It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on…” The War Prayer, is a short story by Mark Twain about blind patriotic war and the God who is on both sides. Written around 1904, published after his death in 1923.
It was a time of great and exalting excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and spluttering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest deeps of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast a doubt upon its righteousness straightway got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.
Sunday morning came — next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams — visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! Then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or, failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation
*God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest! Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!*
Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory —
An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”
The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:
“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think.
“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.
“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. the *whole* of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory–*must* follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!
“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.
(*After a pause.*) “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!”
It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.
In The Hero with a Thousand Faces Joseph Campbell looks at myths and psychology – showing the connection between the stages of the “monomyth” seen in religion, movies and the journey of each of our lives. I’m using this book along with some other Joseph Campbell books and videos for my class…
“The mythological hero, setting forth from his common-day hut or castle, is lured, carried away, or else voluntarily proceeds, to the threshold of adventure. There he encounters a shadow presence that guards the passage. The hero may defeat or conciliate this power and go alive into the kingdom of the dark (brother-battle, dragonbattle; offering, charm), or be slain by the opponent and descend in death (dismemberment, crucifixion). Beyond the threshold, then, the hero journeys through a world of unfamiliar yet strangely intimate forces, some of which severely threaten him (tests), some of which give magical aid (helpers). When he arrives at the nadir of the mythological round, he undergoes a supreme ordeal and gains his reward. The triumph may be represented as the hero’s sexual union with the goddess-mother of the world (sacred marriage), his recognition by the father-creator (father atonement), his own divinization (apotheosis), or again —if the powers have remained unfriendly to him—his theft of the boon he came to gain (bride-theft, fire-theft); intrinsically it is an expansion of consciousness and therewith of being (illumination, transfiguration, freedom). The final work is that of the return. If the powers have blessed the hero, he now sets forth under their protection (emissary); if not, he flees and is pursued (transformation flight, obstacle flight). At the return threshold the transcendental powers must remain behind; the hero re-emerges from the kingdom of dread (return, resurrection). The boon that he brings restores the world (elixir).” p. 227-8.
I wish we had time in class to watch all of this series The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers – the first half of the first video (back to VHS!) was great… definitely worth hunting down a DVD version. Here’s a segment:
I have my class discussing each stage of the “monomyth” / “The Hero’s Journey” in relation to Avatar (everyone has seen and loves) and The Matrix (which half hadn’t seen so we watched in class). Next week is week 4, of 16 weeks. Crazy how fast time is flying by. Anyway enough babbling, here it is – Joseph Campbell’s monomyth:
1. The Call to Adventure
‘This first stage of the mythological journey—which we have designated the “call to adventure” —signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented: as a distant land, a forest, a kingdom underground, beneath the waves, or above the sky, a secret island, lofty mountaintop, or profound dream state; but it is always a place of strangely fluid and polymorphous beings, unimaginable torments, superhuman deeds, and impossible delight.’ p. 53.
2. Refusal of the Call
‘Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered; for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests. Refusal of the summons converts the adventure into its negative. Walled in boredom, hard work, or “culture,” the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action and becomes a victim to be saved.’ p. 54.
3. Supernatural Aid
‘For those who have not refused the call, the first encounter of the hero-journey is with a protective figure (often a little old crone or old man) who provides the adventurer with amulets against the dragon forces he is about to pass.’ p. 63.
4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
‘With the personifications of his destiny to guide and aid him, the hero goes forward in his adventure until he comes to the “threshold guardian” at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Such custodians bound the world in the four directions — also up and down—standing for the limits c the hero’s present sphere, or life horizon. Beyond them is dark less, the unknown, and danger; just as beyond the parental watch is danger to the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the member of the tribe. The usual person is more than content, he is even proud, to remain within the indicated bounds, and popular belief gives him every reason to fear so much as the first step into the unexplored. Thus the sailors of the bold vessels of Columbus, breaking the horizon of the medieval mind —sailing, as they thought, into the boundless ocean of immortal being that surrounds the cosmos, like an endless mythological serpent biting its tail—had to be cozened and urged on like children, because of their fear of the fabled leviathans, mermaids, dragon kings, and other monsters of the deep.’ p. 71.
5. The Belly of the Whale
The idea that the passage of the magical threshold is a transit into a sphere of rebirth is symbolized in the worldwide womb image of the belly of the whale. The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died… here, instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward, to be born again. The disappearance corresponds to the passing of a worshiper into a temple where he is to be quickened by the recollection of who and what he is, namely dust and ashes unless immortal. The temple interior, the belly of the whale, and the heavenly land beyond, above, and below the confines of the world, are one and the same. That is why the approaches and entrances to temples are flanked and defended by colossal gargoyles: dragons, lions, devil-slayers with drawn swords, resentful dwarfs, winged bulls. These are the threshold guardians to ward away all incapable of encountering the higher silences within. They are preliminary embodiments of the dangerous aspect of the presence, corresponding to the mythological ogres that bound the conventional world, or to the two rows of teeth of the whale. They illustrate the fact that the devotee at the moment of entry into a temple undergoes a metamorphosis… His secular character remains without; he sheds it, as a snake its slough. Once inside he may be said to have died to time and returned to the World Womb, the World Navel, the Earthly Paradise. The mere fact that anyone can physically walk past the temple guardians does not invalidate their significance; for if the intruder is incapable of encompassing the sanctuary, then he has effectually remained without. Anyone unable to understand a god sees it as a devil and is thus defended from the approach. Allegorically, then, the passage into a temple and the hero-dive through the jaws of the whale are identical adventures, both denoting, in picture language, the life-centering, life-renewing act.’ p. 83-5.
6. The Road of Trials
‘ONCE having traversed the threshold, the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid, ambiguous forms, where he must survive a succession of trials. This is a favorite phase of the mythadventure. It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals. The hero is covertly aided by the advice, amulets, and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he met before his entrance into this region. Or it may be that he here discovers for the first time that there is a benign power everywhere supporting him in his superhuman passage.’ p. 89.
‘The original departure into the land of trials represented only the beginning of the long and really perilous path of initiator)’ conquests and moments of illumination. Dragons have now to be slain and surprising barriers passed—again, again, and again. Meanwhile there will be a multitude of preliminary victories, unretainable ecstasies, and momentary glimpses of the wonderful land.’ p. 100.
7. The Meeting with the Goddess
‘The ultimate adventure, when all the barriers and ogres have been overcome, is commonly represented as a mystical marriage of the triumphant hero-soul with the Queen Goddess of the World. This is the crisis at the nadir, the zenith, or at the uttermost edge of the earth, at the central point of the cosmos, in the tabernacle of the temple, or within the darkness of the deepest chamber of the heart.’ p. 100.
‘The mythological figure of the Universal Mother imputes to the cosmos the feminine attributes of the first, nourishing and protecting presence. The fantasy is primarily spontaneous; for there exists a close and obvious correspondence between the attitude of the young child toward its mother and that of the adult toward the surrounding material world.’ p. 103.
