Thursday, June 30, 2016

Lord Krishna urges: "Make peace"

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

In the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most consistent messages expressed by Lord Krishna throughout the Gita is that in this incarnate life, we should always strive to do what is right, without attachment to the outcome.

This previous post contains some discussion of the Bhagavad Gita, and some examples of this message, which Krishna presents in various ways throughout the holy text, saying for example:
Do your duty to the best of your ability, O Arjuna, with your mind attached to the Lord, abandoning worry and attachment to the results, and remaining calm in both success and failure. The equanimity of mind is called Karma-yoga. Work done with selfish motives is inferior by far to the selfless service or Karma-yoga. Therefore be a Karma-yogi, O Arjuna (6. 26).
Prior to the Battle of Kurukshetra, in an earlier episode in the Mahabharata (one of the great epics of ancient India, of which the Bhagavad Gita is a sub-section), Krishna himself models this behavior, by making every effort to avert the war, and to convince the Kauravas to cease their wicked desire to try to destroy their cousins the Pandavas. The eldest brother of the five Pandavas, Yudhistira, asks Krishna to approach the Kauravas and explain his desire for peace, even though Duryodhana (the eldest of the sons of Dhritarastra and the absolutely bloodthirsty and insatiable leader of the Kauravas) has demonstrated over and over that he desires war and will stop at nothing to get it, so convinced is he of his army's ability to destroy his virtuous cousins, whom he has always hated.

In making this request of Lord Krishna, the temperate Yudhistira declares:
Under all circumstances, however, war is a sin. Who in striking another is not himself struck? As regard the person, however, who is struck, victory and defeat, O Hrishikesa, are the same. It is true that defeat is not much removed from death, but his loss also, O Krishna, is not less who winneth victory (5. 72).
In agreeing to go to the Kauravas and tell them to cease their aggressive preparations for war, Krishna emphasizes that even though the outcome seems unlikely to result in a change in the attitude of Duryodhana and his closest accomplices, for whom that which is evil seems to them to be good, and that which is good seems evil, nevertheless he will go. 

As he explains his reasoning for going, he echoes the message that he gives in the Bhagavad Gita, and he also provides a valuable philosophical discussion in which he explains that all momentous events are influenced by a combination of divine providence in co-operation with our own efforts: therefore, we should not presume to know what will be the outcome of our actions, and should not let concerns over the ultimate outcome stop us from doing what is right to the best of our abilities, in order to try to bring about a positive outcome -- even when those doing their best to create a negative outcome seem most unlikely to be convinced of their error.

Krishna tells the Pandavas: 
Behold, the soil is moistened and divested of weeds by human exertion. Without rain, however, O son of Kunti, it never yieldeth crops. Indeed, in the absence of rain, some speak of artificial irrigation, as a means of success due to human exertion, but even then it may be seen that the water artificially let in is dried up in consequence of providential drought. Beholding all this, the wise men of old have said that human affairs are set in consequence of the cooperation of both providential and human expedients. I will do all that can be done by human exertion at its best. But I shall, by no means, be able to control what is providential. The wicked-souled Duryodhana acteth, defying both virtue and the world. Nor doth he feel any regret in consequence of his acting in that way. Moreover, his sinful inclinations are fed by his counselors Sakuni and Karna and his brother Dushashana (5. 79).
Krishna goes to the palace of Dhritarastra and his wicked sons, where he announces that he will meet with them in council the next morning, and then politely refuses their offers of hospitality, saying that it would not be right for him to dine with them or stay in their palaces, instead choosing to spend the night at the hut of the humble and virtuous Vidura and his wife. Vidura tells Krishna that the Kurauvas will not be turned aside from their disastrous push for war, explaining that:
Staying in the midst of his ranks of elephants and his army consisting of cars and heroic infantry, the foolish and wicked Duryodhana, with all fears dispelled, regardeth the whole earth to have already been subjugated by him. Indeed, Dhritarastra's son coveteth extensive empire on the earth without any rivals. Peace, therefore, with him is unattainable. That which he hath in his possession he regardeth as unalterably his. Alas, the destruction of the earth seems to be at hand for the sake of Duryodhana, for, impelled by fate, the kings of the earth, with all the Kshatriya warriors, have assembled together, desirous of battling with the Pandavas (5. 92).
In reply, Lord Krishna acknowledges that the delusional Duryodhana will almost certainly continue his present self-destructive course even after being visited by the mighty Krishna, but that even though this seems to be the likely outcome, Krishna has the duty of trying to dissuade Duryodhana, and that one who desires good for others should argue vigorously against decisions that will have catastrophic consequences for them. Addressing Vidura, Lord Krishna says:
That which thou hast told me is certainly true, worthy of approbation and consistent with reason. Listen, however, with attention, O Vidura, to the reason of my coming. Well knowing the wickedness of Dhritarastra's son and the hostility of the Kshatriyas that have sided with him, I have still, O Vidura, come to the Kurus. Great will be the merit earned by him who will liberate from the meshes of death the whole earth, with her elephants, cars, and steeds, overwhelmed with a dreadful calamity. If a man striving to the best of his abilities to perform a virtuous act meets with failure, I have not the least doubt that the merit of that act becomes his, notwithstanding such failure. This is also known to those that are conversant with religion and scripture, that if a person having intended mentally to commit a sinful act does not actually commit it, the demerit of that act can never be his. I will sincerely endeavor, or Vidura, to bring about peace between the Kurus and the Srinjayas who are about to be slaughtered in battle. That terrible calamity (which hangs over them all) hath its origin in the conduct of the Kurus, for it is directly due to the action of Duryodhana and Karna, the other Kshatriyas only following the lead of these two. The learned regard him to be a wretch who doth not by his solicitation seek to save a friend who is about to sink in calamity. Striving to the best of his might, even to the extent of seizing him by the hair, one should seek to dissuade a friend from an improper act (5. 93).
The next day, Krishna goes and delivers his passionate plea for peace, addressing King Dhritarastra. The entire speech can be found here. Some of the most important points in Lord Krishna's plea include:
  • "Effect peace, O chief of Bharata's race, and yield not to anger."
  • "I desire, O Bharata, thy good as also theirs."
  • "For the sake of virtue, of profit, of happiness, make peace, O king, and do not allow the Earth's population to be slaughtered, regarding evil as good and good as evil."

