Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Painted Rock, The Inner Connection to the Infinite, and Two Competing Visions of Human Existence

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The visionary Lakota holy man Black Elk once articulated a distinction between two competing visions: the first, a vision of harmony and connection between people and animals and also with the invisible world, and the second a vision of division and scarcity and an all-consuming, gnawing greed that ultimately dirties and destroys everything good before finally destroying itself.

In his own account, which he allowed to be published in the book Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk associates these two visions with two paths he saw bisecting the great sacred hoop of life during a very powerful vision he received which had a profound impact on his entire life: the good red road (running from north to south on the great circle) associated with the preservation and renewal of all creatures, and the black road (running from west to east on the great circle) upon which "everybody walked for himself."  

The great vision of Black Elk, and his description of the difference between the two roads, is discussed in this previous post, and of course in his account of the vision, which after great deliberation he decided to tell to the world through a published narrative. 

The deciding factor that led him to tell his vision to the outside world was his realization that the people were mistakenly pursuing the bad vision and running down the wrong road -- he admits that even he himself had during a certain time thought that the way of the Wasichus (the Europeans) seemed to be working and that he himself had decided for a time that it might have been the better way -- and he felt that by telling his vision he could persuade others not to make this mistake, before it was too late.

Perhaps few surviving sacred sites in the world display the conflict between those two visions, those two roads described by Black Elk in his vision, more viscerally than the ancient space known today as "Painted Rock," located in North America in a high grassland plain -- in fact, a salt-lake basin with no real outlet, containing a large dry gypsum flat known as "Soda Lake" -- about forty-five or fifty miles inland from the Pacific Ocean in modern-day California. 

This is the arid valley known today as the Carrizo Plain, a name thought to have been derived from the Spanish word carrizo, defined in the Follett Velasquez dictionary as a "common reed-grass, Arundo phragmites," although in previous generations the area was called the Carrisa Plain, possibly an attempt to pronounce the Spanish word.  

It is nearly 1,400 miles from the places that Black Elk and his people lived, but it contains an awe-inspiring natural rock temple which silently proclaims a very similar message and offers a clear view of both roads, both visions: one vision evincing profound connectedness to nature and to the invisible realm, and the other displaying either a conscious hatred for that first vision, or a wanton disregard for it, and arising from a culture that has been cut off from it.

This extensive description of the importance of Painted Rock (and the extensive ancient archaeological region of which Painted Rock is part), prepared and filed in 2011 in conjunction with a request to have the area declared a National Historic Landmark, points to newly-discovered evidence of human habitation stretching back 10,000 years before the present, describing (in addition to the well-known Painted Rock site) "recently discovered pictograph sites along with a remarkable concentration of villages, camps and other sites dating from about 10,000 to 200 BP (8050 BCE - 1750 CE)" (see top of page 4).

This anciently-inhabited region, that same paragraph notes, contains abundant pictographs of a very distinctive nature: for the most part, they are painted with bright colors, instead of carved or indented as is common in other pictographic sites in North America. These, the report notes, "are the impressive hallmark of this district." Some scholars have dated the creation of these particular painted pictographs to a period of about 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. 

These painted markings and significant and impressive in their own right, for their historical and cultural significance, for whatever concepts the ancient artists intended with their work (almost certainly related to the sacred and to the invisible world), and for the unworldly impression conveyed by their subject matter, their often intricate and artistically-beautiful design, and their use of bold colors (particularly red, black and white, often used together, with light blue, ochre yellow, and other colors added at times as well). 

In the massif known as the Painted Rock, shown in the aerial image above, the ancient artists who created these paintings selected one of the most impressive natural spaces possible, one possessed of tremendous inherent spiritual symbolism and power.

The annual report of the State Mineralogist to the California State Mining Bureau for the year 1890 described the actual rock formation, and the pictographs, in these words:
In the southwestern part of the plain stands THE PAINTED ROCK, an isolated butte covering an area of about five acres and rising to a height of one hundred and forty feet -- a conical formation, and hollow like the crater of a volcano, but having a narrow opening towards the east on a level with the surrounding plain [the opening is actually more north than east]. This opening is twenty-four feet in width and leads to a vast oval cavity two hundred and twenty-five feet in its greatest, and one hundred and twenty feet in its least diameter, the walls rising to a height of one hundred and thirty-two feet in the highest point. The rock is coarse sandstone, the walls irregular, and overhanging in places, making the inner space like a cave. In these recesses, covering a space of twelve feet in height, and sixty feet in length, are a great number of paintings, representing strange figures in rude forms of men, suns, birds, and others indescribable -- probably hieroglyphics or writings of meaning to the prehistoric people who made them. When and by whom these were made is unknown, as the oldest inhabitant says that when discovered by the pioneer Spanish missionaries, they found them as they are at the present time; the aborigines knowing nothing of their origin, but regarding them with mysterious awe. The paintings are in three lines of red, white, and black, the colors still bright and distinct. This grand temple of the ancient pagan is now utilized as a corral. Upon many rocks bordering the great plain are similar paintings of the same unknown origin. "Painted rocks" are also found in Santa Barbara and Kern Counties, with figures of the same character as those of the San Luis Obispo rocks, and would be a proper subject of study for the ethnologist. 569.
This account, dated from the end of 1890 and thus written by one who visited the area that year or slightly earlier, provides some valuable historical information, particularly regarding the condition of the rock paintings, as well as the fact that their original artists were shrouded in the mists of the ancient past, at least according to whatever sources the surveyors contacted and whatever answers they saw fit to give to him. 

