Journal Excerpts 2004/2005

2004/2005 journals...


Excerpts from the January Journals....

I was doing some reading for my English class…and my views towards poetry completely changed…

I read “The Lady of Shallot,” and the music that it sang to me was undeniably that of a psychological journey to enlightenment. This poem completely changed my views towards poetry because it had so much depth that I could not see before because I was ignorant of the underlying meanings and inter-texts. The basic story line is that a lady is stuck in her tower weaving things and is cursed to never look outside, she can only look at her mirror that reflects the outside world and if she goes into the world, she will die. Eventually the gallant night Lancelot swings by on his horse and makes the Lady of Shallot decide to climb out her tower and face the world, and in the process dying. At first glance, this poem looks like tragic love story about a woman who just wants to have a companion…but with my background in philosophy, mythology and religion…I quickly saw some wonderful underlying meanings. First of all, the Lady is in a tower and never able to see the world as it really is, but rather a reflection of it in her mirror…this to me sounds a lot like Plato’s allegory of the cave…beings stuck and forced to look at the shadows for eternity, it also has lots of implications when you look at it as a psychological restraint keeping us from knowing the truth, like our desires and passions…this relates to the Buddhist and Hindu philosophies that have to do with Moksha and Nirvana…if you have desires or attachments, you cannot reach that state of spiritual advancement. What keeps the Lady from looking outside for so long is because she is scared of the results and because she is so use to the mundane life that she has, but as Lancelot swings by, she thinks twice, and decided to venture out of her “cave” so to speak, or in other traditions, this could be looked at as facing trials that must be pasted to be allowed to enter the higher spiritual states. Lancelot at face value seems like the stereotypical knight in shining armor that the Lady surely wants for a companion, but I believe on a deeper lever, that he represents a fragment of reality, of “the good,” of the truth, and when the Lady seems him, she wants to find out more about this reality instead of the bogus shadows that she is so use to seeing in her mirror…this is when her journey truly starts, her curiosity has given her the power to rebel against everything that she has known to believe and follow. So what happens when she leaves the tower??? She of course dies…some would say that it is a sad tragic story about a woman seeking love…I see this death as something revolutionary that should not be taken literally, but rather psychologically…the Lady set herself free by seeking the truth and finding it…and of course…how many of our hero’s have died after finding the truth? Buddha, Jesus, Vishnu, Quetzalcoatl just to name a few. And at the very end the Lady floats down the river and Lancelot finds her and compliments her…this to me almost seems like some mythologies about a journeyer who is in search of his father…becoming one with “the good,” reuniting with the heavenly father. In short, the things that mythology has taught me has broadened my views towards so much more literature that I once thought was a waste of time and for those who were wishy washy…I could not have been more wrong and arrogant.




Excerpts from the September journals…..I have chosen small bits from a few of the September journals. Many others were also worth highlighting but were less succinct, or repeated something already chosen, or were not conducive to this kind of neat, self-contained excision. I have tried to be careful to exclude any identifying bits, but if you would rather not be included here, please write to me (identifying which excerpt is yours) and I will remove it.     US



Before even coming to university, I had a very keen interest in religions and cultures, especially those of ancient Egypt .  I have done extensive research on Gnosticism over the past few years ranging from the Nag Hammadi Library, to the Works of Madam Bladvatsky, to the brilliant work of the venerable master Samael Aun Woer and his predecessors.  Many of them all point to ancient Egypt when they talk about a spiritually advanced civilization; and that is one of the main reasons why I am in this class, to learn about there history.  I keep reading about Isis the divine mother, the great Kundalini, the Caduceus, the intertwined snake that sits in the root chakra until its time of awakening arrives; from what I understand so far, the snakes sitting on the heads of most of the great pharaohs represent the risen Kundalini, meaning that they had reached a level in spiritual development were they would not have to return to this physical plane anymore after there life and would rather reside in the higher dimensions; they would become gods and would be free of the wheel of samsara.



What classifies the Venus of Willendorf as a “Venus”? How can we label this figurine as a goddess when we do not even know her intention and purpose? As well, why do we impose our modern ideas of beauty on this sculpture? Who named this artifact and why did they place such a restrictive bias on this interesting and mysterious object?
Coming from someone who has studied art intensely and for some time now, these ideas of what beauty is and what art is permeates the study of art history. Perhaps this relic did serve a religious role, as the book introduces, or maybe it was just created for pure pleasure. This we do not know but what is for sure is that it is representative of the female sex. Delicate and curvaceous, this stone carving is a very abstract vision of the female form dating from c. 30 000 years ago.  Perhaps women were voluptuous at this time for a reason. The climate was different than today, as we have discovered through the readings, and perhaps this extra weight was needed for winter or for fertility purposes.  The curious thing is that there are so many of these so called venuses.  Why are these figurines so abundant during this time? Is the idea of these sculptures as devotional icons complete or is there something else going on here? Unfortunately like so many other periods in history know one knows so therefore one can only speculate.



