Thursday, April 29, 2021

The best lines get attributed to the most famous guy.

On my first day of freshman Intro to Philosophy class, the instructor opened with this: "What is truth?" -- pause for effect -- "What is truth? Do you know who first said that? Jesus. He was on trial at the time, charged with a capital crime, but that's what he said when he stood before the Roman governor: 'What is truth?' I know, I know, Pilate must have been like, You're on trial, man! I get to ask the questions! But Jesus had the right idea . . ."

And then he segued into whatever philosophical topic was first on the agenda. And no one said anything. Even I, who I'm sure was well above the average in terms of biblical literacy -- and who was generally that annoying kid who just had to raise his hand every single time the professor said anything wrong -- didn't say anything. Fact is, he rattled off the story so smoothly and naturally that for the moment I wasn't entirely sure it was wrong. The thought, "Wasn't it Pilate who said that?" did cross my mind, but not with sufficient conviction. I even entertained the idea that maybe one gospel put the words in Pilate's mouth and another in Jesus'. All in all, I just wasn't sure enough the lecturer was wrong to risk making a fool of myself by contradicting him. And neither was anyone else.

Nor do I think the lecturer was an idiot or was intentionally misquoting Jesus. He was simply telling a Bible story as he remembered it. The question "What is truth?" made him think, Hey, that's in the Bible, isn't it, when Jesus stands before Pilate? -- and he didn't bother to look it up because he knew it.

It's surprisingly easy to remember lines from a dialogue, and remember who is involved, but misremember who said which lines. (See my post "Socrates doesn't have feathers," and the self-correction in the comments, for an example of my making the same kind of mistake.)

And I don't think these errors are random. There's a natural predisposition to attribute the most memorable lines to the most memorable people. We tend to assume that Jesus, not Pilate, would produce quotable quotes that you can incorporate into an Intro to Philosophy lecture.

It's something to keep in mind when we read the Gospels. Some of the lines attributed to Jesus may well have really been said, in a conversation with Jesus, but Jesus may not have been the one who said them. In fact, it would be astonishing if no such errors had found their way into the record.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Hey, George! You're a real cool dog

In the previous post, I mention the song "George" by my late uncle Mike "Hono" Tychonievich, about a dancing dog named George. The chorus goes like this:

Hey, George! You're a real cool dog
Hey, George! What else could you be?
Hey, George! You're a real cool dog
And now you're dancing better than me

The second and fourth lines vary after each verse, but "Hey, George! You're a real cool dog" is a constant.

I had been discussing George in the context of Tintin's dog Snowy, so it occurred to me that a "real cool" dog could also mean a dog that's cold, like snow.

And this made me think of the 2003 Outkast song "Hey Ya!" -- these lines in particular.

Now, what cooler than being cool?
Ice cold!
I can't hear ya! I say what's, what's cooler than being cool?
Ice cold!

The chorus goes like this:

Hey ya!(oh, oh) Hey ya!(oh, oh)
Hey ya!(oh, oh) Hey ya!(oh, oh)
Hey ya!(oh, oh) Hey ya!(oh, oh)

From "Hey Ya! (oh oh)" it is but a short jump to the 2006 Red Hot Chili Peppers hit "Snow (Hey Oh)." The chorus:

Hey oh
Listen what I say, oh
Come back and hey oh
Look here what I say oh

The more I see, the less I know
The more I like to let it go
Hey oh, whoa, whoa, whoa

That "whoa, whoa, whoa" brings us back to Tintin's dog Snowy, who for some reason barks that way rather than saying something more traditional like "woof" or "bow wow."


(When I was a child, there was some dispute as to whether Snowy's barking was to be pronounced "whoa" or "woo-ah"; I was and remain in the former camp.)

The "Snow (Hey Oh)" line "Listen what I say, oh" echoes the "Hey Ya!" line "Y'all don't want to hear me, ya just want to dance" -- which brings us back to George the dancing dog.

While we're on the subject of snow-and-ice songs with "hey"-heavy choruses, let's not forget "Hey Jude."

For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool
By making his world a little colder.

Well, you know that it's a Fool.


Aren't those snowy mountains in the background?

Tintin, St. George, and, uh, lots of other things!


In my last post, I connected Tintin saying "Hip-hip-hooray!" in Prisoners of the Sun with Terence McKenna's line, "The gnomes have learned a new way to say hooray."


What does Tintin have to do with gnomes, though? Well, the name Tintin suggests the element tin, atomic number 50. Back in 2011, synchromystics took note of the fact that the movie Adventures of Tintin was released less than a month after a movie called 50/50.


(Marvel's first Thor movie was also released in 2011. Thor is considered in the interpretatio graeca to be the equivalent of the Greek god Zeus, the Roman god Jupiter, and the Etruscan god Tin. The metal tin is also associated in astrology and alchemy with the planet Jupiter. Thor the superhero was created by Stan Lee, whose name also suggests tin.)

The next year, 2012, saw the release of Lockout, starring Guy Pearce as a CIA operative named Marion Snow.

Emilie: What's your name?

Snow: Snow.

Emilie: Snow?

Snow: Yeah. Or Sir. You can decide.

Emilie: What's your first name?

Snow: Snow.

Emilie: Your name is Snow Snow? Well, that's just ridiculous! Why won't you tell me your name?

50/50. Tintin. Snow Snow. Sn is tin, of course, and Snowy is Tintin's dog.

A worker in tin is called a tinker, and that's where the gnome connection comes in. Back in 1987, a new playable race was introduced into Dungeons and Dragons: the tinker gnome.


(That "nasal voice" bit even ties in with Terence McKenna!)

Tinkers learning a new way to say hooray is a positive development, since the exclamation more usually associated with tinkers is damn.

The book that introduced tinker gnomes had the very St. George-esque title Dragonlance Adventures.


The "2021" in the upper right-hand corner of the book cover is not a year (the book was published in 1987) but a serial number -- D&D book #2021. The fact that it matches the current year is a coincidence. Notice also that the letter O in the title is stylized as ☉, the astrological symbol for the Sun.

The name of Tintin's dog (in English) is Snowy (one of the Weather Dogs!) -- a link to Lorenzo Snow and thus to St. George. (Incidentally, Lorenzo Snow was born in 1814 and became President of the Church in 1898 -- both of which are Years of the Dog on the Chinese calendar.) Commenter Mr. Andrew informed me of another dog-name connection: On April 20, just three days before St. George's Day, Owen Benjamin did a livestream, and one of the topics was "George fights a dragon." In the title graphic below, that phrase is even followed by a +, suggesting the sign of the Redcrosse Knight.


Mr. Andrew explained, "Owen's dog is named George (really) - and the dragon reference was just a kite. Has absolutely nothing to do w/ St. George (Catholic or Floyd variety) - just a little coincidence/synchronicity at the same time."

Thinking about dog names, I realized that Snowy begins with Sn, the symbol for tin. Then I remembered that there was a famous dog named Rin Tin Tin -- whose name is so similar to Tintin that Wikipedia is afraid people might confuse the two.


