Viewing entries tagged
solstices and equinoxes

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.

Winter solstice 2015

Winter solstice 2015

Image: Goddess Isis (link); Background Milky Way Galaxy (link).

The earth has just hurtled past the point of December solstice, where the axis of the north pole is pointed most directly away from the sun, bringing us to the point (in the northern hemisphere) at which nights are longest, darkness triumphs most completely over daylight, and the sun rises furthest to the south and travels across the sky along the lowest arcs above the southern horizon that it will make all year long.

It is the point around which the entire wheel turns: the progress of ever-increasing darkness is replaced by ever-increasing light, as days grow steadily longer and longer, and the sun's rising point marches steadily further towards the north, and the sun's arc gets higher and higher above the southern horizon, causing the sun's rays to strike the earth more and more "from above" rather than "from the side" as the sun's path rises higher and higher on its way towards the June solstice and the top of the year.

In the great cyclical metaphor which informs all the world's ancient mythologies, and which was discussed using an important extended quotation from an essay by Alvin Boyd Kuhn from 1936 in this recent post, we saw that this lowest point in the year was equated in the spiritual metaphor with the "lowest point" of our incarnation: having been thrown down into a physical human body, and having temporarily forgotten all about the spiritual side of our nature and lost contact with the invisible realm which extends through and behind every single aspect of our apparently physical universe, we at some point begin to experience an awakening to the spirit, and to reconnect with our Higher Self or our True Self, even while we are here in this incarnate life.

The map of the year discussed in that post can be seen in the zodiac wheel diagrams shown in many previous discussions:

In this diagram, the point of winter solstice is located at the very bottom of the wheel, between the symbols of Sagittarius (partly covered by the yellow rectangle labeling the "Vertical Column" of the great "cross of the year") and Capricorn (just to the left of the lowest point on that vertical bar of the cross).  It is at this point that days cease growing shorter and begin to grow longer again. The hours of daylight are still shorter than the hours of night, but the hours of daylight at least are getting longer again (prior to that point of winter solstice, the hours of day were shorter than the hours of night, and what's more, they kept getting shorter and shorter as we approached the bottom of the wheel).

Continuing around the circle in a clockwise direction brings us to the point of spring equinox (when days again begin to be longer than nights). This "crossing point" is marked with a red letter "X" and a horizontal line. The horizontal line separates the "lower" half of the year (in which nights rule over days) from the "upper" half (when the hours of daylight finally become longer than darkness again, for half the year). This horizontal bar on the great cross falls between Pisces and Aries on the wheel (at the nine o'clock position, if the circle were a clock), which indicates that this particular diagram is showing the zodiac signs as set in the Age of Aries (the reason for this can be a discussion for another day).

Continuing further, the wheel reaches its highest point, the top of the vertical bar of the cross, at the summer solstice. At that point the days begin to shorten again. The hours of light will still be longer than those of night, but they will be growing shorter each day, until the next "crossing point" is reached: the autumnal or fall equinox, at the right side of the wheel (the three o'clock position, if it were a clock face).

This great circle, with its cross formed by the horizontal bar of the equinoxes and the vertical bar running from the low-point of winter solstice up to the high-point of summer solstice, can be seen in many crosses to this day:

Original image: Wikimedia commons (link); modified in this picture and the one below.

The horizontal bar of the cross represents the fact (and the act) of our being "cast down" into an incarnate body: into an animal form (like the animals that go around in a horizontal position). But the vertical bar represents the raising of everything that is not physical, the beginning of the connection with the Higher Self and the spiritual realm, and the increasing integration of this connection into our lives.

We have just passed that lowest point, the point of winter solstice -- and the message that this special day conveys to us each year is to remember that we are spiritual beings, to remember that those around us are also, and to work to see and treat them as such, rather than "objectifying" them, which means to see them and treat them as "objects," physical lumps only, tools to be manipulated or commodities to be exploited.

Raising up and calling forth the invisible and the spiritual is the very definition of blessing. Beating down and denying the spiritual, brutalizing others and making them feel as if they are only physical objects, is the definition of cursing. The greeting Namasteand the hands-together gesture that goes with the word "Amen" (a version of the name of Amun, the hidden god) expresses the idea of blessing: acknowledging and recognizing the divine spark in oneself and others, and reminding ourselves and others that this is a true fact of who we really are.

We have just passed the point of winter solstice: the point which symbolizes the end of the downward plunge into forgetfulness of who we are, and the turn back upwards. Thus, it is very appropriate at this point in the year to think about becoming someone who blesses instead of curses, in everything that we do (whether our blessing or cursing is done through words or through other methods).

This point on the great annual cross (see the "You are here" image added to the diagram above) is the point at which we should concentrate most on the idea of "raising the Djed column," in the symbology used in the ancient wisdom of Egypt (the Djed symbology is discussed in numerous previous posts such as here and here, and in several videos as well such as here and here).  

In the symbology described in the vision of the Lakota holy man Black Elk, the same concept was described as following the "good red road" (corresponding to the vertical bar on the great wheel, and to the Djed column raised up to connect with the spirit world and integrate the invisible and visible realms) rather than the "black road" on which everyone is biting and devouring one another and living for themselves.

At the point of winter solstice, we can contemplate which road we are following in our words and actions, and we can have hope that -- at this turning point in the great wheel of the year -- we too can change course to the good road.

It is something we would probably do well to contemplate not only on an individual level but also on a societal level -- asking ourselves to what extent the present economic and political structures are built upon a vision of cursing instead of blessing: of seeing the world, and other human beings and living creatures in it, as an object or objects to be conquered, devoured, consumed, turned into a commodity. 

In ancient Egypt, the recovery of the lost god Osiris -- the god who was slain: cast down, sealed in a casket, laid out horizontally -- is effected by the goddess Isis, who tirelessly pursues her beloved Osiris and finally finds him, recovers the casket containing his body, and brings him back to life. She raises the Djed column again.

Below, the goddess is shown receiving the Djed column representing Osiris in the casket, around which a tree has grown and which has been used as a pillar in the palace of the King of Byblos:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Interestingly enough, in the vision of Black Elk, a divine female figure also plays a prominent role: White Buffalo Woman, who is described in his vision at the very beginning, and who in many ways is the one who begins his vision and sends him on his path.

This is another point to contemplate deeply at the point of winter solstice, because in our current culture, which is badly disconnected from the ancient wisdom and as such seeks to turn everything and everyone into a commodity or an object (a form of spirit-denial and thus of cursing), women are very frequently and regularly "objectified," economically, socially, and in many other ways. 

And yet it should be intuitively obvious that the very concept of "birth" and "re-birth" are absolutely dependent upon women and belong most properly to women (physically of course but also spiritually), and that ultimately any real aspect of healthy "growth" and "blessing" must begin with the recognition of their spiritual value and worth, and seek to bless and not to curse and objectify and debase them (as literalist misinterpretations of the ancient wisdom have done for centuries and continue to do in many cases, and as many aspects of modern society can also be shown to do, worldwide).

The point of winter solstice, then, is one of the most significant points of the entire year. It gives us much to meditate on and to contemplate. Ultimately, its message should be tremendously encouraging and uplifting: it is the point of turning from the downward path to the "good road," the point where the "cast down Djed" begins to be raised back up, the point when we begin to see that we are more than a human animal in a dog-eat-dog world and that we actually have an inner connection to the infinite realm, that we and everyone around us and in fact every aspect of our physical universe has an inner divine nature as well as a material nature.


"Here it has reached the turning-point" -- the celestial map of the soul's spiritual trek

"Here it has reached the turning-point" -- the celestial map of the soul's spiritual trek

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

We are now drawing so near the point of solstice that some of the great monuments of deep antiquity are already beginning to hint at their stunning alignments to the sunrise of that significant day.

For instance, if you have the opportunity to visit Stonehenge this week, and if the weather conditions permit a view, you can station yourself near Aubrey Hole 40 and look back across the stone circle between Sarsens 22 (on the north or left as you look east) and 21 (to the south or right as you look east), on through the gap between West Trilithon Sarsens 58 and 57 (likewise left and right, respectively) and past Bluestone 69 just beyond them (framing the right edge of the gap, along with the edge of Sarsen 57), you will be able to see the sunrise sight line for the winter solstice as it would have appeared 4,000 years ago, according to the analysis of Professor Gordon Freeman in his landmark text Hidden Stonehenge (you can see all this in the sample chapter he provides

online here, beginning at page 93 and illustrated with full-color photos in image 4-13, 4-14, and 4-15, captured in 1997).

Even if you do not have the opportunity to visit Stonehenge in person, you can still contemplate the silent, massive stones, patiently marking out the great pivots of the year, as they have been doing year after year, as centuries draw on into millennia, and the earth wings its course around the fiery ball of the sun.

You can consider the vision and the skill of those incredible and now-unknowable minds who conceived of this incredible monument, who placed the stones and engineered those alignments which still remain in effect to this day, through all that has come and gone in between -- alignments (some of them) which remained hidden and all but forgotten, until new souls such as Gordon Freeman came and unlocked them to share with humanity once again.

And, considering this almost inconceivable concept, you can also cast your mind around the planet to other ancient places, where temples face the sunrise on winter solstice or mark our sun's rising point with similarly precise alignments: the great Temple of Karnak in Egypt, the mysterious observatory known as the Caracol in what is today called Belize, the incredible passage mound of Newgrange in Ireland, the more recently-discovered Goseck Circle in northern Europe which is thought to date to as early as 4,900 BC (an amazing 6,900 years ago), and many more.

All testify to the ancient and enduring importance of the great turning points of the annual cycle -- turning points which, according to the inspired analysis of Alvin Boyd Kuhn, were marked primarily for their spiritual significance as a metaphorical "map" of the circling path of the soul itself.

When we understand the ancient allegorical outline of the year as a representation of our own soul's journey down into the physical body (the first birth) and a state of spiritual amnesia (a form of spiritual sleep or even, metaphorically speaking, spiritual "death"), followed by the awakening of the realization of our true spiritual nature and the spiritual nature of the seemingly-material universe around in which we find ourselves, followed by our increased communication and communion with our inner divine nature and eventual return to the invisible realm -- then the importance of the great cycle of the year as a beautiful, visible, ever-present reminder to us becomes clear.

