Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Resolved: blessing and not cursing

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

My resolution as we contemplate the end of one year and the arrival of another is to engage in the act of blessing and not cursing.

As discussed in this previous post, the concept of blessing can be conceived of as the act of:
  • recognizing the spirit world which is behind all we can perceive here in the material world, and which in some sense can be said to generate everything we perceive here in the material world
  • awakening and bringing out that hidden, veiled, invisible spirit dwelling within everything and everyone we encounter here in this material world.
I am grateful to Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman for articulating this wonderful definition of the act of blessing in the book Awakening to the Spirit World (pages 25 - 26). As they explain in that definition, it appears that our ongoing mission in this material world may well be the continuous act of recognizing and acknowledging and waking up and calling forth this hidden spark of spirit within ourselves and the rest of the material world around us: 
the physical plane appears to most as a camouflage universe where Spirit does not appear to exist [. . .]
many of us respond to the physical world by assuming a deep hypnosis, a deep sleep where we no longer recognize that Spirit is present [. . .]
So it is our job to wake up and to awaken all that is around us. This act of waking up could be called "blessing the world." 26.
Previous posts have spent a great deal of time examining the symbology found in the ancient wisdom around the world in various forms using various metaphors describing the "casting down" of spirit into matter and the subsequent "raising up" of spirit again. Symbols describing this dynamic include: 
  • the "casting down of the Djed-column" and the "raising it back up again," 
  • the entombment of Osiris in a sarcophagus and the subsequent standing back upright of the god, 
  • the ascent upon a central tree which is a foundational image in shamanic cultures around the world and can also be found in the Norse myth of Odin and in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, 
  • the symbol of the kundalini serpent rising along the central column of the body, which is also related to the symbol of the caduceus
  • the Vajra or Thunderbolt,
  • the widely-known symbol of the cross with its horizontal component (the spirit cast down into matter) and its vertical component (the spirit awakened and ascendant) 
  • the similar and related symbol of the Ankh, as well as the symbol of the Scarab, and
  • the annual "cross of the year" formed upon the zodiac wheel by the horizontal line of the equinoxes (between which the spirit is cast down into matter) and the vertical line of the solstices (topped by the sign of Cancer the Crab, whose upraised arms resemble the upraised arms of the Scarab beetle and serve the same symbolic function).
  • The concept of walking the north-south red road, which is crossed with the east-west black road in the Sacred Hoop of the Lakota.
The fundamental importance of these symbols in the sacred traditions found around the globe testifies to the profound centrality of the continuous process of acknowledging and recognizing and then calling forth and elevating the spiritual which has been veiled and hidden beneath or within this material covering that we perceive with our physical senses.

In other words, the act of blessing appears to be our central ongoing task, according to the world's ancient wisdom!

And yet how often and how easily this physical world can get us to lose sight of the world of spirit pulsing just beneath the surface of everything we see -- and how easily the sharp and sometimes painful exigency of the material realm can cause us to reverse the process just described, and fall into cursing when we are supposed to be blessing!

If cursing is the opposite of blessing, then the definition of blessing just discussed would seem to lead to a definition of cursing which involves the denial of the spiritual within ourselves and other beings around us, and flowing just beneath the surface of everything here in the physical realm. Instead of elevating spirit, cursing denigrates it, or degrades it, or diminishes it, or denies its existence altogether. Instead of seeing ourselves and others as spiritual beings immersed for a time within physical bodies, cursing objectifies, physicalizes, and profanes. 

The downward direction of cursing, driving down the spiritual instead of elevating it, seems to be very much related to the definition of violence offered by Simone Weil in her powerful 1940 essay entitled "The Iliad, or the Poem of Force," in which she famously defined physical violence as "that x that turns anybody who is subjected to it into a thing."

The curse words and phrases I am familiar with tend to emphasize violence, physicality, and the animal aspect of human existence -- they tend to focus on the carnal in a way that is stripped of any accompanying deeper meaning of spirit, to emphasize the bodily functions of the human body in a way that "turns anybody who is subjected to [incarnation] into a thing," and in doing so they obscure, or deny, or attempt to take our mind away from the dual spiritual-physical reality of human existence. It is a reality that we are always prone to forgetting or ignoring, as the quotation from Sandra Ingerman and Hank Wesselman cited above makes clear -- and as the ancient wisdom expressed in the teaching of the "hidden god" buried inside the material realm but hidden from sight and easily overlooked (see discussions here and here).

If you are anything like me, you know how easily the daily frustrations offered up by life inside the material realm and its unforgiving laws of physics can cause "cursing" in some form to erupt almost spontaneously, whether in thought or in actual expression. And yet how damaging this tendency is to our true mission of blessing rather than cursing.

This tension is expressed in many ancient scriptures -- the scriptures in the Old and New Testaments , as well as ancient sacred texts which were left out by the literalists when they assembled the New Testament, enjoin blessing rather than cursing, and warn us against the constant temptation to fall into patterns of cursing.

The text known as the general epistle of James memorably declares: "Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (James 3:10-11).

Proverbs 11:11 declares: "By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked" (it is interesting to note that this passage associates blessing with "the upright" and that "uprightness" is associated in the ancient symbology catalogued above with the Djed-column raised-up, the Osiris raised to the vertical position, and the vertical portion of the universal cross -- all of them symbols of the elevation of spirit and hence with the concept of blessing).

In both texts known as the Gospel according to Matthew and and the Gospel according to Mark, Jesus is recorded as saying that it is what comes out of our mouths that can defile us, rather than what we put into our mouth, saying: "But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man [. . .] These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man" (Matthew 15:18, 20).

The same teaching is expressed in a text known as the Gospel of Thomas (an important Gnostic text found in the Nag Hammadi library), in which Jesus tells his listeners: "After all, what goes into your mouth will not defile you; rather, it's what comes out of your mouth that will defile you" (14). 

These passages tend to support the definition of "cursing" which we have derived above from our definition of "blessing" -- the concept of "defiling" means making profane, denying the sacred aspect, driving out the sense of the spiritual and emphasizing all that is most associated with the solely physical aspects of our incarnate existence. These passages seem to be enjoining us to be constantly blessing and not cursing: to be seeing the sacred and the spiritual in ourselves and in everyone and everything around us, and to try to bring it out -- as opposed to doing the opposite.

Of course, as we all know, maintaining this focus is not easy (if it were, there probably would not be so many passages in ancient scriptures enjoining us to do it).

That's why it is a resolution of mine, and something I hope to do more of in the coming year!

Blessings to you in this new solar year. Namaste.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

"Are you not ashamed to mingle domestic crops with blood and gore?"

image: MIT homepage of Dr. Stephanie Seneff (specific image link).

Many ancient philosophers presented philosophical arguments against the consumption of animal flesh and for the adoption of plant-based diets in one form or another, among them Plutarch, Ovid, and (at least according to long-established tradition) Pythagoras.

