Saturday, August 23, 2014

Earth | Holes | Cracks

Mother Earth is acting up again. It’s not just Holes this time. Now it’s cracks: See Huge Crack Appears in the Earth. Most of you are aware of the theory that the earth is a Living Being. If it is, She appears to be in pain. This does not bode well for the creatures who live on the Earth’s surface. 
Pray, people, pray.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Iraq | Yezidis | Peacock Angel |Shambhala



Things can't get worse than this: Iraqi civilians are escaping into Syria to get off a northern mountain wheretthey've been trapped without food or water for weeks. Between 20,000 to 30,000 minority Yazidis have found a safe passage through Syria and back into Iraqi Kurdistan, assisted by Kurdish guerrilla forces. Meanwhile, American and British missions have been dropping emergency relief Mt. Sinjar and U.S. has launched air strikes on Islamic State militants nearby.


As anyone who pays even cursory attention to the news now knows the United States is airdropping humanitarian aide to the Yezidis in Iraq. See US Drops New Aid To Iraqis Fleeing Militant Surge if by some chance you are not up to speed on this. The fleeing Iraqis in this case are Yezidis, although of course Syriac Christians are also fleeing from the Jihadists in Iraq. I think I first became aware of the Yezidis when I read about them in the book Meetings With Remarkable Men by twentieth century magus George Gurdjieff back in the early 1970s. Then in  2009 I met a Yezidi in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, where he was working in a carpet store. I had my laptop with me and he asked to see a post I had made about his store—there is wi-fi in the Grand Bazaar—and after he had seen that post he began surfing through other of my blog entries. Suddenly he stopped and blurted out, “What is this!?!” It was a Short Post About Yezidis. “How do you know about Yezidis?” he demanded. He actually seem shocked that I should know about anything about this subject. I said that I read about them in books and had seen various material about them on the internet. After some hemming and hawing he finally admitted that he himself was a Yezidi. He said that for various reasons he usually did not tell tourists who came into his store about this, but since I already knew about Yezidis he felt he could tell me. Admittedly he was not too eager to share his beliefs, but he did offer to take me to eastern Turkey to met his relatives if I was so inclined. 

According to One Source, “The religion is little known to outsiders but contains elements of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity, and also includes the veneration of the Peacock Angel.” What, you are wondering, is the Peacock AngelAccording To Yezidis:
Tawsi Melek, the “Peacock Angel” and “Peacock King,” is the most import deity of the Yezidis. But he is not just the possession of the Yezidis, he belongs to the entire world. The Yezidis believe that they possess the oldest religion on Earth, the primeval faith that features Tawsi Melek, and that all other traditions are related to them through the Peacock Angel. They contend that Tawsi Melek is the true creator and ruler of the universe, and therefore a part of all religious traditions. He does not, however, always manifest within these diverse traditions as a peacock. Tawsi Melek has taken on many other forms throughout time. The Yezidis do not believe that the Peacock Angel is the Supreme God. The Supreme God created him as an emanation at the beginning of time. He was brought into manifestation in order to give the invisible, transcendental Supreme God a vehicle with which to create and administer the universe. Tawsi Melek is thus a tangible, denser form of the infinite Supreme God. In order to assist Tawsi Melek in this important role, the Supreme Creator also created six other Great Angels, who were, like the Peacock Angel, emanations of the Supreme God and not separate from him. Tawsi Melek was, therefore, both the first form of the Supreme God and one of the Seven Great Angels, which is a cosmic heptad mentioned within many religious traditions. The Jews, Christians, Persian, Egyptians all have their seven angels and creators. In the Meshefê Re, the Yezidis “Black Book,” there is one passage that describes the Seven Great Angels and associates their creation with the seven days of Creation. The text first states that the Supreme God first created a pearl containing the substance or substratum of the soon-to-be physical universe, ostensibly referring to the molten mass preceding the “Big Bang” championed by modern physics.
 The Peacock Angel
One of the manifestations of the Peacock Angel in human form is believed to be Shaykh Adi ibn Musafir al-Umawi. He was born in 1070 in what now Lebanon. He studied in Baghdad but soon took up the life of a recluse in upper Mesopotamia. He eventually became a Sufi, but also adhered to the Zoroastrian beliefs still prevalent in the area. His syncretistic tendencies and saintliness soon attracted the attention of local Yezidis, who recognized him as a manifestation or incarnation of the Peacock Angel. He died in 1162 at the age of ninety and was entombed in a mausoleum in a village near Lalish, Iraq. His mausoleum and shrine exists to this day and has become one of the main Yezidi pilgrimage sites. 
The Mausoleum of  Shaykh Adi ibn Musafir al-Umawi near Lalash (not my photo)
The Jihadists in Upper Mesopotamia have destroyed many shrines in the region, perhaps most notably the Tomb of Jonah, Jonah being the belly-of-the-whale-guy who makes an appearance in both the Bible and the Quran. Christian churches, Shiite Mosques, and Sufi holy places have also been targeted. Jihadists May Have Already Captured The Mosul Dam above the city of Mosul. Lalash is just twenty-five miles northeast the breast of the Mosul Dam. If the Jihadists reach Lalash they will undoubtedly destroy the mausoleum and shrine of Shaykh Adi ibn Musafir al-Umawi. 

