While the rest of the world was wondering if the Earth was flat and the moon was made of cheese, the Dogon tribe of the southern Sahara had weightier matters to consider. They may live near Timbuktu, in the African state of Mali; they may have had little contact with the outside world for hundreds of years, but for centuries their legends have included details about stars and the universe that scientists are only now discovering with modern telescopes.
They have no form of star gazing equipment, but the Dogon know the sun is the center of our solar system and the moon orbits Earth. They know that the orbits of planets in our solar system are elliptical, not circular, that Jupiter has moons and Saturn has rings.
Most perplexing of all, their ancient festivals are based around a star astronomers only discovered three years ago. Their main festivals revolves around the star Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky (six light years away), past the heel of Orion the Hunter, which is how it gets its name the Dog Star.
How do they know all this? Apparently, amphibious alien visitors descended from the heavens in a spaceship 10,000 years ago to tell them. In the 1940s eminent French anthropologists Narcel Griaule and Germaine Dietrlen trekked into Mali, and spent 19 years among the Dogon, who live on a 120-mile long escarpment in the middle of the huge country. Timbuktu, a tiny, dusty town that for centuries was little more than legend, lies to the north of their main settlement.
Griaule and Dietermen discovered that the tribe, probably one of the most remote in the world, had intricate legends going back centuries. The anthropologists said: "The starting point of creation [for the Dogon] is the star that revolves around Sirius and is actually named the 'Digitaria star'. It's regarded by the Dogon as the smallest and heaviest of stars; it contains germs of all things. Its movement on its own axis and around Sirius upholds all creation in space."
The Dogon apparently decided centuries ago that Sirius was not a single star, but three of them. They said there was a main star, orbited by another star to which they attribute the characteristics of a dense and extremely heavy white dwarf ("all earthly beings combined could not lift it," says Dogon legend). They reckoned the third star was much dimmer, flying around the other two at a large distance, and gave it the attributes of a red dwarf.
But it was only in 1862 that the astronomer Alvan Clark, using a powerful 18.5in telescope. found that Sirius did indeed have a second star, which he called Sirius B, or the "Pup". The Dogon beat him to that discovery by several hundred years - without a telescope.
Sirius B has been an integral part of Dogon culture for centuries; they know it as Po Tolo. Its orbit helps to dictate the timing of the festival of Sigui, the most important date in the life of the Dogon. One traveller who visited the Dogon several years ago recalls meeting a young woman who had been made a tribal elder simply because she was born during the last festival in 1963.
Tribal lore also says that the Pup is incredibly heavy. Again Dogon legend is spot on. In 1928 Arthur Eddington announced that Sirius B was the first known example of a white dwarf: the dead leftovers of a star so densely packed with matter the size of a teaspoon would weigh several tons.
Although Sirius B cannot be seen by the naked eye, the Dogon claimed that its orbit lasts exactly 50 years, Sure enough, after years of study, Western scientists have concluded that it's actually 50.04 years, plus or minus 0.09 years. Skeptics could laugh this off as a lucky fluke. After all, where was the third star the Dogon believed in? Then, three years ago, French astronomers Daniel Benest and J.L. Duvent said they had probably found another star orbiting Sirius, which they named Sirius C.
How could the Dogon have had such a knowledge of the stars, hundreds of years before telescopes? The tribe claims they were visited more than 10,000 years ago by an alien race who arrived from Sirius in spaceships. The Dogon say the "Sirians" described where they were from and told them about other planets in our solar system.
Even plants may feel aversion of pain, and good old acetylsalicylic acid may help them cope, A team led by the bio-chemist Ralph A. Backhaus of Arizona State University in Tempe has discovered that the action of aspirin in plants is almost the same as it is in animals: it disrupts a functionally identical molecular pathway. The implication is that plants respond to being cut or bruised much the animals do.
In both animals and plants, aspirin interferes with many of the chemical tactics that organisms use to fight off intruders. In animals, the drug blocks the production of prostaglandins, the fatty acids that initiate an inflammatory response to infection (or constrict blood vessels, causing a headache). In plants, the substance blocked by jasmonic acid, which sparks the production of chemicals that give indigestion to leaf-chewing bugs. The biochemical steps that lead to the synthesis of jasmonic acid in plants are surprisingly similar to the steps that animals go through when they make prostaglandins in response to a painful event.
