I consider the Bible to be an occult scripture. How so? Isn’t the Bible supposed to be the exact opposite of anything occult? I could refer to the Kabbalah or the bible code concept. Christianity has been the inspiration for mysticism of all varieties. Occultism has strong foundations in Christianity.
As an example, here are two versions of the tarot card “Judgment”. Its imagery is clearly taken from the Christian idea of the resurrection of the dead on the Day of Judgment. Their meaning is not quite that. The angel at the top could be interpreted as spiritual guidance from Above, or as our own higher self, the part of us connected to the Universe, often called our higher guardian angel. Whichever, it is calling on us towards the path to enlightenment and becoming one with the Universe. Of note is that one character at the bottom who has their back turned to us. This represents our self in the scene, seeking inspiration, face turned toward the event. This card invites our direct participation.
However, with the idea of an Occult Bible, I am referring to something else. First is the definition of “occult”. Occult is defined as dealing with the supernatural, with spiritual agencies, about matters that are beyond human comprehension, and concerning secret and hidden knowledge. Occult literally means, “hidden or concealed”. That is the Bible from my perspective…dealing with deep spiritual and supernatural concepts in a cryptic, indirect way.
People assume the Bible is clear-cut in how it defines God and the nature of reality. I personally don’t see it that way. I see the Bible as mysterious with multiple layers of meaning. The first glance is often the incorrect glance. An example could be how Genesis explains the creation in seven days. This can’t be literal (first glance). If we look deeper, we see glimpses of the scientific evolution of the universe described in metaphors. “Let there be light” can be viewed as starting with the Big Bang, and then a step-by-step process of cosmic evolution all the way down to human life…first plants, then sea life, then dinosaurs/birds, then mammals and finally humans. It is not described as a simultaneous creation. There might even be metaphors of what existed before the Big Bang…if only cosmologists had an open mind to consider the possibility.
Which leads to the most occult document of all…the bible’s book of Revelations. Thoughts of Revelations lead directly to bible prophecy. Talk about cryptic! A lot of people have stumbled in trying to understand Revelations. As a young guy I’d listen to a TV preacher named Charles Taylor discuss his view of biblical prophecy. Over the years he gave updates, and I recall him putting great importance on the European Union. He considered how the emerging 10-nation European Economic Union would transform into a 10-nation world power governed by the Antichrist. Sounded good at the time. Except now the European Union has 27 states! Other proponents of Biblical prophecy like Hal Lindsay also laid big eggs. Nostradamus had a better track record then these modern sages.
Therefore, I fearlessly jump into where these others sages tread! I will give my two cents on eschatology. I think the secret of understanding Revelations is in verse 8:8, the “Second Trumpet”. It states that “something like a huge mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea”. Most of Revelations’ plagues that befall mankind sound remarkably like the byproduct of an asteroid hitting the earth producing an extinction level event on par with what caused the extinction of the dinosaurs. There are vivid verses that visually describe the sky darkened by the debris hurling into the sky and falling down burning much of the planet. Looked at from this perspective, the verses make chilling sense. After this disaster will follow the collapse of civilization and all that entails.
When can we expect this to happen? I sure hope not in my lifetime! A lot of Christians believe in something called the “rapture”. This means that before this asteroid slams into the earth, all proper born-again Christians who follow the correct theology will vanish into heaven, leaving behind all the rest of us to endure the end of the world. “Proper” Christians have nothing to fear and actually look forward to the end of the world.
Personally, I don’t think God plays favorites. Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, pagans, or agnostics don’t deserve to be “left behind” while right wing Christians get to watch us from heaven while we handle the asteroid collision. What is up with that theology? I call it Chicken Theology. Maybe “end times” preaching is too scary without a rapture?
I will make my one true prediction concerning bible prophecy and the end of the world. When that time comes, “proper” Christians will be stuck here on earth with the rest of us. After the asteroid strikes, some Christians will be watching the event on TV and thinking, ”where the heck was the rapture?” If the end of the world ever does transpire and we all remain in it together, it will mean that God really does not play favorites, favoring one theology over another. And I will be proven right! But I’d really, REALLY prefer not to have that last chance to say, “I told you so”.
Not a good day
photo by Warner Bros Pictures
It’s great that Heath Ledger won an Oscar for his role as the Joker. Bravo! In his performance he created one of the great movie villains. When I saw the Dark Knight movie in the theatre, it left me thoughtful. What was the theme of this movie? It really did tackle some significant themes, something uncommon for action movies. I had to ponder this movie for a while.
One of many themes in the Dark Knight film, is both Batman and the Joker are damaged individuals, suffering from severe childhood trauma. Bruce Wayne’s childhood trauma shaped him for the better, or at least in a better direction. This was a reflection of the positive nature of his upbringing by his parents. Wayne channeled his parent’s ethics into a positive direction. The movie suggests the opposite of the Joker. The personal stories he tells his victims suggests a horrific childhood. A child raised in a dysfunctional family will very likely follow in those dysfunctional footsteps. The Joker seems as intellectually brilliant as the Batman, but his intellect is aimed at trying to prove to the world how unfair life is and how morality and civilization are all a joke. The Joker’s rage is actually against his childhood.