‘Woman, in the picture language of mythology, represents the totality of what can be known. The hero is the one who comes to know. As he progresses in the slow initiation which is life, the form of the goddess undergoes for him a series of transfigurations: she can never be greater than himself, though she can always promise more than he is yet capable of comprehending. She lures, she guides, she bids him burst his fetters. And if he can match her import, the two, the knower and the known, will be released from every limitation. Woman is the guide to the sublime acme of sensuous adventure. By deficient eyes she is reduced to inferior states; by the evil eye of ignorance she is spellbound to banality and ugliness. But she is redeemed by the eyes of understanding. The hero who can take her as she is, without undue commotion but with the kindness and assurance she requires, is potentially the king, the incarnate god, of her created world.’ p. 106.
8. Woman as the Temptress
‘The mystical marriage with the queen goddess of the world represents the hero’s total mastery of life; for the woman is life, the hero its knower and master. And the testings of the hero, which were preliminary to his ultimate experience and deed, were symbolical of those crises of realization by means of which his consciousness came to be amplified and made capable of enduring the full possession of the mother-destroyer, his inevitable bride. With that he knows that he and the father are one: he is in the father’s place.
‘Thus phrased, in extremest terms, the problem may sound remote from the affairs of normal human creatures. Nevertheless, every failure to cope with a life situation must be laid, in the end, to a restriction of consciousness. Wars and temper tantrums are the makeshifts of ignorance; regrets are illuminations come too late. The whole sense of the ubiquitous myth of the hero’s passage is that it shall serve as a general pattern for men and women, wherever they may stand along the scale. Therefore it is formulated in the broadest terms. The individual has only to discover his own position with reference to this general human formula, and let it then assist him past his restricting walls. Who and where are his ogres”? Those are the reflections of the unsolved enigmas of his own humanity. What are his ideals’? Those are the symptoms of his grasp of life.
‘In the office of the modern psychoanalyst, the stages of the hero-adventure come to light again in the dreams and hallucinations of the patient. Depth beyond depth of self-ignorance is fathomed, with the analyst in the role of the helper, the initiatory priest. And always, after the first thrills of getting under way, the adventure develops into a journey of darkness, horror, disgust, and phantasmagoric fears.
‘The crux of the curious difficulty lies in the fact that our conscious views of what life ought to be seldom correspond to what life really is. Generally we refuse to admit within ourselves, or within our friends, the fullness of that pushing, self-protective, malodorous, carnivorous, lecherous fever which is the very nature of the organic cell. Rather, we tend to perfume, whitewash, and reinterpret; meanwhile imagining that all the flies in the ointment, all the hairs in the soup, are the faults of some unpleasant someone else.
‘But when it suddenly dawns on us, or is forced to our attention, that everything we think or do is necessarily tainted with the odor of the flesh, then, not uncommonly, there is experienced a moment of revulsion: life, the acts of life, the organs of life, woman in particular as the great symbol of life, become intolerable to the pure, the pure, pure soul.’ p. 111-12.
9. Atonement with the Father
‘The paradox of creation, the coming of the forms of time out of eternity, is the germinal secret of the father. It can never be quite explained. Therefore, in every system of theology there is an umbilical point, an Achilles tendon which the finger of mother life has touched, and where the possibility of perfect knowledge has been impaired. The problem of the hero is to pierce himself (and therewith his world) precisely through that point; to shatter and annihilate that key knot of his limited existence. The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands —and the two are atoned.’ p. 135.
‘Atonement (at-one-ment) consists in no more than the abandonment of that self-generated double monster—the dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought to be Sin (repressed id). But this requires an abandonment of the attachment to ego itself; and that is what is difficult. One must have a faith that the father is merciful, and then a reliance on that mercy. Therewith, the center of belief is transferred outside of the bedeviling god’s tight scaly ring, and the dreadful ogres dissolve.’ p. 120.
‘The magic of the sacraments (made effective through the passion of Jesus Christ, or by virtue of the meditations of the Buddha), the protective power of primitive amulets and charms, and the supernatural helpers of the myths and fairy tales of the world, are mankind’s assurances that the arrow, the flames, and the flood are not as brutal as they seem. For the ogre aspect of the father is a reflex of the victim’s own ego —derived from the sensational nursery scene that has been left behind, but projected before; and the fixating idolatry of that pedagogical nonthing is itself the fault that keeps one steeped in a sense of sin, sealing the potentially adult spirit from a better balanced, more realistic view of the father, and therewith of the world… It is in this ordeal that the hero may derive hope and assurance from the helpful female figure, by whose magic (pollen charms or power of intercession) he is protected through all the frightening experiences of the father’s ego-shattering initiation. For if it is impossible to trust the terrifying father-face, then one’s faith must be centered elsewhere (Spider Woman, Blessed Mother); and with that reliance for support, one endures the crisis—only to find, in the end, that the father and mother reflect each other, and are in essence the same.’ p. 118-120.
The pause on the threshold of Nirvana, the resolution to forego until the end of time (which never ends) immersion in the untroubled pool of eternity, represents a realization that the distinction between eternity and time is only apparent—made, perforce, by the rational mind, but dissolved in the perfect knowledge of the mind that has transcended the pairs of opposites. What is understood is that time and eternity are two aspects of the same experience-whole, two planes of the same nondual ineffable; i.e., the jewel of eternity is in the lotus of birth and death: om mani padme hum. p. 140.
‘The first wonder to be noted here is the androgynous character of the Bodhisattva: masculine Avalokiteshvara, feminine Kwan Yin. Male-female gods are not uncommon in the world of myth. They emerge always with a certain mystery; for they conduct the mind beyond objective experience into a symbolic realm where duality is left behind. Awonawilona, chief god of the pueblo of Zuni, the maker and container of all, is sometimes spoken of as he, but is actually he-she. The Great Original of the Chinese chronicles, the holy woman T’ai Yuan, combined in her person the masculine Yang and the feminine Yin.”‘ The cabalistic teachings of the medieval Jews, as well as the Gnostic Christian writings of the second century, represent the Word Made Flesh as androgynous- which was indeed the state of Adam as he was created, before the female aspect, Eve, was removed into another form. And among the Greeks, not only Hermaphrodite (the child of Hermes and Aphrodite), but Eros too, the divinity of love (the first of the gods, according to Plato), were in sex both female and male. p. 140-1.
‘”So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” The question may arise in the mind as to the nature of the image of God; but the answer is already given in the text, and is clear enough. “When the Holy One, Blessed be He, created the first man, He created him androgynous.” The removal of the feminine into another form symbolizes the beginning of the fall from perfection into duality; and it was naturally followed by the discovery of the duality of good and evil, exile from the garden where God walks on earth, and thereupon the building of the wall of Paradise, constituted of the “coincidence of opposites,” by which Man (now man and woman) is cut off from not only the vision but even the recollection of the image of God.
