Friday, April 24, 2015

New Osiris video, and new "video archive" section

I've just added a new video to help illustrate some of the concepts discussed in the previous post.

The video is entitled "The Celestial Djed: Orion - Osiris" and is about five minutes and fifty-three seconds in length.

This is (I believe) a much clearer and better version than the video that was originally included with the previous post, and it was just posted this morning (Friday, April 24, 2015 in California -- although it is already April 25 in some parts of the globe), so if you have only seen the previous version you may want to have a look at this one (above).

Additionally, I have now added a new "Video archive" where you can find all of the previous "Star Myth videos" I have posted to help illustrate some of the concepts discussed in The Undying Stars. The link to the new video archive can be found in the right-hand column of the blog itself, as it displays in some browsers, and it looks like the image below.

Please drop by the archive and check out the many videos there, when you have a moment!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Djed Column every day: Earendil

Orion rising on the eastern horizon (left), crossing the center of the southern sky (center, directly over the letter "S"), and sinking down into the west (right). (Click to enlarge). Planetarium app:

In the previous post, we took what appeared to be a quick break from the discussion in the preceding posts regarding one of the central foundational themes of all the world's ancient myths: the dual physical-spiritual nature of human existence and indeed the dual physical-spiritual nature of the world / universe / cosmos in which we find ourselves, embodied in the great annual cross of the solstices and equinoxes, and in the "casting down" and "raising-up" of the Djed column of Osiris in ancient Egyptian symbology.

Previous posts explored evidence of that cycle operating in the Easter cycle in the New Testament, beginning with the scenes of the Triumphal Entry, followed by the descent that takes place beginning with the Last Supper through the Crucifixion and ultimately the Resurrection or Anastasis (a word which literally means "standing again"). 

Included in the examination was a video entitled "The Zodiac Wheel and the Human Soul" which attempts to illustrate some of the connections between the celestial mechanics involved in this worldwide mythological metaphor and the spiritual message that I believe it was intended to convey.

During that extended discussion, the assertion was made that this great foundational cycle was intended not only to explain important aspects of the "big picture" of our incarnation in this body (throwing light on central issues concerned with "the very meaning of life," if you will), but also to illuminate the importance of connecting with this cycle within the "shorter cycles" of our life here in this incarnate existence -- in fact, something we can and perhaps should be connecting with every single day, and maybe even throughout our waking and sleeping travels within each day!

One way that ancient sacred traditions around the world reminded themselves of the reality and immediacy of the invisible, divine, spiritual world that is present at all times in every single being and that in fact infuses and animates everything within the visible universe was certainly through the practice of what Mircea Eliade called "techniques of ecstasy" and which other researchers including Gerald Massey called "trance conditions" -- the practice of actually making contact with or entering into the invisible world, of projecting one's consciousness into the other realm. 

There is plenty of evidence that the scriptures that made their way into what we call "The Bible" are no exception (see for instance the previous post entitled "The Bible is essentially shamanic").

And, it is certainly possible to practice such techniques on a regular basis -- even every day. I initially began a "mini-series" exploring some of the methods which cultures around the world have used to enter into such a state, entitled "Ecstasy every day." However, it is not really practical to remain in such a state at all times. Therefore, I have decided that it is actually more appropriate to make a distinction between the concept of what can be called "raising the Djed" (of recognizing and remembering and elevating and evoking the spiritual aspect in ourselves and the world around us) and the practice of entering into "trance" or "ecstasy" itself (which is, in some sense, temporarily "crossing over" the condition of stasis into the realm of the spiritual to a greater or lesser degree). 

Both are important, but it may be that the condition of "ecstasy" is a special form of "raising the Djed," and that the broader concept of raising the Djed can be practiced more often -- even "all the time," while entering into a trance or ecstatic state cannot.

Therefore, I've decided to re-imagine that "Ecstasy every day" title to be a little more "broad" and examine "the Djed every day" instead. The first installment of that examination touched on the practice of qigong (or chi gung).

After that first installment, we took what seemed at the time to be a "quick detour" to explore the wonderful perspectives offered by The Lord of the Rings and the music of The Lord of the Rings. 

But as it turns out, upon further reflection, it wasn't a detour at all, because it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that the same fundamental theme is absolutely operating within Tolkien's story, on multiple levels -- which is not surprising, given the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien himself had a deep connection to ancient myth and was one of the most knowledgeable scholars in the world on certain families of mythology during his lifetime.

In fact, Tolkien's work provides a beautiful window which leads right in to the discussion of the vital importance of the Djed concept.

As some readers are already aware, the Djed column in ancient Egypt was associated with the god Osiris: it was known as the "backbone of Osiris" and the symbol of the Djed column itself was usually depicted with horizontal segments resembling "vertebrae" in a backbone (see for instance the images of the Djed from the Papyrus of Ani discussed here). 

In some ancient Egyptian art portraying episodes from the story of the murder of Osiris by Set and the recovery of the tamarisk tree containing his casket by Isis, such as the imagery discussed in this previous post, the tree with the casket is depicted as a Djed. The Djed column, in other words, was understood as a symbol of Osiris.

Readers are probably also aware that Osiris was strongly associated with the constellation Orion -- the constellation in the night sky with the highest ratio of bright stars to total stars, and one of the most-recognizable figures in the heavens, making it a fitting representation of the "lord of the underworld," if the heavenly realm is seen as a symbol of the incorporeal realms. The glorious nearby star Sirius, the brightest of all the fixed stars, was associated with Isis.

Once we understand that the Djed is symbolically associated with Osiris, and that Osiris is associated with Orion, then we can more readily understand that the motion of the constellation Orion itself illustrates the great theme of the casting down and the raising back up of the Djed. 

In his nightly motion, Orion can be seen rising in the east and tracing an arc across the sky prior to sinking back down into the west, just as the sun does during the day. During different times of year, of course, Orion rises at a different time due to the progress of the earth in its orbit, which means that at some parts of the year he is already far across the sky by the time the sun goes down (as he is now), but just considering his motion in general we can see how he embodies the casting down and the raising up of the Djed.

When Orion is first rising on the horizon, he appears in a nearly horizontal position, as can be seen in the image at the top of this post (in which the view is from the perspective of an observer in the northern hemisphere at about latitude 35 north, similar to the latitude of Egypt and the Mediterranean, and looking towards the south, with due south in the center, the eastern horizon to the left, and the western horizon to the right). As he arcs upwards into the heavens he becomes vertical. Then, as he sinks back down towards the western horizon he becomes horizontal again.

In the image above, the stars of Orion are shown in all three locations: rising in the east, vertical in the center of the sky at the high point of their arc across the heavens, and then sinking down into the west and becoming horizontal again. Readers who are able can go out this very evening after sunset and see the stars of Orion with his distinctive three-star belt sinking down towards the west.

Below, the same image is reproduced, but this time imagery of Osiris has been added, illustrating the way that the stars of Orion himself portray the "casting down" of the Djed (particularly as Orion sinks down into the west) as well as the subsequent "raising back up" (or Anastasis) of the god -- and a vertical Djed column is depicted directly above Orion's head in the central position:

To add further support, if any is needed, to the argument that the nightly motion of Orion was anciently associated with the casting-down of Osiris and the Djed and with the subsequent raising back up of the same, there are many examples of sacred art in ancient Egypt which actually depicts Osiris lying "cast down" on his funeral bier in the same striding posture that typifies the stars of Orion -- see for example here.

Since no one can, as a practical matter, stride around anywhere while lying upon a bier, and since the ancient Egyptians obviously knew that just as well as we do, the fact that they sometimes depicted Osiris in a horizontal position but with his feet apart as if walking purposefully forward is a major clue that these drawings depict the constellation Orion as he looks when he is near either of the two horizons: horizontal rather than upright, but still in the characteristic "striding" posture that Orion always has, whether he is straight up or lying down.

Below is one more set of images I've prepared in order to illustrate the identification of Orion with the celestial Osiris, and with the casting down and raising up of the Djed.

First, a closer "zoom" of the constellation as it appears on the horizon, to show that Orion really does look "horizontal" when he is near the horizons (the images above de-emphasize this fact, because of the fact that they "wrap" the horizon like a planetarium, and so the horizon itself on the left edge and right edge or east and west of the image, as well as constellations parallel to the horizons on the left and right sides of the images above, appear more "vertical" and upright in those images than they do along the actual horizon outside):

In the above image, you can see that Orion really does look as if he is lying on his funeral bier when he is located at the eastern horizon (rising), and the same is true after he crosses the sky and begins to sink back down into the western horizon (setting).

