Tag Archives: meaning

Man Leben – Convent years

Im Kloster entdeckt man Leben in vielfältiger Form

In the monastery one discovers life in various forms

You continues the story of your life:

“After my visit to the camps at Dachau and the grave of mother on All Souls ‘ Day in 1983, I moved on. My continued presence in Dachau was not appreciated: wanderers are not welcome. For one week I could sleep in the open air, but I became to visible. Early November I returned to the North. I had a vague plan to visit the grave of my father in Auschwitz. But quickly I understood the impossibility of this plan. The winter is a very bad time of year for wandering and Germany was still divided in two. I couldn’t walk through Eastern Germany to Poland.

I became ill. It started with a cold, and afterwards the fever came. A relatively small monastery gave me hospitality and within four weeks I was fully recovered.

In a very short time the monasteries changed considerably. At the beginning of 1960, there were many young men who entered the monastery for study, contemplation, focus on God and His works, and for disseminating faith and His works in other parts of the world. The monasteries were still in full bloom. Ten years later, no young men entered the convent and many monks had left the monastery for ordinary life with or without a partner. Again ten years later, only the older monks and the Abbot remained. In 1983 the buildings were very inward oriented.


The monastery where I recovered, was not very large. In 1983 the intrusion of emptiness was not depressing in the buildings. The last 15 years only one new brother entered the convent and the resident monks were 15 years older. If the monastery wished to survive, then a change was needed.

I also needed a change. It was still winter and moving without purpose was not on my way. During my recovery I was getting used to the rhythm of the monastery. After my recovery I could stay until spring came. I helped with necessary maintenance and I did jobs for my meals and indwelling.

In the beginning of the spring I had a farewell meeting with the Abbot. This conversation was a new beginning. The Abbot expressed his concerns about the future of the monastery; the convent had to a change in line with the tradition and focus on the future.

Any time, any act, each prayer and singing, every day, every year, everyone’s life, the life within the monastery and the faith in the monastery were focussed on God. The world outside the monastery changed constantly over the centuries. In the past the changes have had effects on the monastic life. In the Middle Ages, monasteries were centres of almost all scientific knowledge and skills in the Western world. Many monasteries acquired richness that were not in line with the tradition of the monasteries. By the end of the Middle Ages – around 1550 [2] – many monasteries were violently stripped of their richness: a number of monasteries decayed.

The last 15 years, the world outside the monastery changed very fast. This rapid change had a significant effect on the monastery, because the average age of the monks increased very rapidly. Stillness, contemplation and focus on God belonged to the monastery; on the other hand inflexibility and clinging to the past was not in line with the tradition.

The Abbot asked if I could contribute to the orientation for the monastery. My architectural background and my introduction to different religions could give good points of view. In addition to the usual tasks for a lay monk, I would dedicate myself to advice for and contributing to this orientation.

The monastery building was in good condition. It was excellent for monastery. With a declining number of permanent residents, parts of the building could also be used for activities in line with the objectives of the monastery.


The orientation on the outside world showed that outside the monastery and the Christian Church, there was a need for reflection and contemplation. This need was often expressed in other manifestations.


This orientation resulted in a monastery open for reflection and education of outsiders: individually and in groups. A number of monks in the convent studied religions from Asia to enrich the monastic life with the motto “explore the new and preserves the good”. Also knowledge and skill was acquired for guidance of groups in religious activities and meditation. Lay monks entered the monastery for  guidance of contemplation and education. Often they stayed temporarily or permanently in the monastery.

Approximately 5 years I have worked and lived in the monastery accompanying groups. At the end of this period, the monastic vows oppressed me. The vows of simplicity/poverty was no problem; I had a luxurious life with good health, sufficient simple meals and a useful contribution to the monastery and the world. The vow of chastity was slightly trickier. Since my student days there were always women in my life. During my stay in the monastery, there were no women in my life; the temptation was not great. The vow of obedience was the major problem: I’ve always been independent and my motto was: “nobody’s boss, nobody’s servant”.

My wish to start studying Eastern religions did not go along with the request of the convent to accompany other monasteries with their changes. I remained involved in the drafting of future plans for other monasteries, but the implementation of these plans was carried out by others. Occasionally I have given advice given during the progress. From resident of the monastery, I became a periodic visitor.

