadcast?  Perhaps, don't believe everything you see and hear in the media, or everything you are told by someone with a sonorous, authoritative-sounding voice . . .

Do your own due diligence . . .
(consider as well that special effects have come a long way since 1938, but even their special effects were pretty effective)

The Pleiades, the Upton chamber, ancient traditions and Halloween

Above is a diagram of the setting of the Pleiades over the western horizon as viewed from the Upton chamber in Massachusetts, an astronomically-aligned stone site in New England, discussed in this previous post

As shown in the map diagram that accompanies that previous post discussing the Upton site, the chamber itself is aligned to allow an observer in the chamber to look out towards the north-west, with a line of sight which proceeds out over the body of water today known as "The Mill Pond" (and to the south of the body of water known as "Pratt Pond") and up to the summit of Pratt Hill to the west, and a narrow band of sky above the crest of the ridgeline of Pratt Hill.

Also discussed in that previous post is the pioneering work done by authors and archaeoastronomers James W. Mavor, Jr. and Byron E. Dix, whose analysis of that site and many other important New England stone structures is contained in their 1989 text entitled Manitou: The Sacred Landscape of New England's Native Civilization.  

They first surmised that Pratt Hill would likely contain a corresponding mound to enable siting from the chamber -- and upon exploring Pratt Hill in the predicted location they found not one but three mounds along the horizon as seen from the Upton chamber.  These they designated A, B, and C (sometimes calling them Cairn A, Cairn B, and Cairn C).

They then examined setting positions of the summer solstice sun, as being the first thing to check based on the azimuth from the chamber to the mounds, and were rewarded with precise alignments over Cairn C, as described on pages 45-46, calculating that the rate of changes in the obliquity of earth's axis gave a probable construction date of AD 670 plus or minus 300 years.  This in itself is strong evidence arguing that this site (and the many others in the New England region that are commonly called "root cellars" and attributed to early colonial settlers) was made prior to the arrival of Europeans after Columbus.

As Mr. Mavor and Mr. Dix explain, an even more exciting discovery awaited them as they turned their attention to the significance of mounds A and B.  Here is their description:
Then came the astronomical breakthrough.  With a tentative date in hand, we looked at possible events during the same time period that could have been marked by the long mounds A and B.  Stars change their positions of rise and set due to precession of the equinoxes and proper motion by about one-half degree per century.  This can provide a very precise dating technique.  We discovered that in AD 710, Alcyone, the brightest of the Pleiades cluster of stars, grazed the top of mound A and set in the notch between mounds A and B.  Also, the match between the combined widths of mounds A and B and the width on the horizon of the Pleiades visible to the unaided eye, the eight brightest stars, is precise.  Alcyone, Electra, and Pleione set in the notch between mounds, whereas Merope set on the southern end of mound A, Atlas on the northern end of A, and Maia, Taygeta and Asterope on mound B.  46.
Above is a rough drawing of the more precise diagram found on page 47 of Manitou and showing the mounds visible on the horizon-line at the summit of Pratt Hill from the Upton chamber, with the setting of the Pleiades, which are perfectly delineated by mounds A and B.

Equally compelling, the authors note that they have "identified a total of seven large stone mounds near the summit of the hill and two about 300 yards to the north" (47).  It is very interesting that the Pleiades are known as the "Seven Sisters" the world over, describing the seven stars plus the two "parents" Atlas and Pleione (who are following at a distance from the seven), just as shown in the diagram above and also as appears to be indicated by the mounds at the summit of Pratt Hill (only three of which are visible on the horizon-line from the Upton chamber, those being mounds A, B, and C).  There are also stone rows in the vicinity of the cairns, remarkably similar to those at other important New England aligned sites (see one discussion of the possible significance of these in this previous post).

An astute observer looking at the diagram above will only count six "sisters" plus the two parents Atlas and Pleione, and this is because the seventh of the Seven Sisters is famously difficult to see with the naked eye, for reasons discussed by astronomer Steven Gibson here.  

As you can see in this previous post discussing the Pleiades and containing a diagram that can help you locate them using Perseus and other landmarks in their vicinity, the diagram above and the description in Mavor and Dix does not include Celaeno, who would have already set when Electra is in the position shown above, and who is one of the faintest of the Seven Sisters (although Asterope or Sterope is composed of two close-together stars which individually are each fainter than faint Celaeno).  This other previous post discussing the probable role of the Pleiades in the famous myth of Aphrodite and Ares being caught in a net prepared by Hephaestos also contains a diagram of the Pleiades showing Celaeno.

The reason that I am bringing up the Pleiades and the excellent work of James Mavor and Byron Dix on this particular day of the year is the fact that the Pleiades are also anciently associated with this particular night of the year, as those authors also discuss in their book (and as can be found in many other resources discussing the Pleiades in myth and ancient culture, such as the Seven Sisters of the Pleiades: Stories from Around the World, by Munya Andrews (who herself was taught about the Seven Sisters in the Dreamtime and the traditions of her people in Australia by her grandmother, as she relates in the book).

