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To Leucotheia: Epiphany 2016

To Leucotheia: Epiphany 2016

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In the Odyssey of Homer, Odysseus is frequently saved by divine intervention, often by a goddess (Athena especially), but in one important instance by the goddess Leucothea (or Leukothea), a sea goddess who was once a human woman.

Having, by the intervention of Athena, been released from his many years' captivity on the island of Ogygia, Odysseus makes his way across the sea in a raft he has fashioned himself -- but he doesn't get far before Poseidon notices him and, infuriated, sends a mighty storm which churns the waves into mountains and unleashes powerful winds roaring from all directions.

Odysseus is washed from his deck and nearly drowns, but the poem tells us that someone noticed him:

Ino, a mortal woman once with human voice and called
Leucothea now she lives in the sea's salt depths,
esteemed by all the gods as she deserves.
She pitied Odysseus, tossed, tormented so --
she broke from the waves like a shearwater on the wing,
lit on the wreck and asked him kindly, "Ah poor man,
why is the god of earthquakes so dead set against you?
Strewing your way with such a crop of troubles!
But he can't destroy you, not for all his anger.
Just do as I say. [. . .]
Odyssey 5. 367 - 376, translation of Professor Robert Fagles (discussed here).

A shearwater is a long-winged ocean bird: the goddess is compared to a shearwater two times in the Odyssey, once in the passage cited above, and again in line 389 when after speaking with Odysseus (presumably in the form of a woman, as she gives him her scarf to tie around his waist for protection), she again disappears into the storm-tossed seas, in the form of a shearwater.

In light of the fact that Leucothea is a goddess who was once a mortal woman, it is extremely interesting that she is described as appearing to Odysseus in the form of a bird. 

In the New Testament accounts of the event known as the Epiphany (celebrated after Twelfth Night, and discussed in this previous post from a year ago), the divine nature of the Christ is revealed in the form of a dove , at the moment of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan River.


The Epiphany is a recognition of the divine hidden nature -- the goddess Leucothea was once a mortal woman but is now a goddess. 

The symbolism in each case involves a bird and the immersion in water (or the pouring of water upon). The parallels are striking, and argue that the same celestial pattern

is being clothed in different metaphors in the different cultures or sacred traditions. The celestial foundation for the Baptism in the Jordan are discussed in the post linked above from a year ago -- and the celestial foundation for the Odyssey event likely involves many of the same figures.

In the Orphic Hymns, ancient mantras for the invocation of the divine, used by those initiated into the Orphic Mysteries, there is a hymn to the goddess Leucotheia (Hymn 74). Each Orphic Hymn specifies the type of incense to be used when meditating upon that particular hymn and the divinity who is the subject of the hymn -- in the hymn "To Leucotheia," the incense to be used is "aromatic herbs."

In the excellent translation of Professor Apostolos N. Athanassakis, Hymn 74 (which he spells "To Leukotheia") reads in part:

I call upon Leukothea,
daughter of Kadmos, revered goddess,
mighty nurterer
of fair-wreathed Dionysos.
Hearken, O goddess,
O mistress of the deep-bosomed sea,
you delight in waves,
you are the greatest savior to mortals [. . .]

The hymn proceeds to make specific requests to the goddess, to come to the aid of all those upon the sea -- but note that in the passage cited above, she is addressed as "the greatest savior to mortals" without qualification (the hymn does not say "to mortals who venture out to sea" or "mortals who sail in ships" -- it says "to mortals"). 

Later on, the hymn describes her as a savior especially of those at sea, but the hymn begins by calling to Leucothea as the greatest savior to mortals without qualification -- and I believe that is because the sea was anciently used as a metaphor for this incarnate life (when we are plunged down into a human body which is, as we are frequently told, made up primarily of water, and when we cross the lower region of the great cycle, the realm of the lower two elements, massy earth and salty water, as opposed to the realms of air and fire above through which the sun, moon and stars travel and were used by the ancient myths to convey truths about the realm of spirit).

Alvin Boyd Kuhn, who wrote at length regarding the metaphor of the sea as the incarnate condition, through which we toil (a "crossing of the Red Sea," he called it at more than one point), argues in Who is this King of Glory (published in 1944), that the name of the New Testament character Pontius Pilate (under whom the Christ suffered) is suspiciously similar to the Greek word pontus, meaning "sea" (as in the Hellespont). He argued that the name originally came from words meaning "dense sea" -- the dense "sea of matter" in which we are immersed when we come down from the realm of spirit to inhabit a body. 

This connection has been vigorously disputed by those who reject Kuhn's proposed origin of the name of Pontius Pilate, but the linguistic similarity, at least, does seem difficult to dismiss entirely, and conceptually the idea appears to be worthy of at least some consideration.

In his discussion of the significance of the sixth of January (as the day of the revelation of the divinity hidden in the incarnate Christ) beginning at about page 250 of that book (in the original pagination), Kuhn discusses the possible symbolism of the day, and then beginning on page 252 begins to explore the significance of the crossing of the Great Deep. He argues that this is how we should understand the phrase in the Apostles' Creed:

"he suffered under the dense sea, was crucified, dead and buried." "Dense sea" would have been merely a euphemism, familiar to all in Mystery Ritual custom, for "he suffered under the limitation of dense matter" -- a shorthand expression in Mystery language. 253.

Note also that in artistic representations of the Baptism of Christ (shown in several examples in the blog post on Epiphany linked above), the hand gesture that the Jesus figure is almost invariably depicted as making is one of "palms together" -- the very mudra (sacred hand gesture) used in India and other related cultures and traditions for the namaskaram or namaste greeting, a greeting which literally means a recognition of the divinity in another person, and in oneself. 

It is also the same hand gesture which is traditionally used when saying Amen, a word which is also the name of the Hidden God in ancient Egyptian sacred mythology: Amun or Amen.

And note, of course, that in virtually all of those depictions of the baptism scene, in which that hand gesture is used, the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove is shown at the top of the painting. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Jesus figure in the paintings almost invariably wears only a sash around his waist.

Which brings us back to the scene in the Odyssey, in which the goddess rescues the long-suffering Odysseus, as he crosses the stormy sea. It is only by her aid that he is able to survive the storm. 

This tells us something about our own present condition: in fact, I believe that all these incredible details in the inspired ancient wisdom imparted to humanity in the form of myth were put there to teach us, not about the adventures of a cunning warrior returning from the Trojan War (as fascinating as his story is) but about the adventure of each and every human soul in this dual material-spiritual cosmos in which we find ourselves right now, in this life.

Leucotheia is a goddess who was born a mortal woman. The myths are in fact filled with stories designed to show that, although we do not realize it, we all have a divine component within us. And Odysseus cannot negotiate the Great Deep of this incarnate life without the help which comes from somewhere beyond the material realm, and to which (as he demonstrates throughout the epic) he has unique access.

But, as the Orphic Hymns show us, we also at all times have access to the same infinite realm. The Orphic Hymns typically begin with a call to the god or goddess in question to come and be present, and that is not just a literary device but a request that was made with the expectation that it could be instantly granted.

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.

Welcome new visitors from Truth Frequency Radio

Welcome new visitors from Truth Frequency Radio

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Special thanks to hosts Chris and Sheree Geo of Truth Frequency Radio for having me on their show last night, December 05, 2015.

We covered a range of topics related to the celestial foundations of the world's myths, ancient scriptures, and sacred traditions -- including some more extensive discussion than I have previously published regarding the spiritual message in the story of the inebriation of Noah, pictured above in a painting (oil on canvas) from the early 1600s by Carlo Saraceni (1579 - 1620).

We also went into some extended discussion of the importance of Thomas in the New Testament texts and in Gnostic tradition.

This interview is currently available for online listening or downloading at this link, and for subscribers to their show it will be available for listening or downloading in their show archives indefinitely.

I believe that for all other listeners, it will be available for listening or downloading only so long as it is the most recent interview, after which it enters the archives.

