Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

My next book, entitled Chinkana: The Subterranean World of the Inkas, is due to be released in the coming months. In it, I discuss the multitude of historical records, myths and legends that testify to the existence of a vast network of subterranean tunnels which are said to run throughout the ancient Incan Empire. So, get ready, and tell your friends!

– Ian

From the back cover: “In 1532, the greatest existing civilization in the Americas was overthrown by fewer than 200 conquistadors. Literally tons of gold was plundered and shipped back to Spain, for the glory of the crown. But rumors have persisted since the conquest that the treasure obtained by the Spaniards was only a grain of sand in comparison to what was secreted away by the surviving Incas in mysterious underground chambers, supposedly built long before the arrival of the Spanish by a people unknown. Chinkana: The Subterranean World of the Inkas, collects in one place all of the myths and legends surrounding the vast networks of subterranean roads and temples that from Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire, extended north to Quito, Ecuador; south to the ancient citadel of Tiwanaku, Bolivia; and east, deep into the Amazon jungle.”


The Catholic church has had a tough week. And on Pentecost, too!

Rome was rocked by yet another in a series of scandals, as it emerged that Father Thomas Williams, the public face of the Legionaries of Christ, a religious order begun in 1941, fathered a child that the Church attempted to keep secret for at least the past 7 years.

The Legionaries suffered a similar humiliation back in 2009, when it was revealed that their founder, Father Marcial Maciel, had lead a double life throughout his association with the Church, and was not only a pedophile and drug addict, but started two families that he concealed from the Holy See.

Father Thomas Williams, an American based in Rome who has made numerous speeches and written several books on Christian morality, was allowed to continue his public ministry by the current leader of the order, Father Alvaro Corcuera, even after his illegitimate child was revealed.

Father Corcuera stated that he found out about Williams’s child “early in [his] new assignment” as leader of the order, in 2005. Although Corcuera had urged Williams to “start withdrawing from public ministry”, critics and activist groups charge that such a recommendation was not severe enough.

One such group, named the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), released a statement calling strongly on the Pope to fire Corcuera, saying:

“Virtually nothing will change if the Pope and other Church officials continue to let their colleagues and underlings act recklessly and deceitfully – year after year after year – and get by with saying, when they’re caught, ‘Oops, sorry, I goofed.'”

The Legionaries scandal comes on the heels of the arrest of Pope Benedict’s personal butler on charges of spying. The butler, Paolo Gabriele, is accused of contributing to an enormous dump of classified information, since dubbed “Vatileaks”, which revealed internal financial corruption and bickering about money.

Additionally, it was reported last week that the chief Vatican exorcist, appointed by Pope John Paul II, has implicated the Church in the unsolved murder of a 15-year-old girl, allegedly to cover up regular orgies participated in by high-level Church officials.

The Vatican has yet to officially respond to each allegation.

by David Livingstone, of The Dying God

The alchemical process, according to Zosimus of Panopolis, the foremost of the Hellenistic alchemists, and who lived at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth century AD, “is the Mithraic Mystery, the incommunicable Mystery.”(i) However, alchemical teachings could have no known association with Persian Zoroastrianism. Therefore, what does this quote tell us about the nature of Mithraism, and its connection to alchemy?

Although it contradicts the opinions of modern scholarship, Mithraism in Roman times was a cult regarded as preserving the wisdom of the “Magi”, having been founded originally by Zoroaster, as early as before the Trojan War. This opinion was to some extent promoted by Franz Cumont, who basically single-handedly founded the study of Mithraism, though today scholars of the subject have essentially rejected his thesis. As scholars maintain, there is very little evidence to maintain that Mithraism derived from Persian Zoroastrianism, but this was not the basis of Cumont’s theory.

Rather, Cumont had maintained that the early strata of the cult’s doctrines may have been formulated by a group of “heretical” Magi, which he refers to as Magussaeans, who inhabited Asia Minor, and which were by them imparted to the Greeks. In this cult of theirs we find teachings strikingly different from mainstream Zoroastrianism. Rather, these reflected a combination of Zurvanite Zoroastrianism and “Chaldean” or Babylonian astrology and magic. It was this creed, when brought to the Greeks of Asia Minor, with the advancing Persian armies in the sixth century BC, that contributed to the emergence of Greek “philosophy” and the Orphic cult of Dionysus. In the Hellenistic Age, it was the continuing presence of numerous Magian influences at the city of Alexandria in Egypt, with the inclusion of Greek philosophy, that contributed to the outgrowth of Neoplatonism, Gnosticism, and Hermeticism.

