Sunday, October 30, 2022

Synchronicity: Mandrakes and El Kanah

On October 1, I started reading the Old Testament a chapter a day; thus today, October 30, at around two or three in the afternoon, I read Genesis 30. This includes the "mandrake episode":

And Reuben went in the days of wheat harvest, and found mandrakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother Leah.

Then Rachel said to Leah, "Give me, I pray thee, of thy son's mandrakes."

And she said unto her, "Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? and wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also?"

And Rachel said, "Therefore he shall lie with thee to night for thy son's mandrakes."

And Jacob came out of the field in the evening, and Leah went out to meet him, and said, "Thou must come in unto me; for surely I have hired thee with my son's mandrakes."

And he lay with her that night (vv. 14-16).

At around 9:00 p.m. the same day, I checked /x/ and found this:


So that's unusual. I'm posting this now, about an hour later, so I went back to /x/ to see if the post was still there (yes), and if anyone had said anything interesting (no). To find it, I did a Ctrl-F for mand, and the first hit was this:


Like most "Bible Mandela effect" claims, this is BS. I've been reading the Bible since forever, and it's always said that (minus the word very in the KJV). On a whim, I decided to look up other translations of the verse in question (Ex. 34:14) on BibleGateway. In the list of 50-some translations that came up, only one used boldface and italics, and it therefore jumped out at me.


One of the other versions, a half-translation with many untranslated Hebrew words, had a spelling that was even more of a sync.


El Kanah -- just one letter different from Elkenah, a supposed Egyptian god mentioned in Joseph Smith's Book of Abraham, which I had recently posted about in "Maha-makara whiteboard telepathy." I even referenced Kevin Barney's theory that the name means "El of Canaan." It's quite ironic that the name might actually mean "Jealous God" -- not tolerating rivals -- since Elkenah is depicted as being worshiped alongside four other gods.


It is appropriate that El Kanah, the Jealous God, would be synchronistically associated with the mandrake story in Genesis 30, since that story has to do with jealousy and sexual rivalry.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Kanye with Aunt Nancy's coffin

When something is repeated several times in a dream, I take it as potentially significant.


It was snowy and windy outside, and I was inside a structure that I thought of as a "pillbox," but when I pictured what it looked like from the outside, I thought of it as looking more like a pink Thermos bottle. It was the same shade of pink as Jackie Kennedy's famous pillbox hat, so I suppose that was the connection. Inside, it wasn't pink and seemed like a garage or storage unit -- concrete floors and walls, no furniture.

I could hear someone outside in the snow, coming up to the door. It was the artist formerly known as Kanye West, and his stopping by seemed utterly unremarkable, as if he were just some regular guy we happened to know.

Ye was carrying a big box shaped like a coffin, but obviously not a real coffin. It was made of pieces of plywood nailed together and looked like some cheap prop that hadn't been painted yet. The ease with which he was carrying it made it clear that it was quite light and therefore empty.

Ye explained to me that "Aunt Nancy" had gone to sleep in that box and never woken up, and then he showed me why. He lifted up the coffin so that the bottom surface was visible, and there was something written there in pencil: "Please wake me up at 5 p.m. Aunt Nancy." Apparently no one had seen the message, because she had carelessly written it on the bottom of the box, and that's why she had never woken up.

I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be some sort of weird joke, or if I was to understand that Aunt Nancy had died from sleeping too long, or had been mistaken for dead and buried alive, or what -- but I was pretty sure that that was Ye's own handwriting and that the whole thing was fake.

"Ye, where did you get this?" I asked, and he said the name of some generic American retailer you wouldn't expect a billionaire celebrity to frequent -- Best Buy or Home Depot or something of that nature. I took this as an admission that he had bought plywood and made the coffin himself, and that "Aunt Nancy" was either alive and well or had never existed at all. Ye took the coffin back outside, put it in the back of a white van, and drove off.

A few minutes later, my mother showed up at the pillbox. I said, "Hey, 'Yeeaay' was just here" -- drawling the diphthong in an exaggerated way -- and then proceeded to tell her everything, about the plywood coffin and the Aunt Nancy story and all that. Since my mother's name is also Nancy, I made sure to clarify that Ye had obviously meant his own aunt, not her. She listened to the story without particular interest and later left.

A few minutes after that, a generic "man" came in, and I told him about what had happened with Ye and then about my telling my mother.


