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Your INFINITELY "big screen"

Your INFINITELY "big screen"

This weekend is the time of year when, at least in the US, much attention becomes riveted to screens in family rooms and living rooms in homes around the nation, as people gather together to watch the Super Bowl. The fact that nearly as much attention and discussion will be lavished upon the commercials and advertisements as will be devoted to analyzing the game over the next few days following the event only goes to show that the entire spectacle in some sense can be seen as a gargantuan commercial or advertisement of some sort (the question of "an advertisement for what?" will be left to the reader to contemplate, or not, as desired).

Much attention will also be devoted to the size of the screens around which people will gather -- and new and larger and more densely-pixelated (more densely-megapixelated) screens will be purchased or rented for the occasion.

But however wonderful the screens we hang on our walls or carry around in our pockets and purses become, through the continued and accelerating onrush of technology, they will never (it seems safe to declare) become actually infinite in size or depth. 

And yet, we have at our disposal on nearly every clear night a "big screen" of truly unsurpassed wonderfulness, and one which is in fact infinite, incapable of being measured or bounded with dimensions, which we can go outside and enjoy at virtually no cost, if it is at all possible to do so.  

That infinite screen, of course, is the night sky -- the inky depths of space containing the countless glittering stars, most of which are also enormous suns hurtling along inside our own massive whirlpool of a galaxy, and some of which are not stars at all but galaxies in their own right, located at almost-inconceivable distances from our own.

When we stare up into the heavens at night, we are truly staring into infinity. And that is one reason why, as much benefit as we may derive from what we see on the various screens which surround us in our daily life, we should also endeavor -- as much as it is possible for us to do so -- to devote some time to watching the infinitely-big theater which plays out over our heads each and every clear night of the year.

Presently, there is a special array of stars and constellations making their way across that glorious stage. In fact, at this time of year in the time period around midnight, we can look up and see the layout of the stars which pioneering astro-theologian Robert Taylor believed to have been the foundation for the Christmas story of the birth in the manger. 

On pages 43 and 44 of the collection of his lectures published under the title Devil's Pulpit, he explains that the sun is, metaphorically speaking, described in ancient myth as being "born" at the midnight hour three days after winter solstice, when it finally begins to ascend back towards the top of its annual path, from the lowest point that it marks at winter solstice. And the zodiac constellation that was at the very top of the arc at the midnight hour on that special night two thousand years ago would have been the zodiac constellation containing a special cluster of stars known as the Beehive Cluster, but also known in ancient times as Praesepe, or "the Manger." 

Thus the sun, which is located at the exact other side of our planet when we look out to the top of the ecliptic band of the zodiac at the midnight hour, could be said to be "born" at the moment that the Manger was crossing that special summit-point on the zodiac's arc at midnight three days after winter solstice (midnight on December 24th).

The ages-long motion of precession (the phenomenon which causes the "precession of the equinoxes") acts to "delay" the background of stars from reaching the same point in the heavens on any selected day and time from one year to the next. In other words, if we are accustomed to seeing a certain star at the transit-point (the top of its arc) on a certain day and time each year (such as midnight on December 24th), the slow but inexorable motion of precession will delay its arrival at that point over the years -- but by such a tiny degree that it will only be delayed by one degree in 71.6 years. 

That means that if a certain star is located at transit (straight up from due south on our planet, if we are in the northern hemisphere, or crossing the imaginary line in the sky that arcs up from due south and over our heads through the north celestial pole and back down into the horizon at due north) at a certain specific time on the same date each year, it will be only one degree "delayed" from reaching that point on the same date at the same time, seventy-one-plus years later. More on this phenomenon is discussed in this previous post, and in several other places on the web.

Because of this delaying action, and the passage of thousands of years, the situation in the sky that prevailed at midnight on December 24th thousands of years ago has been "delayed" and would not be visible now on that date in the same way that it was back then. But you can go outside now at the beginning of February and see the sky at midnight with the constellations in their places, as Robert Taylor believes they were arranged for the turnaround of the sun's path after the three-day "pause" at the winter solstice, back when the ancient texts describing the birth in the manger were imparted to humanity.

You can find the beautiful Beehive Cluster in the constellation of Cancer the Crab at or near its transit-point (its highest point on its arc across the sky) right around midnight at this time of year. As you do so, you can also look to the west and see Orion and his three belt-stars (the "Three Kings") sinking down into the western horizon (ahead of them, more easily seen in the hours before midnight, you can see the glorious Pleiades). And you can look to the east and see the rising form of Virgo the Virgin, made more easy to locate by the presence of mighty Jupiter near the top of her head, and her outstretched arm marked by the star Vindemiatrix, which can be shown to have been envisioned as a divine child sitting in her lap in more than one ancient myth-system.

The situation at or near midnight at this time of year is diagrammed for you in the star-chart above, which is depicted for an observer in the northern hemisphere at about 35.6N latitude, looking towards the south (east thus being to the left and west to the right as we look at the image). If you want to locate the dazzling Beehive (and I highly recommend you give it a try, if it is at all possible for you to do so), the best way to find it is to look between the majestic head of Leo the Lion and the parallel forms of Gemini the Twins.

There are some previous posts which go into more detail on locating the Beehive: this one from 2014  goes into pretty extensive detail. The image above shows you the location of Gemini from Orion, which you should not have too much trouble in locating, and the form of Leo the Lion can be found by looking for the brilliant orb of Jupiter in the east part of the sky. The distance in the heavens between the mouth of Leo and the heads of the Twins is not very great: in that space between them is the very dim form of Cancer the Crab, and in the head of the Crab is the Beehive. You will almost see it "by intuition" with your naked eye, it is so faint -- but you should be able to "intuit" its presence in that space, if you are in an area that is dark enough. You will need a pretty dark location in order to see it (those living in big cities will have to drive away from the city lights, if that is possible to do for you).

I believe that the best way to try to see these heavenly objects is actually to lie down on your back, either on the ground or on a lawn chair: looking up at them while standing, especially if looking for the more difficult-to-spot objects, is pretty uncomfortable. The Beehive is absolutely wonderful to look at through binoculars, but it's not fun to try to do that when standing. Lie down and give yourself the best chance to see it and really enjoy it through your binoculars with your head supported by the ground beneath you. The best way to do it is to see it (or "intuit it") with your naked eye, and then look at that spot where you think you see it using the binoculars.

The section of the sky in front of the muzzle of the Lion which contains the Beehive is shown in an enlarged screen-shot, below:

If you are pretty sure of which stars you are looking at in the above representation, you may in fact be able to make out the tiny but gorgeous little cluster of stars that is the Beehive. It's about this size to the naked eye, in my experience. You may despair of seeing it in the night sky after reading that previous sentence, but don't! I believe that, given a clear night and a dark enough location, you may be able to perceive its location if you can find Leo and Gemini and look between them for a faint "blur" of stars, and then train your binoculars where you believe you see that "blur."

Below is the same image shown just above, only with the stars labeled: these are the primary landmarks for you to find the Beehive in the sky:

Even if you have seen the Beehive many times before, going out and looking at it is well worth it, whenever you are able to do so, in my opinion. I personally can look at the Beehive for long periods of time without any loss of fascination and wonder -- it is such a dazzling cluster of heavenly bodies.

Additionally, as mentioned above, you should also be able to see the Pleiades, sinking down towards the west, and from the same point on the ground where you are lying on your back to look at the Beehive (or the same lawn-chair), without really having to get up and move. Just train your eyes to the west and follow the line of Orion's unmistakeable belt of stars. Looking at the Pleiades through binoculars is similarly mesmerizing as is looking at the Beehive.

In addition to being an infinite "big screen," the heavens also point us towards the Infinite World of the spirit. The ancient myths all use the stars and the motions of the constellations in the cycles of the heavens as metaphors to convey to us truths about the Infinite Realm: the realm of spirit, the realm of the gods. It is no accident that they do so: when we look at the sky, we look into the infinite -- and the spirit realm is in fact in-finite, without material measurements or boundaries, as is the human soul.

The ancient wisdom imparted to the human race in all the different myths and sacred traditions from around the world always teaches that we have at all times and circumstances an inner connection to the infinite.

The outstretched or "upraised" arms of the constellation Cancer the Crab, in fact, were (in the world's ancient myth-systems) symbolic of the upraised spirit-aspect of our dual material-spiritual nature. More on this aspect of Cancer the Crab and the upraised arms can be found in previous discussions here and here, for instance.

The act of elevating the spirit-consciousness in ourselves and others -- the awareness (that is) of the fact that we are not "mere matter" or "mere animals" but that we have an immaterial and infinite aspect, as indeed does the entire cosmos around us -- is inherent in the concept of blessing, upon which the world's ancient texts and traditions place a tremendous amount of importance. 

The opposite action, of denying or attempting to "beat down" the awareness of this spiritual aspect in ourselves and others -- falsely trying to reduce a spiritual being into an "object" or a "brute beast" -- is accurately described as cursing

Contemplating the stars, and the infinite heavens above (it is safe to say) can and does help us in perceiving the infinite and spiritual aspect in ourselves and in the entire universe around us. 

Time spent on all the "other kinds" of screens (it is also safe to say) does not always do so -- and can in fact point us in the opposite direction, which is actually a false direction (to the extent that it denies the reality of our infinite and spiritual nature, and the infinite and spiritual aspect of the universe around us).

This is not to say that the material found on the "non-infinite" screens of the world is always debasing, or that it is never spiritually uplifting. That is actually not true at all (in fact, you're most likely reading this little essay on a screen, somewhere in the world). 

But, as wonderful as all the other screens on earth might be, we should certainly try to devote some time to contemplating and enjoying that infinitely wonderful heavenly realm which is spread out over our heads, each and every night, if (as said before) it is at all possible for us to do so.

I sincerely hope that doing so will be a blessing to you.

Into their own country another way

Into their own country another way

image: Stellarium.

Now that the day of Christmas has passed, and now that the full moon that was in the sky during that time has begun to rise later and later each night as it wanes towards new moon (enabling better star-gazing), those wishing to contemplate the celestial motions on which the familiar story is almost certainly patterned have a wonderful opportunity to go outside and watch the heavenly figures in action for themselves.

Seeing it take place in person can -- I believe -- open up an entirely new and personal level of apprehension (a word that has as its root a verb meaning "to seize" or "to grasp") of the powerful knowledge that the ancient story was intended to convey.

I have previously published a short video which details some of the abundant evidence suggesting that the stories found in the scriptures that became what we commonly call the Old and New Testaments of the Bible are based upon the motions of the stars. I'm going to repeat a bit of the argument covered in that video here, with some new diagrams, in order to explain how you can go out and observe the  celestial actors for yourself, and also in order to offer a few brief suggestions as to what these ancient texts might be trying to tell us.