The part of the show containing my conversation with Chris and Sheree begins at about -145:00 (that's "minus one hundred forty-five minutes") on the embedded play bar found at the link above, which looks like this (you can click on this image to go there as well):

To navigate around to different points in time on the show you can simply click anywhere along that blue line with the high-voltage corona discharge resembling a streamer arc between the spark gap of a Tesla coil(which is a form of radio frequency oscillator, and hence highly appropriate for a show entitled "Truth Frequency").

You can also pause the playback at any time by clicking on the triangle inside the blue circle on the left of the play bar, which starts and stops the audio.

Prior to that -104:00 mark in the show, Chris and Sheree discuss various topics of their own. Of course, I don't necessarily agree with everything that anyone else on earth might say, or everything that might be said in that part of the show, but it should be obvious that none of us really ever agrees with anyone else on every single topic, and I believe that we are all here trying to figure out the complex set of data that we encounter as best we can -- I myself have had to change the entire paradigm through which I view the world on more than one occasion, based on new information that I encountered (my first published book, in fact, was written while I still believed that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament were intended to be taken literally, which I obviously no longer see as consistent with the overwhelming evidence in the stars).

I'm personally not comfortable with frequent references to a "New World Order," and suspect that the "Old World Order" might in fact be much more of a concern and a subject which requires careful examination and consideration. 

I also do not believe by any means that everyone in the police is corrupt, which appears to be implied in one of statements in an ad during a break. I actually believe that police forces and militaries are necessary, but I absolutely agree that they can be misused and also deceived (the metaphor of the orangutans and the gorillas in the extremely important original Planet of the Apes film from 1968 is very helpful in this regard, in my opinion -- see additional discussion here).

However, I most definitely agree with the sentiment that Chris expresses at around -108:00 in the portion of the show before I came online, in which he says: 

But the only way to overcome, I should say, is to realize the power that we have -- and to realize the power of unity, as a human species. You know, forget about all of the labels; forget about all of the religions -- forget about everything else, and just start seeing each other for just . . . human beings. And I guarantee you -- they won't be able to bring in a New World Order, because we won't be controlled at that point.

Chris and Sheree were very gracious hosts and I am very grateful to them for inviting me onto the show and allowing me to discuss a subject which I believe to be extremely important to all of the above subjects. They offered some of their own very insightful perspectives during our two hours that led the conversation in what I hope you will agree were some interesting and fruitful directions.

I have not had the opportunity to talk with them before but I think it is clear that they are exploring important questions regarding human consciousness, and seeking to elevate awareness and consciousness through their insights and their work -- a cause that I think we can all agree to be of the utmost importance.

The show ended just as I was getting ready to thank them for having me on to their program -- so, in case it was cut off by the closing music, I would like to express my deep appreciation to Chris and Sheree for having me on to Truth Frequency Radio.


Below is a list of links to things that I have previously written about some of the subjects that we touched on during the conversation (and, as mentioned above, we went a little deeper into some of these subjects than I have previously, during one or two parts of the interview):

Welcome to all new friends who found this page through the Truth Frequency Radio broadcast or website!


Thanksgiving and blessing 2015

Thanksgiving and blessing 2015

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Thanksgiving is a day traditionally associated with two very important and related concepts: that of giving thanks, and that of blessing.

When we first consider these two concepts in conjunction with each other, the immediate connection that will probably come to mind is that we give thanks for the blessings that we have in our lives, including those material needs which we simply must meet in order to stay alive, such as food and some level of protection from the elements.

It is of course entirely appropriate to pause and give thanks for the fulfillment of our material needs -- both on a daily basis and on special days such as this one.

But, even as we depend upon meeting certain needs in order to sustain our physical life, and even as we give thanks for the continued ability to do so, we also would probably agree (if we continued to think about the two concepts of thankfulness and blessing) that the idea of blessing involves more than the mere meeting of our common material needs.

Indeed, previous posts on this subject have argued that the concept of blessing nearly always invokes something in the realm beyond the material realm (reaching out towards the divine realm or the invisible realm), and that in fact blessing can be defined as the raising up or calling forth or bringing out of that aspect of ourselves and others which transcends our merely physical aspect.

Blessing involves elevating the spirit, elevating our awareness of and resonance with the world that is not material in nature, even though it is invisibly present at every point in the material world at all times. Blessing calls out to or seeks connection with that invisible realm which, according to the words of Lakota holy man Black Elk, is in fact "the real world that is behind this one, and everything we see here is something like a shadow from that world."

Indeed, if we continue to pursue this idea even further, we might come to the realization that all of the material security in the world does not actually convey or ensure this aspect of blessing -- the aspect that involves something which transcends the material world altogether. 

Realizing this does not, of course, mean that there is anything wrong with wanting to secure the physical means of staying alive such as food and shelter, and or with wanting to ensure as much as possible that we will have access to them in the future as well -- but it does mean that unless we also learn about the way that we connect to the other realm, the invisible or divine realm, we will find that no amount of material security can ever fill the gap.

Indeed, there are numerous ancient texts and teachings which indicate that the pursuit of material things which are, in themselves, actually good and necessary can and will become an obstacle to our hope of satisfying that invisible need, if we make them our primary focus.

Dr. Peter Kingsley addresses this subject explicitly in his 1999 book In the Dark Places of Wisdom, when he says:

What isn't there, in front of our eyes, is usually more real than what is.
We can see that at every level of existence.
Even when we're finally where we want to be -- with the person we love, with the things we struggled for -- our eyes are still on the horizon. They're still on where to go next, what to do next, what we want the person we love to do and be. If we just stay where we are in the present moment, seeing what we're seeing and hearing what we're hearing and forgetting everything else, we feel we're about to die; and our mind tortures us until we think of something else to live for. We have to keep finding a way away from where we are, into what we imagine is the future.
What's missing is more powerful than what's there in front of our eyes. We all know that. The only trouble is that the missingness is too hard to bear, so we invent things to miss in our desperation. They are all only temporary substitutes. The world fills us with substitute after substitute and tries to convince us that nothing is missing. But nothing has the power to fill the hollowness we feel inside, so we have to keep replacing and modifying the things we invent as our emptiness throws its shadow over our life.
[. . .]
And there's a great secret: we all have that vast missingness deep inside us. The only difference between us and the mystics is that they learn to face what we find ways of running away from. That's the reason why mysticism has been pushed to the periphery of our culture: because the more we feel that nothingness inside us, the more we feel the need to fill the void. So we try to substitute this and that, but nothing lasts. [. . .]
Western culture is a past master at the art of substitution. It offers and never delivers because it can't. It has lost the power even to know what needs to be delivered, so it offers substitutes instead. [. . .]
Even religion and spirituality and humanity's higher aspirations become wonderful substitutes. And that's what's happened to philosophy. What used to be ways to freedom for our ancestors become prisons and cages for us. 33 - 36.

But, there is a way through this problem, and the rest of the book explores the evidence that it was known in ancient times, before it was lost or deliberately concealed -- the way to what Peter Kingsley calls "the peace of utter stillness" (36).

Exploring texts and clues which only survive in fragments in the West, he points to a poem by Parmenides describing a journey, not from darkness into light, but rather the other way around, from light into darkness and in fact "down to the underworld, into the regions of Hades and Tartarus from where no one usually returns" (52 - 53).

How this journey leads to that place of utter stillness, and "the peace of utter stillness," has tremendous implications for all of the most pressing problems facing us today, in the cultures descended from those that apparently lost or suppressed or marginalized this knowledge at some point in centuries past. The interested reader is highly encouraged to read -- and re-read -- In the Dark Places of Wisdom

in order to fully appreciate the ancient message that Dr. Kingsley reconstructs from the clues that remain.

But, interestingly enough, while only scattered fragments of the trail remain in the ancient history of the western European cultures, there are parts of the world where the stream of this knowledge was not interrupted -- and among the sacred texts of ancient India there is a description of a journey to the underworld which speaks directly to this very subject.