The study, published in July in The Journal of Biological Chemistry, lends some scientific credibility to an old florist's trick: adding aspirin to a vase of cut flowers to keep the blooms fresh longer. The cutting of flowers is perceived by the plant as a wound, and so it stimulates the production of jasmonic acid. That substance not only helps the plant fight off bugs, but also hastens aging (most likely, botanists think, to induce an injured plant to generate seeds before it dies). Asopirin halts the reaction, keeping flowers looking young.
Much of the energy of Osha is bear energy. Bears respond to it as a kind of ursine catnip. They will roll on it and cover themselves with its scent. Males have been seen to dig up roots and offer them to females as part of courting. When a bear comes newly out of hibernation it will eat osha if it can find it to cleanse its digestive system. The bear will chew the root into a watery paste then spit it on its paws and wash its face with the herb over its body. The herb possesses strong action against bodily parasites. How did the bear learn these things? No one knows but the herbal knowledge of the bear is legendary in all cultures. The bear is considered a primary healing animal because it uses plants for its own healing.
Any plant that is considered bear medecine is a primary and potent plant medecine. The bear is the archetype of healing animal and hence there are many stories about its healing power.
There is one story about a village on Turtle Island a long time ago. An old man came to the village. He was covered with sores and he smelled. He was very ill. He had no possessions or food.
He came to the first lodge in the village and asked the people there, "will you help me? I need a place to stay and some food, I am very hungry."
The people drove him off, fearing he would infect their children. They did not want such an old sick man in their lodge. The man then went from lodge to lodge in the village and each time was driven off.
Sick and in despair, the old man came to the last lodge in the village. It was set off a little from the others and sheltered under the branches of a great tree.
The old man approached the lodge and called out, asking for help. A woman saw he was sick and in need. She brought him into the lodge, fed him. and gave him her place to rest. He ate and sank onto the bed and fell into a deep sleep.
The next day the old man was much improved but still too weak to go on. He ate what the woman gave him and rested. Upon waking the next day, however, he was much worse. The woman applied what knowledge of healing she had but to no avail. Each day the old man became sicker and sicker. At last, having exhausted her healing knowledge, the woman knew the old man would die. He knew it too, and lifted his hand and called her over.
"I was told in a dream from Spirit," he said, "that there is a certain plant that grows in the forest that can heal me. Spirit told me to tell you of it." The old man described it exactly, saying, "Go and fetch it."
The woman went into the forest and found the plant, growing where he had described it, picked it with prayers and ceremonies of preparation and how it was to be made into medecine. She did these things and the old man became well. Each day he grew stronger and stronger.
But before too long he began to get ill again. The woman tried all her healing knowledge and again it was to no avail. The old man just got sicker. Then, again, when he was on the point of death, he called her over and told her of a second dream from Spirit about a plant that could heal him. Again she followed the instructions and again he was healed.
This happened over and over again for a year. In the end, after taking the final plant into his body, the old man grew well. He did not get sick again. Eventually he rose from his bed and went to the door.
He turned to the woman and said, "Spirit told me to that there was one in this village who was to be taught how to heal the people. I was sent to find you and teach you all I know of healing. I have done so."
And turning once again the old man went through the door of her lodge and into the light. The woman ran to the door and looked out. As the old man passed into the forest he turned into a huge bear and walked on.
Isaac Newton was not a pleasant man. His relations with other academics were notorious, with most of his later life spent embroiled in heated disputes. Following publication of Principia Mathematica- surely the most influential book in physics - Newton had risen rapidly into public prominence. He was appointed president of the Royal Society and became the first scientist ever to be knighted.
Newton soon clashed with the Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, who had earlier provided Newton with much needed data for Principia, but was now withholding information that Newton wanted. Newton could not take no for an answer; he had himself appointed to the governing body of the Royal Observatory and then tried to force immediate publication of the data. Eventually he arranged for Flamsteed's work to be seized and prepared for publication by Flamsteed's mortal enemy, Edmond Halley. But Flamsteed took the case to court and, in the nick of time, won a court order preventing distribution of the stolen work. Newton was incensed and sought his revenge by systematically deleting all references to Flamsteed in later editions if Principia.
