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natural universal law

Selma: Natural Universal Law vs. Artificial Legalities

Selma: Natural Universal Law vs. Artificial Legalities

Fifty years ago, on the 7th of March, 1965, the first attempted march from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery, Alabama along US 80 to protest unjust, illegal, unconstitutional, racially-motivated restrictions on voting -- as well as recent deadly police violence -- was broken up by "law officers" and "deputies" using clubs, whips, cattle prods, tear gas, and physical barehanded violence.

The violence of that day was captured on film and video and shown around the country and around the world, and that first march became known as "Bloody Sunday." It was a tremendous turning point in public opinion, and the disgust that it generated, among those who saw the images of violence against unarmed, non-violent men and women and even children, finally accomplished changes which decades of litigation in the court system could not achieve in the unjust courts which were dominated in many cases by those who also supported racial oppression.

It is quite possible to make the argument that the nonviolent marches beginning in Selma were deliberately designed to bring into the light of day -- to reveal and make obvious -- the officially-condoned, soul-crushing reign of violence and racial oppression that had been going on for decades in the United States but which had been largely ignored, excused, and overlooked by those not directly threatened by it. 

This is the argument proposed by David J. Garrow in Protest at Selma: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, published in 1978, a book which began from a thesis he began in 1973 while a student at Wesleyan College and which as a book won the 1979 Chastain Award of the Southern Political Science Association for "best book on politics, government, or public administration in the US South."

In that book, he presents evidence that:

The first federal attempts to protect southern blacks' right to vote [. . .], based upon the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, employed a litigative strategy of enforcement which placed much faith in the federal courts' ability to rectify racial discrimination in the electoral process. As we shall see, this faith was badly misplaced. Recalcitrant, obstructionist judges in most southern jurisdictions all but stifled the Justice Department's attacks on voting-related racial discrimination and harassment. Only minute gains in black registration and voting resulted from the Justice Department's long and costly attempts to eliminate racial discrimination in the electoral processes of several dozen southern counties. Recently one scholar has asserted that the courts eventually would have proven successful in effectively enforcing southern blacks' right to vote. Consideration and analysis of this claim shows how erroneous it is. 5.

It was not until the events of "Bloody Sunday" that people around the country finally became sickened by the spectacle of seeing on a large scale and in undeniable images and film footage the kind of violence and ugliness which had been operating in the shadows and on a more individual-scale for decades but which -- for whatever reason -- they had not previously considered and had therefore tolerated, ignored, or "excused away."

This view of the events of Selma in March of 1965 is incredibly important, I believe, for a number of reasons, because it shows that:

  • "Artificial legalities" were being used to thwart natural universal law. Natural universal law says that no one has a right to use force to stop another person from doing something lawful (nonviolent) such as voting, assembling peaceably, riding in a car with another person regardless of the color of their skin, or protecting their mother from assault -- and certainly no one has the right to use deadly force and thereby kill someone for any of the above actions. Artificial "laws" (which really are illegal and hence no laws at all, which is why they will be referred to here as "legalities" instead) are often written which supposedly bestow upon some men or women a free pass to violate the rights of other men and women, or even to use physical force against them to oppress them and deny them of their human rights and dignity.
  • These artificial legalities ("artificial legalities" in this case being used as a term to describe those laws on the books which are deliberately designed to subvert or "get around" the requirements of natural law, and in doing so to do violence to the natural law rights of some group of men and women) are often supported by a variety of mental "smokescreens" or "illusions" (or "paradigms," or "narratives") which prevent their careful examination by those not directly violated by them. We could use a shorter, blunter word and call them "lies." These lies or illusions, when widespread among the general populace, act to prevent outrage which could in fact bring about the rejection of those artificial legalities. Because of this fact, in these types of extreme cases, attempts to address obvious natural-law violations through the courts can be thwarted by what Garrow calls "recalcitrant, obstructionist judges" -- that is, judges who do not care about natural universal law but actually wanted to continue a system built upon the violation of natural universal law, which they assisted by their reliance upon artificial legalities.
  • In reality, the judges and their artificial legalities are only a small piece of the puzzle: the bigger piece is the perception of the public at large. There were some men and women who actually used physical violence against blacks, in a way that was almost "casual" in its brutality (Garrow, 228).  These acts of outright violence were enabled by the courts and the system of artificial legality described above -- but they were also enabled by the many more people, not just in the south but around the country, who were neither judges nor active perpetrators of violence themselves, but who supported, overlooked, condoned, or otherwise excused the racism and thus the violence and the violations of the rights and dignity of other men and women.
  • As long as that larger body of men and women -- the ones who generate that nebulous thing known as "public opinion" -- did not examine their support of the violations of natural law that were taking place, the courts could continue to use artificial legalities to paper over clear violations of natural law, and those who were accustomed to actually inflicting almost "casual" forms of physical violence against other men and women based on the color of their skin could get away with it, often with complete impunity. 
  • In other words: there were enough judges (and juries) in the courts who were devoted to a system that clearly violated natural universal law, and which condoned systemic, brutal, often murderous violence against some men and women in the society. As long as enough people in the "society at large" either consciously supported that same unjust system, or simply failed to examine it and thus failed to become outraged by it, these courts could use their artificial legalities to thwart natural universal law, and those criminals who actually perpetrated violence against African-American men and women and children could do so with impunity.
  • That is why a strategy of simply trying to go through the courts would not work and did not work from 1957 to 1965 (or in decades before 1957, as there actually were voting rights acts on the books going back to the 1800s).
  • The events at Selma in 1965 represented a completely different approach, a new strategy: the attempt to appeal to the inherent sense of natural law and human dignity in the public-at-large. While there will always be some upon whom such an appeal will not work, if the majority of people become outraged at clear violations of natural universal law, the artificial legalities can be swept aside by the tide of public opinion. The key is to wake people up to the point that they examine the assumptions and illusions -- in fact, the lies -- which they had been listening to or subscribing to without questioning or examining up to that point.
  • David Garrow's 1978 book presents specific evidence that the marches originating in Selma, Alabama were deliberately designed to bring about a situation in which the injustice of the system that controlled the courts and the agents of "law enforcement" in Alabama would be on full display to the world.

Note that the assertion that the Selma marches were part of a deliberate strategy of nonviolence as a means of waking people up to injustice does not in any way suggest that they were somehow less-than-authentic, or that the very real injuries and violence and abuse (and even loss of life) that participants suffered as a result of their decision to march (or their decision to shuttle marchers back in their cars afterwards) are in any way less valid.