Based on current historical paradigms and analysis of the art itself, most modern scholars ascribe the rock art to the Chumash and Yokuts peoples, each of which has their own distinctive artistic and thematic characteristics but which apparently also have many characteristics and themes in common as well. According to sources cited in page 18 of the National Register of Historic Places form linked previously, many scholars generally believe that the majority of the art comes from the "Middle Period" stretching from 4,000 years to 800 years before the present day, or from about 2050 BC - AD 1150 (and at one point, based on arguments from lake levels of the Soda Lake basin, the report narrows that down to a range of about 2050 BC to 50 BC).

What is fairly certain is that the stunning art of the awe-inspiring Painted Rock sacred site, and that found along certain outcroppings and formations dotting the hills and the edges of the plain in the surrounding region, survived intact and in a remarkable state of preservation for the better part of 4,000 years. 

Some early black-and-white photographs taken of the pictographic murals within Painted Rock itself are claimed in books published not long afterwards to have been taken as early as 1876, which may mean that they are the very first pictographs to have been photographed anywhere in the world. Photographs of the Painted Rock pictographs from the early 1890s were published in a 1910 article in West Coast magazine and in a subsequent 1910 book written by regional historian Myron Angel (you can read the text of that book online here, and order a copy of the original through various bookstores and online used-book channels). 

Other fascinating photos from the 1890s were included in a 1981 book called Curse of the Feathered Snake by Angus MacLean, who uses a story related by Myron Angel as a basis for some of his own proclamations about the history and significance of the sites and their pictographs.

In all of those photographs from the end of the 1800s, and in the descriptions in Mr. Angel's 1910 account, the pictographs are almost completely intact, looking very much as they had looked for the previous 2,000 to 4,000 years -- twenty to forty centuries.

But some vandalism had already begun to take place during the 1800s, with visitors descended from the western European cultures carving their names or initials right through these beautiful ancient pictographs into the soft sandstone, and not long after the turn of the century the real desecration of this ancient site accelerated. It is thought that it was in the decades leading up to World War II, particularly in the 1930s, that some of the most dramatic and intricate of these ancient paintings were hideously disfigured: great sections of paint was sacrilegiously and deliberately flaked off, and apparently some of these sacred figures were even shot with firearms and irretrievably damaged.

Ancient pictographic texts which had thus survived up to four thousand years in beautiful condition, preserving their message for perhaps forty centuries could not survive through what we know as the "twentieth century."

Below are links to two sites containing excellent photographs from recent years, by visitors who have made their way to this special monument and who have been appalled by the wanton destruction of the rock art. Each provides comparisons to some of the black-and-white images from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, to show their disfigured condition in the present day.

The first is a site containing the photography and writing of David Stillman, and an entry entitled "Then and Now: Painted Rock, Carrizo Plain" and dated August 13, 2014.

The second is a two-part trip report published by "Death Valley Jim" (Jim Mattern), a desert guide, wilderness scout, and advocate of low-impact and Leave No Trace outdoorsmanship -- he was so dismayed and angered by the damage done to these pictographs that he vows never to return to Painted Rock again: "Carrizo Plain National Monument and Painted Rock, part 1" and "Carrizo Plain National Monument and Painted Rock, part 2" (both from a very recent first visit, during the beginning of August 2015).

Both are of course right to be outraged and to express their outrage: the deliberate destruction of these ancient sacred sites is a criminal act, one that steals from the heritage of the entire human race and from all future generations, and one that defiles, disrespects, and denigrates sites that are still actively used and held holy by the Native American people whose people and whose ancestors have lived in this land for thousands of years.

Nor is it going too far to state that the message that this site has embodied for so many millennia -- in its own natural power and symbolism, and in the message of the pictographs (which is examined a bit further in the following paragraphs) -- exemplifies the vision of connection with the natural universe, connection with the spirit realm which infuses and indwells every single aspect of this seemingly material realm, and the elevation of that spirit in all people and in all animals and plants and rocks and trees, for the purpose of blessing and renewal.  

Blasting away at that vision with a shotgun at close range, or otherwise deliberately destroying the pictographs which proclaim our connection to the invisible world (such as by flaking off parts of the stone in order to try to take the images away from the site, or just to ruin them forever) clearly exemplifies the very worst aspects of the "bad road" which Black Elk spoke of -- the very worst aspects of that "gnawing flood, dirty with lies and greed" which he described as washing over everything and everyone that once were connected but which have now become isolated and divided and debased.

For more on the way that the sacred enclosure of Painted Rock points to another vision, please first have a look at the previous post entitled "Two Visions," which describes the remarkable analysis presented by Dr. Peter Kingsley, a philosopher and scholar of ancient philosophy (especially pre-Socratic philosophy), in his book In the Dark Places of Wisdom.

Any attempt to "sum up" that ground-breaking book will be incomplete, but one of its central themes involves another way of expressing the very same "two conflicting visions" that Black Elk was also describing. 

Dr. Kingsley provides evidence from archaeology and from the surviving fragmentary texts of ancient philosophers -- and in particular the important pre-Socratic Parmenides or Parmeneides -- showing the existence of a line of ancient wisdom, passed down through one-on-one discipleship, that involved going into dark, cave-like places which connected to "the Underworld." The connection to the Underworld, however, was actually internal -- and the Underworld was a realm of non-ordinary experience to which we all can have access at any time, if we know how to turn ourselves "inside out and find the sun and the moon and the stars inside," as In the Dark Places of Wisdom puts it on page 67.  

This ancient knowledge, Dr. Kingsley asserts, this understanding of the inner connection to the Infinite, was actually at the heart of ancient "western" philosophy -- until it was deliberately stamped out.

And, once it was stamped out, the heirs of that culture all the way down through the centuries in western Europe since those centuries, turned to the other vision (the other "road"): trying desperately to pursue, to grasp, to appropriate something that will fill an emptiness inside -- without realizing that the thing they need (but cannot even recognize) is actually already to be found within.

