Monday, January 31, 2022

Colorado Kids

I’m halfway through listening to a four-year-old podcast by a couple of alcoholics who talk about aliens and philosophy. When I turned it off last night, I had just listened to the part where they briefly discuss the Stephen King novel The Colorado Kid — a mystery novel in which the mystery goes unsolved.

This morning, I checked Synlogos, and the very first link was to a post called “Colorado Kids These Days… Well Played!” — about two kids in Colorado who successfully shut down a pecking site at their school. No connection to Stephen King (who, a quick glance at his Twitter shows, is a full-blown birdemic believer and peck Nazi).

What “Colorado Kid” makes me think of is the late Mexican comedian Chespirito, known for playing the title characters in  El Chapulín Colorado (“the red grasshopper”) and El Chavo (“the Kid”). The former character was famously caricatured on The Simpsons as Bumblebee Man, so I guess that’s a link to the red bee.

A perversely unlikely misreading

A completely random series of clicks led me to this photo of a woke travesty of a Tarot card (from a deck by a “they/them” human-in-denial who hates sex, hierarchy, the human race, and God, and therefore fundamentally hates the Tarot itself).

When I saw this (a non-hierarchical, non-gendered, non-human, non-Tarot Page of Cups), I misread it as “Reverse of Options.” This is strange because I had just recently experienced the song “Pills and Potions” during the sort of half-waking state that I usually refer to as a “hypnopompic reverie,” and so my mind should have been primed and ready to recognize the (otherwise rather unusual) words reverie and potions.

One of the other cards from this anti-Tarot deck also synched with a cartoon I had seen a few minutes before.

Sunday, January 30, 2022

Ominous dreams

When I finished the Katha Upanishad, I had the strange thought, "I need to sleep on this in order to process it properly, and should do so before proceeding." So, putting a pillow on the floor of my study, I lay down and did just that. I entered the dreaming state almost immediately, and it was a strange dream: a hyper-realistic view of a city from a few hundred feet above it. Everything was red -- the people, the buildings, the streets, the ceiling (yes, this city had a ceiling) -- and I had the impression that I was looking at the subterranean City of Dis, inhabited by the damned dead. It seemed simultaneously extremely realistic and extremely schematic, like a complicated diagram brought to life. The perspective seemed supernaturally complex, as if there were four or five vanishing points, and I heard the voice of my artist sister confirming that that was indeed the case. I moved up and down, trying to process this all by varying the angle from which I viewed it.

Shortly thereafter, I swam back up into waking consciousness but did not fully attain it immediately. On the threshold of waking -- eyes open, still not entirely not-dreaming -- I became aware of music. Like the view of Dis, it was a combination of things that it shouldn't be possible to combine: the melodic motif from the Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony"; the chorus from Nicki Minaj's "Pills and Potions," "I still love, I still love, I still love, I still love, I still love you"; and a clear-voiced Sanskrit chant, "Om shanti shanti shanti, Om shanti shanti shanti." Looking up at the bookcases that surrounded me, I saw two words from the spines of my books sparkle like gold in the dark room: Eco (from the spine of The Name of the Rose) and Judgement (from Kant's Critique of the same).

And then I was fully awake. The room was optically normal, the music continued only "in my head," and discursive thinking took over. Eco-Judgement -- an environmental apocalypse? Or no, waking and rising go together, so the Rose is equivalent to the Woke, and the name of the Woke is Umberto Eco, meaning Humbert echoed, i.e. Humbert Humbert, i.e. pedophiles. Which fits because rose is literally "disordered" (anagrammed) eros. Even as I was thinking it, though, I knew that this whole line of thought was false and that the true message was the simplicity of the half-waking state: Eco. Judgement. I'm angry, but I still love you. Om shanti shanti shanti.

I stayed up very late reading several more Upanishads. Then I went to bed and dreamed again.

When my REM eyes opened, I was alone in a grove of trees -- recognizable as the Sacred Grove in upstate New York, where Joseph Smith had his first vision. I was sitting at the foot of a young beech tree -- too young, I thought, to have been there in Joseph Smith's day. At the same time that I was sitting there under the tree, I was having a conversation with Bruce Charlton. (He was not present; these were disembodied voices, his and mine.)

"What I keep coming back to, William," he said, "is, What was the point of your March experience? What the hell was the point?"

"My March experience -- you mean -- ?" It took me a minute to figure out what he was talking about, and then I remembered that I had had on March 15 an experience that replicated the visit of Moroni to Joseph Smith. I had mostly forgotten about it.

"Yes, you know what I mean," said Bruce. "Did it change anything?" (No, obviously.) "What the hell was the point?"

There was silence for a time, and then I heard the voice of one of my young students: "Teacher is dead. Teacher is dead."

These kids! I thought. I can't even sit under a beech tree for a few minutes without them joking about my being dead. But I didn't say anything, and I didn't get up.

Upon waking, I tried to think of anything out of the ordinary that had ever happened to me on March 15, but nothing came to mind. Finally, I thought that perhaps my "March experience" was the experience of being born, and the question was what had been the point of my whole life. I thought of the tree in the Upanishads, with its roots in heaven, and realized that sitting at the foot of a tree might symbolize being in heaven.

Googling beech etymology, I was informed that "People also ask: What does beech symbolize?" Clicking on that, I was told (boldface in original), "Beech can signify the death or end of something, but also stand for the changes that rise through realisation. Since its gift is the revelation of experience, Beech suggest you should cross the threshold that is challenging you, gain experience from the unknown, seek revelation and increase your knowledge."

Friday, January 28, 2022

Fish and eagle

A few days ago, I posted “Why do birds suddenly appear?” — about seeing a pair of golden eagles (highly unusual here in Taiwan) just after thinking about an eagle, and then discovering that the bird I had been contemplating was not an eagle but a Dapengniao, a gigantic bird that transforms from a giant fish called a Kun.

Today, in yet another instance of “whiteboard telepathy,” one of my very young students randomly wrote on the whiteboard, “老鷹,兩隻” (“eagles, two”). When I asked what it meant, it was a pun: the English word eagle sounds a bit like the Taiwanese word for “one,” and then two is the next number after one.

This evening, I started reading the Upanishads. I’d bought a copy ages ago but never felt moved to pick it up until just now. I began with the introduction by the translator, Eknath Easwaran, explaining how he had one day suddenly been moved to read the Upanishads (just after studying William James, of all authors!). This is the passage he quoted in telling the story:

As a great fish swims between the banks of a river as it likes, so does the shining Self move between the states of dreaming and waking.

As an eagle, weary after soaring in the sky, folds its wings and flies down to rest in its nest, so does the shining Self enter the state of dreamless sleep, where one is free from all desires. The Self is free from desire, free from evil, free from fear.

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

More on "Vineyard shouting with the bee whom hump"

Continuing on from "Vineyard shouting with the bee whom hump" . . .

I was thinking about the words in that title and how to fit them together in a somewhat logical way -- and, pretty obviously, one reason you might shout while working in a vineyard is if you were stung by a bee. As anyone who has been taught this stupid mnemonic to remember the Esperanto words for "bee" and "honey" can tell you,

When the bee stings me, abelo ("I bellow"),
And then the bee drops honey on me
And makes mielo ("me yellow")

This is a gin-u-wine Esperanto mnemonic from my Usona Esperantista Junularo days, and if a mnemonic's purpose is to be memorable, I guess it's an extremely effective one. Now that you've read this post, you'll always be able to promote world peace by discussing apiculture in George Soros's native tongue. I learned lots of other stupid mnemonics ("If he weds, he's an edz" is the only other one that comes to mind), but this particular one has sort of haunted me, even turning up in a dream decades later as a sort of plainsong-style chant.

