Friday, December 19, 2008

Speaking to God

In the Greek and Latinate traditions, the word for God is connected to the ideal of Light, no doubt a connection to solar deities.

However, in Old English language traditions, God is related to words and sound. Consider this from John 1:;&version=31;

The Word Became Flesh

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Let's look at the word Word for a moment. Today it indicates a thing, a noun, but way back when, it was a verb. (All etymological definitions are from the Online Etymology Dictionary at )


O.E. word "speech, talk, utterance, word," from P.Gmc. *wurdan (cf. O.S., O.Fris. word, Du. woord, O.H.G., Ger. wort, O.N. orð, Goth. waurd), from PIE *were- "speak, say" (see verb).


1388, from O.Fr. verbe "part of speech that expresses action or being," from L. verbum "verb," originally "a word," from PIE base *were- (cf. Avestan urvata- "command;" Skt. vrata- "command, vow;" Gk. rhetor "public speaker," rhetra "agreement, covenant," eirein "to speak, say;" Hittite weriga- "call, summon;" Lith. vardas "name;" Goth. waurd, O.E. word "word").

Now, if God was the Word and the word was a verb, God moves from being an "it" to a "be," from an "out there" to an "in here," from a separate personage/being to an activity in which we all are included in our Being-ness.

Checking out God again, how do we access this being-ness? Possibly through the practice of making sounds. The derivation of the word God shows us how earliest peoples connected with deity; they called or invoked the divine.


O.E. god "supreme being, deity," from P.Gmc. *guthan (cf. Du. god, Ger. Gott, O.N. guð, Goth. guþ), from PIE *ghut- "that which is invoked" (cf. Skt. huta- "invoked," an epithet of Indra), from root *gheu(e)- "to call, invoke." Not related to good. Originally neut. in Gmc., the gender shifted to masc. after the coming of Christianity.

Here is a peek into some of the ways we talk to God. You'll notice that these methods are universal, another example of how unified we truly are in our seeming diversity!


c.1290, "ask earnestly, beg," also "pray to a god or saint," from O.Fr. preier (c.900), from L. precari "ask earnestly, beg," from *prex (plural preces, gen. precis) "prayer, request, entreaty," from PIE base *prek- "to ask, request, entreat" (cf. Skt. prasna-, Avestan frashna- "question;" O.C.S. prositi, Lith. prasyti "to ask, beg;" O.H.G. frahen, Ger. fragen, O.E. fricgan "to ask" a question).


1377, bede "prayer bead," from O.E. gebed "prayer," from P.Gmc. *beðan (cf. M.Du. bede, O.H.G. beta, Ger. bitte, Goth. bida). Shift in meaning came via beads threaded on a string to count prayers, and in phrases like to bid one's beads, to count one's beads. Ger. cognate Bitte is the usual word for conversational request "please." Also related to bid (O.E. biddan) and Goth. bidjan "to ask, pray." [This is a very universal tradition: to name a few, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims all use prayer beads.]


1808, "that part of the Vedas which contains hymns," from Skt. mantra-s "sacred message or text, charm, spell, counsel," lit. "instrument of thought," related to manyate "thinks." Sense of "special word used for meditation" is first recorded in Eng. 1956.


c.1386, from O.Fr. chanter, from L. cantare, freq. of canere "sing," from PIE base *kan- "to sing" (cf. Gk. eikanos "cock," O.E. hana "cock," both lit. "bird who sings for sunrise;" O.Ir. caniaid "sings," Welsh canu "sing"). The frequentative quality of the word was no longer felt in L., and by the time Fr. emerged the word had entirely displaced canere.


O.E. singan "to chant, sing, tell in song," also used of birds (class III strong verb; past tense sang, pp. sungen), from P.Gmc. *sengwanan (cf. O.Fris. sionga, M.Du. singhen, O.H.G. singan, Ger. singen, Goth. siggwan, O.N. syngva, Swed. sjunga), from PIE base *sengwh- "to sing, make an incantation." No related forms in other languages, unless perhaps it is connected to Gk. omphe "voice" (especially of a god), "oracle;" and Welsh dehongli "explain, interpret." The typical IE root is represented by L. canere (see chant).


c.1384, "a message from a god, expressed by divine inspiration," from O.Fr. oracle (12c.), from L. oraculum "divine announcement, oracle," from orare "pray, plead" (see orator), with material instrumental suffix -culo-. In antiquity, "the agency or medium of a god," also "the place where such divine utterances were given." This sense is attested in Eng. from c.1400.


c.1305, from O.Fr. aourer "to adore, worship," from L. adorare "speak to formally, beseech," in L.L. "to worship," from ad- "to" + orare "speak formally, pray" (see orator).

We know that any of these activities, when we engage in them whole-heartedly, invokes a state of altered consciousness. That is often the reason we practice them, to walk through the door from the everyday world and become One with Universal energies.

So, whether you sing, pray, chant, or even consult an oracle, you are engaging in the Word and the word is Be-ing, and the Word/Be-ing Is GOD.

And so are we all.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Are you the Empty Vessel or the Hollow Bamboo?

Imagine that the water pouring through the bamboo and into the pot is Love, Light, Source, or Universal Consciousness….God if you will. Take a moment to consider how the bamboo and the pot function, and what happens to each as the water of Consciousness continuously flows.

Many traditions around the world embrace the core concept of the Empty Vessel. The foundation of the practice is that as you become full with ideas, knowledge, or ego, you must give up or give away that which has filled you so that you may attain innocence and egolessness and therefore experience Oneness.

In the Daoist tradition that I follow, there is much talk about being an Empty Vessel. There are even books and magazines and CDs about it. This idea comes from many sources, but one of the originals is Verse 11 of the Dao De Jing (Derek Lin translation) which says:

Thirty spokes join in one hub
In its emptiness, there is the function of a vehicle

Mix clay to create a container
In its emptiness, there is the function of a container

Cut open doors and windows to create a room
In its emptiness, there is the function of a room

Therefore, that which exists is used to create benefit

That which is empty is used to create functionality

This teaching shows that only when it is empty can a cup function to hold the liquid you want to drink; only when it is empty can a room contain the furniture for your comfort. Carried into the realm of spirituality, only when it is empty can your mind contain universal consciousness and be filled with Divine Oneness.