The Wikipedia article on Rin Tin Tin has pictures of seven movie posters featuring that dog. The second of them has a "snowy" theme. (The plural, "snows," suggests "Snow Snow" and the two Snows -- Lorenzo and Erastus -- for whom Snow College is named.)

And the third shows Rin Tin Tin wearing the Cross of St. George -- tying in with Owen Benjamin's dog named George who "fought a dragon."


My late uncle Mike was an amateur singer/songwriter and guitarist, and near the end of his life he put together a CD called George: Twenty Years in the Making -- a reference to the first song he wrote as a child, which was about a dog named George who could dance on his hind legs. It begins thus:

Got a dog, his name is George
He followed me home from school
He's the coolest dog in this whole world
'Cos he dances like a fool

What kind of dog dances on his hind legs "like a fool"? A snowy one, of course!


(Note that in this post I connected the Rider-Waite Fool card with George W. Bush.)

Which brings us to alligators. (I know, I know, you've been thinking, "When's he going to get to the alligators?" Don't worry, here they come!)

Fun fact: Not only do some Tarot decks feature a crocodile on the Fool card; certain French esotericists went so far as to name the card Le Crocodile!


According to David McCann (hmm, can = tin, right?) in this interesting thread, "The idea comes from Paul Christian, who actually called the card The Crocodile: 'The crocodile is the emblem of implacable fate and inevitable expiation.'" This fits in with our theme of "inevitable miracles."

The thread I've just linked to also contains some discussion of the crocodile's role in Punch and Judy shows and in Peter Pan. A user called Mallah writes, "I also think of Captain Hook's fear of the Crocodile with a ticking clock within. Time comes to swallow him up...his time has come."

Speaking of Peter Pan, a "tinker" is specifically an intinerant tinsmith, one who would have traveled around with a knapsack like the Tarot Fool -- so what is the Fool wearing on his clothes if not tinker bells?


Also, isn't Captain Hook a bit reminiscent of Captain Haddock? (Besides the phonetic similarity, there is the obvious relationship between hooks and fish.) In Prisoners of the Sun, Tintin rescues Captain Haddock from an alligator -- right after the Captain says of alligators, "They don't fool me"!


I have mentioned (here) the email I received mentioning St. George in the same breath as "DMT entities." In my reply, I wrote:

I once read a paper on DMT experiences, of which the only thing I remember is the (admittedly memorable!) line, "Ken experienced anal rape by alien alligators, and dropped out after his high dose."

When I wrote above that "synchromystics took note of" the connection between 50/50 and Tintin in 2011, I was thinking of the blog g8ors.blogspot.com ("gators"), though I haven't been able to track down the exact post.

The alligator also ties us back into a sync theme from a few months back: the Jimmy Driftwood song "Battle of New Orleans," which humorously describes Andrew Jackson's forces using an alligator as a cannon. (The line "the gator lost his mind" also ties into the Fool/crocodile connection.) Although the Battle of New Orleans took place in early 1815, the song "Battle of New Orleans" begins "In 1814 we took a little trip." The phrase "took a little trip" is a nod to the DMT/Terence McKenna theme, and 1814 is the birth year of Lorenzo Snow.

Since the Tarot has come up, I should also mention that St. George's cross is featured on the Judgment card, which I have discussed extensively as a prophecy of Donald Trump's winning the 2020 election. I have also discussed the 19th trump, The Sun, as a prophecy of the birdemic -- which gives a whole new meaning to the title Prisoners of the Sun. In fact, the correspondent who sent me the Tintin scan that started this whole sync cascade was using it to make a point about the birdemic:

The eclipse corresponds to the "deadly birdemic", and Tintin's god-like powers correspond to the peck. Now that most people are pecked, all They need to do is reduce media coverage on the "cases" and make out as if the peck has saved the day. The birdemic will vanish (miraculously), and they will then write history according to their narrative, using it as artillery in the pro-peck propaganda war as an example of how effective GM pecking is.

And I think that's about enough for one post!

Monday, April 26, 2021

Gadianton Canyon syncs

The other night I suddenly had a very specific urge to search YouTube for videos about the Gadianton Canyon Incident, an urban legend from southern Utah. The basic story is that four young women took a wrong turn en route to Cedar City and ended up in some sort of parallel dimension. They found a roadside diner with neon signs in an unknown language, met tall beings that did not seem to be human, and were chased by three-wheeled egg-shaped vehicles, before abruptly finding themselves back in the normal world -- in the middle of the desert a few miles north of the highway they had been on, with no tire tracks to show how they had gotten there.

Southern Utah is my old missionary stomping grounds, so I had heard the yarn many times. Although the story always identifies the four girls as students at Southern Utah University in Cedar City, the only "Gadianton Canyon" I ever found (so called because it was supposed to be haunted by the ghosts of members of that ancient Nephite secret society) was quite far away, in Sanpete County, near Snow College. (Yes, Snow College is named after Lorenzo Snow.)

So I already knew the story and believed it to be completely made-up. And I have a strong aversion to talking video in general. Nevertheless, I suddenly had this urge, so I watched not one but two talking videos about the Gadianton Canyon Incident!

I do not recommend either of these videos -- the first is overly dramatic and goofy, and the second is positively packed with words you can't say on television -- but syncs must be documented.

This first video was noteworthy chiefly for the implication -- not part of any version of the story I had ever heard -- that the beings the girls encountered were "reptilian aliens" and that the parallel world into which they had wandered was one in which the dinosaurs had never gone extinct but had evolved into humanoid form.

This got my attention because I had recently illustrated a post about the Bloodhound Gang song "The Bad Touch" with a picture of a reptilian alien. Evil reptilians also seemed to tie in with the George-and-dragon theme.

This second video was sync city. First of all, there were constant references to the city of St. George, Utah -- even though the incident supposedly took place on Highway 56 near Modena, quite far from St. George. Second, near the beginning of the video, one of the hosts comments on the intro music and says "Nts! Nts! Nts!" in exactly the same way as the woman in the Bloodhound Gang song "Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss Uhn Tiss," so there's the Bloodhoung Gang again. Finally, they end by concluding that the four women probably just hallucinated the whole thing under the influence of shrooms or LSD.

Why are hallucinogens relevant? Well, my original St. George post ended thus: "Also, probably apropos of nothing, a chain of links originating with the "St. George" email led me to this cover of Pink Floyd's 'The Gnome,' which I rather like."

What was this chain? The reader who told me about how he had suddenly wanted to pray to St. George (and also discussed some recent dreams with a "demonic" theme) followed up that email with this:

I also stumbled upon tales of “DMT Entities” - apparently users of psychedelics report frequent encounters with different “trans dimensional entities” that sound, in many cases, like demons. So I guess demons is the theme.

and then this:

I forgot the important part, which seems connected to the Saint George prayer:

The serpent entity seems to be one of the most prevalent in ayahuasca experiences than in experiences with DMT alone. 

https://dmttimes.com/dmt-entities

I clicked the "DMT Entities" link, which included this quote from Terence McKenna.

