Arthur George writes an interesting a scholarly blog on the Christian Nativity:
Arthur George writes an interesting a scholarly blog on the Christian Nativity:
The Greek gods partake of nectar and ambrosia. The two words are sometimes used interchangeably. Some Greek authors say the nectar was the drink and ambrosia the food. Some reverse it, so that ambrosia is the drink and nectar the food.
Despite the homologous nature of the divine substances, both nectar and ambrosia were known to imbue longevity or even immortality upon the consumer. They were the mediums of eternal life. In truth, nectar and ambrosia were really one consumed by the gods, and when mortals received it it was at the hands of the gods.
One great scene in the Illiad shows Thetis filling Patroclus’s nostrils with nectar as a way to transform him with strength and life (19.38–49). Curiously enough, this scene has led a few scholars to suggest that the Greek nektar descended from the Egyptian natron, or salt substance inserted through the nostrils and into the body as a way to preserve eternal life in the Egyptian tradition.
Supporting this idea is the fact that when Greeks opened their barrels of wine the liquor had to be consumed or it would spoil (no corks had been invented). There was a way, however, to prolong the life of the opened wine, and that was by salting it. Wine, seen as a substance of transformation given mortals by the gods, was itself given life by natron or salts which preserved the wine from turning into vinegar. This fact may have led to the idea that the wine of the gods was the giver of long lasting life, called nectar, a loan word from the Egyptian natron.
According to R. Drew Griffith in his book Mummy Wheat, the word nektar originally signified the ability to be “carried across death” and may have originally meant “song” (67). That may be a strange connection, but I have shown in my book Mythos and Cosmos, song and dance were an essential part of the funerary rites in both the Egyptian tradition and in the Greco-Roman mysteries. The song itself was a token or symbol that allowed one to make the passage through death.
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I serve on the board to the Utah Valley Astronomy Club (UVAC). We do outreach programs, teaching astronomy and science to schools and community organizations. I am pleased to know a couple professional astro-photographers. Clarence Spencer has a business making cameras and filters for astro-photography. He even has one of his cameras aboard the International Space Station. Richard Keele has made his own tripods and mounts for his work.
There is something about the sky that calls one outside of the Self. In a dark sky under the Milky Way one senses a presence and connection far greater than one’s self. At least for most people this is the case. I have borrowed a few of their pictures and have put them together in a little video. It is well worth sitting back and watching what our universe really looks like. Perhaps we should sit back and reflect what we ourselves might really look like in the big picture. An insignificant speck of dust may not be the right frame of mind to interpret the eternal.
If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales. —Albert Einstein
Traditional fairy tales were the old center of a child’s learning. Before television or radio, it was the bed time story, the fireside story, or the front porch story that entertained and educated the rising generation. With the advent of modern technology the telling of stories has lost the intimate and human touch (the bedside, the fireplace, and the front porch). Stories have become digital. While tall tales can now reach the masses, the inverse is also true, stories are mass produced, mass marketed, and mass formulated. There is something about the mass that dilutes the power of story.
This is nowhere better seen than in the movies. Action movies are formulaic. The oral fairy tale was told as an interweaving between the emotional attunement of teller and hearer. Movies are not; they seek the maximum amount of entertainment dollars by formulating a spectacle for the masses. The fairy tale was the stage of the individual imagination. The modern action movie has become the mechanical pageantry of the coliseum. The first stage opened the imagination. The latter arena simply dulls the senses.
Conservative religious culture often swings counter the mass media culture by teaching its rising generation only Bible stories. The fantastic of the fairy tale is replaced by the morally pure pronouncements of the ethical tale. While there are folklore and fairytale elements to some biblical narratives, Noah, Jonah, and Samson are now taught as historical episodes whose imaginative resources have often been reduced to simple notions of “what does it mean to be obedient to god?”