Eventually, however, the vessel becomes full again, and either spills over uncontrollably or must be emptied by revisiting the same methods (or trying some new methods) that you used to empty it the last time.

However, if you embrace the paradox of diversity within oneness and are interested in helping others as well as being filled with divine consciousness yourself, the Hollow Bamboo is the way to go. Take a look at the bamboo again: as a channel for universal energies and divine consciousness, it is always full, as well as always sharing this fullness with others.

Here is a lovely metaphor for it, found again in Derek Lin's translation of the Dao De Jing. In the chapter below, the Valley Spirit represents the receptivity of earth. When the heavenly energies settle onto the earth, like the water through the bamboo, they flow to the lowest places. The valley, being the lowest place, collects the most heavenly energies.

Chapter 6

The valley spirit, undying
Is called the Mystic Female

The gateway of the Mystic Female
Is called the root of Heaven and Earth

It flows continuously, barely perceptible
When utilized, it is never exhausted

Just ponder the profound truth of that for a moment: It [heavenly energy and consciousness] flows continuously……When utilized, it is never exhausted.

Isn't the same true of Light, Love, Divine Consciousness? As it pours into you from the universe, and as you allow yourself to be a channel that it may flow through you to provide the same for others, do you not participate in the paradox of diversity while at the same time being always and completely filled with Light, Love, and participating in Universal Oneness?

Of course you do!

So, maybe it's better to be a piece of Hollow Bamboo and to remain full of Light and Love, and leave the Empty Vessel to others.

Derek Lin's online translation of the Dao De Jing may be viewed on his True Tao website Follow the links to the translation of the Tao Te Ching (Dao De Jing).

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Give Peace a Chance

Here are two videos from YouTube, both based on John Lennon's song "Give Peace A Chance" They were created by the same person, have slightly different slide-shows as background, and are just about eight minutes each.


Give Peace A Chance (A Tribute)

Give Peace A Chance (Version 2)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Some theories on the origins of religion

The One Who Watches - petroglyph from The Dalles, Oregon.

From the pages of Religious

Copyright © 2002 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2002-MAR-23
Latest update: 2007-MAR-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

Groups of theories on the origin of religion:

There are two broad groups of theories about the origin of religion.

Faith based: According to David Barrett et al, editors of the "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," there are 19 major world religions which are subdivided into a total of 270 large religious groups, and many unique faith groups. 1 Among this great religious diversity, there are probably hundreds of different religious creation stories which describe how humans, other species of life, the Earth, and the rest of the universe came to be. Many of these stories describe the origins of their particular religion. It was typically a revelation from one or more deities.

Science based: Anthropologists, evolutionary biologists and other researchers have reached a near consensus that humans of the species homo sapiens evolved from a species of proto-humans who originated somewhere in Africa. (This statement probably upsets any white supremacists who are reading this essay. That can't be helped; scientists consider the evidence to be conclusive; ultimately, we are all descended from Africans.) These proto-humans walked upright, and had an opposing thumb and little finger. Their internal brain structure represented a major advance over those of previous animals in terms of its flexibility, its ability to reason, and its ability to plan for the future. This gave proto-humans an improved ability to pass on their accumulated knowledge to their descendents, to form more advanced societies, and ultimately to create religions.

The following essay will deal with the science based theories of the origin of religion. If you are interested in faith-based theories, we suggest that you do a search on Google with a search string like: origin Christianity

Science-based theories of religion:

Nobody knows with accuracy how the first religions evolved. By the time that writing had developed, many religions had been in place for millennia and the details of their origins had been forgotten. However, there is speculation that the first religions were created to give people a feeling of security in an insecure world, and a feeling of control over the environment where there was little control.

The developing abilities of proto-humans were a double-edge sword:

§ On the one hand, they aided their chances of surviving in a cruel and unpredictable world. They helped each successive generation of proto-humans to build upon the knowledge base of their ancestors.

§ This increased mental ability led to a terrifying piece of knowledge: personal mortality. For the first time, individual animals on earth became aware that their life was transient; they would die at some point in their future. This knowledge produced an intolerable emotional drain.

During their evolution from proto-human to full human, they developed questions about themselves and their environment:

§ What controlled the seasonal cycles of nature -- the daily motion of the sun; the motion of the stars, the passing of the seasons, etc.

§ What controlled their environment -- what or who caused floods, rains, dry spells, storms, etc?

§ What controls fertility -- of the tribe, its domesticated animals, and its crops.

§ What system of morality is needed to best promote the stability of the tribe?

§ And above all: what happens to a person after they die?

Living in a pre-scientific society, people had no way to resolve these questions. Even today, with all of our scientific advances, we still debate about the second last question, and still have no way of reaching an consensus on the last. But the need for answers (particularly to the last question) were so important that some response was required, even if they were merely based on hunches. Some people within the tribe started to invent answers based on their personal guesses. Thus developed:

§ The first religious belief system,

§ The first priesthood,

§ The first set of rituals to appease the Goddess,

§ Other rituals to control fertility and other aspects of the environment,

§ A set of behavioral expectations for members of the tribe, and

§ A set of moral truths to govern human behavior.

These formed an oral tradition which was disseminated among the members of the tribe and was taught to each new generation. Much later, when writing was developed, the beliefs were generally recorded in written form. A major loss of flexibility resulted. Oral traditions can evolve over time; written documents tend to be more permanent.

Unfortunately, because these belief systems were based on hunches, the various religions which developed in different areas of the world were all different. Their teachings were in conflict with each other. Because the followers of most religions considered their beliefs to be derived directly from God, they cannot be easily changed. Thus, inter-religious compromise is difficult or impossible. Also, because religious texts are often ambiguous, divisions developed within religions. Different denominations, schools, or traditions have derived different meanings from the same religious texts. Thus were laid the foundations for millennia of inter-religious and intra-religious conflict.

Evolution of religion:

The first organized religions appear to have been based on fertility. They were focused on the worship of the great Earth Goddess. Religion evolved to include male Gods who were gradually given increased importance by the priests. This development may have been caused by developing knowledge of the male's involvement in the process of reproduction.

