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microcosm and macrocosm

Ahimsa, blessing, and the coils of the Python

Ahimsa, blessing, and the coils of the Python

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

In an important episode in the Mahabharata, we see the most physically-powerful and menacing of the five Pandava brothers -- Bhima whose might is equal to that of ten thousand elephants -- exulting in his strength as he plows through the woods, frightening the animals with his loud whoops and shouts, and pursuing even the mighty snakes into their lairs.

Then he encounters a serpent who turns out to be more than his match.

We find this episode related in Book 3 of the Mahabharata, beginning in section 177:

Then the mighty Bhimasena, like unto the Lord of the Celestials, saw a serpent of colossal proportions, living in one of the mountain fastnesses and covering the cave with its body and causing one's hair to stand on end. It had its huge body stretched like a hillock, and it possessed gigantic strength, and its body was speckled with spots and it had a turmeric-like color and a deep copper-colored mouth of the form of a cave supplied with four teeth; and with glaring eyes it was constantly licking the corners of its mouth. And it was the terror or all animated beings and it looked like the very image of the Destroyer Yama; and with the hissing noise of its breath it lay as if rebuking. And seeing Bhima draw so near to him, the serpent, all on a sudden, became greatly enraged, and that goat-devouring snake violently seized Bhimasena in his grip. Then by virtue of the boon that had been received by the serpent, Bhimasena with his body in the serpent's grip, instantly lost all consciousness. Unrivalled by that of others, the might of Bhimasena's arms equalled the might of ten thousand elephants combined. But Bhima, of great prowess, being thus vanquished by the snake, trembled slowly, and was unable to exert himself. And that one of mighty arms and of leonine shoulders, though possessed of the strength of ten thousand elephants, yet seized by the snake, and overpowered by virtue of the boon, lost all strength. He struggled furiously to extricate himself, but did not succeed in any wise baffling this [snake].

Bhima was, as Everett McGill might say, "in a tight spot."

The serpent informs Bhima that he was once a respected sage, in fact Bhima's distant ancestor Nahusha, but was being punished for his pride by being changed into a serpent.

He also informs Bhima that he must devour him.

For those who wish to read the entire Mahabharata before they find out whether or not the snake has Bhima for dinner, stop here and come back in a few months when you've finished.

For the rest of the readers (or for those who have read the Mahabharata already and know the outcome), turning to section 178 and 179 we learn that Bhima's brother Yudhisthira the just, noticing the absence of Bhima and experiencing a series of omens that warn Yudhistira that Bhima is in grave danger, comes looking for him and finds the mighty one coiled in the grip of the great serpent.

Realizing that this can be no ordinary snake, Yudhistira addresses it respectfully, to learn how it can possibly hold the invincible Bhima helpless in its grasp. Nahusha informs Yudhistira of his true identity as their distant ancestor, the fifth in descent from the moon in fact, and tells the eldest Pandava that he can only be released from his serpent-form by one who can correctly answer questions regarding the nature of the incarnation of the soul and its release.

Yudhistira, who has spent his life in careful contemplation of just such questions, and who has moreover spent much time in discussion with the forest ascetics who have chosen a life in pursuit of spiritual matters, says to Nahusha, "Ask away!"

What follows perhaps is best to read in the Mahabharata itself (following the links above, and if you are able to read Sanskrit you can also find this passage in the original language, beginning here in section 178). 

In summary, however, the mighty serpent asks Yudhistira how one may achieve transcendence from the cycle of incarnation (he firsts asks Yudhistira who is a true Brahmana, and receives the answer that it is not in fact determined by birth or by caste but rather by purity and virtuous conduct, which is an important subject for another discussion).

Yudhistira answers Nahusha, in section 180 that the one who achieves the transcendent state is the one who "bestows alms on proper objects, speaks kind words and tells the truth, and abstains from doing injury to any creature."

Thus we see that the ancient wisdom teaches us that acts and words which can be categorized as blessing are critical to our purpose here in this incarnate life, as is the principle of doing no injury to others.

The word used for doing no harm is ahimsa.

Hearing this answer, and having finally found one who can put it into words, Nahusha is released from his long millennia of bondage in the form of a serpent, and ascends into the higher realms. Bhima is freed from the enervating coils of the enchanted python, after he had already resigned himself to being devoured for his carelessness and pride.

This episode, like nearly all the others in the Mahabharata (and in all the world's ancient myths, scriptures and sacred traditions) can definitely be found to have its origin in the celestial pattern of the stars and constellations. In this particular case, Bhima is almost certainly played by the important constellation Ophiucus, whom we have encountered previously in our examinations of the story of Jonah and the gourd, as well as the story of Mukasa in Africa and indeed in the events of the life of the Buddha.

Note the details of the serpent's initial description, how he is said to have its huge body shaped into the form of a hillock , and indeed to cover the entire mouth of a cave -- both of which can be seen as clues regarding his celestial identity. He also is described as having four teeth, which almost certainly refers to the four stars in the head of the serpent held by Ophiucus in the sky. Additionally, the great snake is described as looking like the very image of Yama the Destroyer, who can also by this and other clues from the scriptures of ancient India be identified with Ophiucus.

Furthermore, the constellation Ophiucus -- while usually envisioned as holding a serpent -- can also be envisioned as having a serpent wrapped around his body, just as Bhima does once Nahusha coils himself about the great hero and takes away his strength.

Of course, you probably won't be able to figure any of that out for yourself if you use one of the many "standard" diagrams for the constellation Ophiucus (which are usually terrible -- see for example this outline).

However, if you use the outstanding system first published by H. A. Rey in 1952, then you can begin to speak "the language of the ancient myths." Below is the outline of Ophiucus as envisioned by H. A. Rey (and superimposed upon the stars as seen in the open-source planetarium app

Having determined (just in case it was not clearly evident from the presence of a talking serpent) that this episode from the Mahabharata is not intended to be understood as literal history but that it is a celestial allegory, we can then begin to ask ourselves what it might mean -- why was it given to us, and what knowledge is it intended to convey?

Without going into too much depth (the reader is invited to contemplate all the profound implications of this story for himself or herself, as with all the other sacred wisdom given to humanity in the form of the ancient myths), it seems clear enough that this story depicts our human condition, bound within the coils of incarnation.

Both Nahusha, who has been turned into a serpent, and Bhima, who is trapped within the coils of the serpent and finds himself deprived of his accustomed celestial strength, can be seen as depicting the condition of the soul when it comes down from the realm of pure spirit and is bound in a body made of the lower elements of earth and water (clay) -- "this mortal coil," as Shakespeare calls it in Hamlet.

The serpent, of course, is a perfect symbol of the cycles of incarnation, because it sheds its skin as if sliding into a new form and leaving the old one behind, over and over again.

It is also a perfect symbol of our incarnate condition in that it binds and constricts its prey (Nahusha is described as a mighty python or constrictor), just as this material existence seeks to wrap its charms about us and cause us to become entangled in the exigencies of the physical life and its charms, robbing us of our memory of our celestial or spiritual nature (and note that Bhima is held more by the charms of the mystical serpent than by its actual strength, and that when he falls into its clutches he is in fact described as losing consciousness for a period of time before recovering his wits).

Fans of The Matrix (a movie which came up during my recent Grimerica interview) might envision Neo when he is still in the grip of "The Matrix" itself -- penetrated and held fast by its many hideous serpentine coils.

In this episode from the Mahabharata, of course, the most important aspect of the entire encounter is the question of how one can overcome the coils of the great serpent -- how one escapes the curse (both for Bhima and for Nahusha, who has been made to crawl on the ground as a python in order to learn something for his own benefit and eventual transcendence).

The answer is given quite plainly in the question-and-answer between Nahusha and Yudhistira. Clearly, the ancient text seems to imply that the twin concepts of blessing and ahimsa are absolutely critical to our escape from the coils of the python, and from the danger of its eventually devouring us.

But note also that the serpent is a powerful symbol of wisdom around the world (including in the texts of ancient India, as well as in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, where we are admonished to be as wise or cunning as serpents), and that the concept of raising the serpent

is central in Yogic and other spiritual practice (see previous discussion here for example), in the deity Okeanos and Acheloos (also spelled Achelous) in ancient Greece -- who echoes a similar divine force found in ancient Egypt and related to the divinity of the Nile River itself but also to the heavenly river of the Milky Way and to the internal kundalini within the "microcosm" of each and every human being -- and also in the episode of the serpent on the pole described in the book of Numbers and referenced again in the New Testament (and many more examples can be found around the world).