This is an extremely important passage from the ancient wisdom given to humanity, teaching us a powerful lesson about an absolutely crucial subject.

We should each resolve to "do all that can be done by human exertion at its best" and to change the minds of those who intend to commit sinful acts by aggressively seeking out war and slaughter and destruction.

It may seem that those who "covet extensive empire on the earth without any rivals" are absolutely implacable and incapable of being dissuaded, but Krishna's example and his discussion of the fact that we cannot know how our efforts may cooperate with divine providence, urges us to resolve to do what is right to the best of our abilities, without knowing whether we will succeed in those efforts, and without making our action contingent upon the "probability of success" (especially because we cannot know what positive impact our actions may have, in conjunction with the designs of action from the divine realm, the "real world behind this one" from which everything in this visible realm actually flows and upon which it all is dependent).

The Mahabharata tells us that "under all circumstances, war is a sin." And Krishna warns, "Let not the population of the earth be exterminated." 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Some lessons for us, from the dream of King Solomon

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

As men and women in Great Britain go to the polls to vote on "Brexit" (the UK referendum on EU membership), consider the dream of Solomon recounted in I Kings chapter 3, in which the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream by night, and promises to Solomon the gift of "a wise and understanding heart" in response to Solomon's request for the ability "to discern between good and bad."  

What a gift it would be, to always be able to discern rightly between good and bad, right and wrong, in any situation! Some situations seem to be almost impossible to know for sure which is good and which is bad, which is right and which is wrong -- and yet immediately after this vision of Solomon is related in I Kings 3, the scripture segues to a situation in which Solomon finds himself faced with just such a knotty problem requiring his judgment, and demonstrates an ability to almost instantly cut to the heart of the matter, and solve the dilemma.

The outcome of that famous encounter, known as the "Judgment of Solomon," caused all the people to say of the king that "the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment" (I Kings 3: 28). The episode itself, and the evidence that (like the other Star Myths of the world) it is based upon celestial metaphor, is discussed in this previous post and accompanying video.

The fact that this episode is a metaphor, based upon the stars, indicates that it is not intended to be understood as literal history involving an individual king who lived on earth in ancient times. If it were, then we would be correct in saying "Well, that was Solomon -- he received divine wisdom, which is great for him, but it doesn't really have that much to do with me." If the story is about a special king who lived in terrestrial history thousands of years ago, then the gift of understanding which he received cannot be expected to help us very much in sorting out difficult questions such as those we face every day.

However, if the story is celestial metaphor, which I believe that it can be shown to be, then we must ask what it is trying to tell us, if it is not actually telling us about a literal historical ancient personage who received a special gift of wisdom and once judged between two harlots in the case of a baby.

The answer is that the story is trying to tell us something about our own condition, here in the dual spiritual-material condition in which we find ourselves in this incarnate life. Among many other profound truths which this episode is intended to convey to our understanding is the message that this gift of "a wise and understanding heart" and the ability "to discern between good and bad" is not exclusive to Solomon: it is available to each of us. 

And the scriptural passage is showing us that this understanding is available through connection with the divine realm, the infinite realm, the invisible realm which the ancient myths attempt to dramatize and make visible to us through the metaphors involving the starry realm of the heavens (the heavens being, in a very real sense, an infinite realm).

Solomon receives the gift of a wise and understanding heart when he is in the dream-state: and yet the encounter which follows demonstrates that the wisdom and understanding that he was given was very real, and applicable in the pressing decisions he faced every day. There are many ways in which we can have access to the invisible realm, and in which we can connect with the wisdom and understanding of what some traditions have called our Higher Self. Dreams and the dream-state are one of many ways in which we are able to do so: others include meditation, mantras, some forms of sacred song and chanting, drumming, disciplines such as Yoga and Tai Chi and Qigong, and many others.

The exchange between the Lord and Solomon in the dream state is extremely instructive. In I Kings 3 and verse 5, the Lord appears to Solomon in a dream by night, and says to Solomon, "Ask what I shall give thee." Note that there are no boundaries to this offer: the infinite realm is a realm of infinite potentiality.

Solomon then replies that he is "but a little child," who knows not "how to go out or come in," and what is more that he is in the midst of "a great people that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude," and that because of this he asks for "an understanding heart to judge thy people" (I Kings 3: 7 - 9).

The next verses tell us that this request pleased the Lord, who tells Solomon: 
"Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done so according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches and honor" (I Kings 3: 11 - 13).
These verses, I think, teach us some extremely important lessons about accessing the divine realm. It is a realm of infinite potential, but it is not to be used for the purposes of self-enrichment, or selfish gain, or for inflicting harm upon one's enemies

The Lord is pleased with Solomon's request because Solomon seeks wisdom and discernment between good and bad, for the purpose of helping others.

The passage shows us that the Lord granted Solomon this discernment and wisdom, and also gives Solomon some of what Solomon did not ask for, including riches and fame -- but these are "incidental" to the encounter, and not necessarily something that we should be worrying about: the purpose of seeking the wisdom available to us in the infinite realm is to help others, and to judge rightly between what is good and what is evil.