It is good every once in a while to recalibrate our idea of what a good story is. Must a story be “true” in order to be moral? Or worthwhile? Or proper? Must a story be historical in order to be true? Must a story
Miguel Conner interviews me on his iconic show Aeon Byte on Gnostic Radio. Interview begins at the 15 minute mark, and Miguel’s stylized introduction that he does for all his shows is well worth the listen.
Lynn is one of the most intellectually versed people I have met, equally capable of discussing religion, philosophy, and cosmology, and their social, theological, and political implications. He is a Lutheran minister at a small community chapel in California. His sermons are geared towards his parishioners, who probably only get Lynn’s devotional treatises. Even more delightfully, he is married to a Presbyterian minister, who co-runs the chapel and who is quite capable of arguing with him. I have sat and listened to the both of them argue issues with more insight than many an academic class I have taken.
Lynn interviewed me on public access television for Humboldt County, California. Here is our conversation:
I will be speaking at the CPAK 2016 conference this year, held September 30th through October 2nd at the Westin Resort in Rancho Mirage, California. CPAK is a conference dedicated to ancient cultures, mythology, astronomy, and history. The Conference topics tend to look at historical anomalies (i.e. the Antikythera Device or the Baghdad Batteries controversy), discusses ancient cosmology (including myth and astronomy and possible knowledge of the precession of the equinoxes before Hipparchus), the dating of archeological finds (i.e. Robert Schoch’s theory of the Great Sphinx), archaeoastronomy, and other such topics.
My presentation will be on The Mythic Canon: How Oral People’s Created Civilization. I will briefly discuss the nature of human intelligence and the epistemological divide between oral and literate peoples. I will also explain how the oral memory theater works, and how oral peoples layer their memories using cosmology, myths, rituals, and sacred space as reinforcements of one another. The knowledge they pass on deals with the central tenants of their culture and may include cultural, theological, cosmological, and technological precepts.
While there are a variety of approaches at the conference, there is some very good work being done here. Also, people familiar with Graham Hancock, Robert Bavaul, Walter Cruttenden, and Robert Schoch will enjoy this conference. Of course, it’s being held at the Westin Resort, which is absolutely beautiful. It should be a very fun conference.
Admittedly, my presentation will be academically based, but it will reorient our thoughts about prehistory and our own assumptions about human consciousness in the hoary past.
When I consider the short duration of my life, swallowed up in the eternity that lies before and after it, when I consider the little space I fill and I see, engulfed in the infinite immensity of spaces of which I am ignorant, and which know me not, I rest frightened, and astonished, for there is no reason why I should be here rather than there. Why now rather than then? Who has put me here? By whose order and direction have this place and time have been ascribed to me? —Pascal
Astronomy is useful because it raises us above ourselves; it is useful because it is grand. . . . It shows us how small is man’s body, how great his mind, since his intelligence can embrace the whole of this dazzling immensity, where his body is only an obscure point, and enjoy its silent harmony. — Poincaré
I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars, and planets, has a deeper meaning, but at the very least it is clear that we humans who live on this Earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves. — Dalai Lama
The three quotations above show three different attitudes towards the relationship between humans and their cosmos. The first cosmos swallows man into insignificance; the sheer scale of time and space reduces humankind into specks of dust. The second also recognizes man as dust, but makes his mind equal to the immensity of space because it is his mind that dares to imagine within the eternal. The third subordinates such comparisons underneath the utilitarian and even involuntary need to make meaning regardless of size or scale, and to live meaningfully in an infinite cosmos. And the cosmos is that infinite thing that, despite the separate attitudes towards it, everyone must take for granted.
The size of the universe is incomprehensible. No one really knows how many galaxies exist. Currently, scientists estimate that there are a minimum of 200 billion galaxies, though this estimate has been pushed to 500 billion by some. But no one really knows.
Each galaxy contains billions of stars. And in fact no really knows how many stars are in our own galaxy. The low estimate is 100 billion stars. The high estimate is 400 billion stars. But in such wild estimates, what’s a billion stars? Our galaxy, however, is relatively small compared to others. Many galaxies are nearly 10 times the size of the Milky Way. The largest known galaxy appears to be 40 times the size of our galaxy with a mass of 100 trillion stars.