There are many of these things, but the main thing that's happening is that they are engaged in a linguistic activity of some sort, which we do not have words for, but it's visible language. They are doing the visible language trip. When you break into the space, they actually cheer! The first thing you hear when you pass across is this 'hhhyeaaaaaayyy' - you know the Pink Floyd song? "The Gnomes have Learned a New Way to Say Hoo-Ray?” This has gotta be what these guys were talking about; how else could it be? It doesn't make any sense otherwise.

I didn't know that song, so I searched for the name. Eventually I found the song he meant, which is actually just called "The Gnome," but what the search turned up first was this Shpongle track inspired by McKenna's comments on the Pink Floyd song.

Oh, and there's this.

Notice Tintin's "visible language" in the top right panel (just after he says "What an extraordinary coincidence!"), and the "hooray!" just below it. He has discovered in a scrap of newspaper the eclipse information that will later save them from being sacrificed to the Sun. Also notice the juxtaposition with a pipe.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Who... wants... some... SHOTS!

Remember back when The Onion was funny? And prophetic?


Update: They predicted masks, too!

Sudden surge of interest in bleach on March 15, 2020, as prophesied

Remember back when The Onion was funny? And prophetic?


This old Onion video (not sure how old, but before 2015) predicted a major bleach-related event to take place on March 15, 2020.

Google Trends shows that there was a sudden surge of interest in bleach exactly on schedule.


I know what you're thinking: Is that when Trump suggested injecting bleach in your arm? No, that was April 23. Trump's comment was an effect, not the cause, of the still-unexplained Bleach Consciousness Event.

(March 15 is my birthday. April 23 is St. George's Day. Hi, sync fairies!)

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Thursday, April 22, 2021

St. George, stake for the sun, and inevitable "miracles"

Taiwan is in the middle of a rather serious drought -- last year's typhoon season was canceled for the birdemic, and there's been no rain to speak of this year -- and the other day this made me think of an "inspirational" Mormon video I'd been subjected to many times as a child, called "The Windows of Heaven." In this short film, the people of St. George, Utah, are suffering from a serious drought. President Lorenzo Snow, then-leader of the Church, visits them from Salt Lake and tells them that if they donate more money to the Church, God will make it rain. He cites Malachi 3:10, where God promises to "open the windows of heaven" if the people "bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse." Even at the time, I was a bit cynical about this story. I mean, droughts don't last forever; if they hadn't paid more tithing, it still would have rained sooner or later. President Snow was taking credit for a "miracle" that was in fact inevitable.


Then, because my brain just works that way, I started thinking about the name St. George. The name George means means "farmer," a tiller of the soil. This -- combined with the context of the "miraculous" rainfall -- made me think of the Cat Stevens line "Tea for the tillerman, steak for the sun / Wine for the woman who made the rain come." (A "tillerman" is actually a boat's steersman, not a farmer, but I still made the connection.) Steak is a homophone of stake, meaning an administrative division of the Mormon Church (especially, historically, one far from Church headquarters). President Snow would have visited the local "stake" in St. George and promised to make the rain come.

And, wait, Cat Stevens' real name is Steven Georgiou -- St. George.


Yesterday, I received an email from a reader, mentioning St. George out of the blue.

During prayers (being Catholic) it suddenly popped into my head to say a prayer to “Saint George” - who I don’t really know anything about - and then going on the internet tonight I see joking references to “Saint George” (Floyd). Now reading, I remember he is mostly known for the legend of slaying a dragon.


Today, I received two emails from a regular correspondent. One was a link to a YouTube video of some priests discussing birdemic issues. One of these priests was introduced as the curate of St George in the Meadows.


The other email from this person included a scan from a Tintin comic book -- the episode in which our hero, while tied to a stake, "miraculously" makes the Sun reappear after a solar eclipse.


Like Lorenzo Snow in St. George, Tintin persuades people do what he wants by promising them a "miraculous" event which was in fact inevitably going to happen anyway.

Note added: I've just discovered that Le Temple du Soleil, from the English translation of which the above scan is taken, was originally published serially in Tintin magazine -- and the final installment was published on Thursday, April 22, 1948. I received the email with the scan in the early hours of Thursday, April 22, 2021, and posted it here later the same day. The panels in question are near the end (on page 59 of 62 in the English version), so I assume that they were part of the final installment and that I received and posted them on the anniversary of their original publication.


I'm not sure where this is all going yet, but it certainly feels as if the synchronicity fairies are introducing a new "theme" that they intend to pursue for a while. We'll see how it plays out.

Oh, by the way, tomorrow just happens to be St. George's Day.

Also, probably apropos of nothing, a chain of links originating with the "St. George" email led me to this cover of Pink Floyd's "The Gnome," which I rather like:

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Ahuric vs. Devic, and eternal sexual identity

In my previous post, "Lucifer, Ahriman, and Ganymede virtue sets," I explored the possibility that, just as there is Luciferic and Ahrimanic evil, there might be two complementary types of good, which I called Ahuric and Devic.


Ahuric good -- to which Ahrimanic evil is opposed, and of which Luciferic evil is a distortion -- is characterized by (among other things) "courage, comeliness, glory, sincerity, plainspokenness, speaking out, breaking the letter to keep the spirit, trusting God to provide."

Devic good -- to which Luciferic evil is opposed, and of which Ahrimanic evil is a distortion -- is characterized by "prudence, modesty, humility, discretion, obedience," and so on.

Two things bothered me about this analysis. First, it seemed that Good ought to be a single unitary thing, not divisible as evil is divisible. Second, while theory demanded that the Christ -- Jesus -- be the perfect exemplar of both kinds of Good, in fact I recognized him as an essentially Ahuric character. In my last post I wrote, "And it is possible to be (like the Christ?) both perfectly courageous and perfectly prudent." Why the question mark? Because, while I suppose I would say if pressed that Jesus was prudent rather than imprudent, it hardly seems one of his outstanding characteristics!

In fact, the list of Devic virtues made me think of someone else: Our Lady -- Mary, the mother of Jesus, as idealized by the Catholic Church. While I have my doubts about how closely the figure of Our Lady corresponds to Jesus' actual mother, she does represent an ideal of feminine perfection, different from and complementary to the masculine perfection of Christ.

And then I realized that, as a Mormon, I shouldn't find either of those things disturbing. The Mormon teaching is that "[sex] is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose," and that even our Heavenly Father himself is not a self-sufficient monad of goodness but has -- and, presumably, needs -- his feminine complement, our Heavenly Mother. Doesn't this imply (a) that there are two complementary types of good, and (b) that no one being, not even the Christ, can fully embody both?

In fact, I believe that there are billions and billions of different and complementary ways of being good, and that each of us (potentially) contributes to the Good in a way that is unique and irreplaceable. If one being could fully embody every possible type of good, why would we -- why would anyone other than God himself -- even need to exist?

If sex is an essential premortal characteristic -- i.e., predating chromosomes, hormones, and genitalia -- then it must reflect some fundamental division of intelligences (at least the kind of intelligences that become humans) into two categories. Is each of us, from the beginning, either an ahura or a devi (feminine of deva)? And is that division reflected, or at least approximated, in sexual dimorphism when we incarnate?