So the Ye-with-a-coffin story occurred four times in the dream: First I experienced it, then I told my mother about it, then I told the man about it, and then I told the man about telling my mother about it. No idea what it means, if anything, but the repetition itself seems to make it worth noting.

I assume "Aunt Nancy" has something to do with Anansi, the anthroporphic spider trickster of West African folklore. I know very few Anansi stories -- just the usual stuff an American child is exposed to in the name of diversity -- but running a search for anansi coffin turned up this:

As time passed, Dew worked especially hard and tirelessly to build up a large amount of wealth. He bought a scythe, hoe, axe, new clothes, and other equipment. Dew then told his mother his plan: he would tell Anansi that she had died and would then make a mock coffin in which to bury her. In the meanwhile, Dew wished for his mother to hide in their home upstairs while he prepared, so she did. Dew then made a coffin and announced her death to the village, inviting them to come see her burial. Once they had arrived, he snuck his mother from upstairs and had her hide underneath the floor where the mock coffin lay, as well as the many things he'd purchased, as he knew Anansi's greed would spurn him to steal from Dew if he saw them laying around. Now that the plan was in order, it was time for the mock burial to begin. . . .

I'm quite sure I had never encountered this particular story before, but the coincidence with the dream is impressive: the name Anansi/Aunt Nancy, the "mock coffin," the mother. I'll see if anything develops from this sync-wise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Maha-makara whiteboard telepathy

I've been occasionally dipping into Mission des juifs by Alexandre Saint-Yves d'Alveydre, and today I read a passage in which he mentioned the similarity between the names Abraham and Brahma, and between those of Abraham's sister/wife Sarah and Brahma's sister/wife Sarasvati. Once this idea had been brought up -- to look for Sanskrit names in the story of Abraham -- it made me think of the "First Facsimile from the Book of Abraham." This was an incomplete Egyptian funerary papyrus, "restored" and "translated" by Joseph Smith in a way that is very obviously incorrect by the standards of modern Egyptology. For example, the four canopic jars representing the four sons of Horus (Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi, and Qebehsenuef) were said by Smith to represent four otherwise unknown pagan gods called Elkenah, Libnah, Mahmachrah, and Korash.


There have been various fanciful attempts by Mormon apologists to make these names archaeologically respectable. Elkenah must be derived from El-Cana, meaning the Canaanite god El (who of course was not one of the sons of Horus, didn't have a falcon's head, and was not worshiped in Egypt); Libnah is connected to a Hebrew (not Egyptian!) root meaning "white," and it is said that that particular son of Horus was associated with the color white; that sort of thing.

Well, if we're going to go Sanskrit on the Abraham story, isn't it obvious that Mahmachrah must be Maha-makara, the Great Makara? Makara is a Sanskrit name for, among other things, the crocodile, and a crocodile appears in Facsimile 1. Perhaps Smith just misnumbered the figures, and it is the crocodile that he intended to call Mahmachrah. I'm not proposing any of this seriously, of course; it just popped into my mind when I read about the supposed Sanskrit derivation of the names Abraham and Sarah.

Makara doesn't just mean "crocodile," though. It is also the Sanskrit term for the zodiac sign of Capricorn and refers to a sea creature which is variously depicted, but one of the most common forms it takes is that of a huge fish with the trunk of an elephant.


I hadn't said or written any of this; I had only been thinking about it, and picturing the elephant-nosed makara in my mind -- a very distinctive image, I think, and not one that comes to mind very often -- when I walked into my classroom and found that one of my students had drawn this on the whiteboard:


I still find this whole phenomenon baffling. It's happened enough times, and with such weirdly specific content, that I would ordinarily dismiss "coincidence" as an explanation -- but on the other hand, seemingly impossible coincidences are pretty much an everyday occurrence in my life!

If it's not just another manifestation of "synchronicity" -- that infuriating non-explanation! -- I do tend to think it must be some sort of subconscious telepathy on the kids' part rather than precognition on my own. My mental images in these cases don't just pop into my head inexplicably; the train of thought can be traced back with little effort. When I ask the kid why he happened to draw an "elephant fish," though -- or a king holding an apple, or whatever the image may be -- there's never any explanation. I think they just cast about in the ether for something to draw and sometimes "pick up" something from my mind without realizing that that's where it came from.

