Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Some eclipse impressions

Background stars and planets during the eclipse, in planetarium app set for location in eastern Oregon. image: stellarium.org

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to travel to the path of totality for the eclipse of August 21, 2017, and have just returned home.

As you can gather from the description of a total solar eclipse found in the previous post, the full experience of this awe-inspiring event is really impossible to describe. 

However, for my own benefit in recording of some of the feelings it inspired, and for anyone interested, I will post a small account of my journey here.

Because I live along the region of California's central coast, I selected a location in the northwest of the united states as being most practical for me to reach, and for a variety of reasons including weather, distance from large population centers, distance from interstates, and distance from current large wildfires, chose to aim for eastern Oregon as being most likely to have clear skies and least likely to have traffic jams that could hinder my ability to reach the path of totality in time.

Below is an image of part of my route, drawn in purple and superimposed over a Google map showing the path of totality (the path of totality created by the direct alignment to the moon in front of the sun is demarcated between the parallel blue lines, with the center of the path indicated by a red line which is also parallel to the blue lines):

My path took me through some regions of incredible geology, including vast basins, alkali lakes, buttes, escarpments, huge massifs, and piney forests. I passed the Pit River Falls Canyon along California Route 299, the Modoc National Forest, the bright turquoise Goose Lake and Lake Abert, which are alkaline lakes located in vast basins very similar in feel and geology to the Carrizo Plain basin containing Soda Lake in San Luis Obispo County where Painted Rock is located), the desolate Poverty Basin in Oregon north of Lake Abert, and multiple branches of the Malheur National Forest.

Below is an image looking north from interstate 395 along the shore of Lake Abert:

And below is an image of an escarpment north of Lake Abert, showing a typical scene along my drive. I believe the cylindrical piles of rocks contained within chicken-wire are acting as fence-posts, most likely because driving pickets or posts into the ground to any great depth is difficult or impossible in some of these areas, due to the lack of soil over the rocky plateau in this stark and geologically-fascinating region:

In all, my journey was about 890 miles in each direction, and for a variety of reasons took the better part of two days of driving each way.

I brought a lot of water with me on the trip!

While camping out the first night on my way towards Oregon, I decided to play a little music to help me fall asleep, and my music player randomly selected "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles, which I felt was appropriate.

Each morning before the eclipse, I rose early to see the pre-dawn stars above the eastern horizon, in order to get a good feel for any stars and planets that might be visible during totality itself. The pre-dawn lineup is spectacular this time of year -- it's what I have called the "pre-dawn lineup of the Golden Age" in previous posts from some years back. If at all possible, you may want to try to rise by about 5am and get to a dark location with a good view of the eastern and southern horizons (for viewers in the northern hemisphere, or the eastern and northern horizons for those in the southern hemisphere) in order to enjoy the view of Taurus and the Pleiades, with Perseus above them, massive Orion reaching towards the V-shaped Hyades in Taurus, and the Gemini Twins rising from the horizon.

When this lineup of stars is rising before dawn, I think of it as pointing back to the Golden Age referenced in myths from around the world, based on my understanding of the arguments presented in Hamlet's Mill, which posit the Age of Gemini as the Golden Age, based on the various myths regarding the slaying, drowning, binding, enchanting, dismembering or deposing of a figure related to Orion (including Osiris, Kronos, Saturn, Jamshyd, Prometheus, Tammuz, Yima, Yama and many others). For further discussion of this concept, see previous posts such as this one and this one.

As you can see from the star-chart at the top of this post, presently the sun is located in the constellation Leo the Lion (close to Leo's brightest star, Regulus), which follows Cancer the Crab and the Twins of Gemini. Beautiful Venus is unmistakeable in the Twins of Gemini at present -- you can't miss the planet in the pre-dawn sky in the east, and as you can see from the chart above, the two "shoulder-stars" of Orion pretty much define a straight line that points almost directly to Venus.

I arrived in Oregon on Sunday and traveled through Seneca, John Day, and Mount Vernon on my way to the "center-line" of the path of totality. Although the roads thus far had been relatively free of congestion, John Day and Mount Vernon were packed with activity related to the eclipse. North of Mount Vernon, nearly every turnout or broad shoulder along the side of the road on both sides was occupied by cars or RVs and surrounded by people with folding chairs and camping gear, staking out places to observe the next morning's event.

I proceeded past the eclipse-path center-line, towards a branch of the Malheur National Forest and a forest road heading into the forest along a promising ridge-line with commanding views towards the southern horizon (above which the sun arcs along its daily path, for viewers in the northern hemisphere):

The small purple circle in the above map marks the location towards which I was heading, a point situated along Forest Road 3940 inside the National Forest. Below is a satellite version of the same general location shown in the above map, but zoomed-in slightly. You should be able to recognize the two "jaws" of the forest which show up in green in the map above by the forested areas in the map below -- my eclipse-viewing location is in the "upper jaw" of the dragon-mouth or crocodile-mouth of forest protruding out along and above the red center-line of the eclipse in the above map, which can be matched-up with forested areas in the below satellite image:

The trail itself (an unpaved, improved dirt-road) is barely visible as a faint line in this satellite image of the same location (below), this time zoomed-in on the "upper jaw" containing the location from which I chose to view the eclipse:

That night, I found a nice campsite under the pines, with plans for the morning to move back down the road about 800 meters towards a more exposed location with a wide and unobstructed view of the valley to the south. Here is a close-up topo map showing that location's latitude and longitude, along with lines indicating the general direction for viewing the eclipse (facing south, looking at the region between the purple lines, with the sun in the morning closer to the right-hand line as you face the map, because east is on the right):

Based only on terrain analysis (I didn't use a GPS), I believe the location where I gathered with others to see the eclipse is indicated by the marker inside the purple circle in the above topographical or relief-map. The latitude and longitude are indicated in the box below that point. Long Creek is the nearest town, but it is to the north along Interstate-395 (I never actually got to Long Creek on this visit).

Below is a hand-held video showing a quick sweep of the above-indicated viewing range, sweeping from east to west (or from the purple line on the right as you face the page towards the line on the left,  taken with the camera facing towards the bottom of the page as oriented) and captured on the morning of August 21, about an hour or so before the first contact of the moon with the edge of the sun. You can see a couple of tents down the hill, towards the east side of the video as it starts out:

One of the best aspects of watching the eclipse was making new friends while experiencing it. This article from the New York Times explores some interesting hypotheses regarding the sense of togetherness created through the sharing of powerful experiences with strangers. Even if you don't agree with everything in the article, it offers some interesting thoughts, along with some quality photographs of eclipse-watchers around the globe, and across the decades. I had noticed the headline of this story prior to the eclipse, but didn't get around to reading it until afterwards.

