Archive for the Spirituality Category

Pace-Maker

Posted in All, Psychology, Science, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2011 by marushiadark

“Can you hear it?  Hear this rhythm?  It’s the rhythm of time … and life.” ~ Fatman, Metal Gear Solid 2.

A friend of mine recently sent me a link to this animated lecture called The Secret Powers of Time, by Philip Zimbardo.  I watched it, trying as best I could not to analyze it, but to just empty my cup and take it all in as new information and a different perspective.

The general gist of the lecture is that there are six different “time zones” that people live in and that this has a profound effect on the way those people view the world, conduct themselves, where they live, how their mind works, and so forth.  I won’t go into too much detail about that.  If you wanna know, you can just watch it yourself.  This post is mainly my reflections on it.

From my own experience, I can attest that cities in the southern portions of countries tend to have a much different experiences of time than people in the northern portions.

Let’s compare two such cities: Savannah, Georgia, and New York, New York.  Both are major cities, but the overall pace of Savannah is much slower, much calmer, much more relaxed.  Even the appearance of the city seems to reflect this difference.  Where New York is crammed and full of skyscrapers, Savannah is much more open, with the tallest buildings being scarcely above twelve floors.  The whole city of Savannah seems to shut down somewhere between 6PM and 10PM, with few exceptions, whereas some place like New York is still alive and active during that time; in fact, it’s often just beginning to wake up.

This is just one example taken in brief.  I’m sure if you’ve traveled at all in your life, you can think of many examples like this.  You could probably also notice the subtle differences in pace between some place like New York and Philadelphia, where the change in latitude is smaller, but the relative pace is still proportional.

So a general rule, what Philip Zimbardo said about north-south relations of time seems accurate.

It makes sense from a physical standpoint too, since as you go north, the distance between lines of longitude grows shorter.  You can cover more ground (in a polar sense) in the same amount of time, ergo you are more productive.

But one thing I noticed as Zimbardo was talking is that this is a relative value.  Time is a factor in pace, but so are other things like climate, population, and the availability of resources.  For instance, Santa’s Workshop at the North Pole is a highly efficient machine compared to New York, but the same can’t be said for Albany or Toronto.

Perhaps the most valuable insight in Zimbardo’s lecture is how he highlights the way in which younger generations are geared to think digitally and thus at a faster pace than their parents and grandparents, who are accustomed to analogue.  That every second is precious and waiting is a pain is something I think will only become worse (or better) as time goes by.  Soon, it won’t be seconds we’re counting, but microseconds, especially with the advancement of computer technology wherein computers begin to piece together complex patterns that only the human brain can do right now.

Technology doesn’t make things better, it just makes things faster.  Technology only makes things better where lack of speed and efficiency in accomplishing a task was the fundamental problem in the first place.

The same fundamental problems exist for humans everywhere.  The disparities between the pace of life in the north and south, I think, are ultimately largely a matter of differences in the way in which people have resolved these problems.  How they’ve assessed what their needs are and how to go about acquiring them.  The same can be said of the conservative vs. liberal model, or of the traditional vs. modern model.  Such extremes are only paths and we take a left or a right at any given fork based on what we want or need in any given moment.

I’m sure all of you reading this right now, if I asked you to, could come up with a list of values, beliefs, and practices that you agree with and those you disagree with, and in full assessment of said lists, you’d find that, more than anything, you probably aren’t fully to one side or the other in any of those models I just described.

Some of you may consider yourself pious, religious persons, for instance, yet you don’t dive into the deep end of the pool and live monastically in a convent, eating mush and practicing asceticism.  Do you?

Conversely, those of you who abhor religion probably see the value, either from a rational perspective, or otherwise through intuition, that certain rules and morals like “don’t hurt people on purpose without a good reason” are good and necessary and that, whether you’re aware of it or not, society is living and functioning because of such rules and principles.

All things in moderation, including moderation.  Your pace should change with the circumstances.  When you drive a car, you go one speed in a school zone and another on the highway, and somewhere in between all other times, right?  You adapt your pace with the changes in the road, and you adapt your pace of life, and your temporal focus in much the same way.

So which time zone should we live in?  Zimbardo seems to favor the future, but I think the present’s where it’s at.  When you look out, you see mostly just what is right in front of you in that moment, occasionally glancing to the left and right through your peripherals.  If you turn your head, you environment changes, but your anatomy hasn’t changed.  You’re still looking at what is directly in front of you in the immediate sense.  So I think it must be in life that we remain mostly in the present, while keeping the past and the future in our peripherals.

The past tells us where we came from and how we got to the state we’re in.  The future gives us a sense of where we are, or would like to go.  But the present just is.  And let it be.