I never tell the kids about these incidents, and they are none the wiser. As far as this young artist knows, he just happened to think of an "elephant fish" for no particular reason. Likewise, if some of the random ideas or images that pop into my head were actually pilfered from the private thoughts of other people, I would normally have no way of knowing that. I wonder just how common this sort of thing is.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Just a second, let me think

I'm taking another break from posting, in case you haven't noticed. I've hit a snag in my philosophizing and have been spending all my free time thinking about that instead of writing blog posts, leaving comments, replying to emails, etc.

Hopefully I'll eventually have something to show for it. In the meantime, go read something else.

Friday, October 14, 2022

The game of Flaxman

Flaxman is a chess-like game I invented in my teens. The allusion is to the "man with a line of flax" in Ezekiel 40:3, who measures the temple, because measurement is central to the game, with a nod also to the 19th-century sculptor John Flaxman, who made chessmen in collaboration with Josiah Wedgwood, and to the famous Gengleston Herbert Flaxman, a Chess king of the early 15th century, whose accomplishments are outlined in the unfinished "Chess Monograph" of the young C. S. Lewis.

In the simplest version of this game, each player has three pieces, a King and two Soldiers. (You can use chess Kings and Knights). The game is played on a 7-by-7 grid, but the pieces are positioned on the corners rather than in the squares, as in Chinese chess, so there are only 36 positions. This is the starting layout.


The basic concept behind the game is that no piece has a fixed move. Rather, each piece's move is defined by two other pieces. If A's move is defined by B and C, that means that A can jump to any new position such that the distance between the new position and the old position is equal to the distance between B and C.

In three-piece Flaxman, each piece's move is defined by the other two pieces of the same color: the King's by the two Soldiers, and each Soldier's by the other Soldier and the King. So these are the possible opening moves for White, for the King:


for one of the Soldiers:


and for the other Soldier:


Let's say that after two rounds, the board looks like this:


The two White soldiers are three spaces apart, so the King can move three spaces vertically or horizontally. We say that his move is (3, 0), meaning three spaces vertically and zero spaces horizontally or vice versa. However, if he moved three spaces to the right, he would be moving into check, which is forbidden as in chess, so three spaces down is the only possible move for the King.

Now look at the Soldiers. The King and the left Soldier are at the corners of a 3-by-1 rectangle, so we say that the right Soldier's move is (3, 1): He can move three spaces vertically and one space horizontally or vice versa. Here are his possible moves:


The left Soldier's move is (4, 3) -- but this is a very special case. By the Pythagorean theorem, the diagonal of a 3-by-4 rectangle is 5, so this Soldier is also allowed to make a move of (5, 0). This special move -- moving (5, 0) when you have a move of (4, 3) or vice versa -- is called a Pythagorean leap. So the right Soldier's possible moves are as follows:


He can use the Pythagorean leap to capture one of the Black soldiers -- but how does capturing work in this game? If one of the Black pieces were removed from the board, the moves of the other two Black pieces would no longer be defined -- so captured pieces are not removed. When a piece is captured, it (1) swaps places with the piece that captured it and (2) becomes immobile, a Prisoner instead of a Soldier. (You can use a chess Rook to represent a Prisoner.) Prisoners cannot move, but their position can still be used to define the moves of the other pieces.

After the capture, the board looks like this:


Black's next move is forced. The Prisoner cannot move, but neither can the other Soldier. The Black Soldier's move, defined by the King and Prisoner, is (5, 1), but there is no space on the board that is that distance from the Soldier. When a piece cannot move because the two pieces that define its move are too far apart, we say that it is "pinned." Only the King can move, and his move is (4, 2). There are two positions on the board that are (4, 2) from the King, but only one of them is allowed because the other would mean moving into check (shown by the blue line below).


So Black makes the only possible move, and the board now looks like this:


So that's how moving and capturing works. There are just two more rules to discuss.

Freeing Prisoners: "Capturing" a Prisoner frees him, changing him back into a mobile Soldier. As in a capture, the freed Prisoner swaps places with the piece that frees it. You will normally want to free your own Soldiers, but it also possible to free your opponent's Soldiers, and this may be worthwhile in certain situations.

King's capture: The King, and only the King, has the option of capturing one of his own Soldiers. This works exactly like a normal capture: The King and Soldier swap places, and the Soldier becomes a Prisoner. This may sometimes be necessary in order to get out of check.