If we superimpose the outline of the "striding Osiris" on a bier as he is depicted in the Dendera Temple relief linked previously, we can see how this celestial figure represents the Djed of Osiris "cast down" (but preparing to rise again):

Below is another version of the "Orion in three positions" crossing the night sky, this time with the horizons left more "flat" (without the "planetarium wrapping effect"):

(Click to enlarge).
And one more time, with the outlines of Osiris added, to assist in locating the constellation Orion for those less familiar, as well as to illustrate the way Orion's motion embodies the "Djed cast down" and "Djed raised back up."

Now, to bring in the Tolkien connection to this subject, we must delve into the mythological traditions discussed by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in their landmark examination of the celestial foundations of the world's myths, Hamlet's Mill (first published in 1969). There, they cite previous generations of scholars who demonstrate that the myths upon which Shakespeare's Hamlet are based, in which a king is murdered by his brother and must be avenged by his son, existed in northern Europe going back many centuries before Shakespeare, and that in the 12th century version discussed by Saxo Grammaticus, Hamlet's father's name is Horwendil. This same mythical figure also appears in the Eddas and in other myths, under names that are vary slightly but can clearly be seen to be linguistically related, as Orwandel, Orendel, Erentel, Erendel, Horvandillus, Horwendil, Oervandill, Orvandil, and Aurvadil (see Hamlet's Mill pages 12, 87, 95, 155, and especially Appendix 2; an online version of the text is available here).

But the mythological pattern of the Hamlet myth goes back even further, as de Santillana and von Dechend demonstrate: in fact, it is clearly the exact same pattern as the Osiris myth, in which the rightful king  (Osiris) is killed by his malevolent brother (Set) and must be avenged by his son (Horus). Von Dechend and de Santillana demonstrate convincingly (with citations and references to numerous scholars of previous generations) that Orvandil the father of Hamlet represents a manifestation in mythology of the mighty archer in the sky, Orion, in the same way that Osiris does in the sacred traditions of ancient Egypt.

And, as some readers have perhaps already deduced, the name of this lost father of Hamlet -- Orvandil or Erendel -- is very close to the name of Earendil in the saga of The Lord of the Rings. In fact, there is abundant evidence that Tolkien imported this name directly from Old English, where it is found in a poem by Cynewulf, and a poem that Tolkien the premier scholar of Old English had commented upon as a personal favorite as early as 1913, forty years before the publication of the Ring story.

Specifically, Earendil is the spelling that Tolkien used for the very similar name Earendel, which is found in line 104 of Cynewulf's Christ part I (it is a poem which, like The Lord of the Rings itself, is broken into three parts). You can see it for yourself in the Old English on page 5 of the "poem" portion (after the lengthy "Introduction" portion) of this online version of Cynewulf's poem, which is actually page 115 of the online file (use the "slider" at the bottom of the "two-up" version and go to page 114 out of 421, which shows you pages 114 and 115 of the file). 

There, we read:
104 Eala Earendel, engla beorhtast 
105 Ofer middengeard monnum sended
which is translated in Hamlet's Mill as follows:
"Hail, Earendel, brightest of angels, thou
sent unto men upon this Middle Earth . . ." (355).
and which is actually part of an extended section of the poem praising the Christ using many epithets. What is most interesting is that the Old English poet Cynewulf (who lived in either the 8th, 9th, or 10th century AD, depending on which scholarly argument you accept) is here clearly associating the Christ with the celestial figure of Orion, whether Cynewulf knew it or not (and one should not assume that poets of previous centuries knew less about these esoteric subjects than is known today -- in all likelihood, they knew much more).

Cynewulf is thus associating the Christ with a figure who is cast down and who rises again, and we have already seen from previous discussions, including some of those linked in the second paragraph from the start of this essay, that the Christ of the New Testament can be shown to have very clear Osirian parallels.

That Earendel in the poem is also a starry figure is fairly clear from the context -- and in fact this portion of the poem is translated by Charles W. Kennedy on the top of page 4 of the year 2000 translation available online here in unmistakably celestial terms, as follows:
Hail Day-Star! Brightest angel sent to man throughout the earth, and Thou steadfast splendor of the sun, bright above stars! Ever Thou dost illumine with Thy light the time of every season.
In The Lord of the Rings, Earendil is the ancient High Elven king who carried the light of the morning star on his brow to Middle Earth in the high and far-off times. This star is the most beloved star of the Elves, and a portion of its light is given to Frodo to help him in his quest, in the Phial of Galadriel. 

Earendil is also the father of Elrond the Half-Elven, which is extremely intriguing, and makes Elrond something of a Hamlet figure. And indeed, in the story, Elrond is a figure who is often shown as somewhat conflicted, able to see the future but in a way that nearly drives him to despair. He is also shown as bringing his daughter to tears by his harsh words, in much the same way that Hamlet in the Hamlet story drives Ophelia to tears (and worse).

Eventually, Elrond declares that the time of his people is over, and they must disappear into the west (which is exactly what Orion the celestial Earendil does as he sinks down into the western horizon).

So, we see that The Lord of the Rings appears to contain a reflection of the great Osirian cycle of the god who comes down to dwell among humanity (Osiris and other Osirian figures throughout mythology including Saturn, Prometheus, Quetzlcoatl, Kon-Tiki, and others are usually benevolent, civilizing figures credited with teaching men and women how to cultivate grain and in some cases how to stop eating one another) and who then disappears, often into the sea or into a cave beneath the ocean.

And, as has been argued in numerous previous posts, this moving story -- which is found in various forms in myths literally around the globe -- has an incredibly hopeful and uplifting message for us as human beings, in that it speaks not only of our "casting down" but also of our eventual "standing up again," and that it also conveys to us the message that within this life we should be going about the business of remembering who we are, and of recognizing that the visible and physical and material realities with which we are daily confronted are not the only reality or even the highest reality, that there is an invisible and spiritual reality within each and every one of us and that in fact interpenetrates every single molecule and sub-atomic particle of the universe around us, and that we can and should be actively engaged in "raising up" and bringing forward that positive spiritual reality within ourselves and within the rest of creation.

There are many, many ways that we can do this every day -- some of which involve the ecstatic state, and others which may not.

Previous posts have mentioned the practice of blessing and not cursing, the practice of aligning with and not contending with the flow of the universe (or the Tao), the practice of nonviolence on the many levels upon which that concept can be applied, and many more which each can be incorporated into daily life -- all of them related to the concept of "raising back up" as opposed to "casting down" (as opposed, that is, to degrading, debasing, objectifying, cursing, dehumanizing, and brutalizing).

Clearly, Tolkien was aware of this concept on some very deep level, and incorporated it into his beloved literary masterpiece.

Perhaps seeing these connections will cast additional light on the subject for all of us, and help us as well, in our own journey through this Middle Earth.


Below is a short video I made showing the path of Orion across the sky and the connection to Osiris and the Djed, as a supplement to the illustrations included in this post. 

Also, here is a link to a previous post from all the way back in 2011 that discusses Tolkien, Orion, and Earendil.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Lord of the Rings, the Power of Music, and the Stories that Really Matter

(video link).

I'm taking a brief intermission from the "ecstasy every day" mini-series to report on an unforgettable experience I had the opportunity to be part of this weekend with my extended family, at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts where the Symphony Silicon Valley along with the Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale, the Ragazzi Boy's Choir and the Cantabile Youth Singers performed the entire musical score of the Lord of the Rings live, as the movies themselves played on an enormous big-screen overhead (with the original soundtrack from which the musical score had been removed in order to allow the artists to perform it live).

Since there are literally millions of fans of these amazing films around the world (probably tens of millions, and perhaps even hundreds of millions), but only a relatively very few who could attend this amazing musical event (which I believe was only available in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the New York City area), I will try to share some of the impressions that I personally will take with me from that this event.

Naturally, the comments below will focus mostly on some of the concepts and themes that I find most interesting which the films themselves and this event in particular seem to illustrate particularly well. Everyone has their own personal relationship with art, whether that is literature or music or film, and so of course my impressions will be different from those of everyone else, but since there are some ways in which The Lord of the Rings provides some wonderful perspectives on the themes of ancient myth and ancient wisdom and can perhaps provide some helpful insights, I will focus most on those -- there is much more that could be said on a variety of other pathways of discussion that Tolkien's work and this particular film adaptation (and its incredible musical score) can lead us down, but I will leave those for now to other writers or for another day.

The power of music
Most obvious, perhaps, of the thoughts one would have after such an experience is an appreciation for the unparalleled power of music on us as human beings. The music created by composer Howard Shore for The Lord of the Rings project of director Peter Jackson can safely be called a masterpiece, and adds a dimension to Tolkien's creation that now feels like an essential part of the very atmosphere of all the different places and peoples of Middle Earth.  One can hardly imagine the Shire without its evocative leitmotif, and one can hardly not imagine the Shire upon hearing it (anywhere) -- and the same holds true for all the other themes and elements in Howard Shore's brilliant musical interpretation of that magical world. 

