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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Night Inside the Great Pyramid

Anyone reading this who enjoys browsing around second-hand bookshops will know the satisfaction that comes with making a real find – especially when that find turns out to be a snap at the [1]price. That’s how it felt for me when in a second-hand bookstore in Rotterdam I discovered a [2]1936 edition of Paul Brunton’s A Search in Secret Egypt. Now, I already have on my bookshelf a dog-eared paperback [3]edition of this book from the early sixties, but the original hardcover edition, with its photographs by the author, was a prize indeed.

Brunton’s book is rich in vivid descriptions, both of the country and its monuments and also of his varied experiences, which include practicing the art of snake charming with Egyptian cobras. But the book’s main claim to fame rests principally with the chapter in which he describes his night spent in the King’s Chamber in the heart of the Great Pyramid of Giza; the first person to report on this since Napoleon tried the same experiment while on his Egyptian campaign in 1798 (below) – and apparently emerged the next morning from the interior gloom ashen-faced, silent, and refusing to answer questions about what he had experienced.

As far as I know, nobody has been allowed to repeat this experience since Brunton – although today’s [4]police guards stationed at the edifice are apparently not above a little palm-greasing. Locked at dusk inside the Pyramid at his own request by the obliging guards, the author resolves ‘To sit, awake and alert, for twelve hours in the King's Chamber, while the slow darkness moved across the African world'.

In the increasing cold and the all-pervading shadows of the granite-lined King's Chamber (above), the author reports a series of harrowing encounters with a virtual parade of frightening phantasms and ‘monstrous elemental creations’, after which he undergoes an initiatory experience under the guidance of apparently more benign beings. Brunton’s book as a whole convinces me that he was a man of sincerity and integrity. Indeed, he was clearly someone of a contemplative nature who valued his own personal spirituality. So what are we to make of the author’s encounter with these ancient ghosts? I personally am convinced that he certainly had some kind of an experience. But perhaps the nature of that experience was other than it seemed.

Almost by chance, on a [5]website unconnected with paranormal issues, I came across a description of the Great Pyramid that appeared to offer a possible explanation. It seems that the long galleries that run inside the Pyramid, from deep beneath its base up to the King’s Chamber (highlighted, above), act as resonators that keep the ‘background sound’ of the Pyramid vibrating at a steady 6 hertz, which is well below the audible threshold of human hearing. In other words: the Great Pyramid is virtually awash with inaudible [6]infrasound.

Infrasound is strange stuff. The naturally-occurring presence of infrasound (the signal, above) in an environment can induce in the human mind a strong sense of being in the company of an unseen (and usually threatening) 'presence' and provoke inexplicable feelings of deep unease - even outright fear. It has been detected deep underground in the stations and tunnels of subways, and at locations which have been described as ‘haunted’ – and it even has been utilized in film soundtracks as a subliminal audio signal deliberately to provoke feelings of disquiet in an audience. If you saw it in a theatre, do you remember that feeling of dread when in Jurassic Park the unseen T. rex was approaching in the dark? You were being subjected to infrasound.

This understanding of infrasound and its effects has only come long after Brunton’s day. Does it explain his experience (and indeed, whatever it was that evidently rattled Napoleon in the same circumstances) as a trick of the mind? It might. Settling down for the night in the granite-lined Chamber, Brunton describes experiencing an 'undefinable feeling of uneasiness' - which exactly fits the effects of exposure to infrasound. Sensed ghostly presences, both in ‘haunted’ houses and inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, might be no more than these mischievous low-frequency sound waves messing with our minds. The setting itself – a ‘creepy’ old house at night, or the cold and echoing gloom of the Pyramid’s interior – does the rest. But trust me: when you are actually in the situation and these things are coming straight at you, all the reassuring science goes straight out the window!

[1] The current eBay price is around €45. I bought my copy for €8!

[2] Paul Brunton: A Search in Secret Egypt. Pub. Rider, 1936.

[3] Paul Brunton: A Search in Secret Egypt. Pub. Arrow, 1962.

[4] Graham Hancock: Fingerprints of the Gods. The author describes bribing the guards to allow him to make a dangerous night ascent to the Pyramid’s summit (left, in the background). Anyone who actually believes that the Great Pyramid was ‘just’ a pharaoh’s tomb, as orthodox archaeology insists, can be helped out of their dream by reading this book. John Michell’s The View Over Atlantis is also recommended for the same reason, as is John Anthony West’s Serpent in the Sky. All three titles are now classics in their field.

[5] By the author Christopher Dunn.