10,000 Things

Posted in All, Miscellaneous, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 1, 2011 by marushiadark

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” ~ Bruce Lee

There once was a great and powerful emperor who adored cats more than anything in the world.  One day, he hired a very famous artist, the most skilled master painter in all the land.  He commissioned this artist to paint a picture of a cat, instructing him that it should be representative of everything that a cat is.  “It should be playful, mysterious, comforting, protective, cunning, soft, flexible, wise, mischievous, and all the various traits a cat would have,” explained the emperor.

The master painter bowed before his emperor and said that he would be able to paint such a painting, but that it would take time.  The emperor was so enthusiastic about his painting that he allowed the artist to take as much time as he needed to complete the task.

A week went by and the emperor grew anxious.  He went to see the artist and asked if his painting was finished yet.  The master artist said it was not ready yet, but that the emperor should come back in one month’s time.  A month passed and the emperor returned again to check on the artist’s progress.  “Still not ready,” said the artist, “Come back in another month.”

In this way, month after month had passed until months became years and years turned into ten whole years before the emperor finally returned one day, now becoming rather impatient.

“Yes,” said the artist, at last, “It is ready.”

The master artist then pulled out his brush and made several black strokes on a piece of rice paper, creating the perfect image of a cat.  The emperor was so elated by the image that he forgot his anger and began to showed the master painter with praises and accolades as he described how wonderful the piece was.  “It is everything that a cat is,” the emperor said, “From its whiskers to its ears to its eyes to its tail, it has all the qualities and traits a cat would have.  But why, pray tell, did it take you ten years when all you did was paint a few short strokes here?”

The artist then bade the emperor to walk with him to a large wooden closet.  The master painter opened the closet door and out poured thousands upon thousands of sheets of paper, each one a practice sheet of imperfect standard and quality.

This parable was first told to me by one of my mentors in college, who taught us that in order to be great at anything, it takes about 10,000 bad attempts before one good one finally emerges.  Likewise, to the ancient Chinese, if one knew 10,000 things, that person was said to be all-knowing.

As you make your New Year’s resolutions, keep this parables in mind.  For those who wish to get in better shape, consider what doing 10,000 sit-ups would do for you.  Or for those who wish to learn something new, like playing the piano, imagine what 10,000 hours of practice would accomplish.  Or what reading 10,000 pages would accomplish.

You don’t have to do them all at once, of course.  In fact, it’s better if you don’t.  Spread them out across the days and months and years, if need be.  But at least this gives you a visible and trackable goal.  Regardless of whether you ultimately become the person you want to be, you can be sure that if you do one thing 10,000 times, you will certainly be a master at something, especially if that something is yourself.

A Brief History of Yule

Posted in All, Humor, Miscellaneous, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 21, 2010 by marushiadark

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose, Yuletide carols being sung by a choir and folks dressed up like eskimos.” ~ The Christmas Song

Today is Yule, a day that celebrates the Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year and the official start of the winter season.  It’s an ancient pagan holiday dating back some ten thousand years at least.  It is even known to have been practiced during the early days of Stonehenge.  In fact, it is now believed that the site itself was used as a temple for that very purpose.

In my junior year of high school, we read Beowulf around December.  My literature teacher at the time gave our class a history lesson on ancient Norse pagans and how monks later wrote down many of the oral tales, inserting Christian concepts in place of the pagan ones.  We were told this was done for various reasons.  One was because the monks found the tales exciting and interesting, but had to transpose religious ideologies to avoid being prosecuted as heretics.  Another was because the church wanted to convert the pagan population altogether.

The concept of Christianity supplanting its beliefs onto those of other cultures should not be news to anyone in this day and age.  Since the formation of the Catholic Church in the 4th Century, the Church has been systematically acquiring and assimilating rites and holidays from cultures all over the world; one of the earliest being to convert the image of Sol Invictus, the unconquerable sun, into the image of Jesus Christ.

Many Roman sites, such as Trajan’s Column and the Pantheon, were also converted into Christian monuments.  And when the Conquistadors sailed to the New World, they built Churches on top of the Mesoamerican temples.  Christmas is another one of those things that the Church stole from other pagan religions to make their particular version seem more palatable to the locals.

Just before Christmas time that same year, my literature teacher explained to us the history of the yule log and where that tradition comes from.  Since then, I’ve acquired a bit more information to fill out the rest of the details of the story.

In my posts on the Circumpunct and the Solar Cross, I explained briefly that the ancients worshiped the sun as the source of all light and truth, and that they held December 21 as the death of the sun with the 25th being its rebirth.