Thus the idea of being "cast down" into this world -- either as a serpent or "unconscious within the coils of the serpent" -- and then overcoming and "raising the serpent" through right conduct that involves being a blessing, invoking blessing, and not doing violence, is a vital central theme throughout the world's ancient wisdom . . . and therefore was seen as being vital and central to our own acquisition of the gnosis or understanding or transformation which is our soul's purpose in coming into the material world in the first place.

Ultimately, I believe that this concept is identical to that which is stressed throughout the Bhagavad Gita (which is part of the Mahabharata, and can be found in book 6 of the epic), regarding the admonition -- constantly presented to Arjuna by the Lord Krishna -- to do what is right without attachment.

This is worth contemplating deeply.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Scott Onstott reveals the profound message of Leonardo da Vinci and his art

Scott Onstott reveals the profound message of Leonardo da Vinci and his art

Scott Onstott has two new books out relating to the divine proportion, one entitled The Divine Proportion and one exploring Leonardo da Vinci's incredible encoding of the divine proportion into his paintings entitled Secrets in Plain Sight: Leonardo da Vinci.

Scott's amazing work includes his analysis of the significant and esoteric proportions, patterns, and geometries found around the world in the location and design of cities, parks, monuments, and buildings, which he has detailed in his extremely popular video presentations entitled Secrets in Plain Sight, Volume 1 and Volume 2.

Scott also analyzes sacred geometries, proportions and patterns present in the natural world, including in the relationships of the earth, moon, sun, and the planets of our solar system.

His work has been discussed on this blog previously here: "Scott Onstott and the metaphor of form."

I have been working my way through Secrets in Plain Sight: Leonardo da Vinciand highly recommend it for your own careful consideration. 

It is worth pondering long and deeply.

Scott begins with a brief but powerful summary of the incredible achievements and ongoing importance of Leonardo himself (1452 - 1519).

He then explains the concept of the divine proportion (the golden ratio, the proportion of which is designated by the Greek letter phi) and its mysterious qualities -- with accompanying diagrams and labeled illustrations that should make its properties more understandable than perhaps any discussion of the golden ratio that you have encountered before (Scott is a trained architect and a teacher and author on the subject of architectural visualization software and techniques).

The discussion reveals the mysterious, unchanging, infinite, and self-contained properties of the divine proportion, and why and how it conveys aspects of what we might call the Infinite Realm, the Divine Realm, the Invisible Realm. 

As you open your eyes to what is being presented, you will realize that phi does not just point us towards the Infinite: in many ways it actually manifests the Infinite Realm in itself, and impresses it upon our deeper understanding.

Scott then presents stunning evidence that demonstrates convincingly, beyond any doubt, that Leonardo da Vinci incorporated this divine ratio -- and its unfolding in the infinitely self-generating golden rectangles and the golden spiral that they create (the book shows how this spiral generates) -- into his art, over and over again, and with a degree of precision that indicates he knew exactly what he was doing.

But why?

Clearly, the golden ratio resonates powerfully with us -- our own bodies, and many aspects of the universe around us (perhaps every aspect of the universe around us), exhibit the golden ratio or phi on nearly every level. Scott even visually illustrates the way that DNA, the basic code of all known life, unfolds according to the golden ratio at its most fundamental level.

The golden ratio is aesthetically pleasing and attractive, even if we do not consciously recognize its presence.

But as Scott shows the golden rectangles and spirals present in the art of Leonardo da Vinci, he uncovers evidence that da Vinci was incorporating this divine proportion to convey and even more powerful message. As Scott says in the description of Secrets in Plain Sight: Leonardo da Vinci on his website


Leonardo's secret pointing to the divine proportion's divisions to physical and illuminated third eyes suggests he saw the divine not just in a transcendent heaven, but immanently in the human body and in the world.

That sentence is worth reading a few times for full effect.

What Scott's illustrations in the book, in which he overlays golden spirals upon the artwork of da Vinci, reveals quite clearly is that the spirals almost inevitably concentrate upon one eye of a human subject in the painting, or (even more frequently) upon the point of the "third eye" in the center of the forehead.

The implication, as Scott makes plain in the quoted sentence above, is that Leonardo da Vinci was conveying the message, using phi as the representative of the Divine and the Infinite, that the very same Infinite which unfolds in every aspect of the physical universe around us (and which shows that the Invisible Realm is present at every point in the seemingly-material cosmos) is also present in each and every man and woman: the divine in us.

And, as has already been said above, when da Vinci "drops phi" into his artwork, he is not just placing a symbol of the Divine or the Infinite into the art: he is putting an actual unfolding of Infinity right onto the canvas! The golden proportion actually is infinite, in and of itself, and it actually does begin to generate infinite spirals and an infinite rectangle-series, the moment you place it onto the page!

Note carefully what Scott Onstott is saying in that sentence above about the presence of this Infinity in both the heavens and the human: da Vinci recognized that it was present everywhere, both on the incredible scale of the heavens, and in the proportions of the human body, and that it "spirals inwards" to our eye (the "window to the soul") to suggest that the divine is there as well.

The divine ratio is present in every strand of DNA, and in the astronomical distances and scales with which our infinite universe is framed. It is operating everywhere and at all times, effortlessly unfolding and contracting, outward to the most distant galaxies and inward to the secret universe of our interior world.

The illustrations in Scott's book must be seen to be fully appreciated. I would suggest that a physical copy belongs on the shelf of every library, public or private, home or university.

But that's not all.

Because there appear to be even more "secrets in plain sight" hidden in the artwork of Leonardo da Vinci (and conveying the very same message of the inner connection to the Infinite, the inner connection to the Divine), because I would argue that some of the artwork that Scott examines also reveals da Vinci's understanding of the esoteric celestial system of metaphor operating at the foundation of the sacred stories and scriptures of the human race.

The very first painting by Leonardo that Scott presents in his book (the paintings are presented and discussed in chronological progression) clearly reveals da Vinci's awareness of the celestial metaphor underlying his subject, which is The Anunciation by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary, depicted in Annunciazione by da Vinci, 1472:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Not only does this painting show that the twenty-year-old Leonardo was already masterfully incorporating phi proportions and spirals in the composition of his art (as Scott Onstott's diagrams demonstrate), but it also appears to indicate that the artist was very familiar with the esoteric connection between the Biblical personages and the constellations of the heavens.

I have already published an extensive analysis of the celestial correspondences in the critically-important New Testament story of the Annunciation, in which the angelic messenger declares the coming of the Divine to Mary -- the Divine made to dwell in the flesh. 

That analysis shows that Gabriel is almost certainly associated with Mercury or Hermes -- the messenger of the gods in ancient Latin and Greek mythology -- and the closest planet to the sun (which is why Gabriel explains that he "stands in the presence of God" in Luke 1:19). Gabriel, like Mercury, is always depicted carrying a wand (often in the form of certain long-stemmed flowers, in the artwork depicting Gabriel).

But although Gabriel is almost certainly associated with the actual planet Mercury (which of all the planets can most accurately be said to "stand in the presence" of our blazing sun), he can also be identified with a specific constellation in our night sky, and one who appears above the constellation who almost certainly corresponds to the Virgin Mary.

Leonardo da Vinci seems to have been well aware of these celestial correspondences, simply from the way he depicts his subjects in The Annunciation, with Gabriel kneeling and extending his hand in a distinctive gesture (while also holding the flower-wand in his other hand), and Mary seated in a distinctive posture herself, while extending one arm towards Gabriel (and turning her head "just so," in a way highly reminiscent of her celestial counterpart).

Take a look at this portion of the sky, containing the important constellations Virgo the Virgin, and her constant companion Bootes the Herdsman:

Can you see da Vinci's Annunciazione in the stars depicted above?

How about now:

The angel Gabriel is almost certainly played by the constellation Bootes, who appears to be in a seated position in the sky but who is often depicted as kneeling in Star Myths from around the world, such as when he plays the role of the Buddha in Asia and Mukasa in Africa (analyzed in this previous post) or the role of Bodhidharma (also known as Da Mo or Daruma, analyzed in this previous post).

The angel is clearly depicted as kneeling in Leonardo's 1472 painting of the Annunciation.

The angel is also holding a wand, which corresponds to the long "pipe" of the constellation of the Herdsman shown above. This wand is the same feature which appears as the flute of the god Krishna in the scriptures of ancient India, as discussed in this previous post.

You can also find depictions of Krishna (including statues and icons) in which the outstretched hand of the Lord Krishna makes a hand gesture which is very similar to the distinctive hand-gesture that the angel Gabriel is making in this artwork by Leonardo da Vinci (and which is seen in many, many other depictions of the angel Gabriel and the Annunciation down through the centuries). Here's one, from a statue of Krishna with one upraised hand:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note that if you look carefully, you can also see that Krishna is holding a flute in a hand on the other side from his upraised hand. 