Around my 55th year of life, a new phase of my life began. I began with my study of Eastern religions”, you say.

The next post covers your study of Eastern religions.

[1] Example of a monastery. Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benedictijnen

[2] In England by King Henry VIII – see also:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dissolution_of_the_Monasteries; In Europa during the reformation whereby in the Netherlands the iconoclastic and the Eighty Years’ War did harm the monastic orders.

[3] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Trappist_praying_2007-08-20_dti.jpg

[4] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Meditating_in_Madison_Square_Park.jpg


Intermezzo: Why Sanskrit?

Your Narrator has asked the second main character why he is studying Sanskrit. His answer is that it has happened naturally. In examining Buddhist texts he has noticed that a number of concepts are easy to follow in Sanskrit. For example the sound “âtman” is similar to our word “breath”. It also turns out that some writers on Buddhism [1], philosophy [2] and the origins of words [3] have studied Sanskrit.

The second main character is interested in the origins of our language as a form of archaeology to the origin of our consciousness or “man[4]-child”. At the start of the study it appeared that for lay people the origin of the Indo-European is not easy accessible: there are only a few standard studies available [5]. On the other hand, Sanskrit – one of our older sister languages – is already in a very early stage extensively documented and fixed. This fact has caused that Sanskrit first became an artificial language and later a dead language. On the other hand, by the artificiality Sanskrit received a high status. The comprehensive, logical and sophisticated grammar is documented by Pāṇini [6] and his contemporaries in the fourth century BC. Our alphabet has an incoherent order; the alphabet in Sanskrit is logically built up according to the way people express vowels and consonants from the inside out. There are also very comprehensive dictionaries Sanskrit – English available. An introduction to Sanskrit [7] can be studied with some perseverance. Sanskrit has provided a good opportunity for the second main character to study the origin of language and thus the interpretation/expression of our consciousness.


During the study of Sanskrit, the second main character has noticed that many names and places in Indian and Buddhist texts have a meaning. For example, Buddha [9] means “placing a bud of a flower” and Ānanda means “bliss and joy”. The Buddhist words and concepts get a larger depth with knowledge of Sanskrit.

During his recovery period, the second main character has read the book “Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World [10]“.


In Chapter 5 of this book, Sanskrit is addressed under the heading “Charming like a Creeper – the cultured Career of Sanskrit”. With surprise and recognition, the second main character has read how Sanskrit established itself in India and how it is spread with Buddhism across Southeast Asia, Tibet, China and Japan by trading caravans and via freight boats. In addition to the Chinese characters, the Japanese alphabet is modelled according to the alphabet in Sanskrit. A professor has said to the second main character that a language is the speech impediment of the ruler. Sanskrit is distributed in a large area in a relative nonviolent manner. By the religions that are linked to the Sanskrit – Hinduism and Buddhism – this language has had a great influence in this area. The easiness  and naturalness of this spread has surprised Nicholas Ostler [12]: he has discussed this fact with several friends from India. These friends have pointed out to Nicholas Ostler how little believers must give up for Buddhism and Hinduism: old religions do not have to be rejected. Other beliefs require far more from its believers. The second main character does not agree with these friends. By their nature, Hinduism and Mahāyāna Buddhism [13] require everything from its believers including their original religions.

Over time, Sanskrit is first expelled by Islam from parts of India and Indonesia and afterwards it is banished from China with Buddhism. But, the remains of Sanskrit – like Hebrew – can be seen everywhere for a specialist.

Also many words in German, English and Dutch have a richer meaning with knowledge of Sanskrit. During his recovery period, once the second main character strolled around. He overheard a small group of women talk to each other twittering like birds. When he walked along, one of the women said: “What that concerns [14], I say so, I say nothing”. Then the women continued their conversation. The second main character thought: “Tathāgata [15], evam [16], śūnya [17]” or “what the world of forms concerns, thus, void”. These three words summarize in one sentence the following stage during our Odyssey with the addition: “What comes from the power of the wind in the end becomes brooken and crumbled [18].

This additions reminds of a free rendering of a pop-song by Neil Young [18]:

“Life is like a flower.