In his 1936 lecture, "The Stable and the Manger," which I have cited many times in previous posts, Alvin Boyd Kuhn said:
Bible stories are in no sense a record of what happened to a man or a people as historical occurrence. As such they would have little significance for mankind. They would be the experience of people not ourselves, and would not bear a relation to our life. But they are a record, under pictorial forms, of that which is ever occurring as a reality of the present in all lives. They mean nothing as outward events; but they mean everything as picturizations of that which is our living experience at all times. The actors are not old kings, priests and warriors; 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! The Bible is about the mystery of human life. Instead of relating to the incidents of a remote epoch in temporal history, it deals with the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth. 4
This means that the wisdom of Solomon, as incredible as it may seem, is available to you -- and that the scriptural passage is trying to tell that to you and to me. And it is for helping others and judging properly between right and wrong.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Summer solstice, 2016

images: Wikimedia commons. 
Top left:
Top right:,_Djed,_and_Sun.jpg
Bottom center:ânkhamon_(musĂ©e_du_Caire_Egypte)_(1815591264).jpg

The earth will pass through the point of June solstice this year on Monday, June 20 at 3:34 in the afternoon for the Pacific time zone in North America, which is 6:34 pm for the Eastern time zone and 10:34 pm (or 22:34) in Greenwich, England.

For those in the northern hemisphere, this will mark the "high point" of the year or the summer solstice, when the sun's path across the sky will be at its highest elevation above the southern horizon, before it turns back "downwards" towards the lowest part of the year at winter solstice. 

The summer solstice will mark a "triumph" point for hours of daylight versus hours of darkness, but after earth hurtles past this point of triumph, the hours of daylight will again begin to grow shorter, although they will still be longer than the hours of darkness each 24-hour period, until we reach the "crossing point" of the September equinox, when hours of darkness will then begin to be longer than hours of daylight in each 24-hour period (for those of us in the northern hemisphere).

The four great dividing points of the year -- the summer and winter solstices, and the autumn and spring equinoxes -- were allegorized in the ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred stories of humanity to impart wisdom intended for our benefit as we toil through this incarnate life. Based on my analysis of many ancient myths, it is my understanding that the point of summer solstice carries a twin message -- embodying both the consummation of complete integration with our Higher Self, the "raising of the Djed-column," towards which we should strive each day, and upon which we should fix our gaze and also the message that (like the sun's path after the triumph of summer solstice) we ourselves have plunged down into physical matter for the express purpose of the elevation of both the spiritual and material natures.

The endless interplay between daylight and darkness during the course of the annual cycle, and between the path through the upper realm of the heavens and the lower realm of earth and water during the course of the daily cycle (with each rising of a star or other heavenly body being allegorized as a rising into the spirit-realm, and each setting as a plunge into the material realm) was employed by the ancient myths to teach us that we ourselves and everyone else that we ever meet is actually much more than the physical body, and are each possessed of a higher, divine spirit-nature, temporarily submerged in the material realm.

The plunge down into matter may on the surface appear to be the humiliation of this spirit-nature, but in fact according to the metaphor it is this very "casting down" which results in the "raising up" of the invisible soul.

In a short treatise entitled Easter: Birthday of the Gods (also found on the web here, and available for purchase in paper format here), in which he most clearly outlines the spiritual significance of each of the four great stations upon the Great Cross of the year (summer solstice, autumn or fall equinox, winter solstice, and spring equinox), Alvin Boyd Kuhn explains that our "fall" into matter should not be misunderstood as a terrible mistake, but rather as a critical and essential experience. He writes:
Unseen as yet by general religion, it was necessary for God's sons, who must start as mortals to gain immortality, to descend into matter and be long subjected to its sluggish dominance. Ignorantly and mistakenly has conventional religion, in its hasty, superficial, and erratic interpretation of Biblical material, assumed that this ostracism of his children by God himself to lower worlds remote from the Father's benignant presence, was somehow a sad consequence of the children's wayward errancy and an untoward and disastrous misadventure of primal mankind. The truth envisages no such direful miscarriage of the plans of Eternal Mind. God's mental progeny could well be entrusted to the tutelary custodianship of nature, indeed injected into her maternal womb, since nature was from the first and eternally ensouled by the Father's energic mind power, and all nature's processes exhibited the divine design at work in open manifestation. God could safely consign his youthful offspring to the educative guardianship of the "old nurse," Mother Nature. For as a pedagogue Mother Nature could never misteach each her divine pupils, herself being the preceptress, the living exemplar and expression of the cosmic mind. 12 - 13.  
In other words, Kuhn argues, our spiritual descent into this realm of matter is ultimately (somehow) for our spiritual elevation and the raising of our consciousness through the experience. Elsewhere in the same essay, he states:
Flesh and soul find themselves locked inseparably in the marriage bonds of polarity here in body. Philosophies that place all value on spirit and decry and degrade the flesh are guilty of gross misplacement of emphasis.
[. . .]
It is said that all Scripture is given for edification. Of first importance then it is to realize that the basic edifying item of truth the Scriptures enshrine (in myth, allegory, drama and symbol) is this underlying universal principle: the descent, the "death" in ark-seed form and then the resurrection of the seed units of divine life out of material embodiment. This single item is the lost clue to the mystery and the meaning of both life itself and the great Scriptures which pictorialize its significance. 30 - 31.
It is for this reason, then, that we see Samson's path go from basically irresistible strength and triumph to weakness and imprisonment, after the "seven locks of his head" are shorn off by Delilah in Judges 16. When Samson was passing through the "upper regions" of summer solstice, he slew a Lion with his bare hands, and then later came back and gathered honey from the swarm of bees which had made their home in the carcass of the Lion (the Beehive being representative of the zodiac sign of Cancer the Crab and the summer solstice). But then he descends to the point of fall equinox (presided over by the Virgin of Virgo) and ultimately is shorn of the seven locks of his hair, which are directly symbolic of his identification with the divine fire of the sun in the heavens.