[All of these connections between Gabriel, Hermes/Mercury, Buddha, Da Mo (or Daruma) and other Bootes-figures from the Star Myths of the world should show quite convincingly that all these sacred texts and mythologies are united in their foundation and their esoteric message (contrary to what has often been taught, especially by those who wish to take the ancient myths and scriptures literally, instead of esoterically).]

Behind the seated (or kneeling) form of Bootes in the night sky is the distinctive arc of the Northern Crown, or Corona Borealis. At first, I thought that this arc-shaped constellation might show up in the painting by da Vinci of the angel as the arc in the angel's wings, but after further consideration I decided that Leonardo might actually be envisioning the wings to be formed by an interesting and somewhat unique way of connecting the stars along the front edge of the constellation Hercules. If so, then I believe that the Northern Crown is probably functioning as the halo of the angel.

Turning now to the figure of Mary herself, it is fairly intuitive to connect her with the stars of Virgo the Virgin. Previous posts have discussed the importance of the connection inherent in her name with the word for "sea" or "ocean," and how the celestial Virgin stands at the edge of the metaphorical "sea" in the heavenly cycle of the zodiac (see the discussion here for example). 

But Leonardo includes enough clues in his painting to demonstrate beyond a doubt that he is referring to the outline of Virgo in the heavens. 

If you look at the seated posture of the constellation Virgo, and then look at the angle at which da Vinci has chosen to depict his Virgin Mary in Annunciazione, you will see that one would be hard-pressed to paint a more accurately depiction of the constellation than he has in his work. Her legs are apart and parallel, her body bends at approximately the same angle, and her outstretched arm points towards Gabriel just as the outstretched arm of Virgo points towards Bootes in the sky.

Below is a detail of Mary from da Vinci's painting, with the outline of Virgo superimposed. Note that even the angle of Mary's head in the painting and the way in which she has it slightly turned evokes the  form of the zodiac Virgin:

I would thus argue that Scott Onstott's title accurately describes this aspect of Leonardo's work as well: da Vinci is "hiding" these incredible secrets in plain sight!

I would also argue that by incorporating these celestial patterns, Leonardo is reinforcing the very same message that Scott argues Leonardo is conveying through his incorporation of the divine proportion in his paintings:

Just like the ancient myths and sacred texts themselves, Leonardo is bringing down the denizens of the celestial realm and incarnating them in the human form!

He is declaring that the Infinite and the Divine dwell in human flesh. The stars above evoke the Infinite, and we ourselves reflect the stars (as above, so below).

Just as the universe unfolds on the proportions of phi on planetary and galactic scales, and just as we ourselves reflect this same proportion in our bodies and even our strands of DNA, the Infinite and Divine realm that interpenetrates the material cosmos also unfolds like a spiral inside our inner universe (converging on the window of our soul, our physical eye or our spiritual "third eye").

I am extremely grateful to Scott Onstott for writing Secrets in Plain Sight: Leonardo da Vinci, and for bringing home in such a visual and understandable way the genius and the ongoing importance of Leonardo and his work, and most importantly his message -- the same message, ultimately, as that brought by the angel Gabriel: the message of the divine coming down to earth, and dwelling in men and women.


In addition to ordering them from Scott's own website (linked above), you can also find Scott's books on Barnes & Noble and on Amazon.

Chinese characters and the moment of Equinox

Chinese characters and the moment of Equinox

The ancient wisdom imparted to humanity in the myths, sacred stories, and scriptures found literally around the world is built upon a system that ties our motions in this incarnate life to the great cycles of the heavens -- the motions of the sun, moon, stars, and planets, and the multiple cycles of the earth including its rotation, annual orbit, and ages-long precessional motion.

Our lives here on earth, in our human bodies, reflect and echo the great movements of the celestial spheres -- and the motions of those celestial orbits can be seen as depicting the spiritual drama of each and every human soul journeying through this incarnate existence on earth.

All the sacred scriptures and stories of the human race can be shown to dramatize the great heavenly cycles in order to convey profound spiritual knowledge for our benefit during our human experience.

Amazingly enough, the very symbols and characters with which those sacred myths were recorded (for those that were written down in texts) also reflect and embody the very same heavenly cycles and the spiritual teachings conveyed by those celestial motions!

In other words, just as each individual man or woman is a "microcosm" who can be said to contain and reflect the entire infinite universe (that is to say, the "macrocosm"), so also each individual letter or hieroglyph or symbol can be seen to act as a sort of "microcosm" of its own, containing and conveying the same spiritual message that is found in the body of sacred scripture which is made up of all those individual letters and symbols.

Today, at a special point in the heavenly cycles seen as having great significance in the ancient myths of the human race, we will examine some ways in which the individual letters and symbols contain and reflect the same message conveyed by the ancient scriptures and myths themselves.

The earth will cross through the point of autumnal equinox at 01:22 am Pacific Time on September 23 this year (2015). This is the same as 08:22 am Greenwich time on September 23. 

The "calendar date" of the solstices and equinoxes shifts slightly from year to year, due to the fact that the earth does not rotate on its axis an exactly-even number of rotations from one point of equinox or solstice to the next from year to year: in other words, it rotates 365.242 times before coming back to the same point relative to the sun from one year to the next, which is why measuring from solstices and equinoxes is actually more precise than using the various calendar systems when figuring out where we are relative to the sun, and why calendar systems have to use various types of "correction mechanisms" (such as intercalary days or leap-years) to keep the calendar days from "slipping" too far from the mechanics of the earth-sun relationship.

Because of this fact, we can expect the autumnal or fall equinox to occur on September 22 in most years, but it will occasionally take place on the 21st or the 23rd.

The point of fall equinox is a "crossing point" at which the ecliptic path of the sun during the day crosses below the celestial equator, after being above it through the summer months (in fact, from the point of spring equinox, up through the summer solstice, and all the way back down until reaching fall equinox). In other words -- and all descriptions here are for an observer in the northern hemisphere -- the arc of the sun's path through the sky has been higher than the celestial equator, which is that invisible line in the sky that traces an imaginary great circle 90-degrees down from the north celestial pole (very close to Polaris, the North Star).

The arc of the sun through the sky during the day has been north of that line (closer to the north celestial pole, higher-up from the southern horizon) as it traverses from east to west.

Now the arc of the sun will be lower than that celestial equator-line in the heavens, and closer to the southern horizon, and thus the angle of the sun's rays on the northern hemisphere will be less steep and more shallow, and the hours of darkness will begin to be longer than the hours of daylight. This effect will increase as we hurtle towards the point of winter solstice: the arc of the sun's path will be lower and lower, the angle of the sun's rays will be shallower and shallower, and the hours of darkness will be longer and longer.

(Of course, for observers in the southern hemisphere, this point of fall equinox for the northern hemisphere is actually their spring equinox, because as the sun's arc gets further and further south, it is actually higher in the sky for them, as it gets closer and closer to the south celestial pole, and higher and higher above the north horizon).

As has been explained in many previous posts on this subject, the ancient scriptures of the world used these awesome heavenly cycles to depict truths about invisible aspects of our simultaneously spiritual-material universe, and about our human condition as spiritual beings "cast down" into physical-material bodies here in this incarnate life.

The point of equinox, at which the sun's path falls below the celestial equator-line, plunging the world into the half of the year in which darkness dominates over daylight, was used as a metaphor to convey truths about our plunge down from the realm of pure spirit into the realm of matter. Here at the fall equinox, the upper half of the year (associated with the spiritual realm and the "higher elements" of Air and Fire) gave way to the lower half of the year (associated with the material realm and the "lower elements" of Earth and Water).

Below is a diagram, familiar to regular readers of this blog from previous posts such as this onethis one, and this one, showing the Great Circle of the year with the points of equinox marked with a red "X" at each equinox: the spring equinox for the northern hemisphere on the left  (in the "9 o'clock position" if this was a clock face) and the fall equinox on the right (in the "3 o'clock position"). The progress of the earth through the year is clockwise in this diagram (from the spring equinox "X" at the "9 o'clock position," we proceed upwards to the summer solstice at 12 o'clock, and then start back downwards to the autumnal crossing point at 3 o'clock).

The "upper half" of this circle of the year is the fiery half, the heavenly half -- representative of the realm of spirit, the realm of the gods, and the spiritual part of our nature.

The "lower half," on the other hand, was the realm of matter and gross incarnation in bodies of "clay" (combining the "lower two elements" of earth and water) -- and it was often metaphorically connected with water, the ocean, the sea, the deep, and the underworld.