As Mavor and Dix explain:
The Pleiades have been admired and critically observed in all ages of world history, second among the heavenly bodies only to the sun and moon.  According to the historical astronomical literature, their heliacal rise and set and their midnight culmination have marked festivals, seasons, and calendars throughout the world.  The Greeks saw this group of tightly interconnected quivering stars as a flight of doves, carriers of ambrosia to the infant Zeus, and used it for orienting their temples.  The date of the midnight culmination was observed in the ancient Druids' rites of November first, and it became the traditional date of the Witches Sabbath or Black Sabbath in medieval Europe.  This tradition has come down to the modern world as Halloween, though the midnight culmination has now slipped to November 21.  52.
By "midnight culmination," Mr. Mavor and Mr. Dix refer to the transit of the stars, or the time when they reach their highest point in their arcing journey across the sky (every object in our sky appears to trace out an arc, caused of course by the turning of the earth, and the highest point in that arc is the transit point or the culmination point -- for the sun, we call this point "high noon").  In other words, the Pleiades reached their highest point at midnight at this important day at one time long in the past, but the delaying action of precession now causes that midnight culmination to take place later in the month of November.  

Even more interesting is the discussion of the quartz and water elements in the Upton site and their significance to other Pleiades-aligned sites in other parts of the world, which Mr. Mavor and Mr. Dix explain on the page following the passage just quoted:
The role of the Pleiades in the life of the Inca is known through historical records and surviving structures.  The Inca saw this cluster of stars as a universal mother who gave birth to the other stars, as well as to the new sun of the June solstice and the new year.  The earth mother, the sun and the Pleiades were also related in Inca myth by association with crystal, or quartz: a crystal fell into the water before the sun god emerged, and the rising of the sun from a spring was considered to be a birth not only from the water but also from the Pleiades.  Further, these stars were related to water in the forms of springs and rain.  All of these elements were brought together at the Coriancha Sun Temple, the most magnificent structure in Cuzco, originally sheathed in gold [note: this temple is usually called the Coricancha and spelled thus -- this is perhaps a typo by the publisher in the Mavor and Dix text].  There the rise of the Pleiades over a basin of water, also used for libations to the sun god, and the June solstice sunrise are marked by structural alignments as seen from a single observation point at the great gate.  We have already pointed out that all of these elements are likewise present at Upton, where there is a single observation point for the summer solstice sunset and the Pleiades set, and the Pleiades set sightline passes over a lake.  And quartz from the nearby quarry is frequently used in the stone row.  Thus hydrography and topography at the Upton site indicate a cosmology in which the Pleiades and water are parts, with the Pleiades representing an earth mother, observed from a stone chamber buried in the earth.  53.
As stated previously, the Pleiades are not culminating at midnight right now (although thousands of years ago they were), but rather are reaching that highest point just before three in the morning and doing so about four minutes earlier each night, on their way to a midnight culmination. The reason for the four minutes earlier each night are discussed in this previous post on Orion and precession.

At this particular moment as this post is published, the nearly full moon is almost right on top of the Pleiades, effectively drowning them out from view.  Tomorrow night (Halloween) the moon will be lower, and as it continues to wane the Pleiades will become more and more visible and easy to locate in the eastern sky after sunset (this diagram from the always-excellent night-sky diagrams at Sky & Telescope gives some visual detail).  Look above the "V"-shaped Hyades that make up the Bull of Taurus and which are diagrammed in this previous post (bright Jupiter is still in Taurus -- the opening of the top of the "V" directs you to Jupiter, making the Hyades and hence the Pleiades easy to locate once the moon moves out of the way), as well as with some step-by-step instructions guiding you to find the Hyades and the Pleiades in this previous post from this very same time of the year, one year ago. 

While many argue that the midnight culmination is the ancient origin that led to Halloween, I believe it is also important to point out that this festival marks a solar "cross-quarter day" in the annual yearly cycle, and that this significant transition towards winter is just as likely to be the impetus for Halloween.  This previous post on Beltane (a cross-quarter day in May) discusses Samhain, the cross-quarter day most closely associated with modern Halloween, and cites the arguments that some have cogently made that if summer solstice is called "Midsummer" and winter solstice is called "Midwinter," then the cross-quarter days on either side of them were probably thought of as the start and end of summer or winter (you sometimes hear people declare that summer begins on summer solstice or that winter begins on winter solstice, but the tradition of calling the solstices mid summer or winter belies that interpretation).

In any event, now is an excellent time of year to begin enjoying the beautiful spectacle of the Pleiades, and to consider their tremendous importance around the world.  It is also a good time of year to think with appreciation upon the work of James Mavor and Byron Dix in opening up new perspectives on the Pleiades with their analysis of the Upton site.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Master Po on nonviolence

Readers of the previous post entitled "Reflections on Simone Weil's 'The Iliad, or the Poem of Force' and the Question of Consciousness" may be asking themselves, "How does this have anything to do with my life, since -- unlike Achilles or Ajax in the Iliad -- I am never faced with the question of using lethal force against another person?"

That is a good question.  

However, even if we (unlike Achilles, Ajax, Hektor, and the rest) are not engaged in daily life-or-death struggles around the walls of Ilium, this does not mean we do not encounter other human beings every day.  If we do, then we undoubtedly wrestle with the problem presented by Simone Weil's definition of force (or violence): that which turns a person into a thing.

As the interesting little segment above from the classic early 1970s television series Kung Fu tries to convey to its viewers, it is possible to be filled with a form of violence, even without doing physical violence.  In the flashback to the Shaolin Temple, Master Po (perhaps the most well-known and beloved character in the series) explains:
In a heart that is one with nature, though the body contends, there is no violence.
And in the heart that is not one with nature, though the body be at rest, there is always violence.
The essay by Simone Weil cited in the previous post opens an interesting perspective onto this seemingly contradictory pair of declarations.