Okay, so you're working in a vineyard, a bee stings you, and you bellow -- but where does "hump" fit it? Well, the "humps" in the Black Eyed Peas song refers to T&A (this is helpfully spelled out in the lyrics for those who miss the subtle subtext), so perhaps one of those regions is where the bee stings. And that made me think of Kanye West's bit in a song that has appeared on this blog before, Jay-Z's 2009 track "Run This Town." (Sorry about this stuff, guys. The sync fairies ain't got no class.)

And up top, unh,
Two bee stings
And I'm beasting
Off the Riesling

The "two bee stings" are what the Black Eyed Peas called "lovely lady lumps." As for "beasting," a homophone of "bee sting," it kind of sounds like something that involves shouting. (When I'm beasting, abelo, and then some guy pours Riesling on me and makes mielo.) Riesling, being a variety of wine grape, brings us back to the vineyard.

I had a memorable dream about a bee back in January or February of 1991. (I remember that the dream occurred during a time when my family was in the habit of watching the news of TV, which was only true during Desert Storm.)

There was a red bee flying around in a city -- New York, I believe -- and I was sure that it was going to explode, causing catastrophic damage. It was going to be a two-dimensional explosion, though, the shock waves extending out from the bee in a circle rather than a sphere. I was running around the city in a panic saying, in an awkward sort of English entirely different from the way I really talk, "Mother, this bee is very dangerous to me." Why "mother" I don't know -- my mother was not present in the dream -- but it's interesting in connection with the "Vineyard shouting with the bee whom hump" sermon, which is about Mata ("mother").

I wrote all of the above back in November, shortly after my original "Vineyard shouting with the bee whom hump" post, but didn't think it was worth actually posting. That old 1991 dream about the red bee kept coming back to me, though. It led me to do a Web search for red bee, which turned up this:


Those three red lines again! Even though it's not the logo of either Red Bee Media or Ericsson. And what song did I quote in this post?


I also noticed the word "MENA" in the Red Bee screenshot above, which made me think of the "Evil Bee" video from Menomena.

Might I suggest "Member of the Church at Temple Square"?

Babylon Bee

I've been told "at Temple Square" is an acceptable substitute for references to The Prophet Who Must Not Be Named.

Monday, January 24, 2022

Thought and conscious will

Every jumbled pile of person has a thinking part
That wonders what the part that isn't thinking, isn't thinking of

-- They Might Be Giants, "Where Your Eyes Don't Go"

If you make yourself small enough, you can externalize anything.

-- Daniel Dennett

Euryalus, is it
the gods who put this fire in our minds,
or is it that each man’s relentless longing
becomes a god to him?

-- Aeneid, Book IX, Mandelbaum trans.

How the Glunk got thunk

In the 1969 Dr. Seuss story "The Glunk That Got Thunk," the young Cat in the Hat's sister has the hobby of thinking things up.

A thing my sister likes to do
Some evenings after supper,
Is sit upstairs in her small room
And use her Thinker-Upper.

She turns her Thinker-Upper on.
She lets it softly purr.
It thinks up friendly little things
With smiles and fuzzy fur.

One day, having decided that her friendly little things are "just not fun enough," she determines to "think up bigger things."

"Think! Think!" she cried.
Her Thinker-Upper gave a snorty snore.
It started thunk-thunk-thunking
As it never had before.
With all he might, her eyes shut tight,
She cried, "Thunk-thunk some more!"

Then, BLUNK! Her Thinker-Upper thunked
A double klunker-klunk.
My sister's eyes flew open
And she saw she'd thunked a Glunk!

The rest of the story deals with the problem of getting rid of this "Glunk" -- an uncouth, greenish creature that threatens the family with financial ruin by running up their phone bill -- but we are here concerned not with that, nor even with the question of how the imagined creature somehow became "real" (a tulpa), but rather with the description of how it was thunk up in the first place.

I think Seuss expresses very clearly and memorably the way in which thinking-up -- having ideas -- is under conscious control and the way in which it is not. At one level, the sister is clearly responsible for the thinking-up of the Glunk. It is she who decides to use her Thinker-Upper and turns it on, and it is she who, dissatisfied with the usual "fuzzy little stuff," commands it to think up something bigger. The Thinker-Upper itself, though, is referred to as something almost external to the sister, almost a machine. She turns it on, and it thinks up things for her. I say "almost," though, because of the closing lines of the passage I have quoted: "My sister's eyes flew open, and she saw she'd thunked a Glunk!" This is a recognition that the Thinker-Upper is not really external but is an aspect of the sister's Self -- one which is, somewhat paradoxically, capable of surprising her. She is amazed to discover that she herself (the Thinker-Upper part of herself) has thought up something so unexpected.

Could the sister have consciously decided to think up a Glunk? Could she have deliberated a bit, decided, "I shall now think of a furry, green, blond-headed, halitotic alligator who phones his mother every day," and then proceeded to think it up? No. Not unless the idea of the Glunk was already in her mind -- that is to say, not unless she had already thought it up. You cannot choose to think about a particular thing until you have already thought of it. Before it can be subject to your conscious will, it has to occur to you -- an English expression which is precisely apropos. Having a new idea is not something you do; it is something that happens to you. Thinking-up cannot be conscious -- and when I say cannot, I mean cannot. It is impossible in principle, impossible by its very nature, impossible even for God.

In my 2013 posts "Agency and motive" and "Syllogisms, free will, and the role of attention," I discuss the paradox of being able to act for ourselves but requiring motives in order to do so -- motives which are not directly and consciously chosen by us but are ultimately "given." I describe how attention is the vehicle of the conscious will: As we hold a dilemma or a possible course of action in our minds, more and more relevant considerations to come to mind; by selectively focusing attention on some of these considerations, we cause them to become "stronger" and elicit the appearance of new but related ideas; and in the end we choose when to act -- that is, we choose which moment, which snapshot of the flux of waxing and waning motives, will be realized in action.

I would now expand that model to include not only motives and possible actions, but all thought. Every idea, even one as far removed from action as thinking up a Glunk, necessarily arises unconsciously, and the only role of the conscious will in the process is to direct attention. There is the Thinker-Upper, and there is the Attention-Director, and only the latter is or can be conscious. Because only the Attention-Director is conscious, only it is unambiguously us. In the Glunk story, the Thinker-Upper is largely if imperfectly externalized -- mostly "it" thinks, but occasionally a "she" slips through. The Attention-Director, though -- the part of the sister that turns the Thinker-Upper on and commands it to think -- cannot be externalized; it is simply she who does those things.

A sample train of thought

It will be convenient to have a more detailed example to refer to than the Glunk.

While I was writing this post, I received an email out of the blue from a stranger, sent to me and to a handful of public figures not known to me personally, consisting of nothing but the following Groucho Marx quip, quoted without context or comment.

"Behind that spaghetti is none other than Herman Gottlieb, director of The New York Opera Company. Do you follow me?"

"Yes."

"Well, stop following me or I’ll have you arrested!"