In the diagram above, I have attempted to illustrate this metaphor by adding watery ocean waves to the lower half of the circle.

The point of autumn equinox is the point at which we "plunge" down into this incarnate lower realm: the point at which we dive down into the sea, so to speak. And there, at the autumn equinox, guarding the gate to the incarnate realm, standing at the point of the plunge into the ocean, we see the zodiac sign of Virgo the Virgin (for the Age of Aries, which can be seen to be operating in many of the ancient myths of the world, although there are also abundant references to the earlier Age of Taurus and the even earlier Age of Gemini in the world's myths as well).

Interestingly enough, figures in the ancient myths associated with the sign of Virgo and with the plunge down into incarnate existence are often goddess figures, often mother figures, and often have names  or mythological attributes which explicitly connect them with the sea or the ocean.

The most obvious of these, perhaps, is the New Testament figure of Mary (or Maria) -- whose name contains a root word mar or mare which means "ocean" or "sea" (and which can be found in many English words connected to the sea, such as "mariner" or "marine life" and even "to marinade").

Another example is Tiamat, a creator goddess of ancient Sumerian and Babylonian myth associated with the primordial sea, and whose name was similarly synonymous with the ocean.

Even the goddess Aphrodite or Venus was strongly associated with the sea -- and in fact, with the very "edge of the sea" or the "verge of the sea," and with the sea-foam in particular (the name Aphrodite, in Greek, was associated with the word aphros, meaning "sea-foam," although some scholars also attest there may be an etymological connection as well to the name of the goddess Ishtar or Astoroth or Astarte).

All of these heavenly figures are mother figures (Aphrodite or Venus was the mother of Aeneas, for example, the central figure in the Aeneid) and are simultaneously associated with the sea -- and this is appropriate for the fact that our plunge down into this incarnate life, this "lower half" of the wheel, this crossing of the Red Sea, begins for each of us at our human birth. Every person who ever lived has a mother, to whom we each are indebted for our material life, our very incarnate existence.

It is fascinating to observe that this connection between "mother" and "sea" or "ocean" is contained in the very letters or symbols with which we convey thoughts in the form of writing: for instance, the words for "mother" in many, many languages of the world begin with the sound we write in the alphabet that is derived from Phoenician, Greek, and Roman sources as "M" or "m" -- a symbol which is clearly reminiscent of waves of water or the ocean's rollers.

In the Chinese characters, this connection between "mother" and "ocean" is even more clearly visible, in the characters for "mother" and "ocean," of which the symbol for "ocean" is built from the symbol for "mother," with a "radical" known as the "three water dots" or drops added, as well as a kind of crowning symbol sometimes known as the "top of mei" radical (radical 20 in the chart of modern radicals).

Here is the Chinese character for "mother" (pronounced mu in Mandarin and mou in Cantonese, both of which preserve the "m-sound" associated with the word mother around the world):

And here (and also at the top of this post) is the closely-related Chinese character for "ocean" or "sea," which is pronounced hai in Mandarin and hoi in Cantonese, and can be found in words such as Shanghai and hoi sin sauce:

In other words, the Chinese characters themselves (which are very ancient) appear to convey the same connection between "mother" and "ocean" which is found in the figures of Mary, Tiamat, Aphrodite and many others, and which is connected to the celestial cycle associated with the fall equinox and the plunge down into this lower realm, this world of matter (the very word "matter," as has been pointed out by many observers, also being linguistically very close to the word for mother or mater from which we get modern English words such as "maternal").

The characters themselves contain "microcosmic" representations of the spiritual messages conveyed by the ancient myths and sacred stories.

Nor do the esoteric connections of the ancient Chinese characters stop there. If they did, some might argue that attempts to find spiritual messages in the characters are stretches of the imagination, built upon mere coincidence or the "random," undirected development of the characters over the centuries.

But, this same sort of connection can be seen in other Chinese characters as well.

For example, the character for a "temple" is composed of the character for "earth" (which interestingly enough is symbolized by a "cross of matter" upon a horizontal "ground" that is wider than the cross-bar of the cross) above the symbol for a Chinese "inch" -- an "inch of earth," so to speak. The "inch-measurement" symbol is shown below, and was apparently derived from a symbolic depiction of a thumb (appropriately enough, for the measurement of an inch):

So, that is the symbol for an "inch," and if we write the symbol for "earth" above that, we get the character for a "temple," shown below:

This connection of an "inch of earth" with a "temple" is full of important meaning worthy of careful consideration.

A temple is a sacred space -- a place which is set apart from the simply material and which is specifically designed to invoke the invisible realm, the world of spirit, the world of the divine. And yet it is clearly a space that is connected with the measurements and the motions of the great spheres of the heavens and the great sphere of the earth -- because we ourselves reflect and embody the infinite universe in our individual bodies, and because the teachings given in the various temples and sacred spaces around the world have to do with harmonizing our motions with the motions of the spheres and cycles of the heavens and of the earth.

The fact that the character for a temple in the Chinese calligraphy is composed of the characters for "an inch" of "earth" connects the idea of the sacred space with the measurements and motions of our planet and the cosmos. Note that a measurement of distance on our planet is always simultaneously a measurement of time: "seconds" and "minutes," for example, are obviously measurements of time, but they are also defined as a specific distance-measurements, and are intended to relate to the amount of distance the earth rotates in those periods of time.

We should not be at all surprised, then, to find that the Chinese character for "time" is composed of the symbol for "temple," with the addition of the symbol on the left (the radical) which represents the sun.  Thus, a temple is connected not only to an "inch of earth" but also to specifically evoke the presence of the sun in addition to the rotation of the earth, and by extension could be though of as the space in which the rays of the sun move across the rotating earth.  The ancient Egyptian Temple of Karnak comes immediately to mind.

Here is the character for "time":

Note, too, the significant fact that the word for "temple" in English contains the root temp which means "time" and which forms the basis for many other "time-related" words such as "temporary" or "tempo" or "tempest" or "temporal." In other words, both the Chinese characters and the western-language words for a temple preserve this connection between the sacred space and the majestic motions of the sun, moon, stars and planets which translate into our understanding and measurement of time.

Finally, it is also very interesting and significant that the character for "poem" or "metered verse" in the Chinese calligraphy once again contains the character for a "temple," this time adding the radical for "words," which is the flattened-square character symbolizing a human mouth, with four lines above it as if they are words or lines of speech floating upwards from the mouth, just the way that words or letters sometimes float up out of the mouths of characters on Sesame Street (and which, when I was little, I thought would visibly float up out of my mouth also, if I made the sound of a "z" for example).

And so this character seems to be telling us that poetry is a form of sacred speech, or speech for the temple, or words that connect to the invisible realm -- and indeed many ancient myths are written in verse form (from the Vedas of India and the Mahabharata with the Bhagavad Gita, to the poems of Homer and Pindar and Ovid, to the verses of many of the Biblical scriptures).

It is also indicating, of course, that poetry is a form of metered (or "measured") language, which is to say that it is language that has a "time component" to it (a certain number of beats per line), and which thus connects it to the motions of the spheres and to the temp in temple and tempo, as well.

Below is the Chinese character for poetry (the word shi in Mandarin and si in Cantonese): 

In all of these investigations of the symbols used to convey and preserve the ancient wisdom of the human race, we can clearly perceive the thread of the same central teaching: that we have plunged down into a material world, but that the material world is only "half" of the circle, so to speak. 

We are being reminded in all of these myths and in fact in the very letters and characters and symbols used to preserve the myths themselves that we are also spiritual beings, intimately connected to the heavenly realm, the spiritual realm, the realm of the divine, the realm of the infinite.

The ancient traditions involved aligning our lives to the motions of the planets and stars, in part through the recognition of certain special points on the great cycles -- including the point of the equinoxes, two of the most significant stations in all the motions of the heavens and the earth. The aligning of our microcosmic motions to the macrocosmic spheres involved the creation of and visits to sacred spaces, as well as the recitation of verses (sacred speech, or "temple speech" -- metered language) and the singing of certain songs (singing also being a form of poetry or special metered speech).

All of this ancient knowledge can be found literally around the globe, embodied not only in the myths and stories but also in the writing-systems and in the geometry and architecture and measurements and alignments used in the temples and monuments found all across our planet.

On this moment of autumnal equinox, we might all want to pause to reflect upon and be thankful for our own human mother, who gave us this human form we inhabit (the body being specifically referred to as a temple in ancient scripture) and indeed this very life itself.

