"Since the First World War Americans have been leading a double life, and our history has moved on two rivers, one visible, the other underground; there has been the history of politics which is concrete, factual, practical and unbelievably dull; and there is a subterranean river of untapped, ferocious, lonely and romantic desires, that concentration of ecstasy and violence which is the dream life of the nation."

Norman Mailer
"The whole work of healing Tellus depends on nursing that little spark, on incarnating that ghost, which is still alive in every people, and different in each. When Logres really dominates Britain, when the goddess Reason, the divine clearness, is really enthroned in France, when the order of Heaven is really followed in China--why then it will be spring."

"This new history of yours," said McPhee, "is a wee bit lacking in documents."

C.S. Lewis

Synchronicities this week

  • June 24 Midsummer/St. John’s Day
  • June 24, 1947 The first flying saucers are sighted over Mount Rainier by pilot Ken Arnold.
  • June 24, 1542 St. John of the Cross, Spanish Carmelite mystic and poet, is born.
  • June 24, 1938 500 ton meteorite lands near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania.
  • June 24, 1717 First Free Masons' grand lodge founded in London.
  • June 24, 1374 A sudden outbreak of St. John's Dance causes people in the streets of Aachen, Germany, to experience hallucinations and begin to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapse from exhaustion.
  • June 24, 1314 Battle of Bannockburn; Scotland regains independence from England.
  • June 24, 843 Vikings destroy Nantes.
  • June 23 Midsummer’s Eve
  • June 23, 1972 Nixon & Haldeman agree to use CIA to cover up Watergate.
  • June 23, 1942 Germany's latest fighter, a Focke-Wulf FW190 is captured intact when it mistakenly lands at RAF Pembrey in Wales.
  • June 23, 1888 Frederick Douglass is 1st African-American nominated for president.
  • June 23, 1848 Workers’ insurrection in Paris.
  • June 23, 1713 The French residents of Acadia are given one year to declare allegiance to Britain or leave Nova Scotia, Canada. They choose the latter, migrate to Louisiana, and become Cajuns.
  • June 21 Summer Solstice (11:28 a.m.).
  • June 21, 1964 Three civil rights workers-Michael H. Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James E. Chaney-are kidnapped and murdered by the Klan in Mississippi .
  • June 21, 1948 The 33 1/3 RPM LP record is introduced by Columbia Records.
  • June 21, 1944 Ray Davies of the Kinks born in London.
  • June 21, 1916 Mexican troops beat US expeditionary force under Gen Pershing.
  • June 21, 1877 The Molly Maguires, ten Irish immigrant labor activists, are hanged in Pennsylvania prisons.
  • June 20, 1947 Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel, gangster, the “man who invented Las Vegas,” shot dead in Beverly Hills, Cal.
  • June 20, 1909 Errol Flynn, greatest of the swashbucklers, born in Hobart, Tasmania.
  • June 20, 1944 Congress charters Central Intelligence Agency.
  • June 20, 1943 Detroit race riot kills 35.
  • June 20, 1893 - Lizzie Borden acquitted in murder of parents in New Bedford Mass.
  • June 20, 1871 Ku Klux Klan trials began in federal court in Oxford Miss.
  • June 20, 1837 Queen Victoria at 18 ascends British throne ; rules for 63 years ending in 1901.
  • June 20, 1756 146 British soldiers imprisoned in the "Black Hole of Calcutta." Most die.
  • June 20, 1631 The Irish village of Baltimore is attacked by Algerian pirates.
  • June 20, 1214 The University of Oxford receives its charter.
  • June 20, 451 Germans & Romans beat Attila the Hun at Catalarinische Fields.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Incident at My Lai

Hugh Thompson Jr., a former U.S. Army helicopter pilot died at age 62 on January 6, 2006.

Early in the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta came upon U.S. ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians in and around the village of My Lai.