Where did the Thinker-Upper go with this? First, it served up another Groucho line, from Duck Soup: "Do you know you haven't stopped talking since I got here? You must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle!" And then it thought of an imaginary movie, a longtime fantasy of mine, in which that line figures.

The movie begins with a montage, with quiet guitar music in the background, as a voice explains how the Greek gods of antiquity became the Roman gods and then later incarnated as various mortals -- Mercury as Wordsworth, Cupid as Tchaikovsky, Apollo as James Joyce, and so on -- "until," says the voice, "in the the 20th century the gods of old had finally reached rock bottom." We then realize what the meandering guitar melody has been leading up to: There is a brass fanfare, and the drums and vocals kick in: "Roll up! Roll up for the Mystery Tour, roll up!" The montage cuts to the Beatles, in their Sergeant Pepper duds, playing that song. The camera pans to John Lennon, and a caption appears labeling him "Mercury." Then it moves to Paul McCartney, "Mars." Then, as "Magical Mystery Tour" continues to play in the background, we cut to Duck Soup and Groucho suggesting that Margaret Dumont must have been vaccinated with a phonograph needle, with a caption labeling him "Zeus."

Next, the Thinker-Upper noticed that "Grouch O" suggests Oscar the Grouch, and the whole opening scene of the movie played again, only this time the voiceover was provided by Carroll Spinney as Oscar, and when the 20th century arrived and it was time for the music to kick in, we got not the Beatles but more Oscar, singing his trademark song, Jeff Moss's "I Love Trash." As various icons of 20th-century pop culture appear on the screen, Oscar belts out, "I have here a newspaper 13 months old / I wrapped fish inside it, it's smelly and cold / But I wouldn't trade it for a big pot of gold / I love it because it's tra-a-ash! . . ."

As I dismissed this movie and returned my attention to the original email, the Thinker-Upper informed me that opera is similar to Oprah, that Oprah Winfrey is famously named after a Marx Brother spelled backwards, and that opera is also famously spelled backwards in the Sator Square. I didn't pay much attention to that, so it offered instead that spaghetti suggests the Flying Spaghetti Monster, central figure of a joke-religion no less jokey than the one that sees Groucho Marx as the avatar of Zeus; and also Johnny Spaghetti, the legendary figure (invented by one of my young students) who walked across the country barefoot scattering not apple seeds but spaghetti noodles. It also noted in this connection that the late Charles Manson, likely the ultimate source of the Groucho-Zeus doctrine, once told my hippie uncle that he, Manson, was "Appleseed indeed."

Then, after these and a few other false starts, the Thinker-Upper informed me that the whole Groucho clip is actually a coded reference to a conspiracy theory. "Behind that spaghetti" -- that is, behind the superficially Roman trappings of political power -- "is none other than Herman Gottlieb" -- that is, a Jew -- "director of the New York Opera Company" -- that is, running the show. And who is delivering this line? Who but Julius "Groucho" Marx, a Jewish showman named after Caesar! And then the punchline: "Do you follow me? Well stop following me, or I'll have you arrested!" This is supposed to be an Elizabethan quibble on follow, which can mean either "understand" or "stalk," but the real joke is that it actually means "understand" both times. Do you understand what I've just told you? Well, you'd better stop understanding it, you anti-Semitic nutjob, if you know what's good for you! Pay no attention to the man behind the spaghetti.

And then I effectively turned the Thinker-Upper off -- or off this particular topic, anyway -- satisfied that it had come up with a pleasingly coherent (if fanciful) interpretation of the whole clip.

The quasi-Darwinian nature of thought

The Darwinian process depends on three elements: variation, selection, and heredity. Things vary; some varieties are selected over others; and it is these selected ones that give rise to the next generation, allowing for cumulative change in the direction being selected for.

There is an imperfect but still useful analogy to be made between the Darwinian process and the process of thought as described and illustrated above. The Thinker-Upper is continually generating new ideas, which provides variation. The Attention-Director exerts a selective force by "feeding" some of these ideas with attention and starving others. Then there is a strong tendency for the Thinker-Upper's next "generation" of ideas is be "related" to the survivors of the selection process, providing an analogue to heredity.

(This is not to be confused with the much more strictly Darwinian analysis of ideas as memes. In the memetic model, an idea reproduces when it is successfully communicated, thus making a copy of the same idea in another person's mind; and a maximally successful meme would instantiate itself in many minds with little or no variation. In the model I am proposing, an idea "reproduces" when it stimulates in the same mind the occurrence of other, but related, ideas; and making high-fidelity copies of itself doesn't enter into the equation.)

In biological Darwinism, it is understood that selection does all the heavy lifting, so much so that variation can be modeled as "random," ignoring the question of what specifically causes variation. (Not that science does ignore that question, but it can ignore it when providing Darwinian explanations for things.) In thought, which proceeds on a scale of fractions of a second rather than millions of years, it is obvious that something many orders of magnitude more sophisticated than "random mutation" is called for. While something like a "mutation" -- that is, an imperfect or modified copy -- does sometimes occur (as when, in my example, a second version of the movie was played, adding Oscar the Grouch), the more usual mechanism is association. Given as a stimulus the word spaghetti, the Thinker-Upper didn't propose random typo-like variants (spsgherti, spafhetto, spaghetaghetti, etc.) but rather came up with associated concepts: the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Johnny Spaghetti, and stereotypical Italian-ness.

It seems obvious that different people's Thinker-Uppers will provide very different associations given the same stimulus, and that the Thinker-Upper shapes the stream of thought in a much more substantive way than mutations shape the course of evolution. This is, again, because of the incredible speed of thought. Conscious processes can obviously only do a tiny fraction of the work of thinking, and the rest of it must be relegated to the unconscious Thinker-Upper. The Thinker-Upper presents thoughts that are already the end-products of a complicated process, and it is only these that are subject to the Attention-Director's conscious control.

So what is the Thinker-Upper? This is an important question in a way that "What are mutations?" is not particularly important to biological Darwinism.

The Thinker-Upper as machine

Dr. Seuss explicitly describes the Thinker-Upper as a machine. The sister turns it on and revs it up, and it makes the noises one would associate with an automobile engine. I have also tended to describe it in similar terms. Here, for example, in describing a particular step in my train of thought, I write, "And then the good old associative machinery threw up this."

In the information age, we would more naturally think of the Thinker-Upper as an algorithm than as a physical machine like an automobile. We might imagine it as something similar to the video recommendation algorithm on YouTube. When you watch a YouTube video, an algorithm generates a list of other videos you might be interested in and displays it in the sidebar; these are mostly "related" to the video you are currently watching, but the algorithm also takes into account your past search history and such, so that you and I might begin with the same video but get a rather different list of recommendations. If you click on one of the videos from the list, a new list appears, taking that video as its starting point. You could go to YouTube and, clicking only on recommended videos, still exercise a significant degree of control over your experience.

The analogy is severely flawed, though, because if videos are ideas, YouTube only connects one existing idea to another; it never generates anything new. Of course, one could argue that the same is largely true of the Thinker-Upper. In my sample train of thought, the Thinker-Upper didn't invent the Flying Spaghetti Monster, or Johnny Spaghetti, or the idea of spaghetti as stereotypically Italian. Those ideas were all already there in my mind, and the Thinker-Upper selected them as relevant in much the same way a recommendation algorithm might do: "You may also like these other spaghetti-related ideas." Someone invented them, though, using their own Thinker-Uppers, and even my own sample train of thought isn't just a concatenation of existing ideas but includes moments of originality. That "behind that spaghetti" might mean that political power might not lie where it appears to lie -- I'm pretty sure that's an original idea.