In one of his surviving treatises on the subject, Plutarch argues that resorting to the consumption of that which is (in his words) "contrary to nature" is a form of slander against the gods and the earth, implying that they cannot support us with their bounty. He asks:
Why slander the earth by implying that she cannot support you? Why impiously offend law-giving Demeter and bring shame upon Dionysus, lord of the cultivated vine, the gracious one, as if you did not receive enough from their hands? Are you not ashamed to mingle domestic crops with blood and gore?
A previous post from 2012 noted that, while Plutarch was applying these arguments to the consumption of flesh in an age long before the direct injection of foreign DNA into foodcrops, the same arguments could be applied with equal force to the creation and distribution of genetically-modified organisms for human consumption, a practice that has appeared only in the past two decades of human existence but which has increased exponentially since these GMOs were first introduced into the food chain.

Not only is it questionable and completely unproven to assert that the earth and the gods simply could not support human life without these newly-devised GMOs (and, Plutarch would say, slanderous and impious to say so, as well), but in light of data being presented by credentialed researchers, it may be that those who have been pushing GMOs into the food supply are also mingling domestic crops with, if not "blood and gore," a widespread increase in terrible neurological diseases and health problems.

Here is a link to a talk given on May 24, 2014, by Dr. Stephanie Seneff, a Senior Research Scientist at MIT who has focused her research in recent years on correlations between nutrition and health. The talk is long but critically important. In it, she presents evidence arguing that the sudden introduction of new, genetically-modified, herbicide-resistant corn and soy crops into the US food chain in 1991, and the corresponding massive increase in herbicide application on top of these food crops (see chart above) correlates almost one-to-one with the rise in autism diagnoses in the US (the red "line graph" or "mountain chart" line represents chemical herbicide applied to soy and corn, in thousands of tons, and the yellow "bar graph" columns represent the rising number of children identified as having autism). 

Her data further indicate a potential harmful synergy between this newly-prevalent herbicide and the increased exposure to aluminum, primarily through vaccines. This previous post examines some of the powerful forces at work to marginalize anyone who questions the safety of the increased vaccine regimens for children, and the possible connection vaccines may have with autism.

Early in her talk, she also states that the lack of exposure to sunlight among children who now for various reasons may be spending too much time indoors and staring at screens instead of running around outside may also be a contributing factor, leading to dangerous deficiencies in natural vitamin D production from sunlight exposure on the skin and through the eyes. Interestingly enough, the health benefits of basking in the sun were known to the ancients and written about by various ancient authors and philosophers as well.

Dr. Seneff states that she has spent the past several years examining possible environmental factors that may be contributing to the rise in autism shown in the chart above. She notes that there is an argument that autism is only genetic, and a contingent of people who apparently do not want to take the time to examine hypotheses which include possible environmental contributors to this and other health problems. Beginning at about 0:00:40 into the talk, Dr. Seneff says:
So, people keep saying "Oh, yeah -- it's genetic; autism's a genetic disease." They're not spending the money they should be spending looking for environmental factors. And as much as you could try to think of increased diagnosis or whatever, you've still got a huge part that's unexplained, unclear, and that is almost surely environmental. I don't think this audience would disagree. So, I've been studying autism for about seven years now, reading extensively in the literature, and looking one by one at all the  different environmental toxins and all the environmental factors that might be involved in autism. And I've identified several. Certainly sun, insufficient sunlight exposure to both the skin and the eyes, was something I identified early on: people in northern latitudes have increased autism, for example. And poor diet I think is something that people are aware of. Nutritional deficiencies. Vaccines is something  this community's very are aware of. But there's another factor that I didn't recognize until about two years ago. I went to hear a talk by Don Huber, who's a professor -- retired professor -- from Purdue,  expert on plant physiology and plant pathology, who's been going around the world talking about the dangers of this, Roundup, and the damage that it's doing to our nation's health. And once I heard his lecture, I became a changed person, and I spent nearly all of my time studying this chemical, and understanding how it works biologically, and linking that to very many diseases and conditions that are plaguing us today: things like diabetes, and Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease, various cancers, and you can see a very strong connection between this chemical and those diseases. 
Immediately after this, Dr. Seneff says that it is her hope that everyone listening to her will be convinced to investigate the evidence for himself or herself. This approach is a major differentiating factor between those who are encouraging real analysis (which I argue here and here to be an antidote to mind control) and those who argue that there is nothing to investigate, the issue is already settled, and their interpretation is the interpretation that must be accepted -- on faith, without doing your own research (which is the kind of argument that typifies those who seek to control others, exemplified in the original 1968 Planet of the Apes movie by the characters of Dr. Zaius and the orangutans).

The safety of the food supply, and the application of honest, open-minded analysis of the evidence regarding the safety of the modifications and ethicality of giving genetically-modified foods to people largely without their knowledge, their consent, or their awareness of the potential health hazards that may be associated with such foods, is a subject of such fundamental importance that it demands all of our attention. I hope that everyone will take the time to listen to Dr. Seneff's presentation linked above (here's the link again).

We simply must engage our critical thinking and do our own analysis when we see data such as that shown in the graph and discussed in the talk, or we risk "mingling crops with blood and gore," as Plutarch puts it.

No one who does military analysis before a military operation would ignore such data points or dismiss them as not worthy of further investigation. No one who does stock analysis before investing in a stock would see so many red flags in the data and argue for buying it anyway. When the health and safety of others is on the line, we do not have the luxury of just sleepwalking forward with our eyes shut.

Dr. Seneff has bravely presented evidence and a hypothesis, based on seven years of research and a host of data -- of course, those who wish to offer a different hypothesis can and should do so along with their arguments of why their hypothesis might be a better fit for the data.

Here is an article from October of 2014 discussing Dr. Seneff's research. Here is another article, published yesterday, also discussing aspects of Dr. Seneff's research.

For those who might ask what this topic has to do with the topics usually discussed in this blog, the answer is: plenty. 

First, and perhaps foremost, there is the question of natural law (or, as it might be better labeled, natural universal law). The doctrine of natural universal law argues that the prevention of violence to another's person is fundamental, that we always have the right (and in fact the duty) to stop violence being done to ourselves or to another human being, and that it is for this purpose that governments are established.

Related to the question of natural law is the important subject of "mind control" -- used in a broad and general sense in this case (there are other, narrower, and more technical uses of that term which are also valuable but not necessarily in view here). In this broad usage, we can define mind control as the propagation of illusions and ideologies which are primarily designed to mask or even try to legitimize the violation of natural universal law, often on a grand scale. In fact, some have argued convincingly that mass-violation of natural universal law is always necessarily accompanied by forms of mass mind control.

Further, as intimated in the opening paragraphs of this post, this question is by no means unrelated to the questions treated by the ancient philosophers, especially those prior to the arrival of literalist Christianity, who clearly saw food as a proper subject for philosophical discourse, and a topic with deep moral implications.

Finally, the debate over this subject, in which there is a consensus view being promoted and a clear marginalization of those voices which challenge the consensus view, directly parallels the pattern found in the subjects most-often examined in this blog and in my research. There is a clear failure among conventional academia to seriously consider the overwhelming evidence pointing to ancient trans-oceanic contact between the "Old World" and "New World," for example, or the abundant evidence that consciousness may in fact be independent of the physical body, and many more subjects which are just as critical to our health and well-being as is the question of what foods are best and most healthful and safest for us to eat.

The question of the safety of our food is one we really do not have the luxury of ignoring. I believe that for various important reasons, the others discussed on this blog are equally pressing. 