No one knows how many planets are in the universe. No one knows how many planets are within our own galaxy. In fact, we are not even sure how many planets are in our own solar system, judging from a new report of a possible large planet at the very edge of our own system. Planets were once thought to be relatively rare. Now scientists are fairly certain that every star has a planet. Some stars, like our own, will have multiple planets. Others will have swarms of planets orbiting them. In other words, if there are countless trillions and trillions of stars, then there are going to be countless trillions and trillions of planets.
The space between the stars is also unimaginable. Stars are separated by light years of space. A light year is about 6 trillion miles. Most stars have 100 trillion miles of space around them. The closest galaxy to our own Milky Way is the Andromeda Galaxy. This galaxy is over twice the size of our own with an estimated 1 trillion stars. It is 2.5 million light years away, and it just so happens to be heading our way. In about 4 billion years the Andromeda Galaxy will collide with the Milky Way Galaxy. The thing is, there is such vast distances between stars that when the two galaxies collide they will simply “pass through” each other, the gravitational pull of the stars combining the galaxies in a cosmic dance of give and take.
And this is just the macrocosm. Consider the microcosm. No one knows how many cells are in a human body. The best estimate is about 100 trillion. There are 100 trillion cells in a human body, each clustered into their own “galaxies” of relations and functions forming a fantastically rescaled universe within each of us. And further, it is estimated that there are 100 trillion atoms in each cell. Each atom is composed of protons, neutrons, and electrons. And the protons and neutrons are in turn composed of quarks. Some have suggested that quarks (for convenience sake, the “smallest” known “particle”) may in fact be composed of even smaller energies/vibrations/particles. Furthermore, the relative distance between a proton and its orbiting electrons is greater than the relative distance of stars in our galaxy to each other.
From the above to the below the scale of the universe is imponderable. Such numbers and relations are impossible for the human mind to fathom. In the face of such depthless dimensions and cataclysmic powers separated by an eternal yawn of space, many people have rejected any religious notion of God, or Soul, or a special place in the cosmos for Humankind. We are nothing but specks of dust, goes the thinking, residing on a speck of dust swirling within other specks of dust; neither Earth nor Man is the center of anything, and therefore has no intrinsic meaning or value.
This is a strange conclusion. If the universe is immeasurable, why are we assigning meaning to its measure? In a universe incommensurate to our understanding of size and scale, why do we assign a meaninglessness to our size and scale? To say that we are nothing but specks of dust says nothing about our relationship with the universe. What difference would it make if Man were the size of a stellar red giant? Or Woman the size of a galaxy? If size and proportion are the only things that give meaning, then what is one star or galaxy in a countless sea of galaxies?
Nor is position important. Modern science has shown that the universe seems endless. It should strike one as rather elementary that in the infinite there is no center because there is no perimeter. In the eternal, every point in space is equal. One could actually say that every point is the center. But once again such notions are only reflections on size and scale, and the eternal reduces size and scale to the irrelevant.
Furthermore, consider if you were a “conscious” nucleotide embedded within a strand of DNA. If you looked around you might at first assume that the cosmos you lived in was the cell in which you resided. Over time, however, you discovered that there were other cells, other organs, galaxies of cells and formations stretching . . . well, 100 trillion times beyond your own little cosmos. In such space you might consider yourself utterly insignificant, meaningless, and pointless. But what happens to the cell, or the body at large, if you were to remove a segment of DNA here or there? The entire universe changes, or even collapses.
Looking at the universe as a two dimensional canvas reduces human beings as specks of dust. And if the universe in nothing but “rocks in motion,” as my old friend Lynn Hubbard likes to say, then perhaps such a two-dimensional view is justified. We human beings, however, are conscious. We can imagine, reason, create, and philosophize. That makes us really interesting specks of dust. Like nucleotides, conscious specks may hold an altogether different relation to the universe at large besides the relation of size and scale.