Hypothetically, could there be a YouTube algorithm so advanced that, instead of recommending existing videos, it could actually create entirely new videos that you might be interested in? Well, yes in a way, but I think ultimately no. So-called "AI" algorithms have (somewhat) successfully created news articles, paintings, musical compositions, and so on, but this "creativity" is always derivative and parasitic on actual human creativity. You feed it a lot of Chopin music, and it composes new music superficially "in the style of Chopin," that kind of thing. An algorithm can only do what its inputs and instructions cause it to do. How could it ever create anything truly new? Only by accident -- by the introduction of mutation-like random variation. And as I have said, thought occurs much too quickly for random mutation to be viable as a driving force.

Bruce Charlton's "Divine Self"

Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, held that "Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be" (D&C 93:29) -- but that we are at the same time "spirit children" of God, created or spiritually "begotten" by him in some important sense. It is now fairly standard Mormon terminology to refer to the eternal and uncreated aspect of man as the intelligence and that aspect which is created by God as the spirit (though Smith himself used the two words more-or-less interchangeably). However, the distinction between these two, and the question of what changed in our eternal intelligences when we were begotten by God and became spirits, is never explained.

Also left ambiguous is how agency ("free will") relates to these two aspects of man. Most Mormons would probably say that is only by virtue of our nature as uncreated intelligences that we can have agency. If we are wholly created by God, then whatever we "do" is in fact done (indirectly) by God himself. If we can do otherwise than God made us to do, then those actions must come from something else, outside of God and not made by God. Only something that is ultimately an "uncaused cause" can truly be said to have agency. On the other hand, most Mormons would probably also say that agency is a gift from God. This introduction, from the official church website, begins, "Agency is the ability and privilege God gives us to choose and to act for ourselves." Agency is, apparently, something that depends on our dual nature as uncreated intelligences and created spirits.

Bruce Charlton, whose thought is much more profoundly influenced by Mormon theology than most of his readers probably realize, proposes the following model of this dual nature.

1. The creative power of the primordial Divine Self 

We are all Beings who have existed from eternity. And as Beings we have the capability to originate thought. Therefore, we are not merely passive and reactive - but can generate thought from our-selves. 

2. The directive power of the Conscious Self

For there to be free will - more is required; and that extra was provided by God when he 'created' us; that is, when he made us into Children of God ('Sons of God').  

What God provided was the Conscious Self, which has the ability to direct the attention of the Divine Self. 

The reader will have gathered from what I have already written above that I agree entirely with the basic premise behind this: the important distinction between the idea-generating aspect of the self, which is necessarily non-conscious, and the potentially conscious attention-directing ("Thinker-Upper") aspect. I think that calling the former the "Divine Self," is assuming too much, though, and leads to confusion down the line. It is also inconsistent with the way Charlton himself uses that term elsewhere. For example, just a few days after the post quoted above, he writes that "as sons and daughters of God - we all have a divine self; a core divine nature that enables us to receive and understand this directly-transmitted guidance." In "How does free will work?" though, it is the Conscious Self that we have by virtue of being sons and daughters of God, and the Divine Self is specifically that aspect of the self that was not in any way created by God.

Even within the "How does free will work?" post, there appear to be contradictions. Consider this description of the interplay of the two Selves.

The Conscious Self cannot 'control' what comes-out-of our Divine self. Because nothing can control the Divine Self - the Divine Self is the basis and reality of our ultimate freedom, autonomy; our capacity to create-from-ourselves. 

But we can consciously control the subject matter attended to by our Divine self - we can therefore choose what the Divine Self deploys-itself-upon.

So, conscious will can direct our Divine Self; and that is why we need to be conscious in order to be free. 

If the Conscious Self was not present, or not actually conscious; then the Divine Self only responds to whatever external circumstances present to it. But with consciousness, potentially we can voluntarily influence what we think about.

The last paragraph of the above quotation states that without the Conscious Self, the Divine Self would be purely passive and reactive, "only responding to whatever external circumstances present to it." Compare this to the original definition of the Divine Self: "We are all Beings who have existed from eternity. And as Beings we have the capability to originate thought. Therefore, we are not merely passive and reactive - but can generate thought from our-selves."

I point out these discrepancies not for the sake of caviling, but to demonstrate the need to think more clearly about what exactly this idea-generating aspect of the self (what Charlton is calling the "Divine Self") is and what role it plays in free will and creativity.

The Homeric model

The attention-directing Conscious Self, precisely because it is conscious, is relatively clearly defined and knowable. That which generates ideas, by contrast, is a black box. Its nature, because it is not directly accessible to consciousness, is unclear, and neither of Charlton's assumptions about it -- that it is Divine, and that is an aspect of each person's individual Self -- can be taken as obviously true.

Ancient people seem to have accepted that new ideas came from the Divine but not that they came from the Self. Consider how a creative genius like Homer, for example, understood what he was doing when he composed his poems. 

Muse, tell me of the man of many wiles,
the man who wandered many paths of exile
after he sacked Troy's sacred citadel. . . .
Muse, tell us of these matters. Daughter of Zeus,
my starting point is any point you choose.

Homer clearly understood that his ideas came not from himself but from the Muse, the Daughter of Zeus, and that his own role as poet was to direct her attention -- to begin by commanding her to sing in him of the man of many wiles, or of the rage of Achilles, and then to continue to direct the unfolding of the rest of the poem by countless other attentional decisions. I think Homer would have recognized that another man, channeling the same Muse on the same topic, would have produced a very different poem.

Homer conceptualized not only his own creative work in this way, but also the actions of his characters. Everything his heroes do is -- explicitly in many cases and by implication, I think, always -- put into their hearts by one or another of the gods. And yet men like Achilles are not, one feels, mere marionettes of the Olympians but direct the unfolding of their own lives just as Homer directs his poem.

In my Mormon youth, a recurring topic of discussion was the question of how to distinguish one's own thoughts from the promptings of the Spirit, but for Homer such a question could never have arisen. All thoughts that occur to us come from outside -- obviously; we can see from introspection that we are not consciously creating them ourselves -- and the unity behind such sources-of-thought is not personal but divine. To the best of my recollection (and I may have to reread Homer to check this), there is no concept of the personal daimon ("Divine Self") in the Homeric writings. If I myself write a poem or fall in love, I am moved by the same Muse and the same Aphodite who moved Homer and his heroes, manifesting differently because it is a different Conscious Self that directs their attentions.

It is not clear the extent to which the Book of Mormon contains genuinely ancient material, but I quote this passage anyway because it seems a clear example of what we might call Homeric Psychology: "For if ye would hearken unto the Spirit which teacheth a man to pray, ye would know that ye must pray; for the evil spirit teacheth not a man to pray, but teacheth him that he must not pray" (2 Ne. 32:8). Whatever idea comes into our minds -- whether the idea of praying or the idea of not praying -- is put there by an external "spirit" analogous to the Homeric gods. But it is we who choose which of the spirits to "hearken unto."

One can also find a partial analogue in Plato's allegory of the chariot (Phaedrus), in which the Conscious Self is likened to a charioteer driving a pair of horses which would, if left to themselves, pull the chariot in very different directions. This differs from the Homeric model in that there are only two horses (perhaps a simplified, schematic version of Homer's many gods) and, more importantly, in that each person's horses are his own -- my chariot is pulled by my two horses, your chariot by yours, and so on. Lost is the concept of one Muse, one Ares, one Aphrodite, and so on.

