And now for true nonsense:
Fairly Shocking Propaganda Favoured by Repetition
Denmark has an impressive ballad collection which has counterparts in other Nordic countries and continental and British balladries. Typically, the folk ballad tells a compact and fairly shocking little story where what happens ends catastrophically or is resolved. The shape of words and phrases plays on sensational, dramatic effects, achieving a climax through repetitions, conventional stereotyped imagery, a blatant style of praise, and other means at hand. There are typically interwoven refrains which may be sets of nonsense syllables -
Faltu ra, faltu riltu raltu ra.
Certain images and descriptive adjectives abound according to conventions. Thus white is milk white, snow white, and lily white, but not tooth white. Compare the Song of Solomon: "Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn" [4:2; 6:6]. Big teeth - and ugh!
The ballads glorify certain people and virtues like boldness, and work as propaganda that benefits nobility and famous guys but seldom and never cotters and honest working people. There is that profile. The themes include the fates of sweethearts and love affairs. Often they have a tragic and romantic outcome. There are slain lovers and shrewish mothers-in-law, gullible happy couples, murders and other crimes.
In some of the ballads the supernatural is worked into the action by enchantments, spells and the art of dreaming, perhaps. Some heroines get abducted and bewitched by the netherworld people, the hill-folk underground, Supernatural elements are found all through balladry [Ebu "ballad"].
Supernatural Sheep Coming
As the ark was moved into Solomon's Temple, the ark that soon disappeared, so many sheep were slaughtered in the dedication ceremony that it was unrecordable or unaccountable, or 120.000 sheep along with goats, says the Bible in two books. [cf 1 Kings 8:5,63; 2 Chronicles 5:6; 7:5; 15:11]
From this period or earlier sheep are at times used to mean people. [1 Kings 22:17; 1 Chronicles 21:17; Psalms 44:11,22; 49:14; 74:1; 78:52 ff; 78:71-72].
In some of these bargaining psalms Jehovah is a shepherd and his people are sheep. The metaphor did not start with Jesus. [Cf. Psalm 100:3; 119:75; Isaiah 53:6-7]
In Isaiah 53 it also says it "was the Lord's will to crush him" and make "his life a guilt offering". Yet this one would see his offspring and prolong his days [v. 10]. Who was he? Jesus did not have offspring. [Isaiah 53:1-12, passim]
Mr X of Isaiah 53 was later identified by Christians as Jesus, who played a double role of being a shepherd and a sheep to be butchered (sacrificed).
The mutant sheep
Later still, Jesus was a supernatural sheep that was like a lion - and someone heard "every creature . . . singing: "To the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!" [Revel 5:5-14; cf John 1:29, 36; Revelation 5:15-14, etc. passim]
Hearing every shark, pollock, lobster, crab, shellfish, and shrimp singing underwater praise of the Lamb requires heightened hearing for sure.
Then "I" of the story watched as a lamb opened the first of the seven seals. It could perhaps scratch the seals off with its claws or lick them off with its tongue.
A sacrificed, mutant-looking lamb with seven horns and seven eyes came along and far surpassed men and women in heaven. Men and women thing it is needed to interpret such a divine status of an animal. But if earthly sheep could but read, these evangelical tidings could boost their self-esteem: Better than man where it counts, the New Testament insists. Somehow the farmers do not believe it, and maybe not you do either. [Revelation 5:13].
There is one more thing: Jesus: "Much more valuable is a person than a sheep!" (Matthew 12:12, abr.)
What about other animals to be slaughtered - pigs, for example? A boar is God (Vishnu) in Vishnuism; one of the first incarnations of God.
Buddha's existential "Avoid killing" has a biblical counterpart in "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." [Hosea 6:6], repeated by Jesus with the addition that if the meaning was understood, people would not have condemned the innocent [Matthew 12:7]. Instead the Bible is filled with victimising scapegoating and other forms of fiendishness.
By contrast, Buddha teaches a Middle Path, "free from pain and torture, from groaning and suffering". In it, right understanding and mindedness together are wisdom; right speech, action and living constitute morality; and right effort, attentiveness and meditation are "concentration".
Right action is abstaining from killing; abstaining from stealing (etc.), and should go along with right understanding and attentiveness.