As in chess, checkmate is a win, and stalemate is a draw. If it's your move and all your mobile pieces are "pinned," that's considered a stalemate, too.

There's a more complicated version of the game, called Witchy Flaxman, but the simple version is usually quite complicated enough for beginners. It takes quite a bit of practice to become familiar enough with the rules to be able to think several moves ahead.

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Parrhesia, Nephele, and the Sumerian Sphinx

Just a very minor sync, but I note it in case it develops into something bigger.

A day or two ago I encountered somewhere -- perhaps one of the Catholic blogs from Synlogos? -- the unfamiliar term parrhesia, which I had to look up. It refers to frankness or boldness of speech. It is also a genus of moths.

Today, in the concluding chapter of Histoire de la magie, I encountered a passing reference to Ixion and how he attempted to rape Hera but was tricked by Zeus into assaulting a fake Hera made from a cloud. Having only the vaguest recollection of this particular myth, I looked it up to get the details. The Hera-shaped cloud apparently became in some way a real woman who went on to bear children to both Ixion and Athamas, and this cloud-woman's name was Nephele (from nephos, "cloud").

The disambiguation page on Wikipedia notes that Nephele is also (like Parrhesia) the name of a genus of moths, and that it is the title of a 2014 song by the instrumental progressive metal band Animals as Leaders. This band's most recent album, released in March of this year, is called Parrhesia.

The Nephele genus belongs to the family Sphingidae, called "sphinx moths" or "hawk moths." The hummingbird hawk moth is a subject of the TMBG song "Bee of the Bird of the Moth," which has appeared in sync posts here before. As for the other common name for this family, both "Nephele" and Parrhesia were released by the indie label Sumerian Records. Despite the fact that Sumer and Egypt were quite distinct ancient civilizations, this is their logo:

The Sphinx's nature as a human-animal chimaera is also relevant. The son of Ixion and Nephele was Centaurus, father of the centaurs. According to the Byzantine poet John Tzetzes, Centaurus was a nickname, and his true name was Imbrus -- which is more usually the name of one of the sons of King Aegyptus, son of Belus. Aegyptus obviously means "Egypt," and Belus has been connected with Bel Marduk, a god of Sumerian origin.

Update: This post led me to peruse the Wikipedia article on "Egypt-Mesopotamia relations," where I found this:

The "Master of Animals" motif bears an obvious conceptual relation to the band name Animals as Leaders. The king flanked by two lions also reminds me of depictions of the Mesopotamian Anzû.

Like the sphinx, Anzû is a chimaerical creature -- typically depicted as a sort of griffin in reverse: a lion-headed eagle. This looks quite a bit like an owl and calls to mind the Chinese word for "owl" -- 貓頭鷹, literally "cat-headed eagle."

Update 2: Now this is weird. When I looked up Sumerian Records on Wikipedia while writing this post, the intro paragraph said, "They have signed artists such as Black Veil Brides, Poppy, Bad Omens, Palaye Royale, and The Smashing Pumpkins." The Smashing Pumpkins were the only ones I had heard of, and I realized that I don't really know anything about them but the name. I clicked the link but then didn't really read anything. I just saw that the frontman's name was Billy Corgan and clicked for the article about him. Then I didn't read that article, either! (I'm not really sure what the point of clicking was.) I just noted that the name seemed off: "Corgan"? I know corgi and Kurgan, and Corrigan, but not Corgan.

Then that made me think of Corgunard, a character created by my brother for a D&D campaign back when we were teenagers. This was in the Dark Sun setting, where evil wizards gradually change into dragons, and good ones transform into something called an avangion (though we always pronounced it avagon), which is basically a giant humanoid moth. Corgunard was an avangion, and somewhere along the line he magically merged with the dragon sorcerer-king Nibenay to become a single being called Nibenard. Nibenay was created by the D&D guys, not by us, and when I looked him up just now (here), I read that "His templars [i.e. magic-wielding bureaucrats] are known as Shadow Brides." Sounds a lot like the "Black Veil Brides" from Sumerian Records.

Later this evening, I checked the Anonymous Conservative blog and found this:

While we are on shapeshifting, there was another account by Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corrigan, who said the record industry is controlled by them. He seems to believe it, in the videos online of his statements on it. So him, maybe credible, Odom, and then best selling author M. Scott Peck, who I would say is definitely credible, given his academic history alone.