The possibility that the creation of what came to be known as "the west" (and that is today embodied in governments and other institutions that can be seen to be descended from the western Roman Empire) might have involved the deliberate creation of illusions and the adoption of ideologies that now threaten the entire food chain and entire ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest (see for instance the discussion in this previous post) is certainly one of those issues. It may well be that this ideological pattern, which I believe began with a mistaken literalistic approach to ancient scriptures, which led to a deliberate rejection of the ancient wisdom as well as a false separation between human beings and nature, is directly related to the adoption of agricultural practices that could turn out to be very harmful to nature and to ourselves.

Monday, December 29, 2014

The massacre at Wounded Knee: December 29, 1890 -- and today

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

December 29 is the anniversary of the massacre of the Lakota at Wounded Knee by elements of the US Army, which took place in 1890. As painful as it is to read the details of this massacre, it is vitally important to know them. 

It is vitally important so that those whose lives were taken are not forgotten.

It is also vitally important because, as Lakota Holy Man Black Elk explains, a people's dream died there at Wounded Knee.

It is also vitally important because the mass murder that resulted in the crushing of this dream at Wounded Knee is also an example of mass mind control, in that an entire society was needed to support the army that did the killing in gross violation of natural law. It is vitally important that we understand how this could happen, and understand the illusions that were at work to enable members of that society to support those criminal actions, and to enable the soldiers and officers to perpetrate those actions, in gross violation of natural law.

It is also vitally important because the events which led up to the massacre fit into the pattern of centuries-long enmity by the descendants of the western Roman Empire and its literalistic religious and political systems against direct unmediated contact with the spirit realm.

We who are alive today should all consider the details of this massacre, as painful as it is to do so.

Lakota holy man Black Elk (1863 - 1950) describes the massacre at Wounded Knee:
It was now near the end of the Moon of Popping Trees, and I was twenty-seven years old (December, 1890). We heard that Big Foot was coming down from the Badlands with nearly four hundred people. Some of these were from Sitting Bull's band. They had run away when Sitting Bull was killed, and joined Big Foot on Good River. There were only about a hundred warriors in this band, and all the others were women and children and some old men. They were all starving and freezing, and Big Foot was so sick they had to bring him along in a pony drag. They had all run away to hide in the Badlands, and they were coming in now because they were starving and freezing. When they crossed Smoky Earth River, they followed up Medicine Root Creek to its head. Soldiers were over there looking for them. The soldiers had everything and were not freezing and starving. Near Porcupine Butte the soldiers came up to the Big Foots, and they surrendered and went along with the soldiers to Wounded Knee Creek where the Brennan store is now.
It was in the evening when we heard that the Big Foots were camped over there with the soldiers, about fifteen miles by the old road from where we were. It was the next morning (December 29, 1890) that something terrible happened.
[. . .]
I heard from my friend, Dog Chief, how the troubled started, and he was right there by Yellow Bird when it happened. This is the way it was:
In the morning the soldiers began to take all the guns away from the Big Foots, who were camped in the flat below the little hill where the monument and burying ground are now. The people had stacked most of their guns, and even their knives, by the tepee where Big Foot was lying sick. Soldiers were on the little hill and all around, and there were soldiers across the dry gulch to the south and over east along Wounded Knee Creek too. The people were nearly surrounded, and the wagon-guns were pointing at them.
Some had not yet given up their guns, and so the soldiers were searching all the tepees, throwing things around and poking into everything. There was a man called Yellow Bird, and he and another man were standing in front of the tepee where Big Foot was lying sick. They had white sheets around and over them, and eyeholes to look through, and they had guns under these. An officer came to search them. He took the other man's gun, and the started to take Yellow Bird's. But Yellow Bird would not let go. He wrestled with the officer, and while they were wrestling, the gun went off and killed the officer. Wasichus and some others have said he meant to do this, but Dog Chief was standing right there, and he told me it was not so. As soon as the gun went off, Dog Chief told me, an officer shot and killed Big Foot who was lying sick inside the tepee. 
Then suddenly nobody knew what was happening, except that the soldiers were all shooting and the wagon-guns began going off right in among the people.
Many were shot down right there. The women and children ran into the gulch and up west, dropping all the time, for the soldiers shot them as they ran. There were only about a hundred warriors and there were nearly five hundred soldiers. The warriors rushed to where they had piled their guns and knives. They fought the soldiers with only their hands until they got their guns. 
Dog Chief saw Yellow Bird run into a tepee with his gun, and from there he killed soldiers until the tepee caught fire. Then he died full of bullets.
It was a good winter day when all this happened. The sun was shining. But after the soldiers marched away from their dirty work, a heavy snow began to fall. The wind came up in the night. There was a big blizzard, and it grew very cold. The snow drifted deep in the crooked gulch, and it was one long grave of butchered women and children and babies, who had never done any harm and were only trying to run away. Black Elk Speaks, 194 - 201.
The basic details of the massacre described above are supported by the account of contemporary James Mooney, in his report published in 1896:
On the morning of December 29, 1890, preparations were made to disarm the Indians preparatory to taking them to the agency and thence to the railroad. In obedience to instructions the Indians had pitched their tipis on the open plain a short distance west of the creek and surrounded on all sides by the soldiers. In the center of the camp the Indians had hoisted a white flag as a sign of peace and a guarantee of safety. Behind them was a dry ravine running into the creek, and on a slight rise in the front was posted the battery of four Hotchkiss machine guns, trained directly on the Indian camp. In front, behind, and on both flanks of the camp were posted the various troops of cavalry, a portion of the two troops, together with the Indian scouts, being dismounted and drawn up in front of the Indians at the distance of only a few yards from them. Big Foot himself was ill of pneumonia in his tipi, and Colonel Forsyth, who had taken command as senior officer, had provided a tent warmed with a camp stove for his reception.
Shortly after 8 oclock in the morning the warriors were ordered to come out from the tipis and deliver their arms. They came forward and seated themselves on the ground in front of the troops. [. . .] It is said one of the searchers now attempted to raise the blanket of a warrior. Suddenly Yellow Bird stooped down and threw a handful of dust into the air, when, as if this were the signal, a young Indian, said to have been Black Fox from Cheyenne river, drew a rifle from under his blanket and fired at the soldiers, who instantly replied with a volley directly into the crowd of warriors and so near that their guns were almost touching. From the number of sticks set up by the Indians to mark where the dead fell, as seen by the author a year later, this one volley must have killed nearly half the warriors. [. . .]
At the first volley the Hotchkiss guns trained on the camp opened fire and sent a storm of shells and bullets among the women and children, who had gathered in front of the tipis to watch the unusual spectacle of military display. The guns poured in 2-pound explosive shells at the rate of nearly fifty per minute, mowing down everything alive. The terrible effect may be judged from the fact that one woman survivor, Blue Whirlwind, with whom the author conversed, received fourteen wounds, while each of her two little boys was also wounded by her side. In a few minutes 200 Indian men, women, and children, with 60 soldiers, were lying dead and wounded on the ground, the tipis had been torn down by the shells and some of them were burning above the helpless wounded, and the surviving Indians were flying in wild panic to the shelter of the ravine, pursued by hundreds of maddened soldiers and followed up by a raking fire from the Hotchkiss guns, which had been moved into position to sweep the ravine.
There can be no question that the pursuit was simply a massacre, where fleeing women, with infants in their arms, were shot down after resistance had ceased and when almost every warrior was stretched dead or dying on the ground. On this point such a careful writer as Herbert Welsh says: "From the fact that so many women and children were killed, and that their bodies were found far from the scene of action, and as though they were shot down while flying, it would look as though blind rage had been at work, in striking contrast to the moderation of the Indian police at the Sitting Bull fight when they were assailed by women" (Welsh, 3). The testimony of American Horse and other friendlies is strong in the same direction (see page 839). Commissioner Morgan in his official report says that "Most of the men, including Big Foot, were killed around his tent, where he lay sick. The bodies of the women and children were scattered along a distance of two miles from the scene of the encounter" (Comr., 35). The Ghost-Dance Religion and Wounded Knee, 869 - 870.
The diagram below from Mooney's report (unnumbered pages between 868 and 869) shows the gulch and the position of the Sioux and the soldiers, as well as the Hotchkiss guns upon a commanding rise. The flight along the gulley continued to the west, off of the page to the left.