Alvin Boyd Kuhn sketches the outline of this ancient spiritual map most clearly and succinctly, perhaps, in his essay entitled Easter: The Birthday of the Gods, discussed in

this previous post and available to read online in various places such as here and here.

The description is so important that it is worth citing at some length:

Using solar symbolism and analogues in depicting the divine soul's peregrinations round the cycles of existence, the little sun of radiant spirit in man being the perfect parallel of the sun in the heavens, and exactly copying its movements, the ancient Sages marked the four cardinal "turns" of its progress round the zodiacal year as epochal stages in soul evolution. As all life starts with conception in mind, later to be extruded into physical manifestation, so the soul that is to be the god of a human being is conceived in the divine mind at the station in the zodiac marking the date of June 21. This is at the "top" of the celestial arc, where mind is most completely detached from matter, meditating in all its "purity."
Then the swing of the movement begins to draw it "downward" to give it the satisfaction of its inherent yearning for the Maya of experience which alone can bring its latent capabilities for the evolution of consciousness to manifestation. Descending then from June it reaches on September 21 the point where its direction becomes straight downward and it there crosses the line of separation between spirit and matter, the great Egyptian symbolic line of the "horizon," and becomes incarnated in material body. Conceived in the aura of Infinite Mind in June, it enters the realm of mortal flesh in September. It is born then as the soul of a human; but at first and for a long period it lies like a seed in the ground before germination, inert, unawakened, dormant, in the relative sense of the word, "dead." This is the young god lying in the manger, asleep in his cradle of the body, or as in the Jonah-fish allegory and the story of Jesus in the boat in the storm on the lake, asleep in the "hold" of the "ship" of life, with the tempest of the body's elemental passions raging all about him. He must be awakened, arise, exert himself and use his divine powers to still the storm, for the elements in the end will obey his mighty will.
Once in the body, the soul power is weighed in the scales of the balance, for the line of the border of the sign of Libra, the Scales, runs across the September equinoctial station. For soul is now equilibrated with body and out of this balance come all the manifestations of the powers and faculties of consciousness. It is soul's immersion in body and its equilibration with it that brings consciousness to function.
Then on past September, like any seed sown in the soil, the soul entity sinks its roots deeper and deeper into matter, for at its later stages of growth it must be able to utilize the energy of matter's atomic force to effectuate its ends for its own spiritual aggrandizement. It is itself to be lifted up to heights of cosmic consciousness, but no more than an oak can exalt its majestic form to highest reaches without the dynamic energization received from the earth at its feet can soul rise up above body without drawing forth the strength of body's dynamo of power. Down, down it descends then through the October, November and December path of the sun, until it stands at the nadir of its descent on December 21.
Here it has reached the turning-point, at which the energies that were stored potentially in it in seed form will feel the first touch of quickening power and will begin to stir into activity. At the winter solstice of the cycle the process of involution of spirit into matter comes to a stand-still -- just what the solstice means in relation to the sun -- and while apparently stationary in its deep lodgment in matter, like moving water locked up in winter's ice, it is slowly making the turn as on a pivot from outward and downward direction to movement first tangential, then more directly upward to its high point in spirit home. 
So the winter solstice signalizes the end of "death" and the rebirth of life in a new generation. It therefore was inevitably named as the time of the "birth of the Divine Sun" in man; the Christ-mas, the birthday of the Messianic child of spirit. The incipient resurgence of the new growth, now based on and fructified by roots struck deep in matter, begins at this "turn of the year," as the Old Testament phrases it, and goes on with increasing vigor as, like the lengthening days of late winter, the sun-power of the spiritual light bestirs into activity the latent capabilities of life and consciousness, and the hidden beauty of the spirit breaks through the confining soil of body and stands out in the fulness of its divine expression on the morn of March 21. [. . .]. (pages 8 - 11 as paginated in this version).

A couple quick things to point out might include, first, the fact that Kuhn does not intend to exclude women when he uses the masculine pronoun (as was the custom in grammatical usage when he was writing) -- he specifically makes this clear at numerous different points in his voluminous writings.

Second, the ancient sacred myths, scriptures, and traditions of humanity from all over the globe can now be conclusively demonstrated to use the above heavenly cycle (and many other heavenly cycles, including those of the moon and planets but most especially the motions of the stars and constellations) as part of their inspired method for conveying to us the most profound and necessary spiritual knowledge to aid us in this incarnate life.

Alvin Boyd Kuhn wrote the above incredible explication of the annual solstice and equinox points as spiritual analog for the "soul's peregrinations round the cycles of existence," but while he correctly tied the esoteric stories of the Bible to these stations on our spiritual pilgrimage, the level of celestial correspondence to the specific constellations that can be demonstrated in the stories of the Old and New Testament, and in the other myths of the different cultures all around the globe (probed more thoroughly later by Professors Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana in Hamlet's Mill, published in 1969, but without perceiving their spiritual depth in the same way that Kuhn had decades earlier) had not yet been fully appreciated.

The more we begin to understand the specific celestial correspondences of the various gods and goddesses and spiritual beings who are found in the different myths of the world, the more we can begin to see where they might fit and what roles they might play in the great spiritual cycle elucidated by Alvin Boyd Kuhn in the passage above, and better understand their significance and meaning for our own spiritual  growth.

This is actually a matter of absolutely the utmost importance, I am convinced, and opens tremendous new avenues of communication with the incredible ancient wisdom given to humanity in the "high and far off times" (as Giorgio de Santillana called it) -- perhaps in the same millennia that the great stone henges and circles and towers and temples were being erected, or even millennia before that.

I hope that as we approach the powerful and significant turning point of December solstice this year, you will have the opportunity to contemplate these matters at some length and that meditating upon this ancient wisdom will be a blessing to you in your life and in the years to come.

The invisible kraken: Evidence that the earth is not flat

The invisible kraken: Evidence that the earth is not flat

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

My new book, Star Myths of the World, and how to interpret them: Volume One, is the first installment in a series designed to provide conclusive evidence that virtually all of the myths, scriptures, and sacred traditions from around the world -- from the myths of ancient Greece, Sumer, and Egypt to those of China, Australia, and Africa, to virtually every episode recorded in what we call the Old and New Testaments of the Bible -- are built upon a common system of celestial metaphor.

This is extremely important information for many reasons. When we understand this system of celestial metaphor, then we can use that understanding to plainly see unmistakable evidence that the ancient wisdom given to the cultures that eventually became western Europe was originally intended to convey the same fundamental message as that given to all the other cultures of the world. 

It is a message that involves what can be called a shamanic worldview, in which the entire material universe is perceived at every point to be connected to and interpenetrated by the invisible realm, the spirit world: the realm of the gods.

The Star Myths of the world use the motions of the constellations and planets, and the cycles of the sun and the moon and the longer cycles involving planetary conjunctions and orbits and even the awe-inspiring action of precession, as a way of conveying to us the importance of this invisible realm, and our ability to travel there, and to make contact with the divine realm -- because we are actually already in contact with it all the time, as is everything else in the universe.

And, if we are actually all connected to the invisible realm, then that means that we are all in some way connected to one another, and dependent upon one another, as well as connected to all other living things and indeed to every rock and star and molecule in the universe -- and interdependent upon their well being for our own. If we are all actually connected to and bound together by the same invisible spirit realm, then damage that we do to a rain forest or a river or a mountain or even an asteroid has an impact on every other thing in the material realm, and on every other being, and on the welfare of all of them.

It is pretty clear that this ancient wisdom was interrupted at some point in the distant past in "the west," and the repercussions are still being felt to this day. 

The good news is that, although the damage that has resulted from this loss has been enormous, and ongoing, and even accelerating, the invisible realm itself has not gone away (if it had, then there would be no more life on earth, since it is out of the infinite realm that the plants and trees unfold into this material world, and animals and people receive the spirit by which they move and act). And, the ancient texts and myths are still there, telling forth their message about the importance of the sacred realm, our constant dependence upon it and thus our interdependence with the rest of the universe and with all other living beings in it, and the ways given to humanity to make contact with and even journey to that realm during this life, in order to learn things there and effect changes there which cannot be learned or effected in any other way. 

If the loss of this knowledge was a central factor setting the west down a wrong path (a wrong path with global consequences), then it stands to reason that the solution (if one is possible) will entail regaining contact with an understanding that was anciently lost.

I believe that this is an incredibly important message.

I am by no means the only person trying to make this message (or some variation of it) more widely known (in fact, there are many, many others who are bringing this general message to far more people than I reach, many of whom have devoted their lives to spreading such knowledge for many decades and who by their actions over time and the consistency of their message and their work have earned a right to speak on a very large stage and who reach thousands of people every time they give a talk).

However, even as I am making what I believe to be a very important case about the celestial foundation underlying the different mythologies and sacred traditions of humanity around the globe, I find that one of the most frequent questions that I am asked (on the web, at least, and especially in the "comments" left on some of the videos that I have made) is some variation on what I think of the "flat earth" idea.

Because I believe that it can be conclusively demonstrated that the myths and scriptures and sacred traditions of the world are all encoding the motions of the constellations and the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars (as well as longer cycles, including the precessional cycle), this question is actually (in one sense) somewhat relevant to my work.

However, I believe the entire discussion to be a pretty major distraction to the extremely important subjects discussed above. We're talking about evidence that shows all the world's sacred traditions (including the stories in the Bible) are based on the stars, and now we have to stop and haggle over the evidence that the earth is a globe that rotates on its axis once per day, and  goes around the sun once per year?

This is not really an argument that I want to get into at all. I personally believe that the fact of the earth's sphericity and the fact that it orbits around the sun (and not vice versa) is extremely well established. 

I'm actually a little suspicious of the motives of those who insist that this point is not yet proven, and insist on forcing the discussion onto this subject all the time. I actually wonder how many of those who argue for a flat earth truly believe such an argument, and how many might be dragging the debate into that quicksand for other reasons, whether just for the sheer fun of being contrary and picking arguments, or for some other motive.

However, assuming that some people may actually entertain honest doubts about this matter, I will list just a few of what I believe to be many reasons to believe that the earth is a globe that rotates on its axis and orbits the sun (and has an axial tilt which precesses). 

I realize that critics might be able to come up with some way of explaining each of the points offered below with a hypothetical model other than a spherical earth orbiting the sun along with other planets in the solar system, but it is actually possible to do that with virtually any point (one ancient name for this kind of pseudo-argument was sophistry). 