Today, most people follow either:

§ A monotheistic religion, in which a single male god is worshipped, or

§ A henotheistic religion -- a religion which recognizes a single main deity, but which recognizes other gods and goddesses, heroes, or saints as facets or manifestations or aspects of that supreme God.

Most religions teach that they were directly revealed by their deity/deities to humanity, and are unrelated to other world religions. However there is considerable historical evidence from ancient times that religions in the area from India to the Middle East shared many religious beliefs. One example of this are:

§ The many passages in the Hebrew Scriptures which contain concepts or passages taken from Egyptian, Babylonian and other nearby Pagan religions.

§ Many of the events in the life of Jesus as recorded in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) appear to have been derived from earlier Hinduism and other Pagan religious sources.

Religions were originally based on the particular beliefs of their founders and prophets. Thus, there were few points of similarity among the various spiritual paths:

§ In terms of their belief about supernatural being(s), various faith traditions have taught Agnosticism, Animism, Atheism, Deism, Duotheism, Henotheism, Monism, Monotheism, Panentheism, Pantheism, Polytheism, Trinitarianism, and probably a few that we have missed. It is obvious from these conflicting ideas about deities that almost all religions are just plain wrong.

§ Few agreements exist among the world's religions about religious beliefs, sacred ritual, organizational structure, optimum family structure, personal sexual behavior, etc.

§ Religions' traditional teachings in the area of science differ greatly from each other and from the findings of scientists. Examples are: how the universe was formed, where rainbows came from; the world-wide flood; talking animals; the sun standing still in the sky; the cause of epilepsy, deafness, blindness, and mental illnesses; demonic possession, etc.

Religions today:

Some observers believe that the main function of religions today is to provide their followers with a feeling of security.

John Shelby Spong, retired bishop of the Episcopal Church, USA has written:

"Religion is primarily a search for security and not a search for truth. Religion is what we so often use to bank the fires of our anxiety. That is why religion tends toward becoming excessive, neurotic, controlling and even evil. That is why a religious government is always a cruel government. People need to understand that questioning and doubting are healthy, human activities to be encouraged not to be feared. Certainly is a vice not a virtue. Insecurity is something to be grasped and treasured. A true and healthy religious system will encourage each of these activities. A sick and fearful religious system will seek to remove them."

David C. James, rector of St. John's Episcopal Church & Diocesan Mission Center in Olympia, WA, wrote:

Many times when we think we are worshipping God, we are actually comforting our very fragile egos. I’m not so naïve as to assume that we build temple and erect altars to ourselves…directly. But our core need to been safe, secure and sound mandates that we construct reality systems that will support us. 2


  1. David Barrett et al, "World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions - AD 30 to 2200," Oxford University Press, (2001). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. David C. James, "The Perils of Religion," St. John's Episcopal Church, at:

Friday, June 20, 2008

A Universe In Harmony

I just couldn't resist posting this video from YouTube. It's called The Hubble Deep Field for the pictures returned by the Hubble telescope of the farthest reaches of our univers.

All spiritual traditions look up into the sky at night with awe and amazment. You'll feel it too after watching this six-and-a-half minute video that shows just how breathtaking - not to mention unfathomably large - the universe really is.

"In 2003, the Hubble Space Telescope took the image of a millenium, an image that shows our place in the universe. Anyone who understands what this image represents, is forever changed by it."

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The girl who silenced the world for 5 minutes and Rio Declaration On Environment And Development

Here again is something a bit different than a post on religions; it's about spirits trying to be in environmental harmony; that is, the United Nations General Assembly providing us with 27 principles designed to save and protect the people and the planet.

First, here is a video, an impassioned plea from a young lady who would like some assurance that there will be enough clean air, clear water, and unpolluted food to support the lives of her own children and grandchildren. She made this plea in 1992.

That's right, 16 years ago. Watch this six and a half minute video, then read the Principles that were published by the U. N. General Assembly, and come to your own conclusion as to whether we have stepped up or turned our backs when it comes to protecting the environment and our future generations.

United Nations

General Assembly



(Rio de Janeiro, 3-14 June 1992)

Annex I



The United Nations Conference on Environment and Development,

Having met at Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992,

Reaffirming the Declaration of the United Nations Conference on the Human

Environment, adopted at Stockholm on 16 June 1972, a/ and seeking to build upon it,

With the goal of establishing a new and equitable global partnership through the creation of new levels of cooperation among States, key sectors of societies and people,

Working towards international agreements which respect the interests of all and protect the integrity of the global environmental and developmental system,

Recognizing the integral and interdependent nature of the Earth, our home,

Proclaims that:

Principle 1

Human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.

Principle 2

States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to exploit their own resources pursuant to their own environmental and developmental policies, and the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States or of areas beyond the limits of national jurisdiction.

Principle 3

The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations.

Principle 4

In order to achieve sustainable development, environmental protection shall constitute an integral part of the development process and cannot be considered in isolation from it.

Principle 5

All States and all people shall cooperate in the essential task of eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development, in order to decrease the disparities in standards of living and better meet the needs of the majority of the people of the world.

Principle 6

The special situation and needs of developing countries, particularly the least developed and those most environmentally vulnerable, shall be given special priority. International actions in the field of environment and development should also address the interests and needs of all countries.

Principle 7

States shall cooperate in a spirit of global partnership to conserve, protect and restore the health and integrity of the Earth's ecosystem. In view of the different contributions to global environmental degradation, States have common but differentiated responsibilities. The developed countries acknowledge the responsibility that they bear in the international pursuit of sustainable development in view of the pressures their societies place on the global environment and of the technologies and financial resources they command.

Principle 8

To achieve sustainable development and a higher quality of life for all

people, States should reduce and eliminate unsustainable patterns of production

and consumption and promote appropriate demographic policies.

Principle 9

States should cooperate to strengthen endogenous capacity-building for sustainable development by improving scientific understanding through exchanges of scientific and technological knowledge, and by enhancing the development, adaptation, diffusion and transfer of technologies, including new and innovative technologies.

Principle 10

Environmental issues are best handled with the participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities in their communities, and the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes. States shall facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available. Effective access to judicial and administrative proceedings, including redress and remedy, shall be provided.