As you can see from the above video, the morning August 21st offered clear blue skies. I had an opportunity to go into a secluded spot in the woods and practice some morning qigong before heading down the dirt road to the location shown in the above video and indicated on the topo maps. When I arrived, many other people were already there, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming. One individual, a physics teacher from the Seattle area, was up the hill from the road performing his sun salutations when I got there.

The progress of events was almost identical to the descriptions given by Jane B. Sellers in the texts quoted in the previous post -- at about 9:10 local time, Ajay the physics teacher excitedly announced that the moon had made contact with the sun, and we all began watching the disc of the moon encroach further and further into the territory of the face of the sun (through glasses, of course) from sun's upper right quadrant. We also made pinhole projections, as well as binocular projections (see previous posts here and here for discussions of this technique), and even learned -- from a trio including a young man who works for the National Park Service in Olympic National Park in what is today the state of Washington, and who had brought along the "Junior Ranger" brochure the Park Service had made discussing the eclipse and activities to try during the event -- that you can make your own "pinhole" projector by crossing three fingers of one hand perpendicular to three fingers of the other (like making a "tic-tac-toe" grid, using three lines crossed with three lines instead of two with two, and using your fingers for the lines) in order to project the crescent shape from the uncovered portion of the sun during the progressing eclipse, and watching the crescent grow thinner and thinner as the sun continues to overtake the moon.

As the partial phase of the eclipse progressed, our shadows became increasingly indistinct around the edges, and little crescent shapes began popping up in strange ways along the edges of shadows -- including between the spread fingers of one hand, in the "V" between each finger, as one of the young women in the Olympic National Park group observed.

As the crescent of the sun grew narrower and narrower, the entire valley (and the place where we were all standing) began to grow darker and darker -- but less like the approach of night-time and more like the kind of eery dull reddish glow created when clouds of smoke from a wildfire are filling the air (something that is unfortunately somewhat familiar to those in the part of California where I reside), except even duller and redder. The air felt red and hazy, as if wearing dusty reddish lenses, except that there was no smoke or haze in the air, of course.

It also became noticeably colder and some people even began putting on jackets as it got colder and darker.

Eventually, the two branches of the remaining crescent of the sun, already narrow and sharp, began to grow shorter and shorter as the body of the moon moved further and further across the face of the star. Then, the remaining crescent grew so thin that it could not be termed a crescent anymore, and all that was left to see of the sun was a glowing red line in a short arc across what was (from our observation point) the lower left region of the sun's edge.

I thought I might be able to see Bailey's Beads or the famous "Diamond Ring Effect" at this point, before what Jane Sellers calls "second contact" when the advancing edge of the moon makes contact with the last un-occluded edge of the sun, but instead what I experienced was an abrupt and sudden transformation as what used to be the sun was replaced by that fearsome black object you see in the photographs, projecting a seething white corona in all directions.

It bore no resemblance to what we had been watching before.

The change was so immediate that it was as if someone had suddenly sucked all the air out of the room you were standing in, or as if you were in an airplane that suddenly changed thousands of feet of altitude and your ears popped audibly.

And, much like the descriptions in the passages quoted in the previous post, I didn't want to take my eyes off of it.

I could barely even bring myself to look around for the "brighter stars and planets" which the accounts said can sometimes be seen, but when I did the only other object I was able to see in the sky was brilliant Venus, to the right (west) and up from the seething black object that used to be the sun.

The color of the sky was not black like night, but rather slate grey (I think). The experience of totality was so disorienting that (at least for me) I felt like I had to piece it together after it happened to recall all the things that I saw.

I managed to take a quick video using my unsophisticated hand-held video camera, which has the advantage of having a pop-out screen on the side, so that I didn't have to look through a lens to focus on the sun (which can be dangerous during the partial phase). It doesn't produce a very high-resolution image like some that you can find on the web elsewhere, but here is a screen shot of what it produced:

I didn't waste much time with the video camera. The corona in the above screen-shot looks like a blurry, indistinct blob -- but in person it was nothing like that, and gave instead the impression of streaming rays, or the writhing tentacles of an octopus with a thousand arms. It really gave me the impression of something that was howling, like the rushing-wind noise they make in the Lord of the Rings films whenever Frodo puts on the Ring and slips into the screaming spirit world (as conceived by director Peter Jackson).

The familiar sun had suddenly been replaced by some kind of monster in the sky, beautiful but also somewhat unsettling (making Jane Sellers' insight in connecting this phenomenon to aspects of the myth of Set and Horus in ancient Egypt seem suddenly even more powerful than before).

Then we began to notice the phenomenon of Bailey's Beads around the rim of the disc, particularly on the top and upper-right quadrant -- because the moon's disc was basically moving from upper-right to lower left, as the sun overtook the moon and passed behind it along the path of the ecliptic, which was arcing up from the left or east as we faced to the south, since the eclipse took place in the morning hours on the sun's upward path where we were located on the face of the spinning globe.

There were bright yellow or white beads along the upper-right edge of the black disc, but directly at the top or "twelve o'clock" point on the disc was a very bright, deep red beacon, almost like a little LED light. It had not been visible earlier during the totality phase -- only as (I know now, in hindsight) the phenomenon of totality was preparing to end.

While we admired this powerful red bead on the top of the sun, talking about it to one another, a brilliant and blinding ball of light suddenly began to grow on the upper-right (around "two o'clock") point on the circle -- and it rapidly increased in size and intensity: the Diamond Ring Effect. All discussion ceased as soon as it began, and people started gasping or even yelling.

It was undoubtedly the most intense and memorable part of the entire eclipse for me.

It was like something living emerging from the dark hole in the sky, something so powerful and confident that it didn't hesitate or look around -- it just grew and grew until you couldn't look at it anymore.

And then suddenly the total phase of the eclipse was over, and the black disc with its halo were gone, replaced again by the sun -- a new sun this time.

The replacement happened so quickly that I found myself wanting to go back and see it happen again. The partial phases that we had delighted in experiencing and playing with during the run-up to the total phase were taking place again, but in reverse -- you could still make "pinholes" with your fingers and see crescents -- but they were no longer interesting in the aftermath of that black hole and the final Diamond Ring eruption. I didn't notice the same reddish darkness that had descended during the pre-totality stages. Cars from further up the trail began driving by, and people began going home.