On the contrary, as the evidence shows, other methods of ending the institutionalized discrimination and oppression and violence were not working. A strategy of peaceful protest in a city and county where the police and sheriffs and deputies would be likely to exhibit on a large scale the almost "casual" violence that individual black men and women were at risk of encountering on an individual scale at just about any moment in their daily lives if they violated the unwritten norms and mores of that society was both courageous and intelligent -- and it turned out to be extremely effective, at least in terms of securing the ability to register to vote. 

It was also an extremely moral strategy -- it appealed to natural universal law, and it appealed to the higher aspect of human nature, the spiritual aspect of human nature.

Racism, violence, and other violations of natural law are by their very nature degrading, brutalizing, de-spiritualizing. If every human being has a physical component and a spiritual component, racism and violence emphasize the physical component and attempt to deny the spiritual component. 

They emphasize the visible and deny the invisible. 

They emphasize our animal nature and deny the inner, hidden, but undeniable divine spark present in each and every human being.

Thus violence and racism and the lies that support and enable them act to pervert and reverse the teachings of the collective ancient sacred teachings of humanity, which (I believe) can be shown to be designed to help us recognize and emphasize and "coax out" the invisible, spiritual, hidden-and-almost-forgotten divine spark inside ourselves and others and the world around us. 

We can say this succinctly by saying that violence and racism, by their very nature, curse and do not bless.

The violence displayed against the marchers at Selma in March of 1965 place this brutalizing aspect of racism on full display: white "law officers" and "deputies" (many of these deputies being private citizens, "deputized" and given clubs to use against the marchers) used whips, cattle prods, and horses against the marchers in Selma, as well as clouds of tear gas which is composed of pulverized glass and attacks the mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth, causing the eyes to burn and begin to flow with tears and the nose and lungs to burn and begin to flow with mucous -- thus emphasizing the body and bodily functions and pulling the consciousness down from any sort of higher considerations to the problem of wiping off the snot that is hanging down like long icicles from one's own nostrils, and figuring out how to get fresh breaths of air into one's lungs without choking or gasping or vomiting.

In previous civil rights marches (notably in Birmingham), police also let big German shepherd police dogs brutalize marchers, leaping at them and biting them and ripping their clothes off. They also turned powerful firehoses on men and women, which is also extremely brutalizing. (Photo gallery).

Garrow recounts some of the injuries after the march at Selma:

The parsonage next door to Brown's Chapel became one treatment center, as the New York doctors and nurses treated the less seriously injured, most of whom were suffering from the effects of the tear gas. At Good Samaritan Hospital several blocks away, fifty to sixty marchers were treated, and seventeen were admitted. Injuries included fractured ribs and wrists, severe head gashes, broken teeth, and what was thought to be a fractured skull sustained by SNCC's John Lewis. More than half a dozen others  were treated at the Burwell Infirmary. Estimates of the total of injured ran as high as ninety to one hundred. 76.

Even after the marchers had retreated to the churches, "tear gas was fired into the First Baptist Church, and lawmen threw a black teenager through a window" (76).

Some human beings are so gripped by a consuming mental lie that they will not recoil at such an exhibition of violating the rights of other men and women for the non-crime of peaceably assembling to protest a culture of institutionalized racist violence and severe voter registration discrimination by walking across a bridge and down a highway,* but most know that such brutality is profoundly wrong. Garrow cites first-hand accounts by people around the country after watching the news that night of Bloody Sunday, and being shocked and outraged.

I believe this analysis of the Selma marches is extremely important in any struggle against the systematic, institutionalized violation of natural universal law and human rights. 

The peaceful marchers at Selma did not have "superior physical force" to match what the law enforcement personnel (and the private citizen "deputies") brought to bear against them. In fact, the peaceful marchers did not have weapons at all, while those who opposed them had weapons, tear gas, helmets, and in some cases even horses.

What they did have, however, was truth on their side. Systems which say that it is excusable to violate the natural human rights of another man or woman, and even to use physical violence against them for virtually any arbitrary reason whatsoever, can only be supported by lies. 

We are all, sadly, capable of accepting stunning lies and of overlooking grievous violence -- even of condoning it or promoting and praising it. The illusions or paradigms or smokescreens or narratives that we accept and buy into, and which can blind us or numb us to the criminality of what is taking place literally all around us -- and which we are in fact enabling and supporting through our failure to examine the assumptions underlying those narratives or paradigms. 

Until something blows that fog of illusion away, rolls back the smokescreen, we probably will not exhibit any outrage, because we remain willfully blind to the outrages that are taking place.

In such an environment, criminals can perpetrate acts of almost "casual" violence with impunity. In extreme situations, the courts will look the other way, fail to convict those criminals of their crimes, and actively seek to subvert natural law through twisted structures composed of artificial legalities.

The leaders of the Civil Rights movement eventually realized that their plan of going through the courts first was being thwarted, obstructed, and subverted by some of those who were running the courts themselves. They hit upon the strategy of appealing directly to the general public at large -- behind whose apathy those criminal violations were being allowed to continue with impunity.

The events of Bloody Sunday were an absolutely historic turning point which led to a widespread re-examination of previously unquestioned assumptions, paradigms, and lies -- and which led many to reject those previously unexamined paradigms. It had dramatic results. Of course, there has been more progress in some areas of ending racially-based violations of rights than in others, and so the process of calling for the examination of assumptions, paradigms and narratives must go on.

There is much, much more that could be said about the details of the events leading up to the Selma marches, and about the importance of what took place in Selma and other cities in the South fifty years ago. Far too little of the truly ugly and disturbing details of some of the violence that took place before and after the actual marches is ever studied or discussed or examined in classrooms or in "the news," with the result being that far too little of it is examined and considered for its applicability to our individual lives and to the situations we find ourselves facing today.