There are specific details in the texts from which we derive the Christmas story which argue very strongly that the texts themselves were never intended to be understood as describing events which happened in literal, terrestrial history. One such indication from the texts themselves is the familiar story of the visit of the "wise men" or Magi. 

The event is described in the gospel according to Matthew, where we read in the first verses of chapter 2 that "when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise me from the east to Jerusalem" (Matthew 2: 1). The text tells us that they "saw his star in the east" and had therefore come to worship him (verse 2), and later that "the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was" (verse 9).

These verses cause something of a geographic problem, for those who wish to interpret the text as describing an event which took place in terrestrial history (but no problem at all if those texts are describing an event which takes place in the celestial realms above, as we will see momentarily). As typically understood, the Magi came from the east, and followed a star which they saw in the east, and which "stood over where the young child was," thus leading them to the place where they would find the divine child.

No matter where on the planet you choose to try to make these verses work, they require some significant contortions if they are interpreted as describing a journey on the planet's surface, as the diagram below attempts to illustrate:

image: Wikimedia commons (link); modified.

The geographic problem, as may perhaps be best perceived by looking at the map above on which north is "up" as we look at the page, east is to our right and west is to our left as we look at it, should be immediately clear if we try to imagine the Magi traveling from the east while simultaneously following a star which they have seen in the east

The arrow shows a possible terrestrial route or general direction of travel for the wise men in the story (but note that it does not really matter where on the planet we draw this arrow -- the "from the east" problem will still remain). If they come from the east while following a star seen in the east, they will not get to Jerusalem or Bethlehem or anywhere else that is to the west, unless they go east and keep on going east for a very long time and circle the globe.

However, this "geographic problem" is only a problem if we try to understand the text as if it were speaking in the language of literal, terrestrial history. If the text is instead understood to be speaking in the language of the stars and constellations and heavenly cycles, then the problem resolves itself most satisfactorily.

As Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844) proposes in a series of talks entitled "The Star of Bethlehem (parts I, II and III)" and delivered over three weeks in November of 1830, all of which were later published in a collection of his lectures entitled The Devil's Pulpit (available online here and in physical print in various places), the Magi in the story, who have traditionally been referred to as the "three kings" since ancient times, may be identified with the three glorious belt-stars of the constellation Orion, a constellation who dominates the night sky during the winter months (see especially pages 43 - 44). 

These three stars that make up Orion's belt are among the brightest and most-recognizable groupings of stars in the entire celestial panoply -- and in their dignified motion across the sky they do indeed begin in the east, as do all the other celestial objects including our sun, due to the motion of earth's daily rotation on its axis.

As they pass the zenith point in their progression across the sky, and begin to arc back downwards towards the west (where they will eventually set), the constellation Virgo the Virgin will begin to rise in the east -- and the star which marks her outstretched arm was interpreted in many Star Myths from around the world as a young child either nursing at her breast or sitting upon her lap. 

Because the Virgin (and the star that marks her child) is rising in the east even as Orion is beginning to go down in the west, it is entirely appropriate to say that the "three kings" of Orion's belt (who came across the sky from the east

) now look and see the child's star

in the east.   

This neatly resolves any dilemma with the text -- and shows that the scriptures were not at all mixed up in their description of the directions, and that they did not intend for those directions to be applied to terrestrial events, but rather to celestial ones.

The diagram below shows the scene as it appears in the sky at this very time of year. The three belt-stars of the constellation Orion are framed with a bright yellow line above and below, and the direction that they have traveled from the east is indicated by red arrows. The extended arm of Virgo is indicated by a purple arrow, pointing to the bright star Vindemiatrix which was sometimes envisioned as a child in her arms or on her lap:

Note that in the above diagram, we are facing towards the south, because an observer in the northern hemisphere, which this image replicates using the outstanding open-source planetarium app Stellarium, must look towards the south in order to see the zodiac constellations such as Virgo, and in order to see the belt-stars of Orion, which are located almost exactly upon the celestial equator, which is an imaginary line found "ninety degrees down" from the north celestial pole (located "behind our back" in this illustration) or "ninety degrees up" from the south celestial pole (if you are in the southern hemisphere).

Of course, because we are facing south in the illustration above, the eastern horizon is to our left and the western horizon is to our right (and that is indicated in the diagram).

You may be familiar enough with the stars and constellations to envision the outlines of Orion and Virgo in the diagram above, but in order to help out, I have added their outlines in the diagram below, which is identical to the one shown above but with a few additional lines and labels:

Virgo is shown on the left, and you can see that both the moon and the bright planet Jupiter are currently near the crown of her head (the moon will continue rising later and later each evening, and will move out of the area of Virgo in a couple more days). 

The diagram above also adds the outline of Cancer the Crab, which is straight up over the due-south direction (at its highest point on its arcing path across the sky, a point known as "transit" and also as its "culmination" and its "zenith"). As Robert Taylor also explains in the lectures referenced above, the constellation Cancer contains the beautiful and very significant cluster of stars known as the Beehive Cluster, which was anciently also referred to as Praesepe -- "the manger" (probably because it is in between two stars known as the Northern Ass or Donkey-colt, and the Southern Ass or Donkey-colt).

As is well known, a different scripture text (found in the gospel according to Luke) says that the Virgin laid the child in a manger. As you can see from the time-marker in the lower-right part of the screen in the image above, the Beehive is crossing the zenith point just after two in the morning in the modern epoch -- but due to the "delaying action" of precession over the millennia, this is "behind schedule" compared to the time that it would have been crossing the zenith point thousands of years ago. 

There was a time in a previous epoch at which the "manger" in the Crab was crossing the zenith right at midnight on the nights surrounding winter solstice (instead of around two in the morning as it does today, due to the delay) -- and Robert Taylor believed that this explains the aspect of the story of the baby being born in a manger, because it is at the winter solstice that the year or the sun is reborn. 

The point of winter solstice, as explained in some detail in previous posts such as this one and

this one, was anciently used as a metaphor for the awakening of the consciousness to the existence of the connection to the Infinite, which actually permeates our entire universe and is (according to many ancient teachings) the "real world behind this one" from which the manifest world originates.

This awakening is powerfully expressed to us in the story of the birth of the divine child in the manger -- and expressed in many other forms and guises in countless other Star Myths from around the world. As the discussion above should convincingly indicate, the story is not intended to be taken as literal, terrestrial history -- which would make it a story about events (however wonderful, moving and mysterious) that happened to someone else in another time and place -- but rather to be understood as teaching you and me about something we need to know for ourselves

It describes the birth of awareness of the reality of and possibility for connection and communication with our own Higher Self (see discussions of the identity of Doubting Thomas and of the concept of  Thomas and the Divine Twin in previous posts for more on this subject). It is a birth that was described in many myths from around the world using the metaphor of a twin, but a twin so close that they are part of us -- "closer than a brother." And the profound teachings contained in this ancient celestial metaphor no doubt go on for layers far deeper than anything I can express in a written discussion, but must be experienced and grasped and felt by each person for himself or herself.

Perhaps one of the most singular lines in the Biblical text, and one on which I have not hitherto remarked, is found in the Matthew account, in verse 12 of the same chapter: "And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way."

Now that we understand the celestial foundations of this famous episode, we might be able to bring in an entirely new perspective to that phrase "another way"! Obviously, if they crossed the sky from east to west in an arcing path above the horizon at approximately zero degrees right ascension (that is to say, along the path of the celestial equator), the stars in question will return to "their own country" -- the east -- by an entirely different path! That is to say, they will do so (from our perspective) "under the earth," where neither Herod nor anyone else will be able to see them.

Celestially, this makes perfect sense, and adds another extremely satisfying piece of evidence to support the conclusion that the scriptural text itself is telling us that it is speaking in the language of the heavenly cycles, describing the motions of stars.

Spiritually, it opens up even more new paths of consideration for the apprehension of deep knowledge of profound benefit for our daily life in the here and now.

First, this "underworld path" was used in the ancient Star Myths of the world to symbolize our condition here in this incarnate form, where we find ourselves at this moment.

The motions of the stars (including the star we know as the sun) present us with a perfect metaphor for the interplay between the  realm of the infinite (the realm of the gods, the realm of pure potentiality in the language of quantum physics, in which finite boundedness has not yet manifested, which physicist David Bohm referred to as the "implicate order") and the realm of the incarnate, the material realm (in which "infinite possibility" has manifested into one of its potential forms, "temporarily unfolding" in the terminology with which David Bohm described it, into the "explicate order").

The stars arc across the sky -- traveling through a realm which is, in a very real sense, infinite. And yet, with the exception of those close enough to the two central hubs or celestial poles around which the sky appears to revolve (only one of which is visible to us at any given point on the globe, unless we happen to be located somewhere on the line of the equator), the stars cross that infinite realm only to dip down into contact with our horizon (note that if you are located on the line of the equator, none of the stars will fail to dip down below the horizon, although if you are far enough to the north, the stars making a circle fairly close to the point of the north celestial pole will not dip down below the horizon -- they are referred to as the "undying stars" in the texts of ancient Egypt).

When the stars sink below the horizon, they appear to leave the realm of infinity and plunge into the lower elements of matter -- disappearing into either earth or water, depending upon what you see when you look towards the western horizon from your location on our planet. Alvin Boyd Kuhn devotes several chapters in his masterful Lost Light (1940) to the spiritual symbolism that the ancient wisdom attaches to each of the so-called "four elements," and also argues that the ancients knew very well that there are not "only four elements" but that they used this system primarily for its outstanding capacity for conveying esoteric spiritual knowledge.

Thus, when the stars sink below the horizon and seem, from our perspective on the planet, to be "plowing through the underworld" on their way back to the eastern horizon, they symbolize rather perfectly a teaching about our own incarnate condition, plunged as we are into a body composed of earth and water (or clay, as Genesis describes the material from which Adam is fashioned). When the "three kings" go back to their own country by "another way," they are symbolizing our own sojourn through this apparently material world, this "explicate order."

And yet, in the very same verse, we see a very clear hint that the Magi have a very direct connection to the Infinite: they are "warned of God in a dream." In an altered state of consciousness, and one into which we enter basically every single day (every single rotation of this planet of ours, that is), the Magi receive messages from the divine.