If Sherlock Holmes presents you with extensive evidence which proves beyond all shadow of a doubt that Mr. J murdered Mr. Y, a sophist could still come up and ask him, "Even with all this evidence, how do you know that it was Mr. J and not a grizzly bear that did it? Can you actually prove that it wasn't a grizzly bear?" If Holmes points out that no bears had been reported by any witnesses, and in fact no bears lived in the area, and that in fact no zoo in the area even had any bears in captivity either, the sophist could still say, "But can you prove that it wasn't a grizzly bear?" If Holmes then shows that the victim was strangled and not bitten, the sophist could then say, "Then how do you know it wasn't a kraken? Can you prove it wasn't?" 

Such tactics could be extended indefinitely: if Holmes shows that nobody had reported anything like a kraken in the area, the sophist might knowingly say, "A ha -- but how do you know it wasn't an invisible kraken?"

I am personally not that interested in debating the possibility of an invisible kraken. 

I would be suspicious of anyone who wanted to persistently steer the argument off in that direction. I assume that there are some people who have honestly been convinced of the possibility of a flat earth, and who will be interested in honestly considering the arguments offered below giving my reasons why I am not at all convinced of that possibility.

The fact that I do not want to go there should not at all lead anyone to the conclusion that I myself am trying to cover up the existence of krakens or that I am part of some group trying to keep the knowledge of the existence of krakens from the general public. 

I will present some evidence below which convinces me that the earth is a sphere and goes around the sun, which I hope will be helpful to anyone who is honestly doubting that this is the case. But in the future I do not plan to get into any extended discussions on the subject, just as I wouldn't expect Sherlock Holmes to want to spend hours discussing the hypothetical possibility of an invisible kraken.

1. The whirl of stars around the celestial north pole and the celestial south pole:

Two different whirling points, one counterclockwise and one clockwise.

The elevation of the whirling points changes as you go further north or further south.

You cannot see both at once, but you can see the appropriate one based on whether you are in the northern or southern hemisphere.

The rotation of the earth towards the east causes the stars to appear to move from the east to the west. If you were to lie down at the north pole and look up, you would see the stars appearing to move in a circle around the point directly overhead (ninety degrees up from the ground) -- the celestial north pole. Anyone in the northern hemisphere can also see the stars move in a circle around the celestial north pole, but as we move further south, the point that they all appear to circle around gets lower in the sky (but always towards the north). 

After we cross the equator into the southern hemisphere, however, we can no longer see the whirl of stars around the celestial north pole: instead we can see a different whirl, around the celestial south pole. The further south we go (the closer to the earth's south pole), the higher this whirl will be in the sky, but always towards the south. 

This fact of the two different whirls of stars in the sky is perfectly easy to explain if the earth is a globe. 

The fact that the height that the point around which the sky appears to whirl will change as we go further north or further south is also exactly what we would expect if the earth is a globe.

It is very difficult to explain why there are two different points around which the sky appears to whirl, if we are on a flat earth that does not rotate. It is very difficult to explain why the north celestial pole is higher in the sky the further north one goes in the northern hemisphere, and lower in the sky the further south one goes, if we are not on a globe.

I have personally seen the south celestial pole and the stars turning around it when I was in New Zealand, and I have personally seen the north celestial pole and the stars turning around it from many different latitudes in the northern hemisphere. This is not hearsay evidence that I am talking about. 

(I have not personally observed these two whirls from the equator itself, but from there you would be able to see the "upper half" of both of them, one if you looked towards the north pole, and the other if you looked towards the south pole -- if you doubt this, you can verify it for yourself by going to the equator and doing some observing). 

There are also many photographs on the web of the stars whirling around the north celestial pole, taken from various latitudes in the northern hemisphere, and many photographs of the stars whirling around the south celestial pole, taken from various latitudes in the southern hemisphere.

At the top of this post is an image, taken from a point in the southern hemisphere (in Chile), showing stars circling the south celestial pole. Below is another image, taken from a point in the northern hemisphere (in Arizona), showing stars circling the north celestial pole:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Now, before someone tries to come up with some flat-earth explanation of how we could have two different points around which the stars rotate, one only visible from north of the equator and the other only visible from south of the equator, and how the point around which the sky appears to turn will be seen to be higher or lower in the sky based on your latitude (all of which makes perfect sense if we are on a globe that is rotating on its axis, but which requires some extremely convoluted contortions to try to explain from the perspective of a flat earth), there is one other aspect of this phenomenon which is difficult to explain for a flat-earth theory but makes perfect sense from the perspective of the globe-and-axis theory, and that is the fact that the stars rotate around the north celestial pole in a counter-clockwise fashion, and the south celestial pole in a clockwise fashion.

Why would this be? It makes perfect sense, if we are on a globe rotating towards the east. As the ball we are standing on spins towards the east, it causes objects in the sky to appear to speed towards the west. This happens to the sun once per day: it "rises" in the east and moves across the sky towards the west, then sinks down below the western horizon as a function of the fact that the ball we are standing on kept spinning towards the east, bringing the curve of the western horizon in between us (where we are standing) and the sinking sun. 

The reason the sun (and all the other stars) appear to move east to west is the same reason a billboard or a barn or a tree seen from the window of a speeding car or train appears to move towards the rear of the car or train: you are rushing forwards, so things outside appear to rush backwards. As we spin east, things in the sky appear to move west: the earth is spinning towards the east, so objects in the sky (including the sun, planets, and stars) all appear to move from the east to the west.

If we are standing in the northern hemisphere and look towards the north, the stars will be rotating east to west (just as they do everywhere else on a ball that is spinning towards the east). But as we look north, this will cause them to rotate around the central north celestial pole in a counter-clockwise direction (because if we are in the northern hemisphere facing the north pole, east is to our right, and stars rising in the east will arc over us from right to left as we face north, and those close to the north pole will go around from right to left also in a counter-clockwise fashion around the central point, such that a star at the three o'clock position will rotate up to twelve o'clock before continuing down to nine o'clock and eventually down to six o'clock and back around to three o'clock). 

Below is a video from the northern hemisphere (in northern Spain) of the stars going around the central point in a counter-clockwise direction:

There are many other such videos available on the web (and if you are in the northern hemisphere you can make one for yourself, or just observe it happening with the naked eye).

However, if we are in the southern hemisphere and we look towards the south pole and watch the stars rotating around the south celestial pole in the sky, they will move in the opposite direction: clockwise around the central point. Why is that?

Well, the stars are still moving from east to west, just as they do everywhere else on a globe that spins eastwards (the sun rises in the east for people in the southern hemisphere too, just as it does in the northern hemisphere). But, when we look to the south celestial pole, we are facing south, and now east is to the left of us and west is to the right, and stars will be rising from our left and going towards our right. Those close to the central point around which all the stars in the sky appear to turn (the south celestial pole, above earth's south pole) will go from left to right as they go over the central hub: they will go clockwise. A star which begins at nine o'clock will go up to twelve o'clock and then on down to three o'clock and so on.

Below is another video, this one from the southern hemisphere, showing all the stars going around the south celestial pole in a clockwise fashion -- just the opposite of the way they whirl around the northern hub:

The above discussion is, in my opinion, already conclusive evidence that we live on a spherical planet which turns on its axis once per day in a rotation towards the west. This model explains perfectly all the phenomena shown and discussed above. A flat-earth model has a very hard time explaining all the above evidence (although someone using the "what about invisible krakens" method of sophistical argument could probably do it -- I just have my doubts whether they themselves would actually believe it).

2. There are stars that not visible to observers in some latitudes.

Some stars are too far south to be visible from northern latitudes, but are obscured by the horizon. But as you go further south they come into view -- rising above the southern horizon, even if only just barely. As you go further and further south, they will arc at a higher and higher altitude in the sky.

No need to spend too much time on this one, but it is very difficult to account for from a flat-earth perspective, and perfectly understandable if the earth is a sphere and space extends in all directions, with stars in all directions in space. If we are on a ball and space is all around us, then some stars will not be visible to observers on the "top half" of the ball, unless those observers move "down" the ball towards the equator line or even cross down into the "lower half" of the ball.

Observers in the northern hemisphere cannot see the constellation Crux (the Cross) unless they are pretty far south -- that's why it is popularly known as the Southern Cross. I myself never saw this constellation until I traveled to New Zealand.

Even Fomalhaut is pretty difficult to see from northerly latitudes in the northern hemisphere, but the further south on the globe you travel, the easier it will be to see it because it will "clear" the southern horizon with a higher and higher arc as you travel further and further south.

This makes sense if we are on a sphere. It does not make much sense if the earth is flat.

You might find a video that I made a long time ago, using a metaphor that I call "the orbit in the dining room," to be helpful for imagining the way that we see the stars in space from the perspective of our location on a globe: there are stars on all the "walls" as well as on the ceiling and floor, but if we're on the upper half of the ball we can see the stars on the ceiling but not the floor, and we can see stars on the walls but only those on the "upper half" of the walls -- the further "down" the ball we go, the further down the "wall" will come into view.

3. Constellations look "upside down" in the southern hemisphere, compared to their orientation in the northern hemisphere.

This is another point that is very damaging to the flat earth model, but makes perfect sense if the earth is a globe. When you travel to the southern hemisphere, if you have lived in the northern hemisphere all your life, you will soon notice that all the constellations are "upside down" to the way you are used to seeing them (if you are used to looking at the constellations, that is).

This phenomenon is perfectly understandable if we are on a globe. I'm not sure why the sky would seem to "flip" as we get to the outer edges of a supposed "flat earth" in which "south" is supposedly "towards the edges" and north is in the center.

But, now imagine the earth as a globe (which I am quite certain that it is). If you imagine yourself standing at the north pole and looking at the outline of the constellation Orion (located near the ecliptic plane, "out from the equator" in the sky, so to speak), and then imagine that you travel down to the south pole and look out at the same constellation of Orion, you will immediately understand why the constellation looks "upside down" from the south pole, relative to how it looked when you were at the north pole.

This phenomenon is true for points in the southern hemisphere, not just at the south pole itself.

I myself witnessed this when I went to the southern hemisphere (New Zealand and Australia). Orion was the first constellation which I noticed to be "upside down" to my way of seeing him.