We owe it to ourselves to seek out and study this information and this history on our own. And, we owe it to those who at great personal risk to their own physical security participated in those marches so many years ago: we should learn as much as we can about what they were really facing in their lives, and to learn the lesson that they taught us about the importance of natural universal law, about the ability of peaceful protest to blow away the fog of lies, about the courage to stand up to violence and injustice, about human dignity, and ultimately about the elevation of the human spirit -- about blessing -- and about refusing to be dragged down by people or forces or systems that want to degrade and brutalize us.


and, by the way, the artificial excuse that Sheriff Clark had put US Highway 80 "off limits" due to possible public safety concerns and that the assembly was thus "unlawful" is a canard, as Clark had in previous months authorized his lawmen to use billy clubs -- and used his own billy club -- to prevent blacks from entering by the front door of the courthouse, and to force them into a side alley where they and their protest against voter registration discrimination would be more out of sight, and as no one can argue that preventing them from going in the front door was a "public safety concern," neither can we believe that Sheriff Clark was really issuing his injunction against the marchers because he had "public safety concerns" about their crossing the bridge or walking down the side of the highway in this peaceful protest.

Martin Luther King, Jr. (01/15/1929 - 04/04/1968): "But if not" and the moral law of the universe

Martin Luther King, Jr. (01/15/1929 - 04/04/1968): "But if not" and the moral law of the universe

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born this day -- January 15 -- in 1929.

Above is an audio track of the sermon entitled "But if not," delivered by Dr. King on November 05, 1967 -- only five months before his earthly life was violently ended by a cowardly criminal act of assassination.

Dr. King was a powerful and eloquent orator, and his words speak for themselves. If you have never listened to his sermons before -- and even if you have -- his birthday is an appropriate day to listen to them again, and this sermon is rightfully famous.

While Dr. King's message needs no elaboration or additional explanation, a few particular points impressed me as being especially worthy of brief comment (below -- you may prefer to listen to Dr. King's sermon first).

Here are a few brief comments for those interested -- but of course the entire sermon is deeply moving and worthy of careful consideration from start to finish. Longer direct quotations from the sermon are printed in a blue font in order to make it easier to distinguish those quotations:

  • The title of the sermon is taken from the scriptural passage in the Book of Daniel, chapter 3 and verse 18. There, the three Hebrew youths who have in their captivity been given the Babylonian names Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, famously declare that they will not bow down to the king's idols, and specifically they will not bow before and worship the golden image he has raised in the plain of Dura, and that they will trust their God for deliverance, knowing that he can save them -- "But if not," they concede (that is, even if he does not deliver them), they will still do what is right and obey the law of God over the arbitrary and tyrannical proclamation of the king. 
  • In this sermon, Dr. King points to this story as an example of civil disobedience. Beginning at 03:30 in the track above, he defines civil disobedience, saying: "Now I want you to notice first here that these young men practiced civil disobedience. Civil disobedience is the refusal to abide by an order of the government or of the state or even of the court that your conscience tells you is unjust. Civil disobedience is based on a commitment to conscience. In other words, one who practices civil disobedience is obedient to what he considers a higher law. And there comes a time when a moral man can't obey a law which his conscience tells him is unjust."
  • Without using the terminology of natural law as articulated by abolitionist and political philosopher Lysander Spooner in the 1800s, Dr. King draws the exact same distinction that Spooner draws, between artificial (or man-made) law and natural law (which Dr. King calls "conscience," "higher law," "moral law," or "eternal and divine law" in this sermon). In other words, both declare any immoral "law" to be no law at all -- Spooner using the example of the Fugitive Slave Acts in the United States, and Dr. King using the example of criminal acts perpetrated in Nazi Germany under Hitler which were "legal" but only in the sense of artificial law -- they were actually immoral and illegal and Dr. King declares he would have openly disobeyed them. Warming to this theme, he declares beginning at the 06:50 mark in the above audio: "And so it is important to see -- that there are times -- when a man-made law is out of harmony with the moral law of the universe; there are times when human law is out of harmony with eternal and divine law: and when that happens, you have an obligation to break it. And I'm happy that in breaking it, I have some good company!"
  • He later connects this obligation to resist man-made laws which oppose the moral and eternal and divine law with the statement by Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Daniel 3:18 beginning with "But if not." Dr. King explains that our obligation to oppose immoral law is not dependent upon being spared from negative consequences in doing so, nor is it dependent upon being promised positive rewards for doing so: it must be done because it is the right thing to do. This leads him directly to his soaring and justly famous conclusion, a portion of which is quoted next, beginning just prior to the 17:00 mark in the above audio.
  • Notice that directly connected to his assertion that we must come to the place where we cannot but stand up for the moral law irregardless of reward or consequences is Dr. King's mention of the conventional doctrines of heaven and hell -- and he likewise declares that we do not simply decide to stand up for the right either for the promise of the one or the fear of the other. At 16:46, building to a crescendo, Dr. King proclaims: "What does this mean? It means in the final analysis, you do right NOT to avoid hell. If you're doing right merely to keep from going to something that traditional theology has called 'hell,' then you're not doing right. If you do right merely to go to a condition that theologians have called 'heaven,' you aren't doing right. If you are doing right to avoid pain, and to achieve happiness and pleasure, then you aren't doing right. Ultimately, you must do right because it's RIGHT to do right. You've gotta say, 'But if not.'"
  • It is impossible not to notice that Dr. King's framing of the concepts of heaven and hell as "something that traditional theology has called 'hell'" and "a condition that theologians have called 'heaven'" serve to call into question the traditional or conventional (that is to say, "literal") understanding of those two concepts, and to distance himself those traditional literal theological interpretations. The fact that Dr. King here appears to strongly call into question the traditional literal understanding of those two ideas is in keeping with the argument put forward in the preceding post (and elsewhere in other previous discussions), that the literal interpretation of the scriptures can be (and historically has been) used to control thought and behavior and even to oppress and enslave, whereas the sacred scriptures and ancient teachings of humanity (including those in the Bible) were actually intended uplift (and not oppress), to liberate (and not enslave). For further discussion of the likelihood that the concepts of both hell and heaven in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments relate to celestial metaphors connected to spiritual teachings about our incarnate condition, rather than to literal places of eternal punishment or reward as they have been interpreted by literalistic theologians (and then used as convenient tools to control thought and behavior), please see "No hell below us . . ." and "A land flowing with milk and honey."
  • This aspect of Dr. King's sermon is very important, because the entire thrust of his sermon is to place the moral obligation of "doing right," including when necessary civil disobedience to immoral laws, upon an ancient scriptural foundation. Following other researchers, including Mark Passio, I have argued that widespread institutionalized violations of natural law must necessarily be accompanied by some form of mind control: those techniques which are used to "hypnotize" large numbers of people into (wrongly) believing that violations of natural law are actually right or good or moral or acceptable. Misinterpreted, the Biblical scriptures have in fact been used in the past -- and continue to be used -- as an instrument of mind control, to condone oppression of one group by another, for example, or to condone the use of force for reasons other than protection against violence. But, this does not mean that we should "throw out" the Biblical scriptures, or any of the other ancient scriptures and traditions of humanity, just because they have in the past been twisted around to try to support the opposite of what they really mean. On the contrary, these ancient teachings, properly interpreted, actually stand against mind control (I believe). Dr. King in the above sermon clearly evidences a high regard for the ancient scriptures -- in this case, the Book of Daniel from the Hebrew Scriptures (or the "Old Testament") -- and I believe he can be seen to be using them in a way that dispels mind control and promotes human freedom and natural law.
  • Ultimately, I believe that open, non-violent civil disobedience itself is designed to call attention to ongoing violations of natural law (or, as Dr. King puts it, "human law out of harmony with eternal and divine law"), and to remove the "veil of legitimacy" which techniques of mind control attempt to throw over those violations of the natural law. By his willingness to face consequences while non-violently doing actions which do not violate natural law (but which may indeed break these "out of harmony human laws") -- the same willingness he connects back to Daniel chapter 3 and verse 18 -- Dr. King helped to "wake up" those who had previously been too hypnotized to notice that those human laws were actually profoundly immoral.