The Katha Upanishad (also called the Kathopanishad) is an ancient Sanskrit text which describes the journey of a youth named Nachiketa who journeys to the abode of Yama, the dread king of death.

The entire poem is available in translated form in various places on the web, such as here, and can easily be read in one sitting of about fifteen minutes or less -- but its message, like that of In the Dark Places of Wisdom , is profound, life-changing, and worthy of careful consideration for much longer than a few minutes.

You may want to follow the above link and read the Katha Upanishad in its entirety for yourself before proceeding further.

The plot involves the fact that Nachiketa is granted three boons by Yama the god of death, on account of the fact that when the youth first arrived in the underworld, Yama was not at home and Nachiketa was not welcomed with proper hospitality. Because of this oversight, Yama graciously offers to the visitor three boons -- a word that itself translates to "blessings."

Nachiketa modestly asks first that his father's anger be appeased when Nachiketa returns from the underworld (Nachiketa's father, in a fit of rage, angrily ordered his son to Yama's kingdom at the beginning of the story: a textbook example of cursing, which is the opposite of blessing). 

He then asks that Yama instruct him in the proper performance of the fire ritual, as his second request.

Nachiketa then asks to know whether a person continues to exist after the death of the body.

The back-and-forth between Yama and Nachiketa at that point is extremely interesting to observe, and if you have not actually gone to the Upanishad itself using the above link, you may want to do that now (and continue on to see what Yama says afterwards, in its entirety, for yourself). 

What happens is that Yama asks to be released from that boon, and for Nachiketa to think of something else to request instead:

Ask for sons and grandsons who will live
A hundred years. Ask for herds of cattle,
Elephants and horses, gold and vast land,
And ask to live as long as you desire.
Or, if you can think of anything more
Desirable, ask for that, with wealth and
Long life as well. Nachiketa, be the ruler
Of a great kingdom, and I will give you
The utmost capacity to enjoy
The pleasures of life. Ask for beautiful
Women of loveliness rarely seen on earth,
Riding in chariots, skilled in music,
To attend on you. But Nachiketa,
Don't ask me about the secret of death.

We later learn from a line in the text that Yama suggested all these things as a way of testing Nachiketa,  to see whether he is worthy of receiving the highest spiritual instruction from the god of the underworld. It is extremely interesting to note the similarities to the passage from one of the books collected into what has been labeled "the New Testament," a passage known as the "temptation of Jesus," found in the first thirteen verses of Luke chapter 4.

Nachiketa replies, "These pleasures last but until tomorrow, and they wear out the vital powers of life. How fleeting is all life on earth! Therefore keep your horses and chariots, dancing and music for yourself. Never can mortals be made happy by wealth." He concludes by saying, "Nachiketa asks for no other boon than the secret of this great mystery."

Then Yama unfolds the deepest wisdom regarding the true Self, the higher Self, which cannot be revealed through the intellect alone (Yama explains that the intellect is good for discriminating between dualities, but cannot grasp this deeper truth).

The god says, in words very reminiscent of what Peter Kingsley has discovered in the ancient fragments of a now-lost tradition that was also once taught in the west:

The wise, realizing through meditation
The timeless Self, beyond all perception,
Hidden in the cave of the heart,
Leave pain and pleasure far behind.
Those who know they are neither body nor mind
But the immemorial Self, the divine
Principle of existence, find the source
Of all joy and live in joy abiding.
I see the gates of joy are opening
For you, Nachiketa.

Nachiketa then says, "Teach me of That you see as beyond right and wrong, cause and effect, past and future."

Yama replies:

I will give you the Word all the scriptures
Glorify, all spiritual disciplines
Express, to attain which aspirants lead
A life of sense-restraint and self-naughting.
It is OM ॐ   This symbol of the Godhead
Is the highest. Realizing it one finds
Complete fulfillment of all one's longings.
It is of the greatest support to all seekers.
Those in whose hearts OM ॐ reverberates
Unceasingly are indeed blessed
And deeply loved as one who is the Self.
The all-knowing Self was never born,
Nor will it die. Beyond cause and effect,
This Self is eternal and immutable.
When the body dies, the Self does not die.

This knowledge, preserved from ancient times and given to us in the Vedic texts, bears directly on the subject at hand, of blessing and the connection with the world that is beyond the material world, and the aspect of our being that exists beyond the material plane.

We see that the god of the nether realms tells Nachiketa that blessing is not achieved through any of the material things of this world: blessing is clearly shown to be of the spiritual rather than the material realm. 

The imagery Yama uses to describe the mystic who pursues "the timeless Self," not just of meditating but of going down into "the cave of the heart," also resonates strongly with the teaching found in Peter Kingsley's In the Dark Places of Wisdom.

According to the Katha Upanishad, it is when the sacred sound of ॐ reverberates in the heart unceasingly that one is indeed blessed.

The context itself indicates that this sound connects to the highest divinity. In the Bhagavad Gita,  part of a different ancient Sanskrit text, when the Lord Krishna reveals himself to be Infinite, he says to Arjuna, "I am the spirit seated deep in every creature's heart" and that he  himself is the first of all written characters, as well as the OM  ॐ of sacred speech (chapter 10). 

Taking this understanding back to the teaching Nachiketa receives in the Katha Upanishad, the words of Yama appear to be saying that blessing involves the internal connection to the Infinite which is available to us inside the cave of our own heart. The reverberation of the OM inside is an expression of the connection to the Infinite: Yama is saying that blessing is found within, when the divine reverberates in the heart.

I believe that we should be grateful and express thanks for the ability to meet our material needs, and that we should work to find ways to help others who are in need. But in addition to the material needs, it is very clear that the ancient texts of humanity teach that there is another need which is found in a completely different direction.

We can be thankful that the human race was given the ancient texts, myths, and sacred teachings which point us towards the inner place where this blessing can be found.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Afterword: So why are these lessons in the ancient texts imparted to the traveler by the god of death? It is obviously not because Nachiketa has to actually die in order to learn these lessons: the text itself makes clear (in the answer to his first boon) that he will be returning to the land of the living after his visit with Yama. I suspect that there may be many layers to the answer to this question, but that one aspect of the answer may well have to do with the concept of detachment, mentioned so frequently by the Lord Krishna in his discourse with Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. 

If, for example, we spill an entire jar of milk, which is food that costs money and helps keep us alive, and we fly off the handle into a fit of rage, then clearly we are exhibiting some level of attachment to that food -- which is perfectly understandable for material human beings who require food in order to keep their bodies alive. But, that fit of rage will not undo the spilt milk, so to speak. Krishna's admonition is to do what is right in this life, without attachment -- without becoming attached to the results, either in hope of gain or in avoidance of loss. The only way to overcome the tendency to cry over spilt milk, and many other exhibitions of attachment, is to pursue a practice of detachment.

On another level, however (or perhaps when viewed from a different perspective upon the same deep concept), the fact that these discourses (found across many ancient cultures) take place in the realm of the underworld with gods or goddesses of death may well relate to the otherworldly journey taken by those who are capable of entering into the state of ecstatic trance. Peter Kingsley explicitly makes this connection in his book In the Dark Places of Wisdom, for example on page 121 where he says of the otherworldly journey described in the poem of Parmenides:

The answer to the problem is so simple once you see what he's saying, and what he's doing. As a 'man who knows' he's an initiate -- someone who's able to enter another world, to die before dying. And the knowledge of how to do that is what leads him to the wisdom given by Persephone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is worth pondering long and deeply.

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

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

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

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

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

But why?

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that's not all.

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

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

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How about now:

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

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

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

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

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Balaam and the Ass

Balaam and the Ass

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The position of the earth on its annual journey around the sun is currently bringing the part of the heavens into view which I believe forms the basis for the fascinating ancient scriptural incident of Balaam and his ass (or donkey).