Not just a reference to Billy Corgan, but one by someone else who apparently thought Corrigan looked more like a real name!

Retracing my steps online in order to write this update, I noticed something I hadn't caught before in the intro to the Sumerian Records article: "In early 2022, Sumerian acquired Behemoth Entertainment, a comic book and video game publisher, in order to increase their merchandise options and further expand the brand."

See "Be he moth or be he bird" for the word behemoth and its relevance to "The Bee of the Bird of the Moth."

Just one more

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Since we're doing "Yes Chad" memes . . .



Note added: No, these are not AI-generated! AI-generated memes look like this:




or this:


Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord

The King James Version will always be the Bible I know and love best, but reading a different translation from time to time can be helpful, too, as it makes the familiar unfamiliar and helps one to see it in a new way. Such has been my recent experience reading the Penitential Psalms in the Vulgate translation of St. Jerome. My attention was particularly arrested by the 10th verse of Psalm 32 (called Psalm 31 in the Greek numbering used by Jerome). This is the King James Version I have always known:

Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the Lord, mercy shall compass him about.

And here is the Vulgate, followed by the Douay-Rheims, which is an English translation of the Vulgate rather than of the original Hebrew.

Multa flagella peccatoris, sperantem autem in Domino misericordia circumdabit.

Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy shall encompass him that hopeth in the Lord.

Insofar as I can judge, the sorrows, wicked, and trusteth of the King James are more faithful to original Hebrew than the Vulgate's flagella, peccatoris, and sperantem. However, Jerome sticks closer to the Hebrew when he translates the first clause without a verb, literally "many scourges to the sinner." This is not really grammatical in English, though, so the King James inserts shall be, italicized to indicate that those words are not present in the Hebrew, while the Douay-Rheims instead uses are. I think both are justifiable from the Hebrew, which has no verb at all.

I've always read the KJV Ps. 32:10 as one of those contrasts between the righteous and the wicked that one associates more with the Proverbs than with the Psalms: one type of person will suffer, while a contrasting type will be encompassed with mercy.

The Vulgate suggests a different reading: not a contrast between two types of people, but between the present state of sinners and (what may be) their future state. All sinners suffer, but those (sinners) who trust in the Lord will be encompassed about by his mercy (chesed, "lovingkindness"). I think this is a much better fit for the overall tenor of the psalm, which is not about how much better it is to be righteous than wicked, but about a sinner who suffered, acknowledged his sin to the Lord, and found forgiveness.

I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah (v. 5).

The idea of confessing to the Lord sheds important light on what it really means to confess one's sins. It cannot primarily mean admitting that one has in fact performed this or that action. God obviously already knows what you have done! Acknowledging or hiding one's sin cannot be a question of letting God know or trying to prevent him from knowing. I think confessing to God does not mean telling him what you have done but rather recognizing that what you have done was sinful -- rather than making excuses or trying to justify or rationalize it.

Minor synchronicity:

When I said that obviously no one would literally try to prevent God from knowing what they had done, Cain came to mind as a possible exception. When God asks him where his murdered brother Abel is, doesn't he lie and say, "I know not"? Then I realized that, while this was clearly an evasion, it was probably not actually a lie. Cain really didn't know where Abel had gone, only that he was no longer in his body.

Just after thinking that, I checked Bruce Charlton's blog and read this in his latest post: "Men die and their spirits leave the world, and go... nobody knows where."

As a further synchronicity, the title of the post is "Tolkien's Elves and Men both need to trust in God." The pre-Christian David's trust in God is similar in nature to the kind of trust Tolkien's Men, similarly ignorant of Christ, would have needed.

Monday, October 10, 2022

The materialistic cultus of Fo

The Histoire de la magie of Éliphas Lévi includes a brief section on China. After extolling the occult wisdom of the I Ching and Confucius, Lévi has this to say about the next development in Chinese thought:

After Confucius came the materialistic Fo, who substituted the traditions of Indian sorcery for the remnants of Egyptian Transcendental Magic. The cultus of Fo paralysed the progress of the sciences in China, and the abortive civilisation of this great people collapsed into routine and stupor.