Although these Magi were regarded as the great founders of the art, the adepts of alchemy in Hellenistic times preferred to follow Hermes, thought to have been a great ancient Egyptian sage. Zoroaster, explained Zosimus, agreed with Hermes that men could raise themselves above Fate, but he took the way of magic, while Hermes, on the other hand, took the way of philosophy. Essentially, as Jack Lindsay described, in The Origins of Alchemy In Graeco-Roman Egypt:

It would seem then in the third and second centuries BC at Alexandria there went on a considerable fusion of Greek and Iranian thought. This fusion was expressed by bringing together the two great figures of Zoroaster the Persian and Hermes-Thoth the Egyptian in a large new corpus of magical recipes and ideas, above all in an endless series of pantheist correspondences between men, animals, plants, stones, stars and planets. (ii)

In this period, numerous works were compiled and erroneously credited to Zoroaster, as well as to his most famous pupil Osthanes, the “Prince of the Magi”, and his purported patron, Hystaspes. The reputed founder of early alchemy was thought to have been Osthanes, to whom several works on the nature of plants and minerals and their astrological properties were ascribed. Osthanes was said to have accompanied Xerxes on his campaign against Greece as his chief magus, and Pliny the Elder, believed, that he was the person most responsible for the introduction of magic into Greece. Osthanes, mentioned Pliny, was the first person to write a book on magic “and nurtured the seeds, as it were, of this monstrous art, spreading the disease to all corners of the world on his way. However, some very thorough researchers place another Zoroaster, who came from Proconnesus, somewhat before Osthanes’ time. One thing is certain. Osthanes was chiefly responsible for stirring up among the Greeks not merely an appetite but a mad obsession for this art.” (Pliny, Natural History, XXX: 8)

It is said that after the Persian emperor’s defeat at Salamis, Osthanes remained behind in Greece to become the teacher of the philosopher Democritus, an Ionian philosopher, born in 460 BC. The reputed author of seventy-two works, Democritus had apparently also visited Babylon to study the science of the “Chaldeans”, of which he is to have written on the subject. He summed up the results of his investigations in a Chaldean Treatise, another tractate was entitled On the Sacred Writings of Those in Babylon, and as a result of his visit to Persia, he wrote Mageia.

One of the first alchemical works written was by a certain Bolos of Mendes, in the second century BC, but falsely attributed to Democritus. One of the texts accredited to him, the Leyden Papyrus, consists mostly of recipes, but in one passage, Democritus describes an incident of divine revelation from his former master Osthanes, in which he acquired his alchemical knowledge.

It was long thought that it had been among the Magi that the various metals were connected with their astrological properties, but it was Zosimus who connected their cult with alchemy itself. To Zosimus, the mystic’s aim was to free the soul from the evil confines of matter and return it to God. To obtain the perfection of gold, he had only to free the essence of the noble metal from the base materials that imprisoned it. The goal of the alchemist, he explained, was the pursuit of a “stone which isn’t a stone, this precious thing which has no value, this polymorphous thing, which has no form, this unknown thing which is known to all.” (iii)

In Hermeticism, as described in the Poimandres, typical to Hellenistic mysticism, the soul must ascend through the seven planets, and into the eighth sphere, where it may unite with God. According to the Poimandres, man must first undergo a spiritual death and resurrection, followed by an ascent through the spheres of the seven planets, leaving behind him in each of them part of his being, the part which the original man had received from the stars. Finally, he will be reduced to just himself, and can enter the eighth sphere, to join the powers assembled there, with whom he comes before the Father and enters God.
Thus, we are able to discern the meaning of the explanation of the theology of Mithraism, as it was provided by Celsus, Roman writer of the second century AD:

 These truths are obscurely represented by the teaching of the Persians and by the mystery of Mithras which is of Persian origin. For in the latter there is a symbol of the two orbits in heaven, the one being that of the fixed stars and the other that assigned to the planets, and of the soul’s passage through these. The symbol is this. There is a ladder with the seven gates and at its top an eighth gate. The first of the gates is of lead, the second of tin, the third of bronze, the fourth of iron, the fifth of an alloy, the sixth of silver, and the seventh of gold. They associate the first with Kronos (Saturn), taking lead to refer to the slowness of the star; the second with Aphrodite (Venus), comparing her with the brightness and softness of tin; the third Zeus (Jupiter), as the gate that has a bronze base which is firm; the fourth with Hermes (Mercury), for both iron and Hermes are reliable for all works and make money and are hard-working; the fifth with Ares (Mars), the gate which as a result of the mixture is uneven and varied in quality; the sixth with the Moon as the silver gate; and the seventh with the Sun as the golden gate, these metals resembling their color.” Origen. Against Celsus, (Contra Celsum), 6.22)

Therefore, essentially, the alchemists employed the language of chemical procedures as allegory. Transmuting lead into gold implied the purification of the soul. This process was represented by the transmutation of lead, the bases form, and the subsequent removal of its impurities until gold was achieved, also represented astrologically as ascending through the six planets, culminating in a
vision of the Sun, symbolized by gold.


i Lindsay, The Origins of Alchemy, p 324.
ii Lindsay, The Origins of Alchemy, p 324.
iii Lindsay, The Origins of Alchemy, p 324.

St Patrick’s Day has become associated in the minds of many with the color green, Guinness, drunkenness and partying, but who was St. Patrick? And what did he do for Ireland?

St Patrick was born in the latter half of the 4th century CE, and very little is known about his life. When he was roughly 16, he was captured by Irish raiders, and taken aboard their slave ship to Ireland, where he remained in servitude for 6 years before being able to return to his home in Briton.

After entering the Church, Patrick left again for Ireland as an ordained bishop full of missionary zeal, though following this history generally loses track of him. It’s known that he worked in the north and the west of the island, but details beyond this stem primarily from hagiographies (semi-factual biographies mixed with a heavy dose of folklore) which are generally discredited today.

The most well-known legend of St Pat is his banishment of all of the snakes from the Emerald Isle. But the majority of archaeologists assert that snakes never actually inhabited the island:

…climate in Ireland was inhospitable to snake species until 10,000 years ago, when the seas arose and snakes were unlikely to be able to find their way to Ireland in the frigid seas. Snakes cannot survive in areas that are frozen year round as Ireland was until after the Ice Age, and they do not swim great distances to migrate to other areas as is seen in Hawaii, New Zealand, Iceland, Greenland, and Antarctica which are all snake-free. Following the Ice Age, however, snakes did return to northern and western Europe, reaching as far as the Arctic Circle.

This has led many to speculate that the legend of St Patrick is largely metaphorical. Could it be that Patrick did not banish actual serpents from Ireland, but pagan, serpent cults that predated Christianity?

Some have pointed to early Irish art as evidence of the existence of a serpent religion existing on the island long before the advent of the Catholic Church. This from Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, written in 1894:

Allowing for the pre-Christian origin of some Irish crosses, we may understand why these were accompanied by twining serpents. “Is it not a singular circumstance,” asks Keane, “that in Ireland where no living serpent exists, such numerous legends of serpents should abound, and that figures of serpents should be so profusely used to ornament Irish sculptures? There is scarcely a cross, or a handsome piece of ancient Irish ornamental work, which has not got its serpent or dragon.”

The singular cross of Killamery, Kilkenny Co., exhibits thereon two Irish serpents. The font of Cashel illustrates the same mystery. The writer saw several stones at Cashel cathedral with sculptured snakes, one large specimen ornamenting a sarcophagus. The Crozier, or Pastoral Staff of Cashel, which was found last century, bears a serpent springing out of a sheath or vagina. The end of the sheath is adorned with wreathing serpents. in the handle a man stands on a serpent’s head with a staff, at which the reptile bites. This staff was like that of a Roman augur, or of an Etruscan and Babylonian priest.

Brash’s Sculptured Crosses of Ireland refers to one cross, at Clonmel, having four serpents at the centre, coiled round a spherical boss. Several instances were known in which the serpents have been more or less chipped away from off such crosses.

