Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Harvest Moon Myths of the Past, Present and Future

Image Source: Crystalinks.

Tonight there is a full moon, known in northern climes as the Harvest Moon or Full Corn Moon in North America. It rises at 11:19 ET (3:19 GMT). Seemingly this is a harmless good old full moon that appears closest to the September equinox and has shorter rising times; under this moon, farmers work into the night bringing in their crops. Oddly, a great deal of online chatter casts this moon in a different and frightening light.

Psychics and spiritualists worry (in very unusual ways) that the full moon may spark castastrophic earthquakes. Astrologer Susan Miller calls this full moon a 'Monster Moon.' Miller's Twitter feed and other astrologers' remarks confirm that many people who are already stressed are reading into the stars around this full moon to support their sense of uneasiness about their private concerns, politics, the environment, world affairs and the economy. Miller suffered personal bereavement on 27 September and read it as part of the full moon's influence. Her fellow astrologers believe that this full moon in Aries is the most powerful full moon of the year; Anne Reith explains their reasoning:
I have spoken to so many people during the past week who are going through MAJOR shifts in their lives, both externally (e.g., losing jobs, death of loved ones) and internally (e.g., major insights, emotional breakdowns leading to breakthroughs). ...  
This is the most powerful Full Moon of the year because it is connected to the ongoing square (90°) between Uranus (the planet of change revolution) and Pluto (the planet of transformation and deep healing). As with any Full Moon, the Sun and the Moon are in opposition (180°) to each other. But the Moon is also conjunct Uranus, and both the Sun and Moon are squaring (90°) Pluto. This forms a very powerful astrological configuration called a T-Square (with very tight orbs). And all of these planets are in cardinal signs, which heralds in new beginnings and new energy. Overall, the wheels of change are turning, and this change can be revolutionary. This energy is so great that it can topple governments, shake up corporations, and be the catalyst for major personal transformations. On the one hand, this energy can evoke insecurities by washing away well-laid plans; but on the other hand, it can be seen as the inspiration for breakthroughs that will shape individual and collective visions of the future. It is riskier now to stand still than it is to move ahead. It is important now to make smart decisions regarding the concepts and values that are worth fighting for and which are best left behind. Adapting to uncertain circumstances and avoiding overreaction will help all of us to ride out these storms in relative safety.
The moon's aspects will primarily affect the sun signs Aries, Cancer, Libra and Capricorn.

While some see the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement as indications of larger rebellion, other chatter focuses on radical individual change and personal transformation; Alexis Mincolla wrote: "uninstall your bullshit this saturday and be cleansed by fire." Sherene Schostak feels that this Harvest Moon is about personal revolutions:
On Saturday, September 29, the full Moon in Aries could be one of the most explosive lunations of the year as it stands right on the precipice of many incendiary factors. For one thing, the Uranus-Pluto square becomes activated by this full Moon, setting off the urgent need for cataclysmic breakthrough. 
Mars, the ruler of Aries, is incredibly strong at the moment in Scorpio, which makes our determination to break through stagnation, denial and repression a do-or-die situation. The time is right now. It is a time for action. We are feeling the dire need to change and let go of what no longer serves the authentic “I am” self -- even if it kills us (or before it does). 
If that isn’t enough of edge: Serious Saturn is about to change signs next week after spending two-and-a-half years in the opposite sign of this full Moon (Libra). The cosmic taskmaster will be moving into the same sign as Mars: Scorpio. So again, the theme of letting go, shedding skin and killing the killers in our lives becomes extremely pronounced. 
Aries (Mars) is about bringing out the big guns and taking no prisoners. Don’t ever ask an Aries or person with heavy Mars in their chart to wait patiently. You get the idea: this full Moon is screaming at us to wake up and stand our ground. If we’ve been too nice and people-pleasing (Libra) at the expense of honoring our true self, this full Moon will light the fire needed to burn that nonsense down to the ground.
On the other hand, some astrologers think that this full moon is about history repeating itself, from 1933 to 1966 to 2013. They claim that this moon is influenced (so to speak) by the second of seven ominous and revolutionary confrontational squares between Uranus (electric change) and Pluto (death, the Underworld and transformation), an aspect last evident between 1932 and 1934. By contrast, the two planets entered into a synod, or synthetic conjunction, between 1964 and 1967, often deemed to be a positive revolutionary trend. You can read an astrological geometry and history of Uranus and Pluto interactions here. This interpretation suggests that we are somehow entering a celestial time loop, or perhaps a symbolic period of déjà vu, in which the conditions of the 1930s are being revisited in order to deliver a harsh karmic response to the revolutions of the 1960s.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Birds, Animals and Insects Hold Funerals for Their Dead?