The drama of the action in the films, of course, is powerfully amplified by the music -- and while we all know this to be true in general, seeing these films again but this time with a live symphony performing the music and live singers performing the choral music brings that power home in an entirely new way and on an entirely different level.

Below is a video clip from a rehearsal of the music which accompanies one of the most dramatic moments in the entire film trilogy: the Lighting of the Beacons of Gondor. The power of the scenes themselves is immeasurably magnified by the music that accompanies the action:

That's conductor Shih-Hung Young leading the rehearsal, a graduate of the Julliard School and a member of its faculty since 1995, who did a masterful job of bringing out all the dimensions of the assembled artists and the larger whole they created together, and whose energy and palpable good humor and warmth came through the entire performance.

The power of resonating musical instruments:
In addition to the power of the music itself, it bears noting a point which has been made by many before, which is the fact that no matter how far technology has advanced, nothing can actually imitate  or even capture the effect of music which is being produced right there by living men and women using real musical instruments, most of those instruments made of real wood or real brass and vibrating real strings and real columns of air to produce their tones. 

The power of vibrating waves cannot really be doubted, since in a very real sense we ourselves and everything we see around us are actually made up of waves and vibrations. Quantum physics has taught us that even molecules and atoms and subatomic "particles" which we think of as particles rather than waves actually possess the nearly unfathomable quality of existing in "waveform" and exhibiting "wave-like" properties depending upon whether or not they are being observed. Even without delving into the mysteries of quantum physics, we can think of music as a very clear example of the invisible world entering into and interacting with the physical world -- mathematics taking on form and sound, thoughts and feelings traveling through the air and calling forth a response in the listener. 

Music can undoubtedly be said to "put us in touch with" the invisible and spiritual aspect of our dual physical-spiritual nature in this dual physical-spiritual universe in which we find ourselves, and to "bring forward" or "raise up" something inside of us which is invisible and intangible but vital and real. The vibrations of music that are being created right there in your own personal vicinity, through the vibrations of finely-crafted instruments in the hands of master musicians, have an entirely different impact than the recordings of instruments played back through speakers, as wonderful as musical recording technology and musical sound-system technology is. That's why we should all try to experience live music every chance we get, if we are able to do so.

The power of the human voice and the music men and women can produce with the human voice:
As human beings, of course, we ourselves can vibrate with music and produce our own music with the human voice. The power and vital importance of doing so has been explored in previous posts such as "Your song" and "How much time do you spend chanting praises?" and "A brief examination of the importance of chakras and singing praises" (among others).

The beautiful music of The Lord of the Rings trilogy contains many moving choral elements which add immeasurably to the power of the drama in the films. No one watching the live performances this weekend could say that they did not experience a thrill of anticipation when they saw the choir stand up as they prepared to deliver the other-worldly choir music that forms such an integral part of The Lord of the Rings experience. There is a reason that choirs are associated with the music of angelic hosts, and that the whirling celestial bodies are said to sing together the "music of the spheres."

Of course, it must be said that part of the power of choral music in the particular form that it appears in these films and their scores comes from the fact that it has centuries of history of use as "sacred music," associated with worship in formal churches in the literal-historical Christian tradition. This fact opens up a whole series of profitable lines of discussion and reflection, but without pursuing those too far at this particular point, it can perhaps be considered that it is very possible that one need not accept a literal-historical interpretation of any particular body of scripture in order to appreciate the power of such singing and to accept the premise that such singing may have real beneficial and spiritual effects.

It is also possible to contemplate the possibility that such music could have been conceived and offered and loved and preserved as part of spiritual practice down through the millennia, even if the entire literal-historical interpretation had not been promoted in western Europe from the third and fourth centuries AD (not just promoted, but alternative interpretations vigorously suppressed and persecuted). There is, I believe, abundant evidence that the literalistic interpretation was not the interpretation that was intended for these scriptures, and I have written about that evidence in many previous posts (see for instance here and here), but leaving that entire discussion aside, we can probably all agree that the choral music in the score of The Lord of the Rings films is unworldly and extremely moving.

In addition to the choral music in the movies, of course, there are also haunting voice solos, some in English and others in the tongue of the Elves, and these were delivered by virtuoso Clara Sanabras. Everything said about the power of the music of the human voice above in regard to the music of a choir applies again, "and then some," for her incredible solo performances in the score.

Here is a video of Clara Sanabras singing "Gollum's Song" with her own accompaniment on an accordion-instrument (this instrument was not used in the performance this weekend as there was a full symphony there) -- this song of course was sung in its entirety during the credits at the end of The Two Towers, the second film in the trilogy:

The evocation of a lost age:
One of the most powerful aspects of Tolkien's entire magnum opus is his brilliant evocation of the feeling of a lost age, an age that was already going down into the mists of time long before the beginning of the actual events portrayed in his books -- the age of the High Elves and of wisdom that has now been lost or that is only dimly remembered.

Is it possible that this resonates so strongly with us because he is capturing the feeling of something that we can ourselves feel may have actually taken place?

There is abundant evidence on our planet's surface of the existence of someone long before anything known to our written history, who knew things we cannot explain and who could build things we still find impossible to explain or to duplicate (including the Great Pyramid of Giza or the blasted ruins of Puma Punku, for instance). They appear to somehow be connected to the incredible wisdom preserved in the ancient sacred texts and traditions bequeathed to humanity, texts which themselves contain evidence of almost superhuman sophistication and understanding and wisdom.

Tolkien, of course, grew up and lived in England (although he was born in South Africa and lived there until the age of three), a land which is strongly permeated by very ancient monuments whose origins, purpose, and meaning remain disputed to this day. These include of course Stonehenge (see previous posts here, here and here for more discussion), Silbury Hill, Avebury Henge, the famous Ley Lines, and many others -- all of which cannot fail to convey a particularly strong impression that there is something more to the ancient history of our planet than our conventional histories admit.

The very thin fabric which separates the visible world from the invisible world:
The world of Middle Earth is filled with episodes which vividly convey the impression of an invisible world which is always present and contiguous to the visible world, even if all the characters are not equally attuned to it or aware of it at all times. Frodo sees into it when he puts on the Ring (and enters into it himself every time he does so); some of the Elves and especially Elrond and Galadriel can see with a kind of "Second Sight," and know things about the future or at least about the world of "potentiality" which cannot be known through ordinary means; wizards such as Gandalf can and do enter into a kind of shamanic state in order to heal others or to obtain information or effect change which could not otherwise be accomplished; and in several occasions dream-states are a means by which information arrives through "non-ordinary reality."

Below is a link to the episode in The Two Towers in which Aragorn has what we could call a "lucid dream" -- in which he perceives that he is in fact actually dreaming, as evidenced by the first words he speaks when he sees Arwen: "This is a dream" (to which she of course replies, "Then it is a good dream").

While these scenes are of course part of a fictional work, there is plenty of evidence from cultures around the globe (and indeed from modern science as well, although not often admitted) that our world does in fact operate in just this way -- that the visible or material realm of "ordinary reality" is at all times and at all points in contact with, and interpenetrated by, and in fact even projected from the realm of invisible, spiritual, pure potentiality. The realm that the Australian Aborigines call The Dreamtime.

It may well be that this Invisible Realm is "the real world that is behind this one," in the words of the Lakota holy man Black Elk. The way that the entire Lord of the Rings world portrays the invisible world as being present at all times, in contact with and with powerful effects on the visible world, may be yet another reason why it resonates so strongly with so many people.

The many characters who actually embody aspects of our soul's experience in this material life:
As has been discussed in countless previous posts, the great myths and sacred stories which form an important part of the precious inheritance left to the entire human race can actually be seen as profound esoteric allegories which embody in story-form the experience of each and every human soul, in its plunging down into incarnate form, forgetting its real origin and divine nature, and then eventually recovering its identity and increasing in consciousness of the true nature of the universe and of its own spiritual power.

In a quotation that has been cited in several previous posts (see especially this one and this one), Alvin Boyd Kuhn has said that the world's ancient myths (in this case, talking specifically to the collection of ancient myth that we call the Bible):
are a record, under pictorial forms, of that which is ever occurring as a reality of the present in all lives. [. . .] 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!
Obviously, Tolkien's story is not an actual ancient myth -- but J.R.R. Tolkien himself was an accomplished scholar with an emphasis on mythology and on language (language itself being one of the purest forms of metaphor or allegory or symbol). The characters he created in The Lord of the Rings often embody the very story which Alvin Boyd Kuhn believed was at the heart of nearly all the ancient myths: the stupefaction of the soul as it "falls into" incarnation and forgets its divine spiritual nature, and the eventual remembrance of its true nature and the "raising back up" of the spiritual force, and all that that entails.