The account of Balaam is found in chapters 22 through 24 of the Old Testament book of Numbers, and it involves a number of important themes, chief among them the theme of blessing versus cursing.

The story of Balaam probably does not get much focus from those devoted to a literalistic reading of the scriptures these days (and my own personal experience during the nearly twenty years I was devoted to such an understanding was attending churches teaching a literalist understanding supports that assertion), due to the fact that it poses some fairly significant difficulties for those trying to read it literally.

Chief among these problems is undoubtedly the climax of the story, in which Balaam's donkey turns around and speaks to him to complain about Balaam's inhumane treatment. Balaam doesn't help things, because he answers right back to the donkey as if it is the most natural thing in the world do be accosted by one's mount while out for a ride. The two get into a conversation.

This is actually not the biggest difficulty in the text, as we shall see. The biggest problem is probably the fact that God appears to become angry with Balaam even after he explicitly tells Balaam to go ahead and travel to Moab, as we'll see in the text below.

Another factor which has probably led to the decline in focus on this story is the fact that the older translations consistently refer to Balaam's mount as an ass, which is what it is, because it was apparently not until some time in the 1700s that the word donkey was even used in English to refer to one particular sub-variety of ass. The 1611 King James translation, which had an enormous impact on literature and culture, thus refers to the animal as an ass, and the story has generally been referred to through the centuries in English-speaking cultures as the incident of "Balaam's ass."

However, if we can just get past those superficial problems, we can see in this story yet another example of the incredible worldwide system by which the same celestial foundations were dressed up in myth after myth after myth, in order to convey profound truths to us for our benefit during this earthly sojourn.

Unfortunately, trying to force the ancient scriptures into a literalistic-historical framework can cause us to miss their beautiful message altogether, or to distort it into something that means the exact opposite of what they were actually intended to convey.

The story of Balaam begins in Numbers chapter 22:

1 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plain of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face [literally "the eye"] of the earth, and they abide over against me:
6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou belssest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.

The messengers from Balak come to Balaam and convey the message, but Balaam consults with God and is told in verse 12 not to go with them nor to curse the people, "for they are blessed."

Disappointed, Balak sends yet more princes to Balaam, even more honorable than the first messengers, and this time offers great honor and says that Balaam can name his reward if he agrees to come.

Balaam is again visited by God at night who tells Balaam that if the messengers ask Balaam to go with them, he should rise up and go, but only say the word which God gives to him (verse 20).

This brings us to the most famous part of the story (still in Numbers chapter 22):

22 And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.
25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again.
26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?
29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.
30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever won't to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.
31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.

The angel then informs Balaam that, had it not been for the fact that the ass perceived the presence of the angel, the angel would have slain Balaam. Balaam offers to go back home, but the angel tells him to continue, repeating the previous admonition from verse 20 that Balaam is only to say what is given to him to speak.

So Balaam continues, and joins Balak, who takes him "up into the high places of Baal" (verse 41). Balaam instructs Balak to have seven altars prepared, for seven bulls and seven rams, which are made into a burnt offering (Numbers 23: 1 - 6). But when the time comes that Balak expects Balaam to pronounce a great curse, Balaam announces that he cannot curse what God hath not cursed, and concludes with words of blessing (23: 7 - 12). 

Balak is upset, but Balaam notes that he had said from the very start when first approached by Balak's messengers that he could only say what was given to him by God for Balaam to say.

Balak doesn't give up, however, and suggests they try another location, where seven altars are again constructed for seven bulls and seven rams. But the LORD meets Balaam and tells him exactly what to say, resulting in an even more eloquent blessing than before (this time replete with celestial imagery, particularly of a great lion). Balak isn't very happy about this and asks Balaam if he can just say nothing if he's not going to pronounce a curse, but Balaam explains that he must say what the LORD tells him to say (23: 25 - 26).

Balak decides to try one more time, and seven more altars are built as before, with similar results. This time the blessing is even more elaborate and takes up the first part of Numbers 24 (verses 5 - 9). The text also tells us that to deliver this message, Balaam falls into a trance, in which his eyes are open but in which he was given a vision of the Almighty (Numbers 24: 4). 

After this, Balak tells Balaam to flee back to his home, but Balaam asks Balak if he wouldn't like to know more, and goes into another trance to give more predictions -- all of which I believe have to do with the celestial realms and to have spiritual meaning for our lives here on earth, but which could be (and often are) misinterpreted as literal predictions of things that would happen in earthly history. After delivering this message, Balaam returns to his place (Numbers 24: 25).

Now, how can we be reasonably certain that this event, preserved in ancient scripture, is allegorical and not literal and historical?

Setting aside the fact that donkeys cannot actually carry on conversations with humans as Balaam's ass is literally described as doing, there are abundant clues in the story which indicate the exact set of constellations involved.

The best place to start is with Balaam himself. The specific detail that he has his foot crushed by his donkey's efforts to avoid the awe-inducing presence of the angel (Numbers 22: 25), gives us our first clue as to his identity -- and it is a very important one. There is one specific constellation who appears to have a severely twisted foot, and that constellation is currently rising brightly in the east during the "prime-time" viewing hours after the sun goes down: the constellation Perseus.

Below is a star diagram looking generally south and east, in which I have drawn in the outline of the constellation Perseus and several of the accompanying constellations surrounding Perseus which may also play a role in this story.

I've labeled Perseus as playing the role of Balaam in this story, and noted the location of the foot that was injured (ouch -- that looks pretty bad):

Now, if we're correct in identifying Balaam with Perseus (primarily on the basis of the crushed foot in the story, although there is plenty of other corroborating evidence that we will find shortly), then we need to find out which constellation is playing the role of Balaam's mistreated beast of burden in the story: the ass.

It just so happens that, directly beneath the figure of Perseus is the zodiac constellation of Taurus the Bull. Now, we know that this story has not come down through history as the famous tale of Balaam's Bull but rather of Balaam's Ass, so how can we possibly assert that Taurus could be playing the role of an ass in this story?

Well, as you can see from the diagram above (and the labeled diagram below, both of which indicate the outline formed by the brightest stars of the constellation Taurus using orange lines), the zodiac constellation of the Bull primarily consists of the brilliant V-shaped Hyades, and then there are two stars much further out above each of the "prongs" of the "V" which enable us to trace a long line in our imagination from the top of the Hyades to the ends of two mighty bull-horns.

These "horns" could also be envisioned as the ears of an ass.

The ass as a species can have some pretty long and impressive ears, as shown in the image collection below (all images from Wikimedia commons, links to originals hereherehere and here):

Looking again at the stars of the constellation Taurus, it is not hard to understand why the formulators of the world's ancient Star Myths sometimes chose to envision this outline as a long-eared ass:

In the diagram, I've indicated the location of the V-shaped Hyades, and then if you look directly to the "left" of the "V" you can see the two stars which form the tips of the horns (if playing the role of the Bull) or the tips of the ears (if playing the role of an ass, as in the story of Balaam).

But in addition to the fact that the outline of the brightest stars in Taurus can very easily be envisioned as fitting a story with an ass or donkey, there is also plenty of evidence from other myths which help to confirm that our interpretation of the story of Balaam is on the right track so far.

Perhaps the most powerful piece of confirmatory evidence comes from elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures themselves, for the V-shaped Hyades feature prominently in another Star Myth which I have outlined and discussed in some detail: the Samson cycle of myths.

In the story of Samson, of course, Samson's chosen weapon for slaying thousands of Philistines is the famous "jawbone of an ass," which does not seem to make much sense if the story is taken as literal history. Perhaps Samson might use such an implement in a hurry for one or two opponents, but it hardly seems likely that he would continue to employ it over and over against literally a thousand: wouldn't he decide to pick up one of their weapons after slaying a few enemies who had swords or spears? (Unless, that is, all his opponents were also using jawbones as weapons that day, which seems unlikely).

