Category Archives: Science

On the level

I read a story, a few weeks ago, about a fellow who took a carpenters level with him on a cross country flight, in order to prove that the Earth is flat.

His experiment, it seems, was based upon the following argument: If the Earth is a sphere, an airplane pilot cannot fly on a level course, because to do so would cause the plane to go careening off into space.  Therefore, he, the pilot, must correct for the rounded Earth slipping away below him by occasionally dipping the nose of the plane downward, which action would be easily noticeable on a precision instrument purchased at the Home Depot.

I may not be explaining this as clearly as I should, so I whipped up a graphical aid.

Now, I do try to treat “fringe groups” with a certain amount of patience and good will.  Recognizing, as I do, that my own belief in multiple gods, puts me right out on the edge of things, in many peoples eyes, it seems only natural that I treat other groups with the same friendly manner that I hope people will express toward me and mine.

Is Scientology your thing?  No skin off my nose.

You like pineapple on your pizza?  I’ll just pick those off of my slice, if that’s okay.

You preferred the Star Wars prequel movies to the original three?

….ummm, I’m sure you have many redeeming qualities.

I draw the line with Flat Earthers.

If you truly believe that we are all the victims of a “Global Conspiracy” perpetrated by every school, corporation, government, and independent scientific body on the PLANET, throughout over 2,000-years of history since the day when Eratosthenes proved mathematically that the Earth was a sphere (and only missing the actual circumference by a few percentage points), and if you’re evidence for this is “Well, it looks flat to me,” and/or “The Bible doesn’t say anything about us living on a ball,” then I am done with you.

Yes, my flat earth friends, you have been lied to for the last two-thousand years.

Just not by the people you think.

And it’s not even a lie, really.

At least, I don’t think it was done intentionally.

The ancient tribesmen who wrote those chapters of your holy book were working off of their own observations.  And the world, to them, looked flat.

Now I realize that this takes us into a touchy subject area.  Because, of course, a great many of the Christian faithful believe that scripture was written by God through the hands of men.  The “Inspired Word” they like to call it.  So, in their view, the Bible wasn’t written by a bunch of yokels who could have got it wrong, it was written by God himself and no part of it can be false.

And yet there is plenty in there that is demonstrably untrue.

So what to do?

Well, most of the particularly faithful people that I know, have made some accommodation for themselves in this area.

Maybe God only told the people who were writing things down, things that he knew they could understand.  Maybe God showed them the whole complicated mess, and they could only grasp a small portion of its true shape and function.  Maybe he wanted to keep things mysterious for his creation, and so relied upon vague verbiage to keep his followers guessing.

The line, or lines, that these folks draw, between truth and misprint, seem to move and twist with circumstance, but at least they are there.  At least these folks are trying to reconcile a system of belief with the mechanics of the physical world around them.

The Flat Earth Brigade will do no such thing.

They cover their eyes and stop up their ears and they congratulate themselves for the purity of their faith against opposition from every quarter.

But they are wrong.

What they cling to is not faith.

That’s a thing we call desperation, and it is a desperation that seems to be on the rise.

Today, they are taking levels aboard airplanes, and we point, and we laugh, and we shake our heads in pity and disbelief.

But we have all seen the things that small groups of religiously fervent people are capable of, when they believe that they alone hold the truth, and that the whole world is set in conspiracy against them.

We should never rest too comfortably upon the strides we have made.

Any tool made to create, can also destroy, even something as simple as a level.

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Fragile

The Jehovah’s Witnesses came by again this week…,

…right on schedule…,

…as I was sitting down to lunch.

-sigh-

It was the same old fellow who’s been coming by for years now, only this time he had his wife with him, which I can only remember happening once before.

We exchanged pleasantries and spoke for a few moments about work and the pleasant weather we’d been having.  Then he handed me their little monthly booklet, and began to share a sampling of his particular brand of wisdom.

All while my grilled cheese slowly cooled on its plate.

My mind wandered a bit, I must admit.