For photos of Lalish see Visit The Holy City Of The Iraqi Religious Minority That ISIS Is Threatening With Destruction (allow the ad to run for 15 seconds)

The Peacock Angel Manifests Itself In Many Religions, including Buddhism, and is believed to occasionally incarnate as the King of Shambhala:
In Tibet the Peacock Angel appears to be manifest as Amitibha, the peacock-riding dhyanibuddha who sits upon his Peacock Throne in the heaven of Sukhavati and occasionally takes a physical incarnation as the King of the World in legendary Shambhala, the land of immortals that flies the Peacock Flag. Shambhala, meaning the “Place of happiness,” is a place designed as eight territories or “petals” and recognized to be the heart chakra of planet Earth. In the center of the planetary heart chakra is the palace of the King of Shambhala, who thus functions as not only planetary monarch but soul of the world (just as the human soul resides within the human heart chakra). According to one legend, the Peacock Angel not only spread his colors around the globe but additionally merged his spirit with that of the Earth and became the world soul. Thus, his physical body is the Earth and his will is reflected in the actions of all creatures that live upon the face of the Earth.  

Turkey | Tur Abdin | Mor Gabriel Monastery

Lots of news coming out of Mesopotamia. I posted earlier about Midyat, in Turkey, where a refugee camp has been set up to house Syriac Christians fleeing the civil war in Syria. I also posted about the Syriac Christians from Mosel in Iraq who had sought Refuge On Mount Alfaf, about eighteen miles north of current-day Mosul. The plight of Christians in Mesopotamia has continued to worsen; see Ancient Christian population of Mosul Flees Islamic State. Now with the fall of Qaraqosh, Iraq's Largest Christian City, to Jihadists, Syriac Christians in Iraq face annihilation. See ISIS Persecution Of Iraqi Christians Has Become Genocide. Given these conditions, Turkey, which in the past has had its own checkered relationship with its Christian minorities, now appears to be a safe haven for Syriac Christians. 

After visiting Midyat we wandered down to Mor Gabriel Monastery, twelve miles southeast of Midyat and fifteen miles north of the Syrian border. Here, at least, Syriac Christianity appears to be surviving. This is one of the oldest monasteries in the world. It was founded in 397 by Mor (saint) Samuel (d. 433) and Mor Simon (d. 409). Originally it was called the Monastery of Mor Samuel and Mor Simon, but in the seventh century it was renamed Mor Gabriel Monastery after Mor Gabriel (634-668), the bishop of the Tur Abdin Region. Except for brief periods during wars and civil disorders the monastery has operated continuously since the year 397. Visitors are not allowed to wander around the grounds by themselves (although you can stay overnight if you make previous arrangements), but a guide is provided to give you a tour. Our guide, a young Syriac Christian, spoke perfect, unaccented English. 
Entrance to the monastery (click on photos for enlargements)
Entrance to the courtyard
Inner courtyard of the monastery
Monastery grounds
Steeples
This circular room, a later addition to the original monastery, was built in the sixth century with funds provided by the notorious Empress Theodora, the wife of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I
Circular Room. The small windows on the dome open on monks’ cells. 