‘This is the Biblical version of a myth known to many lands. It represents one of the basic ways of symbolizing the mystery of creation: the devolvement of eternity into time, the breaking of the one into the two and then the many, as well as the generation of new life through the reconjunction of the two.’ p. 141-2.
‘Like the Buddha himself, this godlike being is a pattern of the divine state to which the human hero attains who has gone beyond the last terrors of ignorance. “When the envelopment of consciousness has been annihilated, then he becomes free of all fear, beyond the reach of change.’1″‘ This is the release potential within us all, and which anyone can attain—through herohood; for, as we read: “All things are Buddha-things’1;8″3 or again (and this is the other way of making the same statement): “All beings are without self.1’ The world is filled and illumined by, but does not hold, the Bodhisattva (“he whose being is enlightenment”); rather, it is he who holds the world, the lotus. Pain and pleasure do not enclose him, he encloses them—and with profound repose.’ p. 138-9.
11. The Ultimate Boon
‘The ease with which the adventure is here accomplished signifies that the hero is a superior man, a born king. Such ease distinguishes numerous fairy tales and alt legends of the deeds of incarnate gods. Where the usual hero would face a test, the elect encounters no delaying obstacle and makes no mistake. The well is the World Navel, its flaming water the indestructible essence of existence, the bed going round and round being the World Axis. The sleeping castle is that ultimate abyss to which the descending consciousness submerges in dream, where the individual life is on the point of dissolving into undifferentiated energy: and it would be death to dissolve; yet death, also, to lack the fire.
‘The motif (derived from an infantile fantasy) of the inexhaustible dish, symbolizing the perpetual life-giving, form-building powers of the universal source, is a fairy-tale counterpart of the mythological image of the cornucopian banquet of the gods. While the bringing together of the two great symbols of the meeting with the goddess and the fire theft reveals with simplicity and clarity the status of the anthropomorphic powers in the realm of myth. They are not ends in themselves, but guardians, embodiments, or bestowers, of the liquor, the milk, the food, the fire, the grace, of indestructible life.
‘Such imagery can be readily interpreted as primarily, even though perhaps not ultimately, psychological; for it is possible to observe, in the earliest phases of the development of the infant, symptoms of a dawning “mythology” of a state beyond the vicissitudes of time. These appear as reactions to, and spontaneous defenses against, the body-destruction fantasies that assail the child when it is deprived of the mother breast. “The infant reacts with a temper tantrum and the fantasy that goes with the temper tantrum is to tear everything out of the mother’s bod)-. . . . The child then fears retaliation for these impulses, i.e., that
everything will be scooped out of its own inside.”‘ Anxieties for the integrity of its body, fantasies of restitution, a silent, deep requirement for indestructibility and protection against the “bad” forces from within and without, begin to direct the shaping psyche; and these remain as determining factors in the later neurotic, and even normal, life activities, spiritual efforts, religious beliefs, and ritual practices of the adult.’ p. 159-60.
12. Refusal of the Return
‘WHEN the hero-quest has been accomplished, through penetration to the source, or through the grace of some male or female, human or animal, personification, the adventurer still must return with his life-transmuting trophy. The full round, the norm of the monomyth, requires that the hero shall now begin the labor of bringing the runes of wisdom, the Golden Fleece, or his sleeping princess, back into the kingdom of humanity, where the boon may redound to the renewing of the community, the nation, the planet, or the ten thousand worlds. But the responsibility has been frequently refused. Even the Buddha, after his triumph, doubted whether the message of realization could be communicated, and saints are reported to have passed away while in the supernal ecstasy. Numerous indeed are the heroes fabled to have taken up residence forever in the blessed isle of the unaging Goddess of Immortal Being.’ p. 179.
13. The Magic Flight
‘If the hero in his triumph wins the blessing of the goddess or the god and is then explicitly commissioned to return to the world with some elixir for the restoration of society, the final stage of his adventure is supported by all the powers of his supernatural patron. On the other hand, if the trophy has been attained against the opposition of its guardian, or if the hero’s wish to return to the world has been resented by the gods or demons, then the last stage of the mythological round becames a lively, often comical, pursuit. This flight may be complicated by marvels of magical obstruction and evasion.’ p. 182.
‘The myths of failure touch us with the tragedy of life, but those of success only with their own incredibility. And yet, it’s the mono-myth is to fulfill its promise, not human failure or superhuman success but human success is what we shall have to be shown.’ p. 192.
14. Rescue from Without
‘The hero may have to be brought back from his supernatural adventure by assistance from without. That is to say, the world may have to come and get him. For the bliss of the deep abode is not lightly abandoned in favor of the self-scattering of the wakened state. “Who having cast off the world,” we read, “would desire to return again? He would be only there.””‘ And yet, in so far as one is alive, life will call. Society is jealous of those who remain away from it, and will come knocking at the door. If the hero—like Muchukunda—is unwilling, the disturber suffers an ugly shock; but on the other hand, if the summoned one is only delayed —sealed in by the beatitude of the state of perfect being (which resembles death} —an apparent rescue is effected, and the adventurer returns.’ p. 192.
‘This brings us to the final crisis of the round, to which the whole miraculous excursion has been but a prelude—that, namely, of the paradoxical, supremely difficult threshold-crossing of the hero’s return from the mystic realm into the land of common day. Whether rescued from without, driven from within, or gently carried along by the guiding divinities, he has yet to re-enter with his boon the long-forgotten atmosphere where men who are fractions imagine themselves to be complete. He has yet to confront society with his ego-shattering, life-redeeming elixir, and take the return blow of reasonable queries, hard resentment, and good people at a loss to comprehend.’ p. 201.
15. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
‘The two worlds, the divine and the human, can be pictured only as distinct from each other—different as life and death, as day and night. The hero adventures out of the land we know into darkness; there he accomplishes his adventure, or again is simply lost to us, imprisoned, or in danger; and his return is described as a coming back out of that yonder zone. Nevertheless—and here is a great key to the understanding of myth and symbol — the two kingdoms are actually one. The realm of the gods is a forgotten dimension of the world we know. And the exploration of that dimension, either willingly or unwillingly, is the whole sense of the deed of the hero. The values and distinctions that in normal life seem important disappear with the terrifying assimilation of the self into what formerly was only otherness. As in the stories of the cannibal ogresses, the fearfulness of this loss of personal individuation can be the whole burden of the transcendental experience for unqualified souls. But the hero-soul goes boldly in —and discovers the hags converted into goddesses and the dragons into the watchdogs of the gods.
‘There must always remain, however, from the standpoint of normal waking consciousness, a certain baffling inconsistency between the wisdom brought forth from the deep, and the prudence usually found to be effective in the light world. Hence the common divorce of opportunism from virtue and the resultant degeneration of human existence. Martyrdom is for saints, but the common people have their institutions, and these cannot be left to grow like lilies of the field; Peter keeps drawing his sword, as in the garden, to defend the creator and sustainer of the world. The boon brought from the transcendent deep becomes quickly rationalized into nonentity, and the need becomes great for another hero to refresh the word.