From the descriptions above, one from Black Elk and one from Mooney and both based upon conversations with those present, it is fairly clear that one of the Lakota fired first, but then that noncombatants were brutally slaughtered, and that the slaughter went to undeniably criminal lengths, to the point of chasing down women and children to distances of up to two miles -- women and children who were trying to escape the massacre and were mercilessly tracked down and butchered.

While some might point to the fact of one of the Lakota firing first and argue that this situation was a "complicated" one, and one which is difficult to judge from this remove of over 100 years, there is more to the story which effectively removes such arguments. 

The band of Lakota who were "surrendering" consisted of a group that had fled from the reservations, where they had been rounded up and imprisoned, into the Badlands. It was one of many such groups who had fled into the Badlands that winter. The situation is described in this previous post, regarding the death of Lakota holy man Tatanka Iyotanke, Sitting Bull. That post also includes a map showing the various agencies, with the Badlands in between the agencies in the north and in the south. 

The reason that so many Lakota were fleeing the reservations into the Badlands, despite the bitter cold of the winter, was the sudden arrival of thousands of federal troops -- at least 3,000 in number -- a development that was understandably terrifying to the Sioux who had been rounded up and forced onto the reservations. Even before they fled into the Badlands, they had good reason to be afraid of the possible consequences of the arrival of so many soldiers. The massacre at Wounded Knee shows that their fears were well-founded.

And what precipitated the deployment of so many soldiers? 

As that previous post regarding the killing of Sitting Bull explains, the soldiers were called in to prevent the Lakota from participating in the Ghost Dance too frequently. Mooney provides plenty of detail regarding the escalation in tension that eventually led to the massive influx of federal troops, which caused hundreds to flee into the Badlands. He notes that the agents in charge of the individual reservations were nearly unanimous in their opinion that the Ghost Dance was not in any way violent, nor was it seen as a prelude to violence. There are plenty of written accounts demonstrating that its precepts, in fact, called for an end to making war against the whites (see for example Mooney, 780 - 783). But the US government wanted it curtailed.

Black Elk recalls:
While these things were happening, the summer (1890) was getting old. I did not then know all that was going on at other places, but some things I heard, and much more I heard later.
When Good Thunder and Kicking Bear came back in the spring from seeing the Wanekia, the Wasichus at Pine Ridge put them in prison awhile, and then let them go. This showed the Wasichus were afraid of something. In the Moon of Black Cherries (August) many people were dancing at No Water's Camp on Clay Creek, and the agent came and told them to stop dancing. They would not stop, and they said they would fight for their religion if they had to do it. The agent went away, and they kept on dancing. They called him Young-Man-Afraid-of-Lakotas.
Later, I heard that the Brules were dancing over east of us; and then I heard that Big Foot's people were dancing on the Good River reservation; also that Kicking Bear had gone to Sitting Bull's camp on Grand River, and that the people were dancing there too. Word came to us that the Indians were beginning to dance everywhere.
The people were hungry and in despair, and many believed in the good new world that was coming. The Wasichus gave us less than half the beef cattle they promised us in the treaty, and these cattle were very poor. For a while our people would not take the cattle, because there were so few of them and they were so poor. But afterwhile they had to take them or starve to death. So we got more lies than cattle, and we could not eat lies. When the agent told the people to quit dancing, their hearts were bad.
[. . .]
When I cam back from the Brules, the weather was getting cold. Many of the Brules came along when I came back, and joined the Ogalalas in the dancing on Wounded Knee. We heard that there were soldiers at Pine Ridge and that others were coming all the time. Then one morning we heard that the soldiers were marching toward us, so we broke camp and moved west to Grass Creek. From there we went to White Clay and camped awhile and danced. 
There came to us Fire Thunder, Red Wound and Young American Horse with a message from the soldiers that this matter of the ghost dance must be looked into, and that there should be rulings over it; and that they did not mean to take the dance away from us. But could we believe anything the Wasichus ever said to us? They spoke with forked tongues.
We moved in closer to Pine Ridge and camped. Many soldiers were there now, and what were they there for?
There was a big meeting with the agent, but I did not go to hear. He made a ruling that we could dance three days every moon, and the rest of the time we should go and make a living for ourselves somehow. He did not say how we could do that. But the people agreed to this. 191 - 193.
It should be noted that it was not alleged that the Ghost Dance was violent, or a precursor to violence. So, did the agents of the US government have a right to prohibit other men and women from participating in it?  What gives anyone legitimate permission to stop another person from dancing if he or she wishes to do so? The principles of natural law explain that people do not suddenly obtain legitimate permission to stop others from doing things simply by virtue of being called  an agent of a government. People have a right (and a duty) at all times to stop violence -- this is true whether or not they are acting in a position as an agent of government. But they do not have a right to stop behavior of others which is not violent, simply because they do not like it or think that it is unproductive. This becomes even more obvious if that behavior is part of the religious expression of another person, although there is no right to stop it either way.

The Constitution of the United States as originally enacted and ratified contains a clear statement acknowledging this inherent right of men and women, and denying the legitimacy of the government to infringe upon that inherent right. It is called the First Amendment and it declares: 
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The agents of the US government, in seeking to prohibit the right of peaceable assembly and the free exercise of religion of the men and women whom the government had forced onto the agencies, were clearly acting in all violation of natural law, and of the Constitution's recognition of the rights of individuals under natural law. The decision to deploy federal troops to back up these unconstitutional and unlawful and hence tyrannical efforts led directly to the flight of the Sioux into the Badlands despite the freezing conditions, and ultimately to the massacre at Wounded Knee as well.

It should be clear from the foregoing discussion that this opposition to the Ghost Dance, which involved the inducement of trance-conditions in large numbers of the participants, who afterwards would almost universally report visions of contact with the spirit world (see discussion in this previous post) fits into the pattern of opposition to direct contact with the spirit world that has characterized "the west" since the days of the western Roman Empire, when the Emperor Theodosius shut down the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Temple and Oracle at Delphi.

This raises the question of whether or not someone in western culture secretly believes that activities such as the Ghost Dance actually have an impact upon the spirit world, as those who participated in the Ghost Dance believed it to have. Note that Black Elk concluded from the opposition the US government demonstrated against the Ghost Dance: "This showed the Wasichus were afraid of something."

