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Rona and other myths undercut our cosmological arrogance

In Oceanic mythology Rona is a fierce female cannibal who eats her beautiful daughter’s lover.¹

Another Oceanic myth tells of a male god, Rona, who fights the moon to rescue his abducted wife.² According to this story, when the moon tires from the battle with Rona, it wanes. When the moon regains its strength, it waxes.

This is a good example of what might be called alternative logic, lateral thinking or, for some, anthropomorphism. From his fieldwork, the depth psychiatrist Carl Jung observed that archaic myths are logical and meaningful to so-called primitives, just as scientific explanations appear logical and meaningful to many so-called advanced, thinking persons.

More recently, postmodern critiques of science tend to view theories as working myths or fictions instead of facts. This makes sense if one is willing to admit bias and the limits of human understanding.

English: Karl Popper in 1990.

Karl Popper in 1990 (Photo: Wikipedia)

Take Karl Popper, for instance. He points out that scientific theories are never really proved, per se, but only supported. Also, scientific theories are subject to falsification, modification or radical change through, as T. Kuhn suggests, a paradigm shift. We know that Newton’s Laws of Motion perform well for conventional problems. But Einstein’s work is required for areas that Newton couldn’t observe and probably didn’t imagine.³

Somewhat ahead of his time, Jung says he treated so-called primitives with respect and, when interviewing local elders and tribesmen, didn’t challenge their beliefs or try to convert them to a modern scientific or, for that matter, Protestant Christian perspective.4

A considerate move on Jung’s part. Imagine if advanced extraterrestrials publicly visited Earth. Let’s say the visitors could see beyond our common view of directional time and the (apparent) solidity of matter. These beliefs are important to the functioning and psychological security of 21st century mankind. So if ETs revealed too much knowledge too fast, they’d likely blow our minds as David Bowie put it in the song “Starman.”

Likewise, had Jung tried to convince indigenous peoples that the sun’s rising did not depend on contemplation and sacrifice but, rather, the Earth’s natural rotation, he might have upset their psychological wellness.5

This raises questions about our “developed” cosmological assumptions and how they tie in to the idea of progress. Clearly this topic can go in many directions. I touch on some of these in entries on numinosity, spirituality, mysticismscience, psychiatry and scientism, among others.

¹ See http://www.sacred-texts.com/pac/om/om08.htm for the source of these and also for this Wikipedia retelling:

According to Māori legend, a Ngaio tree can be seen on the moon:

The man in the moon becomes, in Māori legend, a woman, one Rona by name. This lady, it seems, once had occasion to go by night for water to a stream. In her hand she carried an empty calabash. Stumbling in the dark over stones and the roots of trees she hurt her shoeless feet and began to abuse the moon, then hidden behind clouds, hurling at it some such epithet as “You old tattooed face, there!” But the moon-goddess heard, and reaching down caught up the insulting Rona, calabash and all, into the sky. In vain the frightened woman clutched, as she rose, the tops of a ngaio-tree. The roots gave way, and Rona with her calabash and her tree are placed in the front of the moon for ever, an awful warning to all who are tempted to mock at divinities in their haste.

English: Hand-colored photograph of Carl Jung ...

Hand-colored photograph of Carl Jung in USA, published in 1910 (Photo: Wikipedia)

² Ibid.

³ See Reddit – Ask Science.

My PhD thesis suggests that Jung thinks and behaves like a postmodern before the idea of postmodernism becomes fashionable. Jung’s father, Paul, was a Protestant minister who said Carl had to “believe.” Jung later writes that he doesn’t know how he is to find this belief. With access to his father’s theological library, the young Jung took to Latin and religious studies like a dove to water.

Jung interviewed a Hopi elder and other Native Americans who held these beliefs. See cgjungpage.org.


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Ticket

Image via Tumblr

In contemporary usage the word “ticket” is slang for an alleged type of paranormal punishment or retribution for boundaries being crossed or other perceived transgressions.