I think what intrigues me the most is the biblical connections that arise in Classical Studies. I wouldn’t consider my self much of a religious person, but I do have faith. And I think that is what keeps me asking questions. Of course, this is probably the same reason many others are interested in ancient history as well. I think our best quality is that we as a species have always questioned are origins. And we should. To not know, or care about the past is the greatest ignorance that man can be guilty of. As I watch the destruction of Iraq I find myself angry, because we are destroying a crucial part of our history. To imagine the undiscovered riches of the past that will now be never discovered, well, it’s just disturbing.



I studied the 5 “major world religions” in some depth throughout high school, but in the end gave up the search when I entered post secondary school and became busy with other things.  Since the n I have developed an interest in archaeology, both the real life aspects and the fantasy adventures of such TV programs as “Relic Hunter”.  I began to enjoy novels about archaeological adventures such as those written by Clive Cussler.  To this day I am still fascinated by fiction written by authors who speculate on what the ancient civilizations and lifestyles were really like.  Even such stories that are written about the mythical city of Atlantis have been high on my reading lists.



I am interested in the development of archaeological practices and how techniques have changed over the years. I found it fascinating that Howard Carter did not have any real background or training in archaeology (not the mention others). It is amazing that a hobbyist could go from a draughtsman to an archaeologist with next to no prior training. It is incredible how things have changed since then, how archaeology has progressed and how it has become an interesting and complicated science. To be honest, I’m almost jealous of them for being able to have such opportunities, when today it is so hard to get any jobs in this field.



Lately there has been some controversy over the actual age of the pyramids.   Some take the view that the pyramids are as old as the stela at the feet of the sphinx says it is, the stela was made by Kafre.  The other evidence these people use is that the Temple beside the Sphinx has statues of Kafre in a hole in the back of the Temple .  Others say that the face on the Sphinx is of Kafre’s but the only other examples of that have come from the Temple statues that have the same face.  The people who lead the charge for the Great pyramids, the Sphinx and the Temple being older then it is say that there is proof that the Sphinx was remodeled a few times in the past. To put another face onto the Sphinx would have been easy for the sculptors of Ancient Egypt to do.  Some geologists have noticed that there is water type erosion on the Sphinx.  The only time there was sufficient rainfall in Egypt was around the end of the last ice age, about 13000 to 10000 years ago.  The Traditionalists say that the erosion is caused by the wind but the way it has eroded and the deepness and the type of rock lead geologists to say that the Sphinx is older then the Traditionalist say it is. There is also evidence that the Sphinx has been buried for most of its life.  There is evidence that the Sphinx has been buried for long periods of time from actual accounts of Pharaohs uncovering it to more recent accounts of Archeologists who uncovered it to watch it get buried under the Egyptian sand in as few as thirty years. So if Kafre made it as the Traditionalists say it was and it did get covered so fast, except for the head which does show signs of wind erosion, the erosion on the main body would have to have happened really fast which is impossible as most geologists would say.  Another thing these people say is that there have been no actual tombs, murals depicting religious themes, mummies or other items that are normally found in other pyramids are absent in the three great pyramids to help the traditionalists.



Many archaeologists throughout time have almost proven there is no God. They have evidence of many ancient civilizations built everywhere. But do they have evidence of Adam and Eve, and that all human forms come from them? Definitely not, there is proof that the first human like people to live on our earth were Primates, then Hominids, then Homo Erectus, and the list goes on. Charles Darwin, a naturalist has published a book called The Descent of Man . Our text says that in this book he explains his theory of evolution with a detailed explanation of the emergence o f human beings. And in his work he argued that humans, far from being the result of a special creation, had been subject to the same evolutionary processes as any other animal. To me this proves that God didn’t make an Adam and Eve. And at the same time this tells me that what I have believed my whole life is now being washed down the drain.



Nor am I the kind of person that pushes my anti-religious views on those who are devout followers. I am sincerely envious of those who have blind faith because the prospect of dying does not bother them as much. Conversely I have little time for people who make it their duty in life to defend their religious belief against the likes of me, or those who push their faith on non-believers as if it is their job.

  Now when I attend Roman-Catholic wedding and funeral services I refuse to patronize the ritual by taking the host or praying aloud, I feel that if there is a God, he would probably be more frustrated with ‘fake’ participation than no participation at all. Sometimes I am questioned by those people who know that I am Catholic as to why I did not participate in the service, and I usually tell them that I am a non-believer now and that I would never demean someone else’s faith by participating in something I do not believe in.



In the first lecture I was very surprised to learn that the Greeks and Romans were not the first peoples to use art as a way to express ideas and symbolize the Gods but that an ancient civilization called the Sumerians were the first. I had always thought the Greeks and Romans were the first. I do not believe that I had even heard of the Sumerians before this class



One of the most interesting facts that I have learned so far are all the biblical connections to events that happened thousands of years before Christ was born. A lot of these biblical tales come from the Sumerians, who have a story about a great flood and a man who would eventually be called Noah. I learned from my other religion class that religion takes different parts/stories from other religions to form there own, but for some reason I never thought about where the first stories actually came from. When thinking back on this, I found it interesting that the story of the flood and Noah, that Noah was not always his name, I wonder if the catholic church did this for some reason or if the name was changed to make it more modern?