Image Source: I09.

Animals, birds and insects all show strange behaviour when one of their number dies. Researchers debate whether this is an auto-reponse based on their sensitivity to chemicals produced by creatures' bodies after death; or whether this behaviour, in the case of some highly intelligent species, indicates a level of rudimentary consciousness. I09 complements my earlier post, "Do Animals Sense Death?" with a report on recent research that Scrub Jays gather together they lose a member of their flock:
Researchers at UC Davis have observed this funereal behavior in western scrub jays. When one bird spots a dead jay on the ground, it stops what it was doing and starts sending out loud alarm calls. The calls bring in jays from all over, who gather around the body and continue sending out the alarm calls so that as many jays as possible show up near the dead body.

Of course, it's unlikely that these alarm calls are the western scrub jay equivalent of a eulogy. Instead, the researchers are pretty sure that the dead body functions as a warning that predators are nearby, and the jays treat this information seriously enough to gather their entire population around the site of the death. The sight of death had a profound enough effect on the jays that they stopped foraging for the rest of the day, although exactly why this behavior change occurred is difficult to say. It's tempting to say they were too grief-stricken to eat, but we simply don't have enough information to make that assumption.

To better understand what drove the reactions of the jays to the dead bird, the UC Davis researchers presented them with various objects, including recently dead jays, stuffed jays, colored pieces of woods, and stuffed great horn owls (their main predator). A BBC news story charts the birds' reactions:

When the birds were fooled into thinking a predator had arrived, by being exposed to a mounted owl, they also gathered together and made a series of alarm calls. They also swooped down at the supposed predator, to scare it off. But the jays never swooped at the body of a dead bird. The birds also occasionally mobbed the stuffed jays; a behaviour they are known to do in the wild when they attack competitors or sick birds. The fact that the jays didn't react to the wooden objects shows that it is not the novelty of a dead bird appearing that triggers the reaction. The results show that "without witnessing the struggle and manner of death", the researchers write, the jays see the presence of a dead bird as information to be publicly shared, just as they do the presence of a predator.

The BBC observes that whole disciplines of research are devoted to whether animals and birds display comprehension or distress when one of their number dies. Of course, awareness of death has long commonly been considered to be the hallmark of human consciousness. The language of death is the language (we think) of our knowledge of our own souls.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Technological Afterlife

These are: "Technological mandalas made from soldered computer components, by Leonardo Ulian ... see the London Tube map, reimagined as a working radio circuit board made of upcycled computer parts, and some more whimsical art made of the afterlife of devices." (Hat tip: Explore via Maria Popova)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Time Before the Big Bang

Image Source: Better World Books.

For those interested in how our understanding of time shapes our view of the cosmos, The Space Review has a review of a book by Adam Frank, About Time: Cosmology and Culture at the Twilight of the Big Bang. Frank's book, now coming out in paperback, discusses what could have existed prior to the Big Bang:
Many books have as their origins a single question to be studied, if not answered. In the case of astrophysicist Adam Frank, that question was raised by a student in one of his University of Rochester classes in 2007: “What happened before the Big Bang?” While an understandable question to ask, it’s similar to asking what’s south of the South Pole: the Big Bang is when the universe, and time, began. Or was it? “Now it appears that science is ready to go beyond, and before, the Big Bang,” he writes in the books’ prologue.

If this was a conventional book on cosmology, Frank would likely go from there into an exploration of the development of the Big Bang model of the formation of the universe and more recent efforts to propose models for what might have triggered the Big Bang in the first place—and thus give an idea for that “before” question raised in his class. However, Frank goes for a much broader scope in book, examining the concept of time itself, from both a scientific and cultural standpoint: how humans have perceived, and measured, time over the millennia, and how it has shaped our lives and civilization.

Amazing Photos

The Milky Way Over Hawaii © Cameron Brooks. Image Source: Facebook.