Principle 11

States shall enact effective environmental legislation. Environmental standards, management objectives and priorities should reflect the environmental and developmental context to which they apply. Standards applied by some countries may be inappropriate and of unwarranted economic and social cost to other countries, in particular developing countries.

Principle 12

States should cooperate to promote a supportive and open international economic system that would lead to economic growth and sustainable development in all countries, to better address the problems of environmental degradation. Trade policy measures for environmental purposes should not constitute a means of arbitrary or unjustifiable discrimination or a disguised restriction on international trade. Unilateral actions to deal with environmental challenges outside the jurisdiction of the importing country should be avoided. Environmental measures addressing transboundary or global environmental problems should, as far as possible, be based on an international consensus.

Principle 13

States shall develop national law regarding liability and compensation for the victims of pollution and other environmental damage. States shall also cooperate in an expeditious and more determined manner to develop further international law regarding liability and compensation for adverse effects of environmental damage caused by activities within their jurisdiction or control to areas beyond their jurisdiction.

Principle 14

States should effectively cooperate to discourage or prevent the relocation and transfer to other States of any activities and substances that cause severe environmental degradation or are found to be harmful to human health.

Principle 15

In order to protect the environment, the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by States according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost-effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.

Principle 16

National authorities should endeavour to promote the internalization of environmental costs and the use of economic instruments, taking into account the approach that the polluter should, in principle, bear the cost of pollution, with due regard to the public interest and without distorting international trade and investment.

Principle 17

Environmental impact assessment, as a national instrument, shall be undertaken for proposed activities that are likely to have a significant adverse impact on the environment and are subject to a decision of a competent national authority.

Principle 18

States shall immediately notify other States of any natural disasters or other emergencies that are likely to produce sudden harmful effects on the environment of those States. Every effort shall be made by the international community to help States so afflicted.

Principle 19

States shall provide prior and timely notification and relevant information to potentially affected States on activities that may have a significant adverse transboundary environmental effect and shall consult with those States at an early stage and in good faith.

Principle 20

Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.

Principle 21

The creativity, ideals and courage of the youth of the world should be mobilized to forge a global partnership in order to achieve sustainable development and ensure a better future for all.

Principle 22

Indigenous people and their communities and other local communities have a vital role in environmental management and development because of their knowledge and traditional practices. States should recognize and duly support their identity, culture and interests and enable their effective participation in the achievement of sustainable development.

Principle 23

The environment and natural resources of people under oppression, domination and occupation shall be protected.

Principle 24

Warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development. States shall therefore respect international law providing protection for the environment in times of armed conflict and cooperate in its further development, as necessary.

Principle 25

Peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.

Principle 26

States shall resolve all their environmental disputes peacefully and by appropriate means in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

Principle 27

States and people shall cooperate in good faith and in a spirit of partnership in the fulfilment of the principles embodied in this Declaration and in the further development of international law in the field of sustainable development.


This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last updated: 12 January, 2000 by DESA/DSD
Copyright © 1999 United Nations

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Evolution and Religion in 1902 - still worlds apart

Normally I post articles here showing the similarities between various religious groups.

Today, I have something a little different, an essay written in 1902 showing the compatibility between the Scientific Theory of Evolution and Religion. It's hard to believe we still have not made progress, and in fact have seemed to lose ground, over the last 100 years.

The original article was just three large paragraphs. I have broken it into many smaller ones for the sake of readability in this narrow space.

Check out the drawing at the end, too. It's unrelated to the article, but sure puts a different spin on the arguement!

Classics in the History of Psychology

An internet resource developed by
Christopher D. Green
York University, Toronto, Ontario
ISSN 1492-3713

Herbert Spencer's Service to Religion

By John Fiske (1902)

First published in Essays Historical and Literary, New York, II, pp. 232-237.
Reprinted in G. Daniels (Ed.) (1968). Darwinism comes to America. Waltham, MA: Blaisdell, pp. 106-110.

All religions agree in the two following assertions, one of which is of speculative and one of which is of ethical importance. One of them serves to sustain and harmonize our thoughts about the world we live in, and our place in that world; the other serves to uphold us in our efforts to do each what we can to make human life more sweet, more full of goodness and beauty, than we find it.

The first of these assertions is the proposition that the things and events of the world do not exist or occur blindly or irrelevantly, but that all, from the beginning to the end of time, and throughout the furthest sweep of illimitable space, are connected together as the orderly manifestations of a divine Power, and that this divine Power is something outside of ourselves, and upon it our own existence from moment to moment depends.

The second of these assertions is the proposition that men ought to do certain things, and ought to refrain from doing certain other things; and that the reason why some things are wrong to do and other things are right to do is in some mysterious, but very real, way connected with the existence and nature of this divine Power, which reveals itself in every great and every tiny thing, without which not a star courses in its mighty orbit, and not a sparrow falls to the ground. Matthew Arnold once summed up these two propositions very well when he defined God as "an eternal Power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness."

This twofold assertion, that there is an eternal Power that is not ourselves, and that this Power makes for righteousness, is to be found, either in a rudimentary or in a highly developed state, in all known religions.... I said, a moment ago, that modern civilized men will all acknowledge that this two-sided assertion, in which all religions agree, is of far greater importance than any of the superficial points in which religions differ.

It is really of much more concern to us that there is an eternal Power, not ourselves, that makes for righteousness, than that such a Power is onefold or threefold in its metaphysical nature, or that we ought not to play cards on Sunday, or to eat meat on Friday. No one, I believe, will deny so simple and clear a statement as this. But it is not only we modern men, who call ourselves enlightened, that will agree to this. I doubt not even the narrow-minded bigots of days now happily gone by would have been made to agree to it if they could have had some doggedly persistent Socrates to cross-question them....

What men in past times have really valued in their religion has been the universal twofold assertion that there is a God, who is pleased with the sight of the just man and is angry with the wicked every day, and when men have fought with one another, and murdered or calumniated one another for heresy about the Trinity or about eating meat on Friday, it has been because they have supposed belief in the non-essential doctrines to be inseparably connected with belief in the essential doctrine.