We may wonder why Samson would ever reveal to Delilah the secret of his irresistible strength, especially after every "false lead" he gives her is immediately tested out by Delilah and a group of Samson's enemies -- but the reason is that the sun must eventually make its way downward from the heights of summer and pass through the fall equinox on the way down to the very lowest point of the year, and that this same journey of the sun was used by the ancient myths and scriptures to dramatize to us the necessity of our own descent from the realm of pure spirit, into this material universe and our incarnate life within a physical human body.

The necessity of Samson's "plunge" (and the shaving of his "solar glory" in the cutting off of the seven locks of his head by Delilah in Judges 16) prefigures a very similar descent which is described in the stories of the New Testament in the life of the Christ: after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem upon a donkey (or two donkeys), which again is symbolic of the zodiac sign of Cancer the Crab at the very top of the year at summer solstice (the Beehive cluster symbolized in the Samson myth being located between two stars in the constellation Cancer which are named Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis: the "northern and southern donkey colts"), the motion of the gospel narrative moves inexorably towards his betrayal by Judas Iscariot and then his arrest, humiliation, and crucifixion.

In other words, in both the Samson narrative and the "triumphal entry" narrative in the gospels, we see that the "high point" of the year (associated with Cancer the Crab at the top of the annual cycle) is followed soon after by descent, humiliation, imprisonment, and death -- all symbolic of our own plunge into the material realm, which was symbolically described as a sort of "death" of our spiritual consciousness, and a "shaving off" of our connection with and memory of our inner connection to the infinite and divine.

Thus, the symbolic significance of summer solstice to us from our vantage point in this "lower crossing" of the incarnate life is as something we can look towards as a reminder of our true spiritual and divine nature, which we should recognize and elevate in ourselves and others as much as possible, but it is simultaneously a reminder that (like the path of the sun itself) we had to descend from the realm of spirit in order to sojourn in the material realm, for reasons that ultimately have to do with the "uplift of the soul" (in the words of Alvin Boyd Kuhn, 30).

My analysis of the intended message is that each of us should in fact be engaged in the process of "raising up" the Djed column during this earthly sojourn, but also that we should realize that we never actually reach the point symbolized by summer solstice while we are sojourning here in the material realm -- that is where we came from, when we commenced the plunge into physical matter, and where we are heading towards again (in an "aeonial cycle" that continues many times, according to some interpretations of the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity, as Kuhn explains on page 30 of the same tract mentioned already).

The reason that the Beehive in the constellation of Cancer the Crab is associated with this triumphal highest point in the spiritual cycle (the point from which, however, the "only way to go is down") is that the line of the summer solstice falls between the signs of Gemini and Cancer on the zodiac wheel, as it was drawn during the Age of Aries:

As can be seen from the above diagram, the very top of the vertical line connecting the winter solstice (at the bottom or "six o'clock" position on the wheel) with the summer solstice (at the top or "twelve o'clock" position) passes between the sign of the Twins of Gemini (to the left of the "twelve o'clock" position) and of Cancer the Crab (drawn to look more like a lobster in the illustration above), just to the right of the same line through twelve o'clock. 

These two signs, incidentally, are almost certainly responsible for the description in the Biblical scriptures of the Promised Land as a "land flowing with milk and honey," as discussed in this previous blog post on that subject. It is noteworthy that in the mythology of ancient Greece, the infant Zeus was  said to have been nourished upon the milk and the honey provided to him in the Diktaian cave (the cave on Mount Dikte on Crete, where the baby Zeus was hidden by his mother, to escape being devoured by his father Kronos or Cronus) by the miraculous goat Amaltheia and (according to some ancient accounts) by the nymphs Ide (Ida) and Adrasteia, daughters of Melisseus (see discussions and ancient sources here).

The same constellation of Cancer the Crab, which is a very faint constellation composed of only six easily-visible stars, is also undoubtedly responsible for the association of the "upraised arms" with the point of summer solstice and of the top of the Djed column (the highest point of the year), as discussed in this previous summer solstice post from 2014. The "upraised arms" (with the triumphant, full sun above them) can be seen at the top of the Djed column in an illustration from the Papyrus of Ani shown in the collection of images at top (in the upper-right image in that collection). 

The same "upraised arms" play a role in the Exodus account of the battle with Amalek, when the battle went well for Joshua and the children of Israel only as long as Moses held his arms up, but went badly for them when Moses grew tired and let his arms down to rest them. This story, found in Exodus chapter 17, can be seen to be a dramatization of the cycles of the year itself, and the endless interplay between the forces of light and darkness -- which go back and forth between the summer solstice and the winter solstice, with one "side" triumphing as the year approaches its day of maximum darkness, and the other triumphing as the year approaches the day of maximum daylight. But the story is not really "about" the great annual cycle, as majestic and awesome as that is, but rather is intended to provide us with spiritual insight into the interaction between the visible and invisible realms, and into our own innate divine nature, which is so easily forgotten and neglected when we plunge into this incarnate life in the physical body, and subject ourselves to all of the physical exigencies and necessities of the material world.

In that battle with Amalek, Moses had to have assistance in order to keep his arms up, from the figures of Aaron and Hur (Exodus 17: 12) -- and we see that in the Papyrus of Ani illustration (top right) the Djed itself is flanked by the twin figures of the goddesses Isis and Nephthys, each of whom has her hands raised up in a gesture of blessing and uplifting of the spirit and of the Djed. Similarly, the sacred Scarab of ancient Egypt was also depicted with its own "hands" upraised, reminiscent of the Crab of Cancer in the celestial realms -- and in the jeweled necklace shown at top from the tomb of Tutankhamun, the sacred Scarab is surmounted by a solar disc but also flanked on either side by both Djed columns and Ankh crosses, as well as by two uraeus serpents (asps or Egyptian cobras), which appear to take the place of Aaron and Hur from the Exodus story, or of Isis and Nephthys from the Papyrus of Ani.