If violence (as she believes) is that which turns another person into a thing, then our hearts can be filled with constant violence without our body ever raising an actual finger in physical contention with another.  To select a simple and unfortunately familiar example, we can in our minds (and our words) treat other drivers on the road as things and not as other people as we drive along the highways and roads during our day-to-day errands and commutes (and we can sometimes perceive others doing the same to us).  We may even refer to another driver as a "stupid pick-up truck" or some other phrase, showing that we are reducing that person in our minds to an object.

This may seem to be a bit of a stretch -- the reader may think, "well, I am not really confusing the human being in the vehicle with the mechanical object that he is driving."  However, if we are honest with ourselves, we may reflect on times that we have done the exact same thing by reducing the spiritual being in front of us to the physical aspects of the body that they are inhabiting at the moment!

This brings to mind the powerful monologue delivered by the late great Israel Kamakawiwo'ole at the beginning of his stunning performance of "Kaleohano" in May, 1996 when he said of the human body (as opposed to the eternal soul): "It's only a facade, brah.  It's a thin curtain.  It's only temporary.  Us guys is forever" (see the 2:15 mark in this video of the event itself).

To return to the assertion of Master Po from the clip above, then, we can apply Simone Weil's definition of violence as that which seeks to turn a person into a thing and agree with the Shaolin monk that it is possible for one who does not physically contend with others to nevertheless be filled with violence, and that it is also possible for one who does not wish to physically contend with another to find himself or herself in a situation where he or she must physically contend with another, while yet seeing the adversary as completely human and refusing to treat him as anything less (though this is very difficult).

It is noteworthy that Master Po precedes each of his statements with the qualifying statement "the heart that is one with nature" (or, in the second case, "the heart that is not one with nature").  We have seen that Simone Weil (and the Iliad) both provide overwhelming arguments that to reduce a person to a thing is contrary to nature.  It is unnatural, and it is wrong.

It is also worth noting that Simone Weil argues, perhaps contrary to Master Po although not necessarily, that it is almost impossible to use force without being "turned to stone" oneself -- that employing force not only reduces one's adversary to a "thing," but that it threatens to reduce the one who uses it to a "thing" as well.  The previous post cited her assertion that:
[. . .] the conquering soldier is like a scourge of nature.  Possessed by war, he, like the slave, becomes a thing, though his manner of doing so is different -- over him, too, words are as powerless as over matter itself.  And both, at the touch of force, experience its inevitable effects: they become deaf and dumb.  
Such is the nature of force.  Its power of converting a man into a thing is a double one, and in its application double-edged.  To the same degree, though in different fashions, those who use it and those who endure it are turned to stone.  22.
It is extremely interesting that at the legendary Shaolin Temple (which was in fact a real institution, and which historians agree was instrumental in the development of the incredible martial arts of China) took such care to inculcate in those who trained in these methods of combat an abiding focus on compassion and humanity.  It is as if they knew that handling such methods of violence could easily turn the martial artist into "a thing," and they wanted to avoid that dangerous possibility.  Rather than walking through life seeing others as targets to be attacked or objects to be subdued, the masters of the Shaolin Temple stressed the opposite: affirming the subjectivity and humanity of everyone, even those who have for whatever unfortunate and unnatural reason become an adversary.  

Recent scientific studies of brainwave patterns appear to confirm the conclusion that the kinds of thoughts that we dwell on for thousands of hours actually create physical changes within our brains and our brainwave patterns as well, as discussed in this post from last October.

In light of all this, it would seem that this is a subject of great importance to all of us in our daily lives, whether we are involved in actual "combat situations" like those immortalized in the Iliad or not.  We might want to consider Master Po's advice to young Kwai Chang Caine, and seek to avoid reducing other people to the status of things, even if we are only doing it inside our minds.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Reflections on Simone Weil's "The Iliad, or the Poem of Force" and the Question of Consciousness

Three previous posts have discussed Chris Carter's three-volume examination of the question of the relationship of consciousness and matter -- most recently in "Chris Carter's Science and the Afterlife Experience," and then previous to that in "Chris Carter's Science and the Near-Death Experience" and "Chris Carter's Science and Psychic Phenomena."

His three books present extensive evidence and compelling analysis which suggests that human existence comprises more than the strictly material: that consciousness exists beyond the merely physical, and is not bounded by the material life of the body nor "generated" by the physical organ of the brain.  

This conclusion is remarkable mainly because the overwhelming weight of modern academia and intellectual opinion argues the opposite: that there is no "soul" that is separate from the body, there is no consciousness that is independent of the brain, and that in short there is nothing beyond the material, because everything has its beginning and its end in matter.  What we call consciousness is a play of chemicals and electrical impulses coursing about in the brain, and when the cells of the brain cease to function, the consciousness generated by that particular brain ceases to exist.

It strikes me that this modern dogma of materialism reduces a person to a thing, in the formulation made famous in Simone Weil's powerful 1940 essay, "The Iliad, or the Poem of Force" (available in its entirety online here, translated into English from the original French by Mary McCarthy).  This connection is remarkable, and worth pondering.  