Thompson flew over the northeast corner of the village and spotted a group of about ten civilians, including children, running toward a homemade bomb shelter. Pursuing them were soldiers from the 2nd Platoon, C Company. Realizing that the soldiers intended to murder the Vietnamese, Thompson landed his aircraft between them and the villagers. Thompson turned to Colburn and Andreotta and told them that if the Americans began shooting at the villagers or him, they should fire their M60 machine guns at the Americans: "Y'all cover me! If these bastards open up on me or these people, you open up on them. Promise me!" He then dismounted to confront the 2nd Platoon's leader, Stephen Brooks. Thompson told him he wanted help getting the peasants out of the bunker.

According to Thompson's gunner, Spec. Lawrence Colburn, "Glenn and I got out of the aircraft, took out the guns. Hugh walked over to this lieutenant [Brooks], and I could tell they were in a shouting match. I thought they were going to get in a fist fight. He told me later what they said. Thompson: 'Let's get these people out of this bunker and get 'em out of here.' Brooks: 'We'll get 'em out with hand grenades.' Thompson: 'I can do better than that. Keep your people in place. My guns are on you.' Hugh was outranked, so this was not good to do, but that's how committed he was to stopping it."

After coaxing the 11 Vietnamese out of the bunker, Thompson persuaded the pilots of the two gunships flying as his escort to evacuate them. While Thompson was returning to base to refuel, Andreotta spotted movement in an irrigation ditch filled with approximately 100 bodies. The helicopter again landed and the men dismounted to search for survivors. After wading through the remains of the dead and dying men, women and children, Andreotta extracted a live boy. Thompson flew the survivor to the hospital in Quang Ngai.

Upon returning back to their base at about 1100, Thompson heatedly reported the massacre to his superiors. His allegations of civilian killings quickly reached Lieutenant Colonel Frank Barker, the operation's overall commander. Barker radioed his executive officer to find out from Captain Medina what was happening on the ground. Medina then gave the order to Charlie Company to "knock off the killing".

In late 1969, Thompson was summoned to Washington DC and appeared before a special closed hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. There, he was sharply criticized by Congressmen, in particular Chairman Mendel Rivers (D-SC), who were anxious to play down allegations of a massacre by American troops. Rivers publicly stated that he felt Thompson was the only soldier at My Lai who should be punished (for turning his weapons on fellow American troops) and unsuccessfully attempted to have him court-martialed. As word of his actions became publicly known, Thompson started receiving hate mail, death threats and mutilated animals on his doorstep.

In 1998, the Army honored the three men with the prestigious Soldier's Medal, the highest award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy. Thompson and his crew's actions have been used as an example in the ethics manuals of U.S. and European militaries.

"He was treated like a traitor for 30 years, so he was conditioned to just shut up and be quiet. Every bit of information I got from him, I had to drag it out of him."
Trent Angers, Thompson's biographer

"What a great man. There are so many people today walking around alive because of him, not only in Vietnam, but people who kept their units under control under other circumstances because they had heard his story. We may never know just how many lives he saved."
Col. Tom Kolditz, head of the Army academy's behavioral sciences and leadership department

"You can't imagine what courage it took to do what he did. "
Seymour Hersh, journalist who "broke" the My Lai massacre story.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Go to War for the People, Barack

From an article by Gary Kamiya in Salon

"This long-overdue outburst of populist rage could mark a decisive shift in Americans' attitudes toward income inequality. It could also prove temporary, just another populist crest in a long cycle: Revulsion at economic injustice has historically been followed by variants of the 'greed is good' credo. But it would be a mistake for Obama to dismiss the current outrage as ephemeral, or as the uninformed ranting of a mob.

>"As historian Michael Kazin has pointed out, 'For better or worse, populism lives too deeply in America's fears and expectations to be trivialized or replaced.' Populism does not always offer practical solutions. But it unerringly expresses deep national feelings -- and right now, Americans feel profoundly betrayed by the system. If Obama channels populist rage in the right way, he could use it to effect fundamental changes in our rigged version of capitalism, and begin to make America a fairer and more truly prosperous society."