It can help to adjust to Gautama Buddha's basic teachings; it should minimise sufferings along the way and assist good living basically. You may be able to use surplus for higher endeavours, for example later in life. Joy of life is to be kept and helped by right living - as mapped out in some of the first extant scriptures in the Pali Canon. There is no great need for any sacrifice if such basics are adhered to. One should be qualified for one's attainments, not just sacrifice others for them. That is a stand to bear in mind.
Different sacrifices, and "make the best out of it" to "earn your wings"
It also matters to see the difference between seeking atonement by abusing victims, and between partial or complete atonement - or yogic self-sacrifice. The Bhagavad Gita says that
Some again offer wealth, austerity and Yoga as sacrifice, while the ascetics of self- restraint and rigid vows offer study of scriptures and knowledge as sacrifice. Others offer as sacrifice the outgoing breath in the incoming, and the incoming in the outgoing, restraining the courses of the outgoing and the incoming breaths, solely absorbed in the restraint of the breath . . . This world is not for the man who does not perform sacrifice . . . Superior is wisdom-sacrifice to sacrifice with objects . . . All actions in their entirety . . . culminate in knowledge! . . . among sacrifices I am the sacrifice of silent repetition. [Bhagavad Gita 4:28-29, 31, 33; 10:25 etc.]
The Gita says your actions get sacrificed into the knowledge of them. Look to the brighter side of i: Hard, unrewarding work may need to be lessened, and that looks like penance, tapasya, Vedic sacrifice. Living on as an earthling had better be a Vedic sacrifice too, it says. Hence, to meditate a little and learn and know through study is fit, to be generous may be rewarding too, and moral living as the self-restraint.
Meditation can be good for you. Guru Dev (Shankaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati) has told that it works better for all not to meditate on the mantra OM, as that sound tends to make one "renounce the world," or withdraw from bread-winning ways somehow. The mantras of Transcendental Meditation, TM, are not for that. They are for reaching Transcendence several times a day, and be envigorated and brighter and get better health too. It is appropriate to escape from evil company also. [Gdm 80]
There is much research on TM and its many, accruing benefits. [◦Research
The Gita says that life is not just for living; it may be made rewarding too. Learn from the events, meditate deeply, and live morally - it is not insensible. Sacrifice of others is central old Judaism, but Buddhism and Hinduism have broader, more dignified ways - and outlooks that encompass transcendental explanations. The above is very simplified. See the complexities of Vedic sacrifices, tapas that is not mouth-watering: [Wikipedia, s.v. "Tapas (Sanskrit)"]
Supernatural Beings Abound
In Western Traditions many supernatural beings have wings.
From ancient Egypt's flying sun-disc through Zoroastrianism's farohar and winged goddesses and gods of Greece and onward, in the West, supernatural beings are depicted with wings. The God Mercury of ancient Greece has winged feet, for example. He is a messenger. To be a messenger is the task of an angel too. And angels have wings, some are like goose feathers, others like duck feathers. There are many sorts. In art, some have only heads with wings, for example. What is more, most winged angels in art are not supplied with means to lift and flap their wings at all! Great muscles and bones are needed for that. It is so overlooked -
Interestingly, angels are depicted with clothes too, even though "You cannot take it with you", is often fored against hoarding things here on the material plane. Egyptian pharaos and many leaders, for example in China, disregarded that.
In Western art the wings are attached to the back between the shoulder blades by some sort of hump with no muscles, sinews, and bones to make the wings work. Also, the wings seem much too small for humans and we never hear of problems with bugs and lice among the feathers. Birds have such problems. And look closer at a bird. It needs extra light-weight bones and body feathers and tail feathers too to manage the task of flying. And it has to eat a lot to get energy for it, perhaps even its own weight a day.
Hence, the goose wings that many angels are painted to have, and the gowns of angels are "angel fashions according to earthly painters." But in a long tradition, which may be traced through the art of ancient Greece and further.
More difficult to some: Accepting what the Bible says
Nothing is impossible with God, said an angel to Mary.
So can God create a stone that is so heavy that he cannot lift it? Did Mary lower herself to get pregnant out of wedlock and thereby ready to be stoned? That could be bad. Man was made a little bit better than the angels, says the Old and New Testament in some translations [Hebr 2:6-8; Psalm 8:4-6]. But Joseph was kind enough to marry her to save her from being disgracefully stoned to death for being pregnant outside wedlock.