The account is recorded in the scroll of Judges, chapter 15 and verse 15. I have explained in previous posts and in a video that the story of Samson is clearly not intended to be understood literally, but that it was almost certainly intended to convey powerful esoteric truths regarding our experience in this physical incarnate life (Samson was not a literal-historic character but in fact represents aspects of the incarnation of each and every human soul: in a very real sense, the story of Samson is all about you).

The understanding that Samson's jawbone-weapon is actually a group of stars -- that this jawbone is, in fact, the very specific V-shaped formation of the Hyades -- was one of the first breakthroughs in my own understanding that the stories in the Bible are built upon the very same celestial foundation that underlies all the other myths found in virtually every culture and every corner of our planet. This conclusion is explained by Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana in their groundbreaking 1969 text, Hamlet's Mill, in which they present evidence that jawbone-weapons are described in myths from the Americas and from the Pacific Islands as well, and all of them relate to the Hyades (the Hyades are located above the constellation Orion, who can be seen "reaching out" towards them, just as Samson is described as "putting forth his hand" to grasp the jawbone in the book of Judges -- you can actually see a few stars of Orion peeking above the horizon in the star-diagrams presented here).

If the Hyades can function as a jawbone-weapon, and if that jawbone is described as "the jawbone of an ass" rather than "the jawbone of a bull" (as we might expect, since the Hyades are in Taurus), then this is very strong confirmatory evidence to support the proposition that Taurus is functioning as the ass in the story of Balaam as well.

Interestingly enough, as can be seen from the included diagrams here, Perseus is reaching out with one arm in the direction of another important constellation: the beautiful maiden Andromeda, whom Perseus rescues in the Greek myth based upon these same stars. In a moment, we will see that Andromeda is playing the role of the powerful angel in this Old Testament story, but first let us briefly note another important confirmatory piece of evidence from Greek myths which also involves the theme of "ass's ears," and that is the story of King Midas.

In that story, of course, Midas reaches out towards his daughter (played, I am convinced, by the same constellation of Andromeda who plays the heroine in the story of Perseus). It is very noteworthy that Midas was later given ass's ears as a sign of his foolishness, given the above discussion regarding the likelihood that Taurus functions as the ass in the story of Balaam in the Old Testament. The existence of another myth involving Perseus and Andromeda, and featuring ass's ears, indicates that myths involving Perseus and Andromeda can also feature nearby Taurus, but as an ass rather than as a bull in some cases.

Note also that there seems to be an element of greed or of overstepping proper bounds due to temptation of money in both the story of Balaam and (much more clearly) the story of Midas.

All of this evidence appears to indicate that we are on the right track in our analysis of the Balaam story. Let's proceed to the identity of the angel.

In the scriptural text, we are told that an angel blocks the path of Balaam, and that specifically (in Numbers 22: 24) the angel "stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side."

Andromeda is positioned between Perseus and the Great Square of Pegasus, and she is actually touching one corner of the Square itself. If the Square represents the vineyards that are mentioned in verse 24, then it is quite evident that indeed she has a wall on "this side" of her, and a wall on "that side" of her. In fact, I believe this is exactly what the scriptures intend us to understand (it is very common for Star Myths all around the world to contain this very kind of super-abundant evidence, pointing us towards a fairly clear understanding of which constellations they represent).

Just in case we are still in confusion, we can also take a look at verse 22, where the angel is first mentioned, and see that in that verse we are told that Perseus is traveling with "his two servants with him." Just beneath the Great Square of Pegasus is one of the notable "dual constellations" in the zodiac wheel: Pisces. I would argue that the twin fishes of Pisces are probably the "two servants" of Balaam, traveling along the road with him (the road, in this case, following the zodiac through the heavens, up from Taurus to Aries to Pisces to Aquarius).

In fact, I have previously outlined another very important Biblical Star Myth in which Andromeda plays the role of an intercepting angel: the story of Abraham and Isaac. In that story, Perseus plays Abraham about to sacrifice his son, and Andromeda is the angel who stays his hand and points the way to the substitute: the Ram of Aries (located below Andromeda). In fact, the artist who drew this image  included in that previous post does a very good job of depicting the characters as they are arranged in the sky -- Abraham standing with his arms out like Perseus, the angel flying in with outstretched arm in the location that Andromeda is found in the heavens, and the Ram trapped in the thicket just about where Aries is actually seen in the sky as well.

The fact that Andromeda plays an intercepting angel in another Biblical scripture is very strong confirmatory evidence that our interpretation of the Balaam story is on track.

Let's have a look at the analysis thus far:

All in all, the amount of details included in the scriptural account provide overwhelming evidence that the story of Balaam is a celestial allegory, and that it is specifically a celestial allegory involving the region of the heavens containing the constellations Perseus, Taurus, Andromeda, Pisces and the Great Square. To hold that all these celestial correspondences are "merely coincidental" and that the story is really supposed to be understood as a literal-historical account of someone named Balaam (who also happens to have a literal conversation with his donkey using spoken human language, when his foot is crushed because the animal sees an angel blocking the path) seems to be a very unlikely hypothesis at this point, because the texts themselves provide us with abundant evidence that they want to be read as celestial metaphor.

One more set of clues from the text is worth a brief mention, which is the construction of seven altars for seven burnt offerings, which Balaam requests to have built each time Balak takes him up to a high place. Of course, the number seven is fraught with many layers of significance and may be present in the story because of some other aspect of its numerical and symbolical import. However, a very strong argument can be made that the presence of seven altars in this story (a detail repeated over and over) is one more textual clue regarding the celestial origin of this episode.

Just beneath the twisted foot of the constellation Perseus can be found one of the most beautiful celestial formations in the heavens: the brilliant Pleiades. The importance of the Pleiades to cultures around the world is very well known, and has been explored in numerous previous posts on this blog over the years: see for instance

Much more could be written about the importance of the Pleiades in other cultures as well (such as across the Pacific Islands, from Hawai'i to Aotearoa).

The Pleiades is a dazzling cluster of bright and beautiful stars, unmistakeable once you know how to locate it in the sky. It is currently rising up above the eastern horizon in the hours after sunset, and just last weekend I was sitting on a beach in California with some good friends watching the Pleiades climb higher and higher above the horizon in some of the best star-gazing conditions I can remember seeing in a long, long time.

While the number of stars in the Pleiades cluster which can be visible to the naked eye under good conditions number far more than seven, the Pleiades in many myth-systems of the world are depicted as "Seven Sisters" or as related to the number seven (the brightest of the Pleiades are six in number, and sometimes there are stories about the "missing sister" as well, although as you can see from the NASA images and my own hand-drawn diagrams in the blog posts above, there are more than seven stars that you can probably identify for yourself in the Pleiades cluster).

Because of the strong connection between the Pleiades and the number seven, and because the Pleiades are located very near to Perseus (Balaam) and are in fact technically part of Taurus (the ass in the story), I believe it is very possible that the seven altars which are built in the Balaam story are a reference to the Pleiades.

This possibility gains further traction from the fact that we are told that the altars are the site of burnt offerings -- very appropriate for a cluster of glowing stars. 

Additionally, we are told that the burnt offerings are bulls and rams. Of course, the two zodiac constellations in this part of the sky are Taurus and Aries.

Below is our now-familiar diagram of the Perseus - Andromeda region of the sky, with a few final labels added to round out the details we've discovered in our analysis of this Star Myth:

With this many details, I believe we can make a very strong case to argue that the incident of Balaam and the Angel is entirely celestial in nature, and that its message is thus allegorical and not literal-historical.

But what does it all mean? That, of course, is open to interpretation, but previous posts have cited the assertion of Alvin Boyd Kuhn to the effect that the ancient myths are not

about fabulous kings, powerful warriors, or even enlightened sages and mystics, but are actually about the experience of each and every human soul in this incarnate life (see for instance herehere and here). In an important 1936 lecture entitled "The Stable and the Manger," Kuhn said:

The one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul. The Bible is the drama of our history here and now; and it is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it!