Here are some great photos I have found around the Web. I won't reproduce all of them here since they are not my work, but do not miss Hollyhock Detail at The Poor Mouth and Queen Anne's Lace at Trans-D Digital Art (wow!). Where possible, I have attributed authorship, copyright and source for photos copied here.

This NASA photo made me wonder if the Star of Bethlehem, if its appearance was a historical fact, may have been auroras appearing far south due to a solar storm. Image (September 2012) © Fredrick Broms (Northern Lights Photography) via NASA.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Nuclear Leaks 22: Russia's Arctic Projects and Other Dumping Grounds

Scuttled Russian Sub in the Kara Sea: "K-27 ... The only one built of this class. Laid down on June 15, 1958. Launched on April 1, 1962 and commissioned to the Northern Fleet on October 30, 1963. Based at Zapadnaya Litsa. There was a serious accident involving the reactor and 9 people died of radiation injuries. Attempts to repair the reactor were futile; hence the entire submarine was scuttled at a depth of 50 meters in Stepovogo Bay at Novaya Zemlya in 1981." Image Source: Bellona.

On 28 August 2012, the Norwegian environmental NGO, Bellona, reported that Russian officials have 'discovered' their country's enormous dumps of radioactive waste in the Arctic Sea. With Arctic ice melting, Russian authorities want to prospect for oil and gas deposits in the ocean, but they cannot do so unless the nuclear waste is removed. Given the context, it appears that the Russians are admitting their vast radioactive pollution of the Arctic seas now because the problem has gotten beyond them and they need help with a clean up. Presumably the clean up - if it is even possible - will clear the way for underwater oil drilling and yet more environmental abuse.

The waste includes 14 whole nuclear reactors (5 with fuel still in them), and an unmentioned scuttled nuclear submarine, which "could reachieve criticality and explode," according to an earlier report from a February 2012 Bellona-Rosatom seminar. Nor is this year's list of Arctic Sea radioactive dumping complete. From the report:
Bellona is alarmed by the extent of the dumped Soviet waste, which is far greater than was previously known ... . The catalogue of waste dumped at sea by the Soviets, according to documents seen by Bellona, and which were today released by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, includes some 17,000 containers of radioactive waste, 19 ships containing radioactive waste, 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel; 735 other pieces of radiactively contaminated heavy machinery, and the K-27 nuclear submarine with its two reactors loaded with nuclear fuel. ...

Kudrik said that one of the most critical pieces of information missing from the report released to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority was the presence of the K-27 nuclear submarine, which was scuttled in 50 kilometers of water with its two reactors filled with spent nuclear fuel in ... Stepovogo Bay in the Kara Sea in 1981.

Information that the reactors about the K-27 could reachieve criticality and explode was released at the Bellona-Rosatom seminar in February.

“This danger had previously been unknown, and is very important information. When they search and map these reactors, they must be the first priority,” said Kudrik.

Researchers will now evaluate whether it is possible to raise the submarine, and attempt to determine if it is leaking radioactivity into the sea.
This story is not without its critics; a commenter on this piece wrote: "This is just pseudo-Environmentalist propaganda like the China Syndrome." However, another commenter remarks:
"FYI: The United States also approves of radioactive waste dumping as long as it is sealed inside specially-constructed, steel containers and dumped in the ocean offshore. I have personally seen the containers used by N.C.-based waste disposal companies and while they look impressive and are painted a distinct yellow color I know that they are rated to last in salt water 100-200,000 years but the manufacturer told me he himself did not believe that to be true feeling they would leaking waste within 20 years. The company presently dumps off the N.C. coast line into a trench under federal contract."
Yet another rumour from comments on the same piece: "I heard somewhere that the Mediterranean is a dumping ground too. Russian mafia bought up nuclear waste and put it on old ships and sunk them and got insurance. I cannot verify it but it is all so scary." More on that unsubstantiated rumour:
"For years, there have been allegations that the ‘Ndrangheta syndicate of the Italian mafia has been using the seas as a convenient location in which to dump hazardous waste — including radioactive waste — charging for the service and pocketing the profits. An Italian NGO, Legambiente, suspects that about 40 ships loaded with toxic and radioactive waste have disappeared in Mediterranean waters since 1994."