In particular, Aragorn can be seen to embody this cycle -- the king who is lost, the king who has in fact hidden himself for so long that he has forgotten in some ways who he really is, who is wracked by deep self-doubt about his own real identity, and who must slowly "grow into" his true role again.

For more on this theme as it is found at the heart of many of the world's sacred mythologies, see "Amen and Amenta" and "Namaste and Amen," for example, which have to do with the "hidden god" or spark of divinity within each and every man and woman, and see also the many discussions of the "casting down" and "raising up" of the "Djed column" in ancient Egyptian symbology, which takes on different forms in other myths from other cultures around the world, discussed (with a video at the bottom) in this previous post, which also contains links to many others dealing with "Djed-column" themes.

Within the "larger cycle" of Aragorn's return, we can also see the same cycle of the "king who has forgotten" and who needs to be "reminded" in the dramatic recovery of Theoden from the stupefaction that has been foisted upon him by the evil offices of Saruman and by Saruman's agent, Wormtongue. The restoration of Theoden (along with the accompanying music) actually moved the audience to extended applause during the symphony event.

The same cycle can be seen operating within each of the hobbits themselves, who come from the most ordinary and unassuming of all the places in Middle Earth, and who are constantly reminded that they are not heroes or kings or great warriors . . . but who each find within themselves at some point during their adventures something so extraordinary that they accomplish what no one else in Middle Earth can accomplish, and that makes those around them realize that "sleeping within" their unassuming exteriors there is some spark deep inside which is cause for awe and which is capable of moving the world.

And, the same theme of plunging down, being for a time "lost," and then being restored can be seen in the fall and return of Gandalf, who describes his journey in mythical and allegorical language (and which also invokes the concept of reincarnation which can be seen to run through most if not all of the ancient myths as well):
Aragorn: You fell!
Gandalf: Through fire, and water. From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak, I fought with the Balrog of Morgoth. Until at last, I threw down my enemy and smote his ruin upon the mountain-side. Darkness took me -- and I strayed out of thought and time. The stars wheeled overhead, and every day was as long as a life-age of the earth. But it was not the end. I felt life in me again. I've been sent back, until my task is done.
Note the express use of the phrase "fire and water," which has great worldwide mythical significance, discussed in this previous post.

The power of these stories is undeniable, in whatever form they have taken around the world and over the centuries. This is dramatically expressed by Sam in a moving scene at the end of The Two Towers, when he and Frodo are released by Faramir of Gondor, and Sam wonders if their adventures will ever find their way into the stories, the stories that Sam has just evoked while trying to encourage Frodo not to give up hope, in the speech that appears to finally convince Faramir to let the hobbits go to continue their mission.

Frodo has exclaimed, "I can't do this, Sam," and Sam agrees, but then finds strength as he reflects: "It's like in the great stories: the ones that really mattered." Later, they wonder aloud if they will ever be in any stories, which is ironic because of course the audience knows that Frodo and Sam will be the "great stories, the ones that really matter" because the audience is watching one right there.

And this of course proves the assertion cited earlier -- that the ancient myths of the human race are not really about ancient figures who lived long ago: they are about "our history here and now," and they are not fully grasped until each and every reader, or listener (or hobbit) discerns himself or herself to be the central figure in them!


Many thanks to all the 250+ artists who worked so hard to create the incredible musical event of The Lord of the Rings and to convey these beautiful truths as part of the Symphony Silicon Valley event this past week and week-end.

I know that for me those films will never be the same -- they will forever be fuller and richer my for having had that experience.

Below is my first personal encounter with an Uruk-Hai, from 2009:

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ecstasy every day: Qigong energy work

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The previous post discussing the central concept of "raising the Djed" contained the assertion that this vital symbol -- which shows up in virtually all of the world's sacred traditions, based as they are upon Star Myths and incorporating as they do the symbology pointing to the Great Cross of the Year, which is allegorized in ancient Egypt as the "casting down" and then "raising up" of the Djed, but shows up in other mythologies in different guises -- most certainly relates to the overall cycle of our lives (and what happens before and after life in this body), but it also and with equal importance relates to an important part of this life, and a practice that we should find ways to incorporate on a regular basis, maybe even every single day.

That post said of this cycle of "casting down" and "raising up" the spiritual, invisible Djed-component that it 
describes a process that is meant to be part of our life here and now: the connection with the realm of spirit, the raising of the spiritual component inside ourselves and the spiritual-material world around us, and the entry into the state of ecstasy on a regular basis.
It also contained a video which concluded with the assertion that the concept of raising the Djed "can be incorporated into our lives every single day . . . and maybe, even, every single minute."

But how can we incorporate the concept of "raising the Djed" in our lives on a regular basis -- every single day or even more regularly than that?

Perhaps it would be helpful to spend a few posts discussing just a few specific possible answers to that question (out of many, many more possibilities). We'll title this little "mini-series" Ecstasy every day.

The good news is that, as has been explored in many previous posts, human beings appear to have almost unlimited options for practices which invoke the invisible world and enable it to shine through into this material world.

The simple (but incredibly challenging) cultivation of an attitude of blessing rather than cursing can become a perspective that changes nearly every aspect of our daily lives, and which involves us in the constant practice of "raising up" rather than "casting down."

But, the concept of ecstasy actually involves experiencing first-hand the power of the non-material, and of going beyond or breaking free from the normal bounds of our physical "static" nature. The word itself, ex stasis, means "out of" the "static or unchanging" -- and thus involves making contact with the realm which is not just "beyond the physical" but which is also "beyond the static" -- the realm of pure dynamism, of pure potential or pure "potentiality."

We can obtain glimpses of the state where everything is "non-static" in some stages of dreaming, especially when we are just falling asleep and reach a stage where our thoughts feel like they are painting images on their own but we can almost just barely change them or influence the shapes that they take on -- they are purely dynamic and have the potential really to change into anything or go in virtually any direction. Such "dynamism" seems to be incorporated in the word "ex-stasis."

Even though this material realm is not really "static" in the sense that static means "unchanging" (our physical bodies change as they age, of course, as does almost everything else around us over time), it is "static" in that in this realm things have already "manifested" -- they are no longer in the realm of "pure potentiality" (the famous foundational experiments of quantum physics come to mind here).

Pure potentiality and pure dynamism are clearly related to the concept of pure creativity: creative ideas which have never before been manifested in this world seem to come from some other place, some "other side" (and many artists and inventors and scientists and discoverers have attested to the fact that new ideas or new solutions or new songs have "come to them" while they were in a dream-state or other state of contact with the realm of pure potentiality, the realm of the non-static or ecstatic).

And, in some forms of ecstatic experience, our consciousness can actually travel beyond the body -- in "ecstatic transport" where our we enter into an actual state of trance or journeying into the spirit realm.

Some of the many ways that human beings in many different environments and cultures have used in order to achieve states of ecstasy are listed in the previous post entitled "How many ways are there to contact the hidden realm?" That post shows that while many cultures have used various substances including special plants and mushrooms to induce ecstatic states, these are by no means the only possibilities, and that in fact human beings appear to have a natural innate ability to access the spirit world -- which is exactly what we would expect if, as the ancient wisdom attests, we are beings who are composed of a "cross" between spirit and matter, and who actually enter into the material realm temporarily, with our spirit nature being our true nature.

Previous posts have also discussed the fact that shamanic drumming is one of the most widely-used and effective forms of regularly accessing the Invisible World, and that longtime shamanic drumming practitioners and teachers have attested to the fact that nearly everyone can enter a state of ecstatic transport on their first try after fifteen minutes using the right techniques (see here, here and here for example, as well as the link in the previous paragraph).

But the methods which men and women have used down through the centuries for raising the invisible and spiritual force inside themselves and calling it forth in the world around them do not stop there -- and it may be beneficial to visit a few others, which may have an incredibly positive impact for those who choose to incorporate them into their daily lives.

Some people may find that they are more drawn towards or more comfortable with one type of ecstatic discipline rather than another, or that one seems to "raise their spiritual force" more easily or more reliably than other methods they have tried.

And, it may well also be that some or all individuals would benefit from cultivating more than one such practice on a regular basis.

One method which can almost certainly be seen as calling forth and raising-up the invisible spirit present in each man and woman is the ancient Chinese discipline which today is known most widely by the name qigong or chi gung:

The first of these symbols means "breath" or "spirit" or "energy" and is pronounced "chi" or "chee" in Mandarin and "hei" in Cantonese, and the second and third symbols together are the symbol for "work" or "skill" or "acquired power" or "practice" and which are pronounced "gung" or "gong" (and which is the same word found in the first half of "gung fu" or "kung fu").