Usually I do a better job of paying attention, because however else I feel about his little visits, I know that he means well and I am always interested in better understanding what other people believe.  Otherwise, I’d have shooed him off long ago.

But I’d been looking forward to that sandwich all morning, and they’re never as good reheated as they are right off the skillet, and…,

…then he said something that DID catch my attention.

He said the we were “not built to die.”

In my mind I quickly rewound the last couple minutes and then skimmed it forward again, this time listening for content.  He’d been speaking of the subject matter of this month’s Watchtower, having to do with how people should react when a loved-one dies.  “People are always surprised by death,” he said.  “And the reason for that, is that when God made us, we were immortal.  Death always takes us by surprise because we were not built to die, and so we lack the programming to deal with it properly.”

When I caught back up to the present moment my visitor and his wife were already making their way back down my front walk.  We’d exchanged parting pleasantries, and as usual, I’d assured him that I would consider his words carefully.

And I have at that.

“Not built to die,” he said.

I couldn’t get those words out of my head as I sat, munching on my cold sandwich.

He’s a nice enough guy, but he could not possibly be more wrong.

Living is a thing that we do in absolute defiance of the odds.

And dying?

Death is not the enemy, it is hardwired into our biology.

I wonder if my door-knocking friend has ever heard of the Hayflick limit.

It turns out that the cells in our bodies can only divide themselves a set number of times.  With each division, the length of a cell’s DNA is slightly shortened, and eventually, just shy of about 60-divisions, our cells can no longer reproduce and they begin to wear out and break down.

It’s a bit like that “best if used before…,” tag that we see stamped on a loaf of bread or a carton of milk.  Barring accident or disease we’re fine up until that predetermined point, and then from there it is only a matter of time.

And this isn’t something that just happened to us one day.

It’s not an accident, and it’s not some ridiculous punishment for eating fruit off of the wrong tree in a magical garden somewhere.

If your belief is that we were designed, than that designer built us to die.  If you don’t believe in a designer, it’s still true, because the way life evolved on this planet is that it can only exist through the action of death.

Life is precious precisely because it is temporary.

****

I had another unexpected visitor this week.

Just a couple days after the Jehovah’s Witnesses came by, I arrived home from work to find a screech owl sitting in the middle of my front yard.

The sun was long set, and a bird of this kind should have been on the wing, hunting for insects and the like.  Instead, it sat almost motionless in the grass, hard to see in the darkness but still an easy target for neighborhood cats.

Assuming that it must be injured or sickly, I tipped an empty laundry basket over it, to keep it in place, and then, wearing thick gardening gloves, reached under the basket to collect the little creature and place him in a cardboard box, for ready delivery to another of my neighbors who does wild bird rescue and rehabilitation.

I’ve never held a screech owl in my hands.

They seem profoundly fragile things, and lifting it out from under the basket felt a bit like holding a feathered soap-bubble.  I was moving quickly, so as to cause as little stress as possible, so I only caught a brief glimpse of those big yellow eyes.  It made an alert sound with its beak, a bit like flicking your fingernail against a hard wood surface: tap-tap-tap.  And then it was safe in a box and, I hope, off to a speedy recovery from whatever ails it.

Holding that small creature in my hands, I could feel the fragility that is life.

For an owl, a mouse, a blade of grass, or the mightiest tree.

The soul may move on to some other place.

It may even return to live again.

But immortality for this life or any other is a false hope.

We cling to life because it is temporary, because it is fragile.

Why else do we cling to each other?

May Mushroom

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Filed under Death, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Spiritual Journey

Truth and Clouds

Lunar Eclipse 2015

There’s a red smudge in the sky to the east.

The Earth’s shadow is falling across the surface of the Moon.

Giant bodies are rolling around each other at stunning distances and speeds.

Together, as they dance, they do this occasional trick with the light, where the one becomes lost almost completely in the shadow of the other.

Almost lost, but not quite.

Because the thin sheen of atmosphere which clings to our globe bends the light, curving it around the edges of the globe and refracting it toward our distant dance partner.