At the end of this famous sermon (beginning around 18:20), Dr. King declares that "if you have never found something so dear and so precious that you will to die for it," or if

"some great opportunity stands before you and CALLS upon you to stand for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause," and you refuse to do it because you are afraid, you refuse to "take the stand" as he puts it, then you will die inside. He prefaces these stirring words by saying "you may be 38 years old, as I happen to be" -- but those of us who are already older than that need not think that it is already too late for us to find such a cause, whether we are 48, or 68, or 88 or 108 years old! There is never a lack of need for the kind of willingness to stand up for justice that Dr. King proclaims in this sermon!

I would humbly suggest that, if we are unsure of what "great principle" that we ourselves might stand for, we could perhaps hardly go wrong if we decide to stand for natural law, which is the same as the universal law, the eternal law, the divine law, and the moral law. 

From there, we can be alert to identify places in which human law is, as Dr. King puts it,

"out of harmony with the moral law of the universe,"

and then to stand against them and to show others how they are illegitimate and ultimately illegal. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of such human laws and actions going on today, any more than there was in 1967.

Martin Luther King, Jr. clearly understood natural law, and the fact that natural law is woven into the very fabric of our universe. He understood that, because of this fact, widespread institutionalized violations of such law actually require forms of mind control, to veil their illegitimacy. He clearly understood the importance of exposing this mind control, in order to dispel it, and he saw that nonviolent civil disobedience was a way to seize the moral high ground and expose the illegitimacy of actions which run counter to natural universal law.

He also understood the importance and power of the ancient scriptures, and held them in high esteem, and he saw that they teach resistance to illegitimate artificial laws, and that the scriptures actually illustrate non-violent civil disobedience, and provide a basis and foundation for it.

All of these lessons, and the sermons of Dr. King, are as vital today as they have ever been. And, they are vitally important for our own well-being as moral individuals.


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

"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 PlutarchOvid, 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.

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

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?

The death of Sitting Bull

The death of Sitting Bull

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Crazy Horse and Custer (1975), Stephen A. Ambrose describes the shameful treatment that he received after his surrender in 1881:

He was held prisoner at Fort Randall, South Dakota, for two years; in 1883 he was allowed to join the Hunkpapas at Standing Rock Agency in North Dakota. There he and his people began to starve because of government neglect. Sitting Bull rose to address one set of stuffed-shirt commissioners from Washington and said, "It is your own doing that I am here; you sent me here and advised me to live as you do, and it is not right for me to live in poverty." Senator John A. Logan of Illinois told him to sit down, that he had no right to speak, because he had "no following, no power, no control, and no right to control." 480.

In October of 1890, Sitting Bull joined the Ghost Dance movement, which was spreading through the western Sioux and which taught that by performing a five-day ritual dance which involved inducing trance-conditions, spirits of the departed would be moved to return from the west, driving the whites from the Native American lands, and initiating a time of peace and plenty and a return to the old ways. The dancing and the fervor that the Ghost Dance religion incited greatly worried the government agents in charge of the agencies, who generally opposed it and in some cases tried to limit it or suppress it as much as they could.

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

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

Describing Agent James McCloughlin of the Standing Rock agency, where Sitting Bull was living in 1890, Mooney says:

McLaughlin, the veteran agent of Standing Rock, who probably knew the Sioux better than any other white man having official relations with them, states that among his people there was nothing in word or action to justify such a suspicion, and that he did not believe such an imprudent step was seriously contemplated by any of the tribe, and concludes by saying that he has every confidence in the good intentions of the Sioux as a people, that they would not be the aggressors in any hostile act, and that if justice were only done them no uneasiness need be entertained. He complains, however, of the evil influence exercised by Sitting Bull and a few other malcontents attached to his agency and advises their removal from among the Indians. 843 - 844.

However, in the same year (1890), official records indicate that the beef ration issued to the American Indians on the reservation, who were now dependent on the US government for their food having been denied their previous way of life, was cut by more than 50% of the levels that were stipulated in the treaties and that had been issued in the previous years (Mooney 845). At the Pine Ridge agency, Mooney reports that after repeated requests brought no change, "at last in the summer of 1890 the Indians at Pine Ridge made the first actual demonstration by refusing to accept the deficient issue and making threats against the agent" (845). 

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

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

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

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

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

Mooney relates what happened next:

On consultation between the commandant and the agent, who were in full accord, it was decided to make the arrest on the 20th, when most of the Indians would be down at the agency for rations, and there would consequently be less danger of a conflict at the camp. On the 14th, however, late Sunday afternoon, a courier came from Grand river with a message from Mr. Carignan, the teacher of the Indian school, sating, on information given by the police, that an invitation had just come from Pine Ridge to Sitting Bull asking him to go there, as God was about to appear. Sitting Bull was determined to go, and sent a request to the agent for permission, but in the meantime had completed preparations to go anyhow in case permission was refused. With this intention it was further stated that he had his horses already selected for a long and hard ride, and the police urgently asked to be allowed to arrest him at once, as it would be a difficult matter to overtake him after he had once started. 
It was necessary to act immediately, and arrangements were made between Colonel Drum and Agent McLaughlin to attempt the arrest at daylight the next morning, December 15. The arrest was to be made by the Indian police, assisted, if necessary, by a detachment of troops, who were to follow within supporting distance. 855.