[6] The audible threshold for human hearing is above 20 hertz, so any sound wave below 20 hertz is in the infrasound wave spectrum. The presence of infrasound in the Great Pyramid begs the question as to whether the infrasound there is a natural phenomenon – a side effect caused by the internal tunnels and chambers – or whether the architecture was deliberately contrived to generate the sub-audio effects. Having read the above three books, I would be totally unsurprised if it was the latter. The Great Pyramid is the most remarkable structure ever built, and as it is entirely possible that its purpose was at least in part for some sort of initiatory rituals, then these would only be enhanced by the presence of the infrasound phenomenon. 

The top image is adapted from a period postcard in my collection dating from the 1930's. The image of the interior of the King's Chamber is adapted from a photo at CultureFocus. The 'ghost lights' in this photo are my own enhancement to suggest the atmosphere which Brunton experienced.

Thanks to T.M. Harte at M.E.S.A. for reviewing the infrasound aspects of this post for me.

A well-reasoned appraisal of the infrasound phenomenon in relation to alleged paranormal activity can be found at Shaun Underwood's Infrasound, from which the image of the infrasound signal has been adapted. This author also mentions that infrasound can cause visual hallucinations, and can be generated by such natural phenomena as thunderstorms. The feelings of apprehension which many experience during a thunderstorm (even when in a safe situation) could be due to the infrasound phenomenon.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Profiling a Psychopath

Here is a profile: the subject is petulant, petty-minded and vengeful: someone who demands attention, and becomes darkly jealous as soon as he thinks that anyone else is getting more attention than he is. He also lays down impossible demands which he insists that others follow, but does not follow them himself. Oh, yes: I should also mention that this man is a mass murderer responsible for thousands of deaths. Who is he? Some despotic Idi Amin-style tyrant? Some brutal Pol Pot dictator ruling through fear? No, this dangerously psychotic individual is of course the god of the Old Testament described in human terms. I can now add that this god also appreciates blood sacrifices made in his name (as the [1]Cain and Abel story dramatically underscores), up to and including [2]human sacrifice.

Any and all of the above character traits and actions can be read in [3]scripture. This god even describes himself as a [4]jealous god. He is an appropriately primitive Bronze Age deity with all-too-human emotions and failings. Although surely being ‘God’ excuses all of these things, right? I mean, being God means you get to make up the rules as you go along, doesn’t it? Being God means that everything you do must be inherently ‘right’, because, well… you’re God, after all. And if you’re God, then everything you do apparently can be excused on the grounds that you have this inscrutable and mystical thing called a ‘plan’.

No, not in my book. Following such a god means that you have lowered the bar of your own moral values down to those of this petulant and jealous dictator god. This god who demands that ‘thou shalt not kill’, and then proceeds to lay down a hatfull of transgressions for which the punishment is cruel and bloody death, either by [5]stoning or by being [6]burned alive. Not to mention that he decides to rub out his entire creation (with the exception of a single extended family and the animals they take on board), apparently for no better reason than that [7]‘the wickedness of man was great in the earth’ – as if things are any different now.

Of course, being omniscient as well as omnipotent, God would have known that he’d be destroying his creation a little way down the road even at the time that he brought it into existence. But trying to plot the twisted logic of a psychopath is a dangerous road to tread. Or to paraphrase what [8]Clarise Starling’s FBI boss advised her prior to her interview with the intellectually brilliant but barkingly psychotic Hannibal Lecter: inside this god’s head is not a place that you want to be.

I remember once remarking to someone who bought into all this that if the scriptural God were a person, he would be incarcerated in an institution for the criminally insane. That was several years ago. I dearly wish that I could write here that I have changed my mind, that I now have come round to seeing things in a different light, and that I now understand the god of scripture more. But I cannot. And I do not. Because scripture has that writ-in-stone immutability, and what is in there cannot be changed or spun in some other more acceptable way. It is as it is. And the actions of God are as they are described there, as anyone who doubts me can check for themselves through my chapter-and-verse citations below. 

Faith is not something that you can cherry-pick. If for you it governs your moral compass and the very fabric of your life, then it’s way too important for that. Unless, of course, you view your faith on an only-choose-the-nice-bits basis. In which case it must be something other than the faith which you claim it to be. Because with true faith, it’s all in, or all out. And when all’s said and done, a Bronze Age god is and remains a Bronze Age god. 

But what is a Bronze Age god doing in the 21st-century?

From Ken Russell's Altered States
I am aware that I have not even touched on the God of the New Testament, where the concepts of Heaven and Hell hold sway. A New Testament god who actually uses such savagely crude reward-and-punishment mind games to keep things in line, who subjects any souls who refuse to bend a knee to him to agonizing torments which last for all eternity with neither hope nor possibility of any reprieve or relief, lays claim to being….... ...a god of love?

[1] Genesis 4:1-5

[2] Judges 11:29-40.

[3] Please see my post Frontier Justice in the Promised Land.

[4] Exodus 20:5, and Deuteronomy 4:24. 

[5] Deuteronomy 21:18-21 and numerous other instances.

[6] Leviticus 20:14.

[7] Genesis 6:5.

