Sunday, May 28, 2023

Two books featuring magical children in beech trees and invisible dragonfly wings

I finished reading George MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind (1870) today, that is to say, May 27. In the last few chapters, the main character, a rather otherworldly little boy named Diamond who has lived in London for almost the entire story, relocates to the countryside and acquires the habit of climbing up into "a great beech-tree." When the narrator first meets Diamond (Chapter 35, "I Make Diamond's Acquaintance"), he is sitting at the foot of the beech and later climbs "into the leafy branches." In the next chapter we see him climbing it again, and one of the other children asks, "What are you always going up there for, Diamond?"

Also in Chapter 35, just before he climbs the beech, Diamond describes his encounter with what must surely have been a dragonfly:

"What did the boy and girl want with you, Diamond?" I asked.

"They had seen a creature that frightened them."

. . .

"And what was it?"

"I think it was a kind of angel -- a very little one. It had a long body and great wings, which it drove about it so fast that they grew a thin cloud all round it. It flew backwards and forwards over the well, or hung right in the middle, making a mist of its wings, as if its business was to take care of the water."

All three children are recent transplants from London and have apparently never seen a dragonfly before. Apparently some children do find them frightening; I recall some scientist (Feynman?) telling the story of how he, armed with his scientific knowledge that these insects are harmless, was the only one of his peers not to be afraid of them. (The reason for Diamond's own fearlessness is quite different: "Because I'm silly. I'm never frightened at things.") Note how Diamond emphasizes the indistinct blur of the dragonfly's rapidly moving wings.

After finishing At the Back of the North Wind, I had a stack of eight or nine books on my desk, candidates for what I should read next, ranging from Captains Courageous to a new-to-me translation of Virgil to a commentary on the Shiva Sutras. The one I ended up choosing, more or less at random, was an English translation of The Life of Elves (2015) by Muriel Barbery, an author I knew nothing about. (I had picked it up at a used bookstore because the French approach to faery is interesting to me vis-à-vis Joan of Arc and her reputed faery connections.) Here's how it begins:

The little girl spent most of her hours of leisure in the branches. When her family did not know where to find her, they would go to the trees, the tall beech to start with, the one that stood to the north above the lean-to, for that was where she liked to daydream . . . .

Right there in the first two sentences we have another little child who spends her time in the branches of a great beech! On the very next page we learn that she, too, is rather otherworldly, and this is explained with what is apparently a reference to the indistinct blur of a dragonfly's beating wings:

Only the eldest auntie, by virtue of an abiding penchant for anything that could not be explained, thought to herself that there was something magical about the little girl; but one thing was certain, that for such a young child she bore herself in a most unusual way, incorporating some of the invisibility and trembling of the air, as a dragonfly would, or palms swaying in the wind.

On the next page after that, we learn that this (as yet nameless) girl is also, like Diamond, unusually fearless:

[She] sensed the nearby presence in the mist of an invisible creature, and she knew more surely than the existence of God proclaimed by the priest that this creature was both friendly and supernatural. Thus she was not afraid.

This intuition that the unknown creature is "both friendly and supernatural" parallels Diamond's assumption that the dragonfly, so frightening to the other children, must be "a kind of angel."

At this point I decided I had better try to find out something about who this Muriel Barbery was before reading any further. I had the odd idea that she might have a thing or two in common with George MacDonald -- Muriel is as Gaelic a name as MacDonald, for starters. I didn't find much of interest, except the unexpected fact that she was born in Morocco. She "left her birthplace with her French parents when she was two months old," which I suppose means she is ethnically French; on the other hand, Barbery surely has reference to the Barbary Coast and the Berbers. It is only a coincidence, of course, that in the Bible Bar- appears as a patronymic prefix identical in meaning to Mac-.

The biographical detail that really caught my attention, though, was her birthdate: May 28, 1969. I started reading her book about half an hour before midnight on May 27 -- a very near miss on the part of the sync fairies!

Saturday, May 27, 2023

Very minor sync: Mormon bloggers "advancing the ball"

In yesterday's "'Russian-reversal' consecration revisited," I discuss what I had thought was a peculiarity of Book or Mormon phraseology, but which turns out to have been used by Protestants as well. This made me think of my attempt years ago to find any non-BoM instances of the unusual construction "It supposes me that . . ." (to mean "I suppose . . ."), and I thought I might as well give it another go. Googling "it supposeth me" turned up a blog post with that very title, which got my hopes up, but it turned out to be an old 2006 post by Kevin Barney at the "liberal Mormon" blog By Common Consent, which I had read at the time but since forgotten about. He begins by citing me as the person who raised the question, spends a few paragraphs not finding an answer, and concludes with, "OK, that’s a start. Someone pick up the ball and advance it down the field for us." So the source of the construction remains a mystery.

Reading this Mormon blog reminded me that I hadn't checked the (much more simpatico) Mormon blog Junior Ganymede lately, so I rectified that omission and read the May 22 post "Reflections about Standards." The post begins with a long prologue about the overall purpose of the blog, including this:

Which brings us to the last and most unusual thing this blog is. We are faith exploring and faith compatible. We start with the gospel as a premise and then work out from there. . . . Instead of trying to get you to believe, here we take it for granted that you already do and then try to advance the ball.

Just a minor coincidence, since it's not that uncommon an expression. A site search of BCC shows that Kevin Barney uses it quite frequently. Junior Ganymede has only used it this once, though -- and I just happened to read it just after finding the same thing on BCC, a site I had not visited in probably 10 years or more.

Friday, May 26, 2023

"Russian-reversal" consecration revisited

Last night I was listening to some music on YouTube, and discovered this recently uploaded (May 20) performance by the Petersens of the hymn "How Firm a Foundation":

This surprised me because the Petersens are Protestants, and I had always thought that this was an exclusively Mormon hymn. I had assumed this because of the opening lines -- "How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, / Is laid for your faith in his excellent word" -- in which saints is used to refer to all believers, implicitly including even those who may be struggling with their faith. I had always thought that this was a distinctively Mormon use of that word, that in the larger Christian world a "saint" was always an extraordinary person of exemplary holiness, and that our giving ourselves the title "Latter-day Saints" must sound incredibly pretentious to outsiders, as if we had dubbed ourselves "heroes" or "geniuses" or something.

Well, that just goes to show how little I really know about non-Lutheran Protestantism. Here's Wikipedia setting me straight:

In many Protestant churches, the word saint is used more generally to refer to anyone who is a Christian. . . . The use of "saint" within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) is similar to the Protestant tradition.

I suppose this shouldn't surprise me. Mormonism grew up in a Protestant milieu and would naturally express itself in a Protestant-derived idiom.