Forty-three agency policemen (Native Americans) and about 100 troops of the 8th Cavalry along with a Hotchkiss gun arrived at Sitting Bull's camp just before daybreak. Mooney narrates:

At daybreak on Monday morning, December 15, 1890, the police and volunteers, 43 in number, under command of Lieutenant Bull Head, a cool and reliable man, surrounded Sitting Bull's house. He had two log cabins, a few rods apart, and to make sure of their man, eight of the police entered one house and ten went into the other, while the rest remained on guard outside. They found him asleep on the floor in the larger house. He was aroused and told he was a prisoner and must go to the agency. He made no objection, but said "All right; I will dress and go with you." He then sent one of his wives to the other house for some clothes he desired to wear, and asked to have his favorite horse saddled for him to ride, which was done by one of the police. On looking about the room two rifles and several knives were found and taken by the police. While dressing, he apparently changed his mind and began abusing the police for disturbing him, to which they made no reply. While this was going on inside, his followers, to the number of perhaps 150, were congregating about the house outside and by the time he was dressed an excited crowd of Indians had the police entirely surrounded and were pressing them to the wall. On being brought out, Sitting Bull became greatly excited and refused to go, and called on his followers to rescue him. Lieutenant Bull Head and Sergeant Shave Head were standing on each side of him, with Second Sergeant Red Tomahawk guarding behind, while the rest of the police were trying to clear the way in front, when one of Sitting Bull's followers, Catch-the-Bear, fired and shot Lieutenant Bull Head in the side. Bull Head at once turned and sent a bullet into the body of Sitting Bull, who was also shot through the head at the same moment by Red Tomahawk. 857.

Thus ended the earthly sojourn of Tatanka Iyotanke.

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

Mooney reflects upon the significance of his life:

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

Mooney's defense of Sitting Bull was, as he says in the passage above, unusual at the time that he was writing (1895 or 1896 -- it was published in 1896), at a time when Sitting Bull was often being "mercilessly denounced." 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Long before the Battle of the Little Bighorn, when the Oregon Trail which ran through Lakota territory began to be more heavily traveled in the years following the discovery of gold in California in 1848-1849 and some of the Sioux began to crave whiskey, coffee, sugar, baked goods, metal implements, and guns and to settle along the Oregon Trail in order to trade pelts or other items for these products of western civilization, Sitting Bull already saw the danger. In Crazy Horse and Custer, Stephen Ambrose relates:

When Crazy Horse was still a small boy, the not-yet-famous Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Sioux, urged his people to leave the Oregon Trail and withdraw to the ways of their ancestors. "I don't want to have anything to do with people who make one carry water on the shoulders and haul manure," Sitting Bull declared. "The whites may get me at last, but I will have good times till then. You are fools to make yourselves slaves to a piece of fat bacon, some hardtack, and a little sugar and coffee." 17.


The jury

The jury

Quotation from Lysander Spooner on the absolute importance of the jury of the people:

"The trial by jury," then, is a "trial by the country" -- that is, by the people -- as distinguished from a trial by the government.
It was anciently called "Trial per pais" -- that is, "trial by the country." And now, in every criminal trial, the jury are told that the accused "has, for trial, put himself upon the country; which country you (the jury) are."
The object of this trial "by the country," or by the people, in preference to a trial by the government, is to guard against every species of oppression by the government. In order to effect this end, it is indispensable that the people, or "the country," judge of and determine their own liberties against the government; instead of the government's judging of and determining its own powers over the people.
-- Lysander Spooner, An Essay on the Trial by Jury, 1852. Page 6 (italics in original).

No one has a right to use physical violence against the person of another. This basic truth forms the foundation of what is sometimes called "natural law," but which could also be called "universal law" or even "natural universal law."

That no one has a right to use physical violence against the person of another should be self-evident. It should need no supporting arguments in order to establish. The self-evidential nature of the right to freedom from violence against one's person is declared in the stirring opening sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence of 1776: 

We hold these Truths to be self-evident: that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness -- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed [. . .].

The truth that no one has a right to use physical violence against the body of another is discussed in numerous previous posts, such as this one entitled "

Why violence is wrong, even in a holographic universe," and this one entitled "Does writing something on a piece of paper make it a 'law'?"

Natural law, however, does recognize that there is always a right to use force in order to stop physical violence against one's self or against another. In fact, this is the only legitimate use of force, and because life is precious we actually have a duty to stop harm being done to another. If we need help, we have a right and a duty to call others to help us to stop such harm. The Declaration itself confirms the above view when it says that governments are instituted in order to secure (that is to say, to protect) the inherent, self-evident right to life.

The way that governments protect life is through police forces who are authorized to use force to stop violence,  and through jury trials in which juries of men and women rule on violations.

But what about the danger that the government itself is the one using violence? That situation is called tyranny. The importance of the jury as a bastion against government tyranny is little appreciated or understood. It is absolutely critical. It is perhaps the greatest guardian that the people have against government tyranny.

Lysander Spooner recognized this fact, and expressed it in his Essay on the Trial by Jury, published in 1852 and cited above. If the men and women of the world have overlooked or forgotten the importance of their right to serve on juries, the events in Ferguson, Missouri should have reminded everyone.

As explained below, I believe the evidence shows that at least four of the members of the jury made a terrible mistake in the grand jury decision they rendered this past Monday.

There are a large number of people who believe that the shooting of Mike Brown by a member of the police was a crime, and not an act of self-defense. A prosecuting attorney was selected by the county to act as a representative of the people to bring before a grand jury of twelve men and women, who also represent the people, the evidence that a crime might have been committed. Regardless of the fact that it can be argued that the prosecuting team did not necessarily act out their role in complete good faith, the undeniable fact remains that no matter how biased that prosecuting team may have been, the power to send this thing to court rested in the hands of a jury.

This jury was composed of twelve men and women who could have sent it to a criminal trial, and no one could tell them how to rule: no attorney, no law enforcement officer, no senator or member of congress, no governor, no president, no judge. They had the power to rule one way or the other, based on the evidence they heard, on the question of whether a criminal trial was called for.