The writers of the movie thought this through very well. The Batman character has evolved through the decades. From a child’s comic book, it matured under writers like Frank Miller and Alan Moore. Inspired by these writers, director Tim Burton reinvented Batman along the line of this mature Batman. Yet, it was only a halfway journey into the direction the comic’s writers had already taken Batman. Later directors totally sank the movie franchise by going back to the silly past.
Director Christopher Nolan finally realized the Batman character’s full potential, taking the work realized with the Batman comics and transforming it into his movies. The themes of the movie were already present in the comics. The idea of the Joker as Batman’s dark opposite is not a new concept. That the Joker finds meaning in his life with his duels with the Batman is a common theme in the comics. What Nolan did that was brilliant was to take the very best ideas of the comics and somehow distill them into a truly excellent series of films.
Lets look at the character of the Joker. The Joker is an example of a Jungian archetype, the trickster. The trickster is a mythological character who plays tricks on clueless humanity. They were often malicious, such as the Norse trickster god Loki. Other tricksters were the fairies whose used their “glamour” or illusion to befuddle mortals. Or he could appear as the diabolic Mephistopheles who attempts to trick men into selling their souls in a doomed Faustian bargain. In the Batman movie, the Joker is very much like a Mephistopheles, who presents terrible moral choices without any chance at victory.
Also significant is the very name…the Joker. The Joker card is reputed to be based on the Tarot card, the Fool. If so it is the only card of the Tarot’s Major Arcana that appears in our modern playing cards. The Tarot’s Joker, the Fool, is the only unnumbered card. It shows a vagabond wandering with a bag hitched over his shoulder and a dog nipping at his legs.
What is the symbolism behind the Fool card? Slung over the Fool’s shoulder is a bag containing the suits of the Tarot. The four suits of the Tarot cards represent the various conditions of human existence, but they are tied up in the Fool’s bag, unrealized and unused. The Fool is unaware of their potential, and his own.
The next card in the Tarot is the Juggler. The Fool’s bag is now opened and their contents are laid out before the Magician on his working table. The Magician understands his potential and exercises it. The Fool wanders the earth clueless to his potential in his bag, chased by the dog of mundane everyday life. The Fool card symbolizes a state of ignorance and unawareness. The other cards of the Tarot show a steady progress through the various states of human existence on the path to final enlightenment. But at the very beginning is the Fool, completely oblivious to his great potential.
Is the Joker the Fool, and Batman the Magician?
The Fool and the Juggler cards
I’ve scanned some pages (above) from an old occult catalog. Nowadays everything is sold online, and quaint catalogs like this are pretty much part of the past. I don’t think the company that published this still exists. Yet, I get a kick out of checking out the different offerings from the past. These pages contain a mixture of cool stuff and some silly stuff.
I wonder…does anybody collect vintage occult items? I love collecting things. But I’ve realized that vintage occult objects are not easy to find. Not many people are into this topic to begin with, and I don’t think those who are consider acquiring these items as collectables. I know there is a healthy market for vintage books with occult topics. Outside of that, what is collectable?
True antique tarot cards are extremely rare and are not to be found. Modern mass produced decks are easy to find, but forget finding something made by woodcut. I know that there are collectors of Ouija talking boards and there are some nice pieces to be found. But that is as much a part of game collecting as occult collecting. Here is a great site for talking board collectors:
Does anyone collect interesting vintage items? There is not a big market for these items yet, which might make vintage occult artifacts something worth acquiring. I think this stuff is cool!
The Third Eye
Can spiritual practices alter the structure of our brain? The answer is yes! The current issue of Time Magazine has a cover story titled “How Faith Can Heal”. It has a lot of material to chew on. I quibble with the article “Biology of Belief” and it’s stance on applying “brain science” in trying to explain why people have religious or spiritual feelings. Neuroscience has no clue what consciousness is but they sure make a big deal about what parts of the brain are activated by certain thoughts. Do we need brain scans to explain why someone enjoys a game of chess? Here is the article:
What really caught my attention was this passage from the article:
“Pray and meditate enough and some changes in the brain become permanent. Long-term meditators — those with 15 years of practice or more — appear to have thicker frontal lobes than nonmeditators. People who describe themselves as highly spiritual tend to exhibit an asymmetry in the thalamus — a feature that other people can develop after just eight weeks of training in meditation skills.”
We can actually thicken our brain’s frontal lobes by long term meditation. That is very interesting! The density of our brain can be altered by such practices, like a muscle getting larger with exercise. Here is another article to confirm that:
When Buddhist monks were tested during deep meditation, monks with years of meditation experience showed dramatically higher gamma wave activity in their brain. Gamma waves are considered links to consciousness. What is intriguing from an occult view is that the frontal lobes, along with the pineal gland, are considered the “Third Eye”.