We bend the light around us and the red tinge of a million sunsets and a million sunrises paint our normally pale sister with a ruby hue.

It is a beautiful thing to behold.  I’ve seen it before.

But not tonight, not yet.

The clouds have been rolling across the sky all evening, and the rising moon is little more than a red smudge, nearly lost in the haze.  The atmosphere is the thing that makes the miracle, and often enough, obscures it from our vision.

 

I have many friends and acquaintances who are devout followers of this or that monotheist denomination.  When, on occasion, I have wondered aloud about why, in the face of scientific fact, they cling to literalist interpretations of biblical canon, I have been told that their strength lies in their faith.  If any one part of the Bible is found to be false, they explain, then the whole of it is forfeit, and their faith is for nothing.

This, it seems to me, demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the meaning behind the word.  Any faith that cannot survive in the light of truth is a hollow imitation of belief.

 

The clouds have cleared a bit and the Moon is hanging higher in the sky, a dusky red lantern in the darkness.

I’ve brought my telescope out for the occasion, and it’s finally clear enough that I can put it to use.  The blood-moon of the naked eye is, upon closer inspection, a gradient of hues from orange to deepest maroon.

My cat, weaving her way around the legs of the tripod, sees none of these colors.  For her, the bright white ball has become a dim grey ball.

Do my eyes see the truth of it?  Do hers?

Or does the scientific instrument see things more clearly?

And why would we assume that it must be one or the other?

Especially when there are still so many clouds!

 

For most of the people alive on this globe right now, the gods which I believe in are mere fables, or metaphors, or at best they are Jungian Archetypes which exist as manifestations of the human psyche.

When you spend years of your life, as I have, studying the gods and the mythologies that surround them, you quickly come to accept the fact that most of the scholarship on the topic was written with these biases as their foundation.

It is an unavoidable and perfectly reasonable attitude.

It doesn’t bother me.  It inspires me!

And why shouldn’t it?

These, simple metaphors (if you will), have shaped human art and literature and science for the entire known history of our species.  For almost two-thousand years, they have continued to guide and influence our culture, despite militant, often violent, suppression by the various monotheist orthodoxies that have held power.

If the gods are fictional then that’s pretty damned impressive for a bunch of stories!

Now stop and imagine, for just a moment, that you felt the touch of something that huge and powerful, in your life.  If you count yourself as a believer, would you really need to cling to this idea that every scrap of mythology associated with your deity was true, despite all evidence to the contrary?

 

The clouds are gone.  And so is the eclipse.

I just watched through the big lens as the last of the Earths’ hazy shadow slipped off the rim of the lunar sphere.

Earlier tonight I was using the 20mm lens on my scope, which puts the entire globe on display, but for these final moments I switched over to the 10mm which draws the moon down with stunning detail – craters, mountains, valleys, and the shadows they cast.

The red color is all leeched away by now, of course, and dear Luna is clothed once again in her standard pearlescent garb.

Watching through the scope, I see the last sliver of our shadow…,

…going…

…going…

…and gone.

It is a strange thing to sit there and see the final moments of something that huge, watching it not on television or on some live feed from the internet, but through your own eyes aided only by a couple pieces of glass.  The stark truth of the thing does nothing to diminish the feeling of awe which is inspired by the immensity of the event.

 

I have been challenged, on more than one occasion, to produce some proof that my gods exist.

I can’t even prove that there was an eclipse tonight.

I saw bits and pieces of it.

I’ll wager you did too.

But there were an awful lot of clouds rolling through and most of it I couldn’t see that clearly.

The atmosphere, as I may have mentioned earlier, is the thing that makes the miracle, and often enough, obscures it from our vision.

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Filed under Culture, Mythology, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, Science, Spiritual Journey

Pluto Rising

PlutoClosestYet

I came to know the gods through science.

Tell me, is that a strange thing to say?

Does it run contrary to your expectations?

Walk back with me a little ways, and I will try to explain…,

When I was a very young boy I was hungry to read and watch and learn anything science related.  I don’t know exactly where it came from, this desire of mine, but it manifested early and it stuck.