That means that we don't have to try to imagine an external literal-historical figure named Balaam having a conversation with his donkey -- the story is not really about anyone named Balaam at all! It is about each one of us. 

But we will not be able to figure out what it is trying to convey to us if we try to force the text to be about a literal-historical figure named Balaam. In fact, as we will see shortly, doing so risks inverting the esoteric message entirely.

To understand what I think the story of Balaam is intended to convey (or at least part of what it is intended to convey -- there is no doubt much more to this very deep metaphor, the depths of which each reader is invited to plumb on his or her own), we must understand that the specific part of the heavens which we have been examining in our analysis is very significant due to the sun's rising in the sign of Aries at the point of the spring equinox during the Age of Aries during which many ancient myths (and especially Biblical myths in the Hebrew scriptures) are set.

This is the point of "crossing upwards" into the upper half of the year, when hours of daylight begin to dominate again over hours of darkness, after the long winter months in which darkness dominated over day.

The constant interplay between the "lower half" and the "upper half" -- between the forces of "darkness" and the forces of "light" -- were anciently allegorized in myths around the world as a great struggle or battle. Previous examinations of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita, for instance, have discussed the evidence for this assertion, and the stories of the Trojan War in the Iliad as well as the crossing of the Red Sea in the Old Testament can be shown to relate to this same interplay.

But the myths are not "just" about the natural cycles of the year: they can be definitively shown to have used the great cycles to convey knowledge about spiritual truths. In other words, the myths use the most majestic physical models conceivable -- the mighty cycles of the heavens, the turning of the stars through the night, the progression of the zodiac signs and the planets through the year, the interplay of the seasons and the sun's path from equinox to solstice and back, the phases of the moon, and even the longer cycles of planetary conjunctions and the titanic precessional mechanism that grinds out the ages over the course of thousands and thousands of years -- in order to convey to our understanding truths about invisible matters.

In terms of the great zodiac wheel, at least on one level of metaphor, the upper half of the year is associated in myth with the invisible realm of spirit but also the spiritual and divine aspect in each and every incarnate human being, just as the lower half of the wheel is associated with our physical, material, animal, corporeal nature, into which we are plunged upon incarnation.

Much of the purpose of the myths of the world appears to have been to remind us that we are not merely physical, to awaken the spiritual within and point us towards the truth of our divine inner nature. Previous posts such as those linked above have connected this awakening of the "spiritual component" in ourselves, others, and in all the universe around us, with the concept of blessing

The opposite impulse, of course, denies the spiritual, seeks to degrade, debase, brutalize and otherwise reduce to the physical and the animal (which is why violence is so wrong, on any level). All forms of cursing can be seen to be connected to this opposite "physicalizing" and "brutalizing" impulse.

In the story of Balaam, the concept of blessing and cursing is clearly central to the narrative. In the allegory presented, Moab and her king Balak are representative of the lower half of the wheel, and the forces of darkness. The king, Balak, specifically wants cursing, and seeks to hire Balaam to do it.

The children of Israel in the metaphor are representative of the upper half of the wheel. In one part of the Biblical passage quoted, the text tells us that they "cover the face [literally the 'eye'] of the earth" (Numbers 22: 5). In other words, they are associated with the sun (the "eye of the earth") and with the half of the year in which the hours of daylight cover more and more of the hemisphere in question (the summer months, the upper side of the wheel).

The upper half of the year metaphorically represents the realm of spirit, and the re-establishment and re-affirming and uplifting of the divine present at all times in men and women (and in all of creation). It is  the same concept expressed by the raising-up of the Djed Column in ancient Egyptian myth-systems discussed in many previous posts and videos, such as here and here and here.

It should not have to be repeated at this point, but because literalism has so firmly entrenched itself in the cultural consciousness of the west for the past seventeen hundred years, it must be stressed that the children of Israel in this story do not represent historical or literal personages, any more than does Balaam (or, for that matter, King Midas). The text is a spiritual allegory. The children of Israel in this story represent a spiritual aspect of reality that is present in all of us -- not a group of literal or historical people (the allegorical understanding is inclusionary, not exclusionary as the literalistic understanding tends to be).

They (like the Danaans in the Trojan War) represent the upper half of the zodiac wheel, and allegorically the realm of spirit and the uplifting of the divine spark present in all human beings (and all nature as well). This is made clear in some of the "blessings" pronounced by Balaam in Numbers 22 - 24 (see for example the mention of the Lion in Numbers 23: 24, which is undoubtedly a reference to the sign of Leo, strongly associated with summer and the "upper half" of the zodiac wheel). None of us are literal descendants of any constellation -- but the idea of being descended from the stars conveys a an allegorical truth about our spiritual condition.

Moab and Balak represent the lower half of the wheel. The story is about spiritual matters, and not about historical and literal battles between different physical branches of the human family.

Thus, when Balaam is asked to curse the allegorical representatives of the divine spark, the invisible realm of spirit -- the very aspect of our dual human nature that we are supposed to be lifting up and calling forth -- he is being asked to deny the spiritual, the divine, and everything associated with the invisible realm.

Doing so would be to send the message that we are nothing but physical, animal, brutal beings, with no invisible, spiritual, divine component.

Of course, whenever Balaam gets in touch with the realm of spirit, with the realm of the divine, by going into a state of trance, he is strongly warned not to convey such a brutalizing, cursing message. He is instead given a message that raises up the spiritual -- and indeed a message that predicts the eventual and inevitable triumph of spirit over the brutal, the physical, the debasing and the degrading aspects of our physical incarnate condition.

Whenever Balaam is on the way to cooperate with the king of Moab, he is opposed by the angel, representative of the invisible realm (and indeed, invisible to Balaam until his eyes are opened). We watch as he grows more and more angry at his beast, more and more violent, more and more brutal, until his ass with her just questions appears to be at least as human as he is.

She is more in touch with the spiritual realm than he is, and she saves him from destruction even though he beats her for it.

Clearly, Balaam in this story is representative of our own human condition. And this helps us to understand one of the aspects of the scriptural passage which could give literalist readers major difficulties -- the fact that God told Balaam to go along with the messengers of the king of Moab, and then sent the angel to oppose Balaam (literalist interpreters often try to construe some kind of culpable motive to Balaam in his going along, even though he has just been told in a dream to do so).

If Balaam is representative of some aspect of our own soul's condition, here in this incarnate life, then our entry into incarnation is akin to "going into the kingdom of Moab" and it is ultimately for our own good and in thus in accordance with the divine will. In other words, we descend into this life from the realm of spirit for our own benefit. But our mission here is not to become brutal, not to become violent, not to become bestial, but rather to bless and to uplift and to reconnect with that upper half of our nature -- our spiritual and divine True Self.

When we understand this allegorical system, then the story begins to make sense in a way that it does not when we try to force a literal reading on the text. It is a story of hope and of the dignity and divinity inherent in each and every human being. We all are a combination of physical and spiritual, but we are told that the spirit will eventually and inevitably triumph, no matter how ugly the physical circumstances and situations may become, and no matter how our own spiritual blindness will often lead us to do stupid and even self-destructive things as we go up the path.

When we understand the story as esoteric and allegorical, then we see that it applies to each and every person, and that it teaches us to work to lift up the spiritual in ourselves and in others, and not to put them down.

But when it is taken as literal and historical, this message can become distorted, because when it is externalized then it can be mistakenly seen as a message which lifts up some groups and puts down others.

In fact, by externalizing the text, a literal reading can lead to some conclusions that are "180 degrees out" from the interpretation just offered. A "physical" message, so to speak, instead of a spiritual one.

But, when we see the clear and overwhelming evidence that the text describes the motions of the stars, it becomes clear that the literal and historical reading -- already very difficult to maintain in light of the incidents in this particular episode -- is almost certainly not the intended message of the ancient text.

