zenpundit.com » myth

Archive for the ‘myth’ Category

Hanuman’s ID — and a Landsat view of Sita’s Bridge

Monday, January 15th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — how do you check the biomeetric data for a god? ]

India’s ID system, run by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), issues ID cards linked to biometric data, and containing in each case a twelve-digit Aadhaar number that uniquely identifies the individual in question. More than 1.19 billion Indians have registered for Aadhaar numbers, over 99% of Indians aged 18 and above. That’s pretty impressive.


Even more impressive — the god Hanuman was issued an Aadhaar number, and the card itself records Hanuman’s number as 209470519541 and his date of birth, improbably, as January 1st, 1959.


Hanuman is no ordinary Indian. He is the monkey god who met lord Rama, the avatar of Vishnu, and became his best friend and faithful ddevotee:

Lord Rama is always held close in Hanuman’s heart
and the constant focus of his meditation.

When Rama’s beloved wife, Sita, was abducted by the demon (rakshasa) king Ravana and taken by him to his palace in Sri Lanka, Hanuman crossed the strait between India and Sri Lanka to rescue her.

Secularists doubted this story was history, until a Landsat-5 photo of the straits revealed a series of now-sunken mini-islands passing from India to Sri Lanka, the stepping-stones of Hanuman:

It is almost impossible for secularists to deny the reality of Hanuman’s epic crossing in light of this satellite evidence, surely?



Methinks I do protest too much.


Bob McKerrow, wayfarer, wrote:

“Imagine being on one of those legendary islands of ‘Adam’s Bridge’ or ‘Rama Setu’ of the Ramayana fame! Many centuries ago, this 30 km stretch was a natural bridge connecting Sri Lanka to the southern tip of India; now, the ocean has reclaimed its own, leaving only a chain of sprinkled islands. On December 9, 2011, I was standing on the second island of the chain of limestone shoals between the Rameshwaran Island, off the south-eastern coast of India’s Tamil Nadu and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. If the legends and folklore regarding Rama, Seetha, Ravana and Hanuman are to be believed, this ‘bridge’ is a critical part of the Sri Lanka’s past.

His map shows how the “bridge” — known recently as Adam’s Bridge, but traditionally as Sita’s Bridge, for obvious reasons — bridges the India-Sri Lankan gap:

“If the legends and folklore regarding Rama, Seetha, Ravana and Hanuman are to be believed..” the wayfarer writes.

If indeed. And with an ID card and Aadhaar number to match, maybe?

Scripture in defense of a flat earth

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — an antique KJV quote with modern relevance ]

An assistant and friend in my recovery unit is a Flat Earther. I’m always eager to learn more about non-conventional worldviews, so I was glad when he offered me a video in proof of his worldview — and stunned when, a couple of minutes into the video, I found this verse from Timothy 6.20:

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:

Scripture mocking science in service of the flat-earthers?

It’s a popular message, apparently, in some literalist circles, whereas others note that the word translates the Greek of Timothy’s original “gnosis” — elsewhere always rendered “knowledge”.

No matter, false is false, whether it be science or knowledge.


If science is false — and we know that individual claims within scienve are falsifiable –the lunar and martian surfaces are probably in sound stages in Burbank, and Armstrong took only a very short walk for mankind.

For what it’s worth, the Hare Krishnas are sure about the moon landing being a hoax, too. But they say the moon is beyond the sun, so if the landing were real, it would probably have beeen on the Rahu planet, which most of us haven’t heard of, but which is responsible for eating the sun during eclipses:

In Hindu tradition, Rahu is the severed head of an asura called Svarbh?nu, that swallows the sun causing eclipses.

To my mind, that’s a more complex business than NASA’s explanation.


But back to the flat-earth, non-Rahu idea, all I can say is:


The hunter hunted

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles CameronDoubleTweet — the self-reference and enantiodromia of the hunt ]

This clever illustration of the hunter(s) hunted.. reminded me inevitably of the hunter Actaeon, who saw the goddess Artemis / Diana naked, bathing in a pool. She turned him into a stag, and his own hounds then tore him to pieces..

These two tweets, one following fairly closely on the other though from different sources, just about made my day!

Mattis and Kim: mirrors have consequences

Friday, April 21st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — the current nuclear standoff, with a coda on silver beech and copper birch ]


I spend a fair amount of time suggesting that formal characteristics found in events are frequently worth special note, and mirroring is a good example. Here, in Why Mattis versus Kim Jong-Un Will End Badly for Us All, War on tnhe Rocks indicates the potential (and potent) peril of mirroring in the context of our latest Korean adventure:

Inadvertent war in Korea is more likely now than at any point in recent history. Whereas a second Korean war has always been possible, clashing U.S. and North Korean “theories of victory” — beliefs about what it takes to successfully coerce and control escalation — now make it plausible, even probable.