Simone Weil's essay deals with the effect of violence, both on the victim and on the perpetrator, and her examination of the Iliad in this regard is absolutely profound (and gives the reader of her essay a new appreciation for the profundity of that ancient epic).  Her definition of violence (or "force"), offered at the outset of her text, is justifiably famous, and informs her entire exploration of the subject: 
To define force -- it is that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing.  Exercised to the limit, it turns man into a thing in the most literal sense: it makes a corpse out of him.  Somebody was here, and in the next moment there is nobody here at all; this is a spectacle the Iliad never wearies of showing us:
. . . the horses
Rattled the empty chariots through the files of battle
Longing for their noble drivers.  But they on the ground 
Lay, dearer to the vultures than to their wives.
The hero becomes a thing, dragged behind a chariot in the dust:
All around, his black hair 
Was spread; in the dust, his whole head lay,
That once-charming head; now Zeus had let his enemies
Defile it on their native soil.
The bitterness of such a spectacle is offered us absolutely undiluted.  6.
In her essay, Simone Weil shows us that this bitterness -- which she notes is the pervading tone of the entire epic of the Iliad -- arises because this restriction or reduction of the person to a thing is profoundly wrong.  She says:
In whatever aspect, its effect is the same: it turns a man into a stone.  From its first property (the ability to turn a human being into a thing by the simple method of killing him) flows another, quite prodigious too in its own way, the ability to turn a human being into a thing while he is still alive.  He is alive; he has a soul; and yet -- he is a thing.  An extraordinary entity this -- a thing that has a soul.  And as for the soul, what an extraordinary house it finds itself in!  Who can say what it costs it, moment by moment, to accommodate itself to this residence, how much writhing and bending, folding and pleating are required of it?  It was not made to live inside a thing; if it does so, under pressure of necessity, there is not a single element of its nature to which violence is not done.  7.
Thus she conveys the dehumanizing aspect of violence, and the threat of violence, and demonstrates with numerous examples that the poet of the Iliad conveyed the same truth.

Does not the materialist dogma that the human being is nothing more than a collection of atoms, that human consciousness is nothing more than a collection of chemical and electrical impulses, attempt the same unnatural transformation "of a man into a stone"?  Does it not objectify something that is actually far more than just a physical object?  Does it not seek to deny that the human being not only has a soul but actually is a soul, and by turning that soul into a thing, distort it and contort it and twist it in the very way that Simone Weil describes so vividly and painfully in the passage above?  And does not such modern materialist objectification of people who are in reality not merely things go a long way towards inviting and condoning brutalization and violence and the use of force, which marked the twentieth century quite as much as did various manifestations of an arrogant, supremely confident materialist philosophy?  

The realization and appreciation of the supernatural (super-physical and super-material) aspect of every human being we encounter should dissuade us from the use of force and violence, if Simone Weil is correct that the supreme characteristic of force is its tendency to efface the personhood of the victim and reduce him to a thing.  Likewise, the ascendency of philosophies of absolute materialism often appear to go hand-in-hand with a willingness to reduce people to things (whether through naked violence or merely the threat of violence).

Later in her essay, Simone Weil explains that the use of force tends to work its dehumanizing effects on both the perpetrator and the victim. 
[. . .] the conquering soldier is like a scourge of nature.  Possessed by war, he, like the slave, becomes a thing, though his manner of doing so is different -- over him, too, words are as powerless as over matter itself.  And both, at the touch of force, experience its inevitable effects: they become deaf and dumb.  

Such is the nature of force.  Its power of converting a man into a thing is a double one, and in its application double-edged.  To the same degree, though in different fashions, those who use it and those who endure it are turned to stone.  22.
This is a subject that has tremendous implications for civilization, and -- as Simone Weil points out in her essay -- the Iliad itself treats as its subject the utter destruction of an entire city, and in fact of an entire civilization.  As such, the connection between the question of consciousness (and its existence beyond the merely physical or material) and the issues explored in Simone Weil's essay (and explored in the Iliad itself) is one we should ponder long and carefully.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tao Teh Ching 61. Tao Teh Ching 22.

A great country is like the lower regions of a river:
A place where all the streams of the world unite.
She is the mother of the world.
The peaceful and feminine
always overpowers the masculine.
Being peaceable, one takes the lower position.

Tao Teh Ching, 61. Translation by Hua-Ching Ni.

The yielding are preserved whole.
The crooked become straight.
The empty become filled.
The depleted are renewed.
What has little will gain.
What has much will become confused.

[. . .]

Indeed, the ancient teaching that
"the yielding are preserved whole" is no empty saying.

Tao Teh Ching, 22. Translation by Hua-Ching Ni.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Chris Carter's Science and the Afterlife Experience

I recently had the unforgettable experience of reading Chris Carter's Science and the Afterlife Experience for the first time, and cannot recommend it highly enough to every reader who is interested in the subject of our existence here in this body and whether that existence continues after the death of the body.

If you have not read it yet yourself, you are in for a treat.  

This newly-released examination of the evidence for the survival of consciousness and personality after the death of the material body is the powerful concluding volume in Chris Carter's three-volume examination of the evidence for "super-natural" (or "super-material") aspects to human consciousness (with some evidence for similar super-material aspects to animal consciousness as well).  I have discussed the previous two volumes in previous posts, "Chris Carter's Science and the Near-Death Experience" (the second in the series) and "Chris Carter's Science and Psychic Phenomena" (the first in the series).

The evidence in this third book -- and the carefully-documented accounts underlying that evidence -- is even more gripping than that presented in the first two books.  The cases themselves are unforgettable, beginning with the first section on reincarnation, continuing into the second section on apparitions, and finally the third and longest (and perhaps most compelling) section on communication from those who have crossed over into the great beyond.

Throughout, Chris Carter builds a carefully-reasoned and sober case for the conclusion that human consciousness consists of something more than the strictly material, and that it survives the death and dissolution of the material body.  