The name qigong or chi gung itself appears to be a fairly recent label, appearing in the 1940s or 1950s as part of a rather incredible phenomenon of sudden promotion and widespread adoption of qigong practice in China, which had previously been transmitted and practiced more secretively. That story is discussed in a book called Qigong Fever, by David A. Palmer.

However, it is also indisputable that what is now most widely known by this newer name has in fact been practiced for centuries and perhaps for millennia, and it is not only very real but also can have very real health benefits for those who take the time to learn and practice this ancient technique as part of their daily lives.

A brief definition for those who may be unfamiliar with this form of internal practice is that qigong involves the practice of physical motions  designed to increase consciousness and to foster the greater and greater recognition of the spiritual energy within each individual and indeed within the universe itself, and the ability to feel, and direct, and move that energy around -- in a way that is actually "tangible."

One teacher and long-time practitioner of qigong, who has spent decades studying with some of the amazing masters of different forms of this art, is Taoist Master Bruce Frantzis, whose description of qigong makes some very intriguing points which resonate with concepts we have encountered before in different contexts. In a page entitled "What is Qigong?" which is worth reading in its entirety, he writes:
According to Taoism, every human being contains "the three treasures" -- jing (sperm/ovary energy, or the essence of the physical body), chi (energy, including the thoughts and emotions), and shen (spirit or spiritual power). Wu (emptiness) gives birth to and integrates the three treasures. 
[. . .] 
Popular opinion has it that once you have reached a state of emptiness, you stay there, but this idea is false. You merely become increasingly familiar with this state and learn how to spend more and more time there. As longs you live in a physical body, physical needs continue to exert demands, and dwelling completely in emptiness is not possible. Taoism has developed advanced techniques to work with the energy of wu.
This description is extremely interesting on many levels and for many reasons -- one of which is the fact that this description appears to resonate very strongly with assertions made by philosopher and scholar Peter Kingsley, in his exploration of the lost wisdom of the pre-Socratic philosophers of the Greek islands and Mediterranean settlements, particularly those on the Italian peninsula and particularly that lineage of which Parmenides (or Parmeneides) was an important figure.

Dr. Kingsley's discoveries on this subject are published in his 1999 text In the Dark Places of Wisdom, and discussed in a previous blog post entitled "The peace of utter stillness . . . "

The similarities between the concept of "incubation" or the deliberate cultivation of "the peace of utter stillness" that the ancient philosophers of Parmeneides' day appear to have been practicing, and the concept of "wu" in the description of qigong given above, should be quite evident.

The same qigong definition page also asserts that there is a strong connection between qigong and meditation (another important technique that can be used to access the invisible realm and which can be incorporated into daily life), and Bruce Frantzis asserts that ultimately, although it has real and tangible health benefits, "qigong is only a preparatory practice for Taoist meditation techniques."

The ways in which qigong can be seen to be a way to help men and women to access the invisible aspect of their nature and the invisible side of the universe around (and within) us, and thus to be a form of "raising the Djed" column or of incorporating the "raising-up" imperative into daily life, should be fairly self-evident.

A powerful demonstration of the beneficial "raising-up" and ex-stasis nature of internal energy-work can be seen in this video from more than twenty years ago, in which Bruce Frantzis was invited to teach these techniques to prisoners, who testify in the video to the positive impact it has had on their lives.

Towards the end of the clip, Master Frantzis makes a very profound and illuminating statement based on his work at the prison:
A couple of things that I know are happening in here because I've gotten it from people: one is that they're getting a sense of family with the people they're working with, because they're doing something in common. Second of all, they're doing something that's really improving the insides of them -- they can't do anything about their external environment: they're told what to do from the morning, the minute they get up to the minute they sleep, but internally they can find a place where they're free inside. Now most people on the outside, most people in the world in general are not free: they don't have walls around them, they have a wall in their own mind, they have a wall in their own body. 
A better definition of ex-stasis can hardly be desired.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Anastasis, Anabaptists, and Ecstasy

image: Wikimedia commons (composite of images found here and here).

In his remarkably helpful essay Easter: The Birthday of the Gods, discussed previously here, Alvin Boyd Kuhn provides some penetrating observations regarding the Greek word for the Resurrection, which is Anastasis:
The Greek word for the resurrection is anastasis, the "standing up," the "up-arising." It has little if at all been noted that this anastasis is only by a little prefix distinguished from "ecstasis," our "ecstasy." With ec- (ex) meaning "out," the etymology here brings us face to face with an item of unrecognized moment, that our final dissociation of soul from body at the end of our last incarnation will bring us an experience of ecstasy. Human life, a dour struggle, will be measurably buoyed up in spirit if the peregrinating soul knows that at the long terminal his release will come with rapture beyond thought. If, as much religious philosophy has it, man enters into this world of objective existence in tears, his first utterance a cry, he will be strengthened throughout its long and toilsome way by the assurance that he will make his final exist from his "tomb" of the flesh in transports of Edenic bliss. His "up-standing" is also his "out-standing" from his grave of body. 7 - 8.
The fact that the Resurrection is described as an Anastasis in Greek, combining the prefix ana- (again) and stasis (standing, state), powerfully links this symbolic cycle with the cycle of Osiris, and specifically with the symbology of the "casting down" and "raising-up again" of the Djed column of Osiris, a connection which has been remarked-upon previously in this blog, perhaps most specifically here (with illustrations). 

The symbology of the casting down and raising-up of the Djed column is one way that this central concept manifested itself in the sacred mythology of ancient Egypt, but it is a concept which is found throughout the sacred traditions of the entire globe, in many different forms. 

It is also a concept which (as Alvin Boyd Kuhn points out in many of his writings) is linked to the annual cycle of the great cross of the zodiac, formed by the line of the equinoxes (where the Djed column is "cast down" to the underworld at the fall equinox, symbolized as well by the "horizontal bar" on the symbol of the cross found in many ancient sacred traditions) and the line of the solstices (stretching from the "bottom of the year" to the top, and together representative of the raising-up of Djed column, and of the calling forth and elevating of the invisible divine soul or spirit present in every human being and in fact penetrating and animating all of the material universe, and represented in the symbol of the cross by the vertical component pointing towards the heavens).

This vitally important concept through which an invisible reality was powerfully symbolized and allegorized for our gnosis is discussed in previous posts too numerous to list, but which would certainly include:
Equally important is the observation Kuhn makes about the connection between Anastasis and Ecstasis.  While the two are distinguished by different prefixes, they are clearly related. The concept of "ecstasy" describes the transcending of the material state and the powerful connection with everything that is symbolized by the "raised-up" Djed column or the vertical (spiritual) component of the year's great cross.

This previous post (among others) presents arguments that the understanding of -- and entry into -- the state of ecstasy was absolutely central to all of the world's ancient wisdom, left to humanity as a precious inheritance.

This connection shows that the concept of Anastasis / Ecstasis operates on many different levels. It certainly describes the cycle of descent into the material body and ultimate re-ascent to the world of spirit at the end of incarnate life, but it also clearly operates within the cycle of this life, and describes a process that is meant to be part of our life here and now: the connection with the realm of spirit, the raising of the spiritual component inside ourselves and the spiritual-material world around us, and the entry into the state of ecstasy on a regular basis

There is abundant evidence that human beings are absolutely hard-wired with the ability to do this.

Finally, the prefix ana- ("again") in the word Anastasis / Anastasia is fascinating in that it is also found in the name of the religious movement of the Anabaptists -- the "again baptizers" -- so called because they believed in adult baptism by immersion and baptism "again" as an adult even if one had been baptized as an infant (as was common practice for all infants during many preceding centuries in the parts of the "western" world that the Anabaptists were generally operating). 

It can be clearly demonstrated that the symbology of "baptism by immersion" is absolutely connected to the ancient symbolism of the "casting down" and "raising-up again" of the Djed column. I discuss and illustrate this connection in a new video entitled "The Djed Column of Osiris," embedded below.

This clear connection to the mythology of ancient Egypt as well as to concepts found in other sacred traditions around the world (including shamanic traditions) and to other mythologies built on celestial allegories (as are the stories in the Bible) is somewhat ironic, since the Anabaptists in general were (and still are, in their modern forms) very staunch practitioners of the literalistic interpretation of the Biblical scriptures.

Many of them would undoubtedly be shocked and perhaps offended by the suggestion that the same celestial wheel formed by the great cross of the solstices and equinoxes, and further sub-divided by the twelve signs of the zodiac, and embodied in the rest of the world's mythologies can be found to be the absolute bedrock foundation of the collection of texts and sacred stories that came to be included in what today is referred to as "the Bible."