He writes:
Western culture is a past master at the art of substitution. It offers and never delivers because it can't. It has lost the power even to know what needs to be delivered. [. . .]. 35.
[But, we actually] already have everything we need to know, in the darkness inside ourselves. 67.
There is no denying the fact that the Painted Rock formation fits the description of the dark places where the ancient pre-Socratic wisdom teachers would seek to convey the truth that we already have what we need, and to teach the method of going into the "Underworld" that is actually located in a non-ordinary location: in the darkness inside ourselves.

In fact, in the book, Dr. Kingsley points out that the surviving fragments from the poems of Parmeneides describing this internal Underworld journey explain the descent as being led by a goddess, and attended by female immortal attendants -- and it is undeniable that descent into caves is symbolically associated with the divine feminine.

It can also be pointed out that nearly all the deities and beings human and nonhuman with whom Odysseus has to interact during his epic voyage and return home described in the Odyssey -- from the goddess Calypso to the monsters Scylla and Charybdis to the powerful witch and goddess Circe to the princess Nausicaa of Phaecaia, and of course ultimately to his own wife, Penelope -- are also female figures. And through these interactions Odysseus is also guided to the Underworld in order to gain knowledge that he could not obtain otherwise (and Circe is the one who tells him how to go there, a fact with direct connections to the ancient texts Peter Kingsley discusses as well).

The physical location of Painted Rock quite clearly evokes this same spiritual imagery of the divine feminine.

And now, briefly, to the figures themselves, which some western writers including scholars have chosen to try to interpret literally at some level -- whether seeing them as depicting specific types of turtles or seeing them as trying to depict the shaman who is undergoing a vision-journey.

Writers in earlier centuries (such as the Mineralogist report linked above) often use condescending terms: "rude forms of men, suns, birds, and others indescribable."

And Erich Von Daniken (and others from the same theoretical approach, to which I do not myself subscribe) takes a different kind of literalist approach, declaring that these and other pictographs are literal depictions of spacecraft and beings in spacesuits (whether ancient human astronauts, or ancient aliens). 

Von Daniken specifically points out a drawing of one of the (now largely destroyed) panels from Painted Rock in a 1972 book originally entitled Gods From Outer Space (and available in an online format here under the title Return to the Stars) in the fifth chapter, where he implies that the "different globular figures" might be sphere-shaped spacecraft, and that the humanoid figures in the Painted Rock and other ancient petroglyphs may represent the attempts to render space travelers (and he uses patronizing and condescending descriptions of the level of sophistication and understanding of the artists and ancient cultures that produced this art, comparing them at one point to children given a box of crayons)(see pages 48 - 50).

All of these interpretations, however, could be classified as making the same error as that which is made when ancient sacred written scriptures or ancient myths and sacred traditions are analyzed from a literalistic perspective. I and other authors have shown extensive evidence that the ancient texts and myths are allegorical in nature, based upon celestial metaphor.  I have presented several dozen analyses of various myths and scriptures from around the world in previous blog posts -- lists of those previous posts can be found in links on this page. I could demonstrate this principle with literally hundreds more examples than those found in those previous examinations.

I believe that one of the central purposes of creating these celestial allegories was to convey through metaphor the profound truths that Dr. Peter Kingsley and the great Black Elk are trying to explain to us: that we are in fact already connected to the invisible realm, that the invisible realm in fact permeates every aspect of this seemingly material universe, and that this fact connects us all to one another, and to all other creatures (plants and animals) and to the natural world. 

Literalizing these sacred texts and myths, on the other hand, tends to divide us from one another, and to externalize their message . . . and leads directly to the problem that Dr. Kingsley articulates (in which we run around endlessly searching for substitutes to that which we already have access within) and to the "dirty flood of greed and destruction" that Black Elk describes, a vision of the world in which we are all divided from one another because we are all running after those substitutes, grabbing and grasping and devouring and ultimately destroying.

But, as Dr. Kingsley said in a brilliant metaphor, the ancients taught us that we have to go inside and actually "turn ourselves inside out" to find the sun, moon, planets and stars within.

As I have explained in various previous posts, I believe the celestial metaphors are employed in the sacred myths and texts of the world as a sort of "physical metaphor" to illustrate invisible truths about the spiritual world (the unseen world), and about our condition as physical-spiritual beings inhabiting a physical-spiritual universe.

And that is why I very strongly suspect that the incredible Painted Rock pictographs are also a "celestial text" (or celestial texts, perhaps executed over a span of hundreds or even thousands of years).

As those who followed the links provided earlier, to the high-quality photographic blogs of David Stillman and Death Valley Jim Mattern, may have noticed, each included on their discussion an image of the original artwork which was painted by the talented Campbell Grant (1909 - 1992), who was an artist who did early work for Disney studios (including work on Fantasia, Snow White, and Pinocchio, as well as the voice of Angus MacBadger in The Wind in the Willows) and who was fascinated with Chumash rock art from an early age and became a serious student of this art, and helped try to preserve it.

In the 1960s, using some of the older black-and-white photographs, as well as visits to the site, he painted this re-creation of the Painted Rock panels as they may have looked before they were destroyed in the 1930s.

I believe we can see very clear evidence that at least some portions of these pictographs are specifically celestial in nature, depicting zodiac constellations, major nearby stars, and the great band of the Milky Way galaxy.

I will focus on just three areas (those that are perhaps the "easiest" to decipher -- if indeed this analysis is correct). I believe there are abundant clues in each of these areas which help make their celestial identity pretty evident. I have my suspicion about some of the other pairings not in these three areas, but I'm less certain of those.