If we were to develop Homeric Psychology in a monotheistic direction, we might find an apt metaphor not in the chariot but in the sailing ship. Every ship on the sea is driven by the same, external, Wind (a word which is synonymous with spirit in all ancient languages), but how exactly the wind will manifest itself in the motion of each ship is up to each captain. To invert a common proverb, "God proposes, man disposes." There are perhaps hints of this Monotheistic Homerism in the New Testament. "A man can receive nothing," says John the Baptist, "except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27). The writer to the Hebrews says, in a passage we have discussed before, "For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God" (Heb. 3:4). Every ship is driven by some captain, but all ships are driven by the Wind.

This Monotheistic Homerism would be one possible approach to the paradoxical idea that, while everything that is done is done by God, we are also responsible for our own actions. It would also give an added meaning to Paul's execration of Elymas: "O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?" (Acts 13:10). Under Monotheistic Homerism, Elymas would quite literally be perverting (literally, "turning in the wrong direction") the right ways of the Lord -- doing evil by the power of the Lord himself, causing God to manifest as evil.

In Whitley Strieber's book The Key, which presents itself as a dialogue between Streiber and a mysterious stranger, Strieber asks the stranger,

What is God?

An elemental body is a mechanism filled with millions of nerve endings that direct the attention of God into the physical.

That didn't answer my question.

It did.

The implication is that God is knowable to us only as that mind whose attention is directed by our physical bodies. This is Monotheistic Homerism -- Charlton's "Divine Self" as a single Divine Self, God, rather than as an aspect of each person's individuality -- and it further reduces Charlton's "Conscious Self" to a physical "mechanism." The psychology of The Key, or at least that implied by this passage, eliminates individual agency entirely: Only God thinks and acts, and that which directs his attention is mechanistic.

Know thyself

And he saith unto them, "Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?"

And he said, "That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man."

-- Mark 7:18-23

The Attention-Director is me, and it has free will. Because of its conscious nature, this is a matter of direct experience and necessary metaphysical assumption. Because the activities of the Thinker-Upper are opaque to consciousness, though, the extent to which they may or may not be "me" is uncertain. It is possible in theory to attribute all Thinking-Up to an external "machine" or Muse or God.

If the Thinker-Upper is all machine, then the Attention-Director is the whole self and the only thing that matters, and we should focus on conscious control of our thoughts, as that is the only way anything of value will come of them. This also raises the possibility that if (as seems likely) the mechanical Thinker-Upper is the brain, we will find ourselves without any Thinker-Upper at all upon physical death. (I have discussed the possibility of non-brain thinking, and how it might differ from the brain-mediated thinking we know, in "The twilight of the brain.") This would explain why "ghosts" seem to be demented and devoid of creativity (often observed to repeat the same actions again and again mindlessly) and why bodily resurrection is so essential. While we might imagine that a post-mortal ghost would still be capable of some limited "thought," since it might still have access to memories of ideas generated by the Thinker-Upper during mortality -- but even this is questionable since even calling up this or that specific memory seems to be a Thinker-Upper function. In any case, it is clear that an Attention-Director that had never had access to a Thinker-Upper would be absolutely incapable of thought. Therefore, conscious choice can have played no role in the origin of the first Thinker-Upper; it must have "evolved," primordial-soup style, rather than being created, and everything would fundamentally have its origin in chaos rather than in God. Taken to its logical conclusion, the thesis that the Thinker-Upper is a machine -- even if the Attention-Director is an immortal "spirit," and even if "gods" are assumed to exist -- leads directly to a metaphysics that can only be called Atheistic.

If the Thinker-Upper is God, nearly opposite conclusions follow. The true self is not my self or yours but the Self -- the universal Atman which is identical to Brahma. Rather than trying to control our thoughts or channel them in this or that direction, we should strive to surrender to the Thinker-Upper and become (to pinch a turn of phrase from Meister Eckhart) "a clear glass through which God can shine." (If the Thinker-Upper is just a meaningless machine, this would be a fantastically stupid thing to do, so it's pretty important to get it right!) This thesis leads to a metaphysics that might be called "Buddhist" in the same extended sense that the first model was called Atheistic. Under this model, it is not clear what the purpose of our existence might be or why God would have created us, since he would surely shine most clearly through no glass at all.

If the Thinker-Upper is a Homeric pantheon of disparate external influences -- well, I want to say that this leads to a "Homeric" metaphysics to set beside the Atheistic and Buddhist, but nothing very coherent emerges. I suppose the important thing would be to discern which influences were from which god, and which gods could be considered allies or enemies, and try to act accordingly.

If the Thinker-Upper is the True Self, though -- a self fundamentally different from God, the gods, and the material world -- well, then we are called to serve God not as a clear glass through which he can shine but as active participants in the ongoing work of Creation. This is, of course, the Romantic Christian metaphysics.

My own position is primarily the Romatic Christian one, but I think there is an element of truth in each of the other models as well. Some of the thoughts that present themselves to us really are mechanically generated by the brain, and we will lose access to that mode of thinking in the period between physical death and resurrection. Some thoughts come from other minds, including God himself, and may be termed inspiration, temptation, or telepathy depending on the individual nature and source of each. And some -- crucially -- come from an aspect of the True Self which, while it can necessarily never be conscious, is more our own than anything else can be.

How can the the thoughts that come from the True Self be identified as such? Asking that question sheds some light on a passage in William James's Principles of Psychology which really puzzled me when I first read it many years ago:

When Paul and Peter wake up in the same bed, and recognize that they have been asleep, each one of them mentally reaches back and makes connection with but one of the two streams of thought which were broken by the sleeping hours. As the current of an electrode buried in the ground unerringly finds its way to its own similarly buried mate, across no matter how much intervening earth; so Peter's present instantly finds out Peter's past, and never by mistake knits itself on to that of Paul. Paul's thought in turn is as little liable to go astray. The past thought of Peter is appropriated by the present Peter alone. He may have a knowledge, and a correct one too, of what Paul's last drowsy states of mind were as he sank into sleep, but it is an entirely different sort of knowledge from that which he has of his own last states. He remembers his own states, whilst he only conceives Paul's. Remembrance is like direct feeling; its object is suffused with a warmth and intimacy to which no object of mere conception ever attains. This quality of warmth and intimacy and immediacy is what Peter's present thought also possesses for itself. So sure as this present is me, is mine, it says, so sure is anything else that comes with the same warmth and intimacy and immediacy, me and mine.

I found this bizarre when I first read it. Of course Peter picks up his own train of thought, and never Paul's, because his own thoughts are the only ones he has access to. Any thought that comes to mind is Peter's thought, even if it is a thought about the probably content of Paul's train of thought. All James's talk of "warmth and intimacy and immediacy" seemed superfluous, solutions to a problem that could never arise. Now, though, this description of how we recognize our thought as our own seems to have some value.

More importantly, though, we are free agents who can choose which thoughts to embrace as our own and which to reject. I am reminded of the final sermon of Bruce R. McConkie, a great Mormon from a time when that word still meant something, delivered just 13 days before his death.

In speaking of these wondrous things I shall use my own words, though you may think they are the words of scripture, words spoken by other Apostles and prophets.