It only grows on the vine.

Handful of thorns and you know you missed it.

And you lose it when you call it Mine, Mine, Mine”.

[1] For example: Sheng Yen, Footprints in the Snow – the Autobiography of a Chinese Buddhist Monk. New York: Doubleday, 2008

[2] For example: Pirsig, Robert M., Lila, an Inquiry in Morals. London: Bantam Press, 1991

[3] For example: Ayto, John, Word Origins – The hidden Histories of English Words from A to Z. London: A & C Black Publishers, 2008

[4] “man” means in Sanskrit “think/consider/observe”.

[5] For example: Fortson, Benjamin W., Indo-European Language and Culture – an Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2004; Mallory, J.P. & Adams, D.Q., The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007; Mallory, J.P., In Search of the Indo-Europeans. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2005

[6] See as introduction: http://en.wikipedia.org/ under “Pāṇini”

[7] For example: Egenes, Thomas, Introduction to Sanskrit part 1 & 2. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 2003 – 2005

[8] Source image: http://www.amazon.com

[9] In Sankrit the name Buddha consists of the noun “bud” meaning “bud or knop” as “bud” in rosebud in the film “Citizen Kane” directed by Orson Wells – and the root “dha” meaning “place, grant, bestow”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[10] See: Ostler, Nicholas, Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World. New York: Harper Collins, 2005

[11] Source image: http://www.amazon.co.uk

[12] See:  Ostler, Nicholas, Empires of the Word – A Language History of the World. New York: Harper Collins, 2005 p. 217

[13] Mahāyāna literally means “big vessel”. All and everyone is present in this big vessel, no particle is excluded.

[14]The original in Dutch sounds “What Tathāgata” meaning “What that concerns”

[15] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tath%C4%81gata. The word “tathāgata” consist of “tathā” meaning “thus” and “gata” or “āgata” meaning going or coming. In Mahāyāna Buddhism the word “tathāgata” has two meanings: on the one hand “the complete arising and vanishing Self” or “Buddha or Self” and on the other hand “the myriad forms as they are”.

[16] In Sanskrit the word “Evam” consists of the verb root “e” meaning “approach, arrive” and the noun “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, going”. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[17] In Sanskrit “śūnya” means zero of void. The word “śūnya” consists of “śūna” meaning “swollen state of empty” and “ya” meaning “mover, traveller or wind”.

[18] Source: Wick, Gerry Shishin, The Book of Equanimity – Illuminating Classic Zen Koans. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications, 2005 p. 51 casus 16.

[19] See: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/neilyoung/loveisarose.html

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Sacrifice

In the previous post, we have entered two meditation rooms. The first room is the Mark Rothko Chapel in Houston. The other meditation room is everywhere and always present.

Now you and I consider the sacrifice as “object in the middle”. For this we look at the last part of the movie “Offret” or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky in 1986.


Before we start watching this part of the movie, we read first several introductions and reflections on this film. We start with “The sealed time” [2]: reflections on the cinema by Andrei Tarkovsky.

“The sealed time” is also a good name for the interior of the Mark Rothko Chapel”, you say.

In these reflections Andrei Tarkovsky writes: “The protagonist of the film” Offret ” is meant as a weak personality. No hero, but a thinker and an honest person who is able to sacrifice for a higher ideal. If the situation requires, he does not back and tries to leave the act of sacrifice to someone else. He faces not being understood by others and to be seen as destructive and desperate. He exceeds the permissible limit of normal behavior by which he is seen as insane, because he feels bound to the fate of all mankind. He only responds to the call of his heart. He is not master of fate, but only servant. His efforts remain unnoticed and misunderstood, but do contribute to the harmony of the world.[3]

“Do you recognize yourself in this description?” I ask.

“With shame. I often follow my own way and I have neglected other people unnecessarily”, you say.

“Who does not?” I say.

“Saints?”, you say

“We both aren’t,” I say.

In the afterword to these considerations Andrei Tarkovsky writes: “Throughout history ideologues and politicians have shown people “the only right way” that can save the world. To partake in this salvation the individual should – according to ideologues, politicians and/or society – give up all own ideas in order to channel all energy to the proposed rescue. For this progress, that has to safeguard the future of