Which brings us to one more Chinese ideogram, this one for the word "good," which is literally composed of the symbol for a "woman" (slightly different from but symbolically related to the character for "mother" that we have already seen) plus the symbol for a child (the mother first, on the left, and the child character found to the right). It is very good that we each had a mother, or we would not even be here in the first place! And so we should all be able to agree that depicting the character for "good" as a mother with child is extremely appropriate, and relates on some level to all of the other concepts that we have been exploring in this little study.

Below is the character for "good":

In all of the above calligraphy, I am indebted to the outstanding teaching found in the indispensable little volume, Learn to Write Chinese Characters, by Johan Bjorksten (1994), which examines the aesthetics and "design" of the characters, their balance and form and shape and harmony.

In it, he explains the tremendous importance of calligraphy in Chinese culture, and the great weight attached to writing the characters correctly. On page 2, he writes:

Calligraphy, the art of writing, is considered in China the noblest of the fine arts. At a  very early stage in history it became an abstract and expressionist art form, where meaning is of secondary importance and aesthetic expression the prime concern. Many Chinese hold that calligraphy prolongs the writers' lives, sharpens their senses, and enhances their general well-being. By practicing calligraphy you can achieve a glimpse into Chinese aesthetics and philosophy and learn to appreciate an abstract art form.

He also explains that Chinese calligraphy is traditionally learned through writing-out classic poetry -- which clearly connects yet again to all the concepts we have been exploring here (i.e., the letters themselves are sacred and relate to the realm of forms, and they are explicitly connected to and practiced through the medium of poetry, which is a form of special metered speech, the very character of which is connected to the character for a temple).

Writing Chinese calligraphy, in fact, can be a form of meditation -- in which doubts and second-guessing will ruin the desired outcome and the best results require a kind of "action without action" described in the Tao Te Ching or the Bhagavad Gita. The structure of the characters themselves obey certain principles of balance and proportion and architecture, as Johan Bjorksten beautifully conveys in his text and his examples, and thus can even be thought of as "sacred spaces" all their own.

Any egregious errors or disharmony in the above examples of Chinese characters, of course, are entirely my own responsibility and no reflection on anyone else.

Wishing you harmony and balance at this moment of September equinox, 2015.

Mukasa, the Guardian of the Lake

Mukasa, the Guardian of the Lake

The Ssese Islands, in Lake Victoria, indicated by the red arrow. Google Maps.

Among the Baganda people of eastern-central Africa, whose land in their own language is called Buganda but in the Swahili language is called Uganda, one of the central figures of the spirit world is Mukasa, the Guardian of the Lake.

Of this powerful entity we read in African Mythology by Geoffrey Parrinder (1967) that:

The greatest of the demi-gods of Buganda, Mukasa, was a great giver of oracles, a kindly deity who never asked for human sacrifice. Myths say that when Mukasa was a child he refused to eat ordinary food and disappeared from home, later being found on an island sitting under a large tree. A man who saw him there took him to a garden and lifted him onto a rock. People were afraid to take him into their houses, thinking he was a spirit, so they built a hut for him on the rock. They did not know what to give him to eat, for he refused all their food, but when they killed an ox he asked for its blood, liver and heart. Then people knew he was a god and consulted him in any trouble. Mukasa lived on the island for many years, married three wives, was cared for by priests, and at last disappeared as suddenly as he had come.
His temple was a conical reed hut, which was rebuilt at intervals on the express orders of the king. Originally it is said that Mukasa spoke his will directly to the priests, but later they used mediums who uttered his messages. The medium never entered the temple but had a special hut in front of it. When seeking to know the will of Mukasa she smoked some tobacco until the spirit came upon her, and then she announced in a shrill voice what was to be done. The medium was not allowed to marry, or walk about in the sight of men, or talk to any man but the priest, and once chosen held the office till death. 89-90.

This information is remarkable on several levels, and may immediately ring some bells for readers who have studied the previous two posts in which I presented arguments to support my theory that the details of the story of the Buddha underneath the bodhi tree, as well as the story of Jonah underneath the vine or "the gourd" or the palmcrist or the kikajon found in Jonah chapter 4, are based upon the celestial figure of Bootes the Herdsman sitting with his back to the glorious column of the Milky Way galaxy -- see "The Bodhi Tree" and "The sacred fig tree, continued: Jonah and the gourd."

The general details regarding Mukasa presented above are corroborated in other accounts of the Baganda.

This page from the webiste, for example, discusses the understanding of a spirit world beyond this one, and Mukasa as one of the most important of the Lubaale or "Guardians" who dwell in the invisible realm. There, we see that the location of the oracle where the medium (or mandwa) obtained messages from Mukasa was located on Bubembe island, one of a chain of over eighty islands known as the Ssese Islands (after the tsetse flies which swarm there) in Lake Victoria. 

See the map above for the location of Lake Victoria -- which lake is known in the Luganda language of the Baganda as Nalubaale, or "Lake of the Lubaale" -- and the Ssese Island archipelago in that great lake. Nalubaale is the second-largest freshwater lake on earth, with a surface area of 26,600 miles, second only to Lake Superior in size measured by surface area (the subterranean freshwater lake of

Lake Vostok in Antarctica has a surface area of "only" 4,800 miles although it is so massive that it contains roughly 1,300 cubic miles of water, compared to Nalubaale's 660 cubic miles and Lake Superior's 2,900 cubic miles and

Lake Baikal's 5,700 cubic miles).

It is actually somewhat difficult to find a good detailed map labeling all the Ssese Islands and especially Bubembe island, the location of the oracle and primary temple of Mukasa, but I believe Bubembe is the island that I have indicated with an arrow in the map below, which "zooms in" on the Ssese archipelago from the map shown above:

The details regarding Mukasa given in the quotation above are further supported by accounts found in

The Baganda: An account of their native customs and beliefs, by John Roscoe (originally published in 1911). There, we learn more information regarding the mandwa and her entering into a state of trance or ecstasy in order to receive information from the spirit world:

When she was about to seek an interview with the god, or to become possessed, she dressed like one of the priests with two bark-cloths knotted over each shoulder, and eighteen small white goat-skins round her waist. She first smoked a pipe of tobacco until the god came upon her; she then commenced speaking in a shrill voice, and announced what was to be done. She sat over a sacred fire when giving the oracle, perspired very freely, and foamed at the mouth. After the oracle had been delivered, and the god had left her, she was very fatigued and lay prostrate for some time. While giving the oracle, she held a stick in her hand with which she struck the ground to emphasize her words. 297-298.

Again, these details are extremely significant and noteworthy. First, they provide yet another example of a concept that can be seen to be absolutely ubiquitous around the world -- the understanding of the the existence of a spirit world with which it is possible to communicate and to which it is possible to journey even during this life, and the importance of doing so in order to obtain information or effect change which impacts aspects of this material world, which is intimately connected to and in fact can be said to be "interpenetrated by" and even "projected from" the spirit world in a very real sense. We have examined the importance of this concept in numerous previous posts including:

and many more.

Second, they again demonstrate that the actual techniques with which human beings may enter into a state of ecstatic trance or contact with the invisible realm are incredibly diverse, a fact borne out by the encyclopedic research presented by Mircea Eliade in the landmark text Shamanism: Archaic techniques of ecstasy (first published in 1951), and discussed in the previous post entitled "

How many ways are there of contacting the hidden realm?"

But perhaps most importantly and most strikingly, the details provided above illustrate powerful and undeniable points of resonance with other sacred traditions from different cultures around the globe, and what is more these points of resonance can -- I argue -- be seen to be distinctly celestial in nature, relating very clearly to specific important constellations which are used in other cultures and other traditions to point the way to the importance of the realm of spirit within and around us, just as they do in the sacred traditions of the Baganda.

Let us examine some of those details more closely.

First, we see that Mukasa shares very clear points of correspondence with the story of the life of the Buddha: he seated himself under a tree, he refused ordinary food, he was against sacrifice (in the case of Mukasa, he was specifically against human sacrifice).

Further, the temple of Mukasa is described as a "conical reed hut," and the mandwa herself also dwelt in a special hut near the conical temple or shrine of Mukasa, although she did not enter it herself, even when she communed with the Lubaale  himself, but instead smoked a pipe of tobacco in her hut and sat over a fire, perspiring and even foaming at the mouth. John Roscoe shows an image of one of the conical shrines of the Baganda in his 1911 book, and it looks very much like the image shown below of one of the sacred tombs of the Baganda:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

We also see in the accounts that the mandwa is always a woman, that she begins her contact with the god by sitting above a fire and smoking a pipe, but that at the end she falls down exhausted, and lies prostrate for some time.