The Winter Solstice is also the time of year when feminine, yin energy is at its maximum.  As we know from looking at a taijitu, the universe will often create its opposite as the direct result of something being in its maximum state.  In ancient paganism, the height of feminine energy demanded a ritual to be performed that would invoke the opposite and continue the cycle to the opposite extreme.  Towards that end, the festival of the Yule Log was created.

The feast of Yule actually gives us two notable icons in modern day Christmas celebrations: the Yule Log and the Christmas Tree.

The Yule Log was originally cut from a large pine tree, usually the biggest one that could be found.  The pine tree was actually a phallic symbol in this ceremony and represented tremendous strength, size, power, and masculine energy.  To this day, we still refer to a man having as erection as him “having wood.”

Once the tree was chosen, it was covered in tar and pitched and set up vertically (i.e. “erect”).  The celebrants would then light the tree on fire – fire being an earthly reflection of the sun, in whose honor the ceremony was performed.  The people would then dance and eat and fuck around this burning symbol of solar masculinity as part of their Yuletide festivities.

In modern times, we still “light our trees,” only we do so with LEDs instead of embers.  If we light a piece of wood on fire, it’s usually in the confines of a fireplace or outdoor fire pit instead of the middle of the village.

I think we all know well the Catholic Church’s position when it comes to sex (and I’m not talking about missionary style).  It’s obvious that such sexually charged rituals as these would not fly in the midst of those that wanted to manipulate pagan persons into believing that their salvation could only come from the one true savior JC.  But the people would be hard-pressed to convert if they had to give up all their rituals.  I mean, let’s face it, if the choice was between partying and mass, between wild orgies and abstinence, and there were really no spiritual distinctions between the two, which would you choose?

So the church performed a triage and allowed the local peoples to keep their trees and their feasts and their songs and some of the yuletide benefits (so long as they were married), and in exchange, the people would celebrate a new version of the holiday with Christ as the central figure in place of the sun.

That’s somewhat ironic, since Christ was originally a sun god himself, but with enough history having gone buy, it evolved into something much different, and the holiday is evolving still.

History, Part 2: In the Beginning …

Posted in All, Economics, Politics, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 19, 2010 by marushiadark

Start at the beginning … and when you come to the end, stop.” ~ Alice in Wonderland.

History is the study of what has happened in the past.  Obviously, that is a very broad definition and covers a very long period of time (several billion years, by our most current model).  There are many different lenses through which we can view history.  We can talk about political history, economic history, geological history, astronomical history, ancient history, American history, local history, zoological history, and so on and so forth.

Learning consists of acquiring two things: information and knowledge.

The various facts, dates, names, and places that most people memorize in school are part of the information.  Making someone memorize information is generally useless.  Unlike in school, life gives no tests on your ability to regurgitate information.  If you don’t know a particular piece of information, you can simply look it up.  That’s what libraries and the internet are there for.  If you can’t retain it after looking it up, write it down.  That’s what writing and recording instruments were created for.

What’s more important is that you understand the general motivations and context to the information.  To do that, we must start at the very beginning of things and work our way up from there.

However, one could write a whole book on just the first three minutes of the universe and still not cover everything.  Heck, you could write a really big book of several thousand pages and still not cover everything.  So it should go without saying that what I write in this blog no where near reflects the totality of what can be written about history.

I do not profess to have all the answers or know everything about anything, but think of this as though we are working on a puzzle and I have some pieces that you don’t, and I have seen where some pieces fit in that others miss.

Life is a giant puzzle in which everything has its place.  Unless you are taught something patently false, like that America was discovered in the year 1983 or something to that effect, then all new information can be fitted somewhere along side previous information.  Like in a puzzle, incorporating the new with the old will give you a much clearer sense of the larger picture, with a few key pieces leading to subsequently filling in all the places in between so that the holes become smaller and smaller.

“By the word religion, I have seen the lunacy of fanatics of every denomination be called the will of God.  I’ve seen too much religion in the eyes of too many murderers.” ~ Kingdom of Heaven.

In my studies, I have developed a sort of paradigm in which everything can be explained in terms of energy.  For years, I’d used principles of economics as a metaphor for matter of the spirit and karma, and I had always sort of separated the mundane from the spiritual.  I knew that there were those who followed The Spirit and there were those who loved money.

I was familiar with concepts like “love your neighbor,” “it’s always all about the money,” “follow the money,” “the will to power,” and “the dynamic principle of existence is survival.”

It wasn’t until I started listening to Brandon Adams’ lectures, however, that I truly realized that everything throughout time and space could be seen through an economic and legal paradigm as well.  This was a truly profound revelation, and not one that I was able to accept easily.  I had many periods of cognitive dissonance while trying to digest and accept this new perspective.  But once I finally started to understand and integrate it, it brought me a degree of inner peace and knowledge that I had not felt before.  Truly, it was a marriage of the mundane and the spiritual.