Below, note three areas of the pictographic re-creation by Grant, indicated by a green box, a blue box, and a purple box:

I believe the "green box" constellations and celestial features are perhaps the most obvious -- in part because of the rising columns which could be described as resembling caterpillars or segmented centipedes, or maybe spinal columns (mythologically and spiritually connected to the Djed column of Osiris in its meaning, perhaps -- the raising of the spiritual component in ourselves and in the cosmos around us, in part through connection with the spirit world, through the calling forth of the hidden divine, the Infinite).

These segmented caterpillars or centipedes I believe are actually the rising column of the Milky Way. Below is a "screen shot" of a scene from the excellent open-source planetarium app, In it, the rising column of the Milky Way is clearly visible -- and the fact that it actually rises in "two sides" or "two pillars" (especially towards the bottom of the screen) is quite apparent: this is caused by the dark or empty area in between the sides of the Milky Way at this portion, which is known as the Great Rift (discussed here in conjunction with the Maya calendar).

If you are very familiar with the constellations of our night sky, you may be able to spot the zodiac constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpio) in the lower part of that rising Milky Way: the stinger-tail of the Scorpion reaches right into the center of the Milky Way at its base (just above the horizon in the planetarium image above, not far from the big red letter "S" that indicates the direction South on the horizon as we look at the sky).

I believe very strongly that the long reaching black "hand-and-arm-like" feature in the Painted Rock panel, which reaches right into the space between the two rising segmented centipede-like columns (which are the sides of the Milky Way, in my analysis) is in fact the stinger-tail of the Scorpion:

Let's just illustrate that on the star-map and then on the depiction of Painted Rock, so that everyone can see that (Scorpion outlined in green, below):

And below, just in case anyone was not sure what part I believe to be indicative of the part of the constellation we think of as the Scorpion's tail, it is shown on the Painted Rock illustration (and the Milky Way column is also labeled):

There are many other figures in the above section of the Painted Rock panel, which help to confirm this interpretation.

One of the most important of these, I think, is the "Turtle" figure that is shown just above the long "arm" that I identify as the "Tail of Scorpio" in the above image. 

Located right in the middle of the rising Milky Way, above the Scorpion's Tail, I believe this Turtle is in fact the same constellation that we usually refer to as Aquila, the Eagle. Note that the upper "head" of the Turtle can be interpreted as having three "stars" indicated (which Aquila has in its head as well), and then note the little white "tiny paddle-shaped" hands and feet of the Turtle: these are indicative of the locations of stars in the Aquila constellation as well. 

Aquila also has a bit of a dangling "tail," just as this Turtle does in the ancient rock art.

Just above the Aquila, and facing it, is the other great bird of the Milky Way galaxy: Cygnus the Swan. In the rock art above, we see a kind of insect-like "stick figure" which does not really look like a Swan, but which actually has a "double-triangle" shape at the end facing the Turtle. This shape is in fact most reminiscent of Cygnus, even though Cygnus in the sky is much larger than this stick-insect (the rock art depictions are not always exactly done to what we would call "scale"):

And below is the planetarium sky-image again, this time with Aquila the Eagle and Cygnus the Swan also drawn in:

This should be plenty of evidence to at least begin to strongly suspect the possibility that the Painted Rock imagery is celestial imagery. Don't forget that in addition to the three constellations just described, the Painted Rock art also depicts the Milky Way (complete with the Great Rift). In the image of the sky just below, the Milky Way is also indicated.

And, that's not all for this particular portion of the pictograph: there is also the "humanoid" figure just above the "reaching arm" identified as the Scorpion's Tail. 

This humanoid is located just above the head of the Scorpion, which means that it almost certainly represents Ophiucus, the Serpent-Handler -- an extremely important ancient constellation, and one with a very oblong body, just as the humanoid outline in the Painted Rock panel is decidedly oblong:

And then below the outline of Ophiucus in the Painted Rock panel is very much reminiscent of the actual constellation -- complete with the "upraised" portion that you can see on the right side of Ophiucus in the above illustration (the "head" of the serpent he is holding to the right of his body as we look at him):

This analysis should pretty much confirm to even the most skeptical observer that the ancient artists who created the Painted Rock pictographs may well have been depicting the awe-inspiring and spiritually-symbolic constellations of our night sky.

Note the "upraised hand" on the right side of the Ophiucus figure as we look at him (the arrow labeled "Ophiucus" is pointing to it). This corresponds to the "head of the snake" just described in the actual constellation as seen in the sky.

The other two sections of the "mural" that I've outlined with "boxes" are the "blue box" and the "purple box." 

We could do another detailed analysis of each of these similar to that done in the "green box" analysis just above. However, the reader is invited to try to see the connections in these for himself or herself. I believe they add powerful additional evidence which helps confirm that we are dealing with celestial imagery in these ancient "pictographic texts" from the plains of Carrizo.

Below is a detailed close-up of the imagery found in the "blue box":

This one should be fairly obvious. I have placed the correspondences (as I see them) in a "footnote" at the end of this post. Can you guess what the little "dog-bone" shaped item is on the left of the above image, as well as the two "bulls-eye" circles below the main portion of this painting? I believe the two large "bulls-eye" circles are large stars -- which ones might they be?  (My interpretations are below).

And here is the "purple box" section:

This one is a little trickier.

Look to the far lower-left portion of the selection above: you will see a figure who is kind of "tipped forward" as if running, and some "wavy lines" are kind of "spilling out" of its gut-region (this may in fact remind you of a certain New Testament incident concerning the demise of someone important). The wavy lines are emanating just behind an outstretched arm on this figure.

It is running "the opposite direction" as the direction I would have drawn it, based on the outline of the constellation in the night sky.  