All of these details have very powerful correspondences to the specific details of the constellation Bootes the Herdsman and the other surrounding constellations and celestial bodies near Bootes, which the previous posts on the Buddha and the bo tree and on Jonah and the gourd have argued to be the foundation of those sacred stories as well.

The clear celestial connection of the story of the Buddha, the story of Jonah, and the details of the powerful Mukasa of the Baganda is extremely significant, and extremely powerful evidence supporting the actual celestial connection of all of the world's ancient sacred wisdom.

Let's spell out those celestial correspondences (which will be illustrated in the planetarium image below):

  • The sitting figure of Mukasa on the rock, the Buddha under the bodhi tree, and Jonah under his gourd are all related to the constellation Bootes, who can clearly seen to be seated in the sky (and can also be envisioned to be kneeling). In fact, the figure of Bodhidharma who is known as Da Mo in China and who traditional legends describe as bringing Buddhism to China and kneeling in front of a stone wall for nine years without moving, and in some cases to have originated the martial arts as a way of strengthening the monks and giving them a physical-spiritual practice that would function as a kind of "moving meditation," can also be shown to be connected to Bootes, as I have demonstrated in previous posts such as this one.
  • The beautiful tree arching over their heads is the shining column of the Milky Way, which rises up behind the sitting or kneeling figure of Bootes in the heavens.
  • The "conical hut" (or the "booth" that Jonah makes under the gourd) is most likely the outline of the constellation Ophiucus.

The diagram below shows the major players in these Star Myths. The constellation Scorpio is also outlined, latching on to the base of the Milky Way, because Scorpio almost certainly plays the role of the worm who smites the vine that shelters Jonah, and causes it to wither away, much to Jonah's frustration and anger.

Note that in the diagram, the gigantic constellation of Hercules with his raised club is also outlined. This constellation plays a role in the legend of Da Mo (where, I argue, Hercules represents Shen Guang, the faithful follower and first disciple of Da Mo). Interestingly enough, the proximity of Hercules to the seated figure of Bootes provides an important confirmatory piece of evidence that this celestial interpretation is correct for the story of the Buddha as well. 

The image below, from the 2d century AD, shows the unmistakeable figure of Hercules (or Vajrapani) standing behind the seated figure of the Buddha underneath the bo tree, exactly as the constellation of Hercules can be seen to stand behind the seated figure of Bootes in the night sky. This confirms beyond a shadow of a doubt that the ancients knew the connection between the Buddha and the celestial figures of Hercules and Bootes:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

What is perhaps most striking in the sacred Baganda tradition surrounding Mukasa is the way in which the mandwa herself enacts the postures of the celestial constellations when she makes contact with the spirit world: first she sits above the fire smoking a pipe, just as Bootes can be seen to be "smoking a pipe" in the outline shown above, and then she falls down prostrate just as the constellation Virgo (who is located directly below Bootes and whose outline is shown in the image below from the Jonah story) can be said to be "lying prostrate and exhausted" in the way the constellation is arranged in the sky:

Note also that the mandwa carries a stick with which she strikes the ground for emphasis while reciting the message from the spirit world during her trance. The constellation Virgo can be seen to have a distinctive "outstretched arm" (marked by the star Vindemiatrix), which in some legends from around the world becomes a stick (and in other world myths it is a sword, a bow, or another implement connected to the story in question). 

She is thus enacting, in the most direct way imaginable, the concept of "as above, so below," which conveys a number of deep teachings, one of them the fact that every single man and woman embodies within themselves, contains , and connects to the infinite universe itself: that we are each a microcosm which reflects and which in fact is not separate from the infinite macrocosmaround and above us.

It is also extremely noteworthy that the famous Pythia who sat in the tripod at the oracle at Delphi can also be shown to reflect the constellation Virgo, who herself is in a seated position and who is directly above a celestial serpent, the constellation Hydra (corresponding to the dead carcass of the Python who was supposedly entombed deep beneath the temple at Delphi). In other words, the priestess at Delphi also entered into a state of ecstasy and communion with the gods by actually imitating the constellation Virgo, and embodying the concept of "as above, so below" and the microcosm/macrocosm.

Thus, we see that the sacred traditions surrounding the benevolent deity Mukasa of central Africa share extremely close and significant correspondences with the sacred traditions at the heart of Buddhism, ancient Greece, the scrolls of the Hebrew Scriptures and specifically of the prophet Jonah, and the legend of Da Mo in China, and that they thus provide an extremely powerful and significant piece of additional evidence to support the thesis that the world's sacred myths, scriptures, and traditions all share a common celestial foundation.

This fact, if true (and I believe the evidence is overwhelming and nearly beyond dispute; dozens more examples are discussed in other posts and in my previous books, a partial but by no means exhaustive index of such discussions can be found here) is of incredible significance for world history, and for our lives today.

Some of the implications might be:

  • That the sacred myths, scriptures and traditions of the world are not literal but that they are sophisticated celestial metaphors and that they use the celestial realm to convey the reality of the invisible realm of spirit.
  • That we are not in fact separate from the realm of spirit, but that we are intimately connected to it at all times, and that it is also within us at all times (as above, so below: microcosm and macrocosm).
  • That if the various myths and sacred traditions teach that we are "descended" from figures in Star Myths, they are talking about our spiritual nature, and that such stories are not intended to be used to divide people on the basis of ancestry (or supposed ancestry) -- in fact, since they teach the existence and importance of the infinite spiritual nature inside each man and woman, this can be seen to supersede the far less important external distinctions which people have used to set men and women against each other based on external differences.
  • That we are all deeply connected to one another and in fact to all beings and even to the universe itself.
  • That on this basis, it is wrong to kill other beings, and especially that human sacrifice is profoundly wrong -- in fact, Mukasa's ordinance against human sacrifice can be seen as teaching that it is wrong to take the life of another man or woman, and that one cannot even use "religious devotion" as an excuse to harm another man or woman.
  • That the ancients clearly understood these sacred myths to be connected to the constellations over our heads, and that they consciously depicted this understanding in their art and in their ecstatic practices and techniques.
  • That this ancient understanding has been subverted, and that it has in fact been overturned or "stood on its head," such that for at least seventeen hundred years it has been taught that sacred traditions are only meaningful if taken literally.
  • That literalism tends to invert the original meaning of the myths themselves, including all of the points outlined above. 
  • Literalism tends towards creating divisions between different people and different groups based on supposed descent from figures in stories that were originally intended to be understood as celestial metaphor. 
  • Literalism has often been used to "excuse" (or, it should be said, only "supposedly excuse," since it does not in fact excuse) violence against other men and women.
  • Ultimately, all of these sacred traditions point us towards the importance of the spiritual realm, and especially the importance of the spiritual realm within ourselves and within everyone around us: the importance of recognizing and elevating and evoking the spiritual and the divine side of ourselves and of the cosmos, rather than demeaning and debasing and brutalizing and denying the spiritual and the divine in ourselves and in others and in the world around us.

And there are many other implications, in addition to those listed here.


The Djed Column everyday: Tantra and Fong Zhong Shu

The Djed Column everyday: Tantra and Fong Zhong Shu

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

If all the world's sacred scriptures and mythology actually consist of stories in which the motions of the celestial spheres take on the personalities of men, women, gods, goddesses, angels, demons, monsters, djinn, and other mystical creatures (and they most certainly do), then we are left with a very important question:


I believe the answer certainly includes as a central feature the profound teaching embodied in the Great Cross of the Year, formed by the solstices and equinoxes, and associated with the concept symbolized in ancient Egypt by the "casting down" of the Djed column of Osiris and the subsequent "raising-up again" of the same: an esoteric concept which depicts the entire nature of human existence as a divine soul thrown down into incarnation, while voyaging through, reflecting and in some mysterious way embodying the infinite universe at the same time -- a universe which is itself composed of both a visible realm and an even more important and subtle invisible realm.

Recent posts and videos which have attempted to outline this critically-important central teaching (found, I believe, in virtually all of the world's sacred traditions in varying depictions and disguises) include: 

and many others.

Those discussions presented evidence that the concept of "raising the Djed" conveys a powerful message regarding the long process of our realization of the infinite divine sleeping within ourselves and indeed within every atom of the living universe around us, a process which takes place during the entire cycle of our earthly existence and perhaps over the course of many successive "existences" -- but it is also (we saw) a message which appears to urge upon us the practice of "raising the Djed" every single day, through the practice of blessing, through the recognition and elevation of the divine in ourselves and others, and through the special form of spiritual elevation leading to the state of ecstasy or ecstatic trance, in which our perception actually transcends the physical body and makes contact with the invisible world (for more on ecstasy and trance-conditions see also herehere and here, among many other previous posts).