One question I haven't been able to find the answer to: Do the less-Catholic branches of Protestantism (excluding Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists) use saint as a title, as in St. Peter, St. Paul, etc.? Mormons don't, but I had always assumed that most other Christians do -- based, for example, on references to "St. Peter" in bluegrass music, Negro spirituals, etc. If any of my readers happen to be of the Protestant persuasion, perhaps they can enlighten me.

But this post isn't really about the use of the word saint. As the title indicates, it's a revisiting of my November 2022 post "In Mormon Russia, the Lord consecrates things unto YOU." In that post, I noted that in the Bible, people always consecrate things to the Lord, while in the Book of Mormon, the Lord always consecrates things to people. The one exception is a single reference, which appears in both books (Micah 4:13, 3 Ne. 20:19), to the Lord consecrating things to himself. Well, like the broad use of saint, this turns out not to be as distinctively Mormon as I had thought. Here is the third verse of "How Firm a Foundation":

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress."

The whole verse is in quotation marks because it is meant to be the Lord speaking -- saying that he will sanctify to you, Christian, your deepest distress. This is very close to the language of the Book of Mormon: "thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain" (2 Ne. 2:2).

The word used is sanctify, not consecrate, but these are more-or-less synonymous. Checking all occurrences of forms of sanctify in the Bible, I find that it is generally used without a preposition, but when things are sanctified to someone, that someone is always the Lord. (See Ex. 13:2, Lev. 27:14-22, Num. 8:17, Deut. 15:19, 2 Chr. 30:17.) In the Book of Mormon, things are always sanctified by the Lord to people. (See Jacob 4:5, Moro. 4:3, Moro. 5:2). This is the same pattern I found with consecrate.

"How Firm a Foundation" -- which first appears, with an anonymous author, in a 1787 Baptist hymnal -- follows, or rather foreshadows, the Mormon usage.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

Cuckoo syncs

I recently finished reading The Uninscribed by Stephanie South, which left me with the feeling that there is some specific British slang expression which perfectly encapsulates her particular brand of wackiness, but I couldn't quite get it off the tip of my tongue and still can't. While I was trying to dredge it up from my memory, though, one of the rejected possibilities that came to mind was cuckoo, which set off its own train of thought. One of the main ideas South promotes (she got it from the late José Argüelles) is what she calls the 13:20 system, a 13-month calendar where each of the days has a goofy New-Agey name like Galactic Rainbow Dolphin, and apparently if everyone would just start using this calendar instead of the evil Gregorian "12:60" system, it would bring about world peace and, uh, higher vibrational something something. Basically, it's like Time Cube, but with fewer insults and more galactic rainbow dolphins.

So it occurred to me that, while cuckoo is not the still-elusive mot juste for South herself, the perfect nickname for the New Age Time Cube timekeeping system she promotes is the cuckoo clock. What time is it when the clock strikes thirteen? Time to get a new clock!

Cuckoos and calendars made me think of the Middle English song "Sumer is icumen in," since it's about cuckoos and the changing of the seasons. I only really know a few lines of it, but I started humming it to myself and trying to remember the rest.

I still had "Sing cuccu" in my head when I decided to go online last night and check a few blogs and YouTube channels. I found that one of Bruce Charlton's recent (May 23) posts was "A dissonant cuckoo in Rothbury" -- about a cuckoo that was singing its song wrong, a bit like a clock striking thirteen. Speaking of that number, Bruce also mentions in the post that the cuckoo's song (the proper version) "was immortalized by Handel in the delightful second movement of his organ concerto in F No. 13."

On YouTube, I found a May 24 upload by LXXXVIII finis temporis called "the Wicker Man (1973) | The sacrifice of Jesus Christ | 9/11 - 33." It's about how that movie (which I have never seen) supposedly contains many references to the crucifixion of Christ and to the number 33, though most of the latter are pretty strained. (Wicker Man = WM, and each of those letters looks a bit like a numeral 3 if you rotate it. Christopher Lee = CL, the 3rd and 12th letters of the alphabet, and 1 + 2 = 3. That sort of thing. The 9/11 links are even more tenuous -- the wicker man has two legs, for example, just like the Twin Towers.) It prominently features a scene from The Wicker Man in which the main character is burned to death inside the titular wicker man while Christopher Lee and the others sing a partially modernized version of "Sumer is icumen in"! It seems like an odd choice of songs for a human sacrifice, but I guess the director just wanted some "period" music to emphasize that these are practitioners of ye olde religion. As this bit plays, LXXXVIII emphasizes references to the crucifixion -- parts of the wicker man form a cross, the victim keeps shouting "Jesus!" etc.

As I was writing this post, I wanted to make sure I'd spelled "Sumer is icumen in" correctly, so I checked the Wikipedia article on that song, which includes this note: "Beneath the Middle English lyrics in the manuscript, there is also a set of Latin lyrics which consider the sacrifice of the Crucifixion of Jesus."

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Syncs: At the Back of the North Wind

As documented in my May 13 post "Syncs: The World Beneath," I recently ran across the James Gurney book Dinotopia: The World Beneath, and I did eventually manage to read the whole thing. Of all the dinos and other prehistoric creatures in the story, only one of them has an invented name: skybax, a fictional species of Quetzalcoatlus. I asked Mr. Gurney if the second element of that name meant anything in particular, but he said he could no longer remember; he had invented it because he thought Quetzalcoatlus was too much of a mouthful.

I thought skybax sounded like sky-back, which made me think of the Flammarion engraving, in which a man pokes his head through the firmament and can see what is in back of the sky. An email correspondent was reminded of skybox, a method used in video-game graphics to create the illusion of an infinitely distant sky. This "sky" actually consists of the inner surfaces of a finite cube, though; Wikipedia notes that a similar device, the skydome, works on a similar principle but uses a sphere or hemisphere instead of a cube. So two quite different free-association etymologies for skybax each leads to the Flammarion concept.

In addition to Q. skybax, the (non-fictional) type species, Q. northropi, also appears in The World Beneath, but the "northies" are only mentioned on one page: p. 150, next to a picture captioned "Casting away the ruby sunstone."

As I had already connected skybax with the idea of "the back of the sky," the juxtaposition with northies made me think of a book I had bought over a year ago but had not yet read: At the Back of the North Wind by George MacDonald. It was actually sitting right there on my desk, since I had been rearranging some of my books and had not yet found a suitable place for it in any of my bookcases. I picked it up, glanced at the table of contents, and saw that one of the chapter titles is "Ruby."