I think I first understood the true implications of this paradigm while I was copying down legal definitions from the Uniform Commercial Code and Black’s Law Dictionary to use as reference.  I wanted to create a list starting at the very beginning for everyone to follow.

This lead me back through the different stages in hierarchy of law until I finally got to Natural Law.  From there, I had a profound and, at least to my knowledge, unique understanding about the phrase, “will of God.”

You see, the law of conservation is one of the very few absolute rules of the universe.  God could not create something from nothing.  If God existed all alone in the void and was all that there was, he would have to create the universe out of himself, by subdividing himself somehow, whether in his mind (like a partitioned hard-drive) or in matter (i.e. the Big Bang).

It is said that the Big Bang created space and time and that God made the heavens (void) and the earth (matter).  Both are said to be responsible for the creation of the universe and natural law.

Well, this is what I realized while my brain was still in a mode for speaking legalese.

Typically, we think of “God’s will” as being that which he wants us to do, right?  As though God were looking down on us and directing us to do this or that.  Over the centuries, many people of religious minds have claimed that this or that action was “God’s will” or that “God wills it so.”

Well, in legal terms, what is a will?  A will, or more precisely a “last will and testament,” is a document that states certain things that you wish to be carried out after your death, particularly with regards to the handling of your property.  So the phrase, “God’s will” refers to God’s last will and testament, in which he sets out the guidelines (natural law) for the managing of his property, which is the whole universe.  That was the theory I’d come up with.

And then, of course, Nietzsche would have been right in saying “God is dead,” if by his death we are referring to the moment in which God chose to stop being God and broke down into component parts in the Big Bang.

In that case, Nietzsche would also have been right to say that the dynamic principle of existence was “the will to power,” in that the components of the universe assemble and collect together, thereby becoming more powerful until ultimately the whole universe is gathered up together again in the Big Crunch, reassembling God.

The will to power relates to survival in that something increases its survival potential by gaining more power, the goal, the law of nature, of course being to survive as long as possible.  Human beings gain money, influence, technology, and knowledge because such things are forms of power that lead to increased survival and longevity, as individuals or a species.  Things like planets and stars have immense power and can survive for billions of years.  Along with the laws of causality and conservation, survival is another natural law written down in God’s will.

“If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father, who is in heaven, give good things to those who ask of him.” ~ Matthew 7:11

In forming a will, you are creating a trust fund.  A trust has several parts.  Firstly, you have the corpus or res, which is the actual property of the trust.  You have the grantor, who owns the property and puts the res into the trust.  The grantor gets to determine what happens with his or her property.  Then you have the trustee who takes care of and manages the property.  The trustee’s powers and authority are determined by the laws set down in the will of the grantor.  The trustee is the steward or custodian of the trust.  And lastly, you have the beneficiary who gets to use the property in a manner determined by the grantor and overseen by the trustee.

Sometimes, a person can fulfill more than one role in a trust, such as being a grantor-trustee, grantor-beneficiary, trustee-beneficiary, or even all three (but only if there is at least one other beneficiary).

A will typically is a special form of trust that has to do with the disbursement of one’s estate.  Generally, the estate is passed on to the children of the deceased, who are made from the essence of their parent.

In the Bible, Christ continuously refers to God as “the Father,” and says that we are “the children of God.”  He uses many metaphors and parables to describe heaven in economic terms.  He refers to heaven as a kingdom, saying it is like a field with buried treasure in it, or like a fine and valuable pearl.

In the case of the universe, God is the grantor.  God’s subdivided body and mind are the property put into the trust, which makes up the whole universe – God’s estate.  We, as beings of consciousness, are the stewards of God’s property and we are charged with taking care of the universe, maintaining it for the benefit of everyone and everything in it, including us.  The Bible tells us that the will of God – also called the Word, the Logos, the Tao, and many others – is written on the hearts of everyone.

In other words, we are each authorized and obligated to tend to the world in the way that we best see fit, so long as we are working towards the growth and survival of the universe as a whole.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” ~ Genesis 1:1.

The death of God created the universe, for which we, God’s children, are the stewards and beneficiaries.  But before we existed, there were other forms of consciousness that existed in ways that might seem foreign to us.

In Judeo-Christian mythology, there are said to be nine (sometimes ten) different levels of angels that execute God’s will as his agents.  Among these are Seraphim, great and powerful creatures of fire (often linked with serpents).

Why would an all-powerful being need angels if he was constantly working to run the universe?

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, many of the angels in the great war that took place before humanity came to be, including Lucifer, are of this supreme class.  It’s no coincidence that Christ and Lucifer are both referred to as the morning and evening star, since the stars created this world and all the other planets.  Our sun was responsible for the creation of the earth and all life on it, including us.  The great war in Paradise Lost could in fact be a metaphor for the early formation of the cosmos by these fiery beings we know to be stars, whose actions could be seen to be chaotic and destructive, not unlike a war.