Our guide related that Theodora was born near here, in what is now Syria, and that her father was a Syriac priest. It was this connection with the area and the Syriac Church that motivated her to make a sizable donation to the monastery for the purpose of building this room. This is the sanitized version of Theodora’s background. Most sources do agree that she was born in Syria, but many maintain that Theodora was the daughter of a bear trainer and a professional dancer and actress. They began pimping out Theodora and her sister Komito when they were both pre-adolescents. Theodora quickly began one of Constantinople’s most notorious prostitutes. If we are to believe the Byzantine historian Procopius (c. AD 500 – c. AD 565), who probably knew her personally, Theodora engaged in behaviour which would make even Kim Kardashian blush:
One night she went into the house of a notable during the drinking, and, it is said, before the eyes of all the guests she mounted the protruding part of the couch near their feet and forthwith pulled up her dress in the most disgraceful manner, and did not shy away from displaying her lasciviousness. And though she made full use of three orifices, she often found fault with Nature, complaining that Nature had not made the holes in her nipples larger so that she could devise another variety of intercourse there. Of course, she was frequently pregnant, but by using pretty well all the tricks of the trade she was able to induce an immediate abortion. Often in the theatre too, in the full view of the people, she would throw off her clothes and stand naked in their midst, having only a pair of knickers over her private parts and her groin – not, however, because she was ashamed to expose these also to the public, but because no one is allowed to appear there absolutely naked: underwear over the groin is compulsory. And with this costume she would spread herself out and lie on her back on the floor. Certain menials on whom this task had been imposed would sprinkle barley grains over her private parts, and geese trained for the purpose used to pick them off with their beaks one by one and swallow them. Theodora, far from blushing when she stood up again, actually seemed to be proud of this performance. For she was not only shameless herself but did more than anyone else to encourage shamelessness. And many times she threw off her clothes and stood in the middle of the actors on the stage, leaning over backwards or pushing out her rear to invite both those who had already enjoyed her and those who had not been intimate as yet, parading her own special brand of gymnastics. With such lasciviousness did she misuse her own body that she appeared to have her privates not like other women in the place intended by nature but in her face! And again, those who were intimate with her showed by so doing that they were not having intercourse in accordance with the laws of nature, and a person of any decency who happened to meet her in public would swing round and beat a hasty retreat, for fear he might come into contact with any of the hussy’s garments and so appear tainted with this pollution. For to those who saw her, especially in the early hours of the day, she was a bird of ill omen. (Quoted from Procopius’s Secret History)
None of this mattered to Emperor Justinian, who became besotted with Theodora and eventually married her. As the wife of a Byzantine emperor Theodora might well have wanted to upgrade her image by donating money to religious institutions. Thus she has been memorialized here at Mor Gabriel Monastery. Justinian himself initiated the construction of Aya Sofia in Istanbul, to this day one of the most magnificent religious structures in the world. Maybe he was feeling guilty about marrying a nymphomaniacal prostitute and wanted to do something to atone for it?
Theodora (c. 500 – 28 June 548) portrayed on a mosaic in a church in Ravenna, Italy (not my photo)
This was probably the dining hall in the monastery
A book, I believe a Bible, but I am not sure, in Syriac Script. The Syriac Language is closely related to Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus of Nazareth, leader of the Galileans.
The Syriac Script was based on the ancient Aramaic Script. The Sogdians of Inner Asia adapted the Syriac Script into their own Sogdian Script; the Uighurs in what is now Xinjiang Province in China adapted the Sogdian Script into their own Uighur Script; and later the Uighur Script was used as the basic for the Traditional Mongolian Script. Thus the Mongolian Vertical Script, which is experiencing somewhat of a revival in Mongolia, can be traced back to the ancient Aramaic Script, a variation of which is still used by Syriac Christians in Turkey today. 
Closer view of Syriac Script. 
A Syriac inscription on a wall in the monastery

New addition to the monastery. Local stone carvers and masons have lost none of their traditional skills.
Good example of local stonework

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Mongolia | Zaisan Tolgoi | Galleria | Artist Anunaran