In spite of all this, however, it is true that in the mind of the uncivilized man, the great central truths of religion are so densely overlaid with hundreds of trivial notions respecting dogma and ritual, that his perception of the great central truths is obscure. These great central truths, indeed, need to be clothed in a dress of little rites and superstition, in order to take hold of his dull and untrained intelligence. But in proportion as men become more civilized, and learn to think more accurately, and to take wider views of life, just so do they come to value the essential truths of religion more highly, while they attach less and less importance to superficial details.

Having thus seen what is meant by the essential truths of religion, it is very easy to see what the attitude of the doctrine of evolution is toward these essential truths. It asserts and reiterates them both; and it asserts them not as dogmas handed down to us by priestly tradition, not as mysterious intuitive convictions of which we can render no account to ourselves, but as scientific truths concerning the innermost constitution of the universe -- truths that have been disclosed by observation and reflection, like other scientific truths, and that accordingly harmonize naturally and easily with the whole body of our knowledge.

The doctrine of evolution asserts, as the widest and deepest truth which the study of nature can disclose to us, that there exists a power to which no limit in time or space is conceivable, and that all the phenomena of the universe, whether they be what we call material or what we call spiritual phenomena, are manifestations of this infinite and eternal Power.

Now this assertion, which Mr. Spencer has so elaborately set forth as a scientific truth -- nay, as the ultimate truth of science, as the truth upon which the whole structure of human knowledge philosophically rests -- this assertion is identical with the assertion of an eternal Power, not ourselves, that forms the speculative basis of all religions.

When Carlyle speaks of the universe as in very truth the stardome city of God, and reminds us that through every crystal and through every grass blade, but most through every living soul, the glory of a present God still beams, he means pretty much the same thing that Mr. Spencer means, save that he speaks with the language of poetry, with language coloured by emotion, and not with the precise, formal, and colourless language of science.

By many critics who forget that names are but the counters rather than the hard money of thought, objections have been raised to the use of such a phrase as the Unknowable, whereby to describe the power that is manifest in every event of the universe. Yet, when the Hebrew prophet declared that "by him were laid the foundations of the deep," but reminded us "Who by searching can find him out!" he meant pretty much what Mr. Spencer means when he speaks of a power that is inscrutable in itself, yet is revealed from moment to moment in every throb of the mighty rhythmic life of the universe.

And this brings me to the last and most important point of all. What says the doctrine of evolution with regard to the ethical side of this twofold assertion that lies at the bottom of all religion?

Though we cannot fathom the nature of the inscrutable Power that animates the world, we know, nevertheless, a great many things that it does.

Does this eternal Power, then, work for righteousness? Is there a divine sanction of holiness and a divine condemnation for sin? Are the principles of right living really connected with the intimate constitution of the universe?

If the answer of science to these questions be affirmative, then the agreement with religion is complete, both on the speculative and on the practical side; and that phantom which has been the abiding terror to timid and superficial minds -- that phantom of the hostility between religion and science--is exorcised now and forever.

Now, science began to return a decisively affirmative answer to such questions as these when it began, with Mr. Spencer, to explain moral beliefs and moral sentiments as products of evolution. For clearly, when you say of a moral belief or a moral sentiment, that it is a product of evolution, you imply that it is something which the universe through untold ages has been labouring to bring forth, and you ascribe to it a value proportionate to the enormous effort it has cost to produce it.

Still more, when with Spencer we study the principles of right living as part and parcel of the whole doctrine of the development of life upon the earth; when we see that in an ultimate analysis that is right which tends to enhance fulness of life, and that is wrong which tends to detract from fulness of life -- we then see that the distinction between right and wrong is rooted in the deepest foundations of the universe; we see that the very same forces, subtle, and exquisite, and profound, which brought upon the scene the primal germs of life and caused them to unfold, which through countless ages of struggle and death has cherished the life that could live more perfectly and destroyed the life that could only live less perfectly, until humanity, with all its hopes, and fears, and aspirations, has come into being as the crown of all this stupendous work -- we see that these very same subtle and exquisite forces have wrought into the very fibres of the universe those principles of right living which it is man's highest function to put into practice.

The theoretical sanction thus given to right living is incomparably the most powerful that has ever been assigned in any philosophy of ethics. Human responsibility is made more strict and solemn than ever, when the eternal Power that lives in every event of the universe is thus seen to be in the deepest possible sense the author of the moral law that should guide our lives, and in obedience to which lies our only guarantee of the happiness which is incorruptible -- which neither inevitable misfortune nor unmerited obloquy can ever take away.

I have but barely touched upon a rich and suggestive topic. When this subject shall once have been expounded and illustrated with due thoroughness -- as I earnestly hope it will be within the next few years -- then I am sure it will be generally acknowledged that our great teacher's services to religion have been no less signal than his services to science, unparalleled as these have been in all the history of the world.

End quote.

What if. . .

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Karma - Part 2

Picture of Plato, courtesy of Wikimedia

The Myth of Er from Plato's Republic seems to be the Western equivalent to working off karmic debt. First is pulbished the myth, then the explanation follows below.


Plato's Republic

Book X, end: The Myth of Er


Well, I said, I will tell you a tale; not one of the tales which Odysseus tells to the hero Alcinous, yet this too is a tale of a hero, Er the son of Armenius, a Pamphylian by birth.

He was slain in battle, and ten days afterwards, when the bodies of the dead were taken up already in a state of corruption, his body was found unaffected by decay, and carried away home to be buried. And on the twelfth day, as he was lying on the funeral pile, he returned to life and told them what he had seen in the other world.

He said that when his soul left the body he went on a journey with a great company, and that they came to a mysterious place at which there were two openings in the earth; they were near together, and over against them were two other openings in the heaven above. In the intermediate space there were judges seated, who commanded the just, after they had given judgment on them and had bound their sentences in front of them, to ascend by the heavenly way on the right hand; and in like manner the unjust were bidden by them to descend by the lower way on the left hand; these also bore the symbols of their deeds, but fastened on their backs.

He drew near, and they told him that he was to be the messenger who would carry the report of the other world to men, and they bade him hear and see all that was to be heard and seen in that place.

Then he beheld and saw on one side the souls departing at either opening of heaven and earth when sentence had been given on them; and at the two other openings other souls, some ascending out of the earth dusty and worn with travel, some descending out of heaven clean and bright.