See all my posts on Nuclear topics.

Monday, September 24, 2012

American Prophecies

Lightning Medicine Cloud. Image Source: The Watchers.

In the lore of the Druids, white cows were sacred, sacrificial animals. The Romans, however, on conquering the British Isles, brought dark-coloured cattle with them. White cows were henceforth seen as signs of bad luck, an ancient belief that has survived in the form of a superstition in some farming communities, even to the present day.

Perhaps the mythology of white cattle and conquering powers repeats in North America. In Native American traditions, especially among the Lakota people, the incredibly rare birth of a non-albino white buffalo calf is an auspicious and momentous thing. The Lakotas see the calf as a 'Messenger of God.' The legend of white buffalo is explained by Lakota Ranch:
One summer a long time ago, the seven sacred council fires of the Lakota Sioux came together and camped. The sun was strong and the people were starving for there was no game. Two young men went out to hunt in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Along the way, a beautiful young woman dressed in white appeared to the warriors and said, "Return to your people and tell them I am coming." This holy woman presented the Lakota people with the sacred pipe which showed how all things were connected. She taught the Lakota people the mysteries of the earth. She taught them to pray and follow the proper path while on earth. As the woman left the tribe, she rolled upon the earth four times, changing color each time, and finally turning into a white buffalo calf. Then she disappeared. Almost at the same time as her leaving, great herds of buffalo could be seen surrounding the camps. It is said that after that day, the Lakota honored their pipe, and buffalo were plentiful. ...

The Native Americans see the birth of a white buffalo calf as the most significant of prophetic signs, equivalent to the weeping statues, bleeding icons, and crosses of light that are becoming prevalent within the Christian churches today. Where the Christian faithful who visit these signs see them as a renewal of God's ongoing relationship with humanity, so do the Native Americans see the white buffalo calf as the sign to begin life's sacred hoop.

"The arrival of the white buffalo is like the second coming of Christ," says Floyd Hand Looks For Buffalo, an Oglala Medicine Man from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. "It will bring about purity of mind, body, and spirit and unify all nations—black, red, yellow, and white." He sees the birth of a white calf as an omen because they happen in the most unexpected places and often among the poorest people in the nation. The birth of the sacred white buffalo provides those within the Native American community with a sense of hope and an indication that good times are to come.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Last Book from the Last Library

Déjà vu: According to historian Susan Wise Bauer, this is: The Taking of Constantinople, 1453 by Palma il Giovane [Iacopo Nigreti (c. 1548-1628), who worked alongside Tintoretto], 17th century; very similar to paintings by two Tintorettos (father and son). Image Source: Wiki [the title is quoted on Wiki as The Taking of Constantinople, 1204, other sources agree].

2012 is a year when many people are thinking about the apocalyptic unthinkable. But this is no new thing.  People have been thinking about the end of the world, or at least of cataclysmic change, for as long as they have been thinking about the world. Most of 2012's fears are couched in terms of war, rogue phantom planets, spiritual, religious, political or cosmic dangers. In the Information Age, the one thing we never consider is that our accumulated knowledge could be obliterated.

The Crusaders' Conquest of Constantinople in 1204, by Domenico Tintoretto ((1560-1635) son of the famous artist (1518-1594, who painted another similar painting). Doge's Palace (Palazzo Ducale), Venice, Italy, 16th century.

Critics scoff at the 2012 fearful, but the loss of almost everything we are and know is not implausible and should at least be understood in terms of historical precedents.

There is a reason why many dystopian futuristic stories and films commonly have some lone character - a post-apocalyptic historian - who has holed up with the remains of pre-apocalyptic books, paintings and other cultural artifacts. You can see that theme in several modern graphic novels, fiction and sci-fi movies: Logan's Run, V for Vendetta, Ever Since the World Ended, A Canticle for Leibowitz.

The reason these fearful depictions are so compelling is that they are based on historical facts. We possess submerged memories of other times when vast bodies of human knowledge were wiped out, irretrievably and forever.

This post is about the one surviving book that comes directly to us from the last library of the ancient world. Of course, there are many ancient texts that have survived through copies and archaeological reconstructions. But this is apparently the only text which can be directly traced to a collection at the Imperial Library of Constantinople.