I have been somewhat remiss in noting changes to the Galleria of my Hovel In Zaisan Tolgoi. Here are two works by Ulaanbaatar Artist Anunaran. She and her partner Dorje Derem, who is also an well-known UB artiste,  installed them. 
 Anunaran prepping her palette
 Anunaran putting some finishing touches on her self-portrait
 Anunaran putting some final touches on her self-portrait
 Anunaran and her self-portrait 
 Anunaran and Dorje Derem with self-portrait (Dorje Derem’s name by the way, might be translated as “Vajra Guardian of Shambhala”, at least according to one interpretation). 
 Anunaran putting the final touches on her installation which I call “Dreams of Foxes”.
 Making final adjustments
At the bottom of each hanging string is an image of a fox fashioned from felt. This is based on the Mongolian belief that if you hang an image of a fox over a baby’s crib the baby will not have bad dreams. 
 Anunaran and Dorje Derem with Foxes installion
  Anunaran
 Anunaran
Anunaran also helps organize a dance troop which performs at various places of interest, including Aryaval Temple.
Performance artists at Aryaval Temple 
 Performing at Aryaval

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Siberia | More Holes

The Hole Story refuses to die:
One of the most remote areas in the world seems to be slowly turning into something resembling a slice of Swiss cheese. Two new huge holes have been discovered in a Siberian region nicknamed "the end of the world," reports the Siberian Times. . . At the larger of the two, "there is also ground outside, as if it was thrown as a result of an underground explosion," says a regional lawmaker who inspected the site from a helicopter. "It is not like this is the work of men, but [it] also doesn't look like a natural formation," says one of the Russian experts puzzling over the phenomenon.
Could it be that the The King of the World in Agharti is behind all these new openings to Inner Earth? 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Turkey | Nusaybin | Church of St. Jacob | School of Nisibis

The largely Kurdish city of Nusaybin is located twenty-four miles south of Midyat, on the southern edge of the mountainous plateau known as Tur Abdin, which is Syriac for “The Mountain of the Servants of God”. It is right on the Turkish-Syrian border. Just across the border is the Syrian city of Qamishli. 
The city of Nusaybin in Turkey, top, and the Syrian city of Qamishli, bottom (the border is shown in yellow). The two cities are separated by a No-Man’s Land (click on photos for enlargements). 
The No-Man’s Land separating Nusaybin and Qamishli
We stopped for tea on a square facing the main border crossing between the two cities. According to locals this square would usually be jammed with day-traders coming over from Qamishli to buy and sell goods. The crossing is now closed because of the civil war in Syria and the cafes lining the square host only old men nodding over cups of coffee. Reportedly the city of Al Hasakah forty-five miles to the southwest is now at least partially controlled by ISIS jihadists and thus nominally a part of the Newly-Declared Caliphate. How this will affect Nusaybin in the future is unclear.

Nusaybin is the modern Turkish name of the city. During Roman and Byzantine times the city was known as Nisibis. I was in town to visit the Church of St. Jacob and ruins of the old School of Nisibis, which local boosters and Others try to claim was the world’s first university. It might well have been the first university in what is now Turkey. It was founded by St. Jacob in the first half of the fourth century A.D. Jacob (d. 338) had been appointed bishop of the Christian community of Nisibis in 309. In addition to founding the university, he also, according to local sources, built the church which still stands near the ruins of the School of Nisibis. Jacob was one of the signatories at the First Council of Nicaea in 325. If you are a Christian and attend Christian services you will probably at some point repeat at least part of the Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the First Council of Nicaea. St. Jacob was also the first Christian to search for Noah’s Ark. He claimed he found a piece of the Ark on Mt. Judi, about seventy miles north of Nisibis. What eventually happened to this alleged relic is unknown. 
Church of St. Jacob
Church of St. Jacob
Painting of St. Jacob in the Church
Altar in the church 
This may have been a baptismal font
Interior of the church
Interior of the church
Interior of the church
Interior of the church
Coffin of Saint Jacob (d. 338) of Nisibis in the catacombs under the church
Locals claim these are the ruins of buildings which once hosted the School of Nisibis. I have not been able to confirm this independently. 
Nusaybin also is famous for its coffee. Many of the coffees are blended with various spices, the most popular being cardamom. It is ground extremely fine for Coffee Prepared Turkish-Style.
Kurdish coffee sellers in Nusaybin. 
My companions went off to visit relative in Nusaybin and I was wandered through the market by myself at the time. Since I was obviously a tourist the coffee dealers brewed me up some free samples of coffee brewed Turkish-style. Neither of them spoke English and I of course spoke no Kurdish, but coffee serves as a universal language. 
I ended up buying a kilo of the Agit Beyin blend shown above, left, which was flavored with cardamom and I believe cinnamon. I should have bought four or five kilos, since it later proved to be a huge hit even among people in Ulaanbaatar who are not usually big coffee drinkers.

