Sunday, November 25, 2007

What Happened at the End of Matrix Revolutions?

Near the end of Matrix Revolutions, Neo has a final showdown with Agent Smith. After destroying Agent Smith from within using some kind of light he got somewhere, Neo appears to be dead? So what happened?

My take on it is this: Neo returned to the source. The Oracle mentioned that there was another world beyond/behind the "real world" and that Neo ended up in the holding station because he found it before he was ready. After defeating (or assimilating) his shadow side, Neo was ready.

There's something else interesting about the series. For most of the second and third movies, Agent Smith had been running amok, taking over bodies in both the matrix and the "real world." So when Neo exploded Smith's body with light, what happened to the other instances of the agent, and the bodies they inhabited? I'll let you decide for yourself, but those of you who have been following my posting may have guessed my opinion.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Paranoia and Conspiracy Theory Reconsidered

Do you ever feel like everyone is in favor of you? Like everyone is out to help you? Like the whole world has a conspiracy to make your life marvelous? What?? Oh, I've got it backwards. Everyone is supposed to be against you, out to get you, et cetera. Well, if that's what you really want, OK, but I think there may be a better way.

Before I tell you about it, assuming you haven't guessed already, I've talked a lot in my previous posts about getting rid of our baggage. That is, getting rid of beliefs and ideals that don't really work for us. But I haven't talked about what to replace them with. Until now.

Pronoia is the Antidote for Paranoia by Rob Brezny (ISBN 1-58394-123-1) gives us an alternate point of view. It is dedicated to the belief that the universe is conspiring in our favor. It's a delightful book with nice artwork and useful exercises. One of my favorite features of the book is what it calls a "Homepathic Medicine Spell." A list of unfortunate world events is listed in a circle surrounded by symbols of enlightenment. It's a poor man's evocation ritual. For those who don't know, an evocation ritual involves summoning a demon inside a magic circle. I haven't tried it, and quite frankly, have no intention to. This way is much easier and safer, from what I've heard.

But why pronoia? Well, you're going to have a belief about how the world works, one way or another. Also consider that your belief systems affect your life, at least in the sense that they determine your actions, and therefore the results. The choice is yours, of course, but think about it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sedona, Arizona

I just got back from Sedona, Arizona yesterday. My main reason for going was the scenery, and my desire to go somewhere cool for my 40th birthday instead of dodging surprise parties. The flight arrived at about 6, and it was close to 7 by the time we got our luggage and the rental car. After a two-hour drive in almost total darkness (once we got out of Phoenix there were no streetlights), we arrived at the hotel. We couldn't see much except for a few stores across the street. The next morning, however, I stepped out of the hotel for a smoke and was treated to a sight similar to what you see next to this article.

Once we got into town, I saw a few new age stores and crystal shops, and downtown has some nice restaurants and stores. I also saw a sign for "Vortex tours." After seeing a few more references to vortexes, I decided that some investigation was in order. Apparently vortexes are centers of spiritual energy often associated with scenic locations. A recovering materialist will take that with a grain of salt, but not dismiss it entirely. Certainly, looking at the mountains was an uplifting experience, especially on the jeep tour that we took. The tour guide told us that so far the only scientific evidence about vortexes was a 2% increase in the magnetic field. We recovering materialists know, however, that science has a major blind spot in that only things that can be measured by our scientific instruments count for anything. Does that mean that there's really something to these vortexes? I'm reserving judgement.

While we were there, I picked up a copy of Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach (ISBN 0-440-20488-7). The book is about a modern-day adept. I'm not using the word messiah because it has too much baggage associated with it, which is probably why the author did use it. The word adept is more accurate to describe the two main characters of the book, who give rides on old airplanes to people for a living. I assume here that the book is a work of fiction possibly based on a true story, and that the two main characters didn't really walk on water. The important thing is the message of the book: that anyone can become an adept by letting go of their baggage and expanding their imaginations.

The book raises an interesting issue which I've touched on before. It offers a new translation of Jesus' parable of the mustard seed: "If you have imagination as a grain of sesame seed...all things are possible to you." The explanation given in the book is that they didn't have a word for imagination back then, and faith was the closest word that seemed to match. When I read that, I wondered if that was a common problem with books written back then. Of course, it could simply have been a mistranslation, or some scribe who was copying the text thought "they couldn't possibly mean that" and changed it into something that made more sense. This again highlights the need for a symbol system. The word "faith" can be translated many ways, but a blue feather is always a blue feather.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Book Review: Tarot Awareness

The commonly accepted purpose of Tarot cards is divination, also known as fortune-telling. The cards are shuffled, and dealt in one of a number of layouts. The reader then looks at the cards and their positions for answers to the question at hand. The Golden Dawn literature suggests that this is also useful as an exercise for the imagination and intuition.