The group that I had been experiencing the eclipse with, however, stayed around and took a photograph together. I would share it, except I don't have everyone's permission to do so -- it is remarkable in that everyone looks extremely radiant, and perfect, even though we only did one "take" of the photograph (which almost never happens in a large group photo). Glorious sun rays can be seen streaming down from the top of the photo (the upper-left, since the picture was taken facing towards the south, so that east is still to the left) onto the group. It is a group of people who didn't all know each other prior to the eclipse, but which congealed in a kind of sudden or instant fashion, under the awe-inspiring celestial spectacle that we had all witnessed together.

I felt the urge to wave to people driving by as well -- even after leaving the eclipse sight and being stuck in the long lines of cars winding for hours along Interstate 395 on the way back south to Mount Vernon and John Day (there were still plenty of people sitting in chairs along the road, in driveways or turnouts). It was a strange feeling.

I also didn't feel like listening to podcasts, even though that was pretty much all that I had listened to on the two-day drive up. Instead, I felt like listening to the Beatles through headphones, because that music comes at you from all directions and contains little surprises (even after listening to it for many years or even decades), and that was only thing that I could stand to listen to after that experience for a few hours while moving only a few miles in the clogged streets of eastern Oregon.

Eventually, however, after listening to my entire Beatles album more than once, I took a break, and (while still stuck in traffic), tuned in to an episode of the Grimerica Show about the eclipse -- which I had downloaded weeks before but had not yet listened to. Perhaps not surprisingly, not only did this episode feature a terrific synchronicity in the "Igloo-only" section, but during the first few minutes of the show, Darren explained that he was going to travel to see the total eclipse -- but in a secret, undisclosed location.

He would only reveal that, based on two full years of planning, he had chosen to go to eastern Oregon, in the vicinity of John Day! He even gave some of his reasoning for his selection (including forest fires and the presence of east-west routes, in case weather required moving to a new location prior to the eclipse) that had led me to select the same part of the state.

While this is technically not a synchronicity, it was pretty astonishing to hear, as I drove away from John Day along Interstate-395, back towards the south and the desolate dry lake beds and windswept basins.

I couldn't listen to too much of the interview, however, before I wanted to go back to listening to music again.

I felt as though I had experienced something significant and awe-inspiring, and even life-changing. I would argue that it has less to do with some of the "psychological" explanations offered in the New York Times article cited above than with the deep realization that we are all here together under the same sun, a fact which unites us (or should unite us) in ways we don't always fully appreciate -- but that the ancient wisdom of the world conveys for our blessing, whatever part of their cycle the heavens are going through at any particular moment.

I don't know how others felt, but thought I would share some of the impressions the experience made on me, while they are fresh.


"Here Comes the Sun," Beatles, Abbey Road LP.

I would recommend listening to an original recording for full texture on this and all other old Beatles songs. Vinyl, of course, is an ideal medium if you have it. (YouTube link)

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Total Solar Eclipse: August, 2017

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

If it is at all possible for you to do so, and if you are still wavering or "on the fence" regarding whether or not it is worth the effort to try to travel to the path of totality for the upcoming solar eclipse crossing the continent of North America from shore to shore this coming Monday, August 21st (at the moment of New Moon), below are some quotations from the landmark text Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt by Jane B. Sellers, to help you with your decision.

Of course, if you've already determined that there is no possible or practical way that you can make it into the path of totality for this particular solar eclipse, these quotations might be best left un-read until later, when you can perhaps make plans to be present in the path of totality for another total solar eclipse -- because the descriptions in Sellers' book will probably make you want very much to travel towards the path of totality.

In Chapter 6 of that important book, entitled "Mighty is your Striking Power" (from Coffin Text 316, quoted on page 42 of the Revised 2007 edition of Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt), Jane Sellers writes:
The world fell silent, a marked chill abruptly arrived from nowhere and an otherworld twilight descended upon the sun watchers. The awesome show in the sky had arrived at its most dramatic moments. 
A row of small beads suddenly appeared at the periphery of the dark shadow that had finally completed its encroachment of the golden disk of the sun. Just as suddenly, one giant bead obscured all others on the brow of the emerging corona and in all too few seconds it too was gone. On the threshold of victory for the dark shadow, the flash of the bead had come, and now the whole of the fiery corona flared into view.
[ . . . ]
A total eclipse is the most spectacular of all natural phenomena. It is difficult to impress this on those who have only witnessed those that are partial. Jay M. Pasachoff, director of Hopkins Observatory wrote:
"Many people say, 'I saw the eclipse. It was 99 percent total.' But 99 percent doesn't count . . . with eclipses it is all or nothing; the 99 percent people' don't know what they are missing. People who have seen a partial eclipse may be likened to those who have stood outside an opera house before opening night, watching the beautifully dressed people going in. All the preparations take place and the orchestra tunes up. But just as the opera is about to start, the partial eclipse viewer goes home. He may well be content with what he has seen, but in reality he has missed the entire show."
I experience the same feelings when friends tell of having seen a total eclipse but when questioned about the Diamond Ring Effects, or the corona, or viewing totality with the naked eye, these things 'they do not remember.' I know then that they too, have 'missed the whole show.' [33 - 34, all punctuation, italics and bold-typeface as in the original, except for the block quotation from Jay M. Pasachoff, which is indented further in the original  text, rather than set off by double quotes].
In Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt, the first edition of which was published in 1992, Jane B. Sellers put forward some extremely important analysis regarding specific myths of ancient Egypt and the general thesis of Hamlet's Mill and other related works as a whole. The entire text deserves to be read (and re-read), and indeed deserves a place on a physical shelf in your personal library, if possible. Some of the most important insights and arguments that she presents in her book include (among others): 
  • the argument that the myth of the death of Osiris relates to the "delaying action" of the ages-long motion of precession, 
  • the argument that the number 72 used in the description of the myth of Isis, Osiris and Set preserved by Plutarch also refers to the rate of precession -- and that there are other manifestations of this important precessional number in earlier Egyptian myths, long predating Plutarch and also predating the conventionally-accepted date that standard historians give for the "discovery" of the phenomenon of precession, let alone for the precise understanding of the rate of precession displayed by the number 72,
  • and the argument that the ancient descriptions of the "contendings of Set and Horus" in Egyptian texts include details specific to the awe-inspiring effects visible only during a total eclipse of the sun.

Numerous previous posts have described some of these connections between myth and the heavenly phenomena (see for example here, here, and here). As the authors of Hamlet's Mill have demonstrated, many other myth-systems around the world also make reference to specific precessional numbers (see for example here, here, and here). There are also countless ancient monuments situated around the globe which employ ratios within their construction or even within their siting on the earth which contain indisputable precessional numbers (see for example discussions here, here, and here).