If you want to know my interpretation, see the second footnote at the end of this post. (Hint: It's a zodiac constellation).

Further to the right of that "pitched forward" figure whose "guts" are coming out is a large "lizard-figure" with "crossed legs" and a kind of "painted-in" area inside his crossed lower legs.

Can you think of any constellations in the zodiac which feature two things (the "feet" of this Lizard) that are kind of "tied together" in the way that the "lower legs" of this rock-art Lizard are tied together (or at least crossed)?

If so, what is in between those two items that are tied together or connected in a "v-shape" in the same way that the Lizard's legs are connected in a "V"?

Could that celestial figure between two Lizard legs be a celestial figure whose name is a geometric shape?

I believe that it could. 

In fact, I believe that the figures in the two panels above can be shown to be constellations, just as the first panel we examined in detail contains constellation-art.

I would submit that the presence of a celestial "text" inside of a sacred space (associated with the divine feminine, and with contact with the Underworld realm of the spirit world) indicates that the artists who produced this incredible ancient monument were extremely sophisticated, and that they were possibly preserving and passing on important knowledge about contact with that unseen realm.

It is knowledge that is associated with the first of the two visions offered by Black Elk and by the analysis of Peter Kingsley: the positive vision, the vision of connectedness, the vision of elevating and bringing forth the spiritual aspect in ourselves and in others and in the cosmos around us. 

And this ancient sacred textual repository in this ancient sacred site was literally blasted by desecrators who were either so ignorant of that ancient wisdom that they disregarded it altogether and saw it as having no value at all, or so divisive in their thinking (dividing up humanity into "my group" and "everyone else") that they disrespected the culture that produced it as "primitive" or otherwise unworthy of respect, or else they were (and this is probably the worst possibility) sworn enemies of that vision and that ancient knowledge, and dedicated to suppressing it and keeping it from humanity (to whom it actually belongs as a treasured inheritance given to all people in ancient times, all around the world, in many different forms).

The fact that these descriptions took place in the 1930s is quite disturbing, given the other horrible events that were being unleashed elsewhere around the globe during those years and the following decades.

In a sense, the deliberate destruction of the ancient wisdom in the sacred site of Painted Rock is a visible echo of the deliberate obscuration of the celestial metaphors found in other ancient texts from around the world (including the texts known today as the Old and New Testaments of the Bible). All those ancient texts also employ celestial metaphors -- and I would argue that all of them also deal with the inner connection to the Infinite, and that they indeed can be viewed as "manuals" for connecting with the Invisible Realm.

The fact that Painted Rock is in the condition that it is in today, after surviving intact for perhaps as many as 4,000 years, shows just how relevant this struggle between the two competing "visions" still remains, right up to this very day.


Below is an image of the area where the panels of rock art depicted by Campbell Grant are located:

The section with the "reaching arm" (which I believe is the Tail of Scorpio) can be seen at the top left portion of the above image, just above the long horizontal crack-line.  The panels to the right of that, where the "blue box" is located for example, is now almost completely obliterated.

My interpretations of the images in the blue box and purple box:

1.  Blue box: The main figures, with the stars above their heads, are almost certainly the Twins of Gemini. The two stars are the stars we call Castor and Pollux. The "linked arms" of the Twins in the rock art is extremely reminiscent of the constellations in the sky.

To the left of the Twins in the sky (for viewers in the northern hemisphere) is the "Little Dog" or Canis Minor, with a bright star Procyon. This may be the little "Y-shaped" dog-bone figure to the left of the image in the blue box of the rock art.

The two big circles that I believe to be two bright stars below Gemini are probably Betelgeuse (on the left in the image) and Aldebaran (darker and not as big). The other possibility is Sirius (instead of Betelgeuse) and Aldebaran.

2.  The "running forward" and falling or tipping-forward figure, with wavy water-lines coming out of his gut-region, is almost certainly Aquarius.  You can even see something like his "Water Jug" in the image, not far from his outstretched arm.  In the night sky, he seems to be running the other direction, but the ancient artist obviously chose to have Aquarius running towards the right in this image.

The "crossed legs" at the lower part of the Lizard are probably the Fishes of Pisces (the feet themselves might be the two Fishes themselves, which in the sky are actually shaped like ovals and not really much like fish). The space between the knees of the Lizard, colored-in in white by the ancient artist (or at least by Campbell Grant in this painting, which he based upon old photographs), is almost certainly meant to indicate the Great Square of Pegasus.

These additional celestial identifications help confirm that what we are looking at in the Painted Rock is a sophisticated ancient site using celestial metaphor, probably as symbolic of the realm of spirit (as is common for celestial allegory literally around the globe, from ancient Egypt to other parts of Africa and China and Japan and Siberia and to ancient Greece and to the Norse people of Scandinavia and as far south as Australia).

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Crazy for the Storm, and the inner connection to the Infinite

image (top): Wikimedia commons (link), with marker "flags" added to correspond to map below.
image (bottom): Google maps, mountains north of Rancho Cucamonga, California (link), with marker flags and line-of-sight outlines added (light blue), plus route in dotted red line.

In his critically-acclaimed memoir Crazy for the Storm (2009), Norman Ollestad shares a wide window onto his relationship with his amazing father, cut short by a terrible plane crash in the San Gabriel Mountains in 1979, into his emotions and experiences during his harrowing journey down the mountain alone at the age of eleven but already having had the experience of facing danger and overcoming his fears in not one but many previous situations as a result of his remarkable upbringing, and into life as it was in his world growing during up the 1970s and early 1980s in the Topanga Canyon area, and does so with such a degree of literary composure and immediacy that we are actually pulled through that window and allowed to experience it with him.