Who is this Fo? Have you never heard of him? Well, you probably have, but under a different name.  (佛), from the Old Chinese *but, is nothing other than the Chinese transliteration of a Pali and Sanskrit word we have adopted into English with minimal modification: Buddha. Fo is the Buddha, Siddharta Gautama, and the cultus of Fo is Buddhism.

Did Lévi realize this? Apparently not. His reference to "Indian sorcery" suggests an awareness that Fo was an Indian teacher whose thought was later adopted by the Chinese; on the other hand, he characterizes Confucianism as "Egyptian," so that may not mean much! His ignorance of the identity of Fo is evident in his statement that he came "after Confucius," when in fact the two lived at roughly the same time. Confucius lived c. 551-479 BC, and the Buddha's dates are generally given as either 563-483 or 480-400 BC. However, Buddhism (Fójiào, "doctrine of Fo") did not enter China until much later, in the first century AD, and Lévi apparently assumes that Fo was a Chinese person of that era.

Lévi's highly negative assessment of "Fo" can be contrasted with what he has to say about "Buddha" in India:

To the revelation of Krishna succeeded that of Buddha, who married the purest religion to philosophy of the highest kind. The happiness of the world was thus held to be secured and there was nothing further to expect, pending the tenth and final incarnation, when Vishnu will return in his proper form.

I take this as conclusive proof that Lévi did not know that Fo was the Buddha. How could he knowingly have said that the man "who married the purest religion to philosophy of the highest kind" was "materialistic" and caused the spiritual collapse of the Chinese civilization?

How is it possible to know anything at all about Fo-ism and its influence on Chinese civilization without also knowing that Fo is the Buddha? I attribute it to Lévi's being French. The English who went to China would already have been quite familiar with India, and would immediately have recognized Fo as the Chinese name for an Indian figure they already knew. The first French missionaries to China, in contrast, may well have known little or nothing about India and may have written about "Fo" without knowing who he was, and Lévi's understanding of Chinese religious history is presumably based on such French works.

I have been quoting A. E. Waite's English translation of Lévi's book. Waite always adds a footnote anytime he disagrees with Lévi or thinks he is in error, and yet he has nothing to say about "Fo," so he was also apparently unaware of the Fo-Buddha identity. But that is only to be expected. Waite would have learned about China by reading English books, written by people who knew who Fo was and therefore translated the title as Buddha. Like anyone else who reads Lévi without knowing any Chinese, he would probably have assumed that "Fo" was some Chinese figure he didn't happen to have heard of and wouldn't have found anything remarkable in that.


The name Buddha has strongly positive connotations for most people. Even those who are not Buddhists generally think of him as someone who was very wise and deeply spiritual. What happens, though, if you read about the teachings of "Fo" and their influence on the Chinese civilization, but do so through a veil of ignorance, without knowing that this "Fo" is none other than the vaunted Buddha? Well, you might end up with an anomalous assessment like Lévi's: (1) that Fo was materialistic, (2) that he promoted low "sorcery" as opposed to high magic, and (3) that his influence put an end to the creativity of Chinese civilization.

How just is that assessment, if not of the historical Buddha himself, at least of Chinese Buddhism personified as "Fo"? I have no special knowledge of Chinese history, but here are my impressions as someone who has lived in Taiwan for nearly 20 years and has known many Chinese Buddhists.

To start with the second charge, sorcery in modern Taiwan is overwhelmingly a Taoist phenomenon, and orthodox Buddhists disapprove of it. Of course the line between the two religions can be very blurry, with many temples featuring statues of the Buddha or Guanyin (Avalokiteshvara) alongside those of the Taoist gods, but with very few exceptions all the Chinese sorcery I have ever seen or heard of has been purely Taoist in character, with little or no discernible Buddhist influence. Buddhist sorcery is apparently a thing (see Tibet), but plays little role in Chinese Buddhism as I know it.

About Buddhism's effect on Chinese creativity, it is an interesting possibility. It seems clear enough that ancient China was highly creative, and that modern China is not, but I'm not convinced that Buddhism is the reason. Journey to the West, for example, is a highly creative work of literature which is Buddhist -- though it can be argued that the Buddhism is only superficial and that its "heart" is still very Taoist. (Taoist influence in Journey to the West is perhaps comparable to "pagan" influence in The Divine Comedy.)