And arriving ever and anon they seemed to have come from a long journey, and they went forth with gladness into the meadow, where they encamped as at a festival; and those who knew one another embraced and conversed, the souls which came from earth curiously enquiring about the things above, and the souls which came from heaven about the things beneath. And they told one another of what had happened by the way, those from below weeping and sorrowing at the remembrance of the things which they had endured and seen in their journey beneath the earth (now the journey lasted a thousand years), while those from above were describing heavenly delights and visions of inconceivable beauty.

The Story, Glaucon, would take too long to tell; but the sum was this: --He said that for every wrong which they had done to any one they suffered tenfold; or once in a hundred years --such being reckoned to be the length of man's life, and the penalty being thus paid ten times in a thousand years. If, for example, there were any who had been the cause of many deaths, or had betrayed or enslaved cities or armies, or been guilty of any other evil behaviour, for each and all of their offences they received punishment ten times over, and the rewards of beneficence and justice and holiness were in the same proportion.

I need hardly repeat what he said concerning young children dying almost as soon as they were born. Of piety and impiety to gods and parents, and of murderers, there were retributions other and greater far which he described. He mentioned that he was present when one of the spirits asked another, 'Where is Ardiaeus the Great?' (Now this Ardiaeus lived a thousand years before the time of Er: he had been the tyrant of some city of Pamphylia, and had murdered his aged father and his elder brother, and was said to have committed many other abominable crimes.) The answer of the other spirit was: 'He comes not hither and will never come. And this,' said he, 'was one of the dreadful sights which we ourselves witnessed. We were at the mouth of the cavern, and, having completed all our experiences, were about to reascend, when of a sudden Ardiaeus appeared and several others, most of whom were tyrants; and there were also besides the tyrants private individuals who had been great criminals: they were just, as they fancied, about to return into the upper world, but the mouth, instead of admitting them, gave a roar, whenever any of these incurable sinners or some one who had not been sufficiently punished tried to ascend; and then wild men of fiery aspect, who were standing by and heard the sound, seized and carried them off; and Ardiaeus and others they bound head and foot and hand, and threw them down and flayed them with scourges, and dragged them along the road at the side, carding them on thorns like wool, and declaring to the passers-by what were their crimes, and that they were being taken away to be cast into hell.' And of all the many terrors which they had endured, he said that there was none like the terror which each of them felt at that moment, lest they should hear the voice; and when there was silence, one by one they ascended with exceeding joy. These, said Er, were the penalties and retributions, and there were blessings as great.

Now when the spirits which were in the meadow had tarried seven days, on the eighth they were obliged to proceed on their journey, and, on the fourth day after, he said that they came to a place where they could see from above a line of light, straight as a column, extending right through the whole heaven and through the earth, in colour resembling the rainbow, only brighter and purer; another day's journey brought them to the place, and there, in the midst of the light, they saw the ends of the chains of heaven let down from above: for this light is the belt of heaven, and holds together the circle of the universe, like the under-girders of a trireme.

From these ends is extended the spindle of Necessity, on which all the revolutions turn. The shaft and hook of this spindle are made of steel, and the whorl is made partly of steel and also partly of other materials. Now the whorl is in form like the whorl used on earth; and the description of it implied that there is one large hollow whorl which is quite scooped out, and into this is fitted another lesser one, and another, and another, and four others, making eight in all, like vessels which fit into one another; the whorls show their edges on the upper side, and on their lower side all together form one continuous whorl. This is pierced by the spindle, which is driven home through the centre of the eighth. The first and outermost whorl has the rim broadest, and the seven inner whorls are narrower, in the following proportions --the sixth is next to the first in size, the fourth next to the sixth; then comes the eighth; the seventh is fifth, the fifth is sixth, the third is seventh, last and eighth comes the second. The largest (of fixed stars) is spangled, and the seventh (or sun) is brightest; the eighth (or moon) coloured by the reflected light of the seventh; the second and fifth (Saturn and Mercury) are in colour like one another, and yellower than the preceding; the third (Venus) has the whitest light; the fourth (Mars) is reddish; the sixth (Jupiter) is in whiteness second.

Now the whole spindle has the same motion; but, as the whole revolves in one direction, the seven inner circles move slowly in the other, and of these the swiftest is the eighth; next in swiftness are the seventh, sixth, and fifth, which move together; third in swiftness appeared to move according to the law of this reversed motion the fourth; the third appeared fourth and the second fifth. The spindle turns on the knees of Necessity; and on the upper surface of each circle is a siren, who goes round with them, hymning a single tone or note. The eight together form one harmony; and round about, at equal intervals, there is another band, three in number, each sitting upon her throne: these are the Fates, daughters of Necessity, who are clothed in white robes and have chaplets upon their heads, Lachesis and Clotho and Atropos, who accompany with their voices the harmony of the sirens --Lachesis singing of the past, Clotho of the present, Atropos of the future; Clotho from time to time assisting with a touch of her right hand the revolution of the outer circle of the whorl or spindle, and Atropos with her left hand touching and guiding the inner ones, and Lachesis laying hold of either in turn, first with one hand and then with the other.

When Er and the spirits arrived, their duty was to go at once to Lachesis; but first of all there came a prophet who arranged them in order; then he took from the knees of Lachesis lots and samples of lives, and having mounted a high pulpit, spoke as follows: 'Hear the word of Lachesis, the daughter of Necessity. Mortal souls, behold a new cycle of life and mortality. Your genius will not be allotted to you, but you choose your genius; and let him who draws the first lot have the first choice, and the life which he chooses shall be his destiny. Virtue is free, and as a man honours or dishonours her he will have more or less of her; the responsibility is with the chooser --God is justified.'

When the Interpreter had thus spoken he scattered lots indifferently among them all, and each of them took up the lot which fell near him, all but Er himself (he was not allowed), and each as he took his lot perceived the number which he had obtained. Then the Interpreter placed on the ground before them the samples of lives; and there were many more lives than the souls present, and they were of all sorts.