4. The angle that the stars, planets, and sun and moon rise up out of the eastern horizon and sink down into the western horizon changes based on your latitude, and can be used for long-distance ocean navigation.

This is the method used by the Wayfinders of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and it is almost certainly the traditional method used for the successful long-distance ocean-crossing voyages that the people of the different Pacific Island cultures used to cross the vast distances that they crossed.

See this previous post discussing "the greatest navigators our globe has ever seen," as Thor Heyerdahl called the Polynesian peoples who traveled the almost-unimaginable distances from Hawaii to Tahiti to Aotearoa (New Zealand) to Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and to many other distant shores as well.

Some discussion is presented there regarding the reason that in the northern hemisphere, the courses of the stars angles up from the eastern horizon but along an arc closer to the southern horizon, while in the southern hemisphere the courses of the stars angle up from the eastern horizon but along an arc closer to the northern horizon, and why they go along an arc straight up and perpendicular to the horizon as you cross the equator. This discussion is largely based upon the helpful diagrams and discussion found on the actual website of the Polynesian Voyaging Society, which has successfully crossed the oceans using the same traditional Wayfinding methods used by their ancestors in previous centuries.

If you take the time to read that entire page as linked, you will see that their method assumes a spherical earth, and that in fact the star courses do what they do and in doing so enable navigation because we are on a spherical earth which rotates on its axis.

I have not actually asked them, but I would be very doubtful that there are any believers in the flat-earth model among the members of the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

There are others who know the science of navigating by true celestial navigation. The excellent book by Thomas Cunliffe entitled Celestial Navigation tells you how it is done using a sextant -- and it also bases all its techniques upon the understanding that the earth to be a globe.

5. Objects that travel through the air for long distances have to take into account the rotation of the earth.

This is true for airplanes.

It is also true for artillery shells that travel very long distances, and other military munitions.

I am not an airline pilot, but I have a very good friend who is an airline pilot. There are a very large number of airline pilots in the world. I do not believe that they are all "in on" a major conspiracy to hide from us the fact that the earth is really flat.

In order to accurately take off on one point and travel a very far distance to land where you want to land, you have to account for the fact that the earth actually rotates on its axis.

I was in the military for many years. I graduated from the US Military Academy at West Point, which was founded in 1802 in part to provide the level of mathematical and engineering knowledge necessary to fling artillery shells from one point on the surface of the earth to another, and also to be able to construct bridges that would not collapse: the young nation needed a school to teach such subjects, and did not have one until the Academy was founded (most of the universities such as Harvard and Yale were originally founded as theological schools).

Although I was not commissioned as an artillery officer, I did have to learn quite a bit about the science of flinging artillery shells from one point on earth's surface to another and having them land where you want them to land (I remember hearing stories while at West Point about artillery shells being sent by accident into the vicinity of the Bear Mountain Bridge, which is not far from the training areas and also not far from where Jack Kerouac started the journey he recorded in On the Road; I have no idea whether that story about shells accidentally landing near Bear Mountain Bridge is true or not, but I suspect that it could have been: the stories were passed on to us to emphasize the importance of doing the calculations properly and carefully, with "attention to detail," and the consequences that could happen if we did not).

In order to send artillery shells (or any other military munition) long distances with accuracy, you have to account for the rotation of the earth. This can be verified by looking at any number of artillery manuals that have been published through the years. Older manuals (and even some of the newer ones) have firing tables that help you to make the calculations that account for the rotation of the earth.

It does not make any sense to argue that these calculations are just introduced in there to keep us from knowing that the earth really doesn't rotate at all. If the earth did not rotate, then accounting for rotation that did not exist would cause artillery shells to land in places that they were not supposed to land.

I believe that some proponents of a flat, non-rotating earth will try to explain this away by resorting to an invisible fluid or element known as "ether." I believe that this is basically the same as resorting to an invisible kraken. I don't care to try to prove that there is no such thing as ether -- it may be very difficult to prove the non-existence of ether (and also of invisible krakens). But since the rotation of the earth explains the need for these artillery calculations (and because there is extensive evidence of other forms that shows we are on a spherical and rotating earth -- see all the points above -- I don't believe I or anyone else need engage in a debate over the existence or non-existence of a hypothetical substance called "ether").

For one example of an artillery manual which discusses the need to make calculations to account for the rotation of the earth, see USMC Field Manual 6-40, and page 7-19 and following (where you will be directed to "Table H," which gives you the calculations needed to account for the rotation of the earth).

Army manuals for field artillery are also numbered 6-40: you can find many of them on the internet which discuss the importance of accounting for earth's rotation. Some of those which are available on the web go back to 1944 or 1945 (well before the founding of NASA, an organization which some flat-earth adherents blame for much of the supposed disinformation about the shape of the earth in modern times).

6. The Coriolis Effect caused by the laws of physics related to inertia and angular momentum cause large bodies of air and water to rotate in generally predictable patterns, which differ on either side of the equator.

This is getting a little technical, but those interested can read about it in many different places on the web or in textbooks.

One thing that is caused by the Coriolis effect is the pattern of air currents and the direction that they swirl on our planet. They generally swirl counterclockwise off the equator to the north, and clockwise off the equator to the south.

You can see this in Coriolis-induced action in images of hurricanes.

Hurricanes in the northern hemisphere generally rotate counter-clockwise around their central eye, and those in the southern hemisphere generally rotate the other way (clockwise).

Below is an image of a hurricane in the northern hemisphere:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Note that the "arms" of the swirl from the left side of the circle (nine o'clock) open "up and to the right" (look from nine o'clock up towards the twelve o'clock of the storm to see this). Another way to think about it is that the storm appears from above to be swirling inward towards the center in a counter-clockwise direction.

Now look at the image below of a hurricane in the southern hemisphere:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

It should be readily apparent that this hurricane is swirling in the opposite direction from the hurricane shown in the image above it. This one appears to swirl towards the center in a clockwise direction, and the arms appear to open "up and to the left" when seen from the right side of the storm. To see this, look at the six o'clock position and trace up towards the three o'clock.

It is very difficult to explain why hurricanes would swirl in one direction on the north side of an equator line on a flat earth and in completely the opposite direction on the other side of the same equator line (an equator line doesn't really even make sense on a flat earth, but let's assume that there is such a line, and many flat-earth proponents talk about one).

However, it does make sense on a rotating sphere, in which the Coriolis effect is present (and completely explainable based on the laws of physics).

I don't know if any flat earth theorists try to explain this phenomenon away. They certainly cannot argue that hurricanes are some kind of a hoax. I personally went to Florida to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and have witnessed the devastation they cause first hand.

I was also in southern China during a typhoon once.

7. The Foucault Pendulum demonstrates the rotation of the earth.

I was fascinated by the Foucault Pendulum at the old Steinhart Aquarium in San Francisco when I was young. It is still in operation, but has now moved to the new museum location.

The way that a pendulum demonstrates the rotation of the earth is somewhat technical, but fascinating.

It can actually show you your latitude on earth's surface, if you know the principles and can do some trigonometry.

The explanation for Foucault's Pendulum and the rotation of the earth is well explained in the videos shown below (far better than I could explain it, and demonstrated visually far more easily than it can be explained in long paragraphs of verbiage):

First video (gives a decent explanation of what happens -- but the third video below is really the best for visualizing why ):

Second video (probably the best for seeing how it works in action, because it uses an ink marker -- also, this one is outstanding because it explains how to determine your latitude with some degree of accuracy using a pendulum):

Third video (in French but visually the best one on the web that I've found, and because it is in French it probably also pronounces "Foucault" most properly):

Once again, I believe some advocates of a flat earth try to explain away this pendulum phenomenon by relying upon "ether" or some other complicated or convoluted argument to try to say that it isn't really the earth that is rotating but rather then pendulum. It is difficult to understand why the "ether" would not rotate at an arbitrary line called the "equator" on a flat earth, however, just as it is difficult to understand why hurricanes would rotate in opposite ways on either side of such an arbitrary line on a flat earth. 

All of the actions of a Foucault Pendulum, however, are well explained by a spherical earth rotating on its axis.

8. The very existence of time zones should prove that we are on a rotating sphere.

Some parts of earth are in night when others are in day.

This provides a pretty simple and obvious argument for a spherical earth, and one which requires some pretty strange arguments from the flat-earth proponents in order to try to explain for a flat earth.

When I was in China, I could Skype with my family in California, but when it was night for me it was day for them.

Why would the sun above a flat earth illuminate (and heat) one area called "day" but not another area (on a flat plane) where it was night? (The exact same argument, could be made regarding solstices and seasons, and the fact of longer days in one half of the earth while the other half is having shorter days, which is caused by the tilt of the earth and discussed in countless previous posts, including this one from 2011).

Flat earth theorists, I believe, argue that the sun is kind of like "floodlights" that only beam down in a fairly tight cone of light. This doesn't make much sense, if the sun is a ball.

That leads us to the next point:

9. The moon and the visible planets are clearly spherical.

Why would we argue that the earth is flat, if we can see that Mercury, Venus, the moon, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are all spherical? 

You can actually see this with a telescope, if not with the naked eye (you can pretty much see that the moon is a sphere with your naked eye.

10. The motions of the planets on their courses makes sense if earth and the planets are orbiting the sun.

Otherwise, you have to introduce complicated concepts such as "epicycles" to try to explain retrograde motion, etc.

The concept of "retrograde motion" (which you can observe for yourself, on successive nights when one of the visible planets is in retrograde) is something that I discussed at some length in a previous post, back in 2012 during a retrograde period for Mars. Earth was "passing up" Mars on our "inside track" as we orbit the sun, making it look (for a short time) that Mars was moving the opposite direction from earth in its orbit around the sun (Mars and the other visible planets orbit in the same direction around the sun that we do).

11. The monthly cycle of the moon makes perfect sense if it orbits the earth and the earth orbits the sun.

The moon is full when it is exactly opposite the earth from the sun, and highest in the sky at midnight.

The moon is new (and invisible) when it is exactly between earth and the sun, and highest in the sky at noon.

Both of the above make perfect sense if the moon orbits the earth. I discuss these cycles, which are not (unfortunately) widely understood by the general public unless they take the time to learn about it (it is not generally taught in school, at least in my personal experience), in a blog post here from several years ago. You can find other posts in which I discuss the cycles further by searching for "new moon" in the internal blog search window.