Materialism is the most interesting charge, though, and I think the most astute. At first glance, it seems absurd to say that Buddhism is more materialistic than the doctrine of Confucius, who had a deliberate policy of not saying anything about gods or spirits. Buddhism rejects the material as illusory, scorns money and physical pleasure, and teaches reincarnation, which implies the existence of spirits. How can that be called materialistic? On the other hand, Buddhism is notoriously the favorite religion of atheists, which must mean something.

Whether or not spirit is ontologically separate from matter (monism vs. dualism) is not really the point of materialism. Joseph Smith taught that "all spirit is matter" (D&C 131:7), but he was not in any meaningful sense a materialist. A true materialist is one who takes the features of material objects -- impermanence, determinism, ontological complexity, lack of inherent meaning -- and attributes them to everything. Chinese Buddhism as I know it (mostly through the late Chan Master Sheng-yen and his disciples) does that. There is a strong focus on the "causes and conditions" underlying everything, including human actions. Everything, including the human soul, is impermanent and lacking in reality because it is made up of parts whose current relationship or configuration will not last forever -- very close to "atoms and the void." Nothing, including human love, is ultimately real or has any significance; and the only real goal is the negative and highly materialistic one of the cessation of all suffering.

This may or may not be a distortion of what the Buddha originally taught, but I have read a bit of modern Chinese Buddhist literature and had long philosophical discussions with modern Chinese Buddhists, and I believe I am representing their thought -- "Fo" as he appears today -- fairly. And I believe that this "materialistic cultus of Fo" grew out of the original Buddhism just as naturally and inevitably as Epicureanism grew out of the thought of Plato.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Blasphemy against Zeus, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and whale vision

I was at a bookstore yesterday to place an order for some textbooks, and I happened to see these two books displayed together.


In the context of the Greek name Zeus, the phrase a dick suggests ádikos, “unjust.” Since Zeus was proverbially just, this would be a blasphemous inversion of a common piety, analogous to Christopher Hitchens’s God Is Not Great.

In my recent post "A forgotten literary movement," I recounted a dream in which I asked one person after another to help me remember the name of an early 20th-century literary movement. The only name I could remember associated with the movement was Francis Scott Key, which I knew wasn't right. No one was able to help me with the name of the movement, except one person who suggested, "Wasn't there a group of writers around that time called the Schmucks?" Upon waking, I guessed that the "Francis Scott Key" I had been thinking of must have been the early 20th-century novelist Francis Scott Key ("F. Scott") Fitzgerald.

In the above display, Fitzgerald is juxtaposed with the word dick. In my dream, it had been suggested that "Francis Scott Key" might have been part of a group called the Schmucks -- and schmuck is the Yiddish counterpart to dick, meaning both "penis" and "contemptible person."

I have never read anything by Fitzgerald, but I do own one of his novels: the Penguin Popular Classics edition of Tender Is the Night. On the back cover, between the title and the summary, is the boldface quote, "Help me, help me, Dick!" -- Dick Diver being the main character, based on Fitzgerald himself.

On the Fitzgerald book in the photo above, a white coffee cup is placed so as to appear that it is on Fitzgerald's head. In a few recent posts, including "Dreams, shifty-eyed owls, and the white Starbucks cup," I have discussed a Time magazine cover in which a white coffee cup is placed so as to appear that it is on the head of Kamala Harris. I commented that the cup on her head made me think of the Graeco-Egyptian god Serapis, who wore a cup-shaped headdress. Originally a combination of Osiris and the bull-god Apis, this god was later combined with Zeus and worshipped as "Zeus-Serapis."

(My earlier posts have associated the white cup both with the owl and with Serapis. Last night, I happened to see a random shitpost on /x/ which had a picture of a German woodcut of a bull-headed Moloch idol and said, “This is Moloch. His name is pronounced MOE-lock. He is an owl. That is all.” Yesterday, someone emailed me some of Royal Skousen’s textual research on the Book of Mormon. Among its new-to-me conclusions was that the name printed as Mulek in the BoM as we have it is a scribal error, and that this character’s correct name is Muloch, interpreted by Skousen as a variant of Moloch. In the /x/ thread, an anon argued that Moloch was itself an error for the common noun melek, “king.”)

"Zeus is a dick." Dick is Fitzgerald's fictional alter-ego. Zeus is Serapis. Fitzgerald is portrayed as Serapis.

In the posts about the white Starbucks cup, one of the commenters mentioned that the name Starbuck comes from Moby-Dick., which brings us to the next thing that caught my eye yesterday.