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to Really Celebrate

Learn how to turn ordinary time into sacred time... (written by me)

From Spirituality and Practice Magazine...
"This awe-inducing resource probes the poetic, symbolic, natural, folkloric, and psychological nuances of the church year. Hill consciously swerves away from a scholarly approach and chooses instead to make this a gazette filled with hundreds of spicy, thought-provoking, and practical details about The Feast of Michael and All Angels, Halloween, The Feast of All Saints, The Feast of All Faithful Departed, Advent, Christmas Eve, Twelfth Night, the Feast of Epiphany, The Feast of St. Brigid of Ireland, The Purification of St. Mary the Virgin, The Annunciation of the Lord, Easter Vigil, Pentecost, The Nativity of St. John the Baptist, The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, and the Feast of the Transfiguration. Each chapter includes a meditation, a story giving the background of the day, and several ways to "enter the season."

We loved the use of paintings such as "The Annunciation" by Henry Ossawa Tanner and "Easter Morning" by Caspar David Friedrich to catalyze our appreciation of these festivals. Hill also uses snippets of poems and does imaginative treatments of familiar material, demonstrating an openness to all the subtle and sneaky manifestations of the Divine in our lives. "

Read excerpts from Holidays and Holy Nights here and here.

Order here.

Mummy Fiction and the Occupation of Egypt

Publication: English Literature in Transition 1880-1920

Publication Date: 22-SEP-08

Bradley Deane

During the unofficial occupation of Egypt (1882-1914), British writers discovered a way to combine these two female characters--the contemporary veiled Arab woman and the majestic queen of classical antiquity--into a single fanciful figure that could embody the sexual and historical themes through which the "Egyptian Question" was popularly represented: the living mummy. Late-Victorian Britain experienced a minor craze for this creature of imperial fantasy, (1) and mummy stories continued to fascinate Edwardian readers and became a staple of twentieth-century film. We are now more accustomed to the extensive cinematic tradition of grotesquely desiccated male monsters relentlessly avenging the violation of their tombs, but Victorian and Edwardian mummies embody Egypt in terms strikingly like those of the prurient Punch cartoons. The typical mummy of Victorian and Edwardian fiction is a woman, and one who, perfectly preserved in her youthful beauty, strongly attracts the libidinous attention of modern British men. While their desire is certainly a cause of some ambivalence, it is nevertheless the case that the men in these stories are less inclined to flee from a mummy than to marry her, to see in her a chance to be kissed rather than cursed. In short, the Victorian mummy narrative is a love story, one as politically charged as the Punch cartoons."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Temple of Man

The Temple of Luxor in the town of Luxor in Upper Egypt (actually the southern part of the country), known in Pharaonic times as Thebes, the sacred capital of Egypt's New Kingdom golden age, is one of the most beautiful and significant of Egypt's "Houses of Life" as the Egyptians called their temples.

Huge libraries have been filled with the work of scholars attempting to get inside the ancient Egyptian head. Mostly they make it sound about as mundane as it could be and still have something to do with ancient Egypt. In fact sometimes they make it all sound so ordinary that you can feel a little silly for being intrigued with ancient Egypt at all.

I haven't read much conventional Egyptology, but in what I have, the scholars never start with the effect that an encounter with ancient Egyptian art and architecture has upon contemporary men and women. Because ever since tourists started regularly visiting Egypt in the 18th century,the effect has been pretty much the same--they're blown away. What's the scholarly interpretation of that?

Here's the thing, and this is true, it's just that for some reason scholars aren't particularly interested in it--the architecture of sacred places is consciously and carefully created to have an effect on you, to transmit pieces of a vision to you even if you cannot read or write a word of the language. This is what the Pyramids of Giza do, it's what the Gothic cathedrals of Medieval Europe do, it's what the great stone circles of the British Isles do, it's what the Indian mounds of North American do, and I'm sure all these have their counterparts in Asia.