(Coincidentally, Zoroastrianism deifies ahuras and demonizes daevas, while Hinduism does the opposite -- and Zoroastrianism strikes me as a much more masculine religion than Hinduism.)

Just a tentative hypothesis, of course. I don't think anyone -- institutional Mormonism least of all! -- has even begun to come to terms with the implications of sex as an eternal characteristic.

Molière, Cow That Cuts

Sometimes I dream in prose without even realizing it.

"Translate it into French and say that Molière wrote it."

"What? Why?"

"It is an added constraint."

"And who is Molière to you?"

"We call him Cow That Cuts."

And that's all I remember. I could not see my interlocutor but understood him to be non-human -- a spirit, perhaps, or a Gray. I am not sure what text I was being asked to translate, but I believe it was something German and was neither a comedy nor a work of drama. In other words, it would have taken quite a bit of reworking to "translate" it into a passable forgery of Molière.

The significance of the name "Cow That Cuts" -- I guess the French would be vache qui coupe -- is a mystery. My immediate thought, in the dream, was that it referred to a cow that cuts grass rather than eating it -- so it would keep your lawn trimmed for you, but you'd still have to feed it. The relevance to Molière is unclear.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Lucifer, Ahriman, and Ganymede virtue sets

Rudolf Steiner saw Lucifer, Ahriman, and the Christ in Aristotelian terms: Lucifer is one extreme; Ahriman, the other; and the Christ represents the perfectly balanced "golden mean" between the two. This corresponds to the virtue theory propounded in the Nicomachean Ethics -- where, for example, Courage is seen as a golden mean between the extremes of Cowardice and Rashness.

It is wrong to conceptualize the Christ this way -- as if the goodness of God consisted in being just Ahrimanic enough without being too Ahrimanic -- as if Lucifer were 0, Ahriman were 1, and the Christ were 0.618... (realized to infinite decimal places in the Christ himself, but only approximated by mere mortals!). "Moderation in all things" is a Greek maxim, not a Christian one. The Christian version is this: "I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth" (Rev. 3:15-16).

As I pointed out in my post "Vice and vice versa," Aristotle's one-dimensional theory of virtue is also an inadequate conceptualization of evil. It is quite possible to be simultaneously cowardly and rash -- it has in fact been the norm since 2020 -- but there is no Aristotelian way to model that. I recommended as an improvement the Ganymede virtue set (GVS) as pioneered by "G" of the Junior Ganymede blog.



A two-dimensional GVS consists of two virtues and two vices (whereas a one-dimensional Aristotelian virtue set, or AVS, has only one virtue per two vices). Cowardice and Rashness are not opposites; Cowardice is the opposite of Courage, and Rashness is the opposite of Prudence. Cowardice and Rashness are complementary (not opposite) vices, and Courage and Prudence are complementary virtues. It is (as we see every day now) possible to be both extremely cowardly and extremely rash. And it is possible to be (like the Christ?) both perfectly courageous and perfectly prudent. To quote G himself, referring to a slightly different virtue set, "Confident Humility sounds like a contradiction. So does Arrogant Timidity. But they are common enough that they are almost archetypes."

In the GVS diagram above, it is clear that one of the vices (Rashness) is Luciferic, and the other (Cowardice) is Ahrimanic. Is that a general rule? Here are some more GVS diagrams from G (taken from "Charting Virtue" and the other posts linked therein, to which the reader is referred for more details on these particular virtue sets).


Immodesty is Luciferic. Uglification is Ahrimanic.


Pride is Luciferic. Despair and contemptibleness are Ahrimanic.


The cult of authenticity etc. is Luciferic. Hypocrisy is Ahrimanic.


The cult of authenticity etc. is Luciferic. Conspiracy and blackmail are Ahrimanic.


Rebellion is Luciferic. Legalism is Ahrimanic.


High time preference, like all the multitude of sins G puts under the heading of "authenticity," is Luciferic. Fear and timidity are Ahrimanic.

Every single GVS we've looked at contains one vice that is obviously Luciferic and another that is obviously Ahrimanic, and there is never any uncertainty or ambiguity as to which is which. (I have so arranged the charts that the Luciferic vice is always in the upper right, and its Ahrimanic complement in the lower left.) I'm going to go ahead and call this a general rule.

This implies that just as there is Luciferic evil and Ahrimanic evil, there are two complementary categories of good. Here are how these four categories are exemplified in the GVS diagrams above:
  • Luciferic vices: Rashness, immodesty, pride, "authenticity," "being true to yourself," the god within, gossip, "What? It's the truth!", confessionalism, rebellion, avant-gardism, high time preference
  • Anti-Luciferic virtues: Prudence, modesty, humility, the "nameless virtue" of which hypocrisy is a distortion, discretion, obedience
  • Ahrimanic vices: Cowardice, uglification, despair, contemptibleness, hypocrisy, conspiracy, blackmail, legalism, Pharisaism, fear, timidity
  • Anti-Ahrimanic virtues: Courage, comeliness, glory, sincerity, plainspokenness, speaking out, breaking the letter to keep the spirit, trusting God to provide
All four of these seem to be coherent categories, and they need names. In my post "Satan divided against himself," I described Luciferic sin as "sacrificing the avoidance of evil in order to pursue good" and Ahrimanic sin as "sacrificing the pursuit of good in order to avoid evil." This suggests the following analysis.


However, "seeking good" and "avoiding evil" are too abstract to fully capture the "feel" of each type of virtue. They really need names, like Lucifer and Ahriman.

Well, Ahriman comes from Zoroastrianism, where his opposite is Ahura Mazda -- so perhaps we can call the good-seeking, anti-Ahrimanic virtues Ahuric. In Zoroastrianism, ahuras are good and daevas are evil. In Vedic usage, though, asuras are evil and devas are good. It would seem, then, that the anti-Luciferic, evil-avoiding virtues that complement the Ahuric should be called the Devic. The master GVS, then, underlying all others, is this:


If anyone has better name suggestions, leave them in the comments.

Nothin' but mammals

Would it surprise you to know that one of the proximate inspirations for my previous post, "Satan divided against himself," was the Bloodhound Gang song "The Bad Touch"?


My wife, bless her heart, is something of a Maroon Five fan. (Like I can talk, right?) The other day she was listening to "Animals," which begins thus and continues in more or less the same vein.

Baby I'm preying on you tonight
Hunt you down eat you alive
Just like animals, animals
Like animals-mals

And I thought, "You know, this is like what 'The Bad Touch' would be in an alternate universe where Jimmy Pop was -- as Bugs Bunny might have put it -- a maroon." The same basic idea, minus the wit.

So I got up YouTube and listened to "The Bad Touch." Then I listened to it again, and again, and -- oh, probably about a dozen times in two or three days. And I thought, "What am I doing? What on earth is making me want to keep listening to this vulgar, sophomoric dreck?" And then I realized that what was driving me was an overwhelming feeling of nostalgia for a more wholesome time.