Some question the idea that stars and planets have consciousness, to which I would respond that consciousness is energy and an observer.  Stars and planets are made of such energy and can be observers according to relativity, so they could well be beings of consciousness on a level and scale that we cannot comprehend.  Either way, the stars and planets are all subject to the jurisdiction of natural law and are God’s agents in its execution.

Cognitive Dissonance

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 17, 2010 by marushiadark

“You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew.  It will not be a pleasant experience; but when you come out of it, you will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be.” ~ General Iroh.

It’s said that space is the final frontier.  Most people think of outer space, looking for things “out there,” looking for God and for answers “out there,” but there is also inner space, inner thought and inner turmoil.  It is a place that very few people have explored in any great depth.  In many ways, it is more frightening and more rewarding than conquering outer space, because the journey through the mind is one that is generally made alone.

At the end of the day, no one can know you better than you are capable of knowing yourself.  A person may be able to create some sort of stimulus – say the right word or do the right action at the right time – that triggers an idea in your head; but it is you that ultimately puts the pieces together in your mind.

All health and healing comes from within, because the mind controls the body and shapes the outside world.

We all have our own journeys to make, our own paths to follow, and we are the cartographers of our journey.  The word “paradigm” means a pattern or example.  A universal paradigm, or outlook on the world, is a pattern that we maintain for how we think reality operates.  Keeping a journal is one such way of mapping out your journey so others can follow along, recording thoughts and events and revelations as landmarks to help you make sense of all the chaos that’s around you.

The lessons that are passed down to us from books, stories, and the experiences of our friends, families, and teachers serve as maps that can, if they are accurate, provide guidance and order in our lives.

“The dark night of the soul is a time of massive cognitive restructuring.  You mind is reconsidering its previous model of reality in order to complete the jump to a new level of understanding.” ~ Personal Development for Smart People.

As in worldly travel, it’s good to have a map to help lead you quickly and safely to your destination.  But what happens when you encounter something new in your reality that doesn’t fit with your pre-established model of the world?  What happens when you travel off the map into an area that your fellows marked off “here be monsters”?  An area of thought that neither you, nor anyone you know, has explored before?

This is what is referred to as a moment of cognitive dissonance – cognitive meaning thought and dissonance meaning chaotic.  It is also called a dark night of the soul because the soul, one’s identity, is thrown into darkness and turmoil, removed from the light of knowledge, safety, and wholeness.

Really, when one has a moment of cognitive dissonance, there are only two things you can do.  You can accept this new data and incorporate it into your own map, which may then be completely different from the map you used before; or you can reject the new phenomenon and deny it ever existed in the first place, relying on the belief that your map is already accurate.

Usually rare or traumatic events create cognitive dissonance.  A staunch atheist who suddenly witnesses a miracle may come to question whether there is any truth to religion and thus alter his paradigm.  Conversely, a devout religious person who sees nothing but hardship may come to question whether a benevolent God exists.  Someone who sees a UFO may have a moment of cognitive dissonance if they formerly believed they don’t exist.

But paradigms don’t always change as the result of something traumatic.  Something as simple as learning a new vocabulary word can change your word view.

I recall my freshman English teacher in high school told us this story in which she read a headline that had the word “pachyderm” in it.  She didn’t know what it meant at the time, so she looked it up and saw that it meant “elephant.”  From that point on, she started seeing the word everywhere.  Her paradigm had changed and her mind learned how to tune itself to become more receptive to the word.

In the movie What the Bleep Do We Know, there is an anecdote about Native Americans who were blind to Columbus’ ships until their spiritual leader told them what they were.  Such a profound shift in thought as that allowed them to become much more aware of them the next time.  This is largely what I’ve tried to do with this blog, is make people aware of different things (like symbols) and so you learn how to see them.

“I imagine that, right now, you’re feeling a bit like Alice tumbling down the rabbit hole.” ~ Morpheus.

The irony is, there’s really only ONE option when it comes to cognitive dissonance.  Denial isn’t an option.  Life is forever changing and evolving, whereas maps remain the same.  Over time, the old maps no longer serve as accurate.  Just as islands rise and crumble and new roads are built, so do does thought evolve.  So denying the changes in one’s reality simply keeps you stuck in the same place, or otherwise lost and confused in an unknown world.

Failing to keep track of how you got to where you are can also cause problems and create disconnections between you and your fellow man.