‘How teach again, however, what has been taught correctly and incorrectly learned a thousand thousand times, throughout the millenniums of mankind’s prudent folly? That is the hero’s ultimate difficult task. How render back into light-world language the speech-defying pronouncements of the dark? How represent on a two-dimensional surface a three-dimensional form, or in a three-dimensional image a multi-dimensional meaning? How translate into terms of “yes” and “no” revelations that shatter into meaninglessness every attempt to define the pairs of opposites? How communicate to people who insist on the exclusive evidence of their senses the message of the all-generating void? Many failures attest to the difficulties of this life-affirmative threshold. The first problem of the returning hero is to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfillment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and noisy obscenities of life. Why re-enter such a world? Why attempt to make plausible, or even interesting, to men and women consumed with passion, the experience of transcendental bliss”? As dreams that were momentous by night may seem simply silly in the light of day, so the poet and the prophet can discover themselves playing the idiot before a jury of sober eyes. The easy thing is to commit the whole community to the devil and retire again into the heavenly rock-dwelling, close the door, and make it fast. But if some spiritual obstetrician has meanwhile drawn the shimenawa across the retreat, then the work of representing eternity in time, and perceiving in time eternity, cannot be avoided.’ p. 201-4.
16. Master of the Two Worlds
‘Freedom to pass back and forth across the world division, from the perspective of the apparitions of time to that of the causal deep and back—not contaminating the principles of the one with those of the other, yet permitting the mind to know the one by virtue of the other—is the talent of the master. The Cosmic Dancer, declares Nietzsche, does not rest heavily in a single spot, but gaily, lightly, turns and leaps from one position to another. It is possible to speak from only one point at a time, but that does not invalidate the insights of the rest.’ p. 212-3.
‘The myths do not often display in a single image the mystery of the ready transit. Where they do, the moment is a precious symbol, full of import, to be treasured and contemplated. Such a moment was that of the Transfiguration of the Christ… Here is the whole myth in a moment: Jesus the guide, the way, the vision, and the companion of the return. The disciples are his initiates, not themselves masters of the mystery, yet introduced to the full experience of the paradox of the two worlds in one.’ p. 213.
‘Jesus makes the point more succinctly: “Whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” The meaning is very clear; it is the meaning of all religious practice. The individual, through prolonged psychological disciplines, gives up completely all attachment to his personal limitations, idiosyncrasies, hopes and fears, no longer resists the self-annihilation that is prerequisite to rebirth in the realization of truth, and so becomes ripe, at last, for the great at-one-ment.
‘His personal ambitions being totally dissolved, he no longer tries to live but willingly relaxes to whatever may come to pass in him; he becomes, that is to say, an anonymity. The Law lives in him with his unreserved consent. Many are the figures, particularly in the social and mythological contexts of the Orient, who represent this ultimate state of anonymous presence. The sages of the hermit groves and the wandering mendicants who play a conspicuous role in the life and legends of the East; in myth such figures as the Wandering Jew (despised, unknown, yet with the pearl of great price in his pocket); the tatterdemalion beggar, set upon by dogs; the miraculous mendicant bard whose music stills the heart; or the masquerading god, Wotan, Viracocha, Edshu: these are examples. “Sometimes a fool, sometimes a sage, sometimes possessed of regal splendor; sometimes wandering, sometimes as motionless as a python, sometimes wearing a benignant expression; sometimes honored, sometimes insulted, sometimes unknown—thus lives the man of realisation, ever happy with supreme bliss. Just as an actor is always a man, whether he puts on the costume of his role or lays it aside, so is the perfect knower of the Imperishable always the Imperishable, and nothing else.”’ p. 220.
17. Freedom to Live
‘What, now, is the result of the miraculous passage and return”? The battlefield is symbolic of the field of life, where every creature lives on the death of another. A realization of the inevitable guilt of life may so sicken the heart that, like Hamlet or like Arjuna, one may refuse to go on with it. On the other hand, like most of the rest of us, one may invent a false, finally unjustified, image of oneself as an exceptional phenomenon in the world, not guilty as others are, but justified in one’s inevitable sinning because one represents the good. Such self-righteousness leads to a misunderstanding, not only of oneself but of the nature of both man and the cosmos. The goal of the myth is to dispel the need for such life ignorance by effecting a reconciliation of the individual consciousness with the universal will. And this is effected through a realization of the true relationship of the passing phenomena of time to the imperishable life that lives and dies in all. “Even as a person casts off worn-out clothes and puts on others that are new, so the embodied Self casts off worn-out bodies and enters into others that are new. Weapons cut It not; fire burns It not; water wets It not; the wind does not wither It. This Self cannot be cut nor burnt nor wetted nor withered. Eternal, all-pervading, unchanging, immovable, the Self is the same for ever.”
‘Man in the world of action loses his centering in the principle of eternity if he is anxious for the outcome of his deeds, but resting them and their fruits on the knees of the Living God he is released by them, as by a sacrifice, from the bondages of the sea of death. “Do without attachment the work you have to do…
Surrendering all action to Me, with mind intent on the Self, freeing yourself from longing and selfishness, fight—unperturbed by grief.” p. 221-2.
‘The hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become, because he is. “Before Abraham was, I AM.” He does not mistake apparent changelessness in time for the permanence of Being, nor is he fearful of the next moment (or of the “other thing”), as destroying the permanent with its change. “Nothing retains its own form; but Nature, the greater renewer, ever makes up forms from forms. Be sure there’s nothing perishes in the whole universe; it does but vary and renew its form.” Thus the next moment is permitted to come to pass. p. 225-6.
All quotes are from:
Campbell, Joseph (1949, 2004) The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Learn more about Joseph Campbell, access his lectures and discussion forums through the Joseph Campbell Foundation – click here
When I inside and outside my “self”, I see one thing: fractals. Fractals explain to me the microcosm and the macrocosm that our cells, bodies, societies, galaxies, and possibly universes and beyond, are a part of.
Have you seen the “Power of Ten” clip? This is a MUST. It zooms out at the power of 10 every second out to the edge of our universe and then zooms into through to the quantum quark inside your hand. Out of every youtube clip I’ve ever posted on this blog, this is my favourite:
Fractal patterns seem to surround us as far out into the universe and as deep into our cells as far as our technology allows us to see.
From relationships within cells to between cells, within people to between people, within societies to between societies, within nations to between nations, within our planet, solar system, galaxy, universe – there are clear patterns: patterns of complexity and nothingness, of ones and zeros, of peace and conflict, patterns of a dance between polar opposites that are two sides to one coin.