I believe these "flanking figures" represent the great "crossing points" on either side of the central Djed-column on the Great Cross of the year: the autumn and spring equinoxes, which both can be seen as essential to and supportive of the central column which has the summer solstice at its highest point. As Alvin Boyd Kuhn's quotations (cited above) inform us, the plunge down from the summer solstice is an essential aspect of our spiritual uplift.

Below is one more illustration of the "upraised arms" from ancient Egypt, seen in one version of the royal cartouche of the king Thutmosis III. It contains a sacred Scarab with upraised arms, above which is the triumphant solar disc (certainly appropriate to the summer solstice and all that it spiritually represents). Additionally, below the sacred Scarab in this particular version of the cartouche, we see another set of "upraised arms," to really drive the point home. It is also interesting to notice the linguistic similarity between the name of the ancient king to whom this cartouche belongs and the name of Moses whose upraised arms are described in Exodus 17.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This message from the ancient wisdom which was imparted to humanity in the sacred scriptures and myths is one that is very appropriate to contemplate as we once again reach the point of summer solstice and the "high point of the year" (for the northern hemisphere). This summit-point is certainly representative of the full "raising up" of the Djed, the full elevation of the spiritual consciousness, and the full integration with the Higher Self or divine self discussed explicitly in some surviving ancient traditions (such as the tradition of Yoga). However, in the ancient myths of humanity, the triumphal point of summer solstice was usually followed closely by a description of the "descent" of the divine figure, emblematic of the necessity which plunges each one of us from the divine realm of spirit and infinite potentiality into the limiting realm of matter, where we presently find ourselves.

In other words, we are presently in the condition of Samson once his hair (symbolic of the solar fire) has been shorn off -- but the scriptural text encouragingly informs us that "the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven" (Judges 17: 22). And thus our awareness of and integration with that Higher Self, that True Self, is only temporarily forgotten, and we should be in the business of restoring it in the ways that are given to us to do so (secure in the knowledge that ultimately it will "grow again" by a mysterious process that is beyond any of our own efforts). The triumph-point of summer solstice gives us a picture to look towards as we endeavor to connect with and regain touch with our invisible nature, our spirit nature, even as it also conveys the message that this process will always be imperfect and incomplete during this earthly sojourn.

Methods which I believe have been given to us to aid in this process are numerous, and have been preserved in different degrees and different levels of emphasis in the different cultures around our globe. A partial list would certainly include practices such as meditation, various forms of chanting and sacred song, qigong or chi gung, Tai Chi and other martial arts, shamanic drumming or drumming to induce states of ecstasy or out-of-body experience, tantra, the recitation of mantras, and of course the practice of Yoga itself -- among many other methods found across the vast range of human experience and preserved across the myriad cultures that are scattered across the vast range of oceans and deserts and forests and mountains and plains that make up our planet.

And of course, I believe that the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories which were given to humanity in the distant past from a source which today cannot be definitively identified can also guide us towards that integration with and elevation of that aspect of our nature which is spiritual and divine, and which is symbolized by the Beehive and the solstice -- and that they can and will impart their wisdom to us as we learn to approach them using the language that they are actually speaking: the language of celestial metaphor.

Friday, June 17, 2016


I'm not a big UFO researcher.

I've looked at the sky at night a lot and I've never seen one.

I don't particularly look for them either: looking for that type of thing is not a major focus of my research. I do spend a lot of time looking at the stars and the night sky; sometimes I use a telescope, sometimes I use binoculars, but most of the time I use the naked eye (with glasses).

However, this evening while parking the car at a few minutes before 9 pm local time, with both my sons in the car, one of them (who was in the passenger's side seat in the front) said, "There's a satellite."

He had been looking at the planet Saturn, which appeared as a bright star in the twilight -- one of only a few heavenly objects visible in the twilight. With summer solstice approaching, it stays light very late, and although it was getting dark, the easiest objects to see in the direction we were facing as I parked the car were still Mars, Antares and Saturn (a few other stars were visible but very faint).

My son had originally thought that the "star" he was looking at (Saturn) was moving, until he realized it was another bright object just below Saturn, which was bright like a large star but moving slowly downwards towards the horizon.

I saw it and said, "Maybe that's the ISS" because it was so bright. It did look like it was about the size of the bright satellite said to be the ISS on websites that tell you when to look for the ISS, which I have seen crossing the sky in the past, in very much the same part of the sky as this object, except when seeing the bright object identified as the ISS, I've always seen it moving at a steady pace from the south towards the north, and maintaining about the same track across the sky relative to the ground (the same angle of elevation above the eastern horizon, in other words). This object, which was as bright as the ISS and steady (with no blinking lights) was slowly moving towards the horizon.

In the diagram above, I show the direction that we were facing, at the latitude and longitude and approximate time and date. The screenshot is taken from, which is an excellent open-source planetarium app available online. I have used an "airbrush" tool to indicate the location of the bright light when we first saw it (at the top of the downward-pointing arrow, just beneath Saturn and drawn to look slightly larger than Saturn, because it was slightly brighter than Saturn in the sky).

We all saw the object and looked at it very carefully to see if it could possibly have any flashing lights such as an airplane or helicopter would display -- there were definitely none whatsoever: it was a solid light very much like a bright star or satellite (or ISS, if the bright satellite-object we are told is the ISS is in fact the ISS, which I personally don't have too much problem believing that it is, although I know others who harbor some doubts about that).

We watched it for approximately 25 to 30 seconds as it moved steadily downwards towards the horizon, as indicated by the purple arrow. Two of us got out of the car and one of my sons remained in the car, but we were all watching it and discussing it for a good amount of time. There is no way that it could have been a meteor (at least, it was completely unlike any of the meteors I have ever observed, none of which remain visible for 25 or 30 seconds, or even long enough to point out to anyone who is not already looking at them). It moved steadily and deliberately, but not at a constant speed. At one point, it passed some horizontal power lines which were visible above the horizon fairly close to our location, which is the only time it appeared to "blink" (as it passed behind each power line and was temporarily partly-obscured from our view by the power lines).