Note that this teaching, contained in that very important verse Matthew 2: 12, resonates very powerfully with the message described as being given to another king, in another text of ancient scripture collected into what today we call the Bible -- the vision given to Solomon in a dream, in which he receives the gift of God-given wisdom, in the first fifteen verses of I Kings chapter 3. This powerful dream is recounted in the ancient scriptural text immediately prior to the famous episode of the living baby and the two mothers (hmmmm . . . many of the metaphors regarding the inception of the divinely-given awakening seem to have to do with a birth of a baby, the incarnation into this explicate order).

You can watch a previous video I made discussing the importance of the episode known as the "Judgment of Solomon" at about this time last year by following this link.

Thus, that amazing verse not only provides a powerful additional clue that the familiar story is built upon a celestial pattern, but it also provides a very strong indication that the story has to do with our own incarnation in this "explicate" order in which we find ourselves, but also with the necessity of our realization that while here we do have access -- not only through dreams but through a wide variety of other techniques and avenues, a variety that itself seems to be nearly infinite -- to the infinite realm, the realm of the divine, the realm of the unbounded, the "implicate order."

The way in which the story of the visit of the Magi is framed also makes it clear that access to that realm can be absolutely essential to the very practical questions of the path or way that we choose to follow "here below" as well.

As stated at the very beginning of this discussion, now is an ideal time to go outside and gaze into the infinity of the night sky to meditate upon these celestial cycles for yourself, if it is at all possible for you to do so. The glorious outline of the constellation Orion will be immediately visible to you as you go outside into the night at any time after sundown right now -- and may in fact take your breath away, as you first turn towards that part of the sky in which Orion is moving alongside the brilliant star Sirius (Sothis) and among the circle of other bright stars often referred to as the "winter circle."

In order to see Virgo rising with Vindemiatrix (her outstretched arm) and Spica (her brightest star, currently also accompanied by the planet Mars), along with the moon and Jupiter, you will have to wait until later in the evening (actually they are the early morning hours, after midnight). Virgo should begin to rise into view above the eastern horizon near one in the morning, depending on the skyline of your eastern horizon where you are. 

You will have to wait until shortly after two in the morning to see Cancer the Crab with the beautiful Beehive Cluster climb all the way to the transit point above the due-south line (if you are in the northern hemisphere), but you can actually observe the Beehive long before it reaches its transit or zenith point. The Beehive and the faint constellation of Cancer the Crab are located between the Twins of Gemini (who stretch out horizontally from the direction of Orion's trailing shoulder, and are part of the "winter circle" described above and discussed in the link to a post from back in 2011) and the mouth of the majestic constellation Leo the Lion. Here is a link to a previous post discussing some tips for finding the Beehive Cluster in the sky. 

Note that finding the Beehive does require a dark sky, so you will want to try to find it before the moon rises into view and if possible will want to get to a place where there is little or no ambient light from city streets or buildings.

But, no matter how many of the stars and heavenly figures you can actually identify, the very act of going out and gazing into the night sky can be conducive to a closer and deeper apprehension of the knowledge preserved for us in the ancient wisdom of the human race. When you stare out into space, you are in fact staring out into infinity. And, even if the only stars you can confidently identify are the three great belt-stars of Orion, you can gaze at them and think about the message of the turning-point of the year and the awakening to the reality of the infinite realm that this great pivot-point represents, and the connection we have to it, a connection which in fact is always present.

And, as we consider the evidence that the stories in the Bible follow the same system of celestial metaphor upon which virtually all the other sacred stories, scriptures, and myths of humanity are also founded, it should also become very clear that it is very likely that they were trying to tell us the same thing, and that there is no basis for disrespecting one expression of the ancient wisdom or trying to supplant it with another expression of the same ancient system.

I hope that you have an opportunity to go out and spend some time with the stars at this turning-point of the year, if it is at all possible for you to do so -- and I send my very sincere wishes for positive renewal and growth to each and every reader out there (wherever you are on this terrestrial ball) at the beginning of a new cycle.

Isis and Nephthys: March Equinox 2015

Isis and Nephthys: March Equinox 2015

foreground image: Book of the Dead, Papyrus of Ani, c. 1250 BC (modified), Wikimedia commons (link).

background image: Zodiac Wheel, Opus Medico-Chymicum, Johann Daniel Mylius, AD1618 (link).

As the earth speeds past the point of March equinox, days in the northern hemisphere begin to grow noticeably longer than nights, "crossing over" from the half of the year in which night rules over day, and ascending into the "upper half" of the year in which day, light, and warmth become more and more dominant.

The spinning earth will hurtle past the exact point of the equinox at 2245 UTC on 20 March this year, which corresponds to 1845 or 6:45 pm for observers in North America on the east coast, and 1545 or 3:45 pm for observers in North America on the west coast (and, if you are not in one of those two slices of the planet, you should be able to calculate the local time for your particular spot on the spinning globe based on the difference in longitude to your location from the line of UTC).

As previous posts have explained, the equinox marks the crossing of the plane of the ecliptic (the arc along which the sun appears to travel each day, due to the fact that we are standing on a spinning earth) and the celestial equator (that imaginary line in the sky that is 90 degrees down from the north celestial pole, or 90 degrees up from the south celestial pole, which are best visualized using the diagrams in this previous post, in which the celestial equator is the third and largest of the circles in each diagram), such that the sun's daily arc is north of the celestial equator during the day, which means it will be "above" it and closer to the apex-point of the sky for viewers in the northern hemisphere, and "below" it or closer to the horizon for viewers in the southern hemisphere.

Other significant actions will be taking place this year on the same day -- even as the "ship" of the earth passes "broadsides" to the sun (in the "earth-ship metaphor" in which the prow or bowsprit of the ship equates to the north pole, and the lantern in the stern of the ship equates to the south pole, as described in this previous post from winter solstice of 2011, the solstices being the two points at which either the bowsprit or the stern are pointing at the sun), the moon which is orbiting in circles around the earth is also passing directly between the earth and the sun itself, creating the monthly phenomenon of New Moon. The moon will pass that point of New Moon at 0938 UTC on 20 March.

Additionally, because the moon will simultaneously be crossing the ecliptic plane as it passes through the point of New Moon this month, it will create an eclipse of the sun which will be visible to many observers in northern portions of the eastern hemisphere

Because the moon does not orbit the earth on the plane of the ecliptic, but along a plane that is inclined to the plane of the ecliptic, it does not create an eclipse every time it passes between the earth and the sun. However, during its monthly orbit, its tilted orbital plane crosses once from "above to below," and once more from "below to above," the plane of the ecliptic. These lunar "crossing points" are referred to as the two "lunar nodes," also known as the "draconitic points." When the moon crosses through a lunar node at the point of New Moon, it blocks the sun for observers on some parts of our globe, and creates a solar eclipse (and when it passes a lunar node at the point of Full Moon, the earth blocks the sun and creates a lunar eclipse). These lunar nodes or draconitic points are discussed in this previous post, along with some diagrams and helpful links.

So, as the earth hurtles past one of the two annual "crossing points" that cause the ecliptic line to cross the celestial equator, the moon is also passing through one of the two monthly "crossing points" at which its path crosses the ecliptic, and it is doing so at the point of New Moon, to create a solar eclipse (the moon is "crossing down" on this particular New Moon).

Truly a stunning array of crossings! And one which cannot fail to produce feelings among us here on earth that these motions must somehow have significance in our own lives and persons.

In fact, the March equinox, when we leave the "lower half" of the year (for those in the northern hemisphere), was invested with profound significance in the ancient systems of sacred metaphor. 

It was encoded in myth and sacred scriptures and legends as the point of crossing up out of the land of bondage, or out of the underworld, such as in the Old Testament story of the escape from Egypt by means of the crossing of the Red Sea (see discussion in this previous post).

It was also seen as a place of sacrifice, as was the downward crossing point on the other side of the year, at the September equinox. 

As discussed in this previous post, the story of Abraham taking Isaac up the sacred mountain in order (he thinks) to sacrifice him contains numerous clues which show that it encodes the point of the year of the March equinox, when the sun and its ecliptic path are "climbing up" towards the summit of the year (for observers in the northern hemisphere). Because the upward crossing point at the March equinox took place each year when the sun was rising in the sign of Aries the Ram (during the precessional Age of Aries, discussed here and explained further in the video here), that story of sacrifice involving a trip up the mountain concludes with the substitutionary sacrifice of a Ram rather than of Isaac himself.

Similarly, the sacrifice of the Passover lambs took place immediately prior to the escape from enslavement in the land of Egypt (the "house of bondage," an esoteric and allegorical portrayal in myth of the lower half of the year), and the crossing of the Red Sea discussed earlier. The lamb is another indicator of the sign of Aries the Ram, the sign in which the sun would rise on the spring equinox during the Age of Aries. This is why the date of the Passover is tied to the March equinox, as is the Easter celebration of the sacrifice and subsequent rising of the Christ (described in Revelation 13:8 as "the Lamb who was slain from the foundation of the world"). 

These sacred writings are describing the annual crossing upwards, from death (the lower half of the year) to life. 

But it is very easy to make the mistake of concluding that this discovery means these ancient sacred stories are "only" about the natural phenomena of the annual cycle, the return of spring, the rebirth of flowers and growing things, etc. 

In other words, some who have noticed the undeniable connection between the scriptures and the motions of the heavens have concluded that this somehow diminishes their message, and makes it less about spiritual things and merely an ancient attempt to explain and perhaps to honor our amazing physical world.

This conclusion would be mistaken. 

It is in fact self-evident that the ancient scriptures and sacred traditions of humanity are concerned with  imparting profoundly spiritual truths, in addition to the fact that they demonstrate an incredibly sophisticated understanding of the glories of our universe and the motions of the earth in relation to the sun, moon, planets and stars, and the cycles of the seasons and the heavenly bodies and even the cycles of the subtle motion of precession.

The originators of the myths and sacred stories and ancient scriptures of the world do not go to the trouble of encoding all these motions in their stories about men and women, gods and goddesses, giants and demons and spirits, just because they were trying to explain where lightning came from or why eclipses occurred: they were using these cycles of heavenly bodies that we can see in order to impart knowledge of what we cannot see -- the invisible realm of spirit which lies within and behind everything in this physical universe, and which may actually be the true source from which the material universe is projected

And, by the very act of turning the motions of these heavenly bodies into stories involving men and women, they are showing that we are intimately connected to the entire universe, and that thus we ourselves have a physical and a spiritual nature, a dual nature just like the dual nature of the infinite universe which we ourselves embody and reflect and even contain. 