In bridging finite (area) with infinite (perimeter), does the fractal pattern provide a metaphor of how what seems impossible, actually be possible? What implications might this have for philosophical discussions about good and evil, determinism vs in-determinism, individualism vs in-separateness?
Is what some people call “God”, a personification of the fractal?
Is it just me or is the idea of fractals an incredible way to think about the connection between our cells, our universe, and our “selves”!!!
1. That God selected ONE species to be his “chosen” species, abandoning all His other creations to nothingness.
2. That God values ALL of his creations. The idea that humans are the only creations with souls, is a narrative created by humans not God.
What makes more sense?
1. That God selected ONE group of people to be His “chosen people, to help them conquer other groups of people (as long as they obeyed Him) and to punish all other people in the world who strive to discover Him and His will.
2. That this group of people crowned themselves God’s chosen people, and that in times where these people won battles they believed it was because of their obedience to God, while in times of trouble their scapegoat was to disobedience to God.
What makes more sense?
1. That the world was created in 6 days, 6,000 years ago, by a God who is an entity separate from the world, that watches the world from afar. And yet is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent?
2. That some component of the universe has always existed, and this has be personified as God. That the universe is, like the breath of God, currently expanding, and one day it will compress back to a single quantum atom at which time the process of expansion will start again. That the process of creation, destruction and recreation never ends, hence presenting the beautiful process and nature of “God”. A never-ending process of yin and yang, good and evil, diametrical opposites that allow us, (and God) to know the other.
What makes more sense?
1. That carbon and other dating methods are inaccurate by millions/billions of years, that evolution is incorrect, and that the 30,000-year history of the aborigines is a complete fabrication.
2. That the biblical account of Genesis is, like many other (very similar) creation stories about human beings that lived between 5-2000 years ago, a mythological symbolic account that explained the origins of life in a non-literal sense.
What makes more sense?
1. That God selected one point in time, that is, 2000 years ago, to impregnate a human woman to bare His one son, who is also an incarnation of Himself, in order to save humanity and provide an opportunity for people born lucky enough to hear this story, to have a relationship with Him. That this path to heaven does not come through how people live their lives, but they come from His “grace” that allows “anyone who believes in Him” – and the biblically narratated account of His divine Son dying on a cross and physically rising again for my, or your, sin, can have a relationship with God and go to heaven when they die.
2. That God would love ALL the human (and non-human) beings He created and continues and will always continue to create over billions and zillions of years – before our universe’s beginning, and after it will end. That each group of people, through myriad circumstances, have developed a unique relationship with “Him” (referring to a personification of what is not human nor of any gender), discovering different aspects of the macrocosmic, omnipotent, omnipresent entity to which we are all a part of.
What makes more sense?
1. That all the Mayans and Incas in South America, the Aborigines in Australia, the Chinese, Japanese, Indians – all the people that were born into other cultures and see the world through a different lens that they have been brought up in, people who believe they have a relashionship with God – are actually wrong and are worshiping false gods, and hence will go to hell unless they repent and abandon the beliefs of their ancestors, and believe in the Christian God and Jesus Christ His son.
2. That none of these religions have discovered the whole of who (or what) “God” is?
Is it possible that by exploring each tradition in it’s historical context, alongside the ongoing scientific and astronomical discoveries, that we can together continue to uncover more about the nature of the powers driving the universe?
What makes more sense?
1. That one simple story behind every incredible complexity that this world has to offer, was magically captured in One Holy Book, which was gathered, translated and interpreted without any human political motivations entering the decision process.
2. That all Holy Books contain historical complexities surrounding the “truth”, “myth”, “Midrash”, myriad political intentions, and mis-translations, and that they as much as one strives to discover the “Truth” in it, there will always be different interpretations, and mis-interpretations of passages when taken outside their original language and context.
What makes more sense?
1. That God created such a narrative of the battle of good vs evil, of creation 6000 years ago, of one saviour in one part of the world 2000 years ago – all so that He can still continue to choose who He wants to hear this narrative, who He will reveal Himself to and have a relationship with…
2. That man made up this narrative over thousands of years of a developing human consciousness, evolving moralities, political motivations, desires to know where we came from, to feel special, to deal with the inequalities and injustices in life, to provide hope of justice and eternal life, and to provide a grand-narrative of purpose and rid sense of emptiness and meaningless.
What makes more sense?
1. That Jesus is a “liar, lunatic, or Lord.”
2. That the Bible contains some flaws.
There are many alternative scenarios than Jesus being a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. This manipulative argument is based on the presumption that everything in the Bible is literally true – a presumption to which any thinking person can see is an biased argument. Even if you allow for evidence from within this paradigm, does the bible claim not to contain mythos? Does it claim to contain no error? Even if God inspired the words, through translations and interpretations you can be guaranteed there are errors (and in other writings I have listed but a few of the many).
Think about it – couldn’t the virgin birth and rising from dead have a deep symbolic meaning without literally being true. Could these parts have been added when, after Jesus’ death his teachings were being transformed into a Jewish social revolution and then a religion taken to the Roman pagans? The fact that many pagan gods were born of a virgin died and rose from the dead, for example Ishtar from who Easter is based upon, infers that this scenario is a highly reasonable one to consider. Could Jesus be a prophet, a fantastic example of how we can know God? Could he be a mythical legend inspired by a number of heroic social and spiritual revolutionaries at the time? Maybe.
What makes more sense?
1. That God used various men to write, edit, collate, translate and interpret the Bible – exactly the way that He wanted it to be done – bridging the language and cultural barriers as if everyone understands everything the way he intended.
2. That men wrote the books of the Bible, feeling inspired by God but remaining human and hence fallible. In the version of events and “facts” that they had access to, open to political interference, additions and manipulation, open to errors in translation and open to much debate over various ways to interpret the words in different circumstances that the rader finds themselves?
Debates over the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity… and existence of so many contradicting divisions of Christianity demonstrates the openness for such a human filtering process.
Jesus was an incarnation of God himself, and simultameously God’s one and only Son, and that a belief in this God-Man’s special birth, life’s teachings, humiliating and horrifying death, miraculous resurrection and incomprehensible ascension in to the earth’s atmosphere (to where-ver Heaven supposedly is located in the sky)
What makes more sense?
1. That one groups are the rare lucky people that God has chosen to be provided with the particular circumstances that lead us to the “right’ religion – the “right’ relationship with God through the belief in the “right” interpretation of history and historical writings.
2. That humans of a particular culture and particular period made up the exclusiveness side of this story, that writings were manipulated so that the powerful could control the masses.
Might all religions record the experiences of various people with the great divine power, not with “other fake gods”? Is it possible that we do not know everything there is to know about God? Doesn’t God have a right to interact with different people however he wants to? Is it possible that by saying that God chose us and not people in Australia 500-years ago, that we are the ones playing God? Who are we to say what God is thinking, planning and choosing? Who are we to interpret a book out of their written context, and applying it to different cultures within this globalised society where such an attitude can have a rippling violent effect? Might it be better to let God be God, and us humans be humans? Might we be better to keep open toward all the humans of the world and seek to discover everything we can about the historical relationships between non-Western humans and God?