Let me repeat that: This crass-to-the-max four-minute dirty joke about doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel filled me with nostalgia for a more wholesome time. How I wish I could go back and report this observation to the people of 1999! What could they possibly make of it? "The Bad Touch" must surely have seemed at the time like the nadir of music's descent into garbage.

I say "must surely" because I wasn't there, not really. I was a homeschooled Mormon kid who grew up in the country, and when we occasionally dusted off the TV it was only to watch PBS. In 1999, when "The Bad Touch" was released, I was a missionary in Utah and didn't know anything about it. So my nostalgia's not for this song specifically, as if I used to listen to it all the time in junior high or something. Pop culture nostalgia's not really a thing for me. I never even watched the Discovery Channel! It's just a feeling that the culture that produced it was a much more wholesome culture than the one in which we now live.

Trying to understand that feeling, I zeroed in on the line "You and me, baby, ain't nothin' but mammals." The message of the song, while evil, is at least organic -- the natural man, return to monke. It is like a modern song in that it makes no pretense of being about "love" (except "the kind you clean up with a mop and bucket"), but conspicuous by its absence is any hint of the robot/alien/androgyne aesthetic, any overt reference to Satanism or blood sacrifice, any winking allusions to secret societies or MK-ULTRA mind control. It's just some dudes being jackasses -- being mammals -- and having fun. When was the last time mainstream evil was fun?

"You and me," baby? Speak for yourself!

(Incidentally, remember when every pop song was about love? Didn't it seem like that was something that would always be true? Even Aldous Huxley didn't imagine a dystopia without that.)

Scrolling through the comments on YouTube for "The Bad Touch," I find that a lot of them are saying how a song like this could never be released today, that people would find it far too offensive. Someone even said the lyrics "would make Cardi B blush" -- you know, Cardi B, who sings "Wet-Ass Pussy." Keep in mind that "The Bad Touch" is much less explicitly obscene than contemporary music, and that the only word they had to bleep out in the "clean" version was "doggy." But it's still true: people would be offended if it were released today. Doing it like they do on the Discovery Channel has too much of nature in it, too much of creation. Evil has moved on. Ahriman is the flavor du jour.

Of course, it's even more obvious that "The Bad Touch" could never have been released in, say, the 1950s. It represents a particular stage in the development of evil, in the gradual unfolding of les fleurs de mal. It came, it went, and it's gone. There will be no return to monke. Sorath is the future.

"Me and you do the kind of stuff that only Prince would sing about" -- in retrospect "Party Like It's 1999" has taken on a whole new meaning.

Satan divided against himself

Disclaimer: My terms are borrowed (by way of Terry Boardman and Bruce Charlton) from Rudolf Steiner, but I cannot claim to be using them in anything like a strictly Steinerian sense. In fact I have read only a tiny fraction of Steiner's voluminous output and assimilated only a tiny fraction of that. However, his demonology has long since taken on a life of its own.

These are just some tentative notes. I neither pretend nor aspire to be an expert on evil.


Sorath

MEPHISTO:
I am the spirit that negates.
And rightly so, for all that comes to be
Deserves to perish wretchedly;
'Twere better nothing would begin.
Thus everything that your terms, sin,
Destructionevil represent—
That is my proper element.
-- Goethe's Faust (Walter Kaufmann's translation)

By Sorath I mean the principle of evil at its purest, the devil of all devils, Goethe's "spirit that negates." God is the love-motivated Creator, and Sorath is the hate-motivated anti-Creator, who opposes all creation -- who thinks it "better nothing would begin" and that all that has begun "deserves to perish wretchedly."

Sorath's ultimate goal is that nothing at all exist, including Sorath himself. Does Sorath exist, then? Perhaps not. Perhaps it is not possible that he should. It may be possible to be God, even to be Lucifer, but not to be Sorath. After all, who can fail to see the self-contradictory nature of the statement, "I am the spirit that negates"? Sorath should probably not be thought of as a person at all, but as the hypothetical limit to which evil converges. Appropriately, Sorath is not a name from folklore, not a demon people are actually said to have interacted with, but an artificial creation of Steiner's, made from the Hebrew numerals for 666.

God is, ultimately, a Person -- and, pace Yeats, there is no Deus Inversus, no equal and opposite God of Evil, no Angra Mainyu ("Ahriman" in the original Zoroastrian, non-Steiner sense of that name). Devils who are persons certainly exist, but the devil of all devils is an abstraction, a mathematical limit which none of them can quite reach. And the name we give to this limit, this outer darkness, is also mathematical: Sorath.

We may nevertheless speak, and not altogether figuratively, of "what Sorath wants" and what it means to "serve Sorath."


What Sorath is up against

Sorath is against creation and against Creator -- that is, against existence, against being as such -- so any understanding of Sorath's battle plan must begin with answering that ever-popular question, Why is there something rather than nothing? (And, yes, I intend to answer that little question en passant and then forge ahead with my demonology. This attitude is, incidentally, why there is something rather than nothing posted on this blog.)

Descartes, meet Berkeley. Berkeley, Descartes. Let's have each of you chuck your most famous Latin catchphrase into this here crucible and see what comes out, shall we? And . . . splendid: Esse est cogitari aut cogitare. "To be is to be thought, or to think." Sorath's enemies are thinkers -- God, the gods, and such humbler beings as ourselves -- and the combined harmonious thought of these thinkers, which is the creative Logos.

New thinkers think themselves into existence, oh, probably all the time -- beginning as "minor presences, riffraff of consciousness" (Iris Murdoch's phrase) and then, some of them, developing from there, some even to the threshold of Godhood itself.

But this is likely a one-way street. Thinkers don't ever think themselves out of existence -- how could they? How could you cease, by an act of will, to have an active will? To say, or think, "I will my own annihilation," you have to say I will. Existence cannot be undone.

Thinkers -- excepting perhaps those dragons and titans and hecatoncheires who came into being before there was a Logos -- have a natural tendency to think and act in harmony with the Logos. At first, at the most rudimentary levels of development, this tendency is almost wholly passive and unconscious. "For behold, the dust of the earth moveth hither and thither . . . at the command of our great and everlasting God" (Hel. 12:8) and "even the wind and the sea obey him" (Mark 4:41).

As a thinker develops, though, and becomes increasingly active and conscious, the possibility of deliberately rebelling against the Logos begins to emerge. Sorath wants to persuade as many as possible to choose that path, with the ultimate goal of undoing creation, reducing the cosmos, if not to nothing at all, at least to chaos.

The problem, though, is how to persuade anyone to join you when you have quite literally nothing to offer. The devil of all devils wants everyone "to choose captivity and death, . . . that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2 Ne. 2:27). Uh, what's the selling point again?


Ultimately, many can and will choose just that -- will say, "Evil, be thou my good!" and walk willingly into hell -- but they must be brought to that point by a circuitous route. That's where Lucifer and Ahriman come in.