In her book, Jane Sellers goes on to describe in detail and from personal experience the awesome effects of a total solar eclipse. Again, the full text is well worth reading -- and owning -- but a few selected descriptions may be helpful for those preparing to experience the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21 (or for those still trying to decide whether or not to make the trip, if it is at all possible to do so):
Totality can last from a few seconds to a maximum of seven and a half minutes. The very beginning is the 'first contact,' when the moon just begins to silhouette itself against the edge of the sun's disk. The period following is called the 'partial phase' during which more and more of the sun is covered by the moon. [ . . . ] 
'Second contact' occurs from one to two hours after first contact, at the instant when the sun becomes completely hidden behind the moon. In the few minutes before this second contact (the beginning of totality) the sky noticeably darkens; some flowers close, and birds return to their nests. Because the diminished light that reaches the earth must come solely from the edge of the sun's disk, and consequently from the higher layers of the atmosphere, the sky and landscape take on strange colors. This eerie half glow is accompanied by a noticeable stillness and cooling of the air. [ . . .]
In the last instant before totality, the only parts of the sun that are visible are those that shine through the lower valleys in the moon's irregular profile and line up along the periphery of the advancing edge of the moon -- a phenomenon called Baily's Beads.
What follows can be viewed with the unprotected and unaided eye: it is a brilliant solitary flash, or ball of light, that astronomers have named the 'Diamond Ring Effect.' This is the last of Baily's Beads and it has always appeared infinitely larger to me than the beads that preceded it. The effect is one of a large and brilliant diamond, or stone, with the emerging corona being the ring itself.'
[ . . . ]
The whole of the magnificent corona next flashes into view. This is the sun's tenuous outer atmosphere and consists of sparse gases that extend from the apparent surface of the moon for millions of miles in all directions. The usual photograph of an eclipse is a corona shot. Amazingly, and especially if it is cloudless, the sky darkens and brighter stars and planets can be seen. It is indeed 'darkness at noon.'
[ . . . ]
The total phase ends with the second Diamond Ring flash as abruptly as it began. The magnificent flash has come twice, once going into totality and once coming out, always on opposite sides of the sun. I believe that these two flashes are of prime importance in understanding the story of the battle between Horus and Seth, a key myth in the religion of ancient Egypt.
[ . . . ]
Anyone who has witnessed totality will understand how difficult it is to convey the sense of wonder that this phenomenon engenders. After viewing totality on July 11, 1991, amateur astronomer Barry Slavin wrote 'I hardly know what I did. My carefully laid plans were in ruins. I could not take my eyes off that terrible wonderful thing there in the sky over our heads . . . It was every artist's conception of totality, but more brilliant, delicate, and finely etched than I could have ever imagined.' The editors of the magazine Sky and Telescope followed this quote with the comment: 
'In truth, we see totality not with our eyes but with our souls.'
[ . . . ]
The ending of totality is called third contact, and here again, the eyes must be protected. Gradually the partial phases of the eclipse repeat themselves, but in reverse order. At last contact the moon has completely uncovered the sun. [34 - 39].
We should all be grateful to Jane Sellers for her evocative descriptions of the cycles in a total solar eclipse (only part of which I've quoted above), the best descriptions I've ever encountered, as well as for her groundbreaking analysis of the connections to ancient myth.

I truly hope that, if you are in any position to do so, you can experience the upcoming total eclipse -- and if not this one, then another one in the near future.

And as you do, you can contemplate the experience of those who were in position underneath the path of totality in other eclipses, many generations before our own, stretching back into the millennia, to eclipses thousands of years ago. 

It is very clear, from an overwhelming amount of evidence -- in myths and in monuments -- that the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity in virtually every culture on our planet, on every inhabited continent and island on the globe, employs the awe-inspiring heavenly cycles to convey profound truths to our understanding, for our blessing and benefit. 

And, as Jane Sellers demonstrates, among these heavenly cycles used by the ancient wisdom is (not surprisingly) the deeply moving experience of the total solar eclipse -- which Jane Sellers calls "the most spectacular of all natural phenomena."

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Equal Rights and Justice

Peter Tosh, "Equal Rights."

The racism displayed this weekend at the so-called "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia (including a torchlight gathering on the campus of the University of Virginia) should be strongly and unequivocally -- and publicly -- condemned by men and women of all backgrounds and beliefs. 

Racism, and white supremacist rhetoric in particular, should be strongly, unequivocally, and publicly opposed wherever it is published or aired, and countered with clear arguments showing it to be morally, spiritually, and intellectually bankrupt.

This condemnation and counter-argument should be done non-violently. There is absolutely no racist argument that can stand on its own. Racism is a lie, and cannot stand up to the truth. 

Because racism is not based upon truth, racism is spread primarily by tactics involving violence, rumor (the spreading of lies), and appeals to visceral emotions involving fear -- often including emotionally-charged sexual accusations. Techniques common to propaganda are not used in order to spread the truth: they are used in order to generate visceral emotional responses or reflexive behavior. Lies require propaganda -- the truth does not.

The ancient wisdom preserved in the myths, scriptures and sacred traditions of virtually every single culture on our planet, on every inhabited continent and island on earth, tells us that men and women possess both a physical nature and a spiritual nature: a mortal nature and a divine nature. For this reason, myths and sacred stories involving twins are found around the world, depicting the fact that each one of us in fact has a sort of "twinned" nature -- physical and spiritual. 

Similarly, numerous myths and sacred stories from around the world describe a main character as having two mothers -- indicating that we can think of ourselves as experiencing "two births," the first one when we are born into a physical body, and the second one when we begin to realize that we are more than our physical body and that we should be learning how to elevate our spiritual nature, or inner divine nature, rather than simply thinking of ourselves and those around us as merely physical beings.

Most people instinctively understand and perceive that they are more than their physical body -- and resist the idea of being "reduced" to the status of their physical nature, or categorized, valued, or viewed on the basis of their physical characteristics alone.

Additionally, the ancient wisdom encoded in the world's myths and scriptures often deals explicitly and extensively with the concepts of "blessing" and "cursing" -- concepts which I believe have much to do with the idea of recognizing, and to whatever degree possible, elevating the divine nature in one's self and others (in the case of blessing), and the contrary action of trying to deny that divine nature in one's self or in others, and reduce them to the status of their physical attributes: to reduce them to a body (or to a corpse), in the case of cursing.

Racism (and sexism), by their very definition, attempt to falsely define other men and women based on their external and physical aspects.