The things that I find interesting are how most of these stories are comparable to the bible.  I am Catholic, so I have a vast knowledge of the stories from the bible and that to find that most of these stories happened earlier in time was astounding, because I was very ignorant of the past, and never took it in to account very much.  Just to hear that everything was all related was a big eye opener for me.



All that can be said about the current day person of no religion but possessing faith is that they are all too often doing as little as they can in the service of their faith. As many people these days walk around with pentagrams and runes on their shirts without knowing the meanings as there are teenyboppers who wear Clash or Ramones shirts without ever having heard the music. I would greatly like to know how our society got to this point, where spirituality is a dime a pint, often of bad stock and sold out of neon vending machines, from the history of a life when everything had a spiritual significance. One would think that ancient history is not quite the right time to look at the most important changes but as I am morbid at times normally I have developed a strong belief that it is most often and most effectively the threats of what may happen in ones’ afterlife which affects how one leads their life.



It also still amazes me that Christianity sprang up from a polytheistic time to become a monotheistic religion with no lesser gods or goddesses when every other religion at the time had a multitude of gods. My personal belief is still torn by a quote my father said to me when we talked about going to church. “One has to wonder did God create man or did man create god “. this really bugs me since there is no way to explain how we got here or what happens when we die, but it would have been easy for a group of people to con a bunch of other people to think that there is a higher being and that he or she must be worshipped and then the con artists gain power over the people. These are my views and thoughts so far



During the lectures, the beginnings of religious worship was mentioned.  This brought me to the realization that there must have been something before the Bible, something to which all that we believe is based upon.  Being raised Catholic, I was only taught of the beginning as told by Genesis.  Although I now longer live by the Catholic rule, I never thought of there being religious beliefs prior to Greeks and Romans and Egyptians.  Logically speaking, there had to be some religious belief upon which civilizations like the Egyptians based their religion.  These things take time to evolve and grow into a well-developed and well-accepted thought.  It surprised me that I had never thought that religion was around before writing.  It makes so much sense that these people would use religion as a means of explaining the unexplainable.  To use religion as we use it today; as a means of uniting people, teaching people how to act, and giving us morals and values which to live by.  Religion played an important role in the development of civilization.  We quite possibly would not be were we are and who we are today without it.  That is hard for me, who is against organized religion, to fully accept.  We have grown into a society that is dependent on religion.  Who could have imagined that thousands of years ago when the first person conceptualized a way to answer questions through what became known as religion would have such an effect on us today.  It makes you think about how different we would be if they believed in something else, or nothing at all.



…this material will make me more aware of our culture as it fits into history.  It is easy to think that the current powers will rule forever.  Seeing the fall of so many mighty empires over thousands of years reminds me that someday North America too will fall.  Perhaps in the future students from the orient will be learning of Canada as an ancient civilization as they gaze on pictures of the ruins of the C.N. Tower and Parliament Building . 




As I have discussed the material of the class with my family, everyone keeps saying how far we have come from the Neanderthals that foraged for their food, or those that produced the uncomplicated pottery. I think that maybe had I not taken this class I would be more inclined to agree with them, but even as we are still just skimming the surface of material, I am forced to believe that there is much more to us as a people. That what we see of our society came from the forming and modification of customs that best allowed for survival, and which ultimately succeed in the changing environments. To think that we are the people we are today occurred not merely by chance, but because of the ingenuity that allowed those of the past to adapt and survive. We are here today because of what was learned yesterday. We possess the things of today because they were what were passed down through thousands of generations.


The questions posed in the first paragraph of the course outline seem timeless. I have no doubt that these interrogatives have been asked, answered and revisited ad infinitum. The question which leapt off the page at me asks about an individuals’ right relationship to family, community, state and to God. I cannot help but focus on the word “right”. Is there really a right way or is there and has there been, simply, acceptable ways within the confines of time and place? In an expansion of the Homeric educational ideal, Hesiod wrote: “the man is altogether best who considers all things …. But whoever neither thinks for himself nor keeps in mind what another man tells him, he is an unprofitable man.” I intend to profit from our visits with the inhabitants of the “ Fertile Crescent ” for I am sure that they have much to say.


In my past studies of history, important events were of course emphasized as being the knowledge worth having. However I now believe that the real value of studying the past is to be able to feel a human connection with the people who lived before. The past doesn't come to life without seeing human touches in it. Battles and warfare seem to be a constant, but violence is certainly not an ideal human endeavour. Killing is common but it is inhumane and doesn't better the human race. Violence diminishes it. I think that people are capable of extreme cruelty if they are convinced that their victim doesn't deserve human consideration. Education is crucial to prevent this. Using violence is a failure at being human, since there are other ways of settling differences.   Humans have consistently gone to war because they have been convinced by their leaders that it will protect them or make them famous. If given a proper education about how similar humans really are, then maybe differences can be cherished instead of feared and people won't want to go to war. I know I don't.



Last Updated: March 7, 2005