This dual nature -- of both the macrocosmic universe and the individual man or woman who contains and represents the universe as its microcosmic reflection -- is conveyed in the world's myths through the dual nature of the zodiac wheel (divided into the upper half and lower half, the land of spirit and the land of incarnation), the dual symbols of the equinoxes (one marking the crossing point down, into material incarnation and hence into the underworld of incarnation and death, and one marking the crossing point up, into the realm of spirit and spiritual life), and the dual nature of the moon (passing from New Moon to Full Moon, and crossing through the lunar nodes upwards and downwards just as the ecliptic crosses upwards and downwards during the solar cycle).

As has been discussed in countless previous posts, this dual nature of our incarnate existence is seen in the ancient symbols of the Cross and the Ankh, each with its horizontal beam (representative of being cast down into matter, and hence representative of our physical, animal nature while incarnate in these physical bodies) and its vertical pillar (representative of the spirit rising up, the invisible aspect of our nature which overcomes and transcends the physical body and which, unlike the body, does not experience physical death).  

It was also conveyed in the ancient myths involving the Djed column of ancient Egypt, which was cast down when Osiris entered the realm of death and was layed out horizontally, and which is then raised up to represent the same "vertical component" of spirit and triumph over death and incarnation.

The equinox points, then, represent the "crossing" points of the spirit, down into incarnation (depicted by the lower half of the year, and by the underworlds of myth, including the "house of bondage" of Egypt in the Old Testament, or of Tartarus and Hades and many others around the world) and up into greater spiritual awakening and transcendence (and ultimately into spiritual life beyond the body).

Alvin Boyd Kuhn has offered the tremendous insight that, in order to convey this important understanding of our dual physical-spiritual nature, these two crossing points were sometimes depicted in mythology around the world as the two mothers of the god, sometimes seen as two goddesses stationed at those two important crossing points of the year, the fall and spring equinoxes. There, they would give birth to the hero, or the god, one being a birth down into physical incarnation, and the other being a second birth or spiritual birth, upwards into greater consciousness and spiritual life.

He notes that these two goddesses, or two mothers, are depicted on either side of the Ankh cross of ancient Egypt in some important representations -- such as the Ankh with upraised arms shown above, from the Papyrus of Ani, in which the goddesses Isis and Nephthys are shown on either side of the Ankh itself, in the positions corresponding to the two equinoxes (the upraised arms represent summer solstice and the constellation of Cancer the Crab at the top of the year during the Age of Aries, as discussed in previous posts such as this one).

Elaborating on the importance of these two goddesses and the two births, Alvin Boyd Kuhn writes in Lost Light (1940):

Man is, then, a natural man and a god, in combination. Our natural body gives the soul of man its baptism by water; our nascent spiritual body is to give us the later baptism by fire! We are born first as the natural man; then as the spiritual. Or we are born first by water and then by fire. Of vital significance at this point are two statements by St. Paul: "That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural"; and, "First that which is natural, then that which is spiritual." Again he says: "For the natural man comprehendeth not the things of the spirit of God, neither can he." [. . .]
Using astrological bases for portraying cosmic truths, the ancients localized the birth of the natural man in the zodiacal house of Virgo and that of the spiritual man in the opposite house of Pisces. These then were the houses of the two mothers of life. The first was the Virgin Mother (Virgo), the primeval symbol of the Virgin Mary thousands of years BC. Virgo gave man his natural birth by water and became known as the Water-Mother; Pisces (the Fishes by name) gave him his birth by the Fish and was denominated the Fish-Mother. The virgin mothers are all identified with water as symbol and their various names, such as Meri, Mary, Venus (born of the sea-foam), Tiamat, Typhon and Thallath (Greek for "sea") are designations for water. On the other side there are the Fish Avatars of Vishnu, such as the Babylonian Ioannes, or Dagon, and the Assyrian goddess Atergatis was called "the Fish-Mother." Virgo stood as the mother of birth by water, or the birth of man the first, of the earth, earthy; Pisces stood as the mother of birth by spirit or fire, or the birth of man the second, described by St. Paul as "the Lord from heaven." Virgo was the water-mother of the natural man, Pisces the fish-mother of the spiritual man.
[. . .]
The ancient books always grouped the two mothers in pairs. They were called "the two mothers" or sometimes the "two divine sisters." Or they were the wife and sister of the God, under the names of Juno, Venus, Isis, Ishtar, Cybele or Mylitta. In old Egypt they were first Apt and Neith; and later Isis and Nephthys. Massey relates Neith to "net," i.e., fish-net! Clues to their functions were picked up in the great Book of the Dead: "Isis conceived him; Nephthys gave him birth." Or: "Isis bore him; Nephthys suckled him," or reared him. 6 - 8.

Just to make the positioning of the two goddesses or two mothers discussed in this passage by Kuhn more visually clear to the reader, note in the diagram below that the positions of Virgo and Pisces are each directly before the crossing points of the year, and are outlined on the zodiac wheel in blue (for the birth by water, into physical incarnation) and red (for the birth by fire, into spiritual life) on the modified picture here:

One of the passages of the Book of the Dead that Kuhn quotes above is, interestingly enough, section 134, which can be found on page 39 of this online pdf version of the old translation by Budge (1895). That section is known as the Hymn to Ra on the Day of the Month (the Day of the New Moon) When the Boat of Ra Saileth

The title of that Hymn to Ra seems most appropriate for this particular day of the year, which is the Day of the New Moon as well as the Day of the Equinox, and of the equinox in which the sun in the Solar Bark is leaping upwards, across the horizontal line of the equinoxes, into the upper half of the year, out of the lower house of bondage and into the heavens!

In that hymn (as translated by Budge) we read:

The heart of the Osiris Ani, whose word is truth, shall live. His mother Isis giveth birth to him, and Nephthys nurses him, just as Isis gave birth to Horus, and Nephthys nursed him.

This is very significant, as Ani was a human priest of ancient Egypt, and yet he is here identified explicitly (by name) with "the Osiris" and he is told that he too shall have two births, by two goddess mothers, one of whom gave birth to him and one of whom nurtured him towards his spiritual birth.

In other words, this description is not a myth: it is teaching a truth that applies to actual human beings in this incarnate existence -- it teaches us of our dual physical-spiritual nature (in a universe which itself has a dual physical-spiritual nature), and that we are to be aware of and growing in awareness of our spiritual life even as we inhabit a physical body in a world that tries to tell us that the physical is all that matters.

Note also that just because Kuhn uses the masculine pronoun, and just because the ancient symbology uses two mothers for a male god (such as Osiris and Horus in ancient Egypt), does not mean that this truth is not meant to apply equally to every man or woman who has ever lived. Elsewhere we cited the extremely memorable and helpful quotation from Alvin Boyd Kuhn in a different work, in which he said that "the actors [in the sacred myths of humanity] are not old kings, priests and warriors; the one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul."

And so, as we ponder this important day of equinox (and of New Moon!), we realize that it can point us towards deep spiritual truths concerning our own human condition. It can remind us of the invisible spirit-world around us, and within us -- and as we become more and more aware of the truth of this dual nature, it may cause us to be resolved to live a life that is more and more about blessing (lifting up the spirit of others and of creation, and our own as well), and not cursing (casting down the spirit, degrading, or brutalizing). 

This is what the ancients intended, when they encoded these awesome and majestic celestial motions into the actions of the sacred stories and scriptures of the human race.

And, as we participate in celebrations (such as Easter, or Passover, or Equinox observances, or others) which tie the motions of the heavens to our own motions and actions here on the ground, we declare the truth "as above, so below" -- that we ourselves contain an invisible and infinite spiritual side, the very truth that the heavens proclaim.

Bodhidharma, Shen Guang, and the Shaolin Temple

Bodhidharma, Shen Guang, and the Shaolin Temple

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The historicity of many aspects of the famous Shaolin Temple* of China can be, and has been, a subject for study and debate.

As with many such debates, particularly those in which deep reverence or personal beliefs are involved, examination of this subject can sometimes become contentious.

Without entering directly into the "deep water" of such disputes or debates, we can at least agree that the tradition of the Shaolin Temple is itself indisputably connected with two very important traditions: Ch'an Buddhism (which is often spelled Chan Buddhism, and which is the direct predecessor of Zen Buddhism in Japan), and the martial arts.

Previous posts have explored the importance of the connection between these two, in that training in the use of force can cause us to fall into the error of "turning a person into a thing" (in the words of Simone Weil in her famous 1940 essay on The Iliad: or the Poem of Force), but meditation upon the spiritual content and value of every being we encounter and cultivation of the attitude of blessing others and wishing to see their spirit elevated has the exact opposite tendency and acts as a counterbalance, with the goal that what could be misused to "lower spiritual awareness in one's self and in others" (as engaging in the use of force in ways that violate the rights of others will inevitably do) is instead transformed into a practice which "elevates spiritual awareness in one's self and in others" (by reducing the practitioner's need to use force inappropriately, while enabling him or her to use force to protect one's self or others if necessary and thus prevent violence). 

Through this focus on spirit and blessing, the martial arts are (ideally) transformed into a spiritually uplifting discipline analogous to yoga and other practices designed to elevate spiritual awareness and bless and regenerate the world.

I would argue that the emphasis on the invisible world of spirit is coded into the traditions of Shaolin Temple through references to the celestial realm, used throughout the world to convey deep teachings regarding the spiritual component of human existence and of the universe in which we live, and their dual material and spiritual composition. 

For example, precessional numbers such as 72 and 108 are deeply embedded in numerous Chinese martial arts, and in the traditions of the Shaolin Temple. For example, Shi Yan Ming -- who grew up in the Shaolin lineage --  has written about the fact that the Shaolin Temple traditionally contained 72 rooms or chambers. Other traditions assert that in order to graduate as a Shaolin monk, a candidate had to pass through an elaborate hall containing 108 mechanical dummies which would each launch a different unexpected attack upon the candidate at a different point on the journey down the hall.

Some might argue that the incorporation of these numbers, 72 and 108, do not necessarily indicate an esoteric celestial aspect to these traditions. They might argue that, although these same numbers are found in the sacred texts and rituals of India, or in the dimensions of the pyramids at Giza in Egypt and in Egyptian myth, or in the Norse sagas, their presence in China could be attributed to mere coincidence, and that since those ancient cultures are separated by such vast distances, the use of 72 and 108 in China might be referring to something else entirely.

However, I believe there are additional very powerful reasons to believe that the very same celestial codes operating in the myths and traditions of cultures such as ancient Egypt or ancient India (or across the oceans in the dimensions of the monuments in Central and South America) can be shown to be operating in the esoteric traditions of Chan Buddhism as well, and that the conclusion that these numbers are a celestial and hence a spiritual code is well-founded.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The ancient connection between Chan Buddhism and the practice of martial arts as a form of spiritual elevation and blessing can be traced directly back to the texts and traditions surrounding the figure of Bodhidharma, also called Da Mo in China, who according to tradition brought both to China.