I have always found the idea of a fractal universe more plausible than a universe that is only up, down, left, and right. Here is a dictionary definition and a picture of a fractal:
fractal: a curve or geometric figure, each part of which has the same statistical character as the whole. Fractals are useful in modeling structures (such as eroded coastlines or snowflakes) in which similar patterns recur at progressively smaller scales, and in describing partly random or chaotic phenomena such as crystal growth, fluid turbulence, and galaxy formation.
The image above shows a large construct of geometric forms that all flow from and reflect the surrounding forms. In fact, if you take one tiny segment of this image (the segment within the red square) and expand it you get this:
One can truly get a sense of the geometric relations of fractals by watching this video: Mandlebrot Fractals. Madlebrot fractals are named after Benoit Mandlebrot who was a mathematician who created an algorithm that reproduced infinite fractal shapes.
Fractal geometry shows that complex systems can be interdependent, and that the smallest form or portion of that system is not only an integrated portion of the whole, but a fundamental reflection of the whole. This is called scale-invariance. No matter the scale, each part reflects every other part. While there is a vast difference in size, the nucleotide is as invariant in form and function as the liver, which in turn is as invariant as the entire pulmonary system, or the whole body. Scale invariance recognizes that star dust is as essential as galaxies, and that the two are in a very real way a reflection of each other.
This returns us back to the idea of the individual conscious soul and its relation to the universe. We human beings are specks of dust. The fact that we are conscious specks of dust should tell us a couple things about the universe however. First off, and what should seem obvious, if we human beings are conscious beings, that means matter creates consciousness. The fact that no one has any idea how consciousness came about, or even what it is, should tell us that we still are clueless on very fundamental aspects of matter. If we as little specks of dust are conscious, then does that mean the universe is conscious? What does that mean? What could it mean?
Secondly, what would happen to the universe if all the little conscious specks of dust in it were removed? Would the universe just keep rolling on, as so many insist, or, are we conscious specks like the nucleotides in DNA? Would our removal essentially cause the collapse of the whole system?
I think maybe the latter is the case, and that perhaps we should consider that glittering within every speck of cosmic consciousness is a reflection of the whole cosmic scheme. And when it comes to consciousness, size is irrelevant because the soul is invariant.
And when it comes to consciousness, size is irrelevant because the soul is invariant.
Before the melting of the glaciers during the last Ice Age, sea levels were nearly 400 feet lower than they are today. This means of course that vast stretches of additional coastline were exposed and utilized by this land’s occupants. This also means that structures would have been built on these lands, structures long swallowed up by the slow yet steady rising sea tides. The encroachment of the sea took numerous centuries to unfold, but one may wonder if oral traditions had kept alive the locations of some of the more famous settlements and temples that were now known to be below the sea. Being that the rising ocean levels occurred worldwide, one may also hypothesize that these memories may have helped to develop the ubiquitous flood myth shared around the globe.
As evidence of ancient occupation on this prehistoric shoreline, a 30,000 pound stone monolith dating to about 8,000 BCE was recently discovered off of the coast of Sicily. No one knows what it was used for, but its existence shows that standing stones of considerable size were being employed at this date. The construction and movement of such stones also implies complex social organization. Additionally, a Stone Age settlement has been discovered on the sea floor in the English Channel dating to at least 6,000 BCE, showing that what is now sea was once inhabited by peoples who were building, organizing, and creating communities well before the supposed “birth of civilization” recorded in our textbooks as occurring sometime around 3,500 BCE with the first established villages and small cities in Mesopotamia. The complex stone ring at Gebekli Tepe dating to at least 8,500 BCE proves that complex building as well as sophisticated social and religious organization existed millennia prior to our outdated models of human cultural evolution.
One must remember that many of the earliest stone shrines in Mesopotamia and in Egypt are actually built after models of the nomadic tent. Tent cities leave no trace, and we assume that an ancient nomadic caravan was more interested in catching game and finding berries than in anything else. This assumption is grossly misplaced. One is reminded that when the Lakota Sioux journeyed with their teepees during the Spring, while catching game and collecting berries, they were actually following the sun’s entrance into specific Lakota constellations which had analogical representations on the ground. When the sun entered one constellation, the Lakota migrated to a mountain or hill which was the earthly representation of that group of stars.