There are two other uses for Tarot cards that I know of. The first is as a repository for ancient knowledge. The story goes that just before the Romans took over Christianity and burned the library at Alexandria, a group of sages saw it coming and decided that they would preserve their knowledge in a disguised form. The idea was that no one would suspect a card game of containing secret wisdom. Also, there is a precedent for this. Dante's Divine Comedy hints at having a secret meaning, which I will discuss in a later post. What counts against that theory is that no Tarot deck is known to pre-date the middle ages. In fact, the most popular deck (the Rider-Waite) only dates back to the early 20th century. Also, no one agrees on the correct design of the deck or the proper order of the major arcana cards (the 22 cards with Roman numerals and descriptive names).

The third use is as a self-contained symbol system. That's where Tarot Awareness, by Stephen Walter Sterling comes in. The book provides an excellent introduction to the major arcana cards as interpreted by B.O.T.A. There is an interpretation of each card, along with a guided visualization illustrating the principles given in the interpretation. As such, it could serve as a useful supplement to B.O.T.A. work. The minor arcana is also covered, although not in as much detail, and instructions for doing a reading are also included.

A brief quote from the introduction will explain why the word "Awareness" is in the title:

The intent of Tarot Awareness is to help the seeker remember that Consciousness, the Energy that knows Itself, permeates the subtleties and activities of all (emphasis in original) our life. When the seeker knows that we "live and move and have our being" within Spirit, Consciousness -- God, the view of the Landscape becomes luminously clear, and then we apprehend the world from a non-egoistic perspective.

Well, that's what it's all about isn't it?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Book Review: Persephone Unveiled

Before the Golden Dawn, before the Rosicrucians, possibly even before the Masons, there was a mystery school in ancient Greece. Since, like most mystery schools, initiates were subject to oaths of secrecy, we do not know what was taught in the school. Persephone Unveiled by Charles Stein investigates the matter. Just to give you an idea of what is involved, I'll give you this quote from the book:
The Eleusinian Mysteries were believed to bestow a privileged afterlife upon those who participated in them. At the climax of the rites performed there, Persephone herself flashed before the celebrants in her form as Queen of the Dead and stimulated an experience so penetrating that the afterlife and death itself were said to hold no further terrors for them.

Powerful stuff, if you ask me. Now, for those of you who don't have Bulfinch's Mythology memorized, I'll give you a brief summary of the story and a hint at an esoteric interpretation: Demeter, the Greek earth goddess, had a daughter named Persephone, who was carried off by Hades to be his wife in the underworld. Demeter was naturally quite pissed and decided to make all the crops stop growing until she got her daughter back. No crops meant no worshipers, so the other gods intervened and a bargain was made. Persephone would spend half of the year on earth with Demeter and half of the year with Hades in the underworld. Now the hint: Demeter could be said to represent the universal soul, and Persephone the individual soul.

The book explores in depth what is known about the mystery school. There is also some speculation about the ceremonies involved. The author conjectures that a psychedelic derived from a naturally occurring fungus may have been involved. An interesting theory, but those of you who have read The Biology of Belief (ISBN and review to be provided later, as soon as I find the damn thing) know that mind-altering drugs are only effective because the molecules fit into receptors in our nerve cells for naturally-produced neurotransmitters that perform the same function. So, given the right setting, the same experience could have been produced without the drugs. So Just Say No!

There is also a chapter about the philosopher Parmenides. You'll like Parmenides, once you get to know him. I have another book about him, which I'll tell you about later. He was not the cold logician he is commonly portrayed as. I think he would have been just as much at home on a mountaintop in Tibet as in his native Italy. Another chapter explores the effects of the work on identity.

I would recommend the book not only for the mythology, but because the rites seem to be a source for the Golden Dawn tradition.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Book Review: Good Omens

The end of the world is coming, and it will be ushered in by the Antichrist in the form of an 11-year-old boy in rural England. An angel and a demon are in charge of laying the groundwork. However, neither of them wants to see the world end because they like it here. The four horsemen have upgraded to motorcycles. Did I mention that the demon happens to be named after the most controversial figure in occultism? All this, and more in Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman.

My favorite funny part of the book: the angel inhabiting various bodies in an attempt to return to the scene of the "festivities" after being banished by a "witchfinder" who has mistaken him for a demon. There's another scene where a group of Hell's Angels decides to accompany the four horsemen to where the apocalypse is supposed to start.

Of course, the book isn't on my blog just because it's funny. At one point in the story, the end of the world begins to happen because the preteen antichrist decides that the adults have ruined everything and that it would be best to get rid of everybody (except his three closest friends) and start over. Reading this reminded me of my preferred theory about the book of Revelation: that it is an allegorized description of an initiation ritual. The intended result of any initiation ritual is that the world looks somehow different to the person who has just undergone the ritual and is therefore beginning a new life.

Not to give any more of the plot away, but another interesting point is raised toward the end. People who take things literally will be looking for a world war and various disasters. That may be what it will take for some of us to wake up. But what if there's another way?