Stories of the life of Da Mo can be found in early texts, most notably in the text known as the Ching-te Chuan Teng-lu (ways of spelling this text in English vary), or the "Transmission of the Lamp," which is itself a collection of various earlier traditions regarding Da Mo. The expression "Transmission of the Lamp" refers to the passing down of dharma or the ineffable teachings of Chan, which supposedly originated with Da Mo. 

Da Mo is often said to have lived between AD 470 and AD 532 (or 528). The Chuan Teng-lu was collected later, around the year AD 1000. See for some discussion of the compilation of the Chuan Teng-lu page 155 in this text entitled Zen Canon: Understanding the Classic Texts.

In the account of Da Mo given in the text itself (for instance, beginning on page 150 of this translation), we read the famous story of the transmission of the dharma from Da Mo to his first disciple, Shen Guang, in which Da Mo knelt motionless in meditation (in some accounts for nine full years), while Shen Guang stood guard over him in hopes of being noticed:

Staying at the Shaolin Temple on Mount Song, there he sat in meditation facing a wall, a whole day in silence. People couldn't understand it so they called him 'the wall-gazing Brahmin'. At that time there was a monk named Shenguang who was deeply learned and had lived for a long time near Luoyang by the Rivers Yi and Luo. A scholar well read in many books, he could discourse eloquently on the Dark Learning. Sighing frequently, he would say, 'The teachings of Confucius and Laozi take rituals as the Practice and customs as the Rule, while in the books of Zhangzi and The Changes the wonderful principle is still inexhaustible. Now I have heard that a great master, Damo (Bodhidharma), is residing at Shaolin. I must pay a visit to this peerless sage living not so far distant.' Then he went, visiting morning and evening for instruction. Master Damo was always sitting in a dignified posture facing a wall and so Guang heard no teachings nor did he receive any encouragement. Then Guang thought to himself, 'Men of old, on searching the Way, broke their bones to extract the marrow, let their blood flow to help the starving, spread hairs on muddy roads [to allow people to pass], or jumped off cliffs to feed a tiger. In days of old it was still like this, now what kind of man am I?' 150.

Finally, after a great snow fell and Shen Guang still stood motionless guarding Da Mo, the master spoke to Shen Guang and asked what he wanted. In some versions of the story, Shen Guang hurls a large block of snow and ice into the cave or chamber in which Da Mo was meditating, in order to get his attention. In any case, Shen Guang finally pulls out his sword and cuts off his own left arm in order to demonstrate his tremendous devotion and desire to learn what Da Mo has to show him (in some versions, Da Mo says he will only teach Shen Guang when red snow begins to fall from the sky, and so Shen Guang waves his own severed arm around his head and Da Mo finally relents and decides to take on this devoted disciple, who afterwards took on the name Hui-k'o). 

You can read some of the other aspects of this story, and the other adventures attributed to Da Mo and Shen Guang, in the account here on Shi Yan Ming's website, as well as in other texts in books or on the web, such as the version given in Thomas Hoover's 1980 book The Zen Experience, available on the web here through Project Gutenberg. See pages 28 and following of that online file.

Concerned readers can be comforted by the fact that I personally believe no arms were literally severed and waved around anyone's head in order to pass on the teachings of Chan Buddhism in the time of Da Mo and Shen Guang, but believe that this story -- like so many other sacred spiritual traditions around the globe -- can be convincingly demonstrated to be based squarely upon celestial metaphor, as are many of the other incidents and episodes in the traditional account of Da Mo.

The fact that this story is probably not literal is indicated by some of the other traditions surrounding the kneeling meditation of Da Mo, such as the detail that he remained in the kneeling meditation for nine full years without moving, facing the wall of the cave, until his image was actually transferred to the wall itself. Another aspect of the tradition (cited in Thomas Hoover's book above) states that when his eyelids became heavy and he felt he might be drifting off to sleep, Da Mo ripped off his own eyelids to continue his meditation. And another aspect of the story has him kneeling there so long that his legs actually fall off. 

Clearly, these aspects of the story can probably not be taken literally, and I don't believe the severing of Shen Guang's arm should be, either.  

In fact, I believe that familiarity with the constellations who take on similar roles in other myths and stories around the world will immediately suggest the probable celestial identities of both Da Mo (who kneels, meditating, endlessly until his very image or shadow is transferred to the cave wall) and Shen Guang (who stands silently guarding Da Mo, until at last in desperation he cuts off his own arm and waves it around to make the snow red and prove his devotion).

The diagram below shows the important constellation of Bootes, whom we have met in numerous other myths (see this index of stars and constellations and blog posts which discuss them). As you can see, the outline of Bootes resembles a kneeling figure -- and in fact the tiny "leg" which is drawn in this outline based on the system suggested by H.A. Rey is very faint, and the stars themselves could alternately be envisioned as a robed, kneeling figure with a bald head, as Da Mo is often drawn in art stretching back centuries.

Above the kneeling figure stands the vigilant figure of Shen Guang, played in this case by the celestial actor of the constellation Hercules, who appears to be brandishing an enormous sword, in his right hand (which is probably why it is his left arm that he cuts off in the story):

As for the bloody arm itself, I believe a good case can be made for the constellation Coma Berenices, or Berenice's Hair, in the role of the bloody arm. It consists of a vertical line between its two brightest stars, and then a myriad of "droplets" fanning out from one end of the vertical line (this constellation is described on pages 36 and 37 of H. A. Rey's essential book on the stars and constellations, The Stars: A New Way to See Them). In this case, it appears that the bloody arm is being waved right in front of Da Mo, in order to really get his attention.

There are, in fact, many other clues in the traditions of Da Mo which indicate to me that the above interpretation is very likely the correct celestial origin of the Da Mo story. One of the most well-known and oft-depicted episodes in his life is Da Mo's famous crossing of a wide river upon a broken reed, which is given to him in most accounts by an old woman at the near side of the river before he ventures across on the unlikely reed. 

As can be seen from the diagram above, the "bloody arm" in this case probably represents the broken reed in that aspect of Da Mo's mission, and the woman who provides the reed to him for this occasion is none other than Virgo, who can be seen with her arm outstretched, giving the reed to Bodhidharma for his crossing. 

Another episode from the story of Da Mo and Shen Guang has the impertinent Shen Guang taking his  won string of Buddhist beads from around his neck and flicking them at Da Mo, knocking out some of Da Mo's teeth in the process (the imperturbable Da Mo acts as though nothing untoward has happened, and walks away). In between Hercules and Bootes is the necklace-shaped constellation known as the Corona Borealis, or the Northern Crown. We saw that it almost certainly represents the gorgeous necklace of Freya in Norse myth, as well as a necklace in a famous Japanese myth about Amaterasu the sun goddess. 

In the star chart above, the Northern Crown is outlined in purple, and marked as a "Sandal (?)." This is because there is yet another tradition about Da Mo, depicting him as carrying a staff over his shoulder with a single sandal hanging from one end of the staff. In The Zen Teaching of Bodhidharma, we read on page xiv:

In his Transmission of the Lamp, Tao-yuan says that soon after he had transmitted the patriarchship of his lineage to Hui-k'o [that is, Shen Guang], Bodhidharma died in 528 on the fifth day of the tenth month, poisoned by a jealous monk. Tao-hsuan's much earlier biography of Bodhidharma says only that he died on the banks of the Lo River and doesn't mention the date or cause of death. According to Tao-yuah, Bodhidharma's remains were interred near Loyang at Tinglin Temple on Bear Ear Mountain. Tao-yuan adds that three years later an official met Bodhidharma walking in the mountains of Central Asia. He was carrying a staff from which hung a single sandal, and he told the official he was going back to India. Reports of this meeting aroused the curiousity of other monks, who finally agreed to open Bodhidharma's tomb. But inside all they found was a single sandal, and ever since then Bodhidharma has been pictured carrying a staff from which hangs the missing sandal.

If you note from the above diagram that Bootes has a long "pipe" that he seems to be smoking, you can instead imaging this pipe as a staff, and if it continues over his shoulder, then it would be perfectly positioned to imaging that the semi-circular arc of the Northern Crown is the other shoe or sandal hanging from the staff. In fact, the depictions of Bodhidharma's staff often seem to have a "crook" or bent part at the end -- in other words, depicting the staff as shaped somewhat like the pipe of Bootes with its wide end (see here or here or here, for example, and older art depicting him often uses similar symbology). 

So, I believe that the purple arc which functions as the Buddhist beads in the episode in which Shen Guang flicks beads at Da Mo may also function as the single shoe or slipper or sandal in the episode of Da Mo walking the hills with one shoe hanging from his staff after he was supposedly dead and buried.

All of this celestial metaphor within the story of Da Mo and the founding of Chan tradition and of the Shaolin Temple, I believe, serves as an esoteric pointer to the realm of the spiritual. The realm of the stars, for reasons discussed in other posts and in the book The Undying Stars, functions in myth around the world (including the stories in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible) as a pointer to the invisible world of spirit (just as this lower world of earth and water, into which the stars plunge as they sink down in the west, represents the realm of matter and incarnation).

I believe that this clear evidence of celestial metaphor also serves to validate the assertion that the celestial numbers 72 and 108 in many Chinese martial arts originally associated with the Shaolin Temple are serving a similar function (just as they do in so many other myths and sacred traditions around the globe).

And, finally, it points to a very important truth, which the ancient keepers of the traditions of both Chan Buddhism and the martial arts wished to impart to us: that while activities such as physical training and discipline and even the effective use of force may be a very important aspect of our time here in this physical realm of incarnation, we must not forget that we and everyone else we meet are also spiritual beings, and that ultimately our actions should serve to elevate the spiritual aspect of ourselves and others, rather than to put it down. 

Ultimately, these arts are about recognizing who we are, in a world which often seems to do everything possible to keep us from remembering or recognizing the truth.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

* The characters usually translated "Shaolin" are

少  林

and mean "small forest."

In Mandarin this is xiăo lín and in Cantonese it is  síu làhm both of which mean "small forest" (in that order). 

You can see the characters in the image above (top), on the sign posted over the door, although they are written right to left, such that the symbol for "small" is on the right and "forest" is in the middle.