Not long after passing below the level of the power lines, but still well above the level of the horizon, it suddenly faded very rapidly as if growing smaller and disappearing in the distance, whereupon it turned a dull red color for a split second before fading completely from view. The son who had gotten out of the car also observed the momentary change to a dull red color, while the one who had stayed in the car did not.

The approximate location of the object or light when it disappeared is indicated at the bottom of the arrow that I have drawn in the diagram above, where I have also added a smaller, slightly reddish spot to indicate the object just before it faded suddenly from view.

The speed of descent was somewhat similar to a military parachute flare (which, when I was in the army, was a pyrotechnic device which we used quite often, and with which I am very familiar, along with other types of pyrotechnic devices known as "star clusters" -- I have no idea if these are still used regularly, although they probably are). However, it did not look at all like a parachute flare to me and I can pretty confidently rule that out as an explanation, based on its actual behavior, size, brightness, height above the horizon when first seen, and apparent distance from us. 

I have no desire to label it a "UFO," since that term popularly implies some sort of extraterrestrial craft, and that is certainly not what I would say might be the most likely explanation for whatever this shining object was. It did appear to be like a very bright satellite, about the size of the "ISS" in the sky, but moving in a path that was not at all like a satellite, especially the part at the end when it simply faded rapidly from view while changing to a dull red color momentarily. It could perhaps be labeled as a "UAP" or "unexplained aerial phenomenon," at least "unexplained" based on my own personal experience (the possibility that it was some sort of man-made vehicle or drone seems to me to be the most likely explanation for whatever it was).

Interestingly, at about the same time, someone else in Fontana, California posted a video of a very similar satellite-like light which very much resembled the one we were observing (as far as I can tell from the video), and they described it as being in a "south-easterly direction," which (as you can see in the diagram above) is the same direction that we were looking at the same time. Below is video that they posted shortly afterwards, and which I found by searching on twitter about twenty minutes later (and where it was posted with the message "this just happened"). The interesting part about this video is that the location is quite far to the south of the location that we were when we saw the very similar phenomenon -- so far to the south that it would be hard to believe we were looking at the same thing, even though the time appears to match almost exactly. Below the video is a map showing the relative locations -- if the video below was taken in Fontana, as it says it is (my location was almost exactly two hundred miles north of that, in Paso Robles).

What the significance of this is, I'm not really certain. It does raise questions as to what it might have been, but there are plenty of possible answers (most of them involving some sort of military craft or training, in my opinion). However, as I have never actually seen anything at all like this, in decades of watching the sky (as well as over a decade in the military), I post the record here, mainly to keep track of the details as we observed them.

It is also interesting that it was seen in the vicinity of the planet Saturn.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

California: do the right thing

image: California covered in fog; Wikimedia commons (link).

Most students who study the Odyssey at virtually any level, whether before college or in college, will be told that one of the themes running through the epic is the theme of the host and the guest, and that it contains many different examples of good hosts and bad hosts, good guests and bad guests -- which, of course, it does.

At the opening of the entire poem, we see a vivid example of guests who are devouring the household of their "host," who never actually invited them in the first place: the suitors who have taken up within the household of the absent Odysseus, slaughtering his livestock for their feasts, drinking down his wine, abusing the faithful men who still tend to the animals and the estate, sleeping with the maidservants, and angling for the hand of Penelope in hopes that they can marry her, while plotting to kill the son of Odysseus and Penelope, the young Telemachus -- who has now reached an age where he is beginning to realize that he has to do something about his unruly "guests." 

Realizing that he himself cannot hope to dislodge the more than one hundred suitors who are gulping down the food and drink without giving anything in return, Telemachus calls for an assembly of all the kings and warriors on Ithaca, many of whom are the fathers of the suitors, in order to present his case  to the public and get them to do something about it. 

The proceedings of this assembly are recorded in Book Two of the Odyssey. Telemachus asks the community if he thinks it is right for the suitors "to destroy with impunity" the livelihood of another, to consume possessions that are not theirs and lay someone else's house to waste, basically eating free lunches (not to mention breakfasts and dinners) until all is devoured. If the suitors and the rest of the community think this is proper, Telemachus declares, then he will appeal to the immortal gods, and to the power of the divine Zeus himself to put a stop to the injustice (Odyssey Book 2, lines 130 - 154).

As noted in this previous post, the suitors respond angrily to the accusations of Telemachus, basically blaming him and his mother Penelope, as if Telemachus and Penelope deserve to have the suitors violently occupying their house and devouring their livelihood, and as if Telemachus and Penelope are in the wrong, and not the overbearing suitors!

Then, old Mentor speaks up -- a companion in the old days of Odysseus, who appointed Mentor to raise Telemachus in his absence when he (reluctantly) went off to the Trojan War. Addressing the other citizens of Ithaca, Mentor says: 
But in truth I do not admire that the haughty suitors should do violent deeds by the evil contrivances of their mind; for laying together their heads, they eat up forcibly the house of Odysseus, and say that he never again will return. But now I am angry with the rest of the people, in what manner ye all sit silent, but do not at all reproaching in words restrain the suitors who are few, though you are many. Odyssey Book 2, lines 235 - 241.
In this passage from the ancient wisdom entrusted to humanity, Mentor is saying that the community (who are many, and greatly outnumber the suitors) are in the wrong if they do not use their moral suasion to restrain the violent and conniving suitors, who "eat up forcibly" that which they have basically invaded. 

Mentor knows that if the entire island would express outrage at the actions of the suitors, who are few in number by comparison, the suitors would not be able to stand against all the others (many of whom, besides, are the suitors' own fathers, uncles, or kin).

Mentor expresses his anger because the people, who could put a stop to the depredations of the suitors, instead "all sit silent." 