The same exercise can be performed with virtually every single other story in the scriptures included in what we today refer to as "the Bible" (both the "Old" and "New" Testaments), and indeed with virtually every other myth and sacred story from around the world.

Leaving us with what I believe are several inescapable conclusions, among them:

that we are all connected,

that we are all primarily spiritual and that thus the external and physical should not be used to divide us from one another,

that we should pay attention to the invisible realm (as Balaam learned "the hard way" in the story, but as we ourselves also generally "learn the hard way" in this life),

that we should bless and not curse,

that we should lift up and otherwise draw forward the divine spark in others and, as much as possible, in the part of the cosmos that we can impact around us

(including by planting gardens, opposing degrading treatment of animals, and opposing the pollution of the air and land and waters around us),


that the side of uplifting will ultimately and inevitably win out, and that those who are on the side of cursing and debasing and brutalizing may seem to be powerful now but that in fact they are not.

Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節 and the Total Lunar Eclipse ("Blood Moon") of September 2015

Mid-Autumn Festival 中秋節 and the Total Lunar Eclipse ("Blood Moon") of September 2015

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This Sunday, September 27, marks the beginning of the traditional celebration of mid-Autumn festival in China and Vietnam. It is a very ancient holiday, its observance stretching back to as early as 3600 years ago, and perhaps even earlier, and it is one of the most important holidays in Chinese culture. Great effort is usually made to travel and be with family on this day, much like Thanksgiving in the US, and for several days around the holiday many businesses and markets are closed as people make their way back to the places where they grew up, in order to celebrate with their extended families.

The Chinese characters for this holiday are 中 秋 節 which is pronounced Zhong Qiu Jie in Mandarin and Jung Chau Jit in Cantonese, and which translates literally into "Mid-Autumn-Day" or "Middle-Fall-Holiday" (or even more literally the "Mid-Autumn-Node").

Jung Chau Jit is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, the fifteenth day corresponding in general to the full moon in a lunar month (because a lunar month commences with a new moon, and the moon waxes for fourteen days to become full, which happens on the fifteenth day, and then wanes for fourteen more days to the point of another new moon), and so this festival always falls very close to or directly upon the day of a full moon, as it does this year.

Thus, the Mid-Autumn Holiday is also a Moon Festival, and is in fact often called the Moon Festival, and an important tradition during the days (weeks!) leading up to this holiday and on the day of the holiday itself is the giving of round "mooncakes," light gold in color and filled with a variety of different kinds of heavy, sweet fillings, and sometimes with a candied egg yolk:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

These are traditionally served by being cut carefully into four equal quarters (a little combination cutting-and-serving implement, something like a small version of a cake trowel, is often included in commercially-sold mooncake boxes or packages), with each person present being given one section. The cakes themselves often have "blessing" words baked into the top of them. 

Being a Moon Festival, the holiday is also closely associated with the Moon Goddess, pictured at top, whose name is 嫦 娥 which is pronounced Chang Er  in Mandarin and Seung Ngo in Cantonese and translates rather directly into "Chang the Beautiful" or "Seung the Beautiful." 

There is a legend about Seung Ngo and her husband, 后 羿 being banished from the heavenly realms by the Jade Emperor (whom we met in the earlier discussion of the Lantern Festival, which takes place in the first lunar month) and having to live down upon the earth as mortals (his name is pronounced Hou Yi in Mandarin and Hau Ngai in Cantonese, and it means something like "King Archer").  

In the legend, he is distraught at the idea that his beautiful wife, having been banished from the celestial realms, is now faced with mortality, and so he seeks and eventually obtains an elixir of immortality which will restore their immortality to them. However, as so often happens in such myths, the plan goes awry, when she is forced to drink it all herself (either to keep it from a marauding robber who breaks in to steal it from her while her husband is away, or because she is overcome with curiosity while he is asleep, and drinks the whole elixir without knowing the consequences).

As soon as she does, she feels herself floating up into the heavens, without her unfortunate husband, who is left behind as a mortal. The two are thus separated forever, but Seung Ngo settles on the Moon, where she can look down upon Hau Ngai, and he can gaze up to her new home and think of her.

Having examined some of the most prominent aspects of this important ancient holy day, we are now in a position to benefit from the deep knowledge contained within its symbols and forms.

Because this poignant myth, and all the other symbols of the Mid-Autumn Festival, are powerful symbols which speak to truths about our incarnate existence, this existence in which we find ourselves crossing the "underworld" of the material realm in a physical body -- which is closely associated with the figure of the moon in the ancient system of celestial metaphor -- but doing so with the dimly-remembered awareness that we are separated from our true home (and disconnected from our higher "divine twin") during this earthly sojourn, and that we are in fact actually spiritual beings as much or more than we are physical beings.

The festival, positioned in the time of year next to fall equinox, contains the same symbols of a goddess and the fall from the celestial realm into the mortal incarnate life associated with the point of autumn equinox literally worldwide in the ancient myths.

Among them:

  • The presence of a goddess-figure (in this case, the goddess Seung Ngo, or Chang Er), goddess figures being shown in the previous post to be associated in ancient myth the world over with the point of fall equinox and the plunge into incarnation.
  • A myth in which there is a prominent theme of expulsion from the heavenly realm and banishment to the earthly realm (the plunge into this lower realm), featuring a duo in which one of the pair is mortal and one divine: just as we, in this incarnate life, find ourselves "crossed" with a physical body and an internal divine spark. 
  • The incorporation of moon-themes to go along with the incarnation theme of the fall equinox (dominated by the presence of a goddess at the point of incarnation). As Alvin Boyd Kuhn demonstrates in extended discussions found in Lost Light, published in 1940, the ancient myths  and sacred traditions very often used the moon to symbolize our incarnate form, and the sun our divine spirit, which lights up and animates our physical body in the same way that the sun gives its light to the moon (see pages 115 and following, for example, or 520 and following, or 139 and following, or 521 and following). In that exploration of ancient myth, Kuhn says quite explicitly: "The sun types soul, always, the moon, body" (479), and elsewhere: "The moon being the parent of the mortal body, lunar symbolism was prominently introduced into the portrayal "(140).
  • The connection of the moon (our incarnate side) with the idea of water, seas, oceans, and incarnation (through the tides, and also through the internal tides of our body), which also connects with the goddess-ocean connection discussed in the previous post (with examples which demonstrated the "mother-ocean" connection inherent in the names of Mary, Tiamat, and Aphrodite, as well as in the Chinese ideograms for mother and ocean).
  • The tradition of gathering together with family at the Moon Festival, representative of the idea that we align the cycle of our personal lives and our physical motions (often traveling great distances) with the cycles of the earth, sun, moon and stars: reinforcing the profound connection between "microcosm" and "macrocosm" discussed in the preceding post (and many others), a connection which the ancient myths and sacred traditions of the human race the world over all seek to convey. 
  • The tradition of gathering together with family at the Moon Festival, which also commemorates our physical, material entry into this incarnate life, which is celebrated when we honor our family and especially our parents.
  • Traditions in this holiday (especially as celebrated in Vietnam) which focus on children and proclaim it to be a holiday which honors young children, who are just embarking upon their journey through the incarnate human life.
  • The tradition that mooncakes are cut up into four quarters, which is clearly connected with the lunar symbology, but also with the concept of "crossing" or the crucifixion of this incarnate life (see numerous previous posts which demonstrate that the Great Cross of the year was associated in ancient myth with the twin components of incarnate human existence: the horizontal component representing the physical, "dead," "animal" nature of our body, and the vertical component representing the spiritual, divine, celestial component of the invisible and infinite realm which the ancient myths tell us is actually all around us and also within us and within every other being with whom we come into contact).