He does not ignore the fact that such an assertion is tremendously controversial, and that many respected and well-educated analysts vehemently deny such a possibility.  He states right up front that such contrary arguments are important and that honest critics must be given an opportunity to provide alternative explanations for the evidence at hand, saying on page 11 that "Genuine skepticism is an important part of science."  Throughout the book, as he has in previous volumes, he examines at great length the alternative explanations that have been put forward, and the strengths and weaknesses of each argument for and against the survival hypothesis.

It is the evidence that is provided to counter the most determined skeptics that really astonishes the reader, proving the point that skepticism is important (without it, some of the experiments described might never have been attempted).  Among the cases that appear most well-documented and publicly-accountable -- and which leave perhaps the deepest impression on the reader -- are the "cross correspondences" of Frederic Myers, and the remarkable chess game between Grandmaster Viktor Korchnoi and the deceased Grandmaster Geza Maroczy.

That chess match was arranged to demonstrate that that the "medium" supposedly channeling the consciousness of a deceased individual would have great difficulty mimicking a skill which the medium did not possess -- in this case, a level of chess-playing skill that only a few individuals in the world ever achieve (other examples cited in the book with evidence of eyewitnesses include speaking in languages unknown to the medium, while supposedly in contact with individuals who during their life had spoken such languages).  Chris Carter explains that in the mid-1980s, 
asset-manager and amateur chess player Dr. Wolfgang Eisenbeiss decided to initiate a chess match between living and deceased persons.  Eisenbeiss had been acquianted with the automatic-writing medium Robbert Rollans (1914-1993) for eight years, and trusted his assertion that he did not know how to play chess and had no knowledge of chess history.  Rollans was not paid for his services, and his stated motive for participation was to provide support for the survival hypothesis. 

Eisenbeiss was able to persuade the world-famous chess champion Viktor Korchnoi, then ranked third in the world, to participate.  Korchnoi was ranked second in the world for more than a decade, and was described in Chessbase (April 4, 2002) as "unquestionably one of the great chess players of all time."

Eisenbeiss gave Rollans a list of deceased grandmasters and asked him to find one who would be willing to participate in a game.  On June 15, 1985, a communicator claiming to be the deceased Hugarian grandmaster Geza Maroczy confirmed his willingness to play, and then opened the game by making the first move.  Geza Maroczy was ranked third in the world in 1900, and was known for his remarkably strong endgame.  204-205.
This amazing event makes fascinating reading, and is very difficult to explain away by the skeptics.  It is difficult to argue that Korchnoi or some other living chess grandmaster was somehow in on an elaborate scheme to fool the public.  For one thing, Korchnoi never actually communicated with Rollans in person -- the entire game was played with Eisenbeiss as the intermediary.  Abundant evidence surrounding the case and discussed in detail by Chris Carter in his examination of the match make it very difficult to argue that the thoroughly-documented and highly-scrutinized game was a ruse.

Further, the style of the play was consistent with that of Maroczy during life, and would have been extremely difficult to imitate (especially when the game progressed and his reputation for brilliant endgame play surfaced in moves that no mere amateur could have thrown at Grandmaster Korchnoi). At the twenty-seventh move of the match, Viktor Korchnoi commented on the quality of the play of his opponent, saying:
During the opening phase Maroczy showed weakness.  His play is old-fashioned.  But I must confess that my last moves have not been too convincing.  I am not sure I will win.  He has compensated the faults of the opening by a strong end-game.  In the end-game the ability of a player shows up and my opponent plays very well.  206.

There are other pieces of evidence surrounding this match that Chris Carter brings out which make it quite a compelling case in support of the survival of consciousness after death.  And there are many other similarly-compelling cases in the book -- cases which should be more widely-known because they provide such important perspectives on this critical subject.  Every human being should have access to this evidence and be allowed to examine it for himself or herself.

Chris Carter has done his readers an invaluable service by collecting this evidence and presenting it in such a clear and sober manner.  He guides us through it with lucid comments and insightful analysis, and brings in the possible alternative explanations and the arguments of those opposed to the survival hypothesis whenever appropriate.  

The conclusions at the end, and the discussion of a theory that ties all of this evidence together, have far-reaching implications.  This is a profound and important subject, and one with tremendous potential to impact on many levels the way we live our lives.

Readers of this post may also want to check out previous posts discussing other evidence relevant to this subject (from cases not found in the above book), such as:


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Arkaim, gold and the ancient shamanic rituals

In the previous two posts, we have been examining the implications of the fascinating and newly-discovered geoglyph near Lake Zyuratkul in Russia (in the Urals) that has been dubbed the "Russian Nazca" by some in the media.  See "That's not an elk -- it's a Set-beast!" and "Set-beast and Saiga Antelope" to catch up on the discussion if you haven't seen it yet.

Both posts note that the "new" geoglyph was discovered in a region of the Urals that was already home to significant ancient megalithic monuments, including the stone circles, dolmens, and other structures found around Lake Turgoyak (and particularly Vera Island), as well as the enigmatic circular "city" of Arkaim, discovered in 1987, which has been called a "Russian Stonehenge" (see image above, found in this Russian-language video discussing Arkaim).

The relative locations of the three sites are shown in the map below:

As pointed out in the previous posts, and as is apparent in the map above, the three sites are located in or near some significant mountain ranges -- and not just any mountain ranges but mountain ranges that are clearly "hogbacks," formed when the strata of the earth are "tipped upwards" and broken off, such that the layers form long parallel ridges as they protrude like long spines.  

We discussed these important terrain features in previous posts, such as "Hogbacks of the California Coast" and "The unbelievable bathymetry of Mavericks."