As with so many other aspects of the situations we find unfolding in our lives in the present day, here again the ancient wisdom of the sacred myth seems to be speaking directly to our most pressing crises. 

Indeed, a violent gang of "suitors" have moved in, devouring with impunity and "plotting violent deeds by the evil contrivances of their mind," in the words of Mentor as preserved in the ancient epic. They have moved in to Greece, for sure, and have nearly brought it to ruin in spite of the protestations of the people there, but also to more far-flung regions including Europe and the present-day United States, as explained by economist Michael Hudson in his many interviews and in his numerous published books and articles -- most recently his book entitled (appropriately enough) Killing the Host

Dr. Hudson uses the term "host" as the word is used when describing the organism invaded by a biological parasite in nature -- a parasite being a particularly graphic illustration of the kind of "bad guest relationship" we have been discussing above. 

He explains that the classical economists (including Adam Smith) believed that the best way to order society was to free it from the kind of activity typified by the levying of rents, which act as "tollbooths" set up all over the economy. But because those who want to act like the suitors in the household of Telemachus and devour the livelihood of others are powerful (too powerful for Telemachus and his household to withstand, no matter how brave he is), the entire community is required in order to stand up to them (in the form of elected governments and legislatures). 

However, over the course of the past one hundred years, Dr. Hudson explains, this idea has actually been turned on its head by those who say that "free markets" really means the removal of the ability of the community to "restrain the suitors," instead of what economists such as Adam Smith intended it to mean. The classical economists intended to create an economy that basically strove to achieve "freedom from the suitors" or those who "eat up forcibly" the households of others -- or the bodies of others, in the case of a parasite -- but today there is a whole host of voices arguing for freedom from the ability to restrain such forcible devouring! 

The various representatives of the suitors in the Odyssey Book Two offer a defense for their behavior, basically arguing that they are the ones who are acting in accordance with what is best for society, and actually blaming their victims (Penelope and Telemachus) as the ones who are in the wrong. Intriguingly, Michael Hudson points out that most parasites in nature actually possess mechanisms to numb the host as they are feeding from it, and many of the most invasive parasites even possess enzymes which they release into the host which go to the brain and affect its thinking, causing the host to believe that the parasite is part of the host, part of the natural order of things, part of the body to be defended and protected and nourished!

To hear Dr. Hudson discussing this concept, you can listen to any one of the many podcasts available on the web in which various interviewers explore this issue from varying angles -- this one contains some good discussion (the part of the show with Dr. Hudson begins at about the 58:00 minute mark of that two-hour podcast and double-interview; he is the guest for the second hour of the show). 

The above arguments do not mean that everyone who starts a restaurant should have to submit the proposed menu (or any other decision about how to run the business) to a public vote every few hours: Dr. Hudson's arguments, and those of the classical economists, appear to be primarily concerned with natural monopolies, such as public infrastructure, including utilities such as power and water and roads (in fact, the reforms he and the classical economists envision would tend to unburden "non-tollbooth" types of economic activity, such as starting a restaurant or hiring workers, from the massive number of taxes and fees that have been pushed onto them, and shift the tax burden instead to the beneficiaries of monopoly-style or tollbooth-type activity). Instead of allowing landlords to set up tollbooths every twenty miles on the interstate freeway system, for example, the United States uses taxes to maintain its comprehensive system of interstate freeways, which lowers the cost of doing business for everyone, whether big businesses or small businesses, or even individuals or families out on the road for vacation or any other purpose. 

The same principle, Dr. Hudson and the classical economists would argue, can be applied to other aspects of the infrastructure, including power and water and even medical care and education -- the goal being to provide these things as inexpensively as possible in order to reduce the cost of doing business or supporting oneself or a family (just like the interstate freeway system), rather than allowing various "extractors" to put up tollbooths all over these infrastructure-type functions (which tend to be natural monopolies).

While the vast majority of people in the United States see the open road and the magnificent interstate freeway system as a tremendous benefit for everyone, many of the very same people have a visceral reaction against applying the same thinking to other aspects of the public infrastructure, such as public education (even though the "public universities" and state schools were basically founded on this same concept, with the goal of providing easily affordable but high-quality undergraduate and graduate education: these have largely been turned into gigantic clusters of tollbooths within tollbooths). 

In other words, even while they enjoy the benefits of the non-privatized interstate freeway system (which benefits everyone in so many ways that are completely taken for granted), they say that anyone proposing the same thing for utilities such as electricity or water, or for educations at state universities, is going to "destroy the free market."

It is now becoming more common to hear people arguing that even city water systems should be privatized, and that water is not actually a human right. The same people would probably balk at the idea of having the roads that they take when going on a trip privatized, and of selling off every ten miles of the freeway system to different corporations or groups of individuals pooling their funds, who could then put up tollbooths charging whatever they thought was best from those desiring the privilege of driving over that stretch of freeway (and perhaps offering loans at varying rates of interest to "help" those who could not afford to pay the tolls by stretching out the toll-payment over varying periods of time going on for years into the future, with interest).

Some extreme "libertarians" or even "thoughtful anarchists" do in fact argue that there should be no public infrastructure at all, and that having roads run by corporations would be a much better arrangement (they usually indicate that insurance companies would be natural candidates for owning and running different sections of roads). But a moment's reflection should cause us to realize that such arrangements are ripe for the kind of behavior demonstrated by the suitors, whose motto seems to be to feast off of whatever wealth they can find -- and that the more the economy is burdened with such "toll-collecting" activity, the more expensive it will be to do anything in that economy, whether traveling on vacation or moving goods and services for a business endeavor, and that the cost of goods produced in such a toll-burdened economy will naturally be higher than similar goods produced in an economy free from such "lounging suitors" erecting tollbooths everywhere.

The "hard libertarian" or "anarchist" position does in fact appear elsewhere in the Odyssey: it can be seen to be the position pursued by Polyphemus the Cyclops, and his fellows. They live solitary lives, build no ships and grow no crops, and reject the laws of gods or men. 