Lucifer

In The Song of the Strange Ascetic (which I discuss here), G. K. Chesterton imagines how he would have lived if he "had been a Heathen" and expresses bafflement at the choice of an actual heathen called Higgins -- a sort of Caspar Milquetoast of heathenism -- not to live that life. Heathenism, we are to infer, is as much wasted on the heathens as youth is on the young.

A heathen Chesterton would have filled his life with wine, love affairs, dancing girls, and glorious military campaigns against the Chieftains of the North. He would have served Lucifer, in other words -- pursued forbidden pleasures -- and doesn't quite get this Ahriman fellow whom the prissy bourgeois Higgins chooses to serve instead.

Lucifer is all about wine, women, and song. Those who follow Lucifer are motivated by pleasure rather than the avoidance of pain, and are willing to embrace risk, danger, adventure, even a sort of heroism, in its pursuit. They do not shy away from violence and may even revel in it. Alcibiades, Casanova, Blackbeard -- Falstaff, even. (Not Epicurus, who, despite the modern connotation of his name, was a consummate Higgins.) This is the most relatable and accessible form of evil, the sort a good man like Chesterton could easily fantasize about embracing. "Gateway drug" is the term, I believe.

Why call this aspect of evil Lucifer? Well, because Steiner did, obviously, but we can also invent an ex post facto etymology for it. Lucifer, "light-bearer," is from the Latin lux, "light," but we can imagine that it derives instead from luxus, "luxury, debauchery." Also, Lucifer was originally a name for the planet Venus -- whose other name is that of the ancient Roman goddess of sex, drugs, and rock-'n'-roll.


Ahriman

How did Satan become Satan? Joseph Smith, the Prophet, proposes a somewhat novel origin story for this supervillain: One of the angels comes before the Lord and proposes, "send me, . . . and I will redeem all mankind, that one soul shall not be lost." And it is for this offer of universal salvation -- because, that is, he "sought to destroy the agency of man" -- that he is cast out of heaven and becomes the devil (see Moses 4:1-4).

If Lucifer seeks pleasure, Ahriman seeks control. Note that this is not necessarily the same thing as seeking power. Those who serve Ahriman may seek to be in control themselves, but more often their goal may simply be that everything be under control. Hierarchy is of Ahriman, because even those who are far from the top have no objection to it. Even an Ahrimanist who has the ability to control things personally will generally defer these personal decisions to a system or algorithm, personal responsibility being unpleasantly risky. A near-perfect example of Ahrimanic man is the 2020s birdemicist, happy to submit to house arrest, universal surveillance and censorship, and forced medical procedures -- rather than take a chance of catching the flu. "Non serviam" is Lucifer's motto, not Ahriman's; if Ahrimanism were condensed into a two-word motto, it would be, "Safety first" -- or, if more than two words are needed, "None are safe until all are safe" ("that one soul shall not be lost").

Lucifer's motivation is positive: the pursuit of pleasure. Ahriman's is negative: the elimination of risk. Lucifer's focus is personal; Ahriman's, universal. Thus Ahriman, though less obviously "evil" than Lucifer, is actually considerably closer than Lucifer to Sorath, to the pure and universal "spirit that negates."


Evilution


Suicide has cause and stillbirth, logic; and cancer, simple as a flower, blooms.
-- Karl Shapiro

Conceptually, Sorath is primary, and I have discussed him first. Chronologically, in the evolutionary development of evil, he comes last. The natural progression is from Good to Luciferic, from Luciferic to Ahrimanic, and from Ahrimanic to Sorathic.

First, the good are tempted by forbidden pleasures, and by forbidden means of pursuing good ends, and embrace the ethos of Abbey of Thélème: Fay ce que vouldras, "Do what you want."

This Luciferic playing-with-fire leads to predictable results, people begin to feel that the world has become a chaotic and dangerous place, and they turn to Ahriman. We can see a clear example of this if we look back at the past half-century: As the flower children (those fleurs de mal) blossomed into flower fogeys, a movement that began with free speech, free love, and letting it all hang out evolved organically into the world of PC, sexual harassment prevention training, and a superstitious horror of the "inappropriate."

As Ahriman drains the world of its charm and turns everything into management and bureaucracy, as he extinguishes joy and the memory of joy, as everyone, to one degree or another, is assimilated into his soulless system, mutual respect becomes impossible, more and more people live in a state of barely suppressed rage, and the prospect of burning everything to the ground becomes increasingly attractive. Sorath has arrived.


The Blood War

When Sin claps his broad wings over the battle,
And sails rejoicing in the flood of Death;
When souls are torn to everlasting fire,
And fiends of Hell rejoice upon the slain,
O who can stand?
-- William Blake

In the Dungeons and Dragons cosmology, one of the defining features of the "Lower Planes" (hell) is the Blood War -- the interminable conflict between the chaotic-evil (Luciferic) demons and the lawful-evil (Ahrimanic) devils, with a third class of neutral-evil (Sorathic?) fiends manipulatively playing each side against the other. So -- did the D&D guys get hell more or less right? Was old Gary Gygax privy to one or two of the deep things of Satan?

If the Blood War did not exist, Sorath would have to invent it. Remember what Sorath wants -- for men to hate the good as such and to pursue evil strictly for the evulz -- and how contrary to human nature that is. How to get us humans to sail against the wind of our own deepest nature? By tacking, of course.

  • Sorath's goal: Avoid good, pursue evil
  • Human nature: Pursue good, avoid evil
  • Lucifer tack: Sacrifice the avoidance of evil in order to pursue good (e.g. to seek pleasure)
  • Ahriman tack: Sacrifice the pursuit of good in order to avoid evil (e.g. to be "safe")
Clever little devil, right? But so far this is just tacking, and no one ever said tacking was hell. War is hell. That's the next step. Notice that the Lucifer tack and the Ahriman tack are polar opposites and are both evil. With just a bit of nudging, we get this:
  • Sorathized Lucifer: Sacrifice the avoidance of evil in order to destroy Ahriman!
  • Sorathized Ahriman: Sacrifice the pursuit of good in order to crush Lucifer!
Rage against the machine! Machinate against the rage! Behead those who insult Sorath -- who, for his part, claps his broad wings above the battle and sails rejoicing in the flood of Death. O who can stand?


La fin de Satan?

And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.
-- Mark 3:23-26

Given what we have discussed thus far, what are we to make of this statement attributed to Jesus? 

Victor Hugo's unfinished poem does not really address the matter; I have pilfered the title because of its ambiguity. La fin de Satan could mean the annihilation of Satan, or it could mean Satan's objective, his telos (which is in fact the word used in Mark) -- and, wait, are those even two different things? Didn't we say that "Sorath's ultimate goal is that nothing at all exist, including Sorath himself"? La fin de Satan est la fin de Satan.

Jesus, in the passage quoted, is responding to the claim that "by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils." The implication is that devils obviously don't work that way, because if they did, the whole enterprise of devilry would have collapsed long ago, torn apart by infighting. The continued existence of Satan is proof that Satan is not in the habit of undermining himself, and thus that the whole idea of a power-of-Satan-compels-you exorcist is inherently implausible.