The symbol for "temple" (on the left as you look at the photo on the page) is:

The Four Evangelists, and the Cherubim and Seraphim

The Four Evangelists, and the Cherubim and Seraphim

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The previous post explored the stacks of evidence which suggest that the Vision of Ezekiel, one of the most important (and most argued-over) passages of ancient Hebrew scripture -- in which the prophet describes  a "whirlwind" from the north, and "wheels within wheels," and the "likenesses" of four living creatures out of the midst of them -- is in fact an esoteric depiction of the awesome celestial machinery which turns the heavens throughout the year, and that those four likenesses correspond to the zodiac signs governing the points of the two solstices (summer and winter) and the two equinoxes (spring and fall).

That post also shows that the some of the earliest "church fathers" of the literalist Christian church -- including Irenaeus (c. AD 130 - AD 202),  Jerome (AD 320 - AD 420), and Augustine (AD 354 - AD 430) explicitly connected the Four Gospels of what is referred to as the New Testament to those four likenesses from the Vision of Ezekiel, assigning the winged Man, Lion, Ox and Eagle to the Four Evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (although there is some disagreement about who specifically corresponds to what).

We also saw that Irenaeus even went so far as to state that the gospels must be four in number, to create "four pillars" which correspond to the four zones of the earth or the four winds of the heavens -- and from his statements and from the explicit clues within the text of Ezekiel we can almost certainly establish these four creatures with "four zones" within the great wheel of the zodiac, corresponding to the signs of Taurus for the Bull or Ox, Leo for the Lion, Scorpio for the Eagle (the Eagle being directly above Scorpio in the Milky Way as seen by observers in the northern hemisphere), and Aquarius for the Man.

In the first chapter of Ezekiel, where this famous vision is introduced, these four "likenesses" are described as "running and returning," as going "every one straight forward," as "turning not when they went" but rather going "every one straight forward," and as having a time in which they were "lifted up from the earth" (verses 19 and 21) as well as apparently being "like the appearance of lamps" which "went up and down" (verse 13). From all these we can see that the four "likenesses" are almost certainly referring to groups of stars which can be seen to form a "likeness" to beings such as Lions or Bulls -- in other words, constellations -- and which travel through the sky in exactly the manner indicated by the various descriptions in Ezekiel chapter 1.

However, in the tenth chapter of Ezekiel, the scripture text uses a different term to describe the subjects of this vision: in addition to talking about "likenesses," the text reintroduces them but this time in the midst of much description of "cherubim" (or "cherubims," in the Geneva 1599 and King James 1611 translations), while still referring to four faces and turning wheels. Now, however, there are several verses referring to the carrying of burning coals in the hand, mainly in the hands of the cherubim, hands which they are described as having under their wings.

The term cherubim, of course, seems to refer to an order of angelic beings in the Biblical scriptures -- as does the term seraphim. In Genesis 3:24, for example, we are told that cherubims and a flaming sword are placed at the "east of Eden" to prevent Adam and Eve from returning to the Paradise Garden from whence they have been expelled. In numerous passages in Exodus and beyond, cherubim are described as facing one another on the "mercy seat" which is on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant. And, in the Vision of Isaiah described in Isaiah chapter 6, seraphim which are also described as having multiple wings and carrying burning coals, in much the same way as the cherubim of Ezekiel 10.

If we have established that the "likenesses" of Ezekiel 1 refer to zodiac constellations, and if Ezekiel 10 seems to have connections to the description in Ezekiel 1 while introducing the term "cherubims," does it follow that the cherubim described in Biblical scripture refer to the zodiac constellations?

Not necessarily.

Because of the additional reference to "burning coals" in Ezekiel 10, and to the carrying of these coals in the hand (both in the Ezekiel 10 descriptions and in the Isaiah 6 description of the seraphim doing the same thing of carrying coals in their hand), I believe that the cherubim introduced into the description of the likenesses and wheels refer to very specificvery bright stars in each of the four zodiac constellations, which are "carried" aloft by the same motive force (the wings) which turns the entire set of wheels within wheels.

It just so happens that the four zodiac constellations which dominated the four equinox and solstice points of the annual cycle during the Age of Taurus -- the Bull, the Lion, the Scorpion and the Water-Bearer of Aquarius -- each contain (or "carry" with them) a first-magnitude star. It may well be that the cherubim and seraphim describe the highest orders of stars in the "heavenly host," with the first-magnitude stars perhaps corresponding to the cherubim, and the second-magnitude stars perhaps corresponding to the seraphim (or, perhaps the seraphim are the very brightest of stars -- those with magnitudes that put them at the very top of the list of the brightest stars in the night sky).

The four cherubim with their burning coals in these four zodiac constellations would thus be:

  • Aldebaran in the zodiac constellation of Taurus, a very bright red-orange star of 1st magnitude (and the 13th brightest in the night sky according to H.A. Rey).
  • Regulus in the zodiac constellation of Leo, a bright blue-white star of 1st magnitude (and the 21st brightest in the night sky according to H.A. Rey).
  • Antares in the zodiac constellation of Scorpio, a very bright red star of 1st magnitude (and the 15th brightest in the night sky according to H.A. Rey). Note that for those who argue that using Antares is somehow "not fair," since Ezekiel specifically refers to an "Eagle" and not to a "Scorpion," we can point out that the constellation of the Eagle which is directly above the Scorpion also contains a first-magnitude star: Altair, a very bright yellowish-white star of 1st magnitude which is the 12th brightest in the night sky according to H. A. Rey. However, I agree with Taylor that Antares is probably the cherubim or first-magnitude star in question, for reasons discussed below.
  • Fomalhaut in Piscis Austrinus, the "Southern Fish," immediately below the zodiac constellation of Aquarius and showered with the water streaming down from his jug or pitcher, a bright bluish-white star of 1st magnitude (and the 18th brightest in the night sky according to H.A. Rey). 

Again, according to this interpretation, the "four likenesses" (of the Ox, Lion, Eagle, and Man) correspond to four specific zodiac signs (of Taurus, Leo, Scorpio-Aquila, and Aquarius), which marked the "four pillars" of the year during the Age of Taurus (when Taurus ruled the spring equinox, Leo ruled the summer solstice, Scorpio ruled the fall equinox, and Aquarius ruled the winter solstice). 

The authors of Hamlet's Mill also explain that the "four corners of the earth" referred to in many ancient myths and sacred traditions can be shown by extensive evidence to correspond to these four important stations (and their zodiac constellations -- the "likenesses") in any successive "Age" of the zodiac, and that the inexorable grind of precession would eventually bring about the destruction of the earth and the formation of "a new heavens and a new earth" at the dawning of the next precessional Age (see especially the discussion in Hamlet's Mill pages 58 and 59, in the chapter entitled "Intermezzo: a Guide for the Perplexed"). They specifically refer to these four anchor points as "pillars" during that discussion, just as Irenaeus does.

However, according to this interpretation, while the "likenesses" are the constellations themselves, the cherubim refer to the bright first-magnitude stars associated with each of those four important Age of Taurus "pillar constellations" -- specifically Aldebaran, Regulus, Antares, and Fomalhaut.

Interestingly enough, the Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844) also connects these important four stars with the Four Evangelists, and notes that the names given to the Four Gospel texts seem to specifically hint that they are referring to stars. 

In the lecture entitled "Saint Matthew: A Sermon" delivered on May 19, 1831, contained in the collection of his lectures entitled The Devil's Pulpit, published in 1857, Robert Taylor explains:

Saints they were called, and Saints really they are, that name signifying, as its derivation betrays, Suns, as each of the fixed Stars is a Sun; and which the circular halo of rays, with which the heads of their effigies were surrounded, expressly acknowledged; evangelists they were, because their office was "to preach the acceptable year of the Lord," and to mark the predicament of EVAN -- that is, of Bacchus, the Sun, through the four seasons.
FOUR they are, because there are but four seasons of the year, over which these four royal Stars preside.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John they are names [. . .] betraying in their derivation the most accurate description of the four royal Stars.
Regulus, which is Saint Matthew, or Cor Leonis, the heart of the lion, which the Sun enters about the 2d of July, and leaves about the 23d of August, when the earth begins to give her fruits; and thence this Star gets the name of Saint Mat Thew, which is, most literally, the Sun, the gift, the God, the most expressive designation of the Sun's bounty, and of the heat at that season. [. . .]
Fomalhaut, in the Fishes' mouth, Jonah in the whale's belly, swallowing the water which is effused from the urn of the Aquarius of January, is the Saint Mark.
That word Marcus literally signifying the polite or shining one, the most beautiful definition you could invent for the shining Formalhaut [this is how Taylor's publisher spells the name of this star, which today is not usually spelled with an r], who is the only one of the four whose accompanying genius is a human being, Marcus being believed to have composed his gospel under the direction of Saint Peter: and here, sirs, is Peter, pouring it forth, and Mark swallowing it, as fast as he can swallow; and I need not tell you that there's a good deal for him to swallow.
Aldebaran is the bull's eye, the unequivocal elymon, both of the name and symbol of St. Luke, with his bull. 
The word Luke, literally signifying the luminous, the very term than which you could find no other to express the magnificent red-looking Star, which you see a little above, and westward of Orion, and which you have never looked at the Stars in your lives, nor, I guess, at any thing else, if you have not seen, and which the Sun is directly upon, about the 28th of May.
ANTARES, in the Scorpion, which the Sun is directly upon, on the 29th of November, is Saint Joun: that I, the One; Own, the Being; ES, the Fire: this being the brightest of them all, the disciple which Jesus loved, -- que les Romains appelaient Parieilienne.
[. . .]
They could not have been named with names more expressive of their appearance and relations than
Mat Thew, the giving God.
Marc, the polished.
Luke, the respondent.
John, the Fiery
Regulus, the Little King.
For-mal-haut, the Arabic for the Fishes' Mouth.
Aldebaran, the Arabic for the Bull's Eye: and
Antares, the Scorpion's Heart.
-- Devil's Pulpit, 327 - 329.

In addition to having names appropriate to stars, Taylor argues that the reddish color of Aldebaran and Antares, in Taurus the sign of the spring equinox and Scorpio the sign of the fall equinox, corresponding in Taylor's analysis to Luke and John, is extremely appropriate, since the equinox points are those fiery points where the sun's ecliptic path crosses the celestial equator (329).

This connection of the fiery colors of the two first-magnitude stars (orange-red Aldebaran in Taurus and bright-red Antares in Scorpio) in the signs governing the two equinoxes is extremely significant, in that the authors of Hamlet's Mill demonstrate fairly decisively that the ancient system that informs sacred myth the world over indicated the equinoxes with symbology of fire (see for instance the discussion on page 159).