But doing so is a lie. We know instinctively that our value is not defined by the physical body, that we are possessed of a nature that is not defined by the aspects of our "first birth" -- and the ancient wisdom preserved in the original instructions given to every culture on our planet confirms what we instinctively perceive.

Because it is based upon a lie -- a very big lie, in fact, and a very pernicious lie -- proponents of racism must resort to distortion, to propaganda, and (in almost every case) to violence, as well as to an appeal to impulses related to fear of physical harm and to sexual doubt or discomfort. Proponents of racism deliberately seek to get others to react with what we might call the aspects of our physical nature (reflexes which we all have). It's very difficult to remember we have a divine nature, if we are being physically punched in the nose, for example, or being told (in graphic terms) that someone is going to rape us or rape someone we love or care about.

But I will go one step further in discussing the despicable events on display in the united states this weekend, and point out that those racists trying to provoke a visceral response in others -- by means of torchlight rallies, and chanted slogans referring to "Jews" -- chose to call their rally a "Unite the Right" rally.

While I would argue that the vast majority of those who identify themselves as being on the "right" of the ideological spectrum would vehemently and sincerely reject the bigotry displayed by the relatively small group of self-described "white nationalists" who converged on Charlottesville this weekend, and while increasing numbers of people today would reject the very notion of "right" and "left" (arguing that these terms are outdated, obsolete, or misleading), I believe the question is worthy of some examination, especially in light of the argument put forward by some that actions (including violence) on the part of representatives of "the left" were partly responsible for the mayhem witnessed in Virginia.*  

In examining this important question, I will first assert that the world's ancient wisdom universally declares that men and women are possessed of a spiritual nature, indeed a divine nature, which is more important than their physical nature (and that the world's ancient wisdom universally teaches that the "second birth" is even more important than the first, even though both are of course extremely important and both involve the blessing and indeed the active participation of the divine realm).

Every other human being we ever encounter is possessed of a divine nature, and that is what we should see staring back at us when we consider another man, woman or child -- regardless of the details of their physical nature.

Additionally, as I have argued at some length elsewhere, I believe that the ancient myths and scriptures can be shown to teach that the gods themselves (or the divine Infinite, if you prefer) are present in, and act through, individual men and women. We can see this demonstrated in the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead, for example, which declares at one point "There is no member of mine devoid of a god." We can see it demonstrated in the scriptures of ancient India, in which divinities appear in an instant when a mantra is uttered. And we can see it in the myths of ancient Greece, for example in the Iliad and the Odyssey, in which the gods and goddesses work out their will through individuals such as Odysseus or Achilles.

Based upon these demonstrable points, I would argue that one way of framing the question of "left" and "right" has to do with the question of whether some men and women are "more entitled" to the gifts bestowed by the gods (or, if you prefer, by nature) than others, or whether all men and women are equally entitled to those gifts. This question is discussed at some length in previous posts such as "Collaborators against the gods," "Privatization vs the gods (and the people)," and "Some lessons from King Midas, who discovered he could not eat gold."

If it is not clear enough from those posts (and even from the titles alone), I would argue that the gifts bestowed by the gods (or, if you prefer, by nature) belong to all the people of the land, without distinction. They do not belong only to the "best" people (as in a so-called "aristocracy"). They do not belong only to the people of a certain "race." They do not belong only to the people of a certain "creed" (all the world's ancient myths and scriptures can be shown to be based upon the very same foundation of celestial metaphor, and thus demanding that someone accept a certain interpretation of one set of ancient scriptures is gravely mistaken from the outset -- and this of course includes discrimination against those who follow the Hebrew scriptures, as well as any other group based on creed or faith). 

And I would argue that the (problematic, but nonetheless still useful) terms of "right" and "left" can be viewed from the above perspective -- with the "right" tending towards restricting or "privatizing" the gifts of nature (or the gods) to some subset of the people (often but not always including overt racial components in this restriction), and the "left" arguing that these gifts belong to the people as a whole.

The above assertions will, no doubt, be angrily rejected by some who want to argue that the "left" has a history of being just as restrictive, and even just as racist, as the "right," but if we can just entertain this theoretical framework for a moment in order to consider any light it might potentially throw on the question, I believe there is an important point that can be illuminated. If those who object to the above assertion do so with the argument that groups claiming to be on the "left" have in the past been just as restrictive as those on the "right," then those who make this particular objection must be agreeing, in principle, that such restriction of the gifts of nature to one group is a bad thing -- and that the gifts of nature should in principle belong to all the people (so if those objectors want to label the idea that the gifts of nature belong to all the people with some term other than "left" in their own minds, that's fine by me for the sake of this particular discussion). 

The problem that I am trying to illuminate with this discussion is that, tragically, some of those moving towards what I would label as an "ultra-right" position (a racist and indeed a "white nationalist") position are doing so out of a stated rejection of neoliberalism, which I would argue is itself already an ideology of the right of the spectrum as defined above, in that the hallmark of neoliberalism is the privatization of virtually everything that those on the left of the same spectrum would argue should belong to the public.

In other words, they are responding to a problem that is created by an ideology that belongs to the right with an ideology that is even further to the right -- as if trying to counteract one poison with an even more destructive poison than the one to which they are supposedly objecting.

And this assertion -- which I believe can be fairly convincingly established, based on the writings and published arguments of those persons behind the "Unite the Right" rally -- brings up the possibility that this entire spectacle is actually designed by someone or some group to continue moving the united states further and further to the right. In other words, it brings up the possibility that some of those involved in planning the despicable displays this weekend are deliberate provocateurs, who know that the overt message will be roundly despised by almost everyone who hears or sees it, but who also know that it can be used to continue moving the country to the right -- a process that has been going on for decades. In fact, it can be incontrovertibly proven that violence was employed extensively in Europe during the 1970s by groups supposedly "on the left" in order to move populations of various countries towards the right prior to important elections -- and this sort of false-flag violence continues to be employed in order to move populations in the same direction.

I would also argue that the appearance of violent blocks claiming to be "anti-fascist counter-protestors" from "the left," engaging in acts of violence or vandalism or destruction, can be seen as discrediting (perhaps deliberately) those who want to denounce the self-proclaimed "right" element -- with the result that "all sides" can be denounced as somehow equally wrong, thus acting to move opinion to the right (by tainting and discrediting the left in this case by their violent and inappropriate actions).

The effect can be described using the metaphor of a large aquarium or "fish-tank," in which some fish are swimming around on the left side of the tank, and some swim more towards the right side of the tank -- but if we move the entire fish-tank further and further in one direction (in this case, towards the right), then after several decades, even the fish at the furthest left boundary of the tank will be farther to the right than the more "right" fish from previous decades.