Everything I've written in this post thus far -- Lucifer vs. Ahriman, the Blood War, all that -- seems to be saying that the kingdom of Satan succeeds by being divided against itself, and thus that Jesus was wrong. Well, as a Christian, I obviously can't leave it at that!

The easy way out would be to point out that this quote from Jesus does not appear in the Fourth and most authoritative Gospel, that Mark consists of notes compiled by a non-witness, and that Jesus may well never have said anything like this. Honestly, though, it sounds quite Jesusy to me, and I believe he probably did say it or something like it.

Another possibility is that Jesus was speaking specifically about exorcism. Back when I still believed the mainstream idea that Mark's was the most trustworthy Gospel and was focusing my studies on it, I went so far as to read an entire book called Demonic Possession in the New Testament, by William Menzies Alexander. Alexander draws a distinction between possession by "demons" or "unclean spirits" (a condition cured by Jesus on many occasions) and possession by "Satan" (attributed only to Judas Iscariot). The latter (which also has the distinction of being the only "possession" mentioned in the Fourth Gospel) is clearly moral in nature and leads to damnation. In contrast, those troubled by "unclean spirits" are treated as victims who bear no moral responsibility for their condition. The other important point that Alexander makes is that the wave of demon-possession described in Mark was a unique phenomenon, localized in time and space. With a few ambiguous exceptions like the case of King Saul, there is scarcely a hint of demon-possession in the Old Testament, nor does demon-possession in the Marcan mold appear to happen much in the modern world. (Satan-possession, in contrast, seems to be at an all-time high.) The demoniacs of first-century Palestine, a bit like the Convulsionnaires of Saint-Médard centuries later, appear to have represented a sort of spiritual outbreak or epidemic which flared up, spread through the population, and then burnt itself out -- with this last process perhaps expedited by the activity of Jesus and his disciples. If this phenomenon was the "Satan" Jesus' accusers were referring to, it would appear that its kingdom didn't stand, and it did have an end.

Something else to keep in mind is that Jesus' responses to critics or those who tried to catch him in his words generally worked on two levels. At the level of mere repartee, their purpose was to pwn and silence his opponents; at a deeper level, they were "parables" -- riddles -- conveying more substantive truth. For example, Jesus' famous statement about the unforgivable sin against the Holy Ghost was also a response to accusations that he used demonic power to cast out demons. As rhetoric, its message was, "Be very careful calling something demonic which may actually be from the Holy Ghost" -- but we can hardly conclude that mistakenly thinking a particular "miracle" may be demonic is the unforgivable sin! The deeper meaning of this statement is, well, deep, and a great deal has been thought and written about it -- almost all of which, rightly, departs from the statement's original rhetorical context.

So focusing too much on the conclusion "and therefore exorcisms are never performed by demonic power" may be much too narrow a constraint when it comes to understanding the deeper meaning of "How can Satan cast out Satan?" Rhetorically, it is supposed to work as a reductio ad absurbum: Satan obviously wouldn't undermine his own power; therefore, no exorcist is a servant of Satan. But those who think it out realize at that what it reduces to isn't absurd at all: Satan cannot stand, but hath an end. I mean, what's the alternative, really? That Satan and his works will endure forever? That Satan -- ce monstre délicat -- has eternal life?


What if they gave a Blood War and nobody came?

But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil.
-- Matt. 5:39

Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil, . . . durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke thee."
-- Jude 9

Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight."
-- John 18:36

But Jesus said unto him, "Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead."
-- Matt. 8:22

We are not here to fight in the Blood War. We are not here to contend against Satan and those who serve him. The example of the Messiah conspicuously not overthrowing the Empire should have made that clear enough. We are here to learn, to serve God, and to follow Jesus to eternal life. Anything else is a distraction.

Friday, April 16, 2021

What's a nice Mormon Elder like you doing in a place like this?

So the Vatican's doing this thing.

First the graphic: I'm sorry but, putting blasphemy concerns to one side, a coronaphobe version of the Creation of Adam is just a non-starter. "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." How are you going to do a masked version of that?

But of course I'm here to document Mormon, not Catholic, apostasy.

The speakers include prominent and diverse names such as the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna, the former of which produces abortion pills; the Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) Francis Collins, who advocates using fetal tissue in research projects; the head of Google Health, David Feinberg; and Dr. Anthony Fauci from the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, whose advice to government officials played a major role in shutting down American churches last year.  

NIH director Francis Collins has a long history of anti-life policies, and has previously acclaimed the "scientific benefits" which come from fetal tissue research, claiming that such work could be conducted "with an ethical framework."

He is joined at the Vatican conference by Salesforce CEO, Marc Benioff, who has firmly aligned himself with the globalist, liberal elite, by banning emails from Republicans and the Trump campaign in the wake of the January 6 Capitol protests, as well as prohibiting all clients from even questioning the 2020 U.S. election. Benioff has a history of promoting LGBT issues, and is described by Time as "one of the most outspoken executives," for LGBT affairs. 

Also speaking at the conference will be United Nations representative and conservationist Jane Goodall, who supports population control; new age activist Deepak Chopra; rock guitarist Joe Perry; Mormon Elder William K. Jackson; executive chair of the British Board of Scholars and Imams, Shaykh Dr. Asim Yusuf; pro-abortion model Cindy Crawford; and disgraced ex-prefect of the Secretariat for Communication, Monsignor Dario Viganò. 

Numerous other medical professionals, representatives of U.S. federal agencies, university lecturers, high-ranking company officials, and musicians also form the number of speakers. There are only two Catholic clergy listed amongst the 114 speakers.

"Mormon Elder" William K. Jackson (sic; I'm sure he does not self-identify as a Mormon!) was promoted to the rank of General Authority Seventy in the April 2020 conference and gave his first General Conference talk in October. He spoke on diversity and equality.

But couldn't his presence at this Satanic conference be innocent? After all, even Christ mingled with publicans and sinners. Wait, there's more.

Perhaps as a sign of the Vatican’s recent declaration of financial difficulties, the conference is supported by numerous large organizations such as Sanford Health, Akkad Holdings, John Templeton Foundation, vaccine company Moderna, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

So the Church of We Don't Use the M-Word Anymore isn't just sending a delegation; it's helping to bankroll the event, presumably with the tithes of the Saints.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Condensed crossword

Across:

1. Characteristic of Greek nuptials

4. Ubiquitous feature of a certain Greek island

5. Unravished Greek bride

Down:

1. Invisible influence from Rome

2. Medium for 1 Down

3. Roman cross

Diagonal:

1. Appendage of conch-blowing Greco-Roman deity

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

We have waited long enough for a gay, illegal immigrant Supreme Court justice.

Sometimes I think it would be more fun to work for the other side.


Note added: For those who don't get the reference, I'm doing my best to parody the un-parody-able.


(A quick survey of judges on TV shows that roughly 100% of them are African-American women, so it really does make you wonder why none of them have made it to the Supreme Court!)