The Third Eye is a way of describing the area in our brain that is a link between the physical world and the spiritual world. It is associated with clairvoyance, second sight and contact with higher dimensions. This was thought to be the Pineal Gland at the center of our brain. But it really is our frontal lobes, the seat of our consciousness. It is fascinating that science has physical evidence of our Third Eye and how it is modified by spiritual exercises.
If you want to experience your own Third Eye, close your eyes and feel your consciousness…where do you feel you dwell? In your forehead’s frontal lobes. Along with meditation, if you want to develop your third eye and its potential, try this as an exercise. Again close your eyes and imagine you can see with your imagination. Look at your surroundings with closed eyes but visualize the area with your mind, your third eye. In time this visualization will become uncanny. Done regularly this will thicken your frontal lobes!
QUEENS OF HEARTS AND CUPS
The Rider-Waite Tarot is a legendary deck of tarot cards. They are unique in having symbolic imagery for every card of the deck and not just the major arcana. The minor arcana consist of what is now our standard deck of playing cards, except it has the addition of a Page added to the face cards of King, Queen and Jack/Knight. The Rider-Waite deck is full of symbolism from mystic A.E. Waite and Pamela Colman Smith. It can be fun trying to find all the symbolism in the cards, like a game of spot the symbol.
To understand the symbolism in the Rider-Waite deck, we need to understand that each of the four suits of the cards represents one of the four basic occult elements. The suit of diamonds represents the element Earth, and in the Rider-Waite deck it is symbolized by the Coin. The diamond/coin symbolizes matters of money, commerce, and property.
The suit of hearts is the tarot’s Cup, and it symbolizes the element of Water. Water represents matters of emotion, the heart, and relationships. The suit of spades represents the element Air, and is shown as the sword in the Rider-Waite deck. I tend to disagree with this, I think the spade/sword should represent fire, but so be it. The spade/sword symbolizes conflict, politics, and power. And finally the suit of clubs is symbolized by a literal wooden club in the Rider-Waite deck, representing the occult element of fire (as in kindling wood).
The first card of the major arcara is the Magician (or Juggler). It shows the Magician at his working table and laid out before him are the four suits of the minor arcana (and our modern day playing cards). The Magician seeks to obtain mastery over the four occult elements and thereby all aspects of the human condition. Notice the magician points upward towards the Heavens/Universe and downward towards the earth, to call down divine power for dominion over the physical world.
Aces and Queen of Cups
Today is Valentine’s Day, so in honor of the holiday lets look at the Rider-Waite Queen of Hearts/Cups. Can you spot the symbolism in the Queen of Cups? Now that we understand the Cup symbolizes the element of Water, we can see all the symbols of water in the card. She sits on a throne at a beach with the water and sand at her feet. She holds in her hands the elaborate Ace of Cups. Her robe has the pattern of the ocean’s waves on it. And most interesting, engraved on her throne are Undines, which in occult theory are the elementals of the water.
In occult theory each of the four elements have spirits that exist in those elements. In water exist the Undines, in earth the Gnomes, in the fire live the Salamanders, and in the air dwell the Sylphs. These elementals are a big deal in occult theory. Some say faeries are the same thing as the elementals. I sort of doubt that. Elementals are a cornerstone of occult practices and their power is summoned in ceremonial magic. Faeries are not so cooperative!
The Rider-Waite face cards have these elementals represented in them. Knowing the Rider-Waite cards are filled with elemental symbolism, it can be fun to search the cards yourself and see if you can spot the symbols.
Last summer I visited the Yerkes observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. This is a beautiful 100-year-old observatory full of wonderfully carved ornamentation. For anyone visiting Wisconsin, and for fans of astrology, it is worth a visit just for its carvings of the zodiac, the moon and other celestial objects. What I thought odd was why an observatory, an institution of science, would be covered with the zodiac. Sure, celestial symbols are appropriate for an observatory, but astrology and astronomy are not exactly brothers-in-arms. Looking at the carvings made me think the architect might have had other things on his mind. Viewed from the occult perspective, it was fun to identify the occult symbolism I found there. A clue might be the Masonic symbols I saw. That is often a good indictor something else might be going on. Below are some snapshots of the interesting stonework at the Yerkes Observatory. Here is a link to their website: http://astro.uchicago.edu/yerkes/
I am always on the lookout for spiritual or occult symbolism in public. This symbolism appears nearly nonexistent today. Maybe a hundred years ago it was different. Barns would display hex signs. Masonic symbols were put on tombstones. Today…nothing at all, or so it seems. However, if we look closely, we actually can see pagan symbolism is widespread, especially in our holidays.
Today is Groundhog Day. If we think about it…what a strange holiday. What is up with that? Groundhog’s Day comes from the Christian celebration of Candlemas, which was adopted by the church to take the place of the pagan celebration of Imbolc. This morning I watched live as the groundhog Punxsutaney Phil was taken out, with great fanfare, to see if he’d see his shadow. Many people were gathered to witness the event, and the press was covering it. Did anyone realize this was all based on a pagan holiday?