Taoist mythology, Lanna history, mythology, the nature of time and other considered ramblings

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Location: Chiangrai, Chiangrai, Thailand

Author of many self-published books, including several about Thailand and Chiang Rai, Joel Barlow lived in Bangkok 1964-65, attending 6th grade with the International School of Bangkok's only Thai teacher. He first visited ChiangRai in 1988, and moved there in 1998.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Twelve of Thirteen

What matters most isn’t matter, but its opposite: that which animates it. Matter is evil, the prison of spirit. Light, the breath of its creator, is inseparable from time and space; spirit is not. Spirit is neither created, nor destroyed. The Wisdom of God, Sophia, a feminine creative force, wished to give birth to a creature like herself. She did so without the permission of her partner, and the fruit of her desire was imperfect. She was ashamed of it. In a spirit of revenge, it started creating the physical world, entrapping Spirit in matter. Within this world, it wears a cap of invisibility, and not only can’t be seen, but like death, is impossible to really even WANT to apprehend. It doesn’t mind being alone, and when appears, appears as an old crone, a witch with mysterious, dangerous magic (aka wisdom).
Instead we’re allowed some dozens, months, gods, disciples or perhaps a duodenal long baker’s plurality. A larger number than fingers or toes, more useful with circles than decagonals.
Twelve Olympians, or twelve disciples… How many pomegranate seeds did Persephone eat? Three? Six? She lives sometimes on Olympus, but is she an Olympian? Her husband isn’t, but somehow Poseidon/Neptune is. Demeter and Hestia don’t have stories like the others do, and Hestia is said to have given her throne to Dionysus, son of Theban princess Semele, a mortal. Hercules, half mortal too, is said to have attained godly status there, but it’s not said whom he replaced. Demeter, goddess of cereals? Never-mind, it’s something that stories do, good ones anyway: they vary. Still, you grow up thinking the list of 12 disciples of Jesus clear, even with two named James. Or is it three? James, brother of John; James son of Alpheus; and Jude of James. Jude of James? Who dat man? He replaced Thaddeus. Thaddeus? Son of James. Glad to have that cleared up!
We insist to ourselves that words, and numbers, have meaning, bearing on reality, despite experience slapping us around with the fact that they don’t. Actions have meaning, sharing does too. But claims are just claims, something to fight about; unfortunately, that’s what most of our actions are about: fighting or fucking, or taking care of the capacity to do so. Making or defending claims, when we could be tending to the spirit, to blessedness, to beauty, serenity, gratitude and acknowledgment that we have limits like death. Life, as has been sung, could be a dream, mostly untainted by nightmare terrors, although never entirely. If we had no needs, which unfulfilled cause suffering, we’d do nothing. Our actions, our meaning, our very reality, would cease. Yet we ask why God created pain, the devil, his own undoing. But God created nothing. Love did, love arisen out of pain.
These things, and most other things, don’t ever occur to most folk, folk who only respond to sense of need, to desire, feelings and whim (most of the activity of even the best of us). For most, answering to those things is enough, all, in fact, that ever occurs to them, in the sense that that’s all that happens with them. They feed, and feed on, sense of need, of satisfying need. And so see nothing beyond it, and fail to find much in the way of spirit, connectedness, power or peace. Perhaps it is they who wear the mask providing invisibility, instead of some creator – but not they who are invisible, but they who find all truly important invisible. Dependent and reliant, they initiate nothing, responding only. While all around, magic waits to be found. Magic even, that doesn’t strike back, for being used.
Pain, hunger, disease, exhaustion and other ways our bodies insist on this or that, make effective counter-claims against insistence that the material is but illusion. We breathe oxygen, or cease to breathe, and must take in and expel water. Lose an arm and a leg and you are still you, but different. Get a lobotomy and you may look the same, but become arguably even more different. The blind see (perceive) things differently. So do the intoxicated, the sleep-deprived and, one must suppose, those experiencing weightlessness. We live in, and are of, a material world, and cannot even prove that there is any other. But somehow, the material world remains as mysterious as does spirit, and the many feelings so hard to explain. We have life, but don’t really know what THAT is. We have dreams, and turn to look at those staring at us from behind.