You can create your own model of the formation of hogbacks by holding your palms towards your face while extending the fingers of each hand towards each other, touching the tips of the fingers together (or at least the tips of your two middle fingers).  Then rotate one hand so that the parallel fingers (representing layers of strata) protrude upwards -- these represent your hogbacks, where the crust has been disrupted and pushed upwards such that the layers "go vertical" to some degree, creating a situation where looking down from the air allows you to see the layers that once were beneath the earth but are now protruding.

Below is a close-up view of some of the mountain ranges to the west of Arkaim, clearly showing hogback geology.

We have seen that hogbacks -- perhaps by virtue of their "uplifted" formation mechanism -- often prove excellent locations for mining for precious metals, including gold (such as in California) and copper (such as in Michigan's Upper Peninsula).  Hogback regions can almost be thought of as locations where surface-dwellers can more easily "leaf through the pages" of the earth's strata in search of precious metals and minerals.

This certainly appears to be true of the Chelyabinsk region of the southern Urals where these concentrations of ancient monuments are being discovered.  The area has been and continues to be an important mining region in modern times, and it appears that the ancients also conducted mining activities in the area.  In fact, this extensive discussion of the incredible ancient ruins of Arkaim reveals that not only was this circular city-site a functioning astronomical observatory of great accuracy, but it also contained "remnants of [. . .] metallurgic furnaces, and mines."

This fact is very interesting, especially given the great age and apparent sophistication of Arkaim.  The possibility that this area may have been chosen due to the mining resources may be extremely significant.  Lucy Wyatt (whose work we have discussed in previous posts, such as this one entitled "The shamanic tradition in ancient Egypt") has noted that many other very ancient settlements -- such as Catal Huyuk -- are also located in mountainous regions, which is not what we might expect if we follow the conventional theory that mankind's earliest city-building centered around the transition to agriculture from hunter-gathering.  

Forbidding mountains are not ideal sites for agriculture.  Why are very ancient sites such as Catal Huyuk and now Arkaim located in mountainous regions?  In her book Approaching Chaos: Could an Ancient Archetype Save 21st Century Civilization, discussing the enigmas of ancient civilization and the evidence that it did not follow the pattern our conventional historians propose, Lucy Wyatt argues that these ancient sites were located in these mountainous regions because the ancient civilizers were more interested in gold than in agriculture!

In a chapter entitled "Why Civilization Mysteriously Starts in Mountains," Lucy writes:
What was the reason for spending so much time and effort in such in such difficult and unprepossessing terrain?  What was so important to the ancients about inhospitable mountains both in the Middle East and South America?  Oddly enough, Genesis itself gives one answer: gold

In mentioning the first river to flow out of Eden, the Pishon, Genesis states that this river flows around 'the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good.'   [. . .]

Mesopotamia to the south had a word for gold, KU.GI, but no gold itself [Potts, 1994, p164].  It all came from the mountains -- either the Taurus Mountains to the north, or the Zagros Mountains to the east.  When the king of Uruk made his demands in cuneiform tablets on the mountainous kingdom of Aratta in the third millennium BC for large amounts of gold and silver to be sent for the temples in the south at Eridu and Uruk, his request may have been typical of an exchange that had been taking place for millennia beforehand [Rohl, 1998, p75, p130].  

[. . .]  Quite possibly gold deposits were the reason for the ancients being there in the first place -- after all, pottery could be made from clay found anywhere.  66-67.

What gives this argument added strength is Lucy's remarkable analysis of the importance of gold.  She believes that its use went far beyond simple decoration or demonstration of wealth, and that gold in fact played a key function in enabling the out-of-body or shamanic travel undertaken by the priest-kings of ancient civilization.   If these out-of-body shamanic experiences were used to gain critical knowledge -- as the evidence seems to suggest -- and to keep ancient civilization on track for hundreds and even thousands of years, then obtaining gold was not just a luxury: it was a necessity.

As discussed in that previous post on evidence of shamanic out-of-body travel by pharaohs in ancient Egypt, Lucy believes that the qeni garment (also described as the "embrace of Osiris" in ancient texts) may have protected the king's heart during the experience, during which electricity and ultrasonic energy may have also been involved, perhaps interacting with the gold or with a powder made from the gold.  

She also believes that the "Opening of the Mouth Ceremony," which conventional historians describe as a strictly funerary ritual, may have been conducted on the living pharaoh during the ritual. This ceremony involved a ritual adze, which is often shown being brought towards the mouth of the pharaoh by a sem priest.  Lucy asks:  "Have we misunderstood 'opening the mouth' when in fact it might have meant 'keeping open the mouth'?  If the pharaoh were lying on his Heb Sed bed in a shamanic trance, then the iron adze might have been necessary both to conduct a mild electrical current and perhaps to stop him from swallowing his tongue" (170-171).

As noted in the first post on this subject of the ancient monuments in the Urals, it may be extremely significant that the one tool singled out for mention as being most prevalent at the newly-discovered "Russian Nazca" shape (which I believe may represent a "Set-beast") is the adze.

Thus, these little-known but extremely interesting (and fairly newly-discovered) sites in the Urals of Russia appear to contain important clues that may support Lucy Wyatt's bold thesis:  They are located in close proximity to hogbacks and in a region known for extensive mining activity (including gold mining).  The site of the enigmatic circular city-compound of Arkaim contains clear evidence of smelting and mining.  They are very old.  And they appear to contain important symbols (in the form of the adze) relating to the civilization-affirming ritual that Lucy believes the ancients needed all this gold for in the first place.

