References – Part 10: Pilgrim Unplugged


Global Musings XI – The Age of Aquarius (GM11)

Distant echoes of hominid cousins

With regard to the different hominid species living on Earth 30,000-odd years ago, these include we Homo sapiens (obviously); the remnants of the Neanderthals (who during their height had been composed of at least two sub races, a European population and an Asian population); Homo Floresiensis (the ‘hobbits’ whose remains were found in Indonesia in 2003) and very likely other hominid groups of which we thus far have no evidence. Indeed, the preponderance of non-human humanoids in mythology around the world almost certainly constitutes deep cultural memories of a time when there actually were trolls and pixies living in the forest.

Regarding the Age of Aquarius, this is a reference to the song ‘Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In’ from the musical Hair, which is itself referring to the ‘astrological age’ into which Earth will shortly be passing.

Astrological ages are defined by the position of the spring equinox, which takes around two millennia to pass through each constellation. This ‘procession of the equinoxes’ is a function of the fact that Earth’s axis of rotation is continually changing, so as to describe two cones in the southern and northern hemispheres (like a spinning top). In astrology, a complete cycle around that cone (of 12 astrological ages) makes up a Great (or ‘Platonic’) Year, which lasts 25,765 normal years.

The Age of Pisces (the astrological age we’ll shortly be leaving) is associated with spirituality and intuition, while the Age of Aquarius, it is said, will be associated with rationality and high technology. Technically, the Age of Aquarius commences in around 2062 CE, although illustrious astrologers apparently claim that the dawning epoch’s influence will be felt prior to its actual commencement, and that this dawn is linked to the accelerated social, cultural and technological developments of the late second, and early third, millennium. Following the Age of Aquarius will come the Age of Capricorn, circa 4000 CE.

None of this should be confused with the invisible flying spaghetti monster.

Astrological ages are part of a set of belief systems which hold – without any particular hard data to back such a view up – that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and the specifics of human lives. However, the fact that it’s all a bit fluffy is no reason not to make use of astrological ages as colourful and emotionally appropriate names for meaningful divisions in human history. It is certainly no reason for us not to embark on an era of greater planetary freedom, enlightenment, self-knowledge, self-actualisation and brotherhood.

Indeed, even though the period of continuous rapid change the human world was going through when I wrote The Jolly Pilgrim started in around 1800 CE (262 years before the Age of Aquarius officially began), given the current dynamic of world affairs, 2062 CE could well be about when the majority of Earth’s humans are decisively reaping this period’s benefits.


123: Awesome Big Stuff

Regarding the, now lost, natural wonder of Sete Quedas, there is surprisingly little literature or visuals available regarding the great falls. However, in order to provide supporting material in the spirit of The Jolly Pilgrim, here is an excerpt from a poem written by someone who saw them.

Here seven visions, seven liquid sculptures
vanished through the computerized calculations
of a country ceasing to be human
in order to become a chilly corporation, nothing more.
A movement becomes a dam.

– Carlos Drummond de Andrade, “Farewell to Seven Falls” (translated from the Portuguese)

In the Garden of Eden

Regarding butterflies, since I wrote email 123 it has been pointed out (by Sid McLean) that butterflies don’t taste with their tongues, but through the souls of their feet. Apparently, the lemon-green butterflies in question were actually licking salt off me.

The ‘racoon-type creatures’ turn out to be an animal called Coati, also sometimes referred to as the Brazilian aardvark. They are related to racoons, as it happens.

All the Itaipu Dam statistics come from literature I picked up at the Dam itself, which has a well resourced visitor’s centre.


Global Musings XII – Spiritual Architecture (GM12)

I should probably point out that my statement at the end of this subchapter (‘It’s just true’) is a simplification. As anyone with a basic theory of knowledge (‘epistemology’) will appreciate, and as I myself point out on pages 287 and 292, no one can conclusively know that anything is true.

The point, which I chose not to qualify for rhetorical reasons, is that, based on the data available to the human race in the early twenty-first century, the narrative set out in ‘The Flower’ is entirely uncontroversial, insofar as anyone knows anything.

Regarding influences, the three thinkers who most deeply influenced my pantheist religious views are Marcus Aurelius, Carl Sagan and the fourteenth-century Arab historian, historiographer, sociologist, economist and genius, Ibn Khaldun.


Having consort with things eternal

126: The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

The significance of Gleise 581c was that it was the first extrasolar planet discovered which was of roughly Earth’s mass, and which was also in the ‘habitable zone’ of its host star (Gliese 581, which is about 20 light years from Earth).

Its discovery represented one of many significant watersheds in this dynamic and exciting area of astronomy. The science of extrasolar planets’ (planets outside our solar system) is a glorious example of an area where both the relevant hardware and detection methods (both of which were in the middle of an explosion of improvements when I wrote The Jolly Pilgrim) will be in a completely different place within the lifetimes of people now born. It’s a field where new waves of knowledge will wash over humanity in the coming decades, as we build up a detailed picture of the near-Earth galaxy. This was something I was acutely aware of when I wrote about Gleise 581c on Ilah Grande.

Gleise 581c was the second planet in the Gleise systems to be found, and was thought to be third out from its host star at the time of writing (2011). Since I wrote email 126, another planet in the system, Gleise 581g, has been discovered, which is currently thought to be a better candidate for habitability.

The first confirmed discovery of an extrasolar planet was in 1988. However, the first person known to put forward the idea that stars, other than the sun, had planets in orbit around them was the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno. In 1600 he was burned at the stake by the Roman Inquisition, for holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith.


Where is all this leading?


Global Musings XIII – Apotheosis (GM13)

GM13 is influenced by the writers of the Book of Job, James Lovelock, Marcus Aurelius, Confucious, Geoff Carr, Carl Sagan, Pink Floyd, Buzz Aldrin and the Budda.

It is very challenging to communicate, using prose, the all-is-one world view in GM13 which sees humans most properly as links in strings of immortal germ line cells stretching from the genesis of the tree of life circa three billion years ago, rather than individuals; and human consciousness as just one – albeit, particularly noteworthy – aspect of the resultant eco-web. During the editing process for Part 10, it was decided that we should tone down the original draft of GM13 for the purposes of the book.

The the director’s cut can now be found on the website here. 

What do we really mean by 'God'?


128: Transcontinental

All the numbers for the population, GDP per head and size of total economy for Guyana and Brazil are from the CIA World Fact Book.

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