A serpent occupies a large space on the beautiful Irish sculptured stone, Clwyn Macnos, or Clon Macnois. Not long ago, a stone serpent was discovered, with twelvedivisions, marked as for the twelve astronomical signs, reminding one of the Babylonian serpent encircling the zodiac. Several ancient Irish fonts have upon them sculptured serpents. Glass snakes of various colours have also been frequently turned up.

When the author was at Cashel some years since, he saw, among a lot of fragments of the ancient church, a remarkable stone, bearing a nearly defaced sculpture of a female–head and bust–but whose legs were snakes. This object of former worship was not very unlike the image of the Gauls, that was to be. seen in Paris, though that goddess had two serpents twisted round her legs, with their heads reposing on her breasts. The Caribs of Guadaloupe were noticed by the Spaniards worshipping a wooden statue, the legs of which were enwreathed by serpents. Auriga is sometimes represented with legs like serpents. The Abraxis of the Christian Gnostics of the early centuries had serpents for legs.

The author continues:

The Irish early Christians long continued the custom entwining their old serpent god around the cross. One has said, “The ancient Irish crosses are alive with serpents Their green god-snake was Gad-el-glas. The word Tirda-glas meant the tower of the green god. The old Milesian standard, of a snake twisted round a rod, may seem to indicate a Phallic connection with the Sabh.

So did St. Patrick actively work to eradicate an ancient, snake cult reaching back into the prehistory of Ireland? It’s possible. We may never know, as the church was very thorough in its decimation of older, pagan religious systems.

One thing is certain: the presence of serpentine imagery in Irish history is undeniable. Kennersley Lewis is quoted as saying the following: “Search where we will, the nuptial tree, round which coils the serpent, is connected with time and with life as a necessary condition; and with knowledge–the knowledge of a scientific priesthood, inheriting records and traditions hoary, perhaps, with the snows of a glacial epoch.”

by Michael Schneider

Just a few numbers and their shapes compose this archetypal alphabet upon which the designs of the universe, from atoms, flowers, seashells to the human body and galaxies and are based. The forms of nature are forces made visible. Each number and shape conveys specific meaning, and everything in nature tells us its purpose if we know how to read the language in which it is written. Great spiritual art, crafts and architecture have always used this language of number, shape, pattern and proportion to manifest harmonious composition. Knowing nature’s own language is a step towards our harmonious, respectful cooperation with a wonderworld of beauty, and a key to understanding the symbolic significance of numbers and shapes wherever they occur.

The symbolic significance of numbers and shapes is not arbitrary or cultural but comes from their timeless characteristics, their properties alone, and the ways they relate with others. It’s best to let numbers and shapes themselves teach you directly, so bring a geometric compass, straightedge, colored pencils and blank paper for hands-on experiences.

We don’t need any math background to learn the gentle alphabet of nature’s design language. The most important reason for these studies is their healing and uplifting property. With this in mind, Plato wrote:

“‘You amuse me,’ I said, ‘with your obvious fear that the public will disapprove if the subjects you prescribe don’t seem useful. But it is in fact no easy matter, but very difficult for people to believe that there is a faculty in the mind of each of us which these studies purify and rekindle after it has been ruined and blinded by other pursuits, though it is more worth preserving than any eye since it is the only organ by which we perceive the truth. Those who agree with us about this will give your proposals unqualified approval, but those who are quite unaware of it will probably think you are talking nonsense, as they won’t see what other benefit is to be expected from such studies.”

These classes are informative and inspiring, and will rekindle and enhance your own investigations and understanding by means of the wisdom inherent in numbers and shapes.

Come learn the language of your native world!

This information is especially valuable to artists, craftspeople, architects, educators and students of symbolism in worldwide traditions.

For information about specialized workshops for your group email Michael



1&2 Unity & Polarity

This first session begins with an overall introduction to the language of numbers and shapes. It introduces participants to the ancient traditions of “philosophical mathematics” including symbolism of the geometer’s tools, the spiritual allegory of geometric construction, and overview of the Timeless Alphabet. Through hands-on activities with the compass, straightedge and marker, we’re guided to see geometric construction as a creation myth, a metaphor for the process by which all the forms of nature are created.