Many historic Anabaptists might also have been opposed to the suggestion that there is in fact a profound connection between the "up-arising" of the Anastasis and the centrality of ecstasy within this earthly sojourn. So might many of their modern relatives who also follow a literalist-historicist interpretation of the scriptures (and who continue to work to actively convert cultures which retain ancient traditions involving ecstasy, such as the world's remaining Indigenous shamanic traditions, along with anyone else who does not share their literalist position).

This opposition does not change the overwhelming evidence which points to the conclusion that the scriptures of the world (including those in the Bible) are in fact esoteric, celestial, and indeed shamanic in nature. Here is a link to an index of well over fifty examples, with clear diagrams showing the celestial connections. And, see this post and some of the links contained in it for arguments that "The Bible is essentially shamanic."

And it does not change the fact that the concept of Anastasis, as well as the powerful symbolism of the water-baptism ritual, clearly point to the shamanic-ecstatic-spiritual understanding that is symbolized elsewhere by the movement of the sun back upwards towards summer solstice, by the vertical portion of the cross, by the erecting of May-poles and Christmas trees and many other vertical posts seen in other traditions around the world, and that is present in all the deep layers of meaning embodied in the restoration of the Djed column of Osiris.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Zodiac Wheel and the Human Soul

Here's a new video which explores one of the most important aspects of the celestial foundation of the world's ancient sacred mythologies and scriptures: the annual cycle delineated by the solstices & equinoxes, and subdivided further by the great circle of the zodiac wheel.

This video illustrates the celestial mechanics which cause the "background stars" to cycle through Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo and the rest . . . and then shows how that wheel created by this heavenly motion underlies so many of the ancient myths and stories in the world's sacred scriptures and oral traditions, and what it might mean.

Much of this information will already be familiar to regular visitors to this blog or readers of The Undying Stars, but I hope that this new visual discussion (including the animations using  the open-source planetarium application will help make it "crystal clear." 

Ultimately, the great circle and its cross of solstices and equinoxes can be seen materializing in different forms in virtually every myth and sacred tradition around our planet -- in order to convey the same message of profound ancient knowledge about the nature of human life in this material-spiritual universe, entrusted to humanity as an ancient treasure in the precious esoteric allegories that animate the mythology of the world . . .

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.
                               -- Alvin Boyd Kuhn, The Stable and the Manger

image: Wikimedia commons (link). 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Easter: the Birth-Day of the Gods

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

When we begin to realize that virtually every single story in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is built upon celestial allegory -- especially if we have taken them literally for years, even decades -- it can at first feel like this knowledge "ruins" the great annual festivals that we once understood as commemorations of literal-historical events.

Especially the holidays of Christmas and Easter can suddenly feel strangely alien to us, because their celebration has been for so long promoted and controlled almost exclusively by those who insist upon celebrating these holidays as literal and historical, to the point that we "concede ownership" and unconsciously  adopt the mindset that the primary meaning of these annual events belongs to those who take them literally.

The unspoken assumption, if we were to put it into words or conscious thought (which we rarely ever do) is that these holidays have the most meaning for the literalists, and the idea that neither Christmas nor Easter has anything to do with literal, historical events which took place on planet Earth (although they can be shown to have taken place in the circling stars of the sky, and in fact are still taking place there, over and over each year) would be an unwelcome intrusion best kept quiet lest it "diminish" the meaning and sacredness of these special days. 

But what if, in fact, it is the literalist-historicist approach which is actually intruding upon the meaning of holidays such as Christmas and Easter?

What if the insistence upon seeing these stories as episodes in the life of someone else, no matter how revered and holy that one is, and no matter how well-intentioned we are in this insistence, actually ends up subverting their original meaning -- to the point that they are assumed to teach something that is almost "180-degrees out" from what they were originally intended to teach? 

Just such a radical assertion is argued by Alvin Boyd Kuhn in an essay entitled Easter: the Birthday of the Gods, and backed up by some of the clearest explanation found in any of Kuhn's thousands of pages of writing regarding the meaning and the purpose of the esoteric allegorical system which underlies the sacred scriptures and mythologies of the human race.

This blog has previously presented literally dozens of examples from the Old and New Testament scriptures which point very strongly to the conclusion that these stories, in common with other myths from all around the world, are esoteric in nature and that they are all united by a shared system of celestial metaphor as well as by a shared "shamanic-holographic" vision of this universe and our human experience within this earthly existence.

This shared esoteric, shamanic, and celestial foundation actually unites all of the world's sacred traditions, even as those who insist upon literalistic and historical interpretations of the scriptures almost invariably use their literalistic approach to divide humanity (generally into the two groups of "those who also interpret our scriptures our way" and "everyone else"). This fact in-and-of-itself gives us a hint that the literalistic approach tends to completely invert the conclusions reached by the esoteric approach and that it tends to wind up with conclusions that are "upside down" from the esoteric understanding.

It thus becomes very important to understand whether or not the world's ancient texts are actually literal, or if they are esoteric, and the two different approaches will lead to two very different understandings of the meanings of the stories themselves, and the meanings of the annual days associated with the different parts of the stories.

In Easter: the Birthday of the Gods (which can be read online in slightly less-than-complete form here and here, but which is so clearly and succinctly argued that everyone interested in these subjects might want to consider obtaining an actual physical copy for his or her own collection), Alvin Boyd Kuhn powerfully explains his view that all the world's scriptures and sacred stories are in fact esoteric, and his belief regarding the reason that the ancients chose to use metaphors from the natural world (to include the majestic cycles of the heavenly spheres) in order to convey their esoteric teachings.

On page 27 out of 31 in the second of the two online versions of Kuhn's Easter essay linked in the preceding paragraph, he writes -- speaking of those who gave the world their various ancient sacred traditions (whom he generally refers to as "the Sages" in all of his books and analysis) --
[. . .] those venerable Sages never wrote religious books in the form of veridical personal or national history. What they essayed to write was embalmed in forms of suggestive typist, such as myth, allegory, drama, number graphs and astrological pictography. By these methods they put forth the great truths of life and consciousness in forms of representation that would eternally adumbrate their reality to the human mind, however dull. Knowing that the essence of spiritual experience and the mind's realization of high truth are things that can not be expressed or conveyed by words alone, in fact never are fully communicable by language, they resorted to the only method that can impress true meaning even unconsciously on the brain. Every natural object and phenomenon in the living world is an objective pictograph of an elemental truth. Every object in nature mirrors a cosmic or spiritual truth. Man needs but to gaze at and reflect upon outer nature to find glyphs of the basic principles of knowledge appertaining to a higher world and level of consciousness. The laws and ordinances of spirit are adumbrated in nature's operations and spectacles.
The word "adumbrated" comes from the Latin word for "shadows" -- umbra -- along with the prefix "ad-" which means "toward" or "ahead of" and thus literally "foreshadowing" or "pre-shadowing" or (more expansively) "conveying ideas to us through shadows or representations or 'magic-lantern shows' so that we will grasp them through the 'fore-shadowing,' rather than trying to explain them to the mind in words, which does not work for some types of deep spiritual truths or concepts."

In other words, Alvin Boyd Kuhn is here expressing an idea which was also put forth in the writings of the esoteric scholar R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, who asserted that the ancients did not use "esoterism" in order to hide truths, but rather in order to convey them! In a short but extremely helpful little book entitled Esoterism and Symbol (first published in French in 1960 as Propos sur Esoterisme et Symbole and translated into a first US edition in 1985), Schwaller begins his discussion with the proclamation:
Esoterism has no common measure with deliberate concealment of the truth, that is, with secrecy in the conventional sense of the term. [page 1; italics in the original].
Having told us what it is not for, Schwaller does not, however, proceed to tell us exactly what esoterism is for, in so many words . . . but as we follow his discussion throughout the rest of the book we realize that Schwaller is showing us that esoterism is designed to convey something he calls "intelligence-of-the-heart," which cannot be conveyed through the methods normally used for the purposes of "cerebral intelligence." The entire category of spiritual truths, Schwaller argues, were seen by the ancients as of a nature that is qualitatively different from anything that "cerebral intelligence" is able to grasp -- and that the esoteric was employed in order to impress these great truths upon the "intelligence-of-the-heart," bypassing the mechanism of the cerebral intelligence, which has its own proper sphere for which it is very useful but which becomes an actual obstacle when it comes to matters of spirit.

Schwaller writes:
Spirit is found only with spirit, and esoterism is the spiritual aspect of the world, inaccessible to cerebral intelligence. 3.
This is what Alvin Boyd Kuhn is also saying in the passage quoted above, in which he says that the ancient Sages used "myth, allegory, drama, number graphs and astrological pictography" in order to "eternally adumbrate their reality to the human mind, however dull." He is not, I believe, talking about some human minds being more or less dull than others, but rather saying that there is an aspect of human mind, in all of us, which is inherently dull when it comes to matters of spiritual understanding -- the aspect of our mind which Schwaller de Lubicz calls our "cerebral intelligence."