Then, remembering that I had used the Flammarion engraving a few times on my blog, I looked up those old posts and discovered that one of them, "Break on through to the other side" (July 2022) features an epigram from none other than George MacDonald.

That was enough to make me start reading At the Back of the North Wind, and as I write this post I'm about halfway through it. The main character is a boy named Diamond, and the reason he has such an unusual name is that he was named after his father's favorite horse. As he explains to the title character when they first meet, "Diamond is a great and good horse; . . . he's big Diamond and I'm little Diamond; and I don't know which of us my father likes best."

This talk of big and little diamonds is another link to the sunstones of The World Beneath:

As I mentioned, I have been rearranging some of the books in my rather large library, and last night I ran across my copy of Shelley's Poetry and Prose (Norton), which I had forgotten I owned. Since Shelley's poem about the sensitive plant was in the sync-stream a while back, I took it down and looked up that poem. Lines 106-07 caught my eye:

And a northern whirlwind, wandering about
Like a wolf that had smelt a dead child out

The North Wind of MacDonald's story typically takes the form of a beautiful long-haired woman who is sometimes extremely large and other times "just about the height a dragon-fly would be, if it stood on end." (Dragonflies again!) At one point, though, she takes on rather different appearance:

At the foot of the stair North Wind stood still, and Diamond, hearing a great growl, started in terror, and there, instead of North Wind, was a huge wolf by his side. He let go of his hold in dismay, and the wolf bounded up the stair. The windows of the house rattled and shook as if guns were firing, and the sound of a great fall came from above. Diamond stood with white face staring up at the landing.

"Surely," he thought, "North Wind can't be eating one of the children!"

Incidentally, I started At the Back of the North Wind just after finishing The Uninscribed by Stephanie South (which is just about the new-agiest thing I've encountered in my puff, and I say this as someone who has read Pleiadian Perspectives on Human Evolution by Amorah Quan Yin) -- from South to North. South calls herself the Red Queen -- a reference to the nickname of an unidentified Mayan woman, but also a Lewis Carroll character who, since Carroll made it clear she is a different person from the Queen of Hearts, could only be the Queen of Diamonds. Here's the opening paragraph of The Uninscribed:

As a child, I had recurring visions of underground time tunnels in the earth. The tunnels were connected to a transport system with openings that led into past, present, and future. Through these tunnels, I witnessed world wars, a time of dinosaurs and giants, as well as possible futures.

Underground tunnels and dinosaurs are another link to The World Beneath, but also note that the very first sentence mentions time tunnels -- as in my February 24 post "Green Lantern pterosaur time-tunnel story here!" (That was a gematria-inspired title, by the way. In S:E:G:, Green Lantern = pterosaur = time tunnel = story here = 133.)

Today I gave some of my very young English students a test. It was an old test I had made for a different group of students two years ago, well before the pterosaur or dragonfly syncs started. It's testing extremely basic English grammar -- the use of is and are, and giving short answers to yes/no questions. There's a picture and a question of the form "Is it . . .?" or "Are they . . .?" and they have to complete and answer the question. If the correct answer is "No," of course, almost any picture will do, so just for kicks I had thrown in a few random prehistoric creatures. For example:

This is the one that really got my attention today, though:

Not only is it a pterosaur, I'm pretty sure it's supposed to be a Quetzalcoatlus northropi. I may have chosen it as a sort of pun (pterosaurs are called "winged dragons" in Chinese), or maybe it was just totally random, like the hamster titanotheres. Either way, it was a strange coincidence running into it again now.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Monks with smartphones

Last night, someone emailed me a link to Paul Kingsnorth's article "The Universal." At around 1:00 a.m., I read it and the follow-up article "The Neon God." These are about the spiritual implications of computers, the Internet, and AI, and both are highly recommended.

"The Neon God" begins with an anecdote about seeing an Orthodox monk on Mount Athos use a smartphone:

Just thirty years ago there was very little electricity, and most travel was by foot or mule. But Athos has been modernising. Big money has flowed in from some governments and the EU, and the sound of car engines, which had never been heard at all until the 1990s, is now almost as common in some places as the sight of cranes. But it was the intrusion of the digital into the Holy Mountain which shocked me most. The first time I saw an Athonite monk pull a smartphone out from the pocket of his long black robes, I nearly fell over backwards.

There was something about this experience which really hit me. In practical terms it can, no doubt, be explained or justified; anything can if you try hard enough. But the pit that appeared in my stomach when I first saw a monk on the Holy Mountain with one of those black mirrors in his hand came from an instinct I’ve long had: that the sacred and the digital not only don’t mix, but are fatal to each other. That they are in metaphysical opposition. That what comes through these screens bleeds out any connection with the divine, with nature or with the fullness of humanity. Seeing smartphones in a place so dedicated to prayer and to God: I don’t mind admitting that it was a blow. Even here, I thought, even them. If even they can’t make a stand, who possibly could?

Approximately 12 hours later, just after lunch this afternoon, I took out one of the books I have been reading, The Uninscribed by Stephanie South, and read a few pages, starting on p. 168. On the very next page, 169, I read this:

My first trip out of town [after the death of my husband] was to Melbourne to see the Dalai Lama. Votan and I already had tickets and had paid for a hotel for two nights. I had seat 114, sitting next to Votan's empty seat, 113. I thought it curious to see all of the Dalai Lama's monks glued to their cell phones. There was a chaotic feeling in the air.

Kingsnorth's trip to Mount Athos was in 2022, and he was profoundly shocked to see that a monk even owned a smartphone. South, in 2011, saw all the monks glued to their phones but merely "thought it curious."

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Mini T. rex, dragonfly, One33

Yesterday, May 16, in the very same spot where I had earlier found an iron Green Lantern emblem, I found yet another mini T. rex.

996 + 996 = 1992, when the first Dinotopia book was published.

This is the Lonely T. Rex, protagonist of Google Chrome's Dinosaur Game. As in Green Lantern #30, the T. rex and the ptero are enemies. According to Wikipedia:

During the game, the Lonely T-Rex continuously moves from left to right across a black-and-white desert landscape, with the player attempting to avoid oncoming obstacles such as cacti and Pteranodons by jumping or ducking. . . . As the game progresses, the speed of play gradually increases until the user hits an obstacle or a Pterosaur, prompting an instant game over.

Later the same day, I went to Taichung, which I don't do very often, and saw this new-to-me billboard:

One33. As noted in my February 22 post "Will Power is the flame of the Green Lantern!" 133 is the S:E:G: value of Green Lantern, will power, and pterosaur. In Dinotopia, the pterosaur ("skybax") rider is named Will. Note also that the S:E:G: value of the word one is 34, so here's another juxtaposition of 34 and 33.