Many others have already written about why Crazy for the Storm is such a remarkable and valuable book and the unique way it raises important subjects worthy of long and thoughtful consideration: how the experience of being forced beyond his comfort level so many times helped young Norman Ollestad make it to safety down an icy mountain face and through several situations in which one false move or one loss of resolve could have led to a very different outcome, how passing on lessons from fathers to sons involves a delicate balance between challenging or pushing too much and too little, how Norman's relationship with his father, tragically cut short too soon, nevertheless led directly to his ability to survive the remarkable journey off the mountain.

Another aspect of the book, juxtaposed with the vivid descriptions of the treacherous ice-chutes and snow-pits that young Norman must negotiate on his way down the mountain, and just as vividly depicted, is the treacherous landscape of growing up in the turbulent world of a 1970s childhood filled with its own ice-chutes and snow-traps that threaten to drag him down many different times, but which he ultimately negotiates as well -- in part through the relationship with his father that continues to sustain him even after the crash, in part through the different relationships with the other adults around him through those difficult times, and in part through his own determination and his own growth through all of what he saw and chose and learned and did as he grew up to be his own man and ultimately become a father himself.

It has been a few years since I myself first read this memorable book, but as I have thought more about it recently, it occurs to me that there is one other extremely important aspect of the narrative that has not really received very much discussion even though the book itself has been widely acclaimed and extensively commented upon.

Perhaps it is because, among many somewhat uncomfortable subjects that the book touches upon, this subject is even more taboo than any of them -- and that is the fact that there are some very clear aspects of what could be called "second sight" that turn out to play a very large role in the survival story, but which are not at all explainable by the conventional paradigm of consciousness or what we might call "the ideology of materialism" and which most critics therefore appear to have decided to simply leave out of their discussions (I could be wrong and there could be other reviews of the book which mention this important aspect of the narrative).

The implications of this aspect of the narrative are so important that I think they deserve a brief mention here, but I will try to do so without any "plot spoilers" for those who perhaps have not yet read the book (although those who are extremely sensitive to any plot spoiling may want to stop here and read the book first).

And of course, discussing this aspect of the story is in no way intended to take away from the importance of all the above-mentioned factors that also helped Norman Ollestad survive that harrowing ordeal.

The general description of this aspect of the story is that during his descent, young Norman Ollestad made his way towards something that he later went back and determined he could not have seen, due to the terrain, until he was much lower down the mountain.

Not only that, but it turns out that there were two other people whose actions on that tragic day of February of 1979 were critical to Norman's being found after he had made it down to a road (and thus whose actions proved to have been critical to his very survival), both of whom acted on something that could be called sudden intuition or an unexplainable "hunch," and one of whom felt she had heard the crash itself (and actually been awakened by it) even though when she told the sheriff's deputy about that, he told her that was not possible based on the location and distance that she had been from the actual site of the crash.

Each of these particular aspects of the story (in my opinion -- it should be stressed that what follows is some of my own perspective and commentary, and I am not suggesting that Mr. Ollestad would agree with any of the following discussion) point towards a very important aspect of something that has been discussed in many previous posts under the general heading of "The Inner Connection to the Infinite," which have presented evidence that the ancient texts and sacred traditions of the world were given to humanity in order to (among other things) point towards a connection to something that has been variously referred to as a supreme self, a higher consciousness, an inner divinity, our True Self, a divine twin (described not only in the Greek myths of Castor and Pollux but also in some New Testament era texts such as the Gospel of Thomas) -- depicted as the divine charioteer in the Bhagavad Gita -- and which actually stands behind or above or in some way separate from what we normally think of as our "mind" and our "senses" and which is yet accessible at all times internally, not separate from ourselves (this is why divinities in many allegorical texts are shown to appear instantly, or upon the act of meditating or upon reciting a mantra or upon speaking their name).

Some might look at the above assertion -- that the ancient myths are pointing towards an always-available inner connection with a higher self -- and respond: "Well, of course they are! Those ancient myths are talking about the subconscious! They are just using different terms than Freud used when he applied a more scientific approach to the same subject, starting in the late 1800s and especially in the first few decades of the 1900s, and that other analysts have expanded upon since!"

And certainly it must be admitted that aspects of what has been discovered about the role of the subconscious do play an important role in our lives and may indeed connect to some of the things that the ancient wisdom was trying to teach us about our inner connection with the infinite.

But our own individual subconscious, no matter how powerful the subconscious mind may actually be (and I'm willing to agree that it may be tremendously powerful) cannot be used to explain our ability to see and know things that we ourselves could not possibly have known, such as the fact that an airplane had hit a mountain somewhere too far away for any physical human senses to have detected, or such as "seeing" an area that we had never seen before or known about previously, and which could not be physically seen due to the folds of the terrain and the fact that a massive ridge-line of mountain blocked it from our view.

These things speak to an "inner connection to the Infinite" that goes beyond what we ourselves could have known without connection to something beyond even the power of our own individual subconscious mind.

The same can be said for the various programs which some authors have written about in which taxpayer-funded agencies and even the military used "remote viewing" to locate downed helicopters or discover other information which cannot be attributed to simply "tapping into the subconscious," because one cannot expect their "subconscious" to have had any way of knowing the location of a helicopter which crashed in another country, for example.

If these programs and incidents are real (and there is enough evidence presented by different authors to suggest that at least some of these remote viewing programs probably did in fact take place and achieve certain successful results in some cases), then they also provide evidence that the "inner connection to the Infinite" may be about more than connecting with one's subconscious mind.