Patterns of bluster and brinkmanship have of course long characterized affairs on the Korean Peninsula. For “Korea watchers,” there’s a perverse comfort in the predictability of a situation that, to the uninitiated, sometimes looks anything but stable.

So on some level, the rhythm of recent saber-rattling between the Trump administration and North Korea recalls the perverse comfort of typical Korea policy. On a recent visit to South Korea, Vice President Mike Pence cited U.S. attacks in Syria and Afghanistan as indications of U.S. resolve against North Korea. This statement followed numerous officials confirming that the administration is contemplating preventive strikes against the North, and a recent policy review on North Korea yielding one overarching imperative: “maximum pressure.” North Korea’s rhetoric and posturing has been no less confrontational and no less familiar. As Pence departed Alaska for South Korea, North Korea attempted a submarine-launched ballistic missile test that failed. Upon news that a U.S. carrier group was headed to its neighborhood, North Korea responded that “a thermonuclear war may break out at any moment” and that it’s “ready to react to any mode of war desired by the U.S.”

These words and deeds themselves are more heated than usual, but unremarkable in the context of all that’s come before. North Korea routinely threatens war, often summoning images of a future mushroom cloud. The United States routinely dispatches aircraft carriers, bombers, and other strategic military assets in hopes of signaling resolve while actually registering little more than displeasure with North Korean behavior. The notion of “maximum pressure,” moreover, only differs from the approach of past U.S. presidents in the ambiguous adjective “maximum.” Pressure is the historical mean of U.S. policy toward North Korea. My concern is not with these observable dynamics to date, but rather with what lies beneath them, and what may be coming soon as a consequence.

It’s getting harder to ignore that the Pentagon, under Secretary Jim Mattis, may have a coercive theory of victory that largely mirrors that of North Korea under Kim Jong-Un. The danger is in the fundamental incompatibility of these disturbingly similar sets of strategic beliefs.


Smoke and the hall of mirrors, a digression:

An excellent place for final confrontations with heroes, the Hall Of Mirrors wins high marks for ease of use. All you have to do is lure your victim inside by dashing in yourself, and then cackle with glee as they find you reflected back not once but a thousand times… When you have had your fun, seal the exits and fill the cramped space with some kind of liquid. Plain water works as well as anything, but why not add food dye for color. Or, for a touch of whimsy, use a sickeningly sweet fruit punch.

Neil Zawacki, How to Be a Villain, in TV Tropes: Hall of Mirrors


Mirroring sets up an echo chamber — consider the myth of Narcissus** — which is also a sort of ping-pong game and a feedback machine —

and hence a magnifier or an accelerator. It can allm too easily howl out of control, with — in this case — nuclear consequences.

** Narcissus sees his reflection, Echo echos his voice back to him, thus the myth encompasses a parallelism between visual and aural self-perceptions in a wonderful act of inter-media symmetry.


Form is the decorative act of the creative mind, adding to meaning by the use of devices of art in the way the materials of the art are deployed — as when the poet notes (specifically) beech and birch trees in a wood, delighted by the verbal felicity between the two words, or Coppola matches helicopter rotors against the blades of a hotel room fan in the beginning of Apocalypse Now.

And then the delight triples with the addition of a metallic match:

But again, I digress..


Question time — eye contact?

Friday, March 31st, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — i’d like to know more around a fly-by comment re Rex Tillerson — autism, Japanese tantrism, Medusa — any takers? ]

The allegation is that State Department employees, some of them, were instructed not to make eye contact with new State boss Rex Tillerson. That’s from WaPo:

Most of his interactions are with an insular circle of political aides who are new to the State Department. Many career diplomats say they still have not met him, and some have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact.


Gaze is a fascinating business.

When I came back to the UK after living in the US for a couple of decades, my mother was appalled by my tendency to look her in the eye when speaking to her. She told me that you should look away from the person you are addressing, to avoid shaming them by closely observing their reactions to what you’re saying, but should then watch them while they (with eyes averted from you) responded, so as to catch the nuances of their response. Your interlocutor thus gains precious moments in which to modify the immediacy of their response to the suitable response of their choosing. This, I imagine, incoudes but may not be limited to the very rapid, easily missed facial responses knoan as microexpressions.

I by contrast like the direct gaze, and think of it as a sign of authenticity or perhaps earnestness.