Does it really make sense that people in other cultures, whose circumstances have led them to belief Jesus was a human and not a God-incarnate – are sent to hell by no fault of their own? Why – if there is one God, and people in other cultures, and people who have lived for thousands of years seeking God within these cultures -would God reject them and accord that only one culture of people in one period of time, will have the correct story.
What makes more sense?
1. That life is a battle between good and evil, that people who choose to do evil will be punished in hell – an afterlife of eternal suffering.
2. That those who do good in the world largely to so due to their life experiences, and that whots who do “evil” do so as a consequence of theirs?
Those who steal do so because they can’t afford to eat, or maybe because of an addiction to a drug they have developed due to a parent dying when they are young, or maybe just because they have been brought up with the overtly materialistic dreams that they hence believe will make them happy, even if it means harming other sto get there. Those who murder often do so because their psychy is completely fucked up by whatever circumstances they have withstood in their lifetime. Our definition of good, bad, and justice, and our knowledge about how to move toward peace, is an ever-evolving process. As our knowledge grows it may not mean wemove toward it however could it be structural circumstances that lead this to be?
… In summary, think about these questions:
Why would God create populations of people for thousands of years before Jesus, on unreachable areas of the world, eg the Australian Aborigines, only to send them to hell?
Is it more likely that God chose one group of people, or that they crowned this title to themselves?
Don’t you think that God would be powerful enough to love us without having to come to earth in human form so that he could forgive us? If you are all powerful, can’t you just forgive without people pleading for that forgiveness? Can’t you be happy with your achievements without needing someone else’s applaud?
What is more likely: God incarnated Himself as a human ONCE in the whole history of the universe, or that God incarnates Himself in each and every one of us, and in every life orm, every cell and every quantum atom that makes up our universe?
What is more likely: Jesus was a God-incarnation who three days after laying dead, rose back to life, and ascended into the earth’s atmosphere to wherever heaven exists up there; or that the supernatural parts of this story are reflections of the Roman pagan influence, additions to the story of Jesus that occurred in between Jesus’ death and the writings of the gospels?
Think about the complexities that surround us: the nature of life, humanity, consciousness, the connections between us and the micro and macro world that surrounds us… how can we uncover more about how we got to where we are, why, and where we are going from here?
Via a collective exploration it would seem that we might be able to get closer to knowing “God”, discovering more about “His” nature (taking “him” as a personification for the laws of nature), learning about how He created us, what He wants for us to do with this understanding and with our live (which I think is the same as Him discovering these things about Himself).
… If not an absolute and elitist Christian God, then what???
To answer this question I think it is useful to return to the question: Who, or what is “God”??? Click here for some blog entries on this topic.
This process of questioning isn’t easy. It not only takes a lot of time. It can involve a roller coaster of emotions. It can cause conflict within yourself, as you question the roots of how you understand the world. It can cause conflict within social groups, even between you and family members. For me it was all these things. And so here, in hope of easing the pain of anyone else that might be facing the same dilemma, I documented my question and answers, and I offer it to you in this book I wrote in 2007-8: Journey of an Intuitive Christian
I am starting to understand what Buddha meant when he said all life is suffering. No matter which financial situation you are born into, we always want more. It is very rare we reach a stage where we happily say “enough”. The more chocolate I have, the more chocolate I want. The more countries I go to, the more countries I want to go to. The more money I have the bigger apartment I can get, the better the car, the more vintage the scooter, the more designer the clothes, the better quality the beauty products, the more fancy dinners etc etc. Sorry Ecclesiastes quotes are in my head at the moment – 6:7 says “A man’s efforts are for his mouth, yet his appetite is never satisfied.”I think you could say that is pretty much on the money – things haven’t changed much in the last 2-3000 years.
When it comes to dealing with the elephant in the room (the world population), it would seem it is largely due to an inability for humans to say enough (be it enough children or enough consumption of products that harm our environment), that means that eradicating poverty will eradicate humanity, if we are still the billions we are today.
As I see it we have few options. Either:
1. we accept thatbillions of people will alwayslive in poverty and allow them to continue creating more and more billions of people to live in poverty (given that those people living in poverty don’t have much of an ecological footprint so while they stay in poverty there isn’t really a problem). Or,
2. we somehow get rid of a few billion people (I’m not inferring not overnight, but thinking some kind of population control with a 100 year plan would be a good start). Or,
3. we suicide of our species (seeing as it doesn’t seem possible for 7 billion people we grow to to live the American lifestyle without destroying our habitat, let alone 10 or 50 or whatever ridiculous number of billion people we allow ourselves to grow to).
I really don’t like any of these options, not one bit.
Surely there are alternatives??? I wonder if Buddha can help?
Buddha observed that greed, anger and hatred were the root causes of the world’s problems. He thought that these three evils were rooted in ignorance about what will make us happy, and that solutions come from non-attachment, frommeditating into a state of inner peace, andchanging the attitudes that were causing the violence in the first place.
Does this help with the population problem?
I suppose monks don’t have sex so if we all became Buddhist monks that might help – but that’s no more appealing than the first three options.
I guess Buddha’s suggestions do seem to be pointing us toward a less materialistic lifestyle, which means less consumption and less planetary damage, so maybe there is something practical we can learn from it.
Theproblem with a solution the comes from decreasing consumption, is that for our economy this equates to a dead economy, no jobs, and a downward spiralinto depression... I heard from my Opa about depressions, eating rosebuds to stay alive. Nope, don’t like that option either…
One of the best solutions I have come across is the suggestion that GOOD DESIGN can solve all the worlds problems. We need to find ways to consume in ways that don’t harm our environment: designing products and housing that don’t do any damage, setting up more efficient agriculture and trade systems, and consuming more equally around the world. Maybe we don’t have to cut our consumption – we can just learn to consume in different ways?
The exciting thing about this is that a few days ago, while doing a little lingerie shopping, I discovered it is already happening!!! Check out this Simone Perele biodegradable bag. I bought underwear from three shops and put it all in this little bag.
How good is that!!! With a little ingenuity maybe humans change the world. I’m definitely liking the sound of this option…
BUT do more efficient, non-polluting systems and more ecological product designs actually address the elephant in the room?
Will these systems remain ecologically sustainably when 7 billion become 70 billion? And what about 700 billion? Where do you draw the line? And if you don’t draw a line and implement some kind of population control, what will ever cause people to stop having so many babies?
I know there are predictions that the population will stop at 10 billion – but I don’t understand the logic behind it. Just because western countries have bought into the “have less children because children are too expensive” idea, doesn’t mean that other civilisations, as they develop, will culturally adapt in the same way. If a culture values having ten children, why will having enough food to feed them not make them have twenty? Maybe it will, but I’m not convinced.