Some of the previous posts on this subject have discussed the many ways in which human beings seem to be able to cultivate this connection to the higher self or the invisible world, and indeed it seems that we are actually constituted in such a way that there are numerous ways to do so -- and numerous disciplines which have been practiced throughout the centuries in different cultures around the world. They range from various techniques of meditation (one of the most important and widespread of the categories of techniques), to various forms of shamanic drumming and rhythmic rattles and bull roarers and other percussion-like instruments, to the use of various plant substances designed to induce trance conditions, to certain types of ecstatic dance or deliberate movement, to practices such as chi kung or qigong or Tai Chi Chuan or other "internal arts" from ancient China, to the practice of Yoga, the recitation of mantras, and many more.

And yet one might interject at this point that, even if there are countless ways of connecting with the Infinite, eleven-year-old Norman Ollestad did not seem to have practiced any of the above disciplines prior to suddenly finding himself in a situation in which his ability to "see" something which he could not actually see with his physical eyes would turn out to have been very important to his survival.

At least, he does not talk about any years of practicing qigong or Yoga or the recitation of mantras and the deliberate practice of meditation in his account of his life before the age of eleven.

It is possible -- in fact, it is probable, and a very reputable source has told me that this was a factor in her own life -- that traumatic experiences or life-and-death situations can indeed bring out our inner connection to the Infinite, even if we have never consciously experienced that connection before (and especially if we are still fairly young).

This certainly makes sense, since the ancient scriptures tell us that this inner connection is always accessible to us -- that we are, in fact, always connected to our higher self, even though we are not always aware of it.

And while that might certainly have been a factor in this particular situation in which the eleven-year-old Norman Ollestad found himself, I would also suggest at least the possibility that he had actually been practicing a discipline, and fairly consistently, which can lead some people to connect to the invisible "waves of the universe" and to knowledge which is from somewhere else -- and that discipline which he had been practicing was . . . surfing.

In fact, Norman Ollestad's father had introduced him to surfing before he was even old enough to ride a board himself, and rode on his father's back instead, and later took him on significantly challenging surf trips including one where he experienced a personal triumph of getting tubed on a wave in Mexico -- by the time he was eleven years old!

After that first tube ride, his father (who had witnessed it) let him know that he had been to someplace very special. The exact words that his father used, recounted in the book on the bottom of page 109: "Someplace beyond all the bullshit."

Interestingly enough, that could very well be a "technical description" of the Infinite, at least as conveyed by some of the world's ancient sacred texts.

The Tao Te Ching, for instance, informs us that the Tao itself cannot be named, cannot be defined, cannot be described. If it is named in words, then whatever it is that can be captured in words is not the eternal Tao. The Tao is beyond all our mental constructions, all our human constructions, all our "verbal virtual reality" in the insightful and helpful phrase used by Dr. Darrah Westrup in a talk that is discussed in this previous post.

Or, as the fourth of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali (probably written down by the third century BC, and possibly containing wisdom far older than that) expresses it in the 31st verse, "Then all veils and uncertainty fall away."

This, in fact, is what I would propose the book Crazy for the Storm really gets in touch with.

Because the book is absolutely masterful in recounting the doubts, the vulnerabilities, the uncertainties, the self-questioning, the feelings of inadequacy, and all the other "veils" that we fight through in this life (certainly in adolescence, but really this struggle is never ending -- or else there would not have been any need for anyone to practice Yoga or study the Yoga Sutras, since human beings could just wait for adolescence to pass if this uncertainty was strictly an adolescent problem).

And it shows how Norman Ollestad had to conquer those in order to survive on the mountain. And to survive growing up in the 1970s in and around Topanga Canyon in California.

Which he did.

In large part because he was pushed by his Dad.

And in equal measure because he found what he needed to find inside himself (after all, his Dad could not make him get into that tube in Mexico -- young Norman had to get inside that big wave for himself).

We should all be grateful to him for sharing such a personal story with the world.




Above (at top) is an image which I believe conveys some of the steepness of the mountain face which young Norman Ollestad had to make his way down alone, in extreme weather, after an unbelievably traumatic experience.

Based on my reading of the Google Map with "terrain" selected, the map below the image corresponds to the line of mountains shown in the photograph; the black arrow shows the summit of Ontario Peak (elevation 8,696 feet or about 2,651 meters) and the red dotted line shows an approximation of the route down the mountain from the crash site, based on descriptions in the text and the map in the beginning of the book.

Below is a closer view with slightly better resolution of the section of the topo map showing Ontario Peak (from Google Maps) -- keep in mind that as the topo lines get closer together (closer to one another) the steepness of the terrain is increasing:

Below is another view of the same topo map, this time with approximate crash site and route down the mountain indicated:

And below are two more images of Ontario Peak and the face of the ridge-line, the first without markings and the second with markings (as with all of the above markings, these are based only on my own "map recon" and the descriptions and map in the book -- not on any personal knowledge of this location or any personal visit there, although I will admit that I do happen to have a lot of professional training and experience when it comes to topo maps):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

I could be wrong about any of these estimated possible routes when matching them to the photographs, but in any case, the severity of the terrain and the sense of the challenge that the eleven-year-old Norman Ollestad faced in descending the mountain should be clear  enough from these photographs.

Here is a link to a contemporary newspaper account from February 21, 1979, describing his survival. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Why do we greet the manifestation of the divine with palms together?

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Whenever a manifestation of divinity appears in the Mahabharata, the ancient Sanskrit epic that at over 200,000 lines is about 7.2 times longer than both the Iliad and the Odyssey combined and which contains the entirety of the Bhagavad Gita which itself is one of the clearest and most direct expositions of the ancient wisdom to have survived anywhere, the characters typically greet the divinity with palms pressed together.

The text itself in most cases will specifically describe this palms-together greeting.