The first thing that can be said is that it's really fun being in these places. I think that if a kind of exhilaration isn't your first response then either the original builders forgot some of the important principles, or you should try again another day. Just being in the precincts sort of puts things in a healthier perspective. You--with all your list of worries and concerns that loom so large --suddenly seem blissfully small and unimportant. You're here to explore a new and bigger world. If I'm sure of anything, I'm sure this effect was part of the builders' intent.

Anyway, I've never been to Luxor, but I think Luxor Temple is probably an especially potent example of this whole thing. In the middle of the 20th century, an amateur French Egyptologist named R.A. Schwaller de Lubicz spent fifteen years poking around, measuring, sketching, photographing and meditating on Luxor Temple. He decided that Luxor was the height of the Egyptian science of sacred architecture, the "Parthenon of Egypt" and, as he ended up calling it, the Temple of Man. de Lubicz believed that one of the principals of sacred architecture is that its structures are in some sense "alive." And nowhere was this more true than at Luxor. He came to decide that the temple was symbolically a huge human body. Laying a medically accurate rendering of an adult male skeleton over a plan of Luxor Temple--head at the top by the Holy of Holies, feet at the bottom by the Pylon Gate--he believed he found a key to the design and function of the temple.

The first section of the Temple of Luxor, the Court of Ramesses the Second, corresponds to the legs from the knees down. What do you find in the Court of Ramesses the Second? You're surrounded by statues of Ramesses in an unusual striding position with the lower leg from the knee down extended forward so that at certain times of day the shin, alone of the whole statue, catches the light.

At the point in the Temple where the skeleton overlay indicates the genitals, there is a wall carving of a pharaoh with a huge erection ("ithyphallic" the Egyptologists call it. ) Where the navel should be is an inscription that says,"Here is the true birthplace of the Pharaoh." At the point where the first of the twelve vertebrae begins is a depiction of twelve interlinked horsedrawn chariots. Moving up into the Hypostyle Hall, you enter the domain of the lungs. The lungs are governed by the moon in Egyptian microcosmology, and the bases of the pillars in the Hall depict the moon processing through its full cycle. The Hall of the Twelve Columns corresponds to the eyes, and is dedicated to solar symbolism, the light by which we see. Two more final steps along the way take you to the triple sanctuary, whose three interlinked holy of holies shrines form a band across the top of the skull, Finally, the dome of the skull rises to enclose and complete the sanctuaries, the very top of the skull rising out of the top of the temple to absorb the power of the Egyptian sun and start it circulating through the body of the Temple again.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if this was true. After all, it seems to me that the purpose of these places is to coordinate the little cosmos--you--with the big cosmos--the universe.To show how you fit into the really big picture. I've noticed on more than one occasion that the first sensation when entering some sacred precinct is that I felt bigger. They stretch you and pull the kinks out, like a spiritual chiropractor.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Advice for the president (cont.)

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against powers, against the rulers of this dark world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."

The letter of St. Paul to the Christians in Epheseus, 6:12

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Van Misses the Mystic

Wondering if you need to buy the new Astral Weeks Live cd from Van Morrison? After all, it sounds pretty interesting--the most soulful white singer to come out of the 60s performs his 1968 masterpiece, live, for the first time in its entirety.

Read my review here...

Here's how it starts:

Let’s say David Lean is (was) your uncle. One afternoon he drops in on you with a funny look in his eye. He announces that he has decided to re-make Lawrence of Arabia because now he knows “how to do it right.” What to do? First, check the old guy’s meds and up them if necessary. Then, just try to gently distract him. But sometimes with these grande auteurs it’s not that easy.

Beware of aging artists when the itch seizes them to revisit one of their early works because now they know how to do it right.