In the evening, I went to my school. (I have most of Tuesday off, with just two classes in the evening.) We have a big magnetic bulletin board, and several of the magnets used to hold things up there have the form of insects: eight or nine butterflies and one dragonfly. When I arrived last night, I found that one of these had been placed on my desk because the magnetic part had fallen off, making it unusable. No points for guessing which one it was.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Dragonflies and double-D lemniscates

In my May 13 post "Syncs: The World Beneath," I mention parallels between Dinotopia: The World Beneath and the trailer for the upcoming movie Meg 2: The Trench. -- the most noticeable being that both begin with "dragonfly" scenes.

Less than 24 hours after publishing that post, I happened to see the trailer for the 2017 movie Kong: Skull Island, and it, too, throws in some dragonfly footage.

Both trailers also prominently feature helicopters, but that's pretty much a given in a monster movie. Anyway, the dragonfly sync was enough to make me watch the whole movie. Skull Island features two fictional organizations: LandSat, whose satellites discovered the titular island (which, like Dinotopia, is kept isolated by permanent storm systems that surround it); and Monarch, a secret organization that deals with monsters and which apparently originally comes from the Godzilla franchise. (I've never actually watched a Godzilla movie myself.) LandSat's logo features the double-D, and Monarch's is a double-delta lemniscate. Monarch has its own Twitter page, with the slogan "Discovery and Defense in a Time of Monsters."

Discovery and Defense = D&D, and Time is a link to the hourglass. The logo looks like a sideways hourglass, but I suppose it is intended to suggest the letter M and a butterfly.

A secret government program that calls itself Monarch and uses butterfly imagery? I suppose anyone who reads this blog is conspiracy-adjacent enough to recognize that as an MKUltra reference. In the 2009 movie The Men Who Stare at Goats (part of an extremely improbable sync of its own), a reporter works to expose MKUltra-type activity, but is dismayed when the media only picks up one point, which it plays for laughs: that the government tortures people by forcing them to listen non-stop to the theme song from Barney the Purple Dinosaur

This is a pretty clear link to the Dinotopia concept: humans and dinosaurs living together in harmony.

I should also mention that a shape like the Monarch logo puts in an appearance in the music video for Muse's "Sing for Absolution":

As one final sync wink on the night of May 13, I listened to Alex Jones on Joe Rogan (from 2019), and one of the many things they discussed was Dragonfly, a (since-abandoned) project by Google to create a search engine that would be compatible with Chinese censorship requirements and thus be allowed to operate in that country. (The idea of Google cooperating with government censorship was considered shocking back then. How times change!)

Monday, May 15, 2023

Yet another mini T. rex, and the Black Dog Star trifecta

On my way home on Saturday (May 13), I was about to pass a little mom-and-pop general store that I always pass, when I suddenly thought, "Oh, I should stop there. I need to buy -- uh, peanuts and whiskey. I think we're running low on peanuts and whiskey." Actually, we had no peanuts or whiskey at all, which was quite normal, as neither of those items is a regular part of my diet. This was obviously just the left brain spinning its wheels trying to rationalize a hunch, but whatever; I stopped and bought some peanuts and whiskey. When I came out, I found this lying on the pavement just inches from my parked motorcycle:

This is what we call a mini T. rex. It's like, how much more of a mini T. rex could this be? And the answer is none. None more. I'm pretty sure it wasn't there when I parked, though I suppose I could have missed it. Back on April 7, I came out of a shop and found near my motorcycle a piece of rusted metal in the shape of the Green Lantern emblem.

I was pretty sure that hadn't been there when I had arrived, either, but in fact it had. When I had arrived, I had snapped a photo of a scooter that had paw prints and "Let's Go" on it, and the Green Lantern object is clearly visible in the background.

I had taken that photo because black dogs and paw prints had begun to appear in my sync stream. This made me go back and read the first post on Black Dog Star, from 2009. (Unfortunately, all the images from that post are now dead links, making it a little hard to follow.) The very first synchronistic pattern that Arrowsmith identified was the co-occurrence of three things: (1) paw prints, (2) a pair of pentagrams (five-pointed stars), and (3) a name with the initials PP. One of the early instances of this pattern was the 2002 Spider-Man movie:

In this sequence we see Peter Parker chasing his school bus which has a banner displaying the Paw Prints and a Pair of (green) Pentagrams

On Saturday evening, shortly after finding the mini T. rex, I stopped at a pet supply store I had never been inside before: Pet Park. I had actually posted a photo of this place back in 2021, in a post called "Secretly Spid-Man." That is, the whole point of the post was to note the similarity of the name to Peter Parker.

Although I had cropped it off in the photo posted in 2021, the logo also includes -- unsurprisingly for a pet shop -- a paw print.

So that's two out of three: the paw print, and a name with the initials PP -- and not just any name, but one that I had already noticed was very similar to Peter Parker. No pair of pentagrams, though, until on Saturday I finally went inside and found this:

There's a pair of pentagrams just above the Shiba Inu, so that's the trifecta. Later on, Arrowsmith decided that the two pentagrams represented the Sun and the Black Dog Star (Sirius), so it's appropriate that the Pet Park pentagrams include a bright white star and its dark shadow.

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Syncs: The World Beneath

On the afternoon of May 12, I was in my school's library looking for a particular book when a book spontaneously fell from its place on the shelf. Stooping to pick it up, I was startled to see on the cover a yellow (mostly yellow) ptero.

I was vaguely aware that there was a series of books called Dinotopia (Greek for "terrible place"!) but had never read any of them. Naturally, after it had jumped out at me, with a sync-fairy calling card on the cover, I had to pick it up and take a look. There were, unsurprisingly, numerous syncs, only some of which I can get into in this post.

I first checked the copyright page and saw that the book had been published in 1995. I thought, "Wow, that's kind of a long time ago. I was 16." Then, skimming the first few pages, I discovered that the boy on the cover -- the character who rides the yellow-winged ptero -- is named Will and is 16 years old.

I tried to read the book but just couldn't manage to plow through it. James Gurney is an artist, not a writer, and the story -- which really exists only as an excuse for the wonderful illustrations -- is very poorly written. I skimmed it, though, and basically there are two parallel plotlines: Will has to fly his ptero into T. rex territory to get a medicinal plant to save a baby Triceratops; meanwhile, his father, Arthur, takes a submarine down to the titular "world beneath," where he discovers the ruins of the dino version of Atlantis.