Nomadic clans carry with them complex social, philosophical, cosmological, and religious constructs which organize their society. The megalithic rings, clay brick ziggurats, and stone pyramids are new architectural wonders predicated on very old cosmological ideas. We also assume that the nomadic tent predated these grand structures, but when we find giant monoliths and stone temples dating thousands of years before our ziggurats and pyramids, we are given pause to think that the nomadic clan may not be the prototype of civilization, but an afterthought of more complex social forms that had existed millennia prior. The conception of linear history is a product of literacy. Linear progression in history is a projection of a modern evolutionary model. These constructs are metaphysical projections which may or may not have relevance for the monolith builders of 10,000 years ago.
It is now clearly understood that megalithic rings had their architectural precursor in Neolithic wood henges. The structures are called Rondel Enclosures, and hundreds have been found throughout Europe dating to nearly 5,000 BCE. One of the most famous of these henges is the Goseck Circle, constructed in 4,900 BCE within the traditional Rondel design: concentric rings and mounds of earth with wooden palisades holding two or three openings. The openings of the Goseck Circle have been shown to be aligned with the solar cycle and allowed for the measurement of a solar calendar and most likely a lunar one as well.
At least by 4,000 BCE this design had dispersed itself into ancient Britain. Perhaps the most famous stone circle in present day England is known as Stonehenge, first constructed from wood around 3,000 BCE, but then rebuilt with massive stones at about 2,600 BCE. Yet Stonehenge is a late model. Far to the north in Scotland is the Orkney Complex built at least 1,500 years before Stonehenge was constructed. Orkney is a Neolithic masterpiece, with one writer noting:
This is the temple complex of the Ness of Brodgar, and its size, complexity and sophistication have left archaeologists desperately struggling to find superlatives to describe the wonders they found there. “We have discovered a Neolithic temple complex that is without parallel in western Europe. Yet for decades we thought it was just a hill made of glacial moraine,” says discoverer Nick Card of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology. “In fact the place is entirely manmade, although it covers more than six acres of land.”
Once protected by two giant walls, each more than 100m long and 4m high, the complex at Ness contained more than a dozen large temples – one measured almost 25m square – that were linked to outhouses and kitchens by carefully constructed stone pavements. The bones of sacrificed cattle, elegantly made pottery and pieces of painted ceramics lie scattered round the site. The exact purpose of the complex is a mystery, though it is clearly ancient. Some parts were constructed more than 5,000 years ago.
Orkney shows a massive building program incorporating multiple temples, buildings, walls, shrines, kitchens, and pottery making tools. Surrounding this complex was a sophisticated network of farms and villages interlinked by sacred space and liturgy, for most archaeologists agree that Orkney is a ritual center of some sort, though what was believed or worshipped is a complete mystery.
In the ancient world different sites were linked together. This contextual network is very different from our modern notions of sacred space, where worshippers go to “their church corner” where they worship within their tradition. Other churches have their own traditions. There may be similarities or differences, but the worshipping space is immobile and set. The idea of a pilgrimage is foreign to most modern church goers, unless it means going to some national or amusement park. Not so in the ancient world, where different sites represented different loci between heaven and earth, and where different yet related deities could influence the cosmic balance for those performing the necessary rites. Migration and pilgrimage are often blurred, as in the case of the Lakota whose Spring journey was both.
As such, what was once thought of as individual mounds and henges are now seen as connected in a network of sacred “zones.” It has now been revealed, for example, that Stonehenge was part of a massive landscape of standing stones. The original Stonehenge was not a solitary ring in the middle of the prairie, but was connected with colossal avenues of stone which in turn pointed to other related henges. Some scholars believe that the natural landscape was also part of this ritual cosmography, where hills and rivers also represented heaven-earth correspondences. We are dealing with a much greater cosmovision than most recently thought of, as well as a far more connected and complex society who were as sophisticated as any other people, but who were rooted in the Neolithic and Mesolithic cultures and techniques of the day.