Probably, it started with the dinosaurs.  Isn’t every little boy drawn to the image to giant lizards smashing through the jungle?  Certainly, the box-office of a certain series of movies would appear to support that idea.

So, like a lot of kids that age, I absorbed everything I could about them.  I learned their various names and measurements in excruciating detail.  I could tell you the most up to date theories concerning the eras in which they lived, the shape of the land and the environmental changes which directed their movements and shaped their evolution…,

Did I say “evolution”?  Oh yeah, I was not very popular in Sunday School.

Big surprise there!

When I asked too many ‘disruptive’ questions, they started sending me to the church library.

“Look for your own answers,” one of my teachers told me, and that may have been the best advice I ever received in a church.  And so I read their books and compared what they told me to the books I was reading at home.

It was all about the books in those days, it’s easy to forget.  Internet, what’s that?!

So time passed and my interests shifted upward and outward, into the nighttime sky.

My parents had long subscribed to magazines like National Geographic and Popular Science, so I was already a ‘space enthusiast’ by the time Carl Sagan’s Cosmos aired in the last months of 1980.  By the end of the series I was absolutely hooked.  My best friend at school called me ‘space man’ because that’s all I could talk about.  I counted Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo among my heroes.

I was outside nightly, over the course of one summer, using a telescope, paper and pencil to chart the orbital positions of Jupiters moons.  I wondered, at the time, if anyone else was doing that with me.  I wonder if anyone has done it since?

There’s an app for that, I know, but what’s the fun in that?

Those moons, and Saturn’s rings, and the phases of the planet Venus.  Those are things that we can look up there and see for ourselves.  We don’t need computers or smart-phones or glossy illustrations in a book.  It just takes a couple pieces of glass and a clear sky.

So at night I watched, and during the day I read.

Our UniverseAnd one of the many books I devoured in my quest for space knowledge was called the ‘National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe’.  Arranged like others of its kind, the book worked its way outward from the Sun, through the nine planets and into the realm of distant stars and nebulae, providing a basic overview of each body encountered along the way.

One notable difference, however, was that the opening chapter of the book provided an extremely vague overview of some early mythologies relating to the stars and planets.  Then, at the beginning of the chapter devoted to each planet, there was a small illustration of the Roman god for whom that planet was named, and a tiny blurb describing these gods.

I chewed through that book as I had all the others, memorizing all the statistics about the planets, moons, and stars presented there.  But unlike the books I’d read before it, and the many that came after.  I kept going back to it again and again

There was something about those little illustrations that kept pulling me back.  Those stories touched something in me that lie deeper than a simple thirst for knowledge.  There was a familiarity to them, and they seemed important.

Illustrations of three Gods (Jupiter, Venus, and Pluto) from the National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe

Illustrations of three Gods (Jupiter, Venus, and Pluto) from the National Geographic Picture Atlas of Our Universe

In school (both Sunday School and the regular kind) I was told again and again that these gods had never existed, and that no one alive worshipped them any more, because the ‘one god’ had replaced them, and wasn’t that so much better.

But we still used the names!  We called out to them in the days of the week and the months of the year.  Seemingly everything spinning above our heads for a billion billion miles was named in their honor, and we told their stories again and again to explain why.

Even those who do not believe in the gods must admit, there’s a kind of immortality there.

And I’ve got to think there’s bad news there for the monotheists in the crowd.  Print all the books you want, folks, the entire sky is named in honor of the gods of old.  Words on a page fade over time, but those names have revolved above us for thousands of years now, and we’re still adding to the list.

Pluto, named after the Roman god of the Underworld, was discovered and named in 1930, and four of its five moons (Nix, Hydra, Kerberos and Styx) were discovered and named in the last 10 years.  Classical mythology does not just live within the antiquities collection of some museum, it lives in the night sky for everyone to see.  It lives in a tiny planet that we’ve sent a multimillion dollar space probe to the outermost edges of our solar system to explore.

The God Pluto abducting his future wife Persephone, daughter of Demeter.