And, while the entry into the ecstatic state is perhaps the most intense and most transcendent of the forms of recognizing and reconnecting with and calling forth and raising up the infinite divine spiritual realm which is always present, around us and within us, we have also seen evidence that in addition to incorporating techniques of ecstasy into our lives on a regular basis, we can also practice other forms of "raising the Djed" into our lives as well, even when we are not in the ecstatic state (since it is not possible to exist in a state of ecstasy at all times). It seems likely that consciously incorporating more than one of these into our lives is quite possible and probably beneficial -- and that they are not at all "mutually exclusive" (incorporating one does not require that we renounce all the others, although there is obviously a limit to how many we can choose to really pursue seriously).

In order to simply provide a very cursory pointer towards some practices which have been developed in different cultures from very ancient times, for those who may wish to learn more about them on their own, I started a short "mini-series" of posts discussing a few such practices which seem to fit into the general category of "raising the Djed." The first one we mentioned briefly was the practice commonly called qigong or chi gung, which clearly involves contact with "the invisible" in some way (the "invisible within," the "invisible without," or both), and which enables its practitioners to directly and tangibly experience the fact that we are made of more than just physical substance.

The goal of this little mini-series is not to try to teach these practices, or even to point to specific teachers or resources where people can learn more about these practices, but rather to simply make people aware of the existence of these many different disciplines which fit into the general category of "raising the Djed" and which some readers may find very beneficial if they choose to pursue them. Many of these practices, while extremely ancient, are not well known in "the west" -- that is to say, in the parts of the world in which the ancient esoteric knowledge was largely replaced by a literalistic rather than esoteric understanding of the ancient sacred stories and myths.

Another discipline which clearly falls into this same category is the practice of techniques known in some cultures (especially India and Tibet) as maithuna and usually known in China and Taoism (or Daoism) as fong zhong shu or 

房 中 術

The above calligraphy shows traditional characters, but in simplified characters the final character above is changed to 术 (which is present in the middle of the traditional version of that character) and so the same phrase would be rendered as

房 中术

In either case, the three symbols stand for "bedroom - within - skill" (pronounced fong zhong shuin Mandarin and fohng jung seuht in Cantonese) and are usually rendered into English using the phrases "bedroom arts" or "art of the bedchamber" and corresponding very generally to what is often referred to in the west as "Tantra" (although apparently that word actually encompasses a much wider landscape of transformative disciplines involving meditation, mantras, mandalas, visualization, and other practices in addition to what most people in the west today envision when they think of Tantra).

In general, these related arts involve transformation through sexual ritual, a practice which can be seen to have been highly developed in ancient China, ancient Japan, ancient India, ancient Tibet, and many other cultures around the world, including some Native American cultures. There is some evidence that the spiritual potential of this aspect of human existence was also developed in "western" cultures in various forms prior to being largely rejected or suppressed with the advent of literalist Christianity.

Although still perhaps not so very widely known, excellent books on Taoist fong zhong shu have been available in English for many years, including the work of Daniel P. Reid and Mantak Chia, among others. 

Additionally, some of the ancient Chinese texts that traditionally formed the foundation for the preservation and development of the knowledge of fong zhong shu have survived in varying degrees of completeness.  

Of these, perhaps the most important, and almost certainly the most often-cited and well known is the Su Nu Jing, or 素女經.

The title is often translated as "Classic of the Plain Girl," but the three characters actually stand for "natural-colored [often used to describe natural-colored or undyed silk]" - "woman" - "classic or canonical text" and because the first word can also mean "plain" as in "unspotted" or "without markings" or simply "white, pure, or undyed," the same title is also sometimes translated as the  Classic of the "Immaculate Woman" or the "Pure Woman."

This figure appears in some aspects to be a goddess or divine figure, who is in some cases associated with grain and hence may connect to the celestial figure of Virgo (this would not be a surprise). Interestingly enough, this would also connect her to the Greek goddess Demeter, whom Plutarch uses as part of his powerful argument against the consumption of animals for food, and the same word and symbol sometimes translated "Plain" that is used to describe her in China is can also be used to mean "vegetarian." She is sometimes depicted as giving instruction to the Yellow Emperor or Huangdi (sometimes spelled Huang Ti), whom Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana identify as a Saturnian figure in Hamlet's Mill.

So, Su Nu Jing means "Pure-Undyed-Silk Woman Classic" in Mandarin, and would be pronounced Seuh Neuih Ching in Cantonese, and the last word in the title (Jing or Ching) is the same word found in the title of the Tao Te Ching. It is certainly at least as old as the Sui Dynasty (AD 590 - AD 618) and may be even older, perhaps originating in the Han Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC) -- and the knowledge it contains may of course have come from an even earlier source.

As explained in Sexual Life in Ancient China: A Preliminary Survey of Chinese Sex and Society circa 1500 BC till 1644 AD, by R. H. Van Gulik (1961), no complete original text of the Su Nu Jing nor of several other ancient Taoist fong zhong shu texts has survived. However, much of the text of the Su Nu Jing was preserved in a different text that quotes large portions of it, which is called the Tung-hsuan-tzu and which may have been written by the scholar Li Tung Hsuan in the 7th century AD.

The text of the Tung-hsuan-tzu begins as follows (as translated in 1961, when conventions were slightly different than they are today -- the modern reader may wish to mentally substitute "humanity" for the general "man," which in previous decades was generally used to mean all of humanity and not specifically men to the exclusion of women; they also seem to have been more tolerant of what is sometimes today called a "comma splice"):

Master Tung-hsuan said: Of all the ten thousand things created by Heaven, man is the most precious. Of all the things that make man prosper none can be compared to sexual intercourse. It is modeled after Heaven and takes its pattern by Earth, it regulates Yin and rules Yang. Those who understand its significance can nurture their nature and prolong their years; those who miss its true meaning will harm themselves and die before their time. 135.

This introduction is extremely significant, and author R. H. Van Gulik notes that most of the more ancient Taoist sexual texts also begin with an expression of the cosmological aspect of human sexuality, which was seen to "model Heaven and [. . .] Earth."

Later, we reach a portion of the text in which the Su Nu Jing is quoted extensively. In the introductory chapter, entitled "The Supreme Significance of the Sexual Act," the Plain Girl declares that in sex:

Woman is superior to man in the same respect as water is superior to fire. [. . .] The union of man and woman is like the mating of Heaven and Earth. It is because of their correct mating that Heaven and Earth last forever. Man, however, has lost this secret, therefore his age has gradually decreased. If a man could learn to stop this decline of his power and how to avoid ills by the art of Yin and Yang, he will attain immortality. 135 - 136.

Here we again see the explicit "macrocosm-microcosm" understanding that the motions of men and women on earth mirror the motions of the great cycles of the heavenly objects, and also mirror the motions of the earth which contribute to our interaction with the celestial mechanics in the heavens above. We are also introduced to one of the central concepts in Taoist fong zhong shu and related disciplines, which is the inherent superiority of the woman to the man, in that she is already capable of multiple, progressive, and basically unlimited orgasms (leading to the raising of chi, prana, or the kundalini, and ultimately to ecstasy), while the man must learn to achieve this capability and does not usually obtain it without the cultivation of fong zhong shu, primarily through the ability to separate orgasm and ejaculation and achieve multiple orgasms without ejaculation. 

Without going any further into the specifics of that subject, which interested readers can pursue for themselves, it is worth noting that in this ancient text, the Natural-Silk Woman or Immaculate Goddess uses the expression "as water is superior to fire." This phrase is loaded with esoteric symbolism, as we have explored previously in the post entitled "Fire and Water," where we saw that the concept of fire plunging into water is an esoteric metaphor for the process of incarnation itself, by which the divine spark of spirit is plunged into and submerged within the physical material realm and a physical material body.

Because of this understanding, we can then gain a better appreciation for the insistence in these ancient texts that human sexuality itself somehow "models Heaven and Earth" and becomes an esoteric symbol for our incarnation itself . . . and for our ability to be spiritually transformed and elevated by our experience in a physical body, an experience which ultimately leads to transcendence of the physical nature. 

Rather than being extinguished by and completely subsumed within the material nature in which we find ourselves, our task is to hold on to the spiritual, call it forth from within this physical world, and ultimately to transform both matter and spirit together -- "raising the Djed." It can readily be perceived that the arts that are often referred to as Tantric are esoterically and experientially involved in just this very purpose as well. 