[8] In Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs – of course!

Images of Anthony Hopkins in the role of Hannibal Lecter from The Silence of the Lambs, from the novel by Thomas Harris, distributed by Orion Pictures Corporation.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The New Church

In spite of the occasional problems which come along, on balance you consider that you lead a contented life, and are fulfilled in your faith and in the small but supportive community of your local church which has been built up around it. Then one day, not so far away from your own church, another church is established: the church of a new denomination which calls itself Jesuanism. Now, from what you have heard about them, you strongly disagree with the Jesuanists’ doctrines, which when measured against your own beliefs, play fast and loose with such basic tenets of your faith as the resurrection, redemption, and the true purpose of Christ’s ministry – so much so that you put a question mark above whether or not you actually consider them to be Christians at all. They even have their own radically different version of the Bible. But it’s a live-and-let-live situation, and that’s what you do.

Things move on apace. More Jesuanist churches are built, and powerful lobby groups are established. Your own little church community is made to feel increasingly isolated, and the true Christian doctrine feels like it is being elbowed aside by what you view as the assertive arrogance of Jesuanist followers. But worse is to come. Those powerful Jesuanist lobbyists have their way.

One Sunday while you are attending the service in your church, a group of Jesuanists from the surrounding churches storm inside and herd your protesting congregation out into the street. You are forced to watch in horror as fanatical Jesuanists dump all the Bibles and hymnals from your church into a pile near the church steps, douse them with gasoline, and set them alight. While the thick smoke from those burning Bibles is still rising, a formal notice of seizure is taped to your church’s door: the building is now in the possession of Jesuanists, and will be used only for the purposes of predicating Jesuanist doctrine and worship.

The next step follows with the terrible logic of inevitability. One evening there is a loud knock on your door. In the yellow light of your porch, Jesuanist delegates strongly suggest that you convert to their faith and attend their services, and it is darkly hinted what might happen if you do not follow their advice. You have such a nice family, and it would be a shame if… etc.

The years pass. You have lived long enough to see the world change around you. Jesuanism, once simply a Christian denomination like any other (however extreme and radical you considered its views) has now become a powerful and entrenched institution recognized as the ‘official’ version of your faith. None of your own Christian churches now remain: they have all been annexed by the new forces of faith. And you struggle increasingly to remember your beloved passages from the Bible as your memory fades. For your memory is now all that you have: all known Bibles have long been destroyed, and you know now that what you do remember of its riches will die with you.

The above events are not nice, are they? Not nice at all. But every sad detail of this cruelly intolerant scenario has already happened, and every single circumstance as related above is a part of recorded history. All that has been necessary for me to write it is to give it a contemporary setting and to devise the fictitious name for the [1]‘Jesuanist’ denomination. For the rest, it is the terrible reality of what you would have experienced as a Christian Gnostic facing the rising force of the new Catholic church between the 2nd- and 4th-centuries. As with its subjugation of the [2]Cathars a millennium later, Catholicism did not emerge as the orthodox form of Christianity because it was ‘right’, but because it suppressed any potentially opposing beliefs with ruthless and systematic finality.

As for the thought that these circumstances are now made safely remote by so many centuries of intervening history: forget it. Right here in the 21st-century I have come across enough ‘good’ Christian websites that, when they mention them, vilify Gnostic beliefs with a ferocity that only an unquestioning indoctrination could fuel, and [3]disinformation about what these beliefs actually are is legion. In those early centuries, the Gnostics’ places of worship were indeed [4]annexed by the Church, and thousands of Gnostic texts were destroyed. The purge of these texts was so complete that for centuries any knowledge of their contents was only gleaned through negative references in the [5]writings of those opposed to them. The discovery in 1945 of the Gnostic Gospels buried in a jar in the Egyptian sands has at last given the Gnostics their own voice. It’s the least that history owes them.

[1] Now that you have read this far, and know that I have been describing actual historical circumstances, you might try re-reading this post - this time substituting my fictitious term 'Jesuanists' (which has now served its purpose) for the term 'Catholics'. Two points are worth remembering: To the Gnostics, it was the form of Christianity which became known as Catholicism that was the distasteful heresy. And: in the earliest years of the new faith, there is reason enough to presume that Gnosticism was closer to the original form of the faith. There still is no 'right' version of Christianity - just versions which have circumstantially come to be viewed as 'orthodox', which is a historically relative term. Each version inevitably perceives itself as the 'right' one, but with 38,000 current versions (denominations) worldwide, are we seriously to consider that one of them is 'right', and the other 37,999 are 'wrong'?