See, for example, the illustration below (which I made using a composite of this image and this image, from Wikimedia commons):

We could label the fish-tank, as we face it, as having a spectrum that goes from "left" to "right," as we see in the image below. Note that there are fish seen on the left, and on the right. Note the position of the words "left" and "right" relative to the chairs around the table (interestingly enough, twelve chairs arranged in a circle) or the lamps in the ceiling (also twelve in number):

Now, over time, imagine if we could "move" the entire fish-tank towards the right, as we see in the image below:

Notice that the man reading at the table does not even seem to be aware that the entire fish-tank has been shifted to the right -- that's how subtle this process is!

Below, we have re-labeled the tank based on the new boundaries. We still have fish swimming towards the left and towards the right, but now look how much further to the right the fish supposedly on the "left" have become:

The founding documents of the united states (in which, by the way, the words "united states" are frequently not capitalized) declare that "all men are created equal" -- which was a conscious rejection of the foundations of European aristocracy. This lofty assertion was of course marred from the outset by the unconscionable crimes of the genocide of indigenous Native Americans and the importation of slaves from Africa and the enslavement of their children for generations, as well as by institutionalized forms of racism against Asian immigrants and many others in subsequent decades down to the present day. Institutionalized forms of racism have been active in the united states throughout its history, in countless forms (including systematic exclusion from ownership of property in desirable areas, historically one of the primary means of increasing one's wealth). 

The question facing us today is whether we want to move more towards a society that is based equal rights and justice, in recognition of the truth that all men and women are indeed possessed of a spiritual nature which transcends the surface physical details of their physical nature, or whether we want to move further away from it.

The terms "left" and "right" at this point are so contentious and so fraught that they may not be entirely helpful, serving to generate perhaps more heat than light. However, whatever labels we choose, the process described above, of "moving the entire fish-tank" further away from equal rights for all, and  further towards "more rights for some than for others," is a very real phenomenon and one of which we should all become aware, and one which I believe must be countered. 

It is certainly not limited to the united states -- the privatization of the natural resources of other countries to benefit the few at the expense of the overall populace is wrapped up in this entire subject of racism, and is yet another example of a set of facts which can easily show the positions espoused by "white nationalists" to be built upon a rotten scaffolding of lies (because the racially-homogenous Europe of previous decades or centuries that white nationalists sometimes reference as a model or an example can be shown to have supported its economic standard-of-living by exploiting the natural resources and labor of people in other parts of the world, particularly in their far-flung colonies in Africa, Asia, the Americas, and the Pacific).

The truth expressed in the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity in the myths, scriptures and sacred stories around the world tells us that we are more than our physical bodies -- and that trying to reduce others to their physical form is a crime against the divinity present in each and every man and woman and child.

We all know these truths instinctively, at some level. It takes lies and propaganda to make people forget them. Those lies must be opposed, vigorously and passionately. But we do not need to be afraid that those lies might somehow be found to be true, or that our arguments against them might meet with an argument that we cannot counter. And in opposing them, we do not want to sink to the level of violence ourselves -- in fact, we should seriously question the motives of those who do so.

* Additional note (08/16/2017): Just to be perfectly clear, I do not agree with the argument that "the left" is responsible for the tragic violence and loss of life. It should be quite obvious from what I have written above that there is absolutely no moral equivalence between those who are advocating "white nationalism," or any other form of racism, and those who are opposing it. I am pointing out that we might want to be suspicious of people who use violence and claim to be representing "the left" --because there is a documented history during the 1970s of groups that used real violence and terror, and were presented as leftists, when in fact they were part of an operation to drive specific nations towards the right. I am suggesting that we might want to question whether that could still be going on in some cases today: provocative "right-wing" speakers or demonstrators create a spectacle, honest people come to protest those provocateurs, and then violent groups (claiming to be from the "left") are employed in order to try to discredit those opposed to the provocateurs -- or simply to create mayhem on both sides so that the general public asks for more restrictions (thus driving things towards "the right" over time). We should ask ourselves whether it is possible in some situations that the groups supposedly saying they are part of "the left" are in fact organized at some level by "the right" as well. And innocent bystanders can be hurt or even killed by these activities, as happened in the 1970s in Europe (see the link provided in the above post).

Wailers, "One Foundation"

Monday, August 7, 2017

The question of the Turin Shroud

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Special thank-you to a reader who recently sent me an important question about the Shroud of Turin.

The question had to do with whether I had considered and if so what I thought of the Turin Shroud, a piece of linen containing an amazing and thus far unexplained front-and-back image of a man who has apparently suffered from scourging with a whip over most of his back, as well as wounds consistent with crucifixion (through the wrists and feet). Additionally, rivulets of blood apparently dripping down from cuts to the top of the head (as though from a "crown of thorns") can be seen on the linen.

I felt that this was an important enough question to share with others, because it points towards a vital issue regarding literalism (a term which can mean lots of things, but which I am using here to designate the view that scriptures primarily describe literal, terrestrial, and historical events and personages). 

The Turin Shroud, it seems to me, powerfully illustrates the tendency of the literalistic approach to externalize the stories and characters found in the world's ancient myths and scriptures -- to see them as describing persons and situations outside of ourself, and to then venerate that externalized figure or situation, thus powerfully obscuring the possibility that the stories are actually about our own experience in this incarnate life.

I agree with Alvin Boyd Kuhn's assertion, in a passage I've quoted many times (from his address entitled "The Stable and the Manger," delivered in 1936), which declares:
Bible stories are in no sense a record of what happened to a man or a people as historical occurrence. As such they would have little significance for mankind. They would be the experience of people not ourselves, and would not bear a relation to our life. But they are a record, under pictorial forms, of that which is ever occurring as a reality of the present in all lives. They mean nothing as outward events; but they mean everything as picturizations of that which is our living experience at all times. The actors are not old kings, priests and warriors; the one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul. The Bible is the drama of our history here and now; and it is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it! The Bible is about the mystery of human life. Instead of relating to the incidents of a remote epoch in temporal history, it deals with the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth. 4.
Note how well the question of the Shroud of Turin resonates with the ringing assertions of Alvin Boyd Kuhn in the above passage. If we focus on this piece of linen as being the very cloth which shrouded the body of a crucified historical Jesus, and as now containing an image of a literal Jesus (miraculously burned into the very top layer of the linen itself, perhaps by the energy released at the moment of resurrection), and even as containing remnants of his blood, as well as molecules of the dirt and dust from his knees when he knelt, or remnants of the flowers with which his body was adorned in the tomb, then our focus is relentlessly external. 