The cerebral intelligence has its place -- it is, indeed, an essential tool that we need every day of our lives -- but it "chokes" on certain types of learning.

This is exactly why, for example, Mr. Miyagi in the original Karate Kid chooses to teach Daniel-San through the unforgettable "wax-on, wax-off" method, in what may well be the best cinematic representation of the concept of "the esoteric" ever put into a movie -- and why martial arts are traditionally passed on through exactly this type of "esoteric" methodology. If Mr. Miyagi had instead tried to teach Daniel by sitting him down and explaining the angles of the arm and elbow and shoulder and body needed in order to stop a charging opponent's punch, Daniel-san's "cerebral intelligence" would have "choked" on the explanation, and spit it back out, and started firing off all kinds of questions about "what if this" and "what if that" and "will this really work" and "what about this other?"

Alvin Boyd Kuhn says that "the essence of spiritual experience and the mind's realization of high truth are things that can not be expressed or conveyed by words alone, in fact never are fully communicable by language." Instead, the esoteric is in fact "the only method that can impress true meaning even unconsciously on the brain."

And here we begin to perceive the reason that taking stories and rituals which are intended to be understood esoterically and instead turning our intelligence loose on them as if they are supposed to be understood as literal and historical events for us to analyze can lead us to do more than just "miss the point" of their esoteric significance: it can lead us to come up with a completely different conclusion altogether, and one which in fact undermines and even totally reverses the message that the stories are trying to convey.

And this, says Alvin Boyd Kuhn, appears to be exactly what has happened with the sacred myths collected in the books which make up what we call today "the Bible," and in particular with the Easter story.

And that terrible misinterpretation, Kuhn argues, is made infinitely more serious when we consider the wonderful truths which the Easter story is intended to convey -- for Kuhn has an extremely "high view" of the spiritual meaning of the Easter story, to the point that he says that when we grasp what it is telling us, words fall short and "the one remaining mode of expressing the profundity and the majesty of our uplift is song" (from page 2 of the version linked previously).

For, the Easter story as found in the stories of the so-called "New Testament" (which themselves are but a "re-casting" of the same themes found in slightly different form in the sacred mythology of ancient Egypt, and found in many other forms in the other sacred scriptures and myths of other cultures literally across the globe) expresses a very specific point in the cycles experienced by each and every human soul.

According to Alvin Boyd Kuhn's analysis:
Easter is the ceremonial that crowns all the other religious festivals of the year with its springtime halo of resurrected life. It is to dramatize the final end in the victory of man's long struggle through the inferior kingdoms of matter and bodily incarnation in grades of fleshly existence. Other festivals around the year memorialize the various stages of this slow progress through the recurring round of the cycles of manifestation. Easter commemorates the end in triumph, all lower obstacles overcome, all "enemies" conquered, all darkness of ignorance vanquished, all fruits and the golden harvest of developed powers garnered in the eternal barn of an inner holy of holies of consciousness, all battles won, peace with aeonal victory assured at last. 3.
In other words, he argues, it refers to a point towards which we all are working in our successive visits into this realm of incarnation, this realm in which our spirit-nature is "planted in" our physical nature as a seed is planted in the earth, in order to grow: it "adumbrates" that point when the work of such cycles of incarnation is complete, and the soul triumphantly soars into an entirely new realm of consciousness.

If all that seems just a little too much to swallow (if, in other words, the "cerebral intelligence" chokes upon encountering such assertions), Kuhn in this essay Easter: the Birthday of the Gods provides what may be the best, succinct explanation found anywhere in his extensive writings of the way that the esoteric celestial allegories found throughout the world's mythologies (and operating quite clearly in the Easter story, as discussed in the previous post about the zodiacal symbolism in the gospel accounts of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem and the Betrayal by Judas Iscariot).

As you read through the extended quotation reproduced below from pages 4 and 5 of Kuhn's essay on Easter, you can follow along on the now-familiar zodiac wheel discussed in countless previous posts (see for instance here, here, here and here), which is arranged such that the June solstice (summer solstice for the northern hemisphere) is at the top or "twelve o'clock" position on the wheel (in between the signs of Gemini and Cancer, in the Age of Aries used in so many surviving ancient mythologies including those in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible), and the fall equinox is at "three o'clock" (between Virgo and Libra), the winter solstice is at "six o'clock" (between Sagittarius and Capricorn), and the glorious spring equinox after which Easter is celebrated (as is Passover from the Old Testament, both commemorations representing the successful crossing of the lower half of the year, which symbolized the physical incarnation here in this body of earth and water).

Both of the important equinoxes are marked with a red "X," because at the equinoxes the sun's ecliptic (along with the sun and also -- generally speaking -- all of the visible planets appear to travel) crosses over the celestial equator, and as it crosses either "down below" this line or back "up above" this line, the days either change over to being shorter than the nights (on the way "down" to the winter solstice) or to being longer (on the way back "up" towards the top of the year):

And here now is Alvin Boyd Kuhn's explanation of the esoteric or spiritual use to which the "venerable Sages" who gave the sacred stories to the various cultures of humanity employed the above awe-inspiring annual cycle:
Using solar symbolism and analogues in depicting the divine soul's peregrinations round the cycles of existence, the little sun of radiant spirit in man being the perfect parallel of the sun in the heavens, and exactly copying its movements, the ancient Sages marked the four cardinal "turns" of its progress round the zodiacal year as epochal stages in soul evolution. As all life starts with conception in mind, later to be extruded into physical manifestation, so the soul that is to be the god of a human being is conceived in the divine mind at the station in the zodiac marking the date of June 21. This is at the "top" of the celestial arc, where mind is most completely detached from matter, meditating in all its "purity."
Then the swing of the movement begins to draw it "downward" to give it the satisfaction of its inherent yearning for the Maya of experience which alone can bring its latent capabilities for the evolution of consciousness to manifestation. Descending the from June it reaches September 21, the point where its direction becomes straight downward and it here crosses the line of separation between spirit and matter, the great Egyptian symbolic line of the "horizon," and becomes incarnated in material body. Conceived in the aura of Infinite Mind in June, it enters the realm of mortal flesh in September. It is born then as the soul of a human; but at first and for a long period it lies like a seed in the ground before germination, inert, unawakened, dormant, in the relative sense of the word, "dead." This is the young god lying in the manger, asleep in his cradle of the body, or as in the Jonah-fish allegory and the story of Jesus in the boat in the storm on the lake, asleep in the "hold" of the "ship" of life, with the tempest of the body's elemental passions raging all about him. He must be awakened, arise, exert himself and use his divine powers to still the storm, for the elements in the end will obey his mighty will.
Once in the body, the soul power is weighed in the scales of the balance, for the line of the border of the sign of Libra, the Scales, runs across the September equinoctial station. For soul is now equilibrated with body and out of this balance come all the manifestations of the powers of consciousness. It is soul's immersion in body and its equilibration with it that brings consciousness to function.
Then on past September, like any seed sown in the soil, the soul entity sinks its roots deeper and deeper into matter, for at its later stages of growth it must be able to utilize the energy of matter's atomic force to effectuate its ends for its own spiritual aggrandizement. It is itself to be lifted up to heights of cosmic consciousness, but no more than an oak can exalt its majestic form to highest reaches without the dynamic energization received from the dart at its feet can soul rise up above body without drawing forth the strength of the body's dynamo of power. Down, down it descends then through the October, November, and December path of the sun, until it stands at the nadir of its descent on December 21.
Here it has reached the turning-point, at which the energies that were stored potentially in it in seed form will feel the first touch of quickening power and will begin to stir into activity. At the winter solstice of the cycle the process of involution of spirit into matter comes to a stand-still -- just what the solstice means in relation to the sun -- and while apparently stationary in its deep lodgment in matter, like moving water locked up in winter's ice, it is slowly making the turn as on a pivot from outward and downward direction to movement at first tangential, then more directly upward to its high point in spirit home. So the winter solstice signalizes the end of "death" and the rebirth of life in a new generation. It therefore was inevitably named as the time of the "birth of the Divine Sun" in man; the Christ-mas, the birthday of the Messianic child of spirit. The incipient resurgence of the new growth, now based on and fructified by roots struck deep in matter, begins at this "turn of the year," as the Old Testament phrases it, and goes on with increasing vigor as, like the lengthening days of late winter, the sun-power of the spiritual light bestirs into activity the latent capabilities of life and consciousness, and the hidden beauty of the spirit breaks through the confining soil of body and stands out in fulness of its divine expression on the morn of March 21. This brings the soul in a burst of glorious light out of the tomb of fleshly "death," giving it verily its "resurrection from the dead." It then has consummated its cycle's work by bursting through the gates of death and hell, and marches in triumph upward to become a lord of life in higher spheres of the cosmos. No longer is it to be a denizen of lower worlds, a prisoner chained in body's dungeon pit, a soul nailed to matter's cross. It has conquered mortal decay and rises on wings of ecstasy into the freedom of eternal life. Its trysting with earthly clay is forever ended, as aloft it sweeps like a lark storming heaven's gate, with "hymns of victory" pouring from its exuberant throat. From mortality it has passed the bright portals into immortality. From man it has become god. No more shall it enter the grim underworld of "death." 4-5.
These are incredible concepts, but there is little doubt that Kuhn's analysis as outlined above must be considered a very defendable explanation of the insistent personification of the "stations" of the great zodiac wheel, found in virtually every single ancient sacred tradition of the human race, on every continent of our planet and indeed on all the scattered islands of the great Pacific and other oceans as well, and that it may in fact be the reason why those unknown ancient Sages chose to employ it, and what they intended us to understand from these stories.

