Tag Archives: Mythology

Beware of Predetermined Outcomes

Once Upon A Time

I heard a pretty good story the other day on the radio. It was about these two guys back I Europe, a couple hundred years ago who had an interesting theory. I’m not exactly sure what their professions were, but I think it was some type of profession that had to do with sociology or religion. I think maybe they were professors or something.

Anyway, they had this idea that if they went out to the small towns around Europe (this during a time of relative peace, before the two big world wars) and talked to enough people, they would find something very interesting. Being both devout Christians, they figured they would be able to piece together all the stories from various towns and villages, and put together some super grand unification theory of morality.

They were hoping to find some kind of underlying message or ethical punch line to all these various stories that had been passed down from generation to generation. Their underlying assumption was that God somehow transmits ideas to people, and then people transmit His ideas through their own experiences.

If they collected enough of these stories, they would be able to find the similar themes and messages, and strip out the various personal and local flavors that had been added to these tales over the years, and uncover Gods clear message to humanity.

Unfortunately, after several years of research, all they had was a bunch of nonsense that didn’t really make any sense. The stories they heard from this town over here had absolutely nothing at all to do with the tales they heard from that village over there.

Dejected, they gave up, and went home as failures and went back to teaching, or whatever it was they did before they set out on their failed mission.
Those that have studied the works of Joseph Campbell may see a similar structure in this. He went around the world, for many years, and studied mythology from different cultures, and unlike the two failed researchers mentioned above, he found some very striking similarities between the myths of all cultures.

They more or less followed something called a “Hero’s Journey,” in which there was a young kid, who lived a relatively boring life. Then some higher spirit or god called him on a journey, and he either was forced to go, or went on it on his on volition. On the journey he learns new things about himself, and fights some evil monster, and then returns to his previous life, but now an “enlightened” person, who is seen as a leader or a person of significance in his original community.

That’s pretty much the rough outline, there are several variations, and he identified seventeen or eighteen elements of which 4 or 5 exist in almost every mythological tale ever passed on from human to human. The “Hero’s Journey” is at the core.

If you take as step back, you can see this in many popular movies, as well as modern mythology (e.g. Christianity). Luke Skywalker, Dorothy, Harry Potter, that kid in Transformers, and even Jesus of Nazareth follow the same outline of the Hero’s Journey.

Many believe the reason behind this ubiquitous story structure is the method by which we are all born. We are in the womb, and then the contractions start, and then we are forced through the birth canal and out in the world, literally kicking and screaming. Dorothy and Luke on their respective farms, Harry in his room under the steps, Spiderman living a life of Peter parker, and even Jesus the humble carpenter are all metaphors for the womb.

The Dorothy’s tornado, Luke’s journey with Obi Won, Harry being swept away to Hogwarts, are all metaphors for being pulled into the birth canal.

Then when Harry becomes a wizard, Dorothy finds the wizard, and Luke becomes a Jedi are all metaphors for being born. And the same process, repeats over and over again throughout our lives, giving that particular story structure a strange affinity to our unconscious.

Lately I’ve been reading a lot about linguistics. And there are two kinds of grammar, prescriptive grammar, and descriptive grammar. Prescriptive grammar is the kind of grammar you “should” use, and descriptive grammar is the kind that people actually use.

Apparently, any linguist worth his salt studies “descriptive,” grammar, just like any scientists worth his salt checks his expectations at the door and measures reality the way it really is, and not the way he thinks it should be, or the way he wishes it were.

Those that advocate prescriptive grammar, (which actually stems from schools in London many years ago that basically “invented” certain grammar rules so that upper class wanna-be’s could distinguish themselves from the rabble) are advocating a method of speech based on what they think “should” be the way you talk.

There is more and more evidence that strongly suggests that language is a biologically based instinct, and prescriptive grammar is no more natural than removing a couple of ribs to make your waist skinner.

Which, I think, lays the difference between those two researchers, who came up empty, and Joseph Campbell, who discovered some fantastic insights into human nature.

The first two were trying to prove what they thought was a pre determined outcome, while Campbell was merely studying and observing, as a scientific.

Of course the first two guys, who were brothers, and had the last name of Grimm, didn’t completely fail. Several years after they collected their stories, a friend suggested they publish them as children’s stories.

And that is how the Brothers Grimm Fairly Tales came to be. An attempt to uncover some mystical teachings of God, which turned out to be some pretty cool stories.

Note: The story of how the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales came about was heard on Paul Harvey’s “The Rest Of The Story.”