The God Pluto abducting his future wife Persephone, daughter of Demeter.

Brother of Jupiter and Neptune, dark Pluto is the invisible king of a frigid realm where go the dead to sleep.  He is husband to Persephone, who waits out the long winter season with him, clothed in darkness, before he opens his hand, and allows her return to this world through the flowering of spring.

See now a body moving through space, one so small that scientists argue it shouldn’t be called a planet at all.  It orbits at a distance of over 3 billion miles, in a realm of darkness where the the Sun is only slightly brighter than her neighboring stars.  It is invisible to us without the aid of our most powerful telescopes, and in the course of its long orbit, it moves among great tumbling blocks of ice and dust – the long forgotten corpses of worlds that might have been, long ago ejected from the warmer regions of space by the gravitational force of Jupiter, and of Neptune.

Pluto and its moon Charon, seen together in space from the New Horizons spacecraft.

Pluto and its moon Charon, seen together in space from the New Horizons spacecraft.

It is a world insignificant to the lives of men.  And yet, if the theories of many scientists are true, if the building blocks of life were delivered to our world on comets from that distant realm…, like the seeds of Persephone, the very first spring and every one thereafter, may have been born from Pluto’s hand.

This Tuesday, the New Horizons spacecraft will make its closest approach to that far away speck of light.  We will pull the veil back a little further on the mysteries of creation, as we are treated with our closest look yet at Pluto’s strange and ruddy surface.

I’ll be on the edge of my seat, waiting to see all the new images.

There was a child I remember, who wanted nothing more than to be an Astronomer when he grew up.  I often feel as if I have failed that child, in many respects.  But I’ve never forgotten that thirst for knowledge of faraway places.  And I’ve never stopped looking for those amazing places where mythology and science converge.

They are not so rare as you might believe.

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Filed under Mythology, Science, Spiritual Journey, The Gods

Enemy Thine

The sun has not yet breached the mist shrouded horizon when, in the distance, the trumpets blare.  As the echoes fade, there is a last moment of silence before the steady throb of marching feet rises, trembling from the Earth below.

The troops are massing beneath their tattered flags; the stink of war is in the air, and with the light of dawn, the battlefield is revealed before us.

Publicly Funded Schools That Are Allowed to Teach Creationism

This map, modeled after one I found at Slate.com, represents only one of the many battlegrounds on which the looming Culture-War may be won, or lost.  Click the image for the full article.

So the Culture-Wars are before us.

Or perhaps we are already fighting them.

Some people certainly seem to think we are.

Bill Nye “The Science Guy” debates Ken “Young Earth Creation” Ham, and the media explodes with commentary about who won in the desperate struggle of Science against Religion.

The Kansas House of Representatives decides to dust off some old Jim Crow laws and use them against the homosexual population while a Texas Judge presides over the unions of two transgendered couples (did Rick Perry’s head explode, I wonder).

And every day it seems like the opinions on social media become more and more extreme and polarized.

Maybe we really are at war.

If it is a war, I find myself wondering, like many soldiers before me, “is it the right one?”

I am no fan of those who would encode Christian dogma into the law of the land.  Any attempt to so corrupt the ‘separation of church and state’ must, I believe, be opposed on every available front: Judicial, Political, and Educational.

As a devotee of a minority religious belief, it would be suicidal for me to act otherwise.

Yet, I must confess, that I am unsure of our traditional allies in this supposed conflict.

With only a few soldiers willing to muster beneath our own tattered flags, we Pagans have, for many long years now, thrown in our lot with the atheists and the secular humanists (is there a difference, I’ve been told there was but have never observed it).  We have done so because these groups are able to field the troops and secure the resources necessary for a protracted battle against the religious majority.

And while we have managed to advance our cause, the reality is that this relationship has been a marriage of convenience at best, and at it’s worst, just another case of ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’

But are they our friends?

Do they act like it?