The moon is a thin crescent when it is only a few days old (after new moon), and follows closely behind the sun (at this time in its cycle, it can be seen just after the sun goes down, following "hard after" the sun). This also makes sense if the earth is a rotating sphere and the moon is the earth's satellite. 

All of the moon's cycles, and its relative position to the sun and distance "behind" or "ahead" of the sun, make perfect sense if it orbits earth and earth rotates while orbiting the sun.

To explain all of this using the flat earth ideology would require some contortions.

12. Solar and lunar eclipses make sense for the same reasons described above for the phases of the moon.

Solar eclipses take place when the moon passes between earth and the sun, and thus can only happen on a point of new moon.

Lunar eclipses take place when the earth is between the sun and the moon, and thus can only happen at a time of full moon.

These phenomena are well explained by the model of the earth orbiting the sun, and the moon orbiting the earth. The moon orbits on a plane that is "tilted" relative to the plane of earth's orbit around the sun, and thus we do not have a solar or lunar eclipse at every single new moon or full moon (this is discussed in previous posts about the "lunar nodes").

Once again, explaining why this happens the way it does from a flat earth model causes some contortions (this pattern is typical of an incorrect model: a correct theory will usually clear up a whole lot of evidence that the incorrect theory had to tie itself in knots to try to explain). 

An additional problem for the flat earth theorist is the fact that during a lunar eclipse, it is the shadow of the earth that creeps slowly across the face of the moon as earth moves between sun and the moon. The edge of this shadow can clearly be seen to be curved, indicating that earth is a sphere (as do so many of the other pieces of evidence offered above).

This creates a king-sized problem for flat earth theories.

I have even read that some flat earth theorists posit the existence of another moon-like body that is throwing its shadow across the moon during a lunar eclipse, to alleviate the problem caused by the curved shadow that earth projects on the surface of the moon and that is clearly visible to the casual observer. Of course, this "hypothetical moon" that occasionally eclipses our moon is invisible and has never been seen, but it "must" be there, according to some theorists (apparently -- I myself have never spoken to anyone who actually believes such a theory, and I actually have difficulty believing that anyone honestly believes it themselves).


These are just some of countless other pieces of evidence which could be offered (and I'm not even a physicist). I haven't even gone into the problem of GPS location, which is now such a common fact of life with smartphone users that they take it for granted -- but I personally remember the first time our unit in the 82nd Airborne Division was issued portable GPS devices (only six for the entire company of over a hundred paratroopers, and they were huge -- about the size of a flat brick), and I remember sitting out in the field and waiting to get "three satellites" (you couldn't accurately get your location if you only had two satellites or one satellite in communication with your device).

Nor have I touched the very complex (but perfectly understandable given a rotating earth going around a massive sun and orbited by a less-massive moon) mechanism of the ocean tides(which everyone who surfs regularly must keep an eye on), or the even more awe-inspiring mechanism of the precession of the equinoxes (which is almost certainly a function of the principle of the conservation of angular momentum, the fact of the equatorial bulge, and the resulting motion of the axis around which the earth rotates in the same way that a gyroscope or even a spinning bicycle tire suspended from a string will precess).

All of the above evidence convinces me that the flat-earth argument is incorrect -- and also causes me to wonder about the motives of at least some of those who spend a lot of time trying to get people to argue about it.

Those, at least, are my reasons. And that is about as much as I wish to say on this subject.

Please do not contact me with counter-arguments to the above evidence, or with complicated and purely hypothetical models that could possibly account for one or more of them. As I said before, I believe that such arguments are akin to trying to engage Sherlock Holmes in a debate over the possibility of an invisible kraken -- and such debates can be extended indefinitely by a really aggressive and contrarian debater who enjoys arguing for the sake of argument -- but they distract from what I believe to be the real discussion at hand.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Chinese characters and the moment of Equinox

Chinese characters and the moment of Equinox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the character for "time":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Below is the character for "good":

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who is "Doubting Thomas"?

Who is "Doubting Thomas"?

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

One of the more famous episodes in the New Testament resurrection story is the account of "Doubting Thomas," also referred to as "The Incredulity of Thomas" ("incredulity" meaning literally "the not-believing" of Thomas, or the "not-giving-credit [i.e., trust]" by Thomas).

The account of this episode is found in the Gospel According to John (and only there, out of the texts that were included in what came to be the accepted texts of the "canon"), and is there described as follows (in the 20th chapter of the Gospel According to John): 

24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.
26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them; then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet believed.

This passage is often interpreted as being about belief or faith, particularly by those who assert that the texts were intended to be understood literally and historically (that is to say, those who believe the texts were intended to be understood as describing an encounter that took place in literal history between two literal and historical figures).

But what if that is not what this episode is actually about at all?

If the text is describing a literal event that took place after a literal resurrection, then it would make sense to understand this encounter with Thomas as being about believing that the literal resurrection happened in the manner described. 

But we have already examined some evidence that the character of Thomas has a meaning that goes far beyond the common understanding of Thomas as a particular individual who lived a long time ago and had a particularly "incredulous" disposition and a particularly blunt way of expressing himself.

A major clue to the critical importance and true identity of this character "Doubting Thomas" is in fact found in the very passage cited above from the "canonical" text of the Gospel According to John: the information given in verse 24 of John 20 that Thomas (one of the twelve) was also called Didymus.

The word "didymus" is Greek in origin and means "twin" (the prefix di- is still found in many English words, many scientific in nature, which carry the meaning of "twin" or "two" or "twinned," such as a diode or a dipole or a diplodocus or a dichotomy or even a diploma -- diplomas apparently being so named because they were originally "folded in two" or "doubled" instead of being rolled up in a cardboard tube the way they are today).

The Gospel According to John is the only text among those admitted to the New Testament canon which uses the word Didymus (or didymos in the New Testament Greek) or reveals that Thomas was either an actual twin or was for some reason called "the twin" (even though Thomas is listed in the naming of the twelve apostles found in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke, as well as in Acts of the Apostles). Neither John nor the others ever explain why Thomas is called that, or who his other twin might be.

But, as has already been discussed at some length in the previous post entitled "The Gospel of Thomas and the Divine Twin," there were other "New Testament era" texts which were specifically excluded from the New Testament canon but which were apparently preserved in a large sealed jar which in ancient times (in fact, during the same century that the current canon was being established and other texts not included in the canon were being marginalized or even outlawed) was buried beneath the sands at the base of a cliff near the modern-day village of Nag Hammadi in Egypt -- and one of these texts has Jesus addressing Thomas as "my twin and true companion."

This remarkable statement opens up an entirely different interpretation of the so-called "Incredulity of Thomas" episode -- and indeed of the identity and meaning of the character of Thomas altogether.

The statement simply cannot be understood literally, as in referring to a literal-historical twin of Jesus, since such an interpretation would then undermine a literal-historical interpretation of the descriptions of the birth of a single child (not a twin) found elsewhere in the New Testament scriptures.

But just because something is not literal does not mean that it is not true

If we are not meant to interpret these scriptural passages as literal-historical, then how else could we be intended to interpret them? If the passage is not intended to describe a literal individual named Thomas with an incredulous disposition and a gruff manner of speaking, then what are we supposed to learn from it?

Something of tremendous importance and applicability to our daily lives -- something which makes Thomas a character of immediate and ongoing relevance to each of our individual journeys through this world, every single day (in a way, I would argue, that a Thomas who lived a couple of thousand years ago might not be).

In fact, I would argue that even those who take the scriptures as literal and historical probably do not find themselves thinking about Thomas and his importance to their lives multiple times every day.

But I would submit that after reading the esoteric interpretation of Thomas offered below, you might (at least I do).

Because if Jesus and Thomas are twins, and if out of the two of them Jesus represents the "divine twin" in the pairing (and, as we explored in that previous post on Thomas, there are many such "twins" in ancient mythology, including Castor and Pollux in Greek mythology and Gilgamesh and Enkidu in the mythology of ancient Sumer and Babylon), then what does that imply about the identity of Thomas?

Why, it could imply that Thomas is "the human twin."

And which one would that make us? 

(This is a trick question).

The answer, of course, is: "both of them."

We are running around in this incarnate life with both of these "twinned" natures within us at all times (in fact, as has been explored at some length, the very symbol of the cross itself can be seen to represent the "crossing" of two natures in each and every human being -- a horizontal nature and a vertical nature, so to speak: see for example previous posts herehere and here).

To put it very plainly, I believe that the episode of "Doubting Thomas" is intended to teach us to get in touch with the divine Infinite. 

And our "Thomas nature" -- while serving a very necessary function -- can be an obstacle to that connection with the Infinite, at least when overcome by doubt.

Having offered that interpretation, let's now take another look at the text itself to see if it is possible to find any support for such an assertion.

In verse 25, the other disciples say to Thomas: "We have seen the Lord." 

Thomas replies in the same verse: "Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Let's just think about that for a second. 

As noted above, the episode of the "Incredulity of Thomas" is usually interpreted as instructing belief or faith, and not doubt -- and hence a "negative spin" is imputed to this "incredulity" of Thomas (this failing to "extend credit" or trust to the account of the other disciples, on the part of "Doubting Thomas").

But is this statement from Thomas really something that we are meant to see in a negative light? 

He did not say, "Even if I see the print of the nails, I will not believe."

He did not say, "Even if I thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

Thomas is actually displaying critical thinking, a desire to check things out and examine the evidence which supports one or another theory, or which might disprove one or another theory . . . even what we might call "the scientific method."

And this kind of thinking is actually indispensable in our daily life, from one moment to the next in this physical world (in fact, it is essential to our very survival from one moment to the next).  

If a traffic light turns green, telling you that it is safe to proceed into an intersection, or a railroad crossing signal tells you that it is safe to proceed across the railroad tracks, and you don't exercise at least a very little bit of what Thomas here displays when he receives the report of the other disciples, there may come a day when those signals are telling you an untruth that could be extremely dangerous to you. It is advisable to just swivel your head to glance quickly up and down a cross-street or a train-track as you approach it, to "see for yourself" in the same way that Thomas might advise you to do.

In other words, critical thinking is critically important to anyone living in the material world.

It is the same critical thinking that enables us to categorize things into one category or another ("this" and "not that"), to communicate using language (which is built upon definitions of "this" and "not that," the very word definition meaning "to put a boundary or a limit around something"), and to analyze our situation and come up with possible hypotheses to explain what we see, and then examine the evidence that could help us accept or reject the different possible explanations or hypotheses.