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Use The Force, Luke

The Journey

In two weeks there is going to be a new nine-screen movie theater opening up near my apartment, so I’m pretty excited. One of my favorite things to do on the weekends is to catch a good matinee. Recently there haven’t been too many good movies out, at least in my neck of the woods. Hopefully in a couple weeks they’ll be some decent ones to see. One thing that I’m particularly looking forward to is that because the new theater is opening in an existing mall, there is already a coffee shop underneath the place.

If there’s a decent place to hang out for a couple hours reading in a coffee shop, then heading upstairs to turn off my brain and take in a good movie, I can’t think of too many more enjoyable ways to spend an afternoon. Especially if I happen to be reading a good book, and the movie is one that I’ve been particularly looking forward to.

The history of movies is kind of interesting. It’s been through a lot of iterations, and ups and downs. One thing that I wasn’t aware of until recently is that even during the great depression, the movie industry was booming. For a few dollars, or back then a few cents, you could completely escape the stresses and anxieties of every day life and lose yourself in a story. People tend to have a real desire to be told a story. But not just any story, a story with a particular structure.

If you step back and take a look at the basic structure of most movies, you’ll notice they follow the same pattern, more or less. (Except for movies like Eraserhead and Blue Velvet.) Obviously there has to be some kind of problem that is set up, and a character that we can root for to overcome the problem. The movie is basically us going along for the ride with the character to see how he or she solves the problem. Psychologists tell us that by watching the character overcome problems, we get some kind of vicarious benefit. The Greeks called it catharsis.

There is one particular structure that has always been popular. And when I saw always, I mean for the past several thousand years always. Ten or twenty, or even more thousand years always. This was described beautifully by Joseph Campbell in many of his books.

He traveled and studied mythology from various cultures from various times. And he found they more often than not followed a specific pattern. They usually start out with a regular character, a guy or girl we can identify with. Then something happens, and the main character is called to go on some journey, or voyage, or quest. Sometimes the character agrees, but usually they don’t. Then they are forced to go along. And along their journey, or quest, they meet up with new people, form a team, and they must face some bad guy. Together with their new team, they defeat the bad guy, and return back to their home a much stronger, better and more worldly person. Campbell called this “The Hero’s Journey.”

Likely the most famous here’s journey story is Star Wars, and it’s not secret that George Lucas depended heavily on Campbell in the making of the first trilogy (The first trilogy release, not the first chronological trilogy.) Other popular movies have also followed this basic structure. Spiderman, Harry Potter, Transformers, The Matrix. All involve a normal guy, who was called on a journey, and through the journey was transformed, and either given special powers (Spiderman, The Matrix) or found out hey had special powers all along (Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz).

At the risk of offending my Christian readers, I suggest that the greatest story ever told, namely that of Jesus of Nazareth follows this same structure exactly. A normal guy, a carpenter, gets called on a mission. He collects a new team (The Twelve Disciples), tries to refuse the hero’s call in the Garden of Gethsemane (Father, let this cup pass me, but If it is Your will, then it shall be done) and finally accepts the challenge. Then when he returns (The Transfiguration) he has special powers. The ultimate special power. He is the Risen Christ, the Son of God; the Creator of all that is, was and will be. The Alpha and the Omega.
As a quick side note, if you are into hypnotic language patterns, Jesus delivers a doozy in the temple. He starts reading from a scroll from the Old Testament (then called something else), and the elders question his authority, as back in those days, you had to be pretty old to that. They ask him what he knows of Abraham, and he says:

“Before Abraham was, I am.”

Which of course alludes to the previous statement by God himself when Moses asks what to say when they ask who sent him:

“I Am Who Am.”

The technical term for what both God and Jesus used would be a temporal shift, but I digress.

The most interesting question is why is that structure so powerful? Why are we so captivated, as moviegoers, when Peter Parker, Neo, Dorothy, Harry, and Luke go through the same Hero’s Journey? Why do we feel so much “rapport” with them when they get called on a journey that they probably feel deep down is the right thing to do, but don’t quite have enough courage to accept the offer?

Because we’ve all gone through the same journey. We’ve all been called, resisted, and due to forces beyond our control, were thrust into a journey that forced us to sink or swim. And we all made it. Every last one of us. What is that journey, you ask?

Being born.

That structure, the hero’s journey is imprinted on every single living human being on a deep, deep unconscious level, as we went through that exact procedure when we came into this world. (Unless you happen to be a clone or an alien).