This is an extremely interesting line of inquiry, and (it would appear) an extremely promising one.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Set-beast and Saiga Antelope

The previous post, entitled "That's not an elk -- it's a Set-beast!" discussed the evidence which suggests that the recently-discovered geoglyph near Lake Zyuratkul in the Urals in Russia may not depict an elk at all but rather a creature known to historians as a "Set-beast" (because the ancient Egyptian god Set or Seth is often depicted with the head of a creature that, unlike most other Egyptian deities, does not seem to be an actual terrestrial animal but a sort of anteater-like creature with tall rectangular protrusions on its head).

However, the astute Mr. TRB of California wrote to me soon after that post was published to point out the animal pictured above -- the Saiga Antelope, which bears a more-than-passing resemblance to both the Russian geoglyph and the distinctive Set-beast!

This could be an important connection and one which could earn him a PhD if he were to pursue it (or another PhD, if he already has one or more).  Perhaps the Saiga Antelope, a critically endangered species today but one which once roamed from the British Isles to the Bering Strait and even into Alaska and what is now the Yukon, was the inspiration for the geoglyph -- and perhaps there is a connection to the Egyptian god Set as well.  

I have argued, following Jane B. Sellers, that the distinctive shape of the Set-beast may derive from a celestial source -- the constellation Lepus, located beneath the feet of Orion (a constellation closely associated with Osiris and hence with Set as well).  Jane Sellers presents convincing evidence that Set was associated with the adze-shaped stars of Taurus, which are above Orion and eventually (through precession), "usurped his throne."  The Memphite Theology relates how the Nine Gods ruled in judgement after this event and placed Set below Osiris instead of above him.

However, there is no reason to believe that the stars of Lepus (which are easily found beneath Orion, and quite visible this time of year, particularly after midnight and in the hours leading up to the dawn) could not have suggested the head of the Saiga Antelope to the ancients, which means that there could be a relationship between Lepus, Set, and this distinctive beast, which has a most unusual proboscis (see images below).

At this point, however, some readers may be wondering why we need to bring Lepus or Set into the picture at all, now that we have identified an actual terrestrial animal that could have served as the model for the Russian geoglyph.  It is possible, of course, that the geoglyph has no celestial significance at all, but I doubt it, for the simple reason that it is located among numerous other ancient monuments which clearly have celestial connections.

Not far from Lake Zyuratkul, where the "new" geoglyph was found, is Lake Turgoyak, home of six islands, the largest of which is called Vera Island or the Island of St. Vera.  Vera Island is dotted with an extensive array of dolmens, menhirs, and stone chambers.

I have never been to Vera Island, but the images of the ancient stone structures there strongly remind me of the ancient stone structures of Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, which I have visited (for a discussion of some of these, see previous posts entitled "Gungywamp," "Mystery Hill, New Hampshire," and "Ancient knowledge of accurate latitudes and ocean landmarks prior to 3500 BC," among others).

Below is a map showing the proximity of Turgoyak and Zyuratkul -- about 92 km by road (57 miles).

While it may be just a coincidence, it is noteworthy that these megalithic sites are found among geology with distinctive "hogbacks."  For more detail on these distinctive geological features, see the discussion in the previous blog post "Hogbacks of the California coast."  We recently noted that the ancient copper mines of Michigan's Upper Peninsula were situated among hogback features, as were the amazing and unique fossilized whale-brains of San Luis Obispo County.

Below is a terrain map showing the hogbacks in the area.

Finally, Mr. TRB who pointed out the Saiga Antelope connection in the first place has also pointed out that the amazing ancient circular ruins and city of Arkaim are located in the vicinity of the geoglyph as well -- another 380 km to the south of Turgoyak (about 236 miles). Arkaim has extremely precise celestial alignments, which argues that the "new" geoglyph may well depict more than just a terrestrial animal (whether it be moose, elk, Saiga, or Set-beast), and that it may have celestial connections as well.

It would be very interesting if other geoglyphs are discovered in the vicinity of the "Set-beast" or "Saiga-shaped" geoglyph, and especially if one were found which corresponds to the constellation Orion.

Thanks again to TRB for the insightful comments and links!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

That's not an elk -- it's a Set-beast!

Recently, a newly-discovered ancient outline composed of massive lines made of stones of various size, located near the remote Lake Zyuratkul in the Urals has been making news, and rightly so.  

At 900 feet in size at its widest two points, it is larger than even the largest animal-shaped geoglyphs among the famous Nazca Lines in Peru, which it resembles so much that it has been called "Russia's Nazca" (see search results below, or conduct a search yourself).

Like the Nazca outlines, the image is so big that it is really best seen from a high elevation.  In this case, the geoglyph was apparently first noticed by an astute observer named Alexander Shestakov (story here), who noticed the outline while poring over satellite images (which satellite images is not currently stated in the reports that I have seen, but it may have been the satellite images on Google Maps or Google Earth, as the image is visible from those satellite images).

Once he told researchers, they went airborne to confirm the existence of this immense ancient geoglyph, apparently using a "hydroplane" (probably meaning a flying boat or seaplane: the image is located very near to Lake Zyuratkul -- also spelled Zjuratkul -- in the Urals) and a paraglider.