All that being said, the scriptural passage itself does indeed appear to be telling us that all of this critical thought, while essential, can have a negative side (like any other good thing, especially when there is "too much of a good thing").

The very same essential and indispensable faculty that enables us to categorize, to hypothesize, and even to criticize ("this is good" versus "that was not so good" or even "that was a disaster") is exactly the same faculty that makes possible self-doubt, self-criticism, and even what we might term "self-imposed isolation from the divine twin."

If you haven't watched it already or don't remember the details of this previous post discussing the excellent conversation with Dr. Darrah Westrup at the mindbodygreen "Revitalize 2015" conference (her talk can be seen in this video clip beginning at about the 1:03:00 mark), please check it out or give it a re-look. 

Because in her talk, after pointing out that animals do not typically walk around wracked with self-doubt, and that even if a cat makes a terrible failure of trying to leap somewhere, it doesn't seem to reduce its self-image or cause it to wonder if it is going to be a failure at it the next time, Dr. Westrup states that it is through language (and thus, I would argue, through the entire facility of defining into "this" and "not that") that we can let our minds "run away with us" with negative results.

In the same presentation, she explains that ancient practices such as meditation and ancient scriptures such as the Vedas seem to teach that what we call our mind is not the whole of who we are, but rather a very useful and indeed indispensable tool, one which we should view as occasionally detrimental: a sort of "over-eager office assistant" that will sometimes make absolutely terrible recommendations, from which we can learn to "stand aside" or "stand above" through disciplines  and methods which were known to the ancients and which can put us in touch with something altogether different. 

In the scripture passage from John chapter 20, the remedy or solution given to Thomas does not involve thinking or talking or reasoning at all: it involves feeling and seeing and experiencing and knowing. And it involves getting in touch with the divine twin.

Note that this does not mean "getting rid of the Thomas" -- as Dr. Westrup says in her talk about the "over-eager office assistant," we actually cannot get rid of that assistant, nor would we really want to. 

Once we have the faculty of defining and critically thinking (and hence of criticizing and also of doubting) then we cannot ever get rid of that, nor would it be good to do so: but we can get in touch with something which is beyond defining, which cannot be "de-fined": something which is in fact In-finite (non-boundaried, non-bounded, non-finite).

Something which other traditions (such as the Vedic texts and epics and commentaries) call variously the Higher Self, the Supreme Self, the Brahman -- which is just as much a part of who we are as is the  part we might call our Thomas-self. That's why they are described as twins. You can't separate them: they are both part of our identity.

In other words, the relationship between Thomas and Jesus implied by the word Didymus may be intended to convey the very same thing that the relationship between Arjuna and the Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita is intended to convey.

And note that at the beginning of the Bhagavad Gita, Arjuna (who corresponds to Thomas) is racked by doubt

Not doubt about the existence or divinity of his divine charioteer, Krishna, but doubt about himself, his worthiness, and whether it is right or not for him to engage in the upcoming battle of Kurukshetra.

And as we see in the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna reveals himself to be unbounded and infinite (just as the goddess Durga revealed herself to be unbounded and infinite immediately prior to the Bhagavad Gita, and in fact was addressed as identical to the Brahman, in the hymn to Durga uttered by Arjuna).

In those Vedic texts, which I believe were designed to convey the very same message being conveyed by the episode of "Doubting Thomas," the metaphor of a chariot is used, in which the horses are the senses and the desires, and the mind is compared to the reins, but the driver is the "divine charioteer," who in the Bhagavad Gita is Lord Krishna himself.  Here, mind is shown to be an essential tool, but it must be guided by the divine charioteer, held in the hands of the divine charioteer.

In other words, I believe we need our critical-thinking "Thomas-faculty" nearly all the time during our waking hours, but there is a very real sense in which this aspect of our humanity gets in the way of our accessing something much deeper, something that is in fact infinite, and that can actually be properly described as divine (and that is described as divine in ancient sacred texts and traditions, including those of the New Testament, as discussed in previous posts such as "Namaste and Amen" and previous examinations of the teachings of the person called Paul).  

And we are actually designed to be in touch with the divine Infinite in this life.

Many of us have in fact experienced moments when we seem to suddenly touch something that is beyond or beneath all of the mental chatter, perhaps in a sports situation when (looking back later) we realize we were playing "out of our head." 

(Conversely, we can also probably recall situations in sports or other areas of endeavor in which we seemed to "self-sabotage" -- through a sudden onset of "doubting Thomas" self-talk -- a play or a catch that we normally would have been able to easily make).

Examples from daily life which we might put into the "uncontroversial" category could include parallel parking perfectly on the first try (even into a very difficult spot), or fetching the exact right amount of water to pour into a coffee-maker to come exactly up to the "max-fill" line without measuring (in an unmarked jug or pitcher that you use to fetch it), or even looking at the clock exactly at 3:33 on several different days, without even thinking about it (we might wonder what exactly was "ticking" in the back of your mind that seemed to be keeping track of the time, since it is clear in this example that it was not the conscious part of the mind that "reasoned out" the exact right moment to glance over at the clock on those different days).

But there are other examples that are far from "mundane" and which seem to evidence a sudden manifestation of the "hidden divine within" or the "unconscious connection with the Supreme Self," such as the incredible displays of timing caught on camera in popular videos such as the "Greatest 'Dad saves' ever" shown here (and there are many other collections along the same lines -- many showing situations that are clearly not staged, unless people are deliberately hazarding their infants to make these movies):

It should be pointed out that in nearly every one of these "Dad saves," the injury-saving action is completely unpremeditated and even apparently "unconscious" (without conscious thought). In some of them, the "save" even appears to be literally "unconscious," as in "he was half-asleep (or more than just half) and his arm reached out to save the baby."

It should also be pointed out that these kinds of difficult-to-explain displays of unconscious genius are not limited to "Dads," although saving a baby or a child does seem to be a common denominator. For instance, there was an incident in my own experience (known to me personally) in which a mother was in line at the grocery store, facing the clerk, and reached completely behind her back to grab the shopping cart and stop it from tipping over as her older son climbed onto the side of it while her younger son (an infant at the time) was inside of it. She was not looking in that direction at all when this took place: it was behind her and she was about to say "hi" to the clerk in anticipation of moving up to the check-out point.

As difficult to explain as such examples appear to be, there are some who would argue that even these displays of human response -- admittedly beyond our "day-to-day" way of behaving or reacting -- are still explainable within the realm of the "natural, material world" and do not require descriptions involving the words "divine" or "infinite" or connections to anything non-material or super-natural.

Perhaps they are just manifestations of highly-developed instinctual abilities on the same level as those which animals routinely display (untroubled as they are by anything resembling the "Thomas-mind" and the self-doubt that comes along with being able to think critically and maintain inner dialogues), and which we usually forget in our civilized setting, but which "pop up" from time-to-time when they are most necessary (a kind of "animal-like survival instinct" that is usually forgotten but occasionally awakens).

That is certainly a possible explanation, and one that our critical-thinking, scientific-method-following minds should consider.

But even if that is a valid explanation for some manifestations of behavior (like the "Dad saves" shown above) that fall completely outside of what we usually experience in what might be called "ordinary reality," there are other examples of human beings apparently accessing the fabric of non-ordinary reality for which even that explanation (already a stretch) seems to be completely inadequate.

For example, in this post from all the way back in January of 2012

, we examined an account of a daughter who was visited in dreams and who received information about the existence of a Buddhist monastery the existence of which she had previously been unaware, but which upon visiting she learned from the presiding abbott that her father had helped found that particular monastery, years before she had even been born.

It is difficult to explain that account as an example of "highly-developed human ability or instinct," because it involved information that came to a person (while unconscious, it should be noted) who could not be expected to know that information at all -- even subconsciously.

Or, see for another example the situation described in the account of Norman Ollestad in his book Crazy for the Storm, in which as a young eleven-year old boy, he had to make his way down a steep and icy mountain in what can only be described as a life-or-death situation.

In that book, we see an excellent real-life example of the "Doubting Thomas" phenomenon: young Ollestad must overcome his own fears, anxieties, self-criticisms and self-doubt -- both on the mountain and in the challenging situations he faced while growing up in the canyons and suburbs around Los Angeles and the California coast during the 1970s.

In order to overcome those doubts, he relies on the uplifting influence of his father, and on reserves of courage and resourcefulness inside himself that at first the boy might not even have known or realized were there.

However, that is not all that helps him survive, as those who have read the book (or who will read the book after this) see by the end. Indeed, in order to eventually make his way off the mountain, several events (including something that he is able to "see" which he later realizes he would not have been able to see based on actual terrain and line-of-sight) and "coincidences" took place which directly contributed to the author's survival on that awful day in 1979.

Although they might not be as dramatic, many of us can also think of "coincidences" or "synchronicities" in our own experience in which people who could not possibly have known that we were thinking about something or considering some course of action suddenly contacted us with information or suggestions that make it seem as though something from outside of ordinary reality is at work.

It is my belief that the episode involving the encounter of "Doubting Thomas" and "the risen Lord" is intended to describe this exact dynamic in our human experience: the fact that we ourselves are endowed with an important facility of critical thinking, which is well-suited for many aspects of day-to-day life (and which is in fact indispensable for our survival), but which can also be a hindrance to us, to the extent that it can lead to self-doubt, self-sabotage, self-destruction in extreme cases, and self-imposed separation from someone we are actually supposed to rely upon as absolutely vital to our experience in this life: our Higher Self, the "divine charioteer," the Christ within.

Indeed, while some readers may remain unconvinced by the analysis and examples offered so far (and especially those who are especially committed to a literal-historical interpretation of the sacred texts of the New Testament) -- even though I believe that the discussion so far should already be fairly convincing -- I believe there is actually a whole additional line of evidence which makes the above interpretation not only "likely" but nearly "indisputable."

The more I have studied the ancient mythology of humanity, the more evidence I have found that virtually all of it, from every single inhabited continent on our globe, and from millennia in the past right up to living traditions which have remained in practice into the present day, is built upon a common system of celestial metaphor, the purpose of which is to convey exactly the type of knowledge that we have been examining above regarding the human condition and the makeup of the natural world and the cosmos in which we find ourselves.