There were lives of every animal and of man in every condition. And there were tyrannies among them, some lasting out the tyrant's life, others which broke off in the middle and came to an end in poverty and exile and beggary; and there were lives of famous men, some who were famous for their form and beauty as well as for their strength and success in games, or, again, for their birth and the qualities of their ancestors; and some who were the reverse of famous for the opposite qualities.

And of women likewise; there was not, however, any definite character them, because the soul, when choosing a new life, must of necessity become different. But there was every other quality, and the all mingled with one another, and also with elements of wealth and poverty, and disease and health; and there were mean states also.

And here, my dear Glaucon, is the supreme peril of our human state; and therefore the utmost care should be taken. Let each one of us leave every other kind of knowledge and seek and follow one thing only, if peradventure he may be able to learn and may find some one who will make him able to learn and discern between good and evil, and so to choose always and everywhere the better life as he has opportunity. He should consider the bearing of all these things which have been mentioned severally and collectively upon virtue; he should know what the effect of beauty is when combined with poverty or wealth in a particular soul, and what are the good and evil consequences of noble and humble birth, of private and public station, of strength and weakness, of cleverness and dullness, and of all the soul, and the operation of them when conjoined; he will then look at the nature of the soul, and from the consideration of all these qualities he will be able to determine which is the better and which is the worse; and so he will choose, giving the name of evil to the life which will make his soul more unjust, and good to the life which will make his soul more just; all else he will disregard. For we have seen and know that this is the best choice both in life and after death.

A man must take with him into the world below an adamantine faith in truth and right, that there too he may be undazzled by the desire of wealth or the other allurements of evil, lest, coming upon tyrannies and similar villainies, he do irremediable wrongs to others and suffer yet worse himself; but let him know how to choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible, not only in this life but in all that which is to come. For this is the way of happiness.

And according to the report of the messenger from the other world this was what the prophet said at the time: 'Even for the last comer, if he chooses wisely and will live diligently, there is appointed a happy and not undesirable existence. Let not him who chooses first be careless, and let not the last despair.' And when he had spoken, he who had the first choice came forward and in a moment chose the greatest tyranny; his mind having been darkened by folly and sensuality, he had not thought out the whole matter before he chose, and did not at first sight perceive that he was fated, among other evils, to devour his own children. But when he had time to reflect, and saw what was in the lot, he began to beat his breast and lament over his choice, forgetting the proclamation of the prophet; for, instead of throwing the blame of his misfortune on himself, he accused chance and the gods, and everything rather than himself. Now he was one of those who came from heaven, and in a former life had dwelt in a well-ordered State, but his virtue was a matter of habit only, and he had no philosophy.

And it was true of others who were similarly overtaken, that the greater number of them came from heaven and therefore they had never been schooled by trial, whereas the pilgrims who came from earth, having themselves suffered and seen others suffer, were not in a hurry to choose. And owing to this inexperience of theirs, and also because the lot was a chance, many of the souls exchanged a good destiny for an evil or an evil for a good. For if a man had always on his arrival in this world dedicated himself from the first to sound philosophy, and had been moderately fortunate in the number of the lot, he might, as the messenger reported, be happy here, and also his journey to another life and return to this, instead of being rough and underground, would be smooth and heavenly.

Most curious, he said, was the spectacle --sad and laughable and strange; for the choice of the souls was in most cases based on their experience of a previous life. There he saw the soul which had once been Orpheus choosing the life of a swan out of enmity to the race of women, hating to be born of a woman because they had been his murderers; he beheld also the soul of Thamyras choosing the life of a nightingale; birds, on the other hand, like the swan and other musicians, wanting to be men. The soul which obtained the twentieth lot chose the life of a lion, and this was the soul of Ajax the son of Telamon, who would not be a man, remembering the injustice which was done him the judgment about the arms. The next was Agamemnon, who took the life of an eagle, because, like Ajax, he hated human nature by reason of his sufferings.

About the middle came the lot of Atalanta; she, seeing the great fame of an athlete, was unable to resist the temptation: and after her there followed the soul of Epeus the son of Panopeus passing into the nature of a woman cunning in the arts; and far away among the last who chose, the soul of the jester Thersites was putting on the form of a monkey.

There came also the soul of Odysseus having yet to make a choice, and his lot happened to be the last of them all. Now the recollection of former tolls had disenchanted him of ambition, and he went about for a considerable time in search of the life of a private man who had no cares; he had some difficulty in finding this, which was lying about and had been neglected by everybody else; and when he saw it, he said that he would have done the had his lot been first instead of last, and that he was delighted to have it.

And not only did men pass into animals, but I must also mention that there were animals tame and wild who changed into one another and into corresponding human natures --the good into the gentle and the evil into the savage, in all sorts of combinations.

All the souls had now chosen their lives, and they went in the order of their choice to Lachesis, who sent with them the genius whom they had severally chosen, to be the guardian of their lives and the fulfiller of the choice: this genius led the souls first to Clotho, and drew them within the revolution of the spindle impelled by her hand, thus ratifying the destiny of each; and then, when they were fastened to this, carried them to Atropos, who spun the threads and made them irreversible, whence without turning round they passed beneath the throne of Necessity; and when they had all passed, they marched on in a scorching heat to the plain of Forgetfulness, which was a barren waste destitute of trees and verdure; and then towards evening they encamped by the river of Unmindfulness, whose water no vessel can hold; of this they were all obliged to drink a certain quantity, and those who were not saved by wisdom drank more than was necessary; and each one as he drank forgot all things.

Now after they had gone to rest, about the middle of the night there was a thunderstorm and earthquake, and then in an instant they were driven upwards in all manner of ways to their birth, like stars shooting.

He [Er] himself was hindered from drinking the water. But in what manner or by what means he returned to the body he could not say; only, in the morning, awaking suddenly, he found himself lying on the pyre.

And thus, Glaucon, the tale has been saved and has not perished, and will save us if we are obedient to the word spoken; and we shall pass safely over the river of Forgetfulness and our soul will not be defiled. Wherefore my counsel is that we hold fast ever to the heavenly way and follow after justice and virtue always, considering that the soul is immortal and able to endure every sort of good and every sort of evil. Thus shall we live dear to one another and to the gods, both while remaining here and when, like conquerors in the games who go round to gather gifts, we receive our reward. And it shall be well with us both in this life and in the pilgrimage of a thousand years which we have been describing.