Those times when I question the reality of The Spirit or the New World Order, I often experience a dark night of the soul; but I manage to pull myself out of it by remembering how I came to have such beliefs and by following the chain of evidence and logical reasoning that lead me to those conclusions.  Then the darkness gives way again to light and all becomes clear.

If there is one thing I would change about my life, it would be to have started my journal as soon as I turned fourteen, instead of taking it up years later.  Not marking a large portion of the path I took to get to where I am has made it difficult for me to help others follow to get to where I am, and so there is a disconnect.  But generally, I do not mind because I found the path on my own and I am confident than others can do the same.  Thankfully, I managed to start mapping out my trail before I got too far into the wilderness.

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” ~ Matthew 7:13-14.

In life, we don’t always have to wander through the jungle.  Sometimes, it’s okay to take the main road if you really have to get somewhere.  So too is it considered wise to rely on the council of others and to continue to study and learn from outer teachers that have paved a way before you.  Some maps are better than others and certain paths can take you farther than others.

Eventually, though, you will find yourself breaking from the main road, whether because the road ends, life has changed the path, or you simply decide you want to go somewhere else and this road is no longer taking you in a direction you want to go.  That is when it is time to get off the main road and take the road less traveled.

Sometimes, there is no path that leads to where we want to go, and all other roads lead to destruction.  Then it is time to forge a completely new path.

When we start to forge our own paths, it can lead to great or terrible things.  The further we continue, the more new frontiers we will explore and enjoy, and the more fulfilling our lives will ultimately be.  We may not always know where we are going, but as long as we remember how we got there, we will never really be lost.

Symbols, Part 8: Serpents

Posted in All, Health, Humor, Psychology, Spirituality with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 16, 2010 by marushiadark

“If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” ~ Ross Perot.

That sentiment may be practical advice, but it serves to illustrate how serpents get a pretty bad rep, both in ancient and modern society.

A number of stories depict snakes as villainous, conniving, and evil.  Medusa and Grendel’s Mother are classic examples.  Indiana Jones can face down Nazis Occultists but is afraid of snakes.  Interpretations of passages from Genesis and Revelation equated the serpent with Satan.  We refer to liars as “snakes” and to fake remedies as “snake oil.”  And a cursory glance on Google will reveal a number of quotes about snakes (like the one above) in which the general advice is to kill them right away.

It would seem that most people throughout the ages don’t like snakes, nor do they take the time to educate themselves about snakes.

There is practical reason to be cautious of snakes, since a number of species are, in fact, poisonous.  But by and large, they are not something to fear.  Most of the top ten deadliest snakes are located in Australia, and then others such as the boa constrictor or the anaconda do not appear commonly in most people’s lives.  Snakes, like most animals, operate based on survival instinct.  They eat when they are hungry and attack when they feel threatened.  If you leave them be, even the deadly ones, you’ve nothing to worry about.  Snakes are deserving of our adoration and respect, like every other creature.

“I’m fascinated by the concept of snake-handling.  When you read about the Pentecostal snake-handlers, what strikes you most is their commitment.” ~ Lucinda Williams

The Pentecostal tradition of snake-handling comes from an interpretation of the ending of Mark 16.  The idea of snake-handling, in a Christian perspective, is most likely because of the association of snakes with Satan, and that to wield power over snakes is to overcome the power of the devil.

An interesting idea, except that it is believed by a number of scholars that the end of Mark 16 is, in fact, a later addition to the Gospel to make it more like The Gospel of Luke.

Still, the Pentecostals are not the first group to practice snake-handling.  Many people keep snakes as pets and we are all familiar with the late Steve Irwin and his famous handling of snakes and other deadly creatures.  Such traditions of snake handling go back many thousands of years, in fact.

“Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’ ” ~ Genesis 3:4

Genesis 3:1 is the first appearance of the serpent in the Bible.  Here, it is depicted as “more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”  The word “cunning,” typically has a derogatory connotation associated with deceit.  However, it can also mean clever, skillful, sharp, or shrewd.  So the serpent was the most intelligent creature God had made up until that point.  Depending on which interpretation you choose to follow, this may or may not include man and angels.  Lucifer was allegedly the most intelligent being in existence next to God, but he was not a “beast of the field.”  Man also was not a “beast of the field,” but the serpent may have been smarter than man, since it convinced Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge.

Either way, the serpent is very intelligent, but is it malicious?  Some people blame the serpent for costing us paradise.  Certainly the God of the Old Testament does, since he punishes the serpent by removing its limbs and making it subservient to man.

Others see the serpent as a savior, bestowing on mankind the gifts of knowledge and reason.  If anything, the Tree of Knowledge helped to enable our free will by making us more aware of our reality.  And although Adam and Eve did ultimately get cast out of Eden, it could be said that the serpent never really lied.  God said Adam and Eve would surely die if they ate the fruit.  But the fruit isn’t what killed them, and God still had a chance to change his mind if he wanted to.  So one could say it was God’s decision to cut them off from the Tree of Life that ultimately killed them.