Knowledge regarding its dual material-spiritual composition: the existence of a Spirit World or an Infinite Realm which interpenetrates this material realm at all times and at all points, and with which we are actually in contact all the time ourselves, through our own inner divine spark, our own inner connection to the Infinite.

This inner connection may be often neglected, or even completely forgotten, but (as the embedded video and some of the other examples discussed above make clear) it is very real, and it is very powerful.

It absolutely transcends and blows away our limited understanding of what we ordinary think of as "reality."

But our normal facilities of thinking and understanding and analyzing (the "Thomas side" of our "twinned" existence) tend to doubt the very existence or reality of the divine nature, and when we listen to them enough we can miss out on something that is actually a huge part of who we really are.

A nice "contemporary film allegory" for this self-doubt and self-sabotage which keeps us from reaching our "non-ordinary potential" is the famous exchange between "doubting Skywalker" and Yoda in the famous "X-wing in the swamp" scenefrom The Empire Strikes Back (1980):

One way that we can help to confirm that the "Doubting Thomas" episode in the Gospel According to John was intended to be understood as an esoteric metaphor and not as a literal account of an event which took place in terrestrial earthly history is the fact that, like so many other events related in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible (see a partial list here), it incorporates clearly-identifiable celestial components.

In fact, I can find enough celestial components to this story and those which precede and follow it in John's gospel as to amply confirm to my own satisfaction that it is almost certainly a description of the heavenly cycles of the sun, moon, stars and planets (with which we ourselves are connected, and which serve throughout the world's mythology as an allegorical system which relies upon some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring aspects of our physical, material universe to discuss and explain aspects of the invisible, spiritual world) and not a description of anything that took place in terrestrial human history.

Very briefly, the Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844), who lived well before the discovery of the Nag Hammadi texts, and who spent considerable time discussing the identity of Thomas in a collection of his public sermons or lectures published in 1854 (ten years after his death) and entitled The Devil's Pulpit, makes much of the fact that the traditional observance of St. Thomas' Day was held on December 21st, the point of winter solstice and the point on the zodiac wheel which during the Age of Aries marked the beginning of the sign of Capricorn.

Since at the points of solstice ("sun-station" or "sun-stand-still") the sun appears to "pause" and rise at roughly the same point on the horizon for about three days before turning back around and moving in the other direction again, which is why the "birth" of the solar child is celebrated three days later (at midnight on the 24th of December, rather than on the solstice-day of the 21st of December), Robert Taylor argued that the 21st is a sort of "day of maximum doubt," when the sun has been rising successively further and further south since summer solstice in June, and tracing an arc that is lower and lower across the sky, and the hours of daylight each day have been getting shorter and shorter relative to the hours of darkness -- and that "unbelieving Thomas" is thus the figure who doubts that the sun will ever turn around again (Devil's Pulpit, 42).

Zodiac wheel with positions of the signs of Capricorn (green) and Cancer (red) indicated, one beginning at the point of winter solstice (Capricorn) and the other beginning at the point of summer solstice (Cancer).

Interestingly enough, there are also traditions which associate the feast-day of Thomas with the 3rd of July, which is in the sign of Cancer the Crab, the sign which follows the sun's point of maximum arc and its northmost rising- and setting-points (as well as with other days of the year).

Robert Taylor incorporates all these details into his explanation, in which he argues that Thomas is associated both with the Goat of Capricorn (beginning at the sun's lowest point) and with the Crab of Cancer (beginning just after its highest) -- and also the related fact that he is called "the twin."

One look at the zodiac image above should be enough to perceive just how ingeniously the ancient myths (including those in the Bible) were crafted to impart their esoteric message, and how the majestic cycles of the celestial realms were employed in order to convey knowledge of spiritual truths -- in this case, the truth allegorized by the metaphor of Thomas and the Divine Twin, one enmeshed in the doubts and definitions of the "practical" struggles of the finite world, and the other completely free of the bounds of earth (passing easily through locked doors) and of the endless defining and analyzing of the "Thomas" side of our nature: the divine nature, at home in and representative of the realm of the Infinite.

Images of Thomas in this famous encounter with the Lord painted in previous centuries have in fact emphasized his Capricornian nature.

Now is a good time of year to observe the Goat of Capricorn in the sky (look to the west of the Great Square of Pegasus, or to the east of the distinctive "teapot" outline in the constellation of Sagittarius, which is currently still easily visible looking towards the south during the prime stargazing hours after sunset and before midnight, at the base of the rising column of the Milky Way).

Below is an image of the night sky as it looks to an observer in the northern hemisphere in the temperate latitudes, and looking towards the southern horizon (where the zodiac constellations make their nightly procession):



In the above image, you can see that the zodiac constellation of Capricorn the Goat (or the Sea-Goat) is actually reaching its highest point (its transit point) as it turns through the due-south celestial meridian-line (the highest point on its arc through the sky between rising in the east on the left and setting to the west on the right) right around 11pm.  The outline of Capricorn is almost directly above the letter "S" marking due south.

Below is the same image, adding color to the outline of Capricorn as well as to the landmarks of the  Great Square of Pegasus and the "teapot" in Sagittarius:

In the above image, the Great Square of Pegasus is outlined in yellow, the "teapot" formation in Sagittarius is outlined in blue, and the Goat of Capricorn is shown in green.

The general direction of the shining band of the Milky Way galaxy, which rises up from the southern horizon almost straight-up into the heavens at this time of year, is indicated with a label written in purple.

Please take special note of the outline of the stars of the Goat of Capricorn. In order to observe them more closely, a "zoomed-in" image of the Capricorn region and its constellation's stars is shown below:

Note that the constellation suggests the shape of two "point-downward" triangles: one for the head of the Goat, and the other formed by Capricorn's two feet, which come together in a near-point, as if he is a rock-hopping mountain goat instead of a Sea-Goat as he is often portrayed.

It is also notable that he has some fairly formidable "goat-horns" pointing almost straight forward from his head, which are distinctly two in number: there are two stars to mark the tips of the Goat's horns (one is labeled in the image above, Deneb Algedi, and the other is just a bit further to the right and on a line slightly below Deneb Algedi in the sky).

Below is the same "zoomed-in" image of Capricorn, this time with green outlines to help make perfectly clear the line of the horns and the "two triangles" shape of the constellation:

Having familiarized ourselves with the outline of Capricorn, let us now take a look at some of the images created by master artists over the centuries depicting the famous encounter between Thomas and the risen Lord in the episode of "The Incredulity of Thomas."

The first (and perhaps most revealing) is from Giovanni del Giglio, who lived from some time in the late 1400s through approximately 1557. It is entitled L'incredulita di San Tommaso:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Take a close look at the hands of Thomas and the divine twin (the risen Lord).

If you have studied the images of the constellation Capricorn presented above, you will find that the unmistakeable features of the heavenly symbol are reproduced in this drawing and are associated with the probing fingers of Thomas (the horns of the Goat), the downward-facing triangle of the hand of Jesus (the head of the Goat), the bend of the arm of Thomas below the elbow of the risen Lord (the feet of the Goat), and the distinctive hand-symbol being displayed by the woman in the image (the tail of the Goat).

If you are having trouble seeing the correspondence between the image and the constellation, it is outlined in the identical image below, with Capricorn added:

Below is another example, much more recent, from Tissot (1836 - 1902), which envisions the same scene but instead appears to use the bearded, downward-bowed head of Thomas himself to evoke the idea of the head of Capricorn, and the down-stretched arm and one leg of the apostle to suggest the front and back legs of the constellation which are nearly together in the outline of Capricorn in the actual night sky:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The examples could be multiplied on and on: the reader is invited to examine them for himself or herself to decide whether or not the identification of Thomas with the constellation Capricorn is valid in these examples, based on what we know of the outline of the stars themselves in the sky.

There is actually much more which could be added to the celestial metaphors at work in this particular scriptural event, and in the events which surround it in the John gospel, which act to confirm even more powerfully the fact that this story was originally intended to be understood esoterically rather than literally as an event taking place in earthly history.

One other important piece of evidence which Robert Taylor offers in his extensive analysis of the identity of Thomas is the fact that his name itself points to the connection between Capricorn and Cancer in this story (the signs marking the celestial low-point and the celestial high-point).

The name Thomas, he alleges (and others have made the same assertion) is related to the name Tammuz, which is both the name of an ancient deity and also of the fourth month of some ancient calendars (including the Hebrew calendar still in use today).

If you look again at the zodiac wheel reproduced above, and count to the fourth sign after the point of spring equinox (the beginning of the year in many ancient cultures), you will find that this count brings you to the sign of Cancer the Crab (1 - Aries; 2 - Taurus; 3 - Gemini; 4 - Cancer).

In other words, Thomas is associated with both Capricorn and Cancer: both the "doubting twin" and with the exalted Supreme Self (and some have even noted that his confession or exclamation "My Lord and my God" appears to refer to both human kingship and divinity, an expression of the dual nature of the Christ).

All of this appears to rather strongly confirm the powerful insight of Alvin Boyd Kuhn, quoted many times in previous posts (see here and here and here), that the ancient myths of the world (including those in the Bible) are not about ancient history but about our experience "here and now;" that they are not about "old kings, priests and warriors" but rather that in every scene they treat the experience of "the human soul."

"The Bible is about the mystery of human life," he says, "[ . . .] and it is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it!" (Note that the two halves of the foregoing quotation are from different sentences in the same lecture by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, but by quoting them in this way I have not altered the sense of what he is asserting).

Indeed, when it comes to the story of Thomas the Twin (Didymus), we might alter Alvin Boyd Kuhn's quotation a bit further and say that this particular story "is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself or herself to be a twin in exactly the same way!"

The metaphor of Thomas and the divine twin is a metaphor to teach us a profound truth. It could be taught a different way, using a different metaphor -- such as the metaphor of Arjuna and the divine charioteer, in the Bhagavad Gita. In fact, there are endless different ways of expressing the same concept, found throughout the myths of the world, which collectively are the precious inheritance of humanity, intended for our benefit and use in this life.