The story opens with Will testing, and crashing, a "dragoncopter" designed by his father. This is an ornithopter patterned after a dragonfly. This was a minor sync, because earlier that day I had created a vocabulary quiz for my students. One of the target words was dragonfly, and on the quiz I put a picture of a dragonfly and wrote "The _____ has four wings." The illustration in the Dinotopia book also emphasized the four wings.

Later in the story, a key is needed to open a door in the world beneath. Two of the characters each have a half-key, and these must be combined in order to open the door. Each half-key features a spiral and a semicircle (D-shape), and when combined they form something very close to a lemniscate -- so, another double-D lemniscate sync, combined with the "opening the door" theme.

I was also surprised to run into this picture on p. 68:

Recognize that image? Back in December, I illustrated my post "Nutmeg is a drug" with this meme:

It was just some random meme I had run into a few weeks before and saved because I thought it was funny. (I don't remember where I got it; possibly 4chan or Secret Sun.) When I wrote a post about accidentally taking a psychoactive dose of nutmeg, I remembered that meme and put it in the post. Well, apparently this is where the picture originally came from.

Later that evening, I was at home doing some housework and playing some music on YouTube. I don't have a paid account, which means my playlist is interrupted from time to time with ads. One of these ads had just started playing, and I was going to tap "skip" when I noticed what it was saying: ". . . deep in the trench. It's an ancient ecosystem, untouched by man." Since Dinotopia: The World Beneath had featured an underwater journey to "Gold Digger Trench," home to an ancient ecosystem untouched by man (trilobites, a Devonian Dunkleosteus, etc.), that got my attention. It was a movie trailer, and I decided to watch it to the end to see what the movie was. The title was displayed only in Chinese, but it looked like it must be a sequel to the Jason Stathan shark movie The Meg.

After I'd finished the chores, I got on my computer and looked up the trailer for said sequel, which turns out to be called Meg 2: The Trench. The Dinotopia book not only features "Gold Digger Trench" but also has a minor character named Meg.

Here's the trailer:

Despite the fact that this is a shark movie, the first thing we see in the trailer is a dragonfly, followed shortly by a T. rex. This closely parallels Dinotopia: The World Beneath, which opens with Will attempting to pilot a dragoncopter, "designed after a dragonfly," and then has him go off on a mission to T. rex land. Near the end of the trailer, we see a helicopter fall down into the sea and disappear beneath the surface. This is also the fate of Will's dragoncopter: "The Dragoncopter buried its head in the foam and was instantly dragged down, never to be seen again."

I suppose the name Meg is also another sync with the "Nutmeg is a drug" post.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

How do US presidents end their speeches? (with a 3-6-9 postscript)

I just read "Weird Things About King Charles' Coronation" by Naomi Wolf, who argues that the coronation was rendered "uncanny" by slight but noticeable departures from established tradition. I'm not British, didn't watch the coronation, and have no opinion on this, but something else she said jumped out at me:

When we as Americans see the Stars and Stripes saluted - and we know that it is the same salute that goes back most of our nation’s history - we are comforted. When the US President ends his every major speech with the phrase "and God Bless the United States of America", that repetition is not only reassuring, it creates an invocation for our national life extending from deep into the past, giving us promise for the future. All of this is a form of positive magic.

[. . .]

I have noticed that icons, symbols and texts that are culturally central to Western countries, and that are central to the Judeo-Christian tradition especially, are being slightly rearranged, slightly soiled, slightly garbled these days everywhere (just as President Biden keeps systematically not concluding his speeches with: "And God bless the United States of America").

"God bless the United States of America"? Did she do that on purpose, to see if anyone would prove her point by noticing it? The traditional way to end a presidential speech is "God bless you, and God bless America," and Wolf's paraphrase is just the sort of "slightly garbled" modification she decries.

That was my immediate reaction, anyway, but I figured I'd better confirm it. I checked the transcripts of every State of the Union address in the last 100 years, and here's what I found.

First, ending the speech with any form of "God bless . . ." is a relatively recent custom, introduced by Ronald Reagan. Of the 60 pre-Reagan addresses I looked at, 95% end with no such formula. The three exceptions are from Truman ("May God bless our country and our cause," 1953), Kennedy ("may God watch over the United States of America," 1962), and Ford ("God bless you," 1977). Since Reagan's first State of the Union in 1982, though, every single address (with the one exception of Clinton in 1999) has ended with some form of "God bless . . . ."

From Reagan to the present, here is what presidents have blessed at the close of their State of the Union addresses:

Here's how they have referred to their country in these statements:

As for specific, word-for-word formulas, these are the only ones that have been used more than once or twice:
  • God bless you, and God bless America. (used 8 times, by Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and Trump)
  • God bless America. (used 4 times, by Clinton, Bush II, and Trump)
  • God bless you. (used 4 times, only by Reagan)
  • God bless you, and God bless the United States of America. (used 3 times, only by Obama)
  • God bless you all, and may God protect our troops. (used 3 times, only by Biden)
So I feel a bit vindicated. Although the formula is neither as old nor as invariable as I had expected, the form I remembered is in fact the most canonical, used twice as frequently as any other. The difference between my own understanding and Wolf's probably has to do with the fact that I left the United States in 2004 and haven't watched a full State of the Union address since then, whereas Wolf presumably listened to Obama's addresses, with their (anomalous) preference for "the United States of America."

Anyway, Wolf's overall point stands: Biden is the only recent president to consistently end his speeches without invoking God's blessing on the country. It's also strange that Biden, not any of the wartime presidents who preceded him, should be the one to introduce "our troops" into the formula.

Reading Naomi Wolf -- a person whose existence hadn't crossed my mind in years -- made me think of the time she was interviewed by Ali G and managed to come off as cool and likable, something of which feminists seem no longer to be capable. (Then I found out that, after the show, she denounced Ali G as a racist and tried to have the episode pulled! She did manage to be cool and likable while she was actually on camera, which is something anyway.)

This little exchange caught my attention:

Wolf: But let me tell you, honestly, how would you feel if you had to sell sex, your sex?

Ali G: What, if people paid me money for sex?

Wolf: No, honestly! I mean --

Ali G: Wicked! I would be there every day, I would [unintelligible] 24 hours a day, seven days a week, three six nine!

Booyakasha! She walked right into that one. Notice, though, how he uses "three six nine," apparently with a meaning similar to "twenty-four seven." Debbie has brought up 3-6-9 several times in the comments, in connection with Shirley Ellis's "Clapping Song" and a statement by Nikola Tesla, but this is the first time I've ever heard it used in a slang sense. (In the Ellis song, I'd always assumed it had no real meaning but was analogous to "Two four six eight, who do we appreciate.") Has anyone ever heard it used this way before?