True it is they were first proclaimed by others, but they are now mine, for the Holy Spirit of God has borne witness to me that they are true, and it is now as though the Lord had revealed them to me in the first instance. I have thereby heard his voice and know his word.

Of any thought at all, we are free to say, "True it is it first came from another, but it is now mine" -- and this applies to the evil as well as to the Good. When evil thoughts present themselves, we are free to say, "This is who I am, and I need to be honest about it" -- or to say, "Get behind me, Satan!" It is not so much a question of asking whether it is my own thought as of declaring that it shall not be. Nothing can defile a man if it entereth not into his heart.

This has been a messy first attempt at tackling this difficult but important question. I shall probably return to it again in the future.

Why do birds suddenly appear?

Note: This is not the first time I've asked this question.

I've just come back from a trip to Longfeng Temple, a Buddhist establishment in Pingtung which I visit from time to time due to its congenial spirit. This time, an iconographic detail jumped out at me which I had never really noticed before. There are three statues of Guanyin Bodhisattva there, and in each case she has a book on her left and some sort of bird on her right. I've never seen her portrayed this way anywhere else, only at Longfeng.




I became very curioua about the identity of this bird, but no one seemed to know what it was. I checked the Internet, but the only bird I could find that was associated with Guanyin was the white cockatoo in some Southeast Asian countries, and this was clearly not a cockatoo. Nor was it a Chinese phoenix, a Garuda bird, or any of the other usual suspects. I decided that, despite the strangeness of associating that bird with Guanyin, it must be an eagle.

No sooner had I thought this than I heard a shrill cry from overhead, unmistakably that of an eagle in mating season. I looked up to see two huge golden eagles, obviously a mated pair, circling in the sky. Eagles of any kind are a rarity in Taiwan -- these were the first eagles I had seen after 17 years in this country -- and golden eagles are particularly uncommon, listed in bird books as occurring in Taiwan only "accidentally." Yet there they were, and just after I had been thinking about eagles.

Later I asked one of the temple staff, and she told me that Guanyin's avian attendant was not an eagle but a Dapengniao -- that is, a mythical bird of enormous size (wingspan measured in thousands of miles), which in its larval form is an equally enormous fish called a Kun. Fortunately I had been ignorant enough to think it was an eagle, or who knows what I might have summoned!

Saturday, January 22, 2022

Three red lines

I was on the highway today, en route to Kaohsiung (a city I hardly ever have occasion to visit), and passed a van for a pet care company. What caught my eye, since I’d just been posting about winged animals going to heaven, was the cartoon pictures with which it was decorated: a French bulldog and a cat, each equipped with a pair of wings and a halo. That means they’re dead! I thought. Not the most reassuring message to would-be customers!

This recognition of “angel” as graphic shorthand for “dead” made me think yet again about my apparently failed prediction that Trump would win in 2020, based on the 20th Tarot trump, which clearly identifies Trump (name, birthday, hair color) — but as an angel. I thought of how I had later asked “Who is Joe Biden?” and drawn in answer this same 20th trump, which really confused me. (Looking that post up now to get the link, I see it was published exactly one year ago today!) In that post, I had referred to Biden and Trump as  Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, respectively, and I thought about that for a moment.

It was in the middle of this train of thought that I saw this billboard and snapped a quick photo.

“Sun Trump” — a sort of transliteration of the company’s Chinese name, 三川 (pronounced San Chuan; in Taiwan, Trump’s name is usually rendered 川普, Chuanpu).

What first caught my attention wasn’t the name Trump, though, but the first Chinese character: three horizontal red lines, something I have posted quite a bit about (starting here). These three lines were used on several Jay-Z record covers from 2009, and in Biden’s 2020 campaign logos. Then the “Trump” character is just this same Biden symbol rotated 90 degrees, meaning that the differences between those two presidents are immaterial. Behind Donald Duck’s supposed rivalry with Mickey lies the fact that he, too, is the property of Disney, aka Devil Mouse. Oh, and 2020 was the Year of the Mouse.

“Sun Trump” also refers to the Sun trump of the Tarot, numbered 19. This is the number of the birdemic — the area in which Biden is most obviously Trump 2.0 — and I have posted before about how the Sun trump relates both to the birdemic and to Trump.

"Non volo peccare" syncs

 Just after posting "Non volo peccare," in which I discuss a punning mistranslation of that Latin sentence as "Pigs don't fly" (since volo can mean "I fly," and a peccary is basically a pig), I fell to wondering whether any of the early explorers of the Americas might have coined a real Latin word for "peccary." This led me to the Wiktionary article for peccary -- but before I could scroll down to the "Translations" section, I was struck by the English definition itself: "Any of the family Tayassuidae of mammals from the Americas related to pigs and hippos."

"And hippos"? Isn't that an utterly bizarre way of characterizing an animal that looks and behaves almost exactly like a pig and nothing at all like a hippo? And in taxonomic terms, the lowest clade to include both peccaries and hippos also includes giraffes, reindeer, and whales! I understand that hippos were thought to be more closely related to pigs in the past, but even so, putting "related to hippos" in the definition of the word peccary seems very strange.

In my post, I had written, "To want to ascend to Heaven ('fly') whilst remaining a 'pig' is to want the impossible." Not until I saw the Wiktionary definition of peccary did I think to connect this with T. S. Eliot's hippopotamus who "takes wing" and ascends to Heaven.

I saw the 'potamus take wing
Ascending from the damp savannas,
And quiring angels round him sing
The praise of God, in loud hosannas.

Blood of the Lamb shall wash him clean
And him shall heavenly arms enfold,
Among the saints he shall be seen
Performing on a harp of gold.

He shall be washed as white as snow,
By all the martyr'd virgins kist,
While the True Church remains below
Wrapt in the old miasmal mist.

(Someone who is currently a "hippopotamus" can ascend to Heaven, of course -- but, as in the story cited in my earlier post, it involves killing the pig.)

Also shortly after posting "Non volo peccare," I checked some blogs and saw an Andrew Anglin post, "Friday Meme Surprise: Are Memes Good?" The title made me think that "Are memes good?" might itself be a meme, so I ran a search for the phrase. This led me to a 2018 Verge article called "It's not all Pepes and trollfaces -- Memes can be a force for good," and I skimmed it a bit. This jumped out at me.

"Memes often carry an idea to an extreme, sometimes in a reductio ad absurdum fashion, which makes them feel even more powerful as a form of social influence," Suler says, citing a term that refers to rhetorical phrases -- "when pigs fly," for example -- that use absurdity to prove a point.

What a strange example to choose! "When pigs fly" is definitely not a reductio ad absurdum, neither in the original sense of refuting a premise by deriving an absurdity from it, nor in Suler's sense of rhetorical exaggeration for polemical purposes.

This morning, I found this comment on my "Non volo peccare" post.

 I had a dream last night in which I was walking through a park close to where I lived. In my dream I remembered that you had written in your blog that sometime in the past you had visited my city and had been at that park. I also remembered that you had written recently about a symbol which was the combination of an e (small, not capital) and an o. Then, I saw that symbol carved several times on a rock or a wall. Other things happened in My dream which I don't remember. When I woke up, I wondered what could be the meaning of that symbol. I looked at your blog, to see if I could find an answer (but not really counting on it). To my surprise, I saw the image of the winged peccary surrounded by the red forbidden sign. Then it jumped to me, the forbidden sign is a combination of a small e and an o. And in the context of your post, the message was clear: do not sin, wanting to go to heaven is not enough, pigs don't fly.