Reflecting upon these connections has led me to propose a new theory to one of the great mysteries of Stonehenge. Stonehenge was originally a wooden henge, much like the Rondel Enclosures found throughout ancient Europe. Over the course of 1,500 years the site was rebuilt several times, and large standing stones eventually took the place of standing timber.
The outer concourse of standing stones are called Sarsens and are made of sandstone or sedimentary rock. There is an inner semi-ring of stones called bluestones. These stones are made of various kinds of dolerite, which is an igneous rock formed by the cooling of lava. The rock is a kind of “fire-stone.” Recently the exact origin of these stones was discovered. These multi-ton rocks were quarried 160 miles away in Wales and transported to the site. (There are still a few geologists who insist that the blue stones were not transported by humans but by glacier drift.) The skill and labor required to transport the multi-ton stones from so far away has everyone asking, “For what purpose were they needed?” There are no definite answers.
The exact ritual or cosmological uses of the site are unknown. We would be remiss to think that the site was not used for rituals within a deep cosmological worldview. Ancient oral religion and cosmology cannot be separated. My own theory as to why the bluestones needed to be transported to the site is one of resonance. Nicholas Campion has pointed out that bronze was used even after the discovery of the much stronger iron because bronze held a symbolic equivalence with the sun. It was the “cosmic resonance” of the material that was prized over its utility. Meanwhile, Schwaller de Lubicz also provides a stunning insight when he mentions that in some Egyptian temples limestone was used in the outer walls but granite was used for the inner sanctuaries.
While granite is stronger, and again we might think of the sheer utility of the building material, ancient oral minds were always considering the types and functions of the materials they were using. Granite is also an igneous rock, and one sees in the Egyptian cosmovision that each temple was a recreation of the world, where sedimentary rock was the outer “watery” world of chaos and the central shrine was the created order of the sun god Ra. Granite was a fire rock indicative of this symbolism.
This is no idle speculation. One is reminded that when Rome was founded a trench was dug circumscribing the city. While in most textbooks we are told that this trench defined the defensive wall that was to be built, in truth the trench held a completely symbolic value as a sacred boundary between the cosmic watery chaos and the new cosmic order of the established city. In the Near East and in Egypt cities were models of the cosmos and were established upon symbolic rules that had descended from prehistory. Many temples were built also as representations of the cosmos, with the waters of chaos signified outside the temple walls and the temple shrine itself representing the ideal established order and the realm of the gods. In the Hebrew temple the holy of holies was constructed as a cube where the fiery throne of Yahweh lay. Beneath the altar was the Well of Souls representative of the apsu, or underworld waters. Here was a symbolic representation of the cosmos. It is no coincidence that Pythagoras insisted that the center of the universe was a fiery cube, or that the Egyptian dead had to sail through the dark underworld waters and arise through several lakes of fire to find eternal life.
So it is with Stonehenge. At least this is my proposal. The bluestones were igneous rocks and they held a cosmological resonance to the overall metaphysical scheme of the temple. The inner ring of bluestones was the realm of fire, the created order, and the domain of the gods. They may have also been linked with similar temples or rites that were located and practiced 160 miles away from where the stones originated. In other words, the bluestones were an absolute symbolic requirement that in some way linked the builder’s vision with heaven and earth and to other sites with similar connections. As one journeyed through the avenue of stones and entered the sanctuary they were making a “cosmic voyage” through the heavens, represented itself by the building materials, landscape features, and connections to other sites.
This theory still does not tell us what they were practicing. It simply provides a functional theory for the absolute necessity of the building material being used. There is a specific reason that the builders transported several-ton-stones nearly 200 miles for the sites’ construction. That reason is, in my view, symbolic resonance with a cosmographic scheme. The builders were reproducing a picture of the heavens in the stones of the earth.