Turkmenistan | Siberia | Big Holes

Big Holes are in the News. And I am not talking about Courtney Love, although Lisa Lampanelli is. I mean the Darwaza Crater in Turkmenistan, which I visited in the Spring of 2013. 
Darwaza Crater
Now National Geographic has sponsored a Descent Into the Crater. The stunt is going to be shown on National Geographic Channel tonight (if you live on the East Coast of the U.S.A) at 10 p.m. EDT. 

On top of this comes news that a Huge Crater Has Opened Up in Siberia.
According to the Siberian Times, a scientific team from Russia's Center for the Study of the Arctic and the Cyrosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences has been sent to investigate the crater and is expected to arrive on Wednesday. Helicopters spotted the astronomic hole over the gas-rich Yamal peninsula, but its depth is unknown. There are a number of claims as to how the crater appeared, but nothing is known for sure, and probably won't be known for a little while. Speculated causes include global warming, meteorites, a sinkhole caused by collapsing rock, a gas explosion, and UFOs. Although it was only discovered last week, it's believed that the hole has existed for over two years, which is likely to make the diagnosis process more difficult. Surrounding the crater are what appears to be rocks and pieces of the Earth that exploded from within it. Right now a number of signs point to the crater appearing as a result of a gas explosion.
See Video of the Siberian Crater.

I am sticking with my theory that these craters are openings to Agharti (also spelled Agharta), the underground Kingdom described by Marquis Alexandre Saint-Yves d’Alveydre and Ferdinand Ossendowski. The King of Agharti is reportedly none too pleased by recent events on the surface of the earth and is planning a breakout soon. See the King of Agharti’s Predictions. It is not going to be pretty.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Austria | Graz | Arch-Duke Ferdinand | Shambhala

As most of you know, 100 years ago today, June 29 1914, Bosnian-Serb hothead Gabriel Princip assassinated Arch-Duke Ferdinand of Austria in the city of Sarajevo, touching off World War I. In 2002 I wandered over to  Graz, in Austria, the birthplace Arch-Duke Ferdinand, and visited the townhouse where he was born and grew up. It is now a museum. 
Entrance (center) to Arch-Duke Ferdinand’s townhouse, now a museum
I was in town for the Kalachakra Initiation performed by the 14th Dalai Lama. In connection with the Initiation the museum was holding a Buddhist-themed exhibit. 
The Inimitable Madame Blavatsky superimposed on an image of Kalapa, the capital of Shambhala, on display in the museum.
You will recall that according to legend the Buddha taught the Kalachakra Tantra to Suchandra, the first King of Shambhala. If you are wondering, we are now living during the reign of Aniruddha, the 21st Kalkin King of Shambhala. 
 Dharma-Wear on Display at the Graz Museum

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Iraq | Turkey | Syriac Christians