I assume that the source of the e/o symbol in the dream was my post about E. O. Wilson, which  featured this photo.

Sergio saw a combination of e and o in the "forbidden sign" (a circle with a diagonal line through it). In this context, I note that Danish uses ø to represent the mid front rounded vowel that is phonetically intermediate between e (mid front unrounded) and o (mid back rounded).

Really, though the line going through a lowercase e is horizontal, not diagonal. Sergio would have no way of knowing it, but I had recently created (but not published) this image in connection with a post I am working on about the symbolism of the globus cruciger.


(It's a schematic top view of the globus cruciger from the British crown jewels, showing the locations of different gemstones.)

Friday, January 21, 2022

Non volo peccare


Back in July 2021, William Wildblood wrote a post about the birdemic pecks titled "Non Volo Peccare," ending with this: "Note: I translate the title I Do Not Want to be Pecked but it's been a long time since I studied Latin so that may not be entirely accurate" -- a pun on our code-word peck and the Latin peccare, "to sin." Noticing that peccare is even closer to peccary than to peck, I left a comment saying that his title actually meant "I don't want a javelina pig." Then William, taking advantage of the double meaning of volo ("I want" or "I fly"), said that the real translation was "Pigs don't fly."

Today it occurred to me that, leaving aside the whole "peck" angle, it's quite appropriate that Non volo peccare, "I don't want to sin," can be punningly mistranslated as "Pigs don't fly." The pig is proverbially unclean, debased, and addicted to earthly pleasures, and "when pigs fly" means "never." To want to ascend to Heaven ("fly") whilst remaining a "pig" is to want the impossible.

But behold, your days of probation are past; ye have procrastinated the day of your salvation until it is everlastingly too late, and your destruction is made sure; yea, for ye have sought all the days of your lives for that which ye could not obtain; and ye have sought for happiness in doing iniquity, which thing is contrary to the nature of that righteousness which is in our great and Eternal Head (Helaman 13:38).

One also thinks of this story.

In the Hindu tradition there is this story: The God of the Universe became curious about how it felt to be a pig. So he entered the body of one. He found it delightful beyond compare -- how good the sty smelled, how sweet were the slops, how desirable were the female pigs. But the universe needed tending. There was work to be done. So the helpers and handmaidens went and said, "God, you must come out of there. The universe needs you." God said, "Who are you talking to? I am just a pig! Leave me alone!" So they killed the pig, and God came out, and refused to believe he had ever refused to leave (Whitley Strieber, The Key).

Monday, January 17, 2022

Five cornerstones

I recently received another batch of emails from a correspondent who keeps encountering repetitions of the number 5 (55, 555, etc.). This made me think of the Five Pillars of Islam, one of which is praying five times a day. Looking this up led to the discovery that, despite the universal translation pillars, the literal meaning of the first word in the expression arkān al-Islām is "corners" or "cornerstones." Well, one can see why the translation has been fudged! A building can be supported by any number of pillars, but cornerstones by their very nature come in sets of four, not five. What kind of structure would have five cornerstones? A pentagonal one -- or a pyramid.

I decided the pyramid was the best way of conceptualizing the Five Cornerstones of Islam: four on the ground, with the fifth -- or, rather, the first, "There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his Prophet" -- at the apex. I wondered, though, if the Benben stone at the top of a pyramid could really properly be called a cornerstone.

Since I've been on a Tarot kick recently (oh, there's a new post up about the Visconti-Sforza Emperor cards), I also of course noticed the coincidental similarity of arkān, "cornerstones," to the Tarot term arcana, "secrets, mysteries." I realized that the Tarot also has a five-fold structure, with the four Minor Arcana suits (derived from cards used by the Muslim Mamluks) corresponding to the four lower cornerstones of the pyramid, and the Major Arcana to to the capstone.

I have been slowly reading Fundamental Symbols, a collection of René Guénon essays translated into English. Just a day after looking up the Five Pillars of Islam and having the thoughts described above, I turned the page in this book and found that the next essay was called "The Cornerstone." Guénon takes the text "The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner" (Ps. 118:22, Matt. 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, Acts 4:11, 1 Pet. 2:7) and notes how strange the usual interpretation of it is. If we take "cornerstone" in its usual sense, as one of the four stones placed at the corners of the foundation, then there is no one unique "head of the corner" corresponding to Christ. Furthermore, the foundational cornerstones are the very first stones laid in the construction process, so how could any of them first be rejected by the builders only later to be incorporated into the building after all? Guénon makes a very strong case that Christ is actually being compared to the keystone, placed at the apex ("corner") of a domed building. This is initially rejected by the builders because it is not square in shape and is thus not suitable for use in the rectilinear lower part of the building. This very shape which caused it to be rejected at first, though, makes it uniquely suitable for use as a capstone. The parallel to my own thoughts about the Shahada as the capstone of Islam is obvious.

As I read further in this essay (I still haven't finished it), I was amazed to find this additional parallel to my thoughts of the day before:

We find other interesting information in the meanings of the Arabic word rukn, 'angle' or 'corner'. This word, because it designates the extremities of a thing, that is, its most remote and hence most hidden parts (recondita and abscondita as one might say in Latin), sometimes takes a sense of 'secret' or of 'mystery'; and in this respect, its plural, arkān, is comparable to the Latin arcanum which likewise has this same sense, and which it strikingly resembles; moreover, in the language of the Hermeticists at least, the use of the term 'arcane' was certainly influenced by the Arabic word in question.

Do the five arkān of Islam, then, correspond to the arcana of the Tarot? Most of the mappings are surprisingly straightforward. I have already said that the Major Arcana correspond to the capstone and thus to the Shahada. Of the four suits of the Minor Arcana, Coins obviously maps to almsgiving, Cups to fasting, and Wands (the pilgrim's staff) to the hajj. That leaves Swords and prayer, which are not obviously related. However, I remembered that earlier in the Guénon book I have been reading, there was an essay on "The Sword of Islam," so I went back and skimmed that. Guénon mentions that the khatīb -- the person who delivers a sermon during Friday prayers -- traditionally holds a sword in his hands. "The sword of the khatīb," he writes, "symbolizes  above all the power of the word, as should be obvious to anyone."

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Vader & Rome

In my last post, "The St. Benedict medal and the peck," I initially mistranslated "Vade retro Satana!" as "Get behind me, Satan!" -- but the Latin for that familiar biblical expression is actually "Vade retro me Satana!"

Then I realized that, if you change the spacing, "Vade retro me" is the same as "Vader & Rome" (the ampersand originally being a ligature of et) -- which reminded me of this.

The St. Benedict medal and the peck

An email correspondent has drawn my attention to the St. Benedict medal.


On the obverse, St. Benedict is flanked by a serpent and chalice (symbol of pharmacy) and a raven (corvid). These symbols refer to two attempts to poison the saint -- first with poisoned wine, and then with poisoned bread that was providentially carried away by a raven before the saint could eat it.

On the reverse, we have the initials of a Latin prayer:

Crux Sacra sit mihi lux
Nunquam draco sit mihi dux

Vade retro Satana!
Nunquam suade mihi vana!
Sunt mala quae libas.
Ipse venena bibas!

In English:

May the Holy Cross be my light.
Never may the dragon be my guide.

Get back, Satan!
Never tempt me with vanity.
What you offer me is evil.
Drink your poison yourself!