“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed” – said Gandhi.
I think this is true but I wonder: is greed something that will ever disappear? I’m not so sure. To be continued…
Note on the picture:
I am not actually sure if this is Buddha – I think it’s a Hindu god – if anyone knows, please let me know. I took this in Kathmandu, Nepal and am too lazy to find a better pic to suit this entry.
Walking up in the mountains outside Kathmandu I contemplated the connection between the world’s inequalities today, the actions of one’s ancestors, and the idea of karma and reincarnation that I had been reading about in some books on the Eastern Religions.
Be they the ancestors who split from the group to discover new worlds fifty thousand years ago, or be they the innovators of new technologies that won them last century’s battles, the connection is pretty clear… and I wondered, is this what the yogis are talking about when they talk about karma? Are the people of today the reincarnations of ancestors, manifested through the processes of material, genetic and education inheritance? The closer we get to a person, the more the other embodies our ideas. If we, say, write a book and disperse our ideas, are we, on some level, reincarnating ourselves through the people that these ideas influence? Are our children simply more direct reincarnations of ourselves as they gain more of our energy through our genes and through the time we spend with them?
At the end of the day we are all responsible for the consequences of our own actions, be they consequences experienced our own lifetime, or in that of our children and childrens’ childrens’ childrens’ lifetimes. If we do bad to another person, animal, or to our environment, be it in our lifetime or in sometime in the distant future, the universe eventually balances itself out… Is this, in a wider sense, our “karma”? Could the cycle of birth-death-rebirth that the yogis talk about be less about a separate soul reincarnating (for example, that if you kill a bee in this life you will come back as an bee in your next life), and actually be describing the process of evolution (for example, if many people kill many bees, humanity will have to adapt to a world with less flowers and foods)?
When the caste system tells people that they have been born into their caste as a consequence of their actions in a past life I typically respond (in my head) with “what a load of bullocks!” But, when viewed from this understanding of karma and reincarnation, this idea starts to make sense… Could poverty actually be the karmic result of the decisions of one’s ancestors?
When I compare the capitalist system to the caste system I can’t help but appreciate the open opportunities capitalism provides. Sure it’s not a perfect system with the opportunities it provides not exactly equal (for example, children in wealthy families are sure to have more opportunities than less wealthy families) but on the other side I also think that if a person dedicates their life to provide such opportunities for their children, isn’t it fair that this child benefits from their parent’s hard work? Is such their good fortune, their parent or grandparent’s karma?
Or is maybe this just my wishful thinking, in hope of justifying the unjustifiable, I’m not quite sure. Karma and reincarnation aside, as I consider the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism and I wonder: if you take away the ability to transfer wealth to your children, will people still be motivated to innovate and work hard? At least in this system, children in the less wealthy family still get a decenteducation and decent amount of opportunity. While life may not be as easy as it is for the child born in the wealthy family, the challenges this presents can actually an opportunity for even more growth for that individual, and at least no one is completely left out of the system and being condemned to be an untouchable for all their future generations.
It is starting to seem to me that as we reincarnate ourselves, from generation to generation of cell to plant to animal to self-aware human, our creativity is growing, our sense of morality and ethics is deepening, andour capability to consider the future of the whole planet is expanding. And so I wonder, if we continue collective learn from each other and from the past, what incredible species will the reincarnates of humanity be like in the future?
Photographer: Edwina Hughes.
Taken at my sister’s wedding at Craigiburn in Bowral on the weekend, this photo doesn’t really have anything to do with this blog entry although I guess in a way it represents the passing on of traditions and possibly the beginning of a new generation of Bennetts. And it’s nice to share considering it was such an incredible wedding, very fun, my sister looked GORGEOUS, and my new brother-in-law spunky… Congratulations guys!
Manufacturing Consent – Noam Chomsky … if you haven’t seen this one you better watch it NOW!
The War on Democracy – The US manipulates politics of South America
The Power of Nightmares – The rise of the Religious Right in America, and Islamic Fundamentalists.
Jesus Camp – SCARY!
The Story of God – explores the history of humanity’s search for our creator.
Zeitgeist – as I mentioned yesterday – a must see.
The Corporation – Damn corporations.
The 11th Hour – Leonardo Dicaprio carries on from “inconvenient” message Al Gore shared with us.
And I’m sure heaps more are great. Check it out!!!
I sneakily snapped this photo in a museum in Peru or Ecuador (no cameras allowed) – they are little Inca statues in erotic positions… You can actually buy packs of cards that each have a picture of a different statue in a different tantric-sex-like pose. I bought some as a gift, now wish I had them to show hehehe funny stuff. How fun is exploring different cultures! I wonder what India has in store for me next month…. okay, I gotta stop yabbering. Enjoy your weekend!
In the hidden-away tranquility beneath the branches of large shadowy trees, in the Secret Garden hostel in a mysterious little town called Vilcabamba, in Ecuador December 2008, I met a man with white hair and a white beard. It was from this man that I first learned of the Zeitgeist…
The word “Zeitgeist” comes from the German word Zeit, which means time, and Geist, which means spirit.
So basically Zeitgeist means the “spirit of the times” and according to wikipedia this means the “general cultural, intellectual, ethical, spiritual, and/or political climate within a nation or even specific groups, along with the general ambience, morals, and sociocultural direction or mood of an era (similar to the English word mainstream or trend).”
The first part of the first movie (entitled The Greatest Story Ever Told) looks at religion, describes the worship of the Sun, the anthropomorphism of astrological constellations, of an ancient and ongoing battle between Horus and Set, or Light and Darkness, with each morning Horus winning and providing us warmth and vision, and Set conquering as our nights set in. The celebration of the birth of the Sun would occur on the Winter equinox (the 25th of December), where from then on the days would get longer.
The second part (entitled All The World’s a Stage) looks at the theory that September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center were an inside job.
Part 3 (entitled Don’t Mind the Men Behind the Curtain) looks at the waging of war for the economic gain of international bankers.
The sequel to the movie is called Zeitgeist: Addendum explains “fractional reserve banking”, shows how debt makes us economic slaves that must submit to employment in order to live. How’s this for a quote:
“Physical slavery requires people to be housed and fed. Economic slavery requires people to feed and house themselves.”
A confronting lens from which to interpret reality, isn’t it.
The second part of the sequel is mainly interviews with John Perkins, the ex-CIA economic hit man and the author of “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man”, a New York Times best seller that is now also a film). Perkins writes:
Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly-paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporations and the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources.
The final part of the Zeitgeist sequel leaves some points of hope, with futurist Jacque Frescoproviding a vision of a “resource-based economy” based on abundance rather than the current monetary-based economy based on scarcity. The vision is known as The Venus Project, and it involves the use of magnetic and geotechnologies that have allegedly been suppressed for political and monetary gains that could help us adapt to environmentally friendly and sustainable lifestyles. These technologies sound fantastic, but they need more research and development and hence more funding, which the capitalist system prevents them getting as it gives preference to policies like carbon tax which bandaid a solution rather than looking to solve the actual cause. I don’t know if all that is said is possible, but it’s refreshing and powerful to visualise and imagine.