Unity is a fact of nature, and all numbers and shapes unfold from Unity, number 1, represented by the point, circle and sphere, are most efficient forms and worldwide symbols of heavenly perfection. But Unity casts its own shadow to “create” polarity, represented geometrically by the compass itself, and the Vesica Piscis, the almond opening through which all other numbers and shapes are born.



3: Trinity: Tri-Unity

The birth of the number 3 and triangle enables opposites to balance and transcend to a new wholeness they couldn’t achieve by themselves. A third leg makes a tripod stable, and a third strand of hair allows a braid to knot as one whole, just as neutral judges balance opposing parties, neutrons balance atoms, and the Supreme Court plays the role of the balancing, transcendent third force. This class surveys the appearance of trinities in nature and as worldwide religious symbols, investigating spiritual art which uses the unseen triangular frame to convey this archetypal power.




4: Fair And Square

This class examines the symbolism and appearances of the number four and its representative forms, the square, cube and tetrahedron. Fourness is the essence of volume, underlying the forms of crystals and creatures, and is a symbol of earth, manifestation and the four states of matter (“mater” or mother) shaping and clothing the designs of nature, arts, crafts and architecture. Thus it appears worldwide as a number of directions and migrations, represented everywhere from goddess art to divinatory board games.




5: The Flag of Life

In starfish and flowers, corporate logos and flags, the number five and the amazing regenerative geometry of the pentagon and pentagram star appear in nature and human affairs as a sign of life (the flower of every edible fruit is five-petaled). It is a worldwide symbol of humanity, authority, harmony, beauty and excellence. Participants will learn to recognize the five-ness of living forms, and see how artists from Egypt and Greece to Raphael and Dali have applied five-fold symmetry — the flag of life — to create harmony in their compositions.



6: The Joy Of Six

The principle of sixness is that of structure, function and order, the efficient properties of space, power and time. It appears as the close-packed crystalline patterns of snowflakes, diamonds, chicken wire and honeycombs, as well as the underlying pattern within much spiritual art including the Sphinx and Egyptian jewelry and painting, Chinese sculpture and the U.S. Great Seal.. Multiples of six (especially 12, 24, 30, 36 and 60) provide the sacred measures of space, weight and time, from rulers and protractors to clocks and calendars. Participants will explore the mystery of the sixfold pattern as it appears in many of its universal guises.



7: The Virgin Number

The number seven was considered “virgin” by the ancients because no number goes into it (without remainder), and its geometric construction cannot be captured by compass and straightedge. Thus it appears to us as objects we cannot grasp like the colors of the rainbow and tones of the musical scale. The predominance of seven in religious and mythological symbolism reveals its role as the number of stages in a whole process, from the number of crystal systems and endocrine glands to chakras and “heavens” clues to the stages of our spiritual journey. Participants will learn how to tune a musical instrument to the Pythagorean scale used in ancient musical healing therapy.



8: Periodic Renewal

What is it about the number eight and the geometry of the octagon which makes it so popular in the design of sacred buildings around the world? Participants will tour various expressions of the properties of this fascinating number and see how it reveals the principle of the musical octave, periodic renewal, at work through the universe, from the mythology of Grandmother Spider and the Siberian Shaman’s eight-legged horse, the pattern of rhythmic flow symbolized in the I Ching, in computer chips, the Taoist “Eight Immortals” and Buddhist mandalas which make visible the “Eightfold Path”. We’ll look at sacred architecture including mosques, ancient temples and even the U. S. Capitol Building to discover the principle of “periodic renewal” at work.



9: The Horizon

In traditional worldwide number lore, nine, or thrice three, was referred to as “the horizon” symbolizing the ultimate, the maximum, “the whole nine yards”. This class will look at the ways people have revered the number nine and its principles through their arts, crafts, architecture, literature, mathematics, mythology, religion and folk-sayings, from “cloud nine” and a pagoda’s nine levels to a cat’s nine lives. Casual attire: no need to “dress to the nines”.