And, although Kuhn himself does not go this far, I can show you to my complete satisfaction (and I believe to yours as well) that it is equally evident that the events depicted in the Easter week contain this very cycle in its entirety, from the
  • Triumphal Entry at the beginning of the week, replete with imagery of the top of the zodiac wheel, to the 
  • Agony of Christ and the Crucifixion "outside the gates" of the city -- that is, at the point of the fall equinox, which is one of the two "gates" of the year through which the sun and all the visible planets must pass as they "cross over" the line of the celestial equator and descend down into the lower half of the year (or back up, at the other equinox), and which represents the throwing down of the soul into the "grave" of the incarnate body, to cross through this incarnate life in which we are all struggling on this earthly surface, and finally turning back upwards to the
  • Resurrection and the "rising up" out of the lower realm, which takes place on the other side of the year at the spring equinox, which is replete with imagery that has to do with both the fish of Pisces and the lambs and ram of Aries, and which represents the ultimate triumph of the soul, after the lessons and necessary consciousness-raising that take place during the cycles of incarnation in the "underworld" of this material realm.
Obviously, in the Easter week series of stories, the one point of the wheel which is not really emphasized is the point of the "birth of the Christ-consciousness," which is emphasized at a different special celebration on the annual calendar: at the sun's turning-point back upwards after the winter solstice, which is celebrated as Christmas. But the starting point of the summer solstice (in the Triumphal Entry and the "Upper Room"), followed by the "casting down" point of the fall equinox (with the Crucifixion) and the "raising up" point of the spring equinox (Resurrection) are all very clearly depicted and emphasized.

Now, in the above extended quotation of the passage found on pages 4 and 5 of Alvin Boyd Kuhn's Easter thesis, when he speaks of "the divine soul" or "the soul entity" or even "the soul power," he is referring to the individual soul of each and every person. He is not referring to something outside of any one of us: an examination of the bulk of Kuhn's work makes it abundantly clear that he believes that those who gave us the sacred stories intended for us to understand that they are not about ancient men, women, heroes or demigods, but that they are about each and every reader or hearer of the story: the "star" of every story is in fact your own soul.

In a different passage from a different essay by Alvin Boyd Kuhn, quoted at the end of this post from the time of the winter solstice, he writes:
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 life. But they are a record, under pictorial forms, of that which is ever occurring in the 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.
Therefore, Kuhn asserts, we will necessarily go astray if we "externalize" or literalize the sacred myths: they must be grasped by, and applied to, each and every person for himself or herself.

And this again is where, according to Kuhn in the essay Easter: the Birthday of the Gods (and according to quotations which Kuhn brings in to his essay from psychologist and scholar of mythology Carl Jung, who says the very same thing), the externalization of the Bible stories, and their use to encourage the veneration of a supposed external and historical-literal figure -- even a figure so admirable as the figure of Jesus in the gospels -- can lead us seriously astray, to the point where we not only miss the actual message of the story but end up with a message that is directly opposite from the original esoteric message.

Because, as Kuhn discusses in the extended quotation cited above, during the discussion of the September equinox and the "casting down" into the Balance of Libra and the reawakening of divine consciousness at the nadir-point of winter solstice, our sojourn in the incarnate body is a time of our own soul's passing through the "Scales" between the horizons, and of our own need to awaken the higher divine spark of consciousness within: not a time to look at the external stories and conclude that someone else has passed through the balance for us and awakened consciousness so that we don't have to!

And yet, that is exactly how the stories are interpreted by the majority of the literalist-historicist camp, lo these past seventeen centuries: the one in the stories has done those things, so that we don't have to.  

It is exactly, if I might bring in some films which did not appear until long after Kuhn wrote this essay, someone were to watch the movie The Matrix (1999) or The Truman Show (1998), and conclude: "I'm sure glad that Neo took that Red Pill -- so that I don't have to!" or "I'm so happy for Truman, that he finally 'woke up' and walked out of that 'dome of illusion' -- now I don't have to!"

Such a response would undoubtedly confuse the creators of those films -- because the whole point of the movie is that you, the viewer, need to consider waking up like Truman to the illusionists manipulating the world within the dome, or waking up like Neo to the illusion of the Matrix.

The point is not to curl up inside your "pod" in the Matrix -- or inside your little house in the dome -- and say, "I'm sure glad Truman, or Neo, woke up for me!" And the makers of those movies would probably be both surprised and dismayed if everyone interpreted their films that way.

According to Alvin Boyd Kuhn, we are not at the point described by the Easter symbolism just yet: we are still on the Scales of the Balance, down here in this mortal existence: and what we do here has an enormous impact on the progress of our invisible soul. As he says elsewhere, everything we are doing "down here" in the body is making its mark upon the record of the mighty Scales, as depicted in many "vignettes" or scenes in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, whose correct name as Kuhn notes in the Easter essay is in fact the Book of Going Forth by Day, envisaging the future point of Easter and the soul's "Day-Break" of triumph (scene from the Book of the Dead of the scribe-priest Ani is depicted below).

The danger of the literalist misinterpretation, in Kuhn's opinion, can be seen in the "dismal" record of literalist Christianity down through the centuries since it took hold, and since the tragic triumph of literalism over esoterism during the second and third centuries "A.D.": seventeen centuries of "bigotry, superstition, persecution, hatred, war and the most fiendish inhumanity ever to be entered into the world's annals" (Easter, 16).

Ultimately, Kuhn argues in this essay, the question of whether Easter is about what the literalists say it is about, or whether it is meant to depict one of the most glorious parts of the esoteric teaching outlined above thus becomes an incredibly important question. He says, as he draws towards his conclusion,
Easter meaning and Easter ecstasy will forever elude us if we can not understand it as the drama, not of one man's history long passed [. . .] but of our own life history, the scenario of our transfiguration yet to come. [. . .] if we for a moment permit it to lure us into the belief that another man's alleged conquest of death in the long past in any degree relieves us of the evolutionary task of achieving our own resurrection, the myth becomes the source of a tragic psychological calamity for us. For to the extent we look to a man, or a miracle, or any power outside ourselves, to that extent we will let the sleeping divinity within us lie unawakened. 28-29. 
And thus, it may well be that -- far from being those with an esoteric understanding of Easter (or Christmas) who are intruding upon holy ground that "belongs to" those who take these stories literally -- it is the literalist-historicist approach that has in fact intruded upon, and thrown over, the ancient sacred meaning of these significant annual days of commemoration.

To the extent that this overthrow has led to the teaching of something entirely the opposite of what the sacred stories were actually intended to teach, this is a tragic mistake that calls out to be remedied. It is very similar to the way that the stories of Adam and Eve or of Shem, Ham and Japheth have both been used to divide humanity and pit men and women against one another, even though if these are understood as the esoteric celestial allegories which I believe they can be shown to be, they actually teach a message that should unite men and women instead of dividing them. 

And, to the extent that this overthrow has led to "persecution, hatred, war and the most fiendish inhumanity," the question of which understanding of Easter is a twisting of the message to mean the opposite of what it was intended becomes a very important question, and not a "merely academic" question at all.

If the esoteric understanding outlined above is closer to the intention of the "ancient Sages" who gave these sacred treasures to humanity so many millennia ago, as I believe that it is, then it is a very dangerous thing for the majority of the people to conclude that they can just "curl up in their pod in the Matrix," because Neo already woke up and achieved consciousness so that I don't have to.

Alvin Boyd Kuhn argues that Easter is one of the most beautiful symbols in all of the New Testament version of the esoteric myths. I believe that when we understand it esoterically, it actually becomes even more beautiful, and more meaningful for our lives, than ever.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).