Monday, May 8, 2023

Crowns, martyrs, and Mithras (sync but not only sync)

My last post dealt with syncs related to the Ace of Swords and the cover of the Neal Stephenson novel Snow Crash.

Later I noticed that, in addition to passing through Stephen (from the Greek for "crown"), the sword on the Snow Crash cover also passes through the letters of the English word crown.

The Ace of Swords also resembles the coat of arms granted to Joan of Arc. Since the sword-and-crown design originates in France (Tarot de Marseille) and does not appear on pre-Marseille Italian cards (Visconti-Sforza), this is probably not a coincidence. The Snow Crash cover features the the word Arc spelled backwards.

On May 4, I happened to read this in Manly P. Hall's The Secret Teachings of All Ages:

Initiation into the rites of Mithras, like initiation into many other ancient schools of philosophy, apparently consisted of three important degrees. Preparation for these degrees consisted of self-purification, the building up of intellectual powers, and the control of the animal nature. In the first degree the candidate was given a crown upon the point of a sword and instructed in the mysteries of Mithras' hidden power. Probably he was taught that the golden crown represented his own spiritual nature, which must be objectified and unfolded before he could truly glorify Mithras; for Mithras was his own soul, standing as mediator between Ormuzd, his spirit, and Ahriman, his animal nature.

Is this relevant to the image on the Ace of Swords? The bolded passage could mean that a crown is hung on the point of a sword and thus presented to the candidate, but Hall's Masonic background suggests another reading:

Senior Deacon steps back, while the Junior Deacon, with candidate, enters the Lodge, followed by the two Stewards. As they advance they are stopped by the Senior Deacon, who presents one point of the compasses to the candidate's naked left breast, and says:

S. D. -- Mr. Gabe, on entering this Lodge for the first time, I receive you on the point of a sharp instrument pressing your naked left breast, which is to teach you, as it is a torture to your flesh, so should the recollection of it ever be to your mind and conscience, should you attempt to reveal the secrets of Masonry unlawfully.

In the above passage, from Duncan's Masonic Ritual and Monitor, receiving the candidate "on the point of a sharp instrument" means receiving him while pressing the point of such an instrument against his body. In the same way, "upon the point of a sword" may have a meaning corresponding to that of "at gunpoint," meaning that the candidate is threatened with a sword as he is given a crown, as if the crown is being forced upon him.

Trying to track down Hall's possible sources in ancient literature, I found only a couple of passages in Tertullian. The first is from Prescription Against Heretics, Chapter LX:

He [the devil], too, baptizes some -- that is, his own believers and faithful followers; he promises the putting away of sins by a laver (of his own); and if my memory still serves me, Mithra there, (in the kingdom of Satan,) sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; celebrates also the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and before a sword wreathes a crown [sub gladio redimit coronam].

The translator calls the clause I have bolded "obscure," which it certainly is. A strictly literal reading would be "under a sword redeems a crown." Whatever that may mean, sub gladio ("under a sword") can't very well mean that the crown was on the sword.

The other Tertullian passage, from De Corona, Chapter XV, goes into somewhat more detail and seems likely to be Hall's source:

Blush, ye fellow-soldiers of his [Christ's], henceforth not to be condemned even by him, but by some soldier of Mithras, who, at his initiation in the gloomy cavern, in the camp, it may well be said, of darkness, when at the sword’s point a crown is presented to him [coronam interposito gladio sibi oblatam], as though in mimicry of martyrdom, and thereupon put upon his head, is admonished to resist and cast it off, and, if you like, transfer it to his shoulder, saying that Mithras is his crown. And thenceforth he is never crowned; and he has that for a mark to show who he is, if anywhere he be subjected to trial in respect of his religion; and he is at once believed to be a soldier of Mithras if he throws the crown away -- if he say that in his god he has his crown. Let us take note of the devices of the devil, who is wont to ape some of God’s things with no other design than, by the faithfulness of his servants, to put us to shame, and to condemn us.

This is literally "he is presented a crown with a sword interposed," which again seems unlikely to mean that the sword itself was "crowned," as in the Ace. I think that what Tertullian means is that the candidate is "forced" at swordpoint to accept the crown but is nevertheless supposed to reject it, expressing the fact that he would rather die than accept any other crown than Mithras himself. (Is there a pun here on Mithras and mitra, "mitre"?) It seems strange to us today, when almost nobody ever wears a crown, that not wearing one could be "a mark to show who" is a true follower of Mithras, but things were different in Tertullian's time. De Corona opens with this anecdote:

Very lately it happened thus: while the bounty of our most excellent emperors was dispensed in the camp, the soldiers, laurel-crowned, were approaching. One of them, more a soldier of God, more stedfast than the rest of his brethren, who had imagined that they could serve two masters, his head alone uncovered, the useless crown in his hand -- already even by that peculiarity known to every one as a Christian -- was nobly conspicuous. Accordingly, all began to mark him out, jeering him at a distance, gnashing on him near at hand. The murmur is wafted to the tribune, when the person had just left the ranks. 

The tribune at once puts the question to him, "Why are you so different in your attire?" 

He declared that he had no liberty to wear the crown with the rest. 

Being urgently asked for his reasons, he answered, "I am a Christian." 

O soldier! boasting thyself in God. Then the case was considered and voted on; the matter was remitted to a higher tribunal; the offender was conducted to the prefects. . . . and now, purple-clad with the hope of his own blood . . . and crowned more worthily with the white crown of martyrdom, he awaits in prison the largess of Christ.

Apparently, it was common practice for all the soldiers in a victorious army to be given laurel crowns, thus making Christians (and Mithraists) conspicuous in their refusal to wear them. In this story, the Christian expects to be put to death for this refusal, so he has, figuratively speaking, been presented with a crown "at the sword's point." Since Tertullians point is that the Mithraists sometimes put Christians to shame, we may presume that the Mithraic story has the same meaning: The sword symbolizes a threat should he refuse to wear the crown, and yet he is to defy the threat and refuse.

Tertullian's reference to "the white crown of martyrdom" is curious, since the term "white martyr," as contrasted with "red martyr," typically refers to someone who is persecuted for his faith but not killed. In the 1906 vision of Maximilian Kolbe, the white crown "meant that I should persevere in purity and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both." White apparently did not yet have this connotation for Tertullian, though, since he describes his white-crowned martyr as "purple-clad with the hope of his own blood."

Whatever Tertullian's reason for calling the crown of martyrdom "white," it syncs with the Snow Crash cover, where the word snow appears in place of the crown.