In an earlier post about the Mor Behnam and Mort Sara Church in Mardin I mentioned that St. Mathai (Matthew) Monastery, located on Mount Alfaf, a mountain looming above the Nineveh plain about eighteen miles north of current-day Mosul in Iraq:
The grateful Sennacherib later donated land near the south summit of Mt. Alfaf to Mathai. In 363 Mathai founded a monastery on the site. This monastery, named after Mor Mathai, eventually became famous for its Scriptorium, which contained an extensive collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts. From the eleventh through nineteenth centuries the monastery was looted numerous times by Kurds who lived in the area, but it still exists to this day. Each September 14th Christians of various Eastern (non-Chalcedonian) sects would meet at the monastery to commemorate the day of Mor Mathai’s death. Whether this tradition still exists in the unsettled conditions of modern-day Iraq is unclear. Mor Mathai’s original hermitage, where he first met with Behnam, is also said to still exist.
Now the monastery has become a haven for Christians fleeing from the ISIS Takeover Of Mosul. See Christians From Mosul Seek Refuge In Ancient Monastery in Iraq:
Perched on a rocky, sand-colored mountain dotted with green shrubs and ancient caves, the Monastery of St. Matthew was a sanctuary for some of the earliest Christians. With the fall of nearby Mosul to Islamic extremists, its thick 4th-century walls again are a refuge. Christian families, who fled Iraq's second largest city, fill courtyard rooms normally used by monks and pilgrims. Children play on the steps while women help a male cook in the monastery's kitchen; others hang washed clothes in the scorching heat as a church bell peals. Men sit in the shade, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes, worrying about their families. Everyone follows the news, trying to learn what their fate may be. 
 If northern Mesopotamian does become the heart of a new Caliphate, as many are predicting, the fate of the Christians living there looks grim. I earlier posted about The City Of Midyat. I have since learned that a refugee camp for Syriac Christians fleeing the violence in Syria has been set up on the outskirts of the city. See Syria's Assyrian Christians Find Refuge With Turkish Neighbours.

Chingis Khan’s grandson Khülegü Sacked Baghdad and killed the last Abbasid Caliph in 1258. Are we now looking at a new Caliphate based in northern Mesopotamia or perhaps even in Damascus or Baghdad? It would be ironic if George W. Bush, who Iraqi Ruler Saddam Hussein once called the Khülegü Of This Age, has inadvertently brought about the rise of this new Caliphate by Destabilizing Iraq.
Which one is Khülegü?
I might add that Khülegü was rather tolerant of the Christians living in Mesopotamia, perhaps because his mother, the inimitable Sorqaqtani, was a Christian herself. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Turkey | Midyat

The city of Midyat, about thirty-seven miles east-northeast of Mardin, is in the middle of Tur Abdin, the old Syriac Christian heartland located in the mountains and plateaus just north of the Mesopotamian plain. Many Syriacs migrated out of the area in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries and the old Syriac quarter in Midyat was largely abandoned. A modern Kurdish city grew up nearby. A few Syriacs have drifted back to the town in the twenty-first century—according to local sources about 130 Christian Syriac people now live in the Old Town. There is also reportedly a small Syriac Jewish population. Kurds also live in the Old Town, and in fact I did not encounter any Syriac Christians. Locals say they do not engage in casual encounters with tourists. 
 The old Syriac Christian quarter of Midyat (click on photos for enlargements).
 Syriac Christian Church undergoing renovations
 Steeple of Syriac Christian Church. Note the characteristic teardrop design on one side of the steeple.
 A private residence utilizing the teardrop motif
Street scene in Midyat. I don’t know why, but I kept expecting Joseph and Mary and their little toddler to come walking around the corner. 
  Typical street scene in Midyat
 Typical street scene in Midyat
 The old bazaar in Midyat. The store fronts on the right are all boarded up. 
 The entrance to what is apparently a private residence. The stonework of tawny limestone appears to be new. The art of stone masonry and carving is alive and well in Midyat. There are numerous new stone buildings with elaborate carved decorations in the Kurdish part of Midyat. 
 We walked half a mile or so in the brutal heat to the Mor Abraham & Mor Hobel Monastery, which supposedly contains a 1700 year-old church, only to find that the entire complex was closed to the public that day. 
 An old Syriac mansion which has been turned into a museum, cultural center, and conference hall. It and the nearby streets also serve as the settings of a popular Turkish soap opera called “Sila”. Curiously, Mardin was also used as an open-air set for a Turkish soap opera. 
A room in the museum made up as a traditional Syriac Audience Chamber. The local Syriac patriarch sat in the chair at the end of the room. Petitioners knelt on the carpets and pleaded their cases. 
 One room in the museum is a traditional Syriac bridal suite made up for the wedding night. Enough to make anyone want to get married. 
 Kurdish man who drove me to Midyat. His regular job is as an imam in a mosque in the city of Batman. He is the proud father of eight children. 
 Kurdish girls hamming it up. They spoke Kurdish, of course, but my driver claimed they did not speak Turkish at all. They were eager to practice English, however, which they learn from watching TV.
Kurdish girl