This opposition can be demonstrated to continue to this day. It can also be demonstrated to have frequently employed violence in its opposition to this direct contact with the spirit world (this direct contact with the spirit world being a hallmark of the shamanic worldview and of shamanic cultures). In addition to violence, the enemies of the shamanic can be shown to use a full spectrum assault on the shamanic culture that they wish to eradicate. This full-spectrum assault was employed against the Native peoples of the Americas with devastating effect.

After describing the events at Wounded Knee, Black Elk ends his narrative with these words:
And so it was all over.
I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from this high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women and children lying heaped and scattered all along the crooked gulch as plain as when I saw them with eyes still young. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud, and was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream.
And I, to whom so great a vision was given in my youth, -- you see me now a pitiful old man who has done nothing, for the nation's hoop is broken and scattered. There is no center any longer, and the sacred tree is dead. 207.
But Black Elk has not "done nothing." He has articulated his great vision, and shared it with the world. And he has testified to the criminal acts that were perpetrated against the men and women and children of his people, and by extension against the men and women and children of many other peoples around the world, not only in the Americas but also in Europe, in Africa, India, Asia, Australia, and the islands of the Pacific by those under the spell of the same illusions that enabled entire societies to support and even cheer for the destruction of the Native American cultures.

The question individuals living today must ask is: How can anyone look at such criminal actions and argue that they are excusable? 

What are the illusions that fool people into supporting criminal behavior on such a scale?

And to what extent are men and women today -- even men and women who might look back on the criminal acts perpetrated against the Lakota and the other peoples of the Americas in past decades or centuries -- buying into new illusions which hypnotize them into supporting other crimes that fall into this same hideous pattern, and which proclaim that the Massacre at Wounded Knee is not just an event from the distant past, but a terrible sign which speaks as loudly today as it did so many moons ago?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Direct unmediated access to the sacred realm

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The previous two posts have examined the assertion of Alvin Boyd Kuhn that the sacred scriptures and traditions of humanity cannot be fully grasped without the understanding that they do not describe the "experiences of people not ourselves" but rather that they are meant to convey "that which is our living experience at all times." They do not describe "incidents of a remote epoch" or time of legends, but rather they describe "the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth" (see here and here).

This understanding leads directly to the conclusion that, if the sacred stories are meant to describe "our living experience at all times," then we as individuals actually have access to the reality of the super-material world at all times, and we have access to it immediately: that is to say, without the mediation of any other human being. 

Note that this conclusion is quite the opposite conclusion of that taught by the literalist approach taken by the west for the past seventeen hundred years, which teaches that the stories are meant to be understood as literally describing the experience of someone else living in some other time. If the myths are about someone else, then it stands to reason that we might require a go-between to intercede between us and them. If the stories are actually about us, about our experience of taking on flesh to experience this material realm without losing our inherent nativity in that realm of spirit from which we came and to which we will return, then we have as much right to direct access to our native realm as any alleged mediator can claim.

There is abundant evidence that, prior to the dawn of literalist Christianity, the fundamental importance of the individual's capacity for direct communication with the realm of the gods was well understood. For instance, in the Mysteries of Eleusis, where men and women experienced direct contact with the realm of the gods and of which we have numerous ancient accounts by participants who reported that it changed their life, there is no evidence that any mediator tried to "explain" the meaning of what the participant experienced directly, and every evidence that whatever happened during the life-altering experience was between the gods and each individual man or woman who went through the ritual.

There is further abundant evidence that, in the lands where literalist Christianity did not stamp out the traditions of direct contact with the realm of the gods, the idea that each and every individual has the capacity for direct and unmediated access to the other world was almost universal.

In his extended examination of the subject in his landmark book Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy (1951), Mircea Eliade explains that, "A shaman is a man who has immediate, concrete experiences with gods and spirits; he sees them face to face, he talks with them, prays to them, implores them [ . . .]" (88). Note that this translation may sound to us today as though Eliade was only talking about "men," but this is almost certainly a function of the way this passage was translated from the original French: it is quite clear from Eliade's text that he would include both men and women in this description, and that shamanism has been and continues to be practiced around the world by both men and women. 

Further, it is quite clear that, while Eliade would certainly assert that the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that in shamanic cultures there are specific individuals who are marked out and distinguished as shamans by calling, in shamanic cultures there is a universal understanding that direct contact with the spirit world is available to everyone. He cites extensive evidence to support the conclusion that "nowhere does the shaman monopolize" the access to such direct contact (297). "Every individual" can seek contact with "certain tutelary or helping 'spirits'" (297). In other words, each and every man and woman has access to teaching (or tutelage) which comes, not from other human beings, but directly from the realm of the spirits or gods. Elsewhere, he writes that "Besides the shamans, any Eskimo can consult the spirits" (296). 

This conclusion is borne out by other testimony, such as the extremely important record of the wisdom of the Lakota holy man Black Elk, who describes the power of vision which Crazy Horse received from the spirit realm, a vision which gave him power throughout his life at important times, even though by all accounts Crazy Horse himself was not technically a "shaman" as his primary calling (see previous discussions here and here). 

Those shamanic practitioners today who have decades of personal experience communicating with the spirit world often express the importance of the direct and unmediated contact with the spirit world available to each and every individual. 

In Awakening to the Spirit World: The Shamanic Path of Direct Revelation (2010), shamanic teacher Sandra Ingerman says:  
[. . .] first and foremost, shamanism has always been a practice in which each practitioner gets unique directions and guidance from their helping spirits -- those same transpersonal beings that are often referred to as spirit guides and angels. [. . .]
There is [. . .] a pervasive tendency for people to give their power away to others. Such seekers often desire to find a teacher who will act as an intermediary between themselves and their helping spirits --  a trait that is more characteristic of our organized religions in which bureaucratized priesthoods stand between us and the sacred realms. This is not typical of the path of shamanism and it is not a path of direct revelation. x - xi.
In the same book, shamanic teacher Hank Wesselman relates a similar emphasis on direct revelation from his own decades of experience:
Perhaps the most fundamental shamanic principle from which everyone may benefit is that in the shaman's practice, there is no hierarchy or set of dogmas handed down to supplicants from some higher religious authority complex. Shamanism is the path of immediate and direct personal contact with Spirit, deeply intuitive, and not subject to definition, censorship, or judgment by others. On this path, each seeker has access to this transcendent connection and all that this provides. xix.
And again, shamanic teacher Michael Drake writes in the beginning of his book The Shamanic Drum: A Guide to Sacred Drumming (2009):
No intermediary such as the church or priesthood is needed to access personal revelation and spiritual experience. All dimensions of reality and the mystical knowledge and powers they contain are available to one who practices shamanism. Every shamanic practitioner becomes his or her own teacher, priest, and prophet. Shamanic practice brings one ultimate power over one's own life and the power to help others do the same. 9.
From the above discussion, it should be evident that this tradition of direct revelation is directly empowering to each individual man and woman -- and that this empowerment is completely in line with the assertion that the sacred traditions of the human race are in fact meant to describe the living experience of each individual soul. It would not be too great a stretch to assert that this understanding of the availability of direct and unmediated access to the transcendent is profoundly antithetical to the concept of "mind control" -- while the opposite teaching that we must be dependent upon others who will act as our intermediaries tends to lend itself to mind control and the "giving away of our power to others."