The myth explained:

Here's what the Myth of Er said to me:

Of Er himself, this is absolutely a hero's tale as described by Joseph Campbell. (I am always delighted to find these.) In short, Er is a pretty normal guy who has an extraordinary experience from which he brings an extraordinary message to his society. (This is why Er didn't drink the water - he couldn't be allowed to forget the extraordinary message.)

The story itself...this is just amazingly fascinating. Yes, in Western philosophy, reincarnation does exist. However, working off karmic (cause and effect) debts is not something you do in subsequent lifetimes. You are judged upon death, and then are assigned to heaven or hell to rejoice or suffer for ten times the number of good/bad deeds you did in your, you pay off any bad karma or enjoy any good karma you accrued in a lifetime as soon as you die.

This story doesn't describe what we assume was hell (notice they don't give it a name), but the people coming from there were "dusty and worn with travel," and "weeping and sorrowing at the remembrance of the things which they had endured and seen in their journey beneath the earth..." Obviously this is meant to intimidate you into living a good life and not harm others while the description of heaven as a place of happiness and delight is to encourage you to do the same.

Why 100 years for each incident? It says 100 years was "reckoned to be the length of man's life" but that seems quite high for ancient Greece. It could be just because 10 is the first of the double-digit numbers, and any number times itself was thought to have special power (like the number seven...and the "seventh son of a seventh son" was supposed to be a very powerful and magical person). Or, it could be because the numbers 0 through 9 = 45, the numbers 1 through 10 = 55, and 45 + 55 = 100...some sort of combination of two numbering systems to make sure that whatever number system you lived by, you were included.

Why did they meet in a meadow? It is there they are exposed to the sun, the Light of God. Back then, the major god of most spiritual traditions was a light, the figure of knowledge. Here are all those people, exposed to light - enlightenment - and what happens? They drink the water...but more on that later.

I'm going to avoid the whole spindle and whorl thing except to make a correction: someone reversed Venus and Jupiter. I don't know if the myth was written that way so only those initiated into the astronomical arts would know the mistake for what it was, or if the mistake was made later. Mercury's place in the sequence is in error, too, but there may have been a reason for that which has to do with the orbits of Mercury and Venus. Anyway, the paragraph about the planets and the one following it are just instruction in the working of the solar system. the main point of the Myth of Er: "And here, my dear Glaucon, is the supreme peril of our human state; and therefore the utmost care should be taken. Let each one of us leave every other kind of knowledge and seek and follow one thing only, if peradventure [by chance] he may be able to learn and may find someone who will make him able to learn and discern between good and evil, and so to choose always and everywhere the better life as he has opportunity." And, "A man must take with him into the world below an adamantine faith in truth and right, that there too he may be undazzled by the desire of wealth or the other allurements of evil, lest, coming upon tyrannies and similar villanies, he do irremediable wrongs to others and suffer yet worse himself; but let him know how to choose the mean and avoid the extremes on either side, as far as possible, not only in this life but in all that which is to come. For this is the way of happiness."

The moral of the story: tread a middle path. Know the extremes, but avoid becoming trapped by them.

So, what did every person do? Every single one chose a new life that was completely opposite from the last one he had lived. "Most curious, he said, was the spectacle--sad and laughable and strange; for the choice of the souls was in most cases based on their experience of a previous life." Instead of thinking and considering the choices - and there were enough choices so that every person, "if he chooses wisely and will live diligently, there is appointed a happy and not undesirable existence" - they took their last experience, and went to the opposite extreme. This is tantamount to a sort of "the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" thoughtless assumption.

Since Er was not allowed to choose a new personality, he was saved from making the mistake all the others made. If Er had been allowed to choose a new persona, he would have had to drink the waters of forgetfulness, too, and our hero wouldn't be Our Hero any longer.

As for the others, there they were, in the meadow of Enlightenment, and they blew it. Er, of course, is enlightened by this experience.

So, off they go to the next location, and there are the waters. There is a long-standing tradition in many cultures that if you eat or drink anything while in the Otherworld, it will affect you in one bad way or another. Persephone ate a seed and had to spend part of the year underground ever after, in Celtic myth, people have been known to drink a cup of ale and return home 100 years after they left. I think the waters of forgetfulness are something along this line....partly "anything you eat/drink in the Otherworld will irrevocably change you," and partly a punishment for making a poor choice. It makes me think of the phrase "those who don't remember the past are condemned to repeat it." I think the people who chose new personas which were in the extreme to their past persona and therefore had to drink the waters are being condemned to repeat their past mistakes.

Since Er didn't change - he remained himself - he didn't have to drink the waters. He was supposed to remember it all, and come back to tell us about it. Choose a middle path, don't get caught up in the drama of extremes, etc.

The thunder and earthquake is, of course, Mother Earth giving birth to them.

I have to wonder if there is another version in which Er chose to keep his present persona. Supposedly, Er died, but you’ll notice he wasn't judged. The story says he wasn't allowed to choose, but I wonder if that which makes him Our Hero is that he chose to remain himself....sort of a "being true to oneself" concept.

That's my take on it. I don't see anything there that tells me we make a sacred contract (as proposed by Caroline Myss) to learn particular lessons during any given lifetime. It tells me that the one lesson we are supposed to learn, but we keep getting wrong, is the one of following the middle path.

It would have been interesting to see what happened had the story continued. Joseph Campbell's Heroes usually return with their message but are not believed by society. Had the story ended that way, with Er telling of his experience and people spurning his knowledge, it would have followed to completion the usual Hero scenario.

The number 12....12 is the god number for Westerners for reasons that have to do with the orbit of Jupiter. I found about a dozen (no pun intended) instances of 12s from Jesus and the 12 apostles to King Arthur and the 12 Knights; 12 Tribes of Israel; 12 months of a year; 12 zodiac signs, and on and on. However...closer to our story...

12 days is the approximate number of days between the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a metaphor for death, and the annual perihelion where the earth comes closest to the sun (god knowledge) in its yearly orbit. The first day of the 12 is our darkest day - death - and the twelfth is the day we are closest to god-knowledge - enlightenment.


To see the first part of the Karma discussion, see "Karma - it may not be what you think"