Over the years I have joined more debates between Monotheists and Atheists than I could safely count.  The pattern of these conversations has almost always been the same.  I begin by supporting the viewpoints of my humanists friends against the unyielding dogma of their Christian opponents.  Eventually, as the debate proceeds, I attempt to open the discussion somewhat, to introduce the very basic idea that religion and spirituality are not defined by the Abrahamic faiths and that there is room for blended, less hard and fast, viewpoints.  And just that quickly, I have joined the ranks of the ignorant and the deluded, suffering the ridicule of the superior humanists.

The first few times it happened I was surprised and disappointed.

Now, I’ve come to expect it.

And coming at these discussions, from a perspective outside both groups, I have come to a particular realization: there are no sides in this war.

In the beginning, I thought of these discussions, as their participants do, as existing on a single axis.  Imagine a grand tug-of-war between two opposing viewpoints, each trying to pull the rope of opinion further and further in their preferred direction.

tug-o-war

But the reality is something far different.

These days, when I happen upon a debate between atheists and monotheists, what I see when I close my eyes, is a single person arguing with their own image in a mirror.

They are the same.  They are exactly the same.

They use the same arguments, exhibit the same blind arrogance and disdain for their rivals, and get equally pissed when you point this out to them.

Enemy Thine

The simple truth is, both groups have chosen a filter through which they prefer to observe the universe.

For the Christian, that filter is the Bible.

For the Atheist, it is the Scientific Method.

They are both filters, just sets of specially treated lenses that provide a false color image of the world around us.

The Monotheist sees a world that shows her only that which supports her particular view of the universe.  She may be aware that there are other things there, hidden in the artificially induced shadows, but her faith compels her to keep her filters firmly in place.

The Atheist, on the other hand, sees only that which is testable or may be modeled and extrapolated through the analysis of various data.  Anything that falls outside that particular spectra of experience, is eliminated as unworthy of consideration.

Both filters have their usefulness, I suppose, but neither represents truth.

Truth, I believe, may only be observed by eyes open and unfiltered.  When you strip away all the artificial filters, the full spectrum of reality, the colors of faith, science, intuition, emotion, imagination, spirit and many more besides, become visible in all their glory.  If you want to understand the universe you have to look at not only the primary colors, but at the subtle shades which are created where they blend.

No, my friends, I grow tired of your Culture-War and your endless, one-sided arguments.

I shall continue to fight for my own rights and beliefs, and for all those who find themselves in the spiritual and social minority, but I will not call another man blind while shading my own eyes to the world around me.  I will ally myself with those who I feel I can trust, those who will have no cause to turn on me when I express a belief that differs from their own.

I suspect it will be a lonely fight, and yet I believe that we few polytheists have a distinct advantage.  Polytheism, at its very core, is a belief-system rooted in our understanding of ‘truth’ as expressed in a dynamic multiplicity of forms.

In a world where the primary options (if they can even be called such) appear to be either stolid reasoning or intractable dogma, I can only believe that our numbers will continue to grow.  I envision a world where both ‘sides’ of the Culture-War lose through attrition as the disillusioned cast off their blinders in favor of a shared reality.

One can hope, yes?

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The Astrology Post

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the things in which I believe, and very little time talking about the things which I don’t.  There are several good reasons for that, the primary one being, that I enjoy talking about my beliefs.  Talking about them helps me to explore them further, to poke and prod them, learning more about their depths and limitations.  It’s a big part of why I’m here.

On those occasions in which I write about the things I do not believe, it is typically because someone, somewhere, thinks my lack of belief is somehow an impediment to their own freedoms, or the American way, or something equally silly.

There are, however, those rare occasions, when I simply feel compelled to clear up certain assumptions that have been made along the way.

These assumptions do no real harm to me or mine.  They just cling there like some benign bacteria, ever present yet mostly invisible.

Yes, I said, “mostly invisible.”  If left alone for long enough, these assumptions may begin to grow and multiply.  Eventually, they start to itch.

I don’t believe in Astrology.

It’s not a big deal but it may come as a surprise to some people.

People have this strange tendency to think that if you believe in one thing that they consider “odd” you are far more likely to believe in all the other things that they consider “odd”.  Assumptions, it seems, do not come individually wrapped but rather appear in prepackaged assortments.