Random syncs: Ace of Swords, 1320

In my recent post "Good Shepherd Sunday (knock, knock)," I describe how I went to a used bookstore and found two books -- one by French archbishop  -- which both prominently referenced Jesus' saying "Knock, and it shall be opened unto you" and had other coincidental connections as well (such as each quoting Thomas Merton on page 18).

I bought a few other books while I was there, too, including one which was pretty clearly what I believe is vulgarly yclept "woo" but which I picked up anyway for sync-related reasons. The spine caught my eye for no other reason than that it was red and the author's name was Stephanie -- which I suppose requires some explanation. I had recently been brooding over the Ace of Swords, the Marseille version, which features a red sword passing through a crown, and at the same time had (again!) been experiencing some synchronicities related to the name Lorenzo Snow. These latter had made me think of various other things with snow in their name. I listened to that Red Hot Chili Peppers song, and then I thought of the novel Snow Crash, which I read back in 2001. Vaguely remembering that there had been a Sumerian god or something on the cover, I googled it. I did find the cover I had remembered, but the first image result was the cover of a more recent edition:

The similarity to the Ace of Swords is obvious. Besides the red sword pointing upward, there are the bits of radiance off to the sides, in the same colors -- red, yellow, white, and light blue. On the Ace, the sword passes through a crown from which a laurel branch and a palm frond hang. The laurel (from which the name Lorenzo ultimately derives) is a symbol of victory, and the palm is a symbol of martyrdom. On the novel cover, the sword passes through Snow, a big letter A (Ace), Neal (of uncertain etymology, but often taken to mean "victory" or "champion"), and Stephen (meaning "crown," and also the name of the first Christian martyr).

Returning to the bookstore, the color red and the name Stephanie (feminine of Stephen) isn't much of a link, but it was enough to make me pull the book off the shelf and look at it. Something on the back cover caught my eye:

"We can never find the Truth without seeking" -- yet another reference to "Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you." On top of that, it appeared to have something to do with an unorthodox understanding of time, which is a major interest of mine. That was enough to make me buy it, in spite of all the goofy "Galactic Mayan mind lineage" stuff.

That was a week ago. On May 7, having just finished the François Fénelon and Ravi Shankar books, I turned to The Uninscribed. Opening it up, I found this on the page just before the first chapter:

Oh, my.

If some of the contents your brain can't hack
See the synchronic notes in the back

Since synchronicity was my whole reason for buying the book in the first place, I immediately turned to the back of the book to see these "synchronic notes" -- which turn out to be a set of completely unintelligible endnotes that say things like this:

July 25, 2003. Red Planetary Skywalker, Kin 153. Day out of Time. Gateway to the White Spectral Wizard year. Fire initiation.

Alberto Ruz Buenfil. Blue Cosmic Monkey, Kin 91. 

What if my brain can't hack the synchronic notes, either? Then what?

Before finding the notes themselves, though, I turned to the very last page in the book, where I found this:

One of the author's websites is called 1320frequencyshift. Remembering that the number 1320 had been in the sync-stream before, I checked my blog to find where. It was from my "planet n00b" posts ("Where's planet n00b? Oh, there it is!" and "I hate coincidence: From planet n00b to Mr. T cereal and back again").

A commenter had noted the "ACT" placard in the background and, replacing each of the letters with its ordinal value, arrived at 1320. When my second post included references to "planet 133t" and Mr. T, he noted that 133t = 13320, and Mr. T's initials, MT = 1320.

Another commenter had asked me to explain why 133t was the opposite of n00b, so I obliged:

n00b = newbie
133t = elite h4x0r (opposite of n00b)

So the same posts that reference 1320 also say that a newb is the opposite of a hacker. I found the 1320 reference in Uninscribed by following instructions intended for those who "can't hack." The string newb also appears on the back cover, where it says, "this book is a New Beam Genesis story."

Friday, May 5, 2023

A door unattached to a building

On Wednesday, May 3, I was searching for a black-and-white line drawing I could use as a visual prompt to elicit the word woods on a vocabulary quiz I was making. One of the results Google served up was this:

What caught my eye was the caption, "Door in a wall in the woods," since I had recently read the H. G. Wells story "The Door in the Wall" in connection with the ongoing Green Door sync-stream. It's not exactly what you expect to find when the search prompt is just the word woods.

Then I noticed that the rest of the caption didn't seem to match the picture: "One of my favorite star trail drawings - tree buddies under a sky full of stars including Orion and Canis Major." What? "Tree buddies," okay, but there are no stars in the picture.

I clicked through, and apparently the star stuff is just an error on Google's part. The site with the drawing says this instead:

I was thinking about drawing an actual dwelling/cabin/house and then instead I just really liked the idea of a door in a wall in the woods - maybe you enter another realm or maybe just the way you enter the forest. Maybe it's just a weird art installation. 

So I ran a search for woods and ended up with a picture of a door with no building attached to it, as well as references to Orion and Canis Major.

Now things get really weird.

Last night (March 4, the day after I found the "woods" picture), I visited YouTube for the first time in a few weeks, following a link sent by a friend. After watching that video, YouTube suggested that I might want to watch this completely unrelated one:

"Ex Pastor Reveals Information That Will Blow Your Mind! Asherah - Pleiadians in the Bible?" Okay, this is obviously going to be some guy with an exceedingly loose definition of evidence just pulling things out of his ass, but -- well, why not? I'm on YouTube; might as well indulge in the full YouTube experience. I watched it.

It's the usual all-the-gods-were-extraterrestrials stuff. The video opens with a description of an archaeological site in the Middle East and focuses on one of the artifacts found there: a door unattached to a building.

Among the archaeological finds made here was an extraordinary carving of a naos. A naos is a doorway, but completely out of context. There's nothing behind it. There's no surrounding building.

A naos is a really interesting object. The conventional explanation is that this depiction of a doorway represents an entire building, but the building is not depicted. The building is considered to be implied. But if I just describe it to you and say we're looking at a doorway that appears to go nowhere -- there's nothing around it, there's nothing behind it -- and yet from this thing that is only a doorway, advanced beings can come through that doorway -- now in contemporary language, we have a word for that. We would call it a portal.

Flanking this particular doorway are two inverted palm trees, ancient symbols of Asherah. 

So not only is that a door without a building, it's also immediately associated with trees and with the goddess -- sorry, I mean the alien -- Asherah. This particular "advanced being" is mentioned many times in the Old Testament, but in the King James Version her name is translated as grove -- a word which typically means "a small wood or other group of trees."