We are each a twin in exactly the same way that Thomas is a twin: permanently 'twinned' with the 'divine twin,' who can appear in an instant no matter where we are or in what circumstance we find ourselves. No locked door can prevent the appearance of the divine twin, for we ourselves have within us -- always and in every circumstance -- an inner connection to the Infinite; we ourselves contain both Capricorn and Cancer: both twins, simultaneously. We are prone to doubting and to forgetting -- to saying with Luke in the swamp, 'I'll give it a try' -- cutting ourselves off from unlimited potential, when in reality we have access to all of it, all the time.

The fact that the story is a metaphor in no way means that it is "not true" (it just is not, at least in my understanding of it based on the evidence that I have seen for myself, literal or historical).

In fact, I believe it is profoundly true, and that it has daily practical applications for us in virtually every field of our human experience.

There are ways to learn these truths other than through the exquisite metaphors found in the world's ancient myths -- but when we have this incredible treasure which has been imparted to us for our good, it would seem to be a terrible waste to ignore these ancient teachings, or to turn them into something which they quite plainly are not (especially if we know what they are).

Who is "Doubting Thomas"?

Well, obviously, we have him with us every day.

But if we recognize his good aspects (incredulity, after all, can be a good quality), while avoiding the negative side of incredulity (self-doubt, over-criticism, over-haste in labeling defeat or failure, self-sabotage, and disconnection with the divine nature which is as much a part of who we are as is the Thomas-nature), we can touch the Infinite. Every day.


image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The Gospel of Philip and the Zodiac Wheel

The Gospel of Philip and the Zodiac Wheel

images: Wikimedia commons link 1link 2link 3.

The previous two posts have attempted to demonstrate that ancient texts buried beneath a cliff near modern-day Nag Hammadi, likely placed there during the second half of the fourth century AD after authorities promoting what can generally be called a literalist approach as opposed to a gnostic approach had declared these texts to be heretical and suppressed their teachings, can be shown to be using esoteric metaphors to convey the very same ancient wisdom found in other myth-systems the world over.

In particular, the preceding posts argued that specific metaphors in the Gospel of Thomas, an extremely important text found in Codex 2 when the Nag Hammadi codexes were unearthed in the twentieth century, after spending perhaps sixteen centuries beneath the ground, are conveying the same message found in the ancient Sanskrit scriptures of the Bhagavad Gita and the Mahabharata concerning the nature of human incarnation, the constant interplay between the material realm and the realm of spirit, and the reality of each individual to have inner access to the infinite -- the higher self, the supreme self, the Atman -- at all times.

For those discussions, please see the previous posts entitled 

These discussions can be seen to be related to the larger pattern of the world's ancient myths, all of which can be shown to be very deliberately and intentionally using the celestial cycles to convey profound spiritual truths, most often within the framework of the great wheel of the zodiac and the great solar cross formed by the "horizontal" line running between the equinoxes (which generally relates to the "casting down" of the spirit into material incarnation in this life) and the "vertical" line running between the solstices (which generally relates to the "raising up" or "calling forth" of the spiritual aspect present -- though often hidden or forgotten -- in ourselves and indeed within every aspect of the apparently physical universe).

Numerous previous posts have discussed this overall pattern -- often relating it to the ancient Egyptian metaphor of the "casting down" and the "raising back up" of the Djed column: see for instance previous posts such as "The Zodiac Wheel and the Human Soul," "The Djed column everyday: Earendil" and many others.

Very significantly, there are passages in the Nag Hammadi texts which I would argue can be shown to explicitly declare the major outline of this very same mythological zodiac metaphor:

the metaphor which forms the foundation for Star Myths from virtually every continent and culture around the globe.

In another important text from the same collection, the Gospel of Philip, which was also contained in codex 2 of the texts buried in the large jar beneath the cliffs near Nag Hammadi along the Nile River in Egypt, there is a specific passage in the subsection labeled (for ease of reference) as "Sowing and Reaping" by translator Marvin Meyer, which plainly tells us:

Whoever sows in winter reaps in summer. Winter is the world, summer is the other, eternal realm. Let us sow in the world to reap in summer. 

This passage is completely consistent with the metaphor-system which previous posts have alleged can be seen to be operating in myths literally around the world, stretching across time from the civilizations of ancient Egypt and Sumer and Babylon, all the way up through the present day in cultures where the connection to the ancient wisdom remains to some degree intact.

The system uses the "lower half" of the cycle of the heavenly bodies (from the daily cycle created by the rotation of the earth on its axis, to the monthly cycle of the moon and the yearly cycle created by earth's annual path around the great cross of the year, as well as some other cycles which are even longer than these) to describe our incarnation in "this world" -- that is to say, in the familiar, visible, material realm. 

The system uses the "upper half" of the same cycles to describe "the other, eternal realm" -- the invisible realm, the realm of spirit.

Each day the turning of the earth causes the stars (including our own sun, the Day Star) to appear to rise up out of the eastern horizon and arc their way into the celestial realm: the realm of the air, the realm of celestial fire -- a perfect metaphor for the realm of spirit, the invisible realm. But the same turning of the earth also causes the stars (including the sun) to plunge down again into the western horizon, disappearing into the "lower elements" of earth and water -- a perfect metaphor for this "lower realm" of matter, in which we find ourselves in this incarnate life.

And, using the annual cycle of the year (which has certain advantages over the daily cycle, because it is conveniently broken up into much smaller sub-sections which can be conveniently discussed using the twelve subdivisions of the zodiac signs which precisely indicate very specific parts of the annual cycle) we can use the same general metaphor. This time, the "lower half" of the year -- the half which runs from the autumnal equinox down through the winter solstice and up to the crossing point of the spring equinox -- represents the same thing that night-time represents for the daily cycle: the incarnate realm, the material realm, the imprisonment in a body of earth and water, plowing through the "underworld" of the physical universe. 

The "upper half" of the year -- the half which runs from the spring equinox up through the summer solstice and down again to the autumnal equinox -- represents the realm of spirit, the invisible realm, all that is eternal, unbounded and infinite.

The ancient Egyptian myth cycles depicted this same principle using the gods Osiris and Horus. Osiris, god of the dead, ruler of the underworld, represents the sun in the "lower half" of the cycle: when it is plowing through the lower realm of incarnate matter, "cast down" into incarnation. Horus represents the "upper half" of the cycle, when the sun soars upwards "between the two horizons" into the celestial realms of air and fire -- the realm of spirit.

Here in the Gospel of Philip, buried for those long centuries among the other texts in the Nag Hammadi collection, we find an explicit confirmation of this pattern: "Winter is the world, summer is the other, eternal realm." 

It could hardly be more clear if the text were to tell us: "The lower half of the wheel represents this world: this material realm -- the upper half, or the summer months on the annual circuit, are used as a metaphor for the other realm, the invisible realm, the eternal realm, the realm of spirit."

This in itself is remarkable, and it has tremendous implications for our understanding of the scriptures included in what today is called the Bible, but all of it might still be (mistakenly) dismissed by some as being of limited practical value. 

"So what?" they might ask. "How does this matter to my daily life?"

The answer, according to the Nag Hammadi texts themselves, is: plenty.

Because, just as we have seen in the previous examinations of the Bhagavad Gita or the Mahabharata, and just as Peter Kingsley has argued in his powerful book

In the Dark Places of Wisdom, the ancient texts which were literally "driven underground" and buried in the urn at Nag Hammadi tell us something remarkable about the location of this eternal realm, and where we need to go in order to have access to it.

In section 3 of the Gospel of Thomas, for example, we find another explicit statement which can perhaps be profitably juxtaposed with this "zodiac wheel explanation" from the Gospel of Philip. There, giving the words which "Thomas" the twin has heard from his divine counterpart Jesus, the scripture tells us:

Jesus said, "If your leaders say to you, 'Look, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is within you and it is outside you. 

Notice how this passage can be interpreted, in light of all we have discussed above, as telling us that both halves of the cycle -- the upper half of the "sky" and the lower half of the "sea" -- are talking about something that really has nothing to do with physical location (neither sky nor sea). What is being discussed is the invisible realm with which we already have intimate contact, right inside of us. 

And, this same invisible realm with which we already have contact (within) is also present within and behind every single molecule of the seemingly physical realm all around us as well -- it is both "within you" and it is "outside you," the Thomas Gospel tells us.

And this is knowledge with absolutely world-changing implications for each of us. Because, as Peter Kingsley explains so powerfully in the beginning sections of In the Dark Places of Wisdom

, western civilization has somehow been cut off from that truth (very likely, I would argue, by ancient events that were part of the very same chain of events which led to the burying of the Nag Hammadi texts that we have just now been considering), and because of being cut off from that truth has spent the better part of the past sixteen or seventeen centuries trying to find external substitutes for something that is already internally accessible, right now, in "the peace of utter stillness" (and see further discussion of this concept in the previous post entitled "Two Visions").

The previous posts and accompanying videos exploring the significance of the invocation of the goddess Durga in the Mahabharata (immediately prior to the Bhagavad Gita) and the significance of the relationship between Arjuna and his divine charioteer, who is none other than Lord Krishna whose form is shown to be without limits, impossible to define or delineate or describe or bound with words, also indicates the practical impact that this ancient wisdom can have on our daily lives. 

Because it would argue that we can have access to this divine higher self literally every day, at any time (and the passage in the Mahabharata containing the Hymn to Durga specifically advises making the calling upon her divine presence a daily habit -- first thing each day, in fact). For more discussion of this subject, see previous posts such as "Self, the senses, and the mind" and "The Bodhi Tree."

Below is a famous statue from ancient Egypt of the king Khefren or Khafra (who probably reigned for over two decades around the year 2560 BC), showing the king with the falcon-god Horus spreading his wings over and behind his head.

It is a powerful image, and one which can be interpreted as depicting the very teaching conveyed by the Gospels of Thomas and Philip above, as well as by the section of the Mahabharata dramatizing invocation of Durga or the Bhagavad Gita's dramatization of Arjuna and Krishna in the chariot, prior to the battle of Kurukshetra.

It appears to indicate the state in which we are in contact with, in communion with, in harmony with, and under the guidance and protection of the higher self, the supreme soul, the infinite and unbounded principle which both Durga and Krishna declare themselves and reveal themselves to be, and which the Gospel of Philip plainly says is symbolized by the "upper half" of the great annual wheel: the summer half, the Horus half.

The infinite to which we each have access, within ourselves, in the peace of utter stillness, without going anywhere.

This is the truth of which the world's ancient scriptures and myths all testify.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).