A whale juxtaposed with the word vision. This made me think of the synchronistic saga of the whale with many eyes. Eyes are organs of vision, and I had also used that word repeatedly with reference to Dee and Kelley’s whale experience. See for example “I posted my many-eyed whale dream on the 430th anniversary of Dee and Kelley’s many-eyed whale vision.”

Then I noticed that the word could also be read as VI Sion. I had recently read the seven Penitential Psalms aloud in Latin, and they include a few references to Sion (the Latin spelling of Zion). The first Penitential Psalm is Psalm VI, and the sixth is De Profundis, which alludes to Jonah’s prayer from within the belly of the whale.

Then I thought that V. I. Sion could stand for Veni in Sion, “come to Zion.” At the same time, V. I. is 5 followed by 1. In Isaiah 51, we read “Et nunc qui redempti sunt a Domino revertentur, et venient in Sion laudantes,” “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion” (v. 11). Just two verses previous, the Lord is addressed as the one “that hath cut Rahab, and wounded the dragon” — Rahab being a sea monster similar or identical to Leviathan, and thus a link to the whale.

Later that day, we visited some of my wife’s relatives. Our young nephew showed me a children’s book about sea creatures, opening up to a page that had a picture of a whale shark mislabeled (in both Chinese and English) as a “great white shark.” When a whale is called a great white, that’s obviously another link to Moby-Dick.

The TV was on, and there was a trailer for some sort of romcom starring George Clooney and Julia Roberts. In one scene, the Clooney character is reluctant to swim with dolphins, saying, “Are you sure they’re not sharks?” but is persuaded to jump into the water. The scene then cuts to him saying, “I can’t believe I got bit by a dolphin!”

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

A forgotten literary movement

In my dream, I was explaining to various friends and family members what was troubling me:

"This is driving me crazy. I remember that there was a literary movement in the early 20th century, and they had a short, simple name -- but I can't remember what it was, and I can't find any reference to it anywhere! It wasn't the Beatniks, although the two movements had a lot in common. This movement was earlier than the Beats, sort of a precursor I suppose, but they had a name just as simple and memorable as Beatniks. Something like Rat Pack, maybe? Not that, of course, but that sort of name. The strange thing is that I can't remember the name of a single figure from this movement, although it feels is if they're all on the tip of my tongue. When I try to think of their names, all I can come up with is Francis Scott Key, which obviously isn't even the right century. I can't name any of the novels, either, though I do vaguely remember one of the movies associated with the movement. It was called The something Kid -- like The Topeka Kid or something like that, or maybe just The Kid -- and I can remember what the picture on the DVD case looked like: black and white photo with a young boy standing there in oversized clothes and -- oh, I can't remember what those hats were called, either, but one of those hats, you know, like you'd wear in a Guy Ritchie movie. One of their themes was that kids grow up too fast, and their work was a bit sentimental sometimes, but there was also a certain element of tough-guy posturing. They foreshadowed film noir in certain ways, I think you'd say. Anyway, that DVD apparently no longer exists. I can't find any trace of it anywhere. . . ."

I gave this explanation to one person after another, and no one had any idea what I was talking about -- with the exception of one of my brothers, whose only suggestion was, "Wasn't there a group of writers around that time called the Schmucks?" I became convinced that this was some sort of Mandela Effect -- that this whole literary movement had been retroactively erased from history, leaving only a few fragmentary but insistent memories in the minds of a few people like myself.

Upon waking, I figured that I had been describing garbled memories of F. Scott Fitzgerald (full name Francis Scott Key Fitzgerald) and the 1921 Charlie Chaplin film The Kid -- but would anyone say that Fitzgerald and Chaplin were part of the same "literary movement"? And the movement of which Fitzgerald was a defining member was given the boring, nondescript label Modernism -- nowhere near as cool or memorable as Beatniks or Rat Pack. Or maybe Lost Generation was the name I was trying to remember? Anyway, a very strange dream.

Sunday, October 2, 2022

The love of God in the Tarot

Three of the seven virtues are explicitly present in the Tarot. Over at The Magician's Table, I discuss where to find the other four, particularly Charity.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Wigner and the infinite quarter

The Mandela Effect is one of the things I like to keep tabs on in a back-burner sort of way, so I subscribe to a YouTube channel called &quo...