When we were in the womb, the comfortable, safe womb, we were just like Harry Potter in his Uncles closet, or Dorothy on the farm, or Luke on his farm. Then the birth contractions started. We felt called to a journey that we weren’t quite ready to go on, and we resisted as much as possible. But then when we couldn’t resist any more, life called us forward. Literally kicking and screaming.

The path to life is the Hero’s journey. A journey that repeats itself every time you start a new job, or make a new friend, or enter in a new relationship.

The hero’s journey becomes life itself.

And the hero, is you.


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Spin Cycle

Round And Round She Goes…

I remember once a long time ago, there was this traveling carnival that came and set up in neighborhood. It was around some holiday, I think Halloween. They set up in a parking lot. It was an ordinary traveling carnival, with rides, and food booths and games. There was this one ride in particular that I remember, because my friend managed to get sick while were on it. It kind of looked like big double edge hammer, and each car, which was on each end of the spinning hammer, would spin. So you could spin from two different frames of reference. One large loop around and around, like on a Ferris wheel, but your individual car would spin around on it’s own axis as you spun around. That’s when it happened.

I remember way back in college when we were studying the rotation of the earth. There are quite a few rotations within rotations when you break it down. Our solar system itself is inside of a particular galaxy, which itself is spinning around the universe. Then within our own galaxy, all the stars are spinning around in a cycle. And we, of course, are on earth, which is circling the sun. And of course we have night and day, so the earth itself is spinning on it’s own axis. Right there you have four different things spinning around

What makes it even more confusing is something called precession. If you look at the earth, and imagine each pole sticking up and down, the tips of each pole would draw an imaginary circle as the earth spins around its axis. It takes the earth about 26,000 years to move through one cycle. If you can imagine a spinning top that is holding steady, but the axis moves in a slow circle as it spins, that’s kind of what’s going on. So already we’ve got five different things that are spinning from the earth’s perspective.

The interesting thing about the precession of the earth is that if you take the 26,000 years, and divide by 12, you get about 2100 years give or take. This is exactly as long as each astrological “age” is. As then earth processes around its axis, every 2100 years or so it moves into a different “house,” according to astrology.

If you can imagine the earth as a spinning top, and the axis slowly (in the earth’s case 26,000 years) making a circle, the axis will slowly “point” towards the constellation that represents each astrological symbol.

Many believe that much of the symobology from the bible, as well as the stories that it was based on stems from this precession. The earth’s axis makes a 26,000-year rotation, and each “age” is when the earth’s precessional axis is pointing towards a particular constellation, representative of a particular astrological sign. Currently, we are in the “age” of Pisces. This started around the same time as the birth of Jesus, and many believe this is where the “Jesus fish” idea comes from (Pisces = fish). Before Pisces, was the age of the bull. This is behind the symbolic smashing of the bull, or the golden calf, when Moses came down with the ten commandments, and found his followers busy worshipping a golden calf. The coming “age of Aquarius” or water, is going to be around 2040. Who knows what will happen then. Maybe lots of rain or maybe Al Gore really was right, and the ice caps will melt and we’ll all have to watch “Waterworld” with Kevin Costner and learn how to survive on ships.

Of course, all these stories and mythologies were developed long before they had any accurate means of measuring, or even understand the mechanics behind celestial movements of planets, stars and galaxies. They just knew that different stars, (whatever they were) seemed to appear in different shapes, and slowly move across the sky. You can imagine primitive man coming up with all kinds of fascinating mythological stories to explain it all.

The biggest reason my friend got sick on that insane spinning was because he ate a chilidog, a really big chilidog, right before we got on the ride. And when he got sick, he really got sick. I feel bad for the poor guy or girl that on into our cart after the ride finally came to a halt.

So if you have a chance, or care enough to remember, next time you watch a sunrise, or a sunset, remember that there’s a whole lot of spinning going on out there.

日 月 火 水 木 金 土









These are the seven Chinese characters used to depict the days of week, starting from Sunday. I find it interesting that the character for Sunday in Chinese, and the root word for Sunday in English both mean “The Sun.” Likewise for Monday, (moon day) and “The Moon.” After that I’m not sure. I never cease to be amazed by the various naturally occurring elements in nature, which appear in various cultures.

For example there are ancient traditions in both Eastern and Western belief systems and mythologies surround giant evil reptiles that pose a danger to humans. In European mythology, these “dragons” appear as giant fire breathing lizards. In Eastern mythology, the dragons look more like snakes, sometimes with legs, sometimes not. That they are both reptiles is interesting.