Some people believe that the human race is either descended from, or is the creation of, serpent-like alien beings, equated with the Annunaki of Mesopotamian mythology.  Many of the Biblical stories derive from earlier Sumerian and Babylonian myths, of which the Annunaki are a part.  Certainly the “sons of god” from Genesis and the numerous references to “we” and “us” suggests a pantheon of beings, not just one alone, and the behavior of God in the Old Testament suggests he came to earth quite frequently.  Either way, if there is any truth to the serpent alien story, are they benevolent or malevolent?  Who’s to say?

In Jewish mythology, Lilith – the first wife of Adam – was created at the same time as Adam.  She is often depicted carrying a serpent or sometimes equated with the serpent of Genesis.  Lilith is viewed as different things by different people.

The two most prevalent interpretations are that she is either a woman who got a bad deal for being the first feminist, or a demonic seductress.  Quite an extreme, wouldn’t you say?

Lilith also appears in Babylonian mythology and is often equated with the owl, another creature related to wisdom.  The owl can see in the dark, meaning it has secret knowledge of things that the sun does not reveal.  The owl is also a nocturnal predator.  So again, are we to trust the creature or not?

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.”  ~ Matthew 10:16-17.

Martin Luther King was a minister before he became a civil rights leader.  In one of his sermons, he talks extensively about what Jesus meant by the above passage.  In his view, to be “wise as serpents” is a good thing and means to be tough of mind.  To think things through, to be logical, and self-determinant and to not just accept what so-called authorities tell us, but to instead think for ourselves and be our own judges, our own authorities.  Then, to be “harmless as doves,” is to be soft-hearted, compassionate, and kind.  To see our brothers as ourselves and to bring freedom to all.

The serpent ties these ideas together in another religious leader, Moses.

In the book of Exodus, God tells Moses to throw his staff on the ground.  It turns into a snake and Moses is very afraid.  But after working with God, he later uses this same power against the Egyptian priests to liberate his people from the tyrannical pharaoh.

Moses is not the only religious figure to be linked to a staff and snake, however.  In Greek mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing, and the son of Apollo (the sun god).  Asclepius is also associated with the 13th sign of the Zodiac: Ophiuchus, the symbol for which is a snake coiled around a rod.  This is the proper symbol for healing, as can be seen on the Emergency Medical Service’s Star of Life, the EMS being an organization that saves many lives.  Interestingly, the symbol chosen by medical institutions is the caduceus, which is a symbol of Hermes, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, gamblers, thieves, and liars.  That should tell you a lot, right there.

Also, I mentioned before that alternative remedies are often referred to as “snake oil.”  I wonder what would happen if it were one day discovered that snake oil actually cures cancer.  Think about that for a while.

All in all, snakes are complex creatures.  Perhaps the real truth is that snakes have two sides to them, like all of us: a dark side and a light side.  One side cold and calculating, the other bright and helpful.  One side seductive and deadly, the other side sensual and enlightening.

Mindfuck #5: We’re All Mad

Posted in All, Psychology, Spirituality on October 10, 2010 by marushiadark

“Everyone here is mad. I’m mad. You’re mad.  It’s only by chance n’ careful planning if you’re not.” ~ The Cheshire Cat

What does it mean to be mad?  Madness is a synonym for insanity, which is the opposite of sanity, which means to be sane.  The dictionary defines “sane” as “being free from mental derangement” and “having sound judgment.”  But what does that mean?

Typically, when we think of an insane person, we think of someone foaming at the mouth, talking to the voices in their head, imagining that the walls are covered with insects, but there are other types of insane.

No one can know everything, therefore no one can know the whole truth.  So all of our individual realities are limited by our perceptions.  Thus, our realities are subjective and relative, based more on consensus and mutual agreement than objectivity.

Even the scientific method is subjective, since it’s based on observations that are fallible.  If reality is consensual, then the scientific method just says that whichever subjective observation gets the most votes wins the “What is real?” poll.  It’s like the guess the candies game.  You can increase your odds through various methods, such as measuring the size of the candies and calculating their volumes and the volume of the jar they’re contained in.  Maybe your guess is even the closest, or even exactly the right amount, but only the person who initially counted the candies knows for sure.  Science seeks to analyze our universe, yet we are part of the universe, and the very act of measuring it changes everything.  So science isn’t all that different from philosophy or religion.  They’re all just people taking their best guess based on the information they have.  As long as it works for what the person is trying to achieve, then it is effectively correct.