This fact alone is noteworthy, and reminiscent of the Nazca lines of Peru (located on Peru's Nazca plateau and taking their name from that location).  As Graham Hancock wrote of the Nazca lines in his groundbreaking Fingerprints of the Gods in 1995:
Their sheer size is equally noteworthy and bizarre.  The hummingbird is 165 feet long, the spider 150 feet long, the condor stretches nearly 400 feet from beak to tail-feathers (as does the pelican), and a lizard, whose tail is now divided by the Pan-American highway, is 617 feet in length.  Almost every design is executed in the same cyclopean scale and in the same difficult manner, by the careful contouring of a single continuous line. 39-40.
It is remarkable that the image near Lake Zyuratkul also appears to be composed of a single continuous line.  To see the image of the geoglyph for yourself on Google Maps, simply search for "Lake Zyuratkul" (if a map image does not come up, click on "Maps" from the horizontal menu bar at the top of the Google results page, where you have choices such as "Search" and "Images" and "Maps").  Locate the lake itself, and then look to the north and west of the lake (see location of the image relative to the lake in the picture below):

The first news stories to describe this important archaeological discovery and window into the ancient past of the human race are describing the outline as "elk-shaped" or "moose-shaped" (here are a couple examples: "Mysterious elk-shaped structure discovered in Russia," "Russian 'Moose' Geoglyph Predates Nazca Lines").  While it is certainly possible that the ancient designers intended to convey a moose or an elk (other reports say "an elk or a deer"), the creature's elongated snout is certainly much longer than any found on an elk or even a moose, and it has two distinct and vertical rectangular "ears" that do not look at all like antlers but are in fact strongly reminiscent of a very different ancient creature depicted in ancient art.  

I believe that this ancient geoglyph may represent the animal known as the "Seth-beast" or "Set-beast."  That's right: I believe the "Russian Nazca" image may depict the animal that is also found on the head of an important Egyptian god -- you heard it here first!

While this may seem like something of a stretch, bear with me while I explain the reasons for this conclusion.  First, the shape of the outline itself, with the twin vertical rectangular "ears" and elongated anteater-like snout are highly suggestive of the head of the Egyptian god Set (or Seth), brother of Osiris (and murderer of Osiris).  See image below, from the Small Temple at Abu Simbel (reign of Rameses II, c. 1303 BC - 1213 BC).  

You will note that the snout and the ears of the image above clearly resemble the outline of the "Russian Nazca" geoglyph, which also has an elongated snout which tapers to a point, and two rectangular "ears" almost identical to those of Set shown above.

I discuss the reason that Set may be depicted with this unique and distinctive head in Chapter 5 of my Mathisen Corollary book.  I agree with the arguments of Jane B. Sellers in Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, where she gives evidence that Set's head resembles the stars of the constellation Lepus, located under Orion and representing the judgement of the Ennead (or Nine Gods) which is recorded perhaps most fully (out of the texts we have today) in the Memphite Theology (the text inscribed on the Shabaka Stone).

It is quite evident that the Nazca lines of Peru may have astronomical significance and depict prominent constellations (many analysts have provided evidence for this interpretation, which the reader can readily ascertain through various searches on the web and in literature about the lines of the Nazca plateau) -- it is therefore not ridiculous to suggest that this new "Nazca-like" geoglyph in Russia does as well.

As for the objection that it is outrageous to suggest the presence of Egyptian Set-iconography at a site so far from Egypt, take a look at the image below, which is from a Maya codex known as the Codex Tro-Cortesianus:

As discussed in Hamlet's Mill (by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, 1969) and also in the Mathisen Corollary book, the above image is extremely suggestive of the images from ancient Egypt showing Horus and Set pulling on a central pillar by means of papyrus and lotus reeds (which are replaced by a serpent in the Maya image above, as well as in the versions of the same scene found in India and Cambodia and other parts of the world).  Notice that the figure on the right in the Maya image also has the elongated "snout" typical of the Egyptian god Set or Seth.  Below is a version of the same scene from the throne of the Pharaoh Sesostris I (thought to have reigned from 1971 BC to 1926 BC):

If imagery representing Set can be found in the New World codices of the Maya, then it is not ridiculous to examine the possibility that the geoglyph discovered in Russia might also represent the animal of the same long-snouted deity. 

There is another important clue that analysts so far have not seemed to tie in to the newly-discovered geoglyph in the Urals, a clue which could help them realize that this outline may represent a Seth-beast and not an elk or a moose (which it does not really resemble at all).  That important clue is mentioned in some of the articles about the new discovery, such as in this article (already linked above and entitled "Mysterious elk-shaped structure discovered in Russia").  That clue is the presence of numerous stone implements described by Stanislav Grigoriev, of the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of History & Archaeology, who is one of the leaders of the ongoing research at the site of the geoglyph.  The article says:
Among the finds from the excavations are about 40 stone tools, made of quartzite, found on the structure's surface. Most of them are pickaxe-like tools called  mattocks, useful for digging and chopping. "Perhaps they were used to extract clay," he [Mr. Grigoriev] writes in the email. 
As discussed in the Mathisen Corollary book during the examination of the importance of Set, the adze was an ancient tool which was shaped very much like the head of Set, and which may well have been associated with that deity.   The image below shows why there is reason to suspect a connection:

Notice that the email from one of the researchers on-site describes the preponderance of the tools found so far at the geoglyph as "pickaxe-like tools called mattocks."  A mattock is a tool of which one end is an adze (shaped like the snout of the Seth-beast) and the other end is either an axe (an edged tool with a vertical blade) or a pick (a pointed tool).  It doesn't matter whether the mattock is an axe-mattock ("cutter mattock") or a pick-mattock -- what they have in common is that each features an adze.  A mattock, for the purposes of this examination, is an adze, and an adze was (I have argued) associated with Set.

For these reasons, I believe that the recently-discovered geoglyph in the Urals in Russia may depict a Set-beast.