A more serious dispute arose with the German philosopher Gottfried Leibnitz. Both Leibniz and Newton had independently developed a branch of mathematics called calculus, which underlies most of modern physics. Although we now know that Newton discovered calculus years before Leibnitz, he published his work much later. A major row ensued over who had been first, with scientists vigorously defending both contenders. It is remarkable, however, that most of the articles appearing in defense of Newton were originally written by his own hand - and only published in the name of friends! As the row grew, Leibniz made the mistake of appealing to the Royal Society to resolve the dispute. Newton, as president, appointed an "impartial" committee to investigate, coincidentally consisting entirely of Newton's friends! But that was not all: Newton then wrote the committee's report himself and had the Royal Society publish it, officially accusing Leibniz of plagiarism. Still unsatisfied, he then wrote an anonymous review of the report in the Royal Society's own periodical. Following the death of Leibniz, Newton is reported to have declared that he had taken great satisfaction in "breaking Leibniz's heart."
During the period of these two disputes, Newton had already left Cambridge and academe. He had been active in anti-Catholic politics at Cambridge, and later in Parliament, and was rewarded eventually with the lucrative post of Warden of the Royal Mint. Here he used his talents for deviousness and vitriol in a more socially acceptable way, successfully conducting a major campaign against counterfeiting, even sending several men to their death on the gallows.
When I arrived I felt as if I had returned to visit with my "cosmical grandparents." Carlo and Nadine were in their eighties. However, my meeting with Suares was not friendly and cordial. I have the habit of sometime being "too direct" in my inquiry. I told carlo that I had read Cipher with interest bit couldn't understand it very well. He appeared a little miffed at that and asked me what I did for a living. I told him that I was a physicist and had been using computers to make films. He professed no interest in computers and began to be quite bored at my intrusion into their seventh-story eagle's nest facing the tower of a World's Fair long forgotten.
Just as I was about to leave, I noticed that the room began to feel less tense. Suares leaned back into his comfortable living room chair and remained silent. Suddenly I found myself talking about one of the images inhis book. It was an image that long fascinated me. Indeed it was the primal archetype for the underworld. It was the image of Satan, the Devil. Suares referred to Satan many times in his book. It was in one particular reference that I was fascinated. Satan was a code - a living code within us.
Satan is a Hebrew word. It is spelled, seen-tayt-noon. In colloquial Hebrew it means the adversary or accuser as well as its English meaning. Each of its three letters is a "word." They each in turn have meaning. According to the Qabala, seen represents movement - a universal or cosmic motion - one that underlies the movement of all things in the universe. It is pictured by Qabalists as the "breath of God" returning from the material plane back to the infinity of God.
Tayt represents a primitive cellular structure. It could be a living cell, a memory "engram," a neural circuit, or any other analogy representing a basic structure exhibiting the cell-like behavior we understand. It is a femenine concept that tends to enclose energy repeating itself, as a bird builds a nest for egg laying. It is a self-reffering concept, one that continues to build itself in its own image.
Finally, noon stands for a high principle operating within the cosmos. This is the principle of cosmic indeterminism.
When Suares pointed these things out to me, I naturally was interested, since the principle of indeterminism is fundamental to quantum physics and I wondered if the Qabala had any relation to it.
I suddenly saw something in Satan. It came to me in a vision or picture. I saw a laser light beam entering a cell, and the cell was being blown apart producing many spherical waves of light, each containing a possible remnant of the cell. I told this to Suares and he smilled. He said, "You are becoming a Qabalist."
Suares had written that Satan represents the cells of our living selves held between the freeing movement of God's breath and the fearful possibility that anything can happen to it. As a result the cell tends to persist in living fear of life-death.
He pointed out to me that my vision of the bursting of the cell and the laser light beam entering it was thus a quite accurate description of the "action of the cosmic Satan." It literally disrupts the stacis of a cell, producing doubt and uncertainty. But this was not necessarily to be feared or prevented. Without the process of Satan entering the cell, no learning takes place. Nothing new can happen. We would be doomed to repeat all that we do.
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