I suppose that ancient man discovered that some reptiles, such as snakes and certain lizards, were much more dangerous than their size and speed would indicate. I can see how primitive man would somehow imagine them to have evil, supernatural powers that would fill stories for generations. From that standpoint, it’s no mystery that both cultures, separated by huge oceans and continents, turned out to be the same basic bad guy in various mythological stories.

Another interesting similarity is the number twelve. Western astrology has twelve different zodiac signs, as does Eastern astrology. It’s no coincidence that if you count the number of full moons in a year’s time, you’ll usually end up with twelve.

There are, of course, several different theories as to why there are so many things in common that cross cultural boundaries. Christians will tell you it is because we all come from Adam and Eve. Jungian philosophers will tell you its’ because we are connected by a massive unconscious, or superconscious brain that feeds our dreams with the same archetypes.

However, there are those that suggest the answer lies in the fact that we all share similar experiences, regardless with what culture we come from, what era we live in, and what language we speak or what god we worship.

For example, the universal signal for no is a shake of the head. Back and forth. No. Every culture, same motion. Even in cultures that have done their best to avoid contact with “civilized” society, they share the same headshake for no.

Why is this? Is it programmed in our genes? The best answer I’ve heard says yes, but from a completely indirect reason. There is no gene that says shake your for no. But there are genes that build our muscles and the shapes of our head and the rate of our growth as children. And our limited body size and control of our muscles lead us to our first ever “no” motion. And because that first ever “no” fulfills it’s purpose, that is the thing we say “no” to stops, we learn right away an effective strategy that works. What is the situation?

We are breastfeeding, and we get full. We think (obviously without words, since we’re about a couple hours old at most) “I’m full. No more. Stop. No.” And the only physical movement we are capable of doing is to turn our heads to the side.

The very first gesture we learn, strictly by trial and error, is how to say “no.”

It’s easy to see then, how every human learns this simple gesture. As far as nodding our head for yes, I’m not sure how that works, but it might have something to do with tilting out heads back and opening our mouths.

Here in Japan it’s a tradition to get up and watch the sunrise on New Years Day. A new beginning. A fresh start. Set the scorecards to zero. One more trip around the sun.

Something to think about as you look at your calendars, and see 1/1/10. When you realize that all around the world people are looking at the same calendars, with the same numbers, and feeling the same thoughts. Another year. Another shot at getting what we want, and getting rid of what we don’t want.

Another trip around the sun on this big ball of dirt filled with people chasing after their dreams. Another year filled with cycles of the moon, the sun, the seasons, and the weather. Another year filled with countless opportunities waiting for you to pounce and make them yours.

Have fun.

Do You Worship The Sun And The Moon?

The Secret of Personality

Once I was reading a book about different personality types. It was pretty interesting. Of course, there are several personality quizzes online that you can take the claim to give you an adequate read on your personality.

I don’t know how accurate they are, or how accurate they claim to be. There are a lot of different schools of thought on personality, where it originates from and what are some of the factors that influence them.

One major factor that many people believe in is astrology. Depending on what year or month you were born in (depending in you believe in Asian or Western astrology) it has an impact on your personality, your characteristics, and even the kind of life you will have. One thing that I think is particularly interesting is that both Asian and western astrology is based on 12. In the west, there are twelve signs that roughly correspond to twelve months. In the east the twelve signs are for twelve different years.

One reason that some believe that the number twelve is important in astrology, and other belief systems that were developed before any kind of scientific method of objective observation of the universe is the cycle of the moon.

In one year, the moon cycles roughly twelve times. That is, a full moon appears about every twenty-eight days or so, or about once a month. Of course, there is the rare occasion, because the cycle of the moon is a little quicker than the length of the month that the moon catches up. And there are two full moons in one month. (Incidentally, this is where the expression “once in a blue moon” comes from. A blue moon is the second full moon in any given month.)

So here we have two belief systems, both centered on the number twelve, which in turn is based on the number of full moons that primitive men and women saw in a year’s time.
Its kind of hard to imagine nowadays, but life back then must have been incredibly confusing, and complicated. And much, much more precarious.
Today, if we need food, we just go and buy some. If we are sick, we go and see a doctor. If we have an accident, we call and ambulance, and somebody comes and picks us up takes us to the hospital.