The last part of this movie turns to our society’s values, oppressive laws, and irrelevant superstitions, and points to acollective ignorance that leads it.
The films have been criticised for containing material that is partially true, and some that is complete bogus, used mainly to ‘maximize an emotional response at the expense of reasoned argument’ which as a result undermines ‘legitimate questions about what happened on 9/11, and about corruption in religious and financial organizations.’
Still even if some details are added for emotional oomph, it seems to me that the core issues they discuss are real issues. They may not have referenced all of their sources but finding sources to support the gist of what they talk about is not hard to find. This documentary is available for free online and is absolutely worth watching, as long as all it’s details are not taken as gospel.
The core messages in the film are strong, I think it does a good job to capture the spirit of our times, and provide at least some direction and vision as to where we are going. It is for sure that humanity together must seek the emergent and the symbiotic. Throughout history people have desired to fit and uphold the norm, otherwise they are ostracized by their society. But the perpetuation of a closed worldview is not positive for society. It is destructive. Fundamentalist religions are psychologically distorting the idea of faith. The new is ignored in favor of outdated beliefs. We misinterpret myths as literal events. Consider the paradigm shifts of the last two millennia: heliocentric to geocentric and beyond. What we know today was unimaginable 2000 years ago. To be proven wrong should be celebrated.Fluid perpetual change must be embraced.There is no such thing as static knowledge. Nothing is ever static.
We have to stay open to new information at all times; even if challenges our present beliefs.
When the pupil is ready, a teacher will show up. Read a Zen proverb on a gift card in a little art shop in a small Vilcamamban street. It is overwhelming to consider the problems of our worldwide system and their deep historic roots. But what matters is not how we can change the world, but how we can change ourselves. It starts with being ready to learn. I am ready.
And on that note, guess what teacher is showing up in town (my town, ie Sydney)???… JACQUE FRESCO!!! Next Friday the 23rd April 2010, for the Venus Project World Lecture Tour. He’s speaking at my uni – Sydney University – and tickets are open, just under $30, and available here … I hope to see you there!
^ Chapman, Jane (2009). Documentary in Practice: Filmmakers and Production Choices. Polity Press. p. 171–173.
Among my Internet surfing I came across a “creationist” website – the belief that the world is around 6000 years old – a figure derived from tracing back the genealogy in the bible from Jesus to Adam, and the seven-day creation. This belief is growing so much that more than 40% of Americans believe this and do not believe in evolution!
Obviously this creation story clashes with the Story of the Universe I am presenting in my Big History Blog Series. I think it is always important to read other views with the most open mind you can possibly have, and I have tried, but serious – this is pretty destructive stuff…
This website was advertising a book called:
WAR OF THE WORLDVIEWS
“What do aliens, dinosaurs and gay marriage have in common?
They are all part of the culture war—a war between two worldviews…
How are we to respond when we hear of the latest “argument” for evolution? How can we prepare our children to face the evolutionary indoctrination of our public schools and universities? What are we to make of “Christian” organizations who teach the big bang and millions of years? How can we build a truly biblical worldview?
In this powerful book, you will find ammunition for the war: answers to some of the most common arguments for evolution, analyses of Christian compromise and a call for a return to true biblical authority.”
This is a quote from a corresponding article:
“This story of origins is entirely fiction. But sadly, many people claim to believe the big bang model. It is particularly distressing that many professing Christians have been taken in by the big bang, perhaps without realizing its atheistic underpinnings. They have chosen to reinterpret the plain teachings of Scripture in an attempt to make it mesh with secular beliefs about origins.
There are several reasons why we cannot just add the big bang to the Bible. Ultimately, the big bang is a secular story of origins. When first proposed, it was an attempt to explain how the universe could have been created without God. Really, it is an alternative to the Bible; so it makes no sense to try to “add” it to the Bible. Let us examine some of the profound differences between the Bible and the secular big bang view of origins.
The Bible teaches that God created the universe insix days ( Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). It is clear from the context in Genesis that these were days in the ordinary sense (i.e., 24-hour days) since they are bounded by evening and morning and occur in an ordered list (second day, third day, etc.). Conversely, the big bang teaches the universe has evolved over billions of years.
The Bible says that Earth was created before the stars and that trees were created before the sun.1 However, the big bang view teaches the exact opposite. The Bible tells us that the earth was created as a paradise; the secular model teaches it was created as a molten blob. The big bang and the Bible certainly do not agree about the past.
Many people don’t realize that the big bang is a story not only about the past but also about the future. The most popular version of the big bang teaches that the universe will expand forever and eventually run out of usable energy. According to the story, it will remain that way forever in a state that astronomers call “heat death.”2 But the Bible teaches that the world will be judged and remade.Paradise will be restored. The big bang denies this crucial biblical teaching.
First of all I have to ask: wasn’t the book of Genesis written by Jews? And don’t Jews believe the Genesis story is MYTH? So what are these Christians thinking when they decide to interpret is as LITERAL???
Secondly, referring to the parts of the quote I have highlighted in red, this article appears to be highly manipulative propaganda. It appeals to people’s fear of death and offers a reward of eternal life – you have a choice: be a part of a universe that might one day, in billions of years, cease to exist; or be a Christian and live forever. But what of this choice is based on anything real?
If we are part of a universe that might one day cease to exist, maybe we should accept it and stop fearing it. Maybe it’s a good thing? Life is pretty good, but to live forever in the same consciousness would get pretty mundane. Especially if there this eternal life was somewhere that everything was perfect… urgh! Nope – I think “God” made a pretty good world with this play of opposing forces – it’ keeps life interesting. Change is great! Maybe we should enjoy the billions years this universe has left to offer. Now we are in a stage of expansion, one day the universe may contract and billions of years later start to expand again… who knows! It’s a pretty exciting idea, and at least it’s a real possibility as opposed to a fairytale told to make us feel good and turn our consciousness from creative and peaceful to one that is conforming and destructive …
Thirdly, this article polarizes non-believers and falsifies who they are and their motives. Maybe Christians who believe in evolution and not creationism are NOT “compromising” their religion – isn’t it possible that they are THINKING FOR THEMSELVES? Isn’t it possible that they are READING THE BIBLE IN THE CONTEXT THAT IT WAS WRITTEN? Isn’t it possible that “GOD” WANTED THE BIBLE TO CONTAIN MYTH, WHICH IS WHY GENESIS IS A MYTH???
I really cannot understand how people can abuse a historical book, cherry pick and take parts out of context, and use it to hate certain groups of society, to deny the dinosaurs, polarize worldview rather than look for the lessons that can be learned from each other, increasing tensions, and calling for war. Yep – that’s a great way to create a world war. Good one guys.