In fact, the previous post entitled "Crazy Horse against mind control" discussed the high regard for  human dignity and freedom exemplified by individuals such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, who each clearly had a strong personal understanding of direct access to the spirit world.

Over a hundred years ago, self-taught scholar Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907) articulated the contrast between direct revelation and mediated revelation, and the threat that direct revelation posed to those who wish to proclaim their own monopoly on revelation, and to those who wish to use that self-proclaimed monopoly to inflict violence upon other men and women. In an essay entitled "Man in search of his soul during fifty thousand years, and how he found it!" Massey writes that in ancient times, before the literalist doctrine took over the west, the immortality of the soul was not believed as an article of faith, but rather it was known from the actual experience of personal contact with and travel to the spirit world -- what Eliade carefully defined as the distinguishing feature of the shamanic. Massey writes:
So Nirvana becomes a present possession to the Esoteric Buddhist, because in trance he can enter the eternal state. 
This Gnosis included that mystery of transformation which was the change spoken of by Paul, when he exclaimed -- "Behold, I tell you a mystery," "We shall not entirely sleep, we shall be transformed!" according to the mystery that was revealed to him in the state of trance. This was the transformation which finally established the existence of a spiritual entity that could be detached, more or less, from the bodily conditions for the time being in life, and, as was finally held, for evermore in death. [. . .]
What do you think is the use of telling the adept, whether the Hindu Buddhist, the African Seer, or the Finnic Magician, who experiences his "Tulla-intoon," or supra-human ecstasy, that he must live by faith, or be saved by belief? He will reply that he lives by knowledge, and walks by the open sight; and that another life is thus demonstrated to him in this. As for death, the practical Gnostic will tell you, he sees through it, and death itself is no more for him! Such have no doubt, because they know. The Mosaic and other sacred writings contain no annunciation of a mere doctrine of immortality, and the fact has excited constant wonder amongst the uninstructed. But the subject was not told of old, as matter of written precepts, but as matter of fact; it was a natural reality, not a manufactured idealism. It was not the promise of immortality that was set forth, or needed, when a demonstration was considered attainable in the mysteries of the abnormal human conditions, which were once common enough to be considered a known part of nature!
Massey makes it quite clear that this direct access to the spirit world, and to direct personal knowledge (as opposed to "faith" or "belief") came from what today we typically indicate by the practice of the shamanic: "by those who could enter the abnormal conditions, and be as spirits among spirits." 

He then makes clear that the teachings of literalist Christianity, which he asserts to be built upon a misinterpretation of ancient Egyptian teachings, stand in direct opposition to this universal possession of the pre-Christian understanding:
What has the Christian Church done with the human soul, which was an assured possession of the pre-Christian religions? It was handed over to their keeping and they have lost it! They have acted exactly like the dog in Aesop's fable -- who, seeing the likeness of the shoulder of mutton reflected in the water, dropped the substance which he held in his mouth, and plunged in to try and seize its shadow! They substituted a phantom of faith for the knowledge of phenomena! Hence their deadly enmity against the Gnostics, the men who knew. [. . .] They parted company with nature, and cut themselves adrift from the ground of phenomenal fact. They became the murderous enemies of the ancient spiritism which had demonstrated the existence and continuity of the soul and [which had] offered evidence of another life on the sole ground of fact to be found in nature. And ever since they have waged a ceaseless warfare against the phenomena and the agents -- which are as live and active to-day as they were in any time past.
But note that Massey in the passage quoted above clearly argues that the ancient scriptures -- including those he calls "the Mosaic and other sacred writings" -- were all originally shamanic in nature: they all actually teach the direct access of the soul to the spirit-world, the direct unmediated experience by the individual in this life to the transcendent (rather than the description of the transcendent and the requirement to accept it on faith). And note that he asserts at the end of the passages quoted that the phenomena of direct contact, and the practice of such direct contact by shamanic personages or "agents," is as alive today as ever in the past.

In fact, I believe that it can be convincingly demonstrated that all the world's ancient sacred scriptures and traditions, from dynastic Egypt to the Lakota or the Inuit, and from the Norse myths to the "Mosaic scriptures," can be seen as being shamanic in nature, and that direct access to the divine is taught by all of them. 

I also believe that this conclusion directly flows from an understanding that the world's ancient myths and sacred stories are telling the story of each and every human soul, and were not originally intended to be understood in a primarily literalistic way. I believe that as we again begin to understand them in this light, we will become more aware of the birthright of each and every individual to direct and unmediated access to the transcendent, and that this in turn cannot but help to be a powerful antidote to mind control, violence, and an artificial and disastrous disconnection from nature. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!"

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!" 
-- A Visit from St. Nicholas, Clement C. Moore (1779 - 1863).

In the quotation cited at the end of the previous post, Alvin Boyd Kuhn said in a 1936 lecture that the ancient stories all have as their central character the individual human soul. The sacred story, he argued, "is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it!"

Does this mean that the reader must believe that the actual outlines of his or her life will resemble the storyline of, for example, one of the episodes in the Arabian Nights, or one of the adventures of Odin described in the Norse myths, or the experience of either Penelope or Odysseus whose marriage was interrupted by long years apart but who were finally reunited at the end of the Odyssey

Not exactly.

Notice that in the quotation from Alvin Boyd Kuhn, it is argued that these stories are intended to cast light upon the experience of "the human soul"(emphasis added). It is not in the outward events that our lives resemble the myths, but what Kuhn is arguing is that the adventures portrayed in the myths esoterically convey a truth about the experience of the human soul in being cast down to this "underworld" and undergoing the process of achieving a "crossing" of matter and spirit which will give birth to something new, something transcendent, something miraculous -- and something that was not possible without the descent into matter in the first place.

In a later work, a companion volume to Lost Light (1940) but published four years later and entitled Who is this King of Glory? he argues that the story of the Nativity (or birth of Christ, in the New Testament scriptures) was intended to convey this same miraculous message about the human soul. In saying this, he does not mean that each individual is supposed to "self-announce" his or her "divine Messiahship" and proclaim himself or herself "the cosmic Christ and the Logos of God" -- he expressly says that this is not what he means (page 358). The story of the descent of the divine Logos, he explains, is intended to be illustrative of our human condition: 
The entire edifice of theology is built upon and around the central fact of the descent of the Logos into flesh and matter. It is the nub of the entire system. It is the key to the scriptures. 329.
It is illustrative of each and every human being, not some individual or some group to the exclusion of others: "The Christ in each of us is the Word made flesh, which after the analogy of the broken pieces of the loaf, came and dwelt among us, telling us that indeed unless we take and 'eat' of this divine essence, our aeonial salvation will not be accomplished" (329).

The wonderful story of the Nativity, and all the stories of the rest of the scriptures found in the Old and New Testaments, and all the stories of all the sacred myths and traditions around the world, become even more wonderful when we realize that they are telling the miraculous story of the incarnation undergone by each and every one of us. Each and every person you ever meet is a Christ, an Osiris, an Isis, an Odysseus, a Penelope.