May it also be pointed out that Jesus did not "reign over the house of Jacob forever". That "house" had him executed; such was his reigning. Even the people in his home town took offense at him [Matthew 13:57; Mark 6:3], so that one day "All the people in the synagogue were furious [and] got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff." [Luke 4:29] His own relatives were "on their side" too. The relations were strained.
Angels, angels, groups of angels
Nine levels or groups of angels in Christian angelology rest on tales of ancient Hebrews, and are from the top: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, lordships, powers, authorities, mights, archangels, and ordinary angels. Angels are considered "functional extensions of the divine will" and sometimes intervene in human affairs.
The angel who wrestled with the patriarch Jacob according to a tale, had the form of a man (so it was a man?).
Between the 200s BC and 200s AD the spiritual nature of the angels was emphasised. Angels of the two highest orders, the seraphim and cherubim, were described as winged ones. Seraphim have two or three pairs of wings - how impossible their bodies may be, accordingly. Wings need special bones, muscles, and very light weight to work.
Wings attached to various beings symbolises their invisible and spiritual nature. This practice can be traced back to ancient Egyptians. They represent the sun-god Horus of Edfu as a winged disk. But Christianity traditionally uses winged human figures with gowns on. The Church Father Augustine (354-430) states that the etheral-bodied angels can assume material bodies, wherever he got that from. It stemmed from faith!
Supernaturals with extra hands
In Indian art there are supernaturals with extra hands, typically.
In yoga, both Buddhist Yoga and Hindu Yoga, we are presented with supernatural beings too. The word "angel" is hardly used, as in the Trantric arts and Tantra-inspired arts the ordinarily invisible beings, "shining ones", devas, are represented otherwise in visual arts. They are depicted with impossibly added hands to represent varios functions they have or are accomplished in. Another sort of symbology is involved, then. The added hands are like humanly impossible angel wings: bones, sinews, and muscles are absent or very dysfunctional, so whatever extras you find depicted, are fairly unfit for use.
Depiction of supernatural elements can be part of art, or a lila (Game). They serve accommodations among commoners more often than not, or were so intended.
In the Markandeya Purana we find a note by the translator Frederick Pargiter:
"Hansa . . . means any kind of goose or duck [Ma 30n]." [Link]
A poem by Matthew Arnold enlarges the subject for us:
Let the long contention cease!
Thus, the Sanskrit word hansa, also spelled hamsa, can mean duck, goose, and swan, because people did not discern so much among these birds in the old times.
Now, how is the param(a)hansa? The added Sanskrit word param(a) means supreme. Hence: supreme duck, or supreme goose, and supreme swan. Is that all there is to it? Far from it. The Indian mind is good at abstracting: the words have got religious meanings too. A hansa - in addition to being a duck, goose or swan, has got religious-mythological meaning, and is also a religious fellow, a monk. The idea is he can fly high, that is, fly inwards in contemplation. This makes him valuable.
In Hindu mythology the supreme swan (paramahansa) is marked by the ability to drink only the milk out of a mixture of milk and water, and thus is a symbol of supreme discernment, if not impossible discernment - And a "perfected monk" is a param(a)hansa. The perfected monk, how is he? There are many definitions of it in yoga literature. Not everyone sees eye to eye on this either.
The paramhansa has been explained by paramahansas too. "The Paramahamsa is like a five year old child. He sees everything filled with consciousness," says Paramahansa Ramakrishna in Tales and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. [Tas 207]
Dr. Paul Deussen has translated many upanishads, and one of them is the Hamsa Upanishad. It contains food for thought too. [So].
Ak: Yogananda, Paramahansa. Man's Eternal Quest. 2nd ed. Los Angeles: Self-Realization Fellowship, 1982.
Ebu: Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica 2009 Ultimate Reference Suite DVD. London: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2009.
Gdm: Mason, Paul. Guru Dev as presented by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 3. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.
Ma: Pargiter, Frederick Eden, trans. Markandeya Purana. Calcutta: The Asiatic Society, 1904.
Psy: Dasgupta, Sailendra. Paramhansa Swami Yogananda: Life-portrait and Reminiscences. Portland: Yoga Niketan. 2006. Online pdf. www.yoganiketan.net
So: Deussen, Paul, trans. Sixty Upanishads of the Veda, Vols 1-2. Varanasi: Banarsidass, 1980.
Tas: Ramakrishna. Tales
and Parables of Sri Ramakrishna. 5th ed. Madras: Ramakrishna Math, 1974.
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