Just as the myths themselves "bring the stars down to earth" by depicting the sun, moon, stars and planets as human beings and as gods and goddesses walking among humanity, rituals which we undertake that mirror and embody the motions of the heavens and the earth (as the Plain Silk Girl tells us that fong zhong shu most certainly does) connect us to the motions of the universe, and "bring the heavenly motions" down into the human realm, the microcosm reflecting and embodying the macrocosm of the infinite cosmos.

Finally, it is worth noting that here that, as in so many other places where the esoteric ancient wisdom has somehow been subverted, a practice and a body of knowledge which is clearly intended for the elevation and liberation and positive transformation of individual men and women has instead been turned too often into a negative force for degradation, dehumanization, oppression, and powerful feelings of shame, hurt, and alienation. 

The fact that, as we are told by the Immaculate Woman, in the bedroom "the woman is superior to the man as water is superior to fire" can lead to tremendous insecurity and resentment on both sides, when these ancient practices are not known and understood -- but when they are understood and put into practice, they can lead to tremendous security and empowerment for everyone involved.

This subject provides yet another example of how vitally important it is to understand what the ancient texts and the ancient treasures which were entrusted to humanity are actually trying to tell us, and how we can learn to incorporate them into our lives on a very practical level -- and what a great tragedy it is that this ancient inheritance imparted to the human race has somehow so often been turned completely upside down.

Star Myths in the New Testament: the Visit of the Magi

Star Myths in the New Testament: the Visit of the Magi

CAUTION: The above video examines powerful evidence that the scriptures of the New Testament gospel accounts are based upon a system of celestial allegory rather than being accounts of literal terrestrial historical events. If you are not comfortable exploring this subject, please consider refraining from watching.

Here is a new video exploring the events described in the Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 2: the Visit of the Magi.

It asks a question which I believe poses a king-sized problem for the "literal-historical" school of scriptural interpretation: If the wise men described in Matthew 2:1 came "from the east to Jerusalem," but then explain that they "saw his star in the east" in Matthew 2:2 (which "stood over where the young child was," according to Matthew 2:9), how did they ever end up arriving somewhere in the west of where they began?

If you start east of somewhere, and then see a star in the east which is your guide, it would seem that you would then travel towards the east.

Did the wise men of Matthew 2 first travel across China, then across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of the Americas, then across the Americas to the Atlantic Ocean, and then continue east until they arrived at the point that the star directed?

The texts do not support a literal-historical-terrestrial understanding of the episode, unless you believe that the wise men as described in the text were among the ancient circumnavigators of the globe . . . but they work perfectly well for the celestial approach, as we will see.

Also, while it would seem that this is a subject that is more appropriate to examine around Christmas-time, it turns out that the events of the Easter-story actually incorporate the full cycle of the great wheel of the zodiac and the year, and thus a very comprehensive message regarding the journey of the human soul of every man and woman -- as future posts (and possibly future videos) may have occasion to explore!

The celestial analysis of the Star of Bethlehem and Visit of the Magi which underlies much of the discussion in this video was first given by Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844) in a lecture entitled "The Star of Bethlehem" which was published posthumously in a book entitled The Devil's Pulpit in 1857, which  is available online in its entirety here (see in particular pages 42 - 44).

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

Star Myths in the New Testament: from the Triumphal Entry through the Betrayal by Judas Iscariot

Star Myths in the New Testament: from the Triumphal Entry through the Betrayal by Judas Iscariot

CAUTION: The above video examines powerful evidence indicating that the scriptures of the New Testament gospel accounts are based upon a system of celestial allegory rather than being accounts of literal terrestrial historical events. If you are not comfortable with this subject, please consider refraining from watching.

Here is a new video in which I am testing out the "dry-erase board" technique for presenting information in video form (still have a few glitches to iron out! thanks for your patience with those!).

The video explores the New Testament story of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the subsequent Betrayal by Judas Iscariot, both of which are found in all four canonical gospel accounts (albeit from very different perspectives, as we might expect if the four Evangelists represent celestial beings -- i.e. stars -- who are located at the four different corners of the year).

The examination of some of the specific symbols surrounding the Triumphal Entry and the Betrayal by Judas Iscariot indicate very clearly that, as with the sacred scriptures and myths of nearly every culture around the globe, the stories of the New Testament gospel accounts are built squarely upon a foundation of celestial allegory.

This celestial basis indicates that the New Testament stories are in fact closely related to the myths of ancient Egypt, as well as those of the ancient Greeks, the Norse, and the peoples of Native America, all of which can be shown to share the same system of celestial allegory.

For an index of over sixty previous posts explaining the celestial allegory at the heart of other stories in the Bible as well as in other sacred scripture and myth from around the world, see the previous post entitled "Star Myth Index."

This commonality proves that far from being separate and distinctly different from the rest of the world's ancient sacred traditions, the original purpose of the scriptures in the Old and New Testament was almost certainly the same.

In other words, this understanding of scripture actually unites

rather than divides -- the very opposite of the way the scriptures are commonly understood and taught by the proponents of the literal-historical-terrestrial approach to their contents.

I have written at some length that, based upon extensive consideration of the evidence in these ancient wisdom traditions, the purpose of the esoteric myths was to convey an understanding that the  physical universe we inhabit is connected to, interpenetrated by, and even projected from an invisible realm -- the realm of spirit, figured in these stories by the realm of the sky and of the sun, moon, stars, and visible planets. Likewise, the same understanding applies to each and every man and woman (and creature, and even rock, tree, plant, and place) -- each has an invisible and spiritual component and connection to the invisible world and hence to everyone and everything else.

This celestial, esoteric, and allegorical understanding of the scriptures thus unites men and women with one another, with the rest of nature, with the entire universe, and with themselves -- while the literal and historical understanding tends to divide men and women against one another, against the rest of nature, against the entire universe, and ultimately even against and within themselves as individuals.

Thus, it is my conclusion that forcing a literal and historical reading upon these texts not only misses their true message but that this erroneous approach has actually been used to force the scriptures to teach something almost "180-degrees the opposite" of their original intended message.

As you will see in the above video, the episode of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and then of the Betrayal by Judas Iscariot which leads inevitably downwards to the Agony in the Garden and to the sacrifice upon the Cross, are both replete with imagery that has to do with the zodiac wheel and the motion of the annual cycles of the year, as seen in the motions of the sun and of the background band of the zodiac stars.

However, the actual celestial motions are not  (in and of themselves) the main message that we are supposed to receive from these sacred stories, according to my analysis of this subject for many years. I believe that these celestial motions were used as esoteric "teaching aids" to help us grasp something about ourselves -- about our human condition, about our connection to the universe and especially to its invisible spiritual source-bed, and about our soul's sojourn in these physical incarnate bodies, as well as our soul's constant connection with, and periodic return to, the realm of spirit and fire.

As Alvin Boyd Kuhn explains in an important quotation that has been discussed in previous posts (see herehere and here):

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.

The symbols of the Triumphal Entry and the Betrayal by Judas Iscariot relate to symbols and concepts explored in many, many previous posts. Some of those include the symbols of the Ankh and the Djed of ancient Egypt, as well as the "top of the year" and the Land Flowing with Milk and Honey (which is also the City whose streets are paved with gold).

And, because each individual man and woman reflects and embodies the entire infinite universe (a concept expressed in the saying "As above, so below" and in the terms macrocosm and microcosm), the top of the zodiac wheel accompanied by the symbols of the starry constellation of Cancer in the infinite heavens is also reflected in the "Upper Room" of every individual person: symbols that are connected in the Biblical passages.

From this we can understand that we do not have to go anywhere in order to connect to infinity: the depths of the universe are already right inside of us.

There are also strong connections here to the profound subjects discussed in the work of authors such as Peter Kingsley and his book In the Dark Places of Wisdom, as well as the worldview commonly described today as shamanic, which I believe is actually the understanding of the world and of the human condition which underlies virtually all of humanity's ancient wisdom and sacred traditions.

As such, although the symbols and concepts discussed in the above video may at first seem difficult to grasp or to follow, they are extremely vital, powerful, and liberating -- and thus worthy of careful contemplation and deep meditation.

One possible source of additional help regarding myths and symbols related to Cancer the Crab may be found in previous posts regarding that important zodiac constellation, such as this onethis one, and this one.

Those interested may also wish to go back and view the previous video which contains some discussion of Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis in the constellation Cancer, entitled Star Myths: 1,000 times more precious . . .

1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and were come to Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then sent Jesus two disciples,
2 Saying unto them, Go into the village over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
3And if any man say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them. Luke21:1-3. 
4 And they went their way, and found the colt tied by the door without in a place where two ways met; and they loose him. Mark 11:4.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).