To know what actually exists, we’d have to remove ourselves from reality and view it as a closed, isolated system, which is next to impossible.  Even if we could do that, I have a hunch that the result will simply serve to prove the same conclusions that a few observant people have been trying to tell us for thousands of years.

So if reality is subjective, then no one knows the whole truth.  So how do we know who is of sound mind and who is deranged?

A reasonable person would have to conclude that, if no one knows the whole truth, then we’re all just a bit missed misinformed.  We all shape reality to reflect our beliefs instead of shaping our beliefs to reflect reality.  None of us sees reality for what it truly is, which means we’re all just a bit delusional.  We’re all just a little bit mad.

And if we’re just God in a void playing fingerpuppets, then some would characterize that as having already gone mad, just like how Tom Hank’s character in Castaway created Wilson to avoid going mad; but in a different light, talking to a volleyball is madness too, since it’s not a real person and can’t talk back.

So madness is all a matter of perspective, really.

“The world ain’t what is it seems … You keep that in mind.  The moment you think you got it figured, you’re wrong.” ~ Mr. Rate, Shooter

It’s ironic that those who have a better understanding of what’s going on tend to be labeled by the masses as “crazy, insane nuts.”  You hear all the time about so-called “conspiracy nuts” that say the government has done all these things to its own people.  Are they crazy?  Or do they just know something that you don’t because they have more information than you do?  If they’re grounding their arguments on logic and evidence and you choose to ignore them, doesn’t that make you the crazy one for denying some part of reality?

Not every conspiracy theory is true, of course, which is why it’s just a theory; and new information could come along to change or even debunk that theory at anytime.  But not every conspiracy theory is false either.  To make a blanket statement like “all conspiracy theorists are nuts” is to assume that you know everything there is to know about the government and the people who work for it and what their minds are like, and that based on both your extensive knowledge and mind-reading abilities, you have come to the conclusion that no, the government cannot and never would do something or anything like that.

But the reality is, at least the last time I checked, that government is comprised of people (and possibly aliens) and that humans are fallible and prone to such things as rape and murder and abuse of any and all power.  So what is conspiracy except two or more people coming together to do such things?  What is government conspiracy except those conspirators being in the government?  So the pejorative use of the term is in fact pretty stupid.

Speaking of stupid, religious nuts are common, right?  I’m sure we’ve all seen the guy on the street holding up a cardboard sign that says “The End is Near.”

Is he crazy?  Only if the end is not near, because that would be a denial of reality.  But the end of what?  And what exactly is “near”?  Two months?  Two years?  Two hundred years?  Two hundred years is very near if viewed from the perspective of human history, but no one would be alarmed or take notice of a guy who said, “The End is 200 Years Away.”

So is this guy crazy?  Perhaps.  It may simply be that he is looking around at the world and misapplying the teachings of his holy book in regards to it.  But it could just as easily be that he knows something that the rest of us don’t.  Who are we to say that God didn’t send him a message in his sleep to tell him to go do that?  Are we so arrogant that we think we know what God can and can’t do?  If God can talk to people and create prophets to carry his message, why couldn’t he make new ones in our own time?  Especially if we didn’t get it the first several times around.

I’ve always wanted to sit down and talk with one of those people and find out just what’s going through their heads.  They could tell me what they know and believe and I could share with them what I know and believe, and hopefully as least one of us will get something out of the experience.

“When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right.  When he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.” ~ Clarke’s First Law

Another common cliche is the mad scientist who stumbles upon a new truth but is then rejected by his colleagues.

Most of the time, this truth is perverted and abused for uses that are harmful, destructive, and immoral, but that’s not always the case.  Sometimes, genuine breakthroughs are ignored by those of small mind, unwilling or unable to expand their thinking; or by those whose paychecks are on the line, researching something contrary to what that one person discovered. 

Nikola Tesla would be good examples of both.  In fact, he appears in a number of propaganda cartoons, including one with giant robots.

But either way, all these “mad” scientists did was discover something true about the way the universe works.  Whether it’s good or bad depends upon the character of the person that uses it.  The knife that kills can be used to save your life.

Arthur C. Clarke’s three laws of prediction lead us to believe that reality is a lot stranger than we think it is presently.  They emphasize expansion of consciousness and a journey further down the rabbit hole into Wonderland where things get “curiouser and curiouser.”

In a way, we are all arrogant for assuming that we know anything at all about what’s really going on.  Religious minds are arrogant to say that God needs anything from us.  Scientific minds are arrogant to say that they know that God doesn’t exist.  And so on.

We are all mad.  We are all arrogant.  We are all delusional.  Some more than others, but that too is part of the illusion and we cannot say for certain that we know which ones those are.  Pride goes before the fall, and all fall short in the eyes of the Lord.