[2] Please see my post A Dark Crusade

[3] In my King James Study Bible, published by Zondervan, the annotation accompanying the First Epistle General of John describes Gnosticism as "One of the most dangerous heresies of the first two centuries of the church..", which begs the question: dangerous.. to whom? This question is naturally-enough avoided, although the Zondervan editors are apparently eager enough to point out that the Gnostics' "...dualism also led to licentiousness." - an assertion as luridly propagandist as it is inaccurate and unscholarly. Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury, actually described (in his April, 2006 Easter Sermon) Gnostic writings as belonging to "the more eccentric fringes of the early century Church." But again the begged question has to be: more eccentric to whom? At the time, all texts and versions of this early Christianity were on an equal footing with each other. There was no 'eccentric fringe' - but the Archbishop's words again demonstrate the thick layer of enduring prejudice against Gnostic beliefs by orthodox sources.

[4] Please see my post Anthony of the Desert: Life as Fiction

[5] Please see my post The Gospel According to Somebody

Top image: AllVoices. Second image: © Brion Hardink

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sex and Trust

Sex is part of the human condition. Having sex means making oneself vulnerable, and vulnerability needs trust. In such a vulnerable state, we need to be able to trust that our partner will not hurt us in ways that we would not wish for. But what about situations when trust is present, but that trust is betrayed?

Children are in a sense captives in the adult world. They have no option but to trust the adults who rule their world, and on whom they are dependent for their well-being. In the world of a child, an adult is for this reason an authority figure by default. And the wishes of an authority figure have to be accepted. The wishes… and the desires. This is why anything, absolutely anything to do with sex which involves children should come under the jurisdiction of the law, and children have a right to expect of adult society that the society will protect them in any way that is necessary, whether that be through legal means or social services, or just plain neighborly watchfulness.

Tragically, it is generally the case that the very transgressors who betray this most precious child-to-adult trust are themselves in positions of trust. Those within the family circle and priests are the most obvious examples which come to mind. To me, that sort of betrayal of trust amounts to a kind of emotional treason. And tragically as well, I can think of a number of examples in my own circle of acquaintances who have suffered - literally - through their adult lives because of such a betrayal, as I am sure others who read this will be able to. Even when - and if - the perpetrators are brought before the law, their sentence is a statutory one. For the victim, the sentence is always life.

When such laws are broken, and when such trust is betrayed - whether those lawbreakers and betrayers are parents, priests, or whatever their social standing - they should face the law with no exceptions. And if it is found that such felons have been protected by their own hierarchies, then those hierarchies as aiding and abetting accessories should themselves be answerable to the law as well, again with no exceptions. In cruel reality, however, we well know that certain hierarchies are so institutionalized that their leaders are placed beyond culpability by their very power. And it is more than mere tax breaks that sets religious beliefs on a pedestal. It is the mindset of our society which insists on treating religion as a special case when it comes to granting [1]respect, whether that respect is deserved or not.

Anything else sexually which does no actual harm to consenting others should have nothing whatever to do with someone else's imposed moral standards, whether those standards are driven by personally-held morality or by [2]religious beliefs. And that includes the ever-popular indulgence of making assumptions on behalf of this, that, or the other deity as to what we happen to consider that [3]deity would disapprove of.

Nobody should lay their own guilt trip on someone else - and yet everywhere this is done on a daily basis. We seem almost to revel in the hypocritical arrogance of telling others how we think they should behave in their private lives, perhaps because it gives us a smug sense of our own self-righteousness. But the terminus on this particular line leads to the godless moral squalor of the Westboro Baptist Church – and ultimately to the hooded corpses of young gay men hanged from construction cranes in Iran.

Love, true and sincere, is what matters, and whether that love is between gay or straight men and women should have nothing whatever to do with human laws (other than ones protective of human rights) or imposed religious beliefs anywhere. And trust – that most precious of all trusts which a child has no option but to accept from an adult – should never be betrayed.

Love is what matters.

[1] Please see my previous post Respect.

[2] Should anyone reading this feel moved to cite the Bible as their moral compass for such issues, I invite them to read my previous post Frontier Justice in the Promised Land.

[3] Here’s what the Bible specifically states about homosexuality:
Leviticus 20:13 KJV: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” 'Their blood shall be upon them' is a textual euphemism for 'they shall be stoned to death'.

So if you agree with God’s law as specified in Leviticus that homosexuality should be punishable by death, then presumably for the same reason you also agree that slavery is acceptable, that a rape victim should be forced to marry her rapist, and all the other issues of dubious Biblical morality raised in my above link. In which case, it’s probably time that you went back to living in the Bronze Age – or move to Iran, which is a country that demonstrates what happens when the line between faith and state becomes blurred. But if you disagree that gay men and women should be put to death, then your personal morality is superior to that of the God of the Bible –  and Iranian law – as I for one sincerely hope and trust that it is.    

The top image is a frame from my video Jimmy. The other images for this post have been adapted from Scrape TV and other sources. The gay couple (male) are from Reddit, the gay couple (female) are from a photo by Lena Granefelt for Getty Images.