So what could it mean, that only spirit is real? That only action matters, as in, deeds speak louder than words? It ain’t the meat, it’s the motion? It’s what you do with what you have, not what you have. It’s what you share, what you give, what you’re willing to relinquish to foster what’s good for others.
That’s the spirit. Faith. With good faith, all can, and will, be replenished. The truly brave possess only spirit. And that is the greatest testament of love – to gladly sacrifice all for it. No greater glory is known.
Or has been anyway, for we seem to have forgotten this. Most of us, anyway. For we fail at something. Fail to see the 13 in the 12, the need to love the self, in order to love others, and to acknowledge the fact of mystery. We prefer too much to believe in what is separate from ourselves, our spirit; and we shouldn’t.
Which, I suppose, brings us to symbols, the idea that one thing can stand for, represent or refer to another, and the misguided idea that we can use them to our gain (advantage, betterment, advancement)… which is but the idea that the map can accurately represent the actuality.
Words, numbers, signs, tokens, signals: the map never portrays all. Adversary, tempter, rebel, fallen angel, the horned one, ruler of darkness – a symbol for dissonance, strife, anger, pride as vainglory, and whatever disrupts, the devil is evil, the opposite of good, or God.
Lord, consort, heir, dowried princess, jester, adviser, general, captain of the guards, jailer, gate-guard, guardia, soldiers, troubadour, shaman/priest, acolytes, fisherman, ferryman, woodsman, blacksmith, carpenter, tax-collector, cook, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, nursemaid, milk-maid, maid… adversary, trickster, spy, trader, tenant farmer, vagrant, thief… each role could have its own symbol; barbers and pawnbrokers do, and lawyers too. But although claimed as so in the shaggy-dog story, The Land of Perfect Justice, one tailor is not the same as another:
In the land of perfect justice, a thief fell from a window ledge while attempting to climb from a tree and into a house he intended to rob. The ledge was rotten and collapsed; the thief broke his leg. So he sued the owner of the house. In court, the house owner said it wasn't his fault, as he’d contracted with a carpenter to fix that very ledge, and the carpenter had agreed to come, as it happened, the very day before the incident in question. But the carpenter hadn’t arrived. So the carpenter was brought to court.
“It’s not my fault,” he claimed. “I was on the way to the job when the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen passed by. I became so befuddled that I lost my way and didn't show up for the job. If you must blame someone, you must blame that woman.” So she, too, was summoned.
“Oh, but, just look at me, please, Judge,” she pleaded. “I’m hardly any more beautiful than any other. Take a look at me, am I really more beautiful than the next woman?” She continued, “But I was wearing a special new dress, one which I’d just gotten, which makes me look better than I do at any other time. So, really, you must look to the tailor, not to me.” So the tailor, too, was summoned.
“I won’t lie to you: I made the best dress that I could for that woman,” he confessed. “Any tailor would have done the same. So, I guess I must be guilty.”
The Judge condemned the tailor. But when they took the tailor out to hang him, they encountered a problem. He was very tall, and the gallows too short.
When the hangman reported this to the judge, the judge said, “Well, someone got hurt, and justice must be dispensed. One tailor is pretty much like another, and any tailor would have done the same. So, find a shorter one, and hang him instead.”

Anyway, is my devil any better, or worse, than yours? Much can be done with math, which cannot be done otherwise, when one accepts the logical absurdity of “orders of infinity”, wherein-which my infinity, like my dog, can be bigger than yours. God, being infinite, makes a fine substitution there, and so, I suppose, must Lucifer Beelzebub Mephistopheles. Are God and Devil roles, matters of perspective, illusion or fantasy? Maybe knowledge is illusion and fantasy.

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