Later in the video, the mind-blowing ex-pastor reveals that some of the carvings on the naos represent the Pleiades and tell us that Asherah was from there. He says that there are three particular stars or constellations that appear again and again in myths throughout the world: Orion, Sirius, and the Pleiades. Sirius is, of course, the most prominent star in the constellation Canis Major. Orion and Canis Major were the two constellations mentioned in Google's bizarre caption for the "door in the woods" picture.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Good Shepherd Sunday (knock, knock)

Yesterday was, with the exception of a couple of funerals I attended in childhood, my first time attending a Roman Catholic Mass.

I had actually intended to go to Mass three weeks previous, on Easter Sunday. On Good Friday, I contacted the only Catholic church in my city (a Filipino congregation) via their Facebook page and asked if and when they had Latin or English Masses. It turns out there are no Latin Masses celebrated anywhere on the entire island of Taiwan, but the local Filipino church does have an English Mass every Sunday morning. Then, having noticed that all the photos on the church's Facebook page showed people wearing Science Masks, I asked if they were required there -- and was told that they were! Well, in the end I just wasn't willing to compromise on that, and so I didn't go.

Fast forward three weeks.

I was up extremely late this Saturday night -- my head didn't hit the pillow until nearly five in the morning -- and, not having set an alarm clock, I expected I would probably sleep until noon or later. Instead, I spontaneously woke up in the morning, aware that I had just been dreaming and that the dream had ended with someone saying, "Wake up, time to go to Mass." I glanced at the clock and saw that, yes, I had just enough time to catch English Mass if I got up and started getting ready right away. So I did. As for the Science Mask issue, I figured I'd just not wear one and hope nobody said anything about it. That worked, and the Mass was a good experience. It was only about 90% in English, but that was good enough. If you ever need to say "Behold the body of Christ" in Tagalog, by the way, it's apparently "Ang katawan ni Kristo."

Unbeknownst to me, the third Sunday after Easter is called Good Shepherd Sunday because that's the Gospel reading for the day, and it was the subject of the priest's sermon. He particularly emphasized the first two verses: "He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep" (John 10:1-2). The emphasis on door imagery struck me as synchronistically relevant. In fact, the very text I have quoted put in an appearance in the sync stream back in January ("The gate is strait, deep and wide -- and doves" and "The strait and wide gates, ripe and green figs, abundant life, red and white doves").

In the afternoon, I visited a used bookstore in Taichung and browsed the handful of shelves devoted to English works. One that caught my eye was Meditations on the Heart of God by François Fénelon -- a name I recognized as one frequently cited by Aldous Huxley in The Perennial Philosophy. Several of the other Christian mystics to whom I was introduced by Huxley's book (Thomas Traherne, William Law, The Cloud of Unknowing) have turned out to be very much worth reading, so I thought Fénelon might be worth a gander. I took the book off the shelf and opened it up at random. This was the page I got:

A different Gospel text, also using door imagery -- a minor sync with the Good Shepherd Sunday sermon. I flipped to the foreword and saw that it said, referring to Fénelon, "Come with me now and sit at the feet of this beloved shepherd, and hear the words of a wise master" -- that's a much more specific sync with "I am the good shepherd, and my sheep hear my voice."

The chapter title I had opened up to, "Never Stop Knocking," made me visualize knocking on a door, getting no answer -- knocking again, still no answer -- beating on the door as hard just as you can, again and again for a really long time, determined not to stop until someone opens up -- and what it made me think of was the way Elijah taunted the prophets of Baal. "Knock louder," I imagined Fénelon/Elijah saying, "for he is a god! Either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked."

I took the book and moved on to the next shelf, where my eyes immediately lighted on a spine labeled Bang on the Door. I pulled it off the shelf.

Now my natural instinct is to give a very wide berth to anyone with a "guru smile" like that, but in this case my sync curiosity got the better of me. I checked the table of contents and found the chapter which gives the book its name. It has an epigraph from Thomas Merton and then begins with a pretty clear reference to the same Gospel passage that served as Fénelon's text for "Never Stop Knocking."

Several thousand years ago someone said, "Knock and it shall be opened unto you." The human mind two thousand years ago was simple, natural, closer to the source. One needed only to knock on the door and it would open. Today the mind has become more complex, more confused. Knocking will not help. One has to bang on the door.

Five thousand years ago a person would not have needed to knock. He would have found an automatic door. The moment he went near the door, it would have opened. . . . The state of humankind five thousand years ago was much simpler than it is now.

That image -- really banging on the door because no one's answering when you just knock normally -- is virtually identical to the one brought to mind by Fénelon's chapter title. The general theme of the passage I have quoted -- how primitive people apprehended spiritual reality more directly, without conscious effort, than we do today -- also syncs with another book I am reading at the moment, Saving the Appearances by Owen Barfield.

When I got home, I started reading the Fénelon book, starting with the biographical introduction by Robert J. Edmondson. Half the citations in the introduction come from none other than Thomas Merton, the same 20th-century Catholic monk quoted by the Indian guru.

In Bang on the Door, the Merton quote is on page 18. In Meditations on the Heart of God, the Merton citations are on page xviii.

The second and third chapters of Meditations on the Heart of God are called "The Kingdom Within" and "The Narrow Door." This quote is featured on the back cover of Bang on the Door:

You are locked out of your own house. Bang on your inner door. Right now you are on the doorstep. Do not delay a moment. All wealth is within you. When your inner door opens, there is love, just love.

As a postscript for those of my readers who attribute significance to these two numbers, I should note that among the other titles in the rather meager English section of that used bookstore were a book called The 33 and another one called 34.

Update: I read the Ravi Shankar chapter about banging on the door. Lots of references to one door opening when another closes: "When you shut one door, another door opens all by itself. . . . When you close one door, another door opens. When you close your outside door, then your inner door opens. . . . So we shut the door towards these things and our inner door opens and one day there is just love."

The next day (Monday, May 1), I ran across this meme online:

Update 2: On Tuesday, May 2, I checked /pol/ -- something I haven't been doing much lately -- and found this:

An anon posts the number 33, and his post number ends in 44. Then the very first comment says "I want to get a post ending in 55 please," and it does end in 55! One of the replies claimed this wasn't a real coincidence, though.

Hate to burst the bubble but it's possible to ''queue'' posts so they execute on a particular post number
Don't ask me how, idk

I have no idea whether that's really possible or not -- hax0rz move in a mysterious way their wonders to perform -- but in this case it's not an adequate explanation. The 55 post was the first reply to the 44 post about 33. If the anon had queued it to be posted the next time a number ending in 55 rolled around, rather than posting immediately, it is highly unlikely that he would have been the first.

They are the Eggmen

In connection with my recent posts about Eleanor Cameron's Mushroom Planet  novels, both Wandering Gondola and William Wright have drawn...