Under Missouri law in this situation, if nine or more of the twelve men and women on the jury said a criminal trial was called for, the case would have gone to court for a criminal trial. While there may indeed be much to criticize about the way the evidence was presented to them by the prosecuting team, who (as the prosecution) were supposed to be presenting the evidence showing that a criminal trial was appropriate in this case, ultimately the responsibility to make the decision rested with the men and women of the grand jury -- and no prosecuting attorney or member of the government should have been able to stop them from ruling on the evidence that they did hear in any way that they saw fit.

Think about that, the next time you are called for a jury: it may be the most important thing you do that day, or even that month. Maybe not all of the members of this Ferguson jury were able to see the clear evidence that should have sent this case to a trial, but if just a few of them could see it (or even just one

of them), and explain it clearly enough to enable the others to see it also, the course of history could have been very different than the situation we have now.

Those who do not think that this case should have gone to trial are generally taking the position that use of force is absolutely legitimate in cases of self-defense: that is, in stopping violence against one's person. I agree with that premise: force is authorized in self-defense, and even deadly force.

But deadly force is not justified over, for example, an insult. Deadly force is not justified over, for example, a desire to "save face" in front of a community. Deadly force is not justified if you get angry or frustrated. If there is probable cause to believe that deadly force was used in this case for a reason like that, instead of strictly in self-defense, then the case should go to trial.

Note well: One need not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the cop in this case used deadly force for one of those reasons such as to avenge an insult or out of sheer anger (rather than strictly in self-defense) in order to believe it should go to trial. One only need believe that there is probable cause to believe that the killing could have been motivated by anger, or by desire for revenge, or even by racial animus on the part of the shooter, to send it to trial.

Note also that one need not take the position that all cops are bad or anything like that in order to believe that a specific policeman might have stepped over the line in this case. You can believe very deeply that law enforcement is a very difficult job and a necessary job, and that most of those doing it are there for honest and good reasons and are honest and good people who want to stop violence and protect other people from harm: but believing all of that does not mean you have to close your eyes to the possibility that an abuse of power could take place. Believing all of that does not require you to take the extreme position that every single member of law enforcement is always right no matter what they do.

And, in this case, despite the arguably very biased conduct of the prosecuting team, enough evidence was presented for reasonable men and women to conclude that there is probable cause to believe more may have been at work here than self-defense:

  • That discrepancy throws a great deal of suspicion onto Wilson's testimony. In addition to the discrepancies between the testimony given by Wilson and that given by Dorian Johnson, it should be enough to convince a juror that there is probable cause to send this to a trial. It establishes fairly convincingly that Wilson is lying in at least one important detail of his testimony. The explanation that Wilson somehow just slipped up in his testimony is not at all likely, if you read his descriptions during his testimony on pages 209, 231, 240, and 253-254: there, Wilson gives testimony in which he clearly portrays his awareness of the robbery of the market as an important part of the story:
  • There is one other item that the jury should have seen in the evidence that was presented (although one could argue that any one of the above arguments already presented should have been enough for a jury to send this case to trial). That is the case of the previous incident in which it was alleged that Darren Wilson beat up a black man who said something to Wilson that Wilson did not like. This evidence is presented on pages 184 - 185:
  • Of course, the above incident is described as having been completely resolved and all accusations against Wilson and the two other policemen were determined to have been "unfounded." The initial accusation was that an African-American male "used racial slurs" against Wilson, who then (along with two other cops) beat up the black man so badly he had bleeding on the brain. But the incident was resolved as having actually involved the black man "breaking in" to Wilson's car, and then running away and hitting his face when he was tackled by "one of" the policemen (who were off-duty at the time). Now, this incident may indeed have happened as described in the second version and not the first, but note the startling similarities to the incident with Mike Brown in some of the details included in this incident: there is disrespectful language by a black male directed to Wilson, followed by allegations of excessive force, and the final story is that the black male was breaking into Wilson's car.  In addition to all the evidence already seen, this introduces the distinct possibility that Wilson may have a problem with controlling his response to perceived disrespect from black men. It is certainly not conclusive evidence of that, but it introduces the possibility, and it is a possibility not inconsistent with the description of the incident presented in the grand jury investigation (especially the description as given by Dorian Johnson, one of the two black males confronted by Wilson in this fatal incident). 
  • During Wilson's testimony, one of the members of the grand jury apparently exercised his or her right to ask Wilson questions about whether he had ever used force and injured a member of the "predominantly African-American neighborhoods" where Wilson had always been assigned, possibly with this very incident (which had been recounted prior to Wilson coming in to give his account) in mind:
  • The denial by Wilson when asked directly about times that he has used force in the past appears to contradict the fact that someone was obviously injured to some extent in the incident just described. It serves to add another level of doubt regarding Wilson's testimony. 

The evidence above was all presented to the members of the jury in the grand jury investigation. Even just one or two of them should have been enough to argue that there is sufficient evidence to introduce probable cause to conclude a criminal trial could be necessary. If there is the possibility that a member of the police force shot and killed a member of the public out of some kind of animus, or simply out of rage, then that needs to go to trial. 

Again, it should be stated very clearly: one can support the mission of those whose job it is to stop violence (such as law enforcement), and still believe that the people have a duty to send to trial when there is evidence that a crime was committed by a member of law enforcement. To argue otherwise is to place members of the government or of law enforcement above the law, and to do so is to invite tyranny.

It should also be noted that one need not "convict" the officer in question in one's mind in order to argue that it should go to trial: it is only necessary to see that there is clearly enough evidence to give probable cause to believe that a crime might have been committed. The officer should of course be considered innocent until proven guilty, and the burden of proof is on the prosecution in such a case. The officer should and will have access to defense attorneys to help him (or her) tell his (or her) side of the story.

Lysander Spooner wrote that the jury of men and women from the people was an essential guard against "every species of oppression by the government." It is probably safe to say that very few people today understand how absolutely essential the jury is as a safeguard against tyranny. 

In fact, in many ways the right to serve on a jury is as important -- sometimes even more important -- as the right to vote (both, of course, are important checks on the government's power). If people feel that their votes do not count, then they should consider how important their vote is when they are selected to serve on a jury. And, on a jury, not only does their vote count, but during deliberation they have the opportunity to present their arguments to the rest of the jury, to point out things that others may not have noticed. 