In the song “Suffragette City” (1972) pop musician David Bowie uses the word “ticket” to denote a potential punishment to be meted out in response to another’s undesirable act:

“Don’t lean on me man, ‘cos you can’t afford the ticket.”

With much of Bowie’s work, there’s room for psychological, social and metaphysical interpretation. In this case its unclear whether Bowie is portraying paranormal or more ordinary forms of retribution. However, his creative genius often spawns lyrics connoting several levels of meaning. And in the 1970s Bowie used mind-altering substances which conceivably could have given him some kind of glimpse into the unknown.

bowie-alladin

David Bowie promotional photo for the album Aladdin Sane RCA Records in 1973. Fair Use / Fair Dealing rationale.

If this sounds far-fetched, we’d do well to remember that Mexican shamans speak of different metaphysical planes or grids of spiritual power, and have been using hallucinogenic peyote for years. This fact was popularized by Carlos Castenada in The Teachings of Don Juan (1968) and in other Castenada books. So to suggest that the Caucasian David Bowie is necessarily any different could be seen as a kind of reverse discrimination.

Mind-altering substances aside, shamanic warriors in various cultures apparently need no drugs to enter a kind of inner space where subtle battles are fought, bringing about tangible effects in daily life. Whether or not these inner battles are just hallucinatory fabrications or real phenomena remains unknown because these kind of paranormal claims do not lend themselves to our conventional understanding of scientific experimentation.

Related Posts » Shamanism

 


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David Bowie

David Bowie 2004

David Bowie 2004 (Photo credit: markjeremy via Flickr)

Obviously, this needs updating… –MC

David Bowie (1947 -) is a British musician, record producer, arranger, actor and visual artist. Originally David Jones, apparently he changed his surname to avoid confusion with the popular Monkee of the time, Davey Jones.

Most would agree that Bowie is in a rare league of iconic rockers, including the likes of Elvis Presley, Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, Madonna and Elton John.

His best music synthesizes existing idioms to create something fresh and often exploratory. And because of his considerable talent, his musical explorations rarely go off the grid.

Bowie the philosopher, if you like, also takes us to new dimensions often passed over by status quo thinkers. His song “Starman” (1972) ponders the idea of extraterrestrial life and its potential impact on humanity.

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile

And in “Loving the Alien” (1984) he sings:

Believing the strangest things
loving the alien…

Meanwhile, Black Tie White Noise (1993) looks to the meeting of spirit and the body, a topic that sometimes scares away so-called intellectuals who think they’re smart but really are quite narrow-minded:

Where the flesh meets
the spirit world
Where the traffic is thin…
You’ve been around
but you’ve changed me

In Bowie’s heyday the press often depicted him as “going away” from this world into some kind of creative journey and then “returning” whenever he produced a hit single.

There might be some psychological truth to this, as found in “Little Wonder” (1997):

Enter Galactic, see me to be you
It’s all in the tablets, Sneezy Bhutan
Little wonder then, little wonder
You little wonder, little wonder you…
Sending me so far away,
so far away…

Not unlike the Hindu Shiva-Shakti dyad, Bowie plunged into cross-dressing before this was considered chic in the music industry.

Cover of

Cover of Sound + Vision

But there’s more to Bowie than meets the eye. Connecting him to religion and spirituality is far from spurious, considering his interest in parapsychology, as found in “Sound and Vision” (1977):

Don’t you wonder sometimes
‘Bout sound and vision…
I will sit right down,
Waiting for the gift of sound and vision

Within Asian systems paranormal abilities are known as siddhis, and in Catholic mysticism those which come from God are called called interior locutions, insights, perceptions and private revelations.