Note also that in the symbology of the mysterious meeting places of Mithraism known as mithraea , two figures often appear, each of them holding a single torch, one torch pointing up and one pointing down -- and that in the analysis of Mithraic scholar Dr. David Ulansey, these two figures with their torches represent the two equinoxes. These two figures are often shown with their legs crossed in a distinctive manner, which Dr. Ulansey argues convincingly to be another clue that these figures are the two equinoxes, one being the spring equinox where the sun and the day's ecliptic line cross the celestial equator going up (indicated by a torch pointing upwards), and one being the fall equinox where the sun and the day's ecliptic line cross the celestial equator going down (indicated by a torch pointing downwards). See for instance Professor Ulansey's analysis of these and other Mithraic symbols in his essential book Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, 1991. The important equinoctial symbolism of the torch-bearers is discussed in previous blog posts such as this one.

It is very satisfying and revealing that the two first-magnitude stars associated with the equinox-ruling constellations during the Age of Taurus are a fiery red or red-orange in color.

Thus, we have in the Vision of Ezekiel as described in chapters 1 and 10 a connection to the governing signs of the Age of Taurus, as well as to the first-magnitude stars (or cherubim) associated with those important signs -- and we have in the testimony of some of the most important early literalist teachers (including Irenaeus, Jerome, and Augustine) the explicit connection of those signs and their first-magnitude stars to the Saints in whose name each of the Four Gospels are describes as being given "according to."

It is worth noting that, according to the analysis I present in The Undying Stars, which builds upon a theory articulated by Flavio Barbiero, the twin systems of Mithraism and literalist Christianity were launched by persons who were very knowledgeable in the ancient esoteric mythologies, as a kind of "two-pronged attack" to take over the levers of power of the Roman Empire from within. 

It is very interesting that the symbology of the mithraea always centers around the prominent scene of the Tauroctony in which the figure of Mithras is depicted slaying an enormous Bull, which Professor Ulansey argues to have to do with the shifting of the Age of Taurus.

Now, we have fairly conclusively shown that the symbology of the Four Gospels and their Four Evangelists are also clearly connected to the symbology of the Age of Taurus as well. This is a significant correspondence between the esoteric symbology at the very basis of the two vehicles which I believe (based upon the analysis done by Flavio Barbiero, and some additional evidence and analysis of my own) were deployed together as part of a plan to gain control of the Roman Empire (a plan which can be seen to have been fully successful by the time of the accession to the throne of the Emperor Constantine, and which had its one of its first major victories upon the accession of the Emperor Commodus, as discussed here).

Further, this analysis shows that the Four Ev-Angel-ists themselves appear to be the New Testament manifestation of four specific members of the class of Angels known as cherubim, those important fiery beings holding the first or perhaps second rank among the heavenly host, and to correspond specifically in this case to the stars Aldebaran, Regulus, Antares, and Fomalhaut.

The possibility that the cherubim and seraphim and other countless angels of the heavenly host correspond to the stars in the heavens is most appropriate, as the angels often act as messengers (their name angel, in fact, is often said derive from angelos, a Greek word meaning "messenger"), and because it is the stars themselves which convey to us the esoteric message contained within the ancient sacred stories and myths, by their mighty turnings which are so well described in the mystical language of the prophet Ezekiel.

The evidence suggesting that the Four Evangelists after whom the four canonical New Testament Gospels are called are actually names descriptive of first-magnitude stars, and even more specifically that they personifications of the first-magnitude stars associated with the zodiac signs which formed the four pillars that supported "heaven and earth" during the Age of Taurus, also seems to indicate that aspects of the "New" Testament scriptures may contain elements of ancient wisdom which is a lot older than most of us have been led to believe.    

A visit to Grimerica

A visit to Grimerica

Big thank you to Grimericans Graham Dunlop and Darren Grimes for inviting me over to "The Igloo" to discuss ancient myth, celestial mechanics, world mysteries, and the shamanic-holographic nature of the universe and human existence (here's a link to the page where you can listen or download -- the guys are doing great work there so please support their "value-for-value" model if and when you are able to do so -- and tell a friend about it).

Welcome to new visitors from the unique land of Grimerica, as well as to all returning friends here to this blog -- really hope you enjoy the conversation Darren and Graham had with me as much as I did.

Below are a series of links to help you find your way to places with more info about some of the subjects we touched on in our chat -- and below that I've added a few more thoughts about the show:

  • Star Myth Index: start here! a list of links to over fifty previous blog posts discussing the evidence for the celestial foundations of different myths from around the world -- including the stories in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
  • "Wax on, wax off" -- how the original Karate Kid movie can help explain why the ancient myths would be constructed according to this system of celestial allegory.
  • "Like a finger, pointing a way to the moon . . . " another discussion of the idea of "the esoteric," this time using a scene from Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon.
  • Shamanic Holographic: discussion of some evidence that part of the message these ancient myths were intended to convey to us was that our universe -- and human experience in this incarnate material existence -- is both holographic and shamanic in nature. And, here is discussion of the direct quotation from the very important Lakota holy man Black Elk who said that it is the spirit world "behind this one" that is the real world, and that actually is the source of this one.
  • Shamanic foundation of the world's ancient wisdom: connecting the message of the world's ancient myths to the worldview that is broadly termed "shamanic" in nature, and how this worldview connects to other concepts including journeys to the unseen world.
  • The Old Man and his Daughter: this is the story from a First Nations people living on what is today called Vancouver Island which can be very clearly shown to connect to the outlines of the constellations Virgo and Bootes -- which is an example of the fact that, even if different people around the world group the stars into different constellations, it is also true that they may have myths which very clearly relate to the constellations as they are "grouped" in the system we still use today, and which suggests that there was some kind of worldwide system operating in the ancient past.
  • How many ways are there to contact the hidden realm: evidence from around the world that we may be naturally designed to be able to access the invisible realm (also known by many other names, a useful one being "non-ordinary reality") and that there are almost unlimited ways to actually do it.
  • Mushrooms: a couple posts discussing their importance, and their connection to myth and to the ancient wisdom -- see also "Buddha, Odin, Mushrooms" and "Graham Hancock identifies war on consciousness: TED confirms that he's right." 
  • The Chinese ideogram for "boat" which is composed of the symbols for "vessel," for the number "eight," and for "mouths" (or passengers): eight passengers on a vessel = a boat. This is a link to the website of (and online book by) Dr. Walt Brown, the originator of the hydroplate theory which discusses the overwhelming evidence that our planet has experienced a catastrophic flood in its past.
  • The Eleusinian mysteries: what they were, and why they were so important. And, related to that, the priestess at the Temple at Delphi, who was known as the Pythia, and why she and Delphi are so important (see also the opinion of Plato and Socrates on Delphi). 
  • The Roman emperor who shut down both Eleusis and Delphi, and how he may well be an important clue in the mystery of what happened to this ancient wisdom in a certain part of the world, and how the suppression of the ancient wisdom became official policy in what Graham Hancock and others have described as "the war on consciousness." 
  • The Princess Bride: I almost forgot that we briefly alluded to the beloved Princess Bride film during the show! Here is a link to a discussion of the near-death experience that takes place in the movie (he's only "mostly dead"). This post actually connects to the concept of the "ideology of materialism" which seeks to suppress and marginalize all the evidence pointing to the existence of the non-ordinary realm, including NDEs, other types of out-of-body experiences, shamanic journeying, and even accounts of ghosts and apparitions.
  • Celestial foundations of the Samson story: during the show, we discuss just how important the Samson story was in my own personal journey of discovering that the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible were not intended to be understood literally. Also, here's an amateur video I made that discusses some of the celestial aspects of the Samson story, for those who are interested.
  • Celestial foundations of the Odyssey: also mentioned during the show, right at the beginning.
  • Celestial foundations of the Three Kings and Star episode: this is one of the examples Graham wanted to discuss for connections to the motions in the celestial realms. In addition to the discussion linked here, I also made a video discussing the celestial aspects of this well-known Christmas story (the video also discusses the celestial origins of the Adam and Eve story).
  • Celestial aspects of the Epiphany and related traditions: this came up once during our talk, in reference to the fact that this interview was actually recorded on January 06, 2015.
  • Precession = The Key: here's an old video that I made to try to illustrate the concepts of the solstices and equinoxes, the sun's progress through the zodiac throughout the year (which is really caused by the earth's progress), the concept of precession, and how important all of this is to the ancient myths.
  • One degree in 72 years: what that actually means, when people tell you that precession delays the background stars by one degree every seventy-two years (actually it appears to be closer to 71.6 years, but for encoding precession in myth, 72 is much nicer than 71.6). Seventy-two is an important precessional number -- for more on the concept of precessional numbers, see this postthis post,this post, and this post.
  • The "earth-ship metaphor" and the solstices and equinoxes: a post from way back in 2011, which describes the earth as an old sailing ship that is always "pointed in the same direction," even as it circles the sun. Also mentioned in the interview is how the solstice "pause" is kind of like the pause at the top that you see when a surfer is carving down and then back up a wave and then back down: I didn't fully explain what I was trying to say, so here is a post that shows the "surfing" concept and talks about it.
  • Cross-quarter days: those important stations on the solar year located in between the solstices and equinoxes, which are still recognized in celebrations such as Ground Hog Day and most importantly in Halloween and All Soul's Day. Here's another discussion of the importance of cross-quarter days.
  • Leap year: the guys wanted to spend a little time kicking around the concept of leap years -- crazy!
  • Great circles, ancient sites: links to amazing research done by Jim Alison showing that ancient sites around the world are positioned on great circles, which indicates extremely sophisticated ancient knowledge of the size and shape of our spherical earth.
  • Easter Island and currents from the coasts of Canada and South America: why there may be a connection between the place that is today called Canada and the place that is today called Easter Island (also known as Rapa Nui -- and the people of Rapa Nui also called it Te-Pito-o-te-Henua or "the Navel of the World"). This post discusses some of the arguments of Thor Heyerdahl, which have largely been rejected by conventional academia but which continue to receive additional support as more evidence comes to light.
  • How the original 1968 Planet of the Apes film demonstrates the importance of ancient history: at least one of the orangutans in that film clearly knew that ancient history was very different than the story the orangutans were putting out to their society -- and how suppressing the truth of ancient history can be a tool for controlling and suppressing others. Here is another discussion of the importance of that 1968 Planet of the Apes film, and yet another.
  • How the violent and criminal genocide inflicted on the peoples of the Americas may be connected to the suppression of ancient history -- and the suppression of the esoteric shamanic and holographic message of the ancient myths and sacred stories -- which has been going on since at least the fourth century AD. See also this post and this post.
  • Additional posts discussing the massacre at Wounded Knee, the Battle of the Little Bighorn, and the murder of Tatanka Iyotanke -- Sitting Bull.
  • The celestial foundations of the story of Noah and his three sons: we discussed this story a little bit on the show as well -- I think this one is so important on so many levels.
  • Answers from the land of dreams: how the celestial connections of the story of the three sons of Noah literally "came to me" overnight, without any real effort. Written before I ever heard the Grimerica show with Robert Waggoner, which is an excellent show and very thought-provoking (also seems to fit very well with the shamanic-holographic model of the universe and human experience, which I believe the ancients were trying to convey to us in the celestial system of myth).