For example, in the portion of the Bhagavad Gita in which Lord Krishna the divine charioteer reveals his cosmic form to Arjuna -- reveals his infinite, divine, and un-definable nature to Arjuna -- the text specifically states that Arjuna experiences "great ecstasy" and the hairs of his entire body stand on end as if under the influence of an electric current, and that Arjuna then offers obeisances to Krishna and performs the anjali mudra -- he places his hands together (see the text of Bhagavad Gita 11.14 here, which shows the Sanskrit characters as well as a word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase translation, and also provides an aural reading of the sloka).

The text itself says literally:
Thereafter being overwhelmed with amazement, with his bodily hairs standing on end due to great ecstasy, Arjuna with his body offered obeisances unto Lord Krishna, and began to speak with folded hands [krta-anjalih].
Again, when Krishna directs Arjuna to invoke the goddess Durga in the chapters immediately prior to the section of the Mahabharata containing the Bhagavad Gita, the text once again specifically describes Arjuna as performing the anjali mudra (placing palms together):
Beholding the Dhartarashtra army approach for fight, Krishna said these words for Arjuna's benefit. The holy one said, "Cleansing thyself, O mighty-armed one, utter on the eve of battle thy hymn to Durga for compassing the defeat of the foe." Sanjaya continued: Thus addressed on the eve of battle by Vasudeva endued with great intelligence, Pritha's son Arjuna, alighting from his car, said the following hymn with joined hands. Arjuna said: "I bow to thee, O leader of Yogins, O thou that art identical with Brahman, O thou that dwellest in the forest of Mandara, O thou that art freed from decrepitude and decay, O Kali, O wife of Kapala, O thou that art of a black and tawny hue, I bow to thee. O bringer of benefits to thy devotees, I bow to thee, O Mahakali, O wife of the universal destroyer, I bow to thee.
The same palms-together gesture is described many, many other times in the Mahabharata when divinities appear.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

What does it specifically mean, that the ancient sacred Sanskrit texts describe the performance of the anjali mudra at the appearance of a celestial? 

Please take a moment and re-read carefully the previous post entitled "Namaste and Amen" from July 10, 2014. There, the meaning of anjali mudra is discussed, along with references which explain that the gesture signifies something along the lines of "the divinity in me acknowledges the divinity in you" or "I recognize the one-ness of the divine presence which is in me and in all other beings and in all other things."

In other words, the ancient text is of course telling us that the person who encounters the divinity is recognizing and acknowledging that divinity by pressing together the hands in this gesture. But the text is also showing us with this gesture that this divinity which they recognize is within them as well.

The characters in the epic, to put it most directly, are constantly greeting the gods and goddesses with the palms-together gesture which says: "Divinity in you -- divinity in me: all one." The divinity which appears, in a very important sense, is already there before he or she appears. Our connection with them is already within us.

This concept is discussed in previous posts discussing the sudden appearance of deities in the Mahabharata (often while meditating or at the recitation of a mantra), including "Why divinities can appear in an instant: the inner connection to the Infinite" and "The blindness of Dhritarastra, and Upamanyu at the bottom of the well."

The fact that the ancient texts are telling us that our connection to the Infinite, as represented by Lord Krishna or the goddess Durga, is actually internal is also discussed at length in the previous posts on the Bhagavad Gita and on the hymn to Durga which also contain videos on the subject.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

When the characters in the Mahabharata place their palms together, they are recognizing that this infinite deity with whom they are now in communication is in fact within them also.

The text is trying to tell us that this is not a "special power" of the characters depicted in the epic (such as the semi-divine sons of Pandu, including Arjuna). It is telling us that this is the condition of each and every human being who has come down to this incarnate life (another reason why violence against others or against oneself is so wrong). We are each "semi-divine" and in actual contact with the infinite (and this is why in India all persons are greeted with this palms-together gesture and the expression "Namaste," just as the previous post linked above discussing the similarity between Namaste and Amen shows that the ancient Egyptians, as recounted by Plutarch, greeted one another in the same way with the word "Amun").

And, it is most significant that this same hand gesture is associated with communication with the Infinite divinity in New Testament times -- because the New Testament texts also tell us quite specifically that the divine is within us. 

There were other texts written at the same time as the texts which were allowed to be included in the New Testament, but which were specifically banned from inclusion in it, which explain the divinity of the individual in even plainer language and metaphor. For example, the Gospel of Thomas speaks of Thomas as having a "divine twin" (see previous discussion here).

And, have a close look at the multiple paintings from previous centuries depicting the New Testament episode of the Baptism of Jesus at the Jordan which are shown and discussed in this previous post. Here again, the hands in each and every depiction are in the palms-together gesture -- and note that it is at this event, which in fact is known as "the Epiphany," that the divine nature was revealed (depicted in the episode by the manifestation of a divine voice and the visible descent of the Spirit in the form of a dove).

It is also significant to note that in the first passage from the Bhagavad Gita cited above (from chapter 11 and verse 14) Arjuna is described as having an "electrified" feeling in the presence of the supreme form of Krishna. This may well relate to the invisible power which is called chi in Chinese tradition, and prana in India, and which is discussed in this previous post among others. This discussion of the hands-together gesture of namaskaram specifically states that there are different energy points throughout the human body, and that the different hand gestures or mudras of Indic tradition make use of them. It says:
So namaskaram is not just a cultural aspect. There is a science behind it. If you are doing your sadhana, every time you bring your palms together, there is a crackle of energy -- a boom is happening.
I believe that the Mahabharata (along with other ancient sacred texts) is telling us that we all have access to the Infinite, and that when you feel the presence of the Infinite and you place your hands together, you are recognizing that the divinity is also inside you.


image: Wikimedia commons (link).