In light of that, every man and woman should pay great attention to the importance of analysis as a general skill that is essential in daily life, and pay attention to it before they get onto a jury, so that when and if they are selected to serve on a jury they can analyze the evidence upon which enormous decisions may hinge.

The Ferguson grand jury decision should serve as a huge wake-up call to the importance of the jury composed of the people, and of the importance of good analysis.

Shem, Ham and Japheth

Shem, Ham and Japheth

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In The Undying Stars, I explain that I employ a very broad understanding of the terms "literalist" or "literalism" in categorizing approaches to ancient scriptures. 

On page ii of the preface, for instance, I write that: 

For the purposes of the discussions in this book, all those teachings which assert that these scriptures are primarily intended to be understood as describing literal historical figures are grouped under the term 'literalist," while recognizing that there still exists a wide range within literalism regarding hermeneutics and doctrine.

In other words, in this very broad application of the term, interpreters using a "literalist" hermeneutic may also acknowledge many deep layers of additional metaphorical, typological, and even esoteric meaning in addition to the literal interpretation of what is being described. But if those interpreters are of the opinion that one cannot jettison the literal and historical event while holding on to the additional metaphorical layers (and this position characterizes most of what has been considered "orthodox" doctrine in the west for the past seventeen centuries), then that is what I call a literalist hermeneutic.

Saying an interpretation is broadly "literalist" is not intended to imply that those using that interpretation are unaware or resistant to additional layers of meaning -- but it does imply that they would be most uncomfortable, or even vehemently opposed, to the suggestion that a passage is entirely metaphorical and that it did not also take place in literal history largely as described. 

As I further explain in a recent interview on Gnostic Warrior Radio, I also believe that everyone is entitled to examine the evidence and reach his or her own conclusion regarding the degree to which the ancient sacred mythologies of humanity should be taken literally. 

However, I qualified that statement by saying that when a literalist hermeneutic is used to support systematic violation of the inherent human rights of other men and women, then it should be clear that some kind of serious mistake has been made, and the connection between the literalist understanding and the violation of natural universal law should be closely examined and the points being used to falsely condone such violations should be exposed and argued against (while at the same time, of course, the criminal behavior that they are being used to support should be stopped and restitution made as appropriate to those whose rights have been violated).

Unfortunately, it can be clearly demonstrated that there have been many historical examples of the use of literalist interpretations of the scriptures to support massive, institutionalized, systemic violations of natural universal law, including atrocities which can be seen to fit the modern definitions of genocide, including the forced conversions to Christianity at the point of a sword by the armies of Charlemagne in northern Europe and the brutal destruction of previous forms of worship and culture, the horrific atrocities visited upon the Native American peoples of Central, South, and North America and the deliberate and systematic destruction of their way of life, and the longstanding system of racist intergenerational slavery instituted with the trans-Atlantic slave trade to the Americas following their "discovery" by Columbus and his companions. 

If all of the examples of literalist interpretation of ancient scriptures in the previous paragraph happen to involve the literal interpretation of the Biblical scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, I believe that is because the virulent literalist version of Christianity which was successively instituted in the western Roman Empire during the decades stretching from the reign of the emperor Commodus through to the emperor Constantine and finally to the emperor Theodosius was created to impose literalism in place of the esoteric, shamanic, and (using the term broadly) gnostic understanding of sacred myth which had been present before and which the literalists set out to suppress and even destroy.

As the previous post entitled "The sacred celestial metaphors refute racism and sexism" argues, literalist approaches to the scripture, which must by definition assert that the stories describe literal historical events enacted by literal historical human beings (and sometimes divine or semi-divine beings) on earth, often end up teaching the exact opposite of the message that would be reached through a metaphorical, allegorical, or esoteric approach to the text.

For example, in that previous post, it was alleged that the literal understanding of the Genesis 9 episode involving Shem, Ham (or Ham's son Canaan) and Japheth and the inebriated Noah (their father) has been used to divide humanity in the past, because the literal approach sees Shem, Ham (and Canaan) and Japheth as literal, historical individuals (or at least literal, historical nations of people), and then tries to trace the lineage of descent to various groups living today.

If, however, Shem, Ham (and Canaan) and Japheth -- along with their father Noah -- are all seen to be metaphorical representation of events depicted in the stars and constellations, then a very different conclusion can be reached . . . because it is much more unlikely that lineages and genealogies of living groups of men and women will be traced back to constellations, since constellations are not normally thought of as being capable of procreating and bearing children. 

The metaphorical understanding can actually lead to a message that unites humanity, rather than dividing humanity the way the literalist interpretations can often tend to do. This is because the assertion that we are "descended" in some way from the celestial figures of Shem, Ham and Japheth can only be seen metaphorically, and thus it is teaching us something about the human condition -- something that applies to all mankind (after all, we all share the same stars over our heads: the stars are global in scope and do not belong to one specific group of people living in one specific point on the planet).

All that being said, the previous post did not actually trace out the celestial origins of Shem, Ham and Japheth, but merely noted that Noah can be shown to be closely connected to the zodiac constellation of Aquarius (this is detailed in The Undying Stars, pages 47 - 50), and that if their father is a constellation, then Shem, Ham and Japheth cannot be literal human beings but must be metaphorical as well.

But, can we find any celestial connections for Shem, Ham and Japheth, based on the clues which are provided in the ancient Hebrew scriptures?

Indeed, I believe we can! And, as far as I know, these connections that I am about to articulate have not been argued previously. This is my interpretation of the text, and its relationship to the stars, based on my understanding of the celestial system of metaphor which can be seen to be operating in the sacred myths and traditions of cultures around the globe and across the millennia.

I believe that the critical clues regarding the identity of Shem, Ham and Japheth can be found in the events related in Genesis 9:20-27 (the same verses which have been used in the past to argue that "Hamitic" people or those deemed to be descended from Ham have been "cursed" and can be made to serve those claiming to be the descendants of Ham's two brothers).

There, we read:

20 And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:
21 And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.
23 And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father's nakedness.
24 And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him.
25 And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.
26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.
27 God shall enlarge Japheth, and he shall dwell in the tents of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.

This incident can be seen depicted in art, above in an image from 1493, and also in the image below from around 1360 -- in the second image, the action of Shem and Japheth to suspend a sheet between the two of them and walk backwards to cover up their inebriated father's nakedness without seeing it (as they would if they walked the sheet forward) is perhaps more clearly illustrated:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In both pictures, Ham is labeled (on the far left in the image just above, and in the center of the two brothers in the image at the top of this post, where he is labeled as Cham, since an /h/ can be a "pharyngeal fricative" in non-English languages, particularly Hebrew, which means that Ham is very probably related to Khem, which is the ancient name of the land of Egypt).