“Ah yes, you believe in mythological gods and magic, therefore you must also believe in Bigfoot, U.F.O’s and Pyramid Power.”

What the people making these assumptions fail to take into account is the primary commonality defining the items within the category is their own personal definition of the word “odd” (or “crazy” or “ridiculous” – exact phraseology, like milage, will vary).

The Humanists in the crowd will, at this point, start clearing their throats and muttering “scientifically provable” to each other along with ample back patting.  On the other side of the room, the particularly devout Christians will bang on that Astrology is a falsehood and a sin against god – this despite the fact that the Bible uses it as a proof for the divinity of Christ.  I’ll leave them all to it.  Which ever side you are on, it still comes down to what ‘you’ choose to believe and what ‘you’ choose to label as “other”.  Your criteria (however scientific or religious) are your own.

For me, Trickle-Down Economics, U.F.O’s, and Astrology, all fall into that “other” category along with Bigfoot.  Sure, there may be a few blurry photos and some questionable math, but nothing solid enough for me to really put my finger on.

If my goal here is to more clearly define my own beliefs, to myself and others, than I must also be clear about the things in which I do not believe.

And so, I don’t believe in Astrology.

Well, for the most part.

I mean, it’s not as if I don’t think there is ‘something’ to it.

I’ve dated and then been burned by too many Scorpios, to think there wasn’t some commonality there.  I just don’t see what it could have to do with the stars.

Yet, aside from the Sun and the Moon, our other planetary neighbors are so far away that their gravity, their magnetic fields (where such exist), and the minuscule quantity of reflected sunlight they bounce Earthward, could have no measurable effect upon us whatsoever.  Indeed, the other seven planets, Mercury thru Neptune, could wink out of existence this moment, taking poor Pluto along with them for old-times sake, and we wouldn’t even notice it had happened until the riots broke out at N.A.S.A.

I cannot think of a way in which it would matter what random grouping of unrelated stars the planet Jupiter was passing in front of at the moment of my birth.  I am a product of genetics and environment, not some imagined planetary confluence.

In Astrology Sagittarius is a Half-man, half-beast archer who is tutor to heroes. In Astronomy Sagittarius is a teapot. Conclusion: The most powerful science of all is Marketing! I mean seriously, a teapot!?

Or are we perhaps, thinking about the whole thing in entirely the wrong way?

What if we thought of the heavens in the same way we think of a clock.

We watch the hands as they move around, pointing at different combinations of numbers along their way.  We know that certain of these combinations correspond to our growing hungry or tired, but we never make the mistake of believing that these things are caused by the positions of the hands on a clocks face.

(Sit down Pavlov! I’m not talking to you.)

What if these patterns which seem to have some influence over personality type (among other things) have nothing to do with the movement of objects in the heavens except that such movements are regular enough to line up (however roughly) with whatever other patterns we may notice in our lives.

Correlation may not equal causation, but it’s still a handy tool for keeping track of things.

I just don’t know.

As a polytheist, it is in my nature to accept that not only are there multiple versions of the truth, but that sometimes multiple truths may stand in conflict.

This does not mean that I just accept any crazy idea that comes down the pike.

I would need to see a lot more evidence to make me believe that something like Astrology might actually work.  Until then, I’ll put it firmly in the ‘maybe’ column where it can keep Bigfoot company.

Pyramid Power and Trickle-Down Economics are still crazy.  That hasn’t changed.

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Filed under About this Blog, Divination, Modern Life, Science

Three Worlds

We reside at the juncture of three worlds.

Fooled by our senses, we typically believe ourselves to be living on but a single sphere, that same familiar blue ball we’ve seen in myriad satellite images, spinning it’s merry way through the cosmos.

Our ancestors may have seen things somewhat differently.

Imagine three great realms through which we travel…,

Below us, the Land: The solid and stable Earth upon which we build our homes, grow our crops and live our lives.