Our minds are asked to obsess over the details of (as Kuhn might say) "a person not ourselves" -- how tall he was, what his facial features and physique looked like, how he wore his hair, and even what blood type he had. From this perspective, the stories and characters we find related in the ancient texts become accounts of outward events, in a remote epoch, involving ancient occurrences, instead of "the drama of our history here and now -- the reality of the living present in the life of every soul on earth (regardless of their own physique, or stature, or hairstyle, or blood type)."

I have written extensively about the abundant evidence found in the texts themselves which suggests that the stories in the Old and New Testaments (so-called) in the Bible are based upon celestial metaphor from first to last, and that they thus can be shown (in common with the rest of the world's ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred stories) to be describing events which take place in the heavenly realms -- representative of the Other Realm (the realm of spirit, the Invisible Realm), thereby pointing us towards truths regarding the invisible and spiritual realities of this world in which we presently find ourselves, as well as the invisible and spiritual realities of our own nature.

Previous posts (some containing videos) which demonstrate that the stories and characters in the New Testament texts are founded upon celestial metaphor include:
and many others. For an even more extensive exploration of the celestial foundations of the episodes in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, see my 2016 book "Star Myths of the World, and how to interpret them: Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible)."

Based on the overwhelming abundance of evidence, I am quite convinced that the stories and characters described in the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are based upon celestial metaphor and do not describe literal or terrestrial history. 

That conviction absolutely does not mean that I believe that these scriptures are somehow "not true" because I don't take them as literal, terrestrial history. On the contrary, I believe that the Biblical stories, like the rest of the world's ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred traditions from around the globe, are using celestial metaphor in order to convey profound truths of vital importance to our lives -- but that they are doing so esoterically (along the lines of the way Mr. Miyagi taught Daniel-San in the original Karate Kid, or the metaphor of the "finger pointing a way to the moon" in Buddhist tradition, or the way that Montessori uses visual, three-dimensional representations to convey truths about invisible mathematical concepts such as the cubing of a trinomial).

But it does mean that I believe it is a mistake to become too focused upon the outward form of the metaphor rather than the esoteric meaning towards which it is pointing (this would be akin to becoming too focused upon the finger, thus missing all that "heavenly glory," or becoming obsessed with the types of cars that Mr. Miyagi has Daniel-San waxing in the "wax-on, wax-off" scene, as if the outward form of the cars themselves are a necessary component of the karate concepts that Mr. Miyagi is trying to impart).

In light of the foregoing, I believe that the Turin Shroud may be misleading in that it invites us to focus on those very types of external features and supposed historical settings (the composition of the dirt, the methodology of historical crucifixions), rather than pointing us towards the invisible and ever-present truths which the stories are intended to convey. 

Additionally, despite the fact that the image on the Shroud of Turin is indeed wondrous and mysterious, I am not at all convinced that it indicates that the characters and events described in the gospel accounts represent literal events that took place in terrestrial history. 

For one thing, the evidence that the stories in the Bible -- from Genesis all the way to Revelation -- are based upon celestial metaphor is extremely compelling, and what's more it is verifiable: open to examination by anyone who cares to consult the widely-available details in the stories, and look up into the night sky, where the constellations display characteristics that can be shown to match the details in the texts.

The same cannot be said for the Shroud of Turin. I cannot examine the object myself, and submit it to careful analysis. The Turin Shroud has occasionally been permitted to be examined, but only rarely, and not for many years. 

This inaccessibility, in and of itself, should raise serious questions about its authenticity. If the Shroud of Turin is indeed what it is claimed to be, then those who truly believe that it is what it is claimed to be should not be apprehensive about what detailed scientific study of the Shroud (with proper precautions to prevent damage) would discover -- especially because technological capabilities and methods of analysis pertinent to such an investigation have advanced at incredible rates over the past several years since close examination was last permitted.

Another reason that I am not convinced that the Shroud of Turin is the literal linen shroud which was once wrapped around the physical body of a literal and historical Jesus is the fact that it shows blood dripping down the forehead, presumably from the cuts inflicted by a "crown of thorns" as described in the gospel texts, but that these rivulets of blood create some serious doubts about the artifact's authenticity, in my analysis. 

As you can see from the image below, which shows the linen as seen by the naked eye on the left as we face the picture, and as seen in photographic negative on the right, there is a prominent trickle of blood descending from the area of the top of the head towards the right eye (on the left side as we face the image -- note that the full-length image at the top of this post appears to be inverted horizontally, compared to the images below):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

You can see that the bright line of blood shown on the negative image on the right represents what is ostensibly an actual blood-stain on the linen, as seen in the image on the left (as we face the page).

The question this raises to my analysis is why the blood that dripped down from the crown of thorns would not have been cleaned-off prior to wrapping the body in a fine piece of linen, and deposited in its resting place in the tomb (with flowers, if you believe that the flower particles that have been said to have been found on the Shroud actually represent remnants of flowers accompanying the body at the burial).

As you can see from the image on the left, the trickle in question certainly appears to have been "downward" in its flow-direction, beginning at the hairline and descending to the eyebrow, where it ends in a "droplet" shape. However, one would assume that this blood would have been wiped away prior to the burial -- and that if blood were to have continued to flow after burial (which is not at all normal) that blood would not have flowed from the hairline to the brow once the body was laid out horizontally in the tomb. You can verify this for yourself by lying supine upon a flat surface and then tracing a line with your finger from the hairline area towards the eyebrow, and you will see that this would mean the blood was trickling uphill across the forehead towards the eye-region.

For these and other reasons, I am not at all convinced that the Turin Shroud represents physical evidence of a literal burial and literal resurrection -- although, as I explain in Star Myths of the Bible and in some of the posts linked above, I certainly believe in the truths that these ancient texts are conveying to us, in the language of the stars.

This still leaves the question of how the remarkable front-and-back image came to be burned-in to the very upper layers of the linen of the Shroud of Turin. The image itself has amazing properties, properties which only came to be appreciated hundreds of years after the Shroud of Turin was famous. 

Some of these properties include the fact that the image acts as a sort of "photographic negative," preserving data that could only be fully appreciated with the advent of modern photography in the nineteenth century, when photographs of the image revealed this remarkable property. 

Later still, in more recent decades, it has been discovered that the image even encodes three-dimensional data -- a fact which led to the creation of a physical model of these three-dimensional properties by professors at the US Air Force Academy (the model is on display in the cadet chapel at the Air Force Academy).

These amazing properties certainly argue that the image on the Turin Shroud is extraordinary -- but they do not necessarily indicate that it is supernatural, nor do they indicate that it is necessarily the literal shroud in which the body of a literal and historical Jesus was wrapped prior to the moment of resurrection. 