Clearly, then, the Mid-Autumn Festival preserves a great many symbols which carry a profound spiritual message, using the symbology of the moon (associated with incarnation), the casting down from the spiritual realms into incarnate existence (in the story of Hou Yi and Chang Er, or Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo), the myth regarding a married couple who are extremely close but who find themselves in the condition of one divine and one mortal (the "divine twin" pattern found around the world, including in the myth of Castor and Pollux but also of Jesus and Thomas and many others), the traditions of gathering with family and ordering our lives in accordance with the cycles of earth, sun, moon and stars, and the traditions of honoring our physical family and our parents, who brought us into this incarnate body in the first place.

It is also worth pointing out, in passing (although it could become a full-length examination and discussion) that a great many Chinese characters which use the symbol for "the moon" actually refer to our physical human body. The Chinese ideogram for "moon" is:

Other words whose ideograms use this as a "radical" in their Chinese character, and which relate to the physical human body, include:

The liver: 

The ribs or chest: 

The armpit, or arms:

The elbow:

Pelvis, groin or thighs:

The diaphragm:

Internal organs, guts, viscera:

A gland:

Fat, plump, or obese:

And there are many others.

Some scholars or those familiar with Chinese radicals may argue that none of the above characters are actually connected with "the moon," even though the radical looks just like the Chinese symbol for the moon, because the actual radical for "meat" -- which looks like this --

ends up looking like the symbol for "the moon" when it functions as a radical in a compound character. 

That is a valid argument, but we must ask ourselves why that "meat" symbol turns into a "moon" symbol in all of these ideograms? The answer, of course, could very well be the fact that the ancient wisdom of the human race universally acknowledged an esoteric connection between the moon and the physical, corporeal, carnal ("meat") body.

And so it becomes clear that all of the symbology of the culturally significant and anciently-established Mid-Autumn-Festival can be shown to be connected to other mythological symbols used in other myths around the world -- all of them designed to impart to us profound gnosis regarding our human condition here in this incarnate life, including the fact that we are not merely physical beings but that our human nature consists of both a physical and a spiritual component, that our physical "moon" form (associated with water) is illuminated by our spiritual "solar" and divine nature (associated with fire and with air -- or spirit).

Now, very briefly, let us also note the fact that because the Mid-Autumn-Festival always falls on or very near a full moon, it will also periodically happen that this anciently-ordained observation will coincide with a lunar eclipse. Previous posts on the actual celestial mechanics of the moon phases (see here, here, and here) have explained why lunar eclipses must always coincide with a full moon, and why solar eclipses must always correspond to a new moon (not every full moon is a lunar eclipse, of course, nor every new moon a solar -- but every lunar eclipse occurs at full moon, and every solar eclipse occurs at new moon).

This September 27 full moon also happens to take place when the moon is passing through a "lunar node" (a "crossing point" with the plane of the ecliptic of the earth) and will therefore result in a total lunar eclipse visible for most of the Americas, Africa and Europe (see resources from Sky & Telescope regarding this eclipse available here).

Not only is this a total lunar eclipse, but it is also a total lunar eclipse which corresponds to the moon's closest approach on its orbit around the earth, when it is physically closer to us and thus appears physically larger in the sky -- all of which add up to the promise of a spectacular heavenly event this weekend.

This particular moon (all month long) is in fact known universally as the Harvest Moon (in China also), which is traditionally understood to be the brightest moon of the year.

All of these factors argue that this weekend's lunar eclipse should be worth going out and watching, if at all possible in your particular global location and circumstance.

As the moon enters the shadow of the earth, it will take on a dusky red hue -- which (only recently) has begun to be designated as a "blood moon" by some in the popular media and in certain evangelical circles (largely based upon a literalistic interpretation of certain Old and New Testament scriptures which I believe can be definitively shown to be esoteric in nature and not literalistic in nature). Scriptures in the Old and New Testament which describe the moon as turning to blood or being bathed in blood include the following texts:

Joel 2:31 "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the LORD come."
Acts 2:20 "The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come:"
Revelation 6:12 "And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood;"

Alvin Boyd Kuhn actually addresses many of these Biblical passages directly, and argues (with extensive textual evidence) that the description of the "moon becoming as blood" only emphasizes even more dramatically the esoteric symbolical connection between the moon and our physical body in this human life.

Discussing the passage cited above from Revelation 6, he explains among the metaphors given: 

along with the darkness over the earth, the veiled sun, the blood-stained moon, is that "the stars from the heavens fell." In the same place we read that "when the message of the third angel was sounded forth, a great star went down from heaven and it fell upon the earth." Another star fell at the sounding of the trumpet of the fifth angel. The various legends, then, of falling stars become invested with unexpected significance as being disguised allusions to the descent of the angelic myriads to our shores , -- to become our souls. 116.

In other words, Kuhn here argues that the metaphors in Revelation 6 (and indeed throughout the Bible)  all have to do with our incarnate condition, consisting of a "crossing" between spirit (symbolized by the sun) and matter (our material bodies, symbolized by the moon). 

This interpretation (according to Alvin Boyd Kuhn) would include the metaphor of the earth being enshrouded by darkness -- because we plunge down to incarnation in the lower half of the zodiac wheel, as described in numberless previous posts. The lower half of the wheel is the half in which night triumphs over daylight (initiated by the fall equinox, when the hours of darkness begin to be longer than the hours of light, in each 24-hour period):

It would include (according to Kuhn) the moon being bathed in blood -- because the moon represents our incarnate condition, our sojourn in a body composed of water and blood and clay, our crossing of the "Red Sea" (which can be metaphorically seen to be the crossing which each and every human being undertakes, going through life in a human body through which courses the "red sea" of the blood in our veins and arteries).

It would include (according to Kuhn) the stars being cast out of heaven and forced to "fall upon the earth" -- for this is the very condition in which we find ourselves, as human souls who dimly realize that we come from a spiritual home, but who have been exiled (just like Hau Ngai and Seung Ngo) upon this material plane.

In other words, the passages in Revelation (and all the other esoteric Biblical scriptures) are describing our own human experience, our experience as divine beings who have been "crossed with" physical, material, animal bodies during this incarnate life.

And this is just what all the other Star Myths of the world are trying to convey to us as well! (Note that it can be conclusively demonstrated that the passages of the book of Revelation involving the opening of the seven seals are absolutely based upon metaphorical descriptions of the constellations in our night sky, as I demonstrate briefly in this previous post regarding Revelation Chapter 9: they are all allegorical celestial metaphors which use the awe-inspiring motions of the heavenly cycles to convey truths to us about the invisible realm).

Indeed, all of these metaphors and sacred scriptures are designed to convey to us the very same truths conveyed through the ancient metaphors connected to the Mid-Autumn-Festival celebrated in China and Vietnam and some other surrounding cultures from time immemorial.

As the day of the first full moon after fall equinox approaches, it is a time for contemplation and reflection upon our human condition in this incarnate life -- our "plunge into matter" which in ancient myth was associated with the point of the fall equinox, with the goddess at the edge of the ocean (or the goddess of the Moon), and with the "crossing" of our divine nature with a physical body.

And yet, even as we are plunged into this physical human form, we are given forms and symbols and myths and stories and scriptures to remind us that this material world that is visible and perceptible to our senses is not all that there is, and that this physical "animal" human body we inhabit is not all that we are. 

Just as the moon is illuminated by the fire of the sun's life-giving rays, so our material nature is illuminated and animated by a higher spiritual self that exists "above and beyond" our merely physical carcass. 

Just like the mooncake in the Jung Chau Jit celebration, which is divided and quartered into four equal sections, we ourselves are made up of a "cross," a "crucifix," a "quartered whole" consisting of both a horizontal line (between the equinoxes, and associated with matter) and a vertical line (between the solstices, reaching towards infinity, and associated with all that is spiritual, and with raising the spiritual aspect within ourselves and with calling it forth in those we meet and indeed in all of creation around us).

I sincerely wish you a very blessed Mid-Autumn Festival, and harmony between the microcosm and macrocosm. May all beings be freed from suffering and filled with peace and joy, love and light.