Above us, the Sky: A realm of both vapor and vacuum, which arches infinitely above us while still tousling our hair with every gentle puff of breeze.

Surrounding us, the Sea: Vast and deep, it is the dark and turbulent cradle from which life arose.

The symbolic expression of this worldview, among those who seek a connection to the old ways, is expressed as the triskelion, or triple spiral.

 

Our place is at the center point.  The Celts are thought to have believed that the place where the three great worlds came together was the axis upon which physical life and spirit revolved.  Humanity can only exist where all three worlds come together.  We are creatures of the Land, the Sky and the Sea, united.  Remove from us, our connection to any one of these worlds, these vital elements, and our lives are removed just as quickly.  The essence of the mortal animal is the balance between the three worlds.  We are the spectrum, focused down into a single point of white light.

Spiraling out from our comfortable resting point, the three worlds twist and coil about themselves, becoming increasingly foreign to our own blended nature in the process.  The beings that reside in those distant places (distant in constitution, although not necessarily in position) must themselves be very different than we who speculate about them.

Near to us, at the center of the great spiral, there are the Sidhe and the Gods, along with the spirits of wind, wave, field and forest.  They share our space within the three worlds, although they may be more or less connected to any one of the realms than we are.

Beyond those nearby and familiar spirits, there must be those who are more firmly rooted in but a single world.  These are the beings which the various world mythologies call giants or the Titans.  Often enough, our stories cast them as villains, evil creatures that must be banished or imprisoned.  However, many of us have come to believe that these beings are simply so foreign to ‘our’ nature that their mere presence is destructive to us.  Such creatures may not even consider us in their reckoning.

Whatever their motives, they are beings who belong to but a single world, Land, Sea or Sky, and when they seek our shores they tip the already precarious balance between the three worlds.

Last week, I wrote about Climate Change.  I pondered both the recent computer models that show drastically different shorelines in our (not so?) distant future, and the fate of the people of Doggerland, a long sunken realm which science tells us once connected the British Isles with the European continent.

I suggested, in that post, that change is a constant which we would do well to accept.  And while I believe that to be true, I do not think that the inevitability of change should be used as an excuse to sit back and let it all happen.  Indeed, if we ourselves are the agents of change (and there’s plenty of evidence that we are), then we are beholden to those who will follow us to do what we can to maintain the balance.

Now, of course, there are those who would very much prefer to think of these things in purely scientific terms.  The data tells us that the continuing release of greenhouse gasses will cause global temperatures to rise.   Rising temperatures will, in turn, cause long frozen permafrost to melt, releasing more greenhouse gasses and raising the sea levels along the way.

While I think it’s perfectly acceptable to see things in those terms, over time I have learned to see the spirit in the science.  I look at the scenes of ruin which are still pouring in from the Philippines, and it seems obvious to me that the Titans are loose upon the land.

People have this crazy idea that modern science and ancient mythology are naturally at odds, or that believing in one somehow negates the other.  This could be no further from the truth.  The ancient lore makes it clear that we must care for the world if we want to live in peace within it.  This means making proper sacrifice to the gods and spirits of the land, the sea, and the sky.  And if that sacrifice means giving up a few creature comforts to cut down on our carbon emissions; if we can endeavor to be less glutinous in our power usage while limiting our range of selection at the grocery store; then so be it!

Sacrifice means giving things up for our own good.  When did we forget that?

We reside at the juncture of three worlds, but in turning away from that reality, we have abused our position and threatened the sacred balance.  The giants are at the gates.  Already, some have broken from their ancient bonds, wandering about our sphere, bringing death and destruction in their wake.  Without a doubt, things are going to get worse before they get better.  If we hope to leave anything for our descendants except chaos and ruin, we need to renew our relationship with the worlds we inhabit, we need to remember what we have forgotten and take our place once again at the place where the worlds are joined.

The ancient Celts swore their oaths to the Land, to the Sea, and to the Sky.

To what will you swear your oaths?

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Filed under Celtic Polytheism, Modern Life, Mythology, Nature, Philosophy, Religion, Science, The Gods, Traditions