Note that, for the sake of argument, it could be conceded that the image with all its remarkable properties was burned into the surface texture of the linen by means beyond those known to materialist science without necessarily indicating that this cloth was wrapped around a literal and historical Jesus -- I certainly believe in the reality of what is called the "energy body," and would concede that it might be possible for certain advanced practitioners of certain ancient disciplines to accomplish remarkable feats that are not widely known and would not be easily understood by materialist science, even (theoretically) the ability to create burn-marks on the outer surface of fine linen, perhaps. 

In fact, I believe that the cultivation of disciplines involving these "invisible" aspects of our incarnate condition might be one of the layers of meaning that the celestial metaphors in the ancient myths of the world may be designed to esoterically teach.

However, I do not personally believe that the image found on the Shroud of Turin was created by supernatural or even "extra-normal" means at all. Some researchers have posited a very plausible hypothesis by which the image could have been burned into the linen, not by heat but by the activation of a light-sensitive chemical treatment in an early example of photographic technique.

This video series (and there may be others) describes this hypothesis, along the way giving a good overview of the amazing properties of the image on the Shroud of Turin and the reasons to believe that it was indeed created using extraordinary methodologies, although not necessarily supernatural in nature: 

The entire presentation is divided into six videos: each should start automatically after the preceding clip finishes, but if not, you can use these links for parts two, three, four, five and six.

One of the most astonishing aspects of the above hypothesis, of course, is the assertion of the possibility that Leonardo da Vinci may have been intimately involved in the creation of the images on the Shroud of Turin. Leonardo da Vinci, of course, was unquestionably endowed with unmatched intellect, deep learning and astonishing artistic and inventive powers. Less well-known, however, is the fact that his art also contains clear references to the celestial aspects of the Biblical characters and stories he painted -- indicating the possibility that he understood the esoteric (as opposed to literal and historic) nature of the ancient wisdom.

Previous posts have touched on this aspect of da Vinci's art -- for example, see "Scott Onstott reveals the profound message of Leonardo da Vinci and his art," as well as the extended discussion of the apostle Philip in the video on the zodiac and the disciples referenced earlier and linked again here.

To be sure, other artwork depicting Biblical scenes by other artists down through the centuries appears to contain clear references to the celestial connection to specific constellations, and it is very possible that artists were taught certain conventions regarding different characters, without even knowing that these conventions of depicting the characters related directly to the celestial outlines of specific constellations in the night sky. For numerous examples of this phenomenon, see for instance this previous post, and this video, as well as those presented in the Star Myths of the World books, particularly Volumes Two and Three.

Even if the vast majority of artists were not privy to the actual connection between the artistic conventions they were using and the specific constellational features of the characters (matching the constellations to which those characters correspond), if we had to posit an artist who would have known of those connections, Leonardo da Vinci would be a pretty good candidate.

The bigger point to keep in mind, however, is the one with which we began this brief examination of the question of the Turin Shroud, and that is the assertion by Alvin Boyd Kuhn (with which I agree) that the "full force and applicability" of the world's ancient scriptures and myths is not apprehended by any man or woman until he or she realizes the story describes the experience of his or her soul, sojourning in this incarnate life.

Da Vinci himself might have urged us to marvel, not at the bodily image of someone else's body, transmitted onto a piece of linen and thus preserved in remarkable detail, with a beatific expression intended to convey the dignity and divinity of the Christ, but instead to contemplate the miracle of the fact that we ourselves are possessed of a body, filled with miles and miles of veins and arteries and capillaries, with a heart that has been steadily pumping inside our chest without our conscious direction, and lungs that by their incredible design enable the transfer of oxygen to our corpuscles and the subsequent expulsion of carbon dioxide. Even more remarkable, this body in which we find ourselves in this incarnate life is animated by our consciousness, and imbued with the power of sight, and hearing, and taste and smell and touch. We can form thoughts in our minds and transmit them into words, something we take for granted but which is really so miraculous as to be almost inexplicable.

And beyond all of this, we too -- and everyone we ever meet -- are also possessed of the same dignity and divinity which the artists depict in their artwork, according to the testimony of the ancient wisdom given to humanity in the form of the myths. One of the central messages of the ancient myths, I'm convinced, is that a goal of our incarnate journey is the recognition and elevation of this divine nature in ourselves and in others.

To the degree that contemplating the beauty of the myths, or the beatific expression of the image on the Turin Shroud, can assist us in doing that, I believe such contemplation is beneficial. But, to the degree that we persist in externalizing that message -- in focusing only on the divinity and dignity of an external figure, and failing to work on recognizing and elevating that nature in ourselves and in others, then I believe it is possible that we are "focusing too much on the finger" and missing "all that heavenly glory" (in the words of the character played by Bruce Lee, in the movie linked above, and linked again here).

So, as you can see, I believe it was a very important question that was asked, and I am grateful to Mr. M.-H. for sending it to me, all the way from Western Australia! I hope other readers are also grateful for the question about the Turin Shroud, because it illuminates (I believe) some very significant points.

One other thought came to me as I watched the video series linked above describing the hypothesis that the image might have been burned-in to the top layer of the linen using an early and ingenious photographic technique, and that was prompted by the observation that the spectra of the image does not indicate that it was burned-in by heat, but rather by some other means (the researchers in the video believe it was burned-in by light, rather than by heat). It occurs to me that this mechanism might possibly be at work in some crop circles.

I recently (while at the Great Serpent Mound in Ohio) had the opportunity to meet with and see presentations from some of the world's premiere researchers of crop circles, and one of the things they showed me were close-up high-magnification photographs of the stalks of the individual plants which appear to have been burned on one side only, in order to cause them to fall over. It was also related to me that some observers have reported seeing the patterns in the crops actually "going in" by some unseen force, with the plants just falling over as if by themselves. Is it possible that some sort of "light-activated" burning mechanism, similar to the one described in the Leonardo da Vinci hypothesis for the creation of the Turin Shroud in the video above, might be at work in the formation of crop circles? Perhaps the application of some light-reactive agent, which causes the circles to form as the sun comes up and the light strikes the fields?

In any case, whether or not Leonardo da Vinci was responsible for creating the images we see today on the Shroud of Turin, the very possibility (and the achievements exhibited by da Vinci and, each in his or her unique way, every other man and woman) should remind us that each and every one of us -- and humanity in general -- are "fearfully and wonderfully made," as the ancient text of the Psalms declares (Psalm 139).

To conclude by repeating the insight of Alvin Boyd Kuhn: "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."