10: New Unity

The number ten is a traditional symbol of fulfillment, a return to unity after having gone through the experience represented by single-digit numbers. Tens, hundreds and thousands represent greater powers of Unity. Participants will see how a knowledge of the mathematical principles within “ten” help us to understand its appearances in nature, as well as the philosophical basis of many cultures’ religious scripture, architecture and arts. We will explore the traditional wisdom held in the Tetraktys, symbol of the Pythagoreans, as well as the hidden map of ourselves in the Kabbalah’s “Tree of Life” diagram.




11: The Passageway

The number eleven is quite a mystery. References in sacred literature, philosophy, art and architecture are rare and obscure, but they do exist. It was considered to tresspass beyond 10, but incomplete approaching 12. Resembling the principles of the number 2, of which it is a lower form, 11 represents a door, tunnel or passageway, not only between the realms represented by numbers 10 and 12, but appears as the number of days of the Babylonian New Year’s Festival (the door between years), as the link between the Chinese Magic Squares of Heaven and Earth, as Egyptian bread offerings, in many Islamic references, and is important in the history of measure. To where does this passage lead us?



12: Cosmic Dozens and
The Cosmological Circle

“The universe is simple if you use imagination.
Its pattern is the number Twelve which structures all Creation.
You need not study physics or be versed in numerology
To draw from Threes and Fours the duodecimal cosmology.”

–“Twelve Fold Universe” by John Michell

To live in accord with the perceived cosmic order, countless societies mirrored upon Earth the patterns they saw in the sky and in mathematics, particularly around the wondrous properties of the number twelve. Twelve is the traditional “framework number” embracing and interrelating the numbers below and beyond it. From time immemorial the archetypal “twelve-around-one” pattern of the zodiac was mirrored in twelve-tribe societies, the mythologies of twelve heroic ordeals, twelve spiritual disciples, and the designs of monuments, temples and cultures mediating between Heaven and Earth, from Stonehenge to the U.S. Government. Come learn about worldwide traditions of the Duodecimal (twelvefold) Cosmology.

The “Cosmological Circle” refers to an ancient geometric diagram which appears throughout the world underlying the designs of temples, kivas, churches, mandalas and other expressions of sacred arts, crafts and architecture. Its secret is that it makes visible the harmony of all the numbers 1 through 12 and so represents a harmonious sacred microcosm. We’ll see how its “squared-circle” design insures that such temples are properly oriented to the solstices and equinoxes, and symbolizes that the site occurs at the meeting of Heaven and Earth.

Two UK women, forbidden by their employers from wearing the Christian cross, have brought their case to the European Court of Human Rights.

The women will argue that their right to manifest their religious views, as expressed in Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights, was infringed upon when their employer refused to allow them to wear the cross at work.

Article 9 reads as follows:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

The ministers representing the UK government’s side will argue that displaying a cross is not a requirement of the Christian faith, and thus cannot be afforded legal protection under Article 9. The official response states:

The Government submit that… the applicants’ wearing of a visible cross or crucifix was not a manifestation of their religion or belief within the meaning of Article 9, and…the restriction on the applicants’ wearing of a visible cross or crucifix was not an ‘interference’ with their rights protected by Article 9…In neither case is there any suggestion that the wearing of a visible cross or crucifix was a generally recognised form of practising the Christian faith, still less one that is regarded (including by the applicants themselves) as a requirement of the faith.

But this isn’t good enough, say the women. They claim that the government is setting the bar too high and that manifesting religion is not necessarily confined to “requirements of faith”. The Archbishop of Canterbury agreed, stating that “The [government’s] reasoning is based on a wholly inappropriate judgment of matters of theology and worship about which they can claim no expertise.”

Additionally, the two women claim that Christians are afforded less legal protection than Sikhs and Muslims.

However, it should be recognized that censorship of religious expression is a double-edged sword. Two days following the 9th anniversary of 9/11, the government of France voted to ban the Muslim hijab (a face veil worn by women) in public places. One year later, a similar law went into effect in Belgium.

France recently made headlines for detaining two women who refused to comply with what they felt to be a discriminatory law.

Laws banning Muslim religious expression sparked outrage in the Islamic community, but Christians were largely silent. One wonders what the two Christian plaintiffs from the UK think about the limitation of religious manifestation for Muslim women.

We could cite the famous words of pastor Martin Niemöller, but the point is simple: there’s either religious freedom for all, or there’s religious freedom for none.