Now, if our identification of Noah with Aquarius is accurate, we must ask ourselves if there are any constellations nearby which might resemble a "sheet," and in particular a sheet which is "held up in between" two other figures, so to speak.

Below is a screenshot of the region of the night sky surrounding the constellation Aquarius, taken from the helpful and user-friendly Neave Planetarium online browser-based application. The constellations are not outlined with the user-friendly outlines suggested by H. A. Rey (whose system I wholly endorse for visualizing the constellations). Those outlines will be supplied in the chart which will follow, but the screenshot below is provided so that you can see what the region looks like without all the labels, and so that you can see that there is indeed a great square "sheet" which is suspended in between two other celestial figures: it is the Great Square of Pegasus (labeled in the next diagram) and it is suspended between the two fish of Pisces (who are tied together by a long, V-shaped "band"): 

I believe that Shem and Japheth are the two "fishes" of Pisces, and the "sheet" which they lay upon their shoulders and carry backwards in order to cover their inebriated father's nakedness (he being the constellation Aquarius) is in fact the Great Square of Pegasus.

If the two "good brothers" are the two carrying the sheet (that is, carrying the Great Square), then who is playing the role of the third brother, Ham? Who is the one who angers Noah by seeing his nakedness, and who is subsequently "cursed"?

Look again at the diagram above (and the chart below in which I have outlined all the pertinent constellation-actors in the story, with labels), and you will see that Ham is almost certainly the zodiac constellation Capricorn, who can be seen to be "staring" almost straight at the "nakedness" of the drunken Aquarius (that is to say, at the part of Aquarius which could be interpreted as referring to a specific and distinctive part of the male anatomy, which feature of the constellation Aquarius gave rise to the story's reference to the "nakedness" of Noah in the first place):

In the above diagram, all the players upon the celestial stage are labeled. We have Noah, who has become inebriated and passed out (spilling his wine out of his wine-jug). We have Ham, in the figure of Capricorn, seeing his father's nakedness (Genesis 9:22). And we have the "sheet," in the figure of the Great Square of Pegasus, being born upon the shoulders of Shem and Japheth, who in this instance are the two fishes of the zodiac constellation of Pisces. 

Note additionally that Ham (the son who receives the "curse" in Genesis 9) is associated with one of the two signs that are found at the very bottom of the zodiac wheel (Capricorn the Goat, who shares the position at the very Pit of the year alongside Sagittarius). This position is consistent with Capricorn's association with the "cloven-hoofed" devil figure, and also with the concept of the "scape-goat" (who receives the curse -- exactly as Ham is seen to do, in this passage).

Note also that this identification of Ham with Capricorn at the bottom of the lower half of the zodiac wheel is consistent with the arguments presented in the post entitled "No hell below us . . . " that stories in the Old Testament about going "down to Egypt" or being imprisoned in Egypt refer to the lower half of the zodiac wheel. Remember that the name Ham when pronounced with a "hard 'h'" or "fricative h" can be seen to be closely related to the name Khem, or Egypt. Because the Old Testament system of allegory uses "the Promised Land" for their "upper half of the wheel," they use Egypt as the lower half of the wheel, whereas in the Iliad of ancient Greece, Troy and the Trojans play the role of the lower half of the wheel, and Achaea and the Achaeans or Danaans play the role of the upper half.

These details should help cement the argument being presented for the identity of Ham and his father and brothers in the constellations, and to help us see that none of this is literal: we don't have to be sad for a literal Ham who received this curse from a literal Noah, and we can immediately see that any racist ideologies which try to support their ideas with the story of Shem, Ham and Japheth are gravely mistaken.

The color-coding used in the star-chart above (with Shem in red, Japheth in green and Ham in blue) is consistent with that used in some of the many maps which have been prepared throughout the centuries to identify actual groups of people who are supposedly descended from these scriptural characters (based on a literalist interpretation, of course, since it would be difficult to argue that any actual people-groups on earth are physically descended from a group of stars). 

In the map below from 1839 by Charles Monin, for instance, people deemed to be descendants of Shem are underlined in red (as is the broad label across the middle of the map designating the extended family of Shem), people deemed to be descendants of Japheth are underlined in green, and people deemed to be descendants of Ham are underlined in blue. The three brothers can even be seen to be wearing those colors (red for Shem, green for Japheth in his headband, and blue for Ham) in the 1493 artwork depicting the scene at the top of this post.

You can go to the actual map at its address on Wikimedia commons here, and click on the map and enlarge it, and then click on it again to enlarge still further in order to read the many labels on this fascinating map (based as it is upon what I believe to be a misguided literalist hermeneutic). 

Much more could be said about the significance of the fact that Shem, Ham and Japheth are actually celestial figures and not literal historical human beings who walked the earth, but some of the most important points perhaps are those that have been made many times previously, one of which is that if the scriptures are saying that we are all descended from the stars, then this teaching implies that we are connected to the stars ("as above, so below") and by extension that we are connected to all the universe and to all of nature as well. 

This also means that every human being you ever meet is a "little universe," containing the entire universe and thus a wondrous creation worthy of respect and dignity, which can be expressed in the greeting or the mudra for "Namaste" as well as the ancient word and hand-gesture for "Amen."

It also means that doing violence against another man or woman is inherently and unequivocally wrong.

Additionally, if the scriptures are telling us that we are all descended from the stars or from the realm of the stars, this can metaphorically be understood as teaching us something about the cosmology of the universe and about human existence itself -- and can be interpreted as teaching the existence of a spirit worldfrom which we and in fact everything in this material world are somehow "projected," and which we and every other person we meet and all of nature around us somehow contain as well (the "divine spark" buried in each incarnate human being, and pulsing below the surface of every rock, leaf, tree, bird, and beast and so forth).

Once again, the metaphorical and celestial understanding of the mythical story can be seen to be a unifying and uplifting message (as well as a shamanic message) -- which is very different from the way this story has often been used to divide and to oppress based upon a literalistic understanding of the passage. Now that you understand its celestial foundations, you can take this unifying and uplifting message into your own life, and -- if appropriate -- share it with others.