Does perceiving the esoteric meaning of the story diminish its power and its wonder? Not in the least. In fact, Kuhn argues specifically that this understanding unleashes the full force and power of every myth -- for without this awareness, our attention is tied down to the symbol itself, and cannot "fly up" to the meaning that was intended.  He writes:
What seems difficult to tell an age that has never learned to go beneath or behind the symbol to verity is that exoterism ends with the beauty of the symbol, whilst esotericism only begins with the symbol and goes on from it to the undreamed-of wealth of a whole new world of revelation. The symbol serves but to touch off the release of a flood of luminous conceptions, which would never leap into organic and meaningful array until marshaled into relationship by the symbol's suggestiveness. [. . .] The vigorous force of a symbol or drama is caught in full when the meanings and intimations adumbrated by it can be carried away from the starting point and applied in the deep regions of personal consciousness. This transfer can be effected all the more smoothly for the very fact that the symbol or drama is itself known to be pure fiction. When, however, that which should be mere meaning-vane is alleged to be itself the event about which meaning is to center, itself the thing to which the meaning points, instead of being merely the pointer to a meaning higher and deeper, the native strong force of symbol and drama is choked in its cradle, so to speak. The alleged historicity of the cycle of Christmas pageantry ties the significance of the festival too close to itself. The meaning can not escape its own symbols and fly with main force into the hearts and minds it should be elevating. 346.
In other words, Kuhn is here arguing that the story itself is like a weathervane. He calls it a "meaning-vane," which is an interesting construction that evokes a weathervane (and may be an original word-construction invented by Alvin Boyd Kuhn) but which is designed to point us to some deeper or higher meaning whereas a weathervane is designed to point us to knowledge of the approaching weather. To focus on the vane instead of the thing to which it is meant to direct us, Kuhn says, is to miss the entire purpose. 

In describing the symbol itself as a sort of weathervane that directs us to a higher meaning, this passage is very similar to the saying in Buddhism about a "finger, pointing a way to the moon" discussed in this previous post: if we focus solely on the finger, then we will miss "all that heavenly glory." Kuhn warns us that if the force of the symbol becomes the entire focus, the meaning will become chained to the symbol itself ("tied too close," he says), unable to fly. The symbol will achieve a kind of terrible gravity, too strong for the meaning to achieve an "escape velocity," and its transcendent quality will be defeated by its own beauty. It will end up pointing to itself, instead of to the meaning it was designed for. "To stay with the symbol," he says, "was to cut off the soul and mind from the possibility of their soaring aloft into the highest of their capabilities of rapport and rapture" (346).

Kuhn admits the beauty and emotional power of the Nativity story, listing the elements of the scene -- "the Holy Child laid in the manger, the shepherds with their flocks by night, the angel's appearance to announce the birth, the heavenly choir chanting their carol of glory to God and peace on earth, and the halo of holy thrill around the entire event" -- and admitting that "in the whole of literature there is no more exquisite idyll than this" (345).

But he argues that it cannot have been intended to be understood strictly literally, and in fact is full of contradictions when we try to force such a reading on the texts.

The visit of the Magi, for instance, describes them as coming from the east to the west, but being guided by a star which they see in the east, which does not seem to make sense (334). He also notes that "no star [. . .] could by any possibility become or act as a local guide to a given spot on earth. If there is any lingering remnant of protest that perhaps it could be done, let anyone go out under the open sky at night and try to determine at what moment he is exactly under a particular star, or exactly what spot that star is pointing to" (333).

He argues that the visit of the Magi, or the "Three Kings of Wisdom," has an esoteric meaning relating to what we learn through our incarnation in this physical instrument (336).

The visit of the Magi and the directions of east and west make perfect sense when we understand that the drama describes events which take place among the stars of heaven, and that the "Three Kings" are the stars of Orion's belt, setting in the west and looking across the vault of heaven to the east, where "Mary" is rising in the person of the constellation Virgo the Virgin, bearing upon her outstretched arm the Holy Child. At the pinnacle of the arc of the zodiac as it is then seen stretched across the sky will be "the Manger," in the beautiful cluster Praesepe, the Beehive in the constellation of Cancer the Crab, associated anciently with a Manger and also with the pineal gland in the human body. See the discussion in this video (caution: examines evidence that the stories in the Biblical scriptures were not intended to be understood as literal history -- those not comfortable examining this evidence may not wish to view the video).

Note, of course, that these celestial "Three Kings" do indeed come from the east (the eastern horizon, where they started) -- and that by the time they reach the western horizon and see the rising star in the constellation of Mary, they have been traveling from the east for quite some time!

These motions of the heavenly bodies also describe a story of which the "star" or central figure is always the human soul.

The point of the year at which the sun begins its journey back upwards, after traveling down towards the very Pit of the year at winter solstice, is imbued with deep significance in the sacred traditions found around the world.

We have seen abundant evidence that the annual cycle itself contains a "cross" in which the vertical component can be envisioned as running from the bottom of the year, when days are shortest, all the way up to the top of the year, when days are longest: in other words, from the winter solstice up to the summer solstice. 

The horizontal component of this "cross" is formed by the line between the equinoxes: that line which marks the two transition points at which darkness begins to dominate or at which light begins to dominate, one marking the transition from the upper half of the year which has longer days and shorter nights to the lower half of shorter days and longer nights, and the other marking the transition from the lower half of the year back to the upper half.

For previous posts discussing this concept, and its manifestation in myth around the globe, see for instance "Scarab, Ankh and Djed," "Vajra: the Thunderbolt," "The shamanic foundation of the world's ancient wisdom," and "O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree, thy Leaves are so unchanging."

The upward turn in the great annual drama was associated with the concept of "raising the Djed-column" in the mythology of ancient Egypt, and with the restoration of Osiris the god who had been "cast down" into the underworld. It is also associated with the Lakota concept of walking the sacred red road as articulated in the vision of Black Elk. There is an abundance of evidence that these concepts relate to recovering the connection with the infinite hidden world of spirit, which our plunge into the "underworld" of matter can obscure from our awareness and from our vision. 

In other words, this annual drama is about the annual journey of the sun as seen from the earth, but it is really about our own consciousness, and our own journey to awaken our consciousness: to see or to sense that which cannot be perceived by the physical senses (which are designed to function in the material realm rather than the spiritual realm). 

The story of Osiris, plunged down into the underworld is really the story of each human soul, on its long walk through the underworld, the realm of night  -- and the raising of the Djed-column is thus a task each of us must undertake, to remember our spiritual nature, and to perceive the non-material realm that is buried within all of us and all of nature, and that is behind everything that we can perceive with our physical senses. This can also be expressed as seeking to walk the good red road.

The story of the Nativity, celebrated at this specific point on the annual cycle, expresses the same thing. 

Notice that in the quotation from Alvin Boyd Kuhn, it is argued that these stories are intended to cast light upon the experience of "the human soul"(emphasis added). It is not in the outward events that our lives resemble the myths, but what Kuhn is arguing is that the adventures portrayed in the myths esoterically convey a truth about the experience of the human soul in being cast down to this "underworld" and undergoing the process of achieving a "crossing" of matter and spirit which will give birth to something new, something transcendent, something miraculous -- and something that was not possible without the descent into matter in the first place.