Monday, April 12, 2021

Calm and stars

Around the Matsu Islands -- just off the coast of China, but administered by Taiwan -- the waters are full of a sort of bioluminescent plankton, called by the locals "blue teardrops," which, when disturbed (by a crashing wave, for example), emit a blue-white light. As soon as the water is calm again, the light goes out. This is visible only when it is very dark, and cannot be photographed except with a very long exposure which distorts what it actually looks like, but it is striking. At night, you can take a canoe into an old tunnel once used for hiding warships from Red Mao, and every splash of the paddle into the water creates a momentary swirl of ghostly sparks, as if one were rowing the Styx. Splash a paddleful of water onto the wall of the tunnel, and it erupts in a ghostly fireworks display, with countless pale stars popping into existence and then winking out. The effect reminded me of the Yongsung Kim painting Calm and Stars.

Kim's painting depicts Jesus having calmed a storm on the Sea of Galilee, artistic license having reduced the number of disciples in the boat to one.

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?"

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, "Peace, be still."

And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

And he said unto them, "Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?"

And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" 

(Mark 4:37-41)

I love that bit at the end: "Why are ye so fearful? . . . And they feared exceedingly" -- not despite the fact that Jesus could calm the storm but precisely because of it! What's scarier, thinking the Master won't do anything about the storm -- or realizing that he will?

The Matsu Islands are named after the sea goddess Mazu, a deified woman who is supposed to be buried there. (Convention transcribes the same sound as ts for the islands and z for the goddess.) There is a colossal statue of Mazu on one of the islands, crowned and holding a lamp and a tablet, almost like a Chinese version of the Statue of Liberty. On her tablet is written the chengyu associated with this goddess: 風調雨順 -- "the winds are tamed, and the rains obey."

The breath metaphor

In Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and many other languages the word for "spirit" and "breath" (and often "wind" as well) is the same. (We can see this in our English words spirit and respiration, from the same Latin root.) "Breath," being more concrete, was presumably the original meaning of these words, with "spirit" being a metaphorical extension of that sense.

Why that particular metaphor?

One obvious reason is that breath is one of the things that distinguishes a living person from a corpse, and that we also encounter it (as wind) in disembodied form. It is easy to imagine a person's breath -- more so than, say, his heartbeat -- living on as a disembodied being after that person's death. Perhaps the earliest imagined "spirits" in the superhuman sense -- proto-gods -- were such characters as Boreas, Zephyrus, Notus, and Eurus -- invisible, obviously real, and clearly of the same nature as human breath.

Another possible reason is that breath is the medium of speech -- which is really only modulated breath -- and it is speech that expresses our thoughts and feelings. In fact, there is a case to be made (others have made it, though I don't remember who) that speech is what originally gave rise to our self-awareness -- that we spoke to others, overheard ourselves, and thus began to know ourselves. Silent self-overhearing, like silent reading, came only later. The Bible describes thinking as a kind of internal speaking: "The fool hath said in his heart. . . ."

Most appropriately, though, breath is volitional but only potentially so. Our heartbeat is beyond out conscious control, but we can easily control our breathing if we choose to do so. Most of the time we do not, though, and it goes on automatically. I think something similar is true of our thoughts and the behavior that comes from them. We have free will but use it far less often than we imagine, and I think it is possible in principle to live out one's life without ever once exercising it, just allowing one's thoughts and actions to happen -- "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind" (Eph. 4:14). But we can live differently. The kingdom of heaven -- meaning, if we take it in a stupidly literal sense, the realm of the wind-gods -- is within you.

Is Homer's wine-dark sea related to the mystery of violet?

Some months ago, I recorded a vivid fantasy in which I saw the Homeric heroes Ajax and Epicles fighting under a blue sun and noted that this would explain Homer's famous "wine-dark sea."

Homer's "wine-dark sea" seems bizarre to us moderns, for whom wine is red and the sea is blue. Under a blue sun, though, the sea would not look any bluer than anything else, and "red" -- reflecting less blue light than any other visible color -- would be a close cousin to "dark."

Obviously, I don't really believe the Sun was ever blue, though, so Homer's sea remains a mystery.

Homeric Greek (like several other languages) apparently only had four basic color words -- black, white, red, and yellow. Of the four, black is obviously the best fit for the color of the sea, and arguably for "red" wine as well. (The color of tea is similarly ambiguous. The sort of tea that is called "black" in English is called "red" in Chinese.)

Basically red, or basically black?

So it's not surprising at all that Homer would use the same color word -- black -- to describe both wine and the sea. Still, "wine-dark" is surprising. Many languages consider pink a shade of red and would call a pink piglet "red" -- but would they ever call it blood-red? Even if piglets and blood are both "red" in some languages, a piglet obviously isn't the color of blood and would never be described that way. We can see something similar in English. In Old English, as in modern Russian, there was a basic distinction between light blue (Russian голубой) and dark blue (Russian синий), similar to the distinction between pink and red. Modern English uses blue (originally meaning "light blue") for both -- but sky-blue is still used exclusively for things that are light blue like the sky, not dark blue like the sea. Homer's calling the sea "wine-dark" is precisely as strange as a modern English speaker calling it "sky-blue."

On the other hand, there's my wife, who (like my father) is incapable of distinguishing certain shades of blue (that of my eyes, for instance) from gray. At first I thought this was purely a linguistic phenomenon -- that she applied the label blue to a somewhat different range of colors than I did. Once, though, we were arguing over whether a particular blanket was blue (as it very obviously was!) or gray, and I said, "When I say gray, I mean the color of a mouse. Look at that blanket. Could a mouse be that color?" And she insisted that, yes, a mouse could be that color!

Grey as a mouse?

Run an image search for "cartoon mouse" or "cartoon elephant," and you'll find a surprising number of results that are blue -- so apparently my wife is not alone in this. So, who knows, perhaps Homer really did see the sea as being the same color as wine.

Recently, it occurred to me to wonder if Homer's wine-dark sea had anything to do with the mystery of violet. Technically, purple is a mixture of red and blue light, while violet is a spectral color lying between blue and ultraviolet on the spectrum, and is thus further from red than blue is. For most people, though, spectral violet looks exactly like purple. (The RGB color system used by the screen on which you are reading this is unable to display spectral violet at all, but no one notices the absence of this basic color.) For other people -- including me, I think, as well as whoever wrote "Roses are red, violets are blue" -- spectral violet does not appear at all red; instead, the visible spectrum ends with darker and darker blues finally giving way to black. The sea is dark blue, indistinguishable from spectral violet as I see it. For many other people, both red wine and spectral violet appear "purple." Is this fact -- that the last color of the rainbow looks purple (that is, dark magenta) to some and dark blue to others -- related to the mystery of the "wine-dark sea"? As far as I know, no one individual would ever perceive wine and the sea as being the same color, but perhaps a culture including both violets-are-blue people and violets-are-purple people could have developed a convention of calling both wine and the sea "violet." This doesn't explain Homer's "wine-dark oxen," though, since oxen are never either purple or blue, but it still seems a promising line of inquiry.

Another unremarked milestone

According to the latest figures , the pecks have now killed more than two-thirds as many people in Taiwan as the birdemic has, and that rat...