Unfortunately, because governments which were originally designed to escape from the kind of "toll-collecting" systems that dominated Europe in the medieval period have basically been infiltrated by violent suitors, many in the "alternative" world see the libertarian or anarchist position as the only solution, or the moral solution -- but that position actually rejects the kind of moral action by the community that Mentor is calling for. Mentor knows that if the combined voices of the rest of the citizens of Ithaca turned against the suitors and expressed their outrage and disgust at the behavior of the suitors, the suitors would have to give way. This sort of council is exactly what government accountable to the people is supposed to be. But the anarchist or hard libertarian position argues against having any such government -- and thus would leave the suitors to have free rein over the house of Telemachus and Penelope.

Of course, libertarians and even many anarchists will say that they do support rule of law, and that they would in fact support the restraint of violence (such as the murder plot hatched by the suitors). But while they may support community restraint of outright physical violence, they don't support community restraint of toll-extracting: those at the hard libertarian extreme would usually argue that there should be no law against having "this section of Highway 5 brought to you by ____ corporation," and "this entrance to Yosemite National Park brought to you by ____ corporation," and "this brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division brought to you by _____ corporation" (fill in the blanks with your favorite corporation in each case). They would not generally support the position that using taxes to provide public infrastructure (including schools, utilities, communication infrastructure, healthcare, social security or even in some extreme cases the interstate highway system) makes business less expensive, economies more efficient, exports more competitive, the cost of hiring new employees lower, and living standards higher -- and that removing tollbooths (and lounging, feasting, scheming "suitors") from those natural monopolies is actually a promotion of free markets, not a restriction of free markets. 

Unfortunately, because of the equivalent of the enzyme that Dr. Hudson is talking about (the one that makes the "host" believe that the "bad guests" who are eating the host out of house and home are actually "part of the body"), many citizens in the United States are complacent in the face of the very same kind of outrageous behavior that Telemachus and his allies warn will bring down the wrath of the gods, whose laws are being spurned (during the same community meeting, the "old hero Halistherses," who excels all others at reading the flights and songs and signs of birds, warns the community that the signs he is seeing indicate quite clearly that the behavior they are tolerating will end in calamitous disaster).

In the body politic of the United States, the republican party long ago adopted a quasi-religious devotion to the more recent (and counter-classical) view of "free markets" that protects and even encourages the kind of extractive behavior that the classical economists wanted to free the markets from, while the democrat party is presently engaged in a closely-contested battle between a candidate who has proven at every turn to be the best friend of the "suitors" and a candidate who is not afraid to reproach the same suitors with words of moral outrage, and who promises to ask the legislature to take steps to restrain them.

Because that same democrat-party candidate who (along with her husband) has consistently proven to be the best friend of the suitors is also (not coincidentally) an outspoken promoter of the use of aggressive violent military force against other nations around the world, and has explicitly promised military action against Iran and has also publicly compared a current leader of Russia to Hitler (indicating a strong proclivity for initiating violent military action against that nation as well), the election of that candidate to the office of president could have absolutely disastrous and calamitous consequences not only for the United States but for the entire human race (as could the election of the apparent republican candidate, obviously). 

As it happens, because of the convoluted mechanisms of the candidate selection process, the upcoming primary in the state of California will have an enormous bearing on the selection of the candidate for the democrat party in the upcoming presidential election. Any legal resident in the state of California who is presently  registered as a democrat, or registered "NPP" (for "no party preference") may cast a vote in the democrat primary for California this Tuesday, June 7. Those registered in the republican party, or for another specific party other than democrat or "NPP" cannot cast a vote for the democrat primary.

If you are a California resident who is registered "NPP" (rather than "democrat") and you wish to vote in the democrat primary on June 7 (this Tuesday), you can do so.

To participate in the democrat primary, you can either go to the polls physically and ask the polling personnel for the democrat ballot for the primary, or you can take your "NPP" ballot which should have been mailed to you to the primary. There are also other options, including voting early, either by mail or even "early in person." A full set of instructions covering various options and situations for voters registered either "democrat" or "NPP" who wish to participate in the democrat party primary for California is available here or at other places on the web.

I have listened to many different analysts and researchers who argue that "registering" for anything constitutes "consent" with oppressive systems, as well as people offering countless variations on the same type of argument, from either an "anarchist" or "voluntarist" or "sovereign" or "libertarian" perspective, and I have considered those arguments carefully over the years. I presently am of the opinion, after long and careful consideration, that those arguments are badly mistaken, and that they are actually (whether those who promote them realize it or not) arguments against the restraint (by properly elected governments) of dangerous, community-destroying behavior such as that exhibited by the suitors in one of the central conflicts running through the Odyssey. 

Such tolerated behavior may in fact be in the form of "legal tollbooths" all over the place, and not necessarily violent murder-plots such as the suitors exhibit -- but it is a similar type of freeloading as that displayed by the suitors, and it can drag the economy and the majority of the people in that economy down in a "death from a thousand cuts," and it is also unfortunately true that the "suitor" free-lunch-seeking mentality does seem to veer predictably towards actual physical violence and military invasions (just as the Odyssey warns us, with its inspired wisdom).

The suitors don't want the community to restrain them, and if possible they would tell Telemachus that reaching out to the community is either futile, or foolish, or morally compromising to him in some way -- and tell him not to call a council together, or go to the council to have his voice heard, or in any other way oppose their "freedom" to plunder his home. 

Therefore, if you or someone you know resides in California who has the opportunity to vote in the upcoming primary on June 7, but who has been enticed or bullied or deceived into "sitting in silence" instead of voting (as Mentor puts it, when he is addressing his fellow citizens of Ithaca at the council depicted in Book Two of the Odyssey), I would strongly but respectfully urge you (or them) to carefully reconsider those arguments, in light of some of the discussion offered above.