May your Christmas and all the days of the year be filled with miracles!

Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Winter solstice, 2014: the Stable and the Manger

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The earth will pass through the point of December solstice this year on December 21st at 2303 Greenwich time (now referred to as UTC), which is 1503 Pacific time and 1803 Eastern time for those in North America (numerous sites on the web can help you determine the time at your location if the references above aren't enough to zero-in on it).

As has been remarked upon in many other discussions, the word "solstice" descends from a combination of the Latin noun sol ("the sun") with a form of the Latin verb sistere ("to stand"), and thus means "sun-standing," as in "standing still." We find another example containing a derivation of sistere in the word "interstitial," which describes the "boundary space" in between two larger spaces -- the border-zone, the threshold region, the "standing-in-the-middle" place.

When the earth is hurtling towards the December solstice, it causes the sun's apparent path to observers on earth to move further and further south each day. As a consequence, ever since we passed the June solstice, the sun has been rising on the eastern horizon at a point further and further south, and arcing across the sky on a path that is further and further towards the southern horizon, and then setting at a point along the western horizon at a point that is further and further south each day. 

At the solstice, the sun seems to "stand still" before it turns back around and reverses the process. The reason for this standstill is discussed in this previous post involving the metaphor of a mighty sailing ship with the bowsprit acting as the north pole. 

For those observers in the northern hemisphere, where the sun's steady progress towards the south has caused its rays to be less and less direct, and the warming effects less and less effective, plunging the world deeper and deeper into winter, as the days grow shorter and shorter and the nights longer and longer, the anticipation of that turnaround is tremendous. It seems as if life itself hangs in the balance, and the time in which the sun finally grinds to a halt in its southward progression and stands still before finally turning back towards the north feels like a breathless pause in which the entire world freezes in place to see if the life-giving orb will actually "make the turn."

It is this moment, when all the world collectively "holds its breath" (figuratively speaking), that Alvin Boyd Kuhn says is commemorated in the concept of the "Silent Night," the stillness that is celebrated in the Christmas tradition, with carols which proclaim: "O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie," and (in "It came upon a midnight clear"), "The world in solemn stillness lay to hear the angels sing" (13).

In a lecture entitled The Stable and the Manger, delivered in 1936, Alvin Boyd Kuhn elucidates the connections between the elements of the Christmas story and the significance of the winter solstice as a spiritual allegory, in which spirit which has been plunged deep into matter begins its "upward turn," but prior to doing so there is a pregnant pause in which all is in perfect stillness, and the tension between the two creates a moment of equipoise in which "all is calm."

Outlining the framework of the metaphor, he explains:
The sun in its apparent passage from the high glory of summer to its enfeebled power in the solstice of winter exactly symbolizes, because it repeats, the experience of the soul in its alternating swing from the heights of spiritual purity in disembodiment -- in summer -- to the depths of diminished shining in the lowest arc of its immersion in a body, its night, its winter. 11.
And, tying this concept to the Christmas story, he explains that it is this commingling of the spark of spirit plunged into the body of matter which gives birth to the "third principle," the higher self, the Christ within. Kuhn says:
Suffice it to say for the moment that obviously if a higher and a lower force are to meet and unite at the point midway between their status of being, they must so meet as the result of the ascent of the one and the descent of the other. Nature could not well arrange such a meeting in any other way. That nature has so arranged the matter is one of the bits of knowledge furnished us by the ancient wisdom. When God or Life at the beginning of each period of its activity bifurcates into the polarization of spirit and matter, the two forms of being move toward each other, meet in the middle ground, so to say, effect their conjunction and interplay, and at the end of the cycle retire into latency again. For the earth evolution that point of middle distance between the two is the body and life of man. here is where the "marriage" takes place and the Son, the Christ, is born. And when the two forces meet at this point, they counteract each other's energies and bring each other to a standstill. Spirit descending came to a stop in the arms of matter, for the inertia of matter stilled the vibrations of spirit. 9.
Thus, he notes, it is highly appropriate that the ancient scriptures describe the birth of the Christ as taking place in a stable -- the word itself means "steady" and "standing upon a base," appropriate for this story that takes place at the very base of the year, the bottom of the zodiac wheel shown below, and appropriate to the point where as Kuhn says "spirit and matter, soul and body, are 'stabilized' in relation to each other" (12).

He further points out that the stable is the place "where animals come to stand for the night," and a place where the animal nature connects with the benevolent care of the higher human intellect (which presumably designed and constructed the stable, to shelter and protect the animal), and which thus may symbolize this point where "the brute kingdom is elevated by the grace of mankind, as mankind in turn is exalted by the grace of the gods" (12).

But that is not all -- for, as Kuhn goes on to explain, the Christ-child who is born at this point of tension between spirit and matter, where spirit has descended to its deepest place in the cycle, is then laid in a manger -- the place where the animals are fed! The animal nature must be fed and nourished and ultimately elevated by their participation with the Christ nature (17 - 19).

Astronomically, we have seen that the sign of Virgo, standing as she does at the autumn equinox where days begin to be shorter than nights, presides over the plunge of the spirit from the higher realm into the material realm (see the image of Virgo, wearing the crown of the "Queen of Heaven," located just above the horizontal line before the "crossing point" indicated by the red "X" on the right-hand side of the zodiac circle as we face it in the diagram above). Virgo appears in the ancient Egyptian myth-cycle as Isis, holding the divine Horus on her lap in exactly the same way that she appears in the New Testament accounts as the Virgin Mary, holding the divine Jesus:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The identification of Isis, and Mary, with Virgo is evident from an examination of the outline of the constellation itself, but also from the fact that Virgo is associated with wheat and with grain, and that in fact the constellation is often depicted as holding a sheaf of wheat, and in fact the name of her brightest star, Spica, comes from a Latin reference to an "ear of grain" (and in Arabic this star is called Sumbalet which also means "an ear of wheat"). The fact that she lays her divine son in the manger, where the grains are fed to the animals, should cement this identification between the heavenly queen and the Virgin in the story found in the gospel account. See also the discussion of Mary and Virgo, and the visit of the Magi, in this video.

There are many more astonishing connections to be found in the lecture of Alvin Boyd Kuhn, and in consideration of the spiritual symbology present in the point of the winter solstice with all its implications. The reader is encouraged to consult the full text of that lecture (click on the word "fullscreen" to bring up a facsimile of a book format), and what better time to do so than this portentous point on the year, when all the world stands still at the December solstice?

But, perhaps the most important part of Kuhn's entire lecture is found before he actually begins to elucidate the details of the solstice-scene at all, when he explains that these exquisite metaphors are meant to convey a drama of which the central player is each and every human being. He asserts:
Bible stories are in no sense a record of what happened to a man or a people as historical occurrence. As such they would have little significance for mankind. They would be the experience of people not ourselves, and would not bear a relation to our life. But they are a record, under pictorial forms, of that which is ever occurring as a reality of the present in all lives. They mean nothing as outward events; but they mean everything as picturizations of that which is our living experience at all times. The actors are not old kings, priests and warriors; the one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul. The Bible is the drama of our history here and now; and it is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it! The Bible is about the mystery of human life. Instead of relating to the incidents of a remote epoch in temporal history, it deals with the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth. 4.