But life back then was nowhere near as safe and comfortable as life today. The elements could easily kill you. If you messed up and didn’t plant our crops correctly, or at the wrong time, you and your whole family would die. If you were out hunting, and you slipped and broke ankle, you’d be likely left for dead, and the animals would soon come and eat you.

So it’s only natural that people developed this huge feeling of reverence for their natural environment. And not knowing anything about space travel or celestial mechanics, the sun and the moon were seen as all-powerful gods to be feared and respected.

So it made sense, back then at least, to base your life around the cycle of the sun and the moon. But does it make sense today?

I was talking to a friend of mine last week that went and saw a psychic. Not just one of those dudes who sits around on a street corner and reads your palms, a famous, several times televised, multi bestselling book writing psychic. This guy would do all kinds of mind reading, and communing with the spirits.

I asked if he was told any insights about his own life, and he said he was too shy to raise his hand and get a reading. He did say the guy was pretty amazing, and that he accurately read a bunch of people’s lives, telling them what they had experienced and what they should do in the future. He said a few things about people that had “crossed over” as he said, but nothing really specific.
Of course, I have another friend who says that is nothing but what she calls “cold reading.” Apparently this is the art of being artfully vague, and saying things that most anybody could agree with. Things like “you have had some tough times in your past, and often times you wonder if those times are completely behind you or not.” That could be true for pretty much anybody.

I guess people are always looking for some kind of guidance, or validation that everything is going to be ok. Or that if things to wrong, there is some bigger plan. Otherwise people might be inclined to just give up if they thought that they didn’t really have much of a choice, and everything was left up to fate. Or worse, we have zero choice in the matter and we are all part of some continuous expansion of universal randomness.

I’m not sure exactly where I fall along the line of mystical-astrological-psychic phenomenon, but some of that stuff sure is interesting, to say the least.

Maybe I need to be more open-minded.

The Preacher and The Crystal Shop

I was out with a friend yesterday, downtown. We were just wandering around. I had just bought a bunch of white board markers. I use a white board marker when I make my YouTube videos, as I don’t have a printer. I position the camera just in front of the white board, so I can check the notes while still looking at the camera. I try to use different colors for different parts of my monologue. We had just left the stationary store. It was next door to a new age, metaphysical type shop that sold different crystals, and incense and other things that can help you to get in touch with the metaphysical world, if that is what you are into.

We walked in, and there were several tables set up with different crystals on them. I went over and picked one up, and suddenly noticed a strange sensation. I turned around, and the shopkeeper was looking right at me. The other people in the shop were grinning, as if they knew what was coming. I suspected she pegged me as first time customer and decided to give me some hocus pocus sales pitch to try to get me to buy some crystals or incense or tarot cards or something.

The power of the spirit has found you! The crystals are a manifestation of the love of the universe! You think you have chosen them, but they have chosen you. You must listen to your intuitions and let them guide you! You must not forsake the wisdom of their advice! That which you see around you is but a representation of the glory of infinite intelligence that precedes all that is, was, and will be! Beware those who disregard these truths!

The people in the shop were grinning, as they had apparently heard her say this to others. I was impressed at her acting abilities, and chose a couple crystals. One rose quartz and one purple one (I forgot the name already.) My friend and me went on our way.

Later that day, we were in a different part of town. There is a government building, and sometimes on the steps people will come and preach. Usually from some type of Christian angle. They kind of remind me of my days in university, where some weird guy would stand on the steps in front of the cafeteria and go on and on about the dangers of fornication.

The guy that was there, I had never seen before. So we stopped to hear his monologue. As soon as we stopped, he looked directly at me, which was kind of spooky. Everybody around was smiling, I guess because they were glad it was me and not them he was aiming his sermon at.

The power of the Lord has found you! The Bread of Life is a manifestation of the Love of the universe! You think you have chosen it, but it has chosen you! You must listen to your soul and let it guide you! You must not forsake the wisdom of your soul’s advice! That which you see around you is but a representation of the glory of God that precedes all that is, was, and will be! Beware those who disregard these truths!

I felt a bit confused, as I slipped into an uncomfortable feeling of Déjà vu. Has that ever happened to you? So anyway, he had some basket that he was apparently asking for donations. Everybody was looking at me, as his sermon was directed at me. I didn’t have any change, so I put in the two crystals I had bought at the shop before. Everybody seemed to take that as hint, and began filling up his basket with red and purple crystals. Which was strange, because I think he might have been hoping for some money. I don’t know what he is going to do with all those crystals.