Bowie himself, however, is often critical of organized religion, as expressed in this chant from The Buddha of Suburbia (1993), released several years before the Catholic sex-abuse lawsuits hit the media:

Sex and the church
Sex and the church
Sex and the church
And the church
And the church

Bowie might someday be regarded not just as a musician but as a visionary or futurist. Considering the looming global water crisis the following scenario from “Looking for Water” (2003) doesn’t seem too far off:

Silver leaves are spinning round
Take my hand as we
go down and down
and down
Looking for water…

I’m looking for water
Looking for water
(Looking looking)
I’m looking for water
Looking for water…

The musician/visionary combination is not unheard of. Both Pythagoras and the legendary Orpheus combined music, philosophy and spirituality.

Pythagoras linked musical harmony to cosmic order, while Orpheus used his lyre to wrest his wife Eurydice from the underworld lord of death, Cerberus. But like Lot’s wife, and against a dire warning not to look back while escaping, Orpheus foolishly cast a glance backward, losing Eurydice forever.

This story speaks to the wisdom of accepting and trusting in the future, an idea summed up in Bowie’s tune, “Changes” (1971):

Turn and face the strange
ch ch changes…
time may change me
but I can’t trace time

Bowie has also ventured into acting and composing soundtracks for film and video games. For some time he hosted a lively, free internet forum called “Discourse” at davidbowie.com, which now charges membership fees.

Although criticized for being cheap when it comes to charity, Bowie replies

I can never make my mind up, I’m so f***ing flippy floppy. I can see both sides of everything and it’s really awful. Source » “DAVID BOWIE – BOWIE’S CHARITY STRUGGLES” at contactmusic.com

David Bowie & Band @ Area2 Festival

David Bowie & Band @ Area2 Festival (Photo credit: markjeremy)

Cheap or not, for his considerable import as an artist he was awarded the 2008 Andromeda Award at earthpages.org.

Around 2004 Bowie suffered a heart attack and underwent emergency surgery. Since then he’s understandably kept a low profile, appearing here and there, and endorsing his son’s 2009 “Moon” movie.

All that changed when on his 66th birthday he released a new album, The Next Day (2013). Keeping true to form, one of his videos for the record upset the Catholic League. And so far it’s the fastest-selling album of 2013.

Other interesting things about Bowie:

  • he was offered but declined a knighthood
  • his actual religious views remain somewhat mysterious
  • he just wants to make records now (and not give concerts)
  • he’s apparently vowed never to do public interviews again

Earthpages.org’s Very First 2008 Andromeda Award!

Related Posts » Nineteen Eighty-Four


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Existentialism

English: Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvo...

Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir at Balzac Memorial Deutsch: Jean-Paul Sartre und Simone de Beauvoir am Denkmal von Balzac (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To some, existentialism is a bleak philosophical worldview. To others, it’s the only sane solution to a seemingly insane world. Existentialism most visible originator is probably Søren Kierkegaard but its best known proponent is Jean-Paul Sartre.

Sartre put a lot of very basic ideas into catchy phrases and hence made a celebrity out of himself. And this exemplifies what existentialism is all about: The creation of meaning and purpose from a human world said to be meaningless and uprooted from nature.

According to Sartre, one creates meaning and purpose out of absurdity by choosing to make commitments to an ideal or movement deemed worthwhile.

Unlike animals supposedly bound by stimulus and response, Sartre says a “gap of nothingness” that lies between our present and past means that we are able to choose. Thus we’re “condemned to be free.”

Existentialism was in vogue in the late 1950’s and 1960’s among beatniks, hippies, journalists and academics. As David Bowie rather amusingly puts it in the song “Join the gang” (1967):

Let me introduce you to the gang
Johnny plays the sitar, he’s an existentialist
Once he had a name, now he plays our game
You won’t feel so good now that you’ve joined the gang

Sartre’s stardom in the halls of academia was generally succeeded by Karl Marx in the 1970s, by the postmoderns in the 1980s, and by the likes of Wittgenstein and Noam Chomsky in the 1990s. Other famous existentialists include Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) and Albert Camus (1913-60).

Related Posts » Bad Faith, Fromm (Erich), Postmodernism, Poststructuralism