During the show, we also briefly mentioned the work of Robert W. Sullivan IV in uncovering the esoteric symbolism present in many Hollywood movies, and I'd like to just state for the record how important I think this kind of research and analysis is, in case I didn't make that clear in the interview. Robert Sullivan demonstrates some terrific connections in his most-recent Grimerica interview -- I especially enjoyed the connection he makes between the name of Luke Skywalker of Star Wars and the sun itself, which is a "Sky Walker" and which gives us lux, or light!

Finally, I also want to say that I personally think that Graham and Darren work really well together in their interviews, and come up with a well-coordinated crossfire of laser-quality questions, each from his own perspective. Everyone should be listening to these podcasts!

One of the most significant and singular aspects of the show is the focus Darren and Graham give to synchronicities, which they have made something of a trademark specialty of Grimerica. The fact that they often discuss synchronicities with their guests has led to the important revelation that many of the visiting researchers, authors, or inventors on their show seem to have been "propelled" or at least assisted in the direction they ended up pursuing by unexpected synchronicities of some sort. 

This is a very important and significant observation, and Graham and Darren deserve credit for bringing it to the forefront and making it a subject of examination. I suspect that such synchronicities are at work, not only in the lives of those who do a lot of research or writing or inventing, but in all of our lives at some point or another -- and by having different guests share their own stories about this phenomenon, it helps us all to realize how common, and how important, synchronicities can be in our lives.

I personally think it also tends to add further support to the idea that this universe, and our human experience in it, is fundamentally shamanic and holographic in nature -- which is just what I believe the ancients were trying to tell us.



here's the YouTube version of the interview, for those who prefer that format (and feel free to share it!):

Odysseus and Orion

Odysseus and Orion

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In the Odyssey, the long-suffering Odysseus is told by Circe the lustrous goddess that he must go down to the realm of the dead, to consult the shade of Tiresias in the underworld and learn what he must do in order to return home (Book X: 553 - 595).

It should be noted that crossing over to the "other world" in order to obtain knowledge or direction unavailable through any other means can be seen as a definitively shamanic act, and there is no doubt that Odysseus can be seen to be a shamanic figure in many ways throughout the Odyssey.

Following the instructions given by Queen Circe, Odysseus makes the dread voyage to the underworld, and there he does encounter the shade of the famous prophet Tiresias, who foretells that Odysseus will finally reach his home, and pay back the suitors who have been tormenting his wife and destroying his flocks as they feast in his halls in his absence. Then, Tiresias gives Odysseus an unusual mission:

But once you have killed those suitors in your halls --
by stealth or in open fight with slashing bronze --
go forth once more, you must . . .
carry your well-planed oar until you come
to a race of people who know nothing of the sea,
whose food is never seasoned with salt, strangers all
to ships with their crimson prows and long slim oars,
wings that make ships fly. And here is your sign --
unmistakeable, clear, so clear you cannot miss it:
When another traveler falls in with you and calls that weight across your shoulder a fan to winnow grain,
then plant your bladed, balanced oar in the earth
and sacrifice fine beasts to the lord god of the sea,
Poseidon -- a ram, a bull and a ramping wild boar --
then journey home and render noble offerings up
to the deathless gods who rule the vaulting skies,
to all the gods in order. Book XI: 136 - 152. Translation of Robert Fagles.

In the previous post's discussion of the celestial aspects of John the Baptist, it was argued that this strange directive about an "oar" or a "winnowing fan" on the shoulder of Odysseus is a clear connection to the stars of one of the most mythologically important and distinctive constellations in the night sky: the constellation Orion. Orion indeed carries on his shoulder an implement which is often envisioned as a club but which could equally well be seen as an oar or a paddle:

image: (outlines added later).

Here, outlines have been drawn in for Orion, in order to show the "oar and blade" that he can be said to be carrying "across his shoulder," just as Tiresias describes. The stars of Orion are so distinctive that it is really almost a distraction to even draw in the outlines, but they are added here in order to indicate where the paddle-shaped oar is located, which I believe connects this mighty constellation to the long-suffering, long-delayed hero of the Odyssey (it is on the left side of the image, as we look at it above -- rising up from the shoulder that contains the star Betelgeuse). 

Some readers, however, may argue that this detail alone is hardly sufficient to make a definitive identification of this episode of the Odyssey with the outline of Orion, and that is a valid criticism. However, as it turns out there are several other clues which act to confirm the above hypothesis.

One of the most obvious is the implement which is traditionally envisioned in Orion's other hand -- held in the outstretched arm that can be seen pointing towards the upper-right side of the above image, as we look at it (stretching forward from the shoulder that contains the star Bellatrix). That implement, of course, is a mighty bow -- and if there is one weapon which is most associated with Odysseus, it is in fact the great bow, which no one can string but Odysseus himself, and with which he slays the suitors mercilessly after the dramatic scene in which he sends an arrow through a row of axes (Book XXI: 451 - 471).

Below is another screen-shot of the constellation Orion, this time with his bow drawn in as well:

But that's not all! There is another very memorable scene from Odysseus' homecoming, prior to the point in which he finally strings his old familiar bow and begins dealing doom to the suitors, and that is the famous scene in which he has been disguised through the power of the goddess Athena as an old beggar, but his faithful dog, Argos, whom the poet tells us Odysseus trained as a puppy once, long ago, before he reluctantly joined the ships bound for Troy, recognizes his beloved Odysseus and thumps his tail in joy before expiring (XVII: 317 - 360).

As we have already seen in the discussion of the important scene from  The Truman Show in which the set-light marked SIRIUS plunges to the street, the constellation Orion has a well-known companion dog, Canis Major, close by. The fact that the long-delayed homecoming of Odysseus is closely associated with a bow and a dog is strong indication that he is connected to Orion, who also has a bow and a dog. The addition of the "oar" or "winnowing fan" on his shoulder is another point of correspondence and should make the identification of Odysseus and Orion fairly conclusive.

There is another important aspect of Orion which may also be connected to the long-suffering Odysseus, and that is the fact that Orion is associated with Osiris, and it has been convincingly argued by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in Hamlet's Mill that the "delaying action" of precession, seen in the failure of Orion/Osiris to rise "on time" on the appointed day of the year, was mythologized in ancient Egypt by the story of Set slaying his brother Osiris and usurping his throne (this myth and its connection to the action of precession is discussed in this video, in which it is pointed out that the same "usurpation" is later found in the story of Hamlet and the story of The Lion King).  

If Odysseus is identified with Orion, then his "long delay" in getting back to his "true home" may also be connected to the inexorable motion of precession, which "delays" the background of stars by just a tiny fraction each year (delaying them by only a single degree in 71.6 years), but which was profoundly important in ancient myth around the globe, and incorporated in the myths by means of various ingenious allegories.

The identification of Odysseus with Orion is extremely important in its own right, and may offer many useful new perspectives on the Odyssey itself -- but it is also extremely important in that the New Testament scriptures describe "the mighty one" who "comes after" John the Baptist as carrying a fan in his hand with which he will sort the wheat on the threshing floor to divide it from the chaff, which will be burned with fire (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17). 

I contend that this figure that John the Baptist describes, and who is obviously associated with the coming Christ whom John the Baptist announces and whom John will shortly baptize in the River Jordan, is in this passage clearly associated with Orion as well! That previous discussion of John the Baptist noted that John has clear connections to the constellation Aquarius, who is stooped forward as outlined in the stars of the constellation, and John states of this mighty figure who is coming after him that John is not worthy to "stoop down" and unloose the latchet of his shoes (Mark 1:7).

The fact that this figure that John the Baptist describes is carrying a fan with which he will winnow the wheat, and the fact that Odysseus was instructed to carry an oar until a traveler asked him what he was doing with "a fan to winnow grain," is strong evidence that both figures are actually connected with the constellation Orion.

Further confirmation that the figure John the Baptist describes is associated with Orion comes from the fact that there is a very long "river" constellation which the ancients described as springing out of Orion at the point of his foot -- or, as John the Baptist might say, his "shoe" or "sandal." This river begins very close to the bright star Rigel in the foot of Orion, and it has a most revealing name: the River Eridanus. The name of this constellation, then, is linguistically very similar to the name of the river in which John the Baptist will baptize Jesus: the Jordan.

Below is a star chart showing Eridanus, springing up very near to the foot of Orion, who can be seen in the upper-left corner of the chart:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The very strong connection between a description in the New Testament, and a description in the Odyssey of ancient Greece, in which the figure of Odysseus and the figure of Jesus as described by John the Baptist are both carrying a "winnowing fan" on their shoulder with which to sort the wheat from the chaff, and in which both are clearly connected to the constellation Orion, is truly earth-shaking in its implications. It argues that the stories included in the Bible are built upon the same celestial foundations as the stories contained in the myths of other cultures -- myths derided as "pagan" by the literalist interpretation of the Bible which came to dominate Bible interpretation during the third, fourth and fifth centuries AD. 

Finally, it should be noted that -- just as Odysseus can be shown to be a shamanic figure in the Odyssey -- Jesus in the Bible can be argued to perform acts typical of what we might call a shamanic figure as well, although this is not the way literalist Christianity has chosen to interpret the texts, and such an interpretation would be sharply at odds with "orthodox" Christian doctrine as it has been taught for the past seventeen centuries. However, the shamanic elements are certainly present, including the voyage to the "other side" and return, as well as the very common shamanic motif of the ascent on the Tree (discussed in this and this previous post, and many more examples can be found in the seminal study Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, by Mircea Eliade published in 1951).

It may be that the ancient sacred texts and myths of humanity were not intended to be understood literally, but that they in fact teach a very profound message about the nature of our universe and the nature of the human condition -- and that this message can be said to be both "shamanic" and "holographic" (and to anticipate aspects of modern theoretical physics and quantum theory as well).

This possibility is certainly amazing, and unexpected by those used to the literalist approach to the world's ancient scriptures -- and yet the evidence in support of this conclusion is compelling, and can be found in abundance throughout the ancient texts of the human race.