Friday, January 14, 2022

More whiteboard telepathy!

What I looked at on my computer at home just before going to my school:


What I found one of the kids had drawn on the whiteboard when I arrived:


See "A familiar face" and "Pondering his orb" for more examples of the same thing. This is starting to get a bit creepy! (Different kids every time, by the way. It's not like we have a special psychic kid or anything.)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

The Lord's side

Bruce Charlton's recent post about taking sides made me think of Moses' famous question, "Who is on the Lord's side?" Being at the office when the thought occurred to me, and not having a paper Bible handy, I went to BibleGateway.com to look it up.

Before I had even typed anything into the search bar, though, I noticed the "verse of the day" highlighted on the site's homepage.


I may post later on what it means to be on the Lord's side, but for now I just wanted to note this striking synchronicity.

Friday, January 7, 2022

More on the U.S. presidency in 2022

Over at The Magician's Table, I have done another reading that goes into more detail about Biden, Harris, and the Ahrimanic power behind them. Lots of interesting coincidences!

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Monday, January 3, 2022

Only ants of color are real ants.

White ants -- I mean white ants; I only capitalized it because it was the first word of the sentence -- are cockroaches.


A classic example of -- wait for it -- anty racism.

December 27 was apparently International Cole Slaw Pun Day

The Secret Sun, December 27, 2021:

Bizarro, December 27, 2021:

Ecstasy, April 22, and June 6

Just a note to self on some recent synchronicities.

On January 2, I was hiking with my wife, and she happened to ask me about the meaning of the English word ecstasy, which is the name of a popular clothing brand in Taiwan (and maybe elsewhere, too, for all I know). I explained. Hours later, we were in the car, listening to jazz on the radio, and one of the songs had the word ecstasy in the lyrics. "Hey, did she just say ecstasy?" my wife said. "That's quite a coincidence!"

Then I realized that just the day before, January 1, I had reread Whitley Strieber's little book The Key, of which ecstasy is one of the major themes. Doing a word search on the Kindle edition, I find that the word occurs 40 times in what is, in print, a 105-page book.

Also on January 1, I posted "Softly now," in which I mention twice encountering the date April 22 by chance; and "How the Nazis changed the future, according to The Key," in which I note in passing that the encounter described in that book had taken place on June 6, and that this was part of a theme of emphasizing the number six.

Today, January 3, I picked up Mark Twain's Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, which I have been reading very slowly for over a year now, dipping into it from time to time when the spirit moves me. I only read a few pages today, but on those pages:
  • Joan asks the narrator when she first began speaking of a wound that she was fated to sustain in the future. He replies, "Your Excellency spoke of it first to the King, in Chinon; that was as much as seven weeks ago. You spoke of it again the 20th of April, and also the 22d, two weeks ago, as I see by my record here."
  • Joan speaks of her Voices saying to her, "Go forward, Daughter of God, and I will help thee," and says, "When I hear that, the joy in my heart, oh, it is insupportable!" The narrator adds, "The Bastard [of Orleans] said that when she said these words her face lit up as with a flame, and she was like one in an ecstasy."
  • Joan has to muster an army on very short notice. The narrator writes, "A deal of the month of May had been wasted; and yet by the 6th of June Joan had swept together a new army and was ready to march."
I note that the other date mentioned in what I have quoted, April 20, is the birthday of Adolf Hitler, which syncs with the Nazi theme.

We'll see if anything further develops from these syncs. I post them here in case any of my readers can supply a missing puzzle piece or two.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

How the Nazis changed the future, according to The Key

Over at Winking Back from the Dark, I discuss a claim in one of Whitley Strieber's books about what would have happened if the Holocaust had not occurred, and what it implies about time and fate.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Justin Trudeau is right, but why?

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau is being correctly labeled un psychopathe fasciste for his recent comments about the unpecked. (Original video here, in French with English subtitles.)

Yes, we will emerge from this birdemic through pecking. We know people who are still making up their minds, and we will try to convince them, but there are also people who are vehemently opposed to pecking. These are extremists who do not believe in The Science, who are often misogynists, often racists, too; it is a sect, a small group, but who are taking up space, and here we have to make a choice, as a leader, as a country. Do we tolerate these people? Or do we say, let's see, because most people, 80% of Quebecers did the right thing, that is, they got pecked, we want to get back to the things we like doing, and these people are not going to block us now.

Superficially, the part I have bolded seems outrageous -- what do racism and misogyny have to do with personal medical decisions? -- but he is observably correct. People who are skeptical of The Science -- defined as the consensus of all credentialed experts except those who have had their expert cards revoked for not agreeing with that consensus -- have a strong tendency to be equally skeptical of feminism, the sexual revolution, and "anti" racism. That is, to translate into Trudeau's native language of Newspeak, they "are often misogynists, often racists, too." (They are also often black, something that the fascist psychopaths conveniently overlook.) He could have thrown in "climate deniers" for good measure, the fourth of Bruce Charlton's litmus test issues.

In some old post by Scott Alexander, which I can't be bothered to look up at the moment, he discusses this sort of correlation among seemingly unrelated beliefs -- the fact that, for example, knowing a person's position on abortion would make it much easier to correctly guess his position on immigration, gun control, and many other issues -- and sees it as evidence that most people don't really think out each of their opinions but rather mentally "join a club" (such as "conservative" or "liberal") and accept that club's characteristic beliefs wholesale. Is that what's going on with Trudeau's "extremists," whose position on the pecks correlates with other positions which are objectively unrelated? Are they, as he calls them, "a sect"?

No. In fact, the phenomenon noted by Alexander is not always a symmetrical one.

Do you believe there's nothing wrong with celebrating birthdays? Then I can with a considerable degree of confidence guess that you also believe that blood transfusions are morally acceptable and that Jesus was executed on a cross rather than a stake. But why should any such correlation exist? What do modern medical procedures have to do with historical methods of execution? Do these beliefs appear together because they are the articles of faith of some ideological "club" (implied: cult) you have mentally joined? No, quite the opposite. They are all just normal things that people would naturally believe, and the majority of those who believe otherwise do so because they accept the authority of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Association, a.k.a. Jehovah's Witnesses. In this case, your correlated beliefs are not evidence that you belong to any particular sect but rather that you do not belong to one.

Jehovah's Witnesses are a small sect, and the Great and Abominable Church with which Trudeau is aligned is a large one, but the dynamics are the same. "These are infidels who do not believe in Muhammad," Trudeau is effectively saying, and -- quelle coïncidence! -- "many of them also ignore the Quran and fail to fast during Ramadan." 

I do not by these analogies mean to imply that the System is "a religion," which it very obviously is not. It is not even really a coherent ideology. Nevertheless, it is the System -- Their beliefs, not ours -- which creates the artificial correlation among the litmus tests. Why would you swallow the fake birdemic or accept the fake pecks unless you trusted the System? Why would you be a feminist or a sexual revolutionary unless you trusted the System? Why would the topsy-turvy morality of "anti" racism even enter your mind unless you trusted the System? Passing the litmus tests simply indicates that you are a normal, healthy person who rejects the System. And that is why it makes you intolerable to Trudeau and all the other psychopathic apostles of Inclusion.

But why would anyone reject the System? It takes a very strong spiritual motive. And that is why the litmus tests are such a reliable indicator of Christianity.

Easy Without You

This is one of the most seamless mashups I've ever heard.