Investgations of those on the autism spectrum (somewhere, at some time, likely recently and in a specific population) reveals ASD subjects “shifted their gaze away from a speaker earlier than the control groups.”

Eye contact, or lack of it, can have enormously strong affective implications, as we see in this example taken from Sophocles‘ Antigone:

The stage ‘etiquette’ of Attic tragedy calls for actors/characters visually to acknowledge one another or the Chorus before establishing verbal contact. The title character of Sophocles’ Antigone flouts this custom to interesting effect by keeping her gaze lowered to the ground after the guard, having caught her in the forbidden act of burying her brother, leads her back into the playing space. The Chorus of Theban elders obliquely acknowledge Antigone’s presence at 376, expres sin their consternation at the sight of ‘this supernatural portent’. They address her directly as child of Oedipus at 379–80. But Antigone remains unresponsive, reacting neither to the Chorus nor to the guard’s announcement a few lines later that ‘this is the one who did the deed’ (384). Instead she keeps her gaze fixed on the ground and stands silently by for over 65 lines, while the guard explains to Creon and the Chorus how she was captured. Readers of Sophocles’ play become aware of Antigone’s earthbound gaze only retrospectively at 441, where Creon addresses her with a brusque ‘Hey you, the one bowing your head to the ground …’

The three sacred treasurs of Japan are presented to the Emperor during the Japanese equivalent of coronation — during a tantric ceremonial in which the Emperor is united with his Sun Goddess and originating ancestor, Amaterasu Omikami — see:

  • Robert S. Ellwood, The Feast of Kingship: Accession Ceremonies in Ancient Japan
  • D. C. Holtom, Japanese Enthronement Ceremonies: With an Account of the Imperial Regalia
  • And famously, Medusa must not be looked upon directly, lest one be turned into stone. It transpires that Medusa was once a beauty indeed to be gazed upon. In the words of Dryden‘s Ovid:

    Medusa once had charms; to gain her love
    A rival crowd of envious lovers strove.
    They, who have seen her, own, they ne’er did trace
    More moving features in a sweeter face.
    Yet above all, her length of hair, they own,
    In golden ringlets wav’d, and graceful shone.
    Her Neptune saw, and with such beauties fir’d,
    Resolv’d to compass, what his soul desir’d.
    In chaste Minerva’s fane, he, lustful, stay’d,
    And seiz’d, and rifled the young, blushing maid.

    Athena’s gaze at this scene, and turning away of that gaze, is the topic of Ovid’s next lines:

    The bashful Goddess turn’d her eyes away,
    Nor durst such bold impurity survey;
    But on the ravish’d virgin vengeance takes,
    Her shining hair is chang’d to hissing snakes.
    These in her Aegis Pallas joys to bear,
    The hissing snakes her foes more sure ensnare,
    Than they did lovers once, when shining hair.

    And thus Medusa becomes the famous face which cannot be directly gazed upon in peril of being turned to stone:

    That horrid head, which stiffens into stone
    Those impious men who, daring death, look on.

    so that:

    Two hundred, by Medusa’s head were ston’d.

    Medusa is killed only when Perseus observes her reflected in his polished shield:

    But as he journey’d, pensive he survey’d,
    What wasteful havock dire Medusa made.
    Here, stood still breathing statues, men before;
    There, rampant lions seem’d in stone to roar.
    Nor did he, yet affrighted, quit the field,
    But in the mirror of his polish’d shield
    Reflected saw Medusa slumbers take,
    And not one serpent by good chance awake.
    Then backward an unerring blow he sped,
    And from her body lop’d at once her head.
    The gore prolifick prov’d; with sudden force
    Sprung Pegasus, and wing’d his airy course.

    One wonders how much irony there is in that phrase, “not one serpent by good chance awake” — chance, or fate?


    I don’t have direct access to the World Encyclopedia of Lowered Eyes and Direct Gazes, but there’s clearly plenty to read in social anthropology, depth psychology on the topic —

  • Scientific American, Eye Contact Can Be Overwhelming
  • Psychology Today, The Secrets of Eye Contact, Revealed
  • Jane Lydon, Eye Contact: Photographing Indigenous Australians
  • — and so forth

    So I’ve titled this post Question time, hoping Zp readers will chime in with significant readeings that explore the reasons Tillerson may have requested no eye-contact — if in fact he did.

    Because this whole post, and a flurry of activity on the web, hinges on a very short phrase in that WaPo piece:

    some [diplomats] have been instructed not to speak to him directly — or even make eye contact

    which presumably falls within the category RUMINT unoess otherwise corroborated by named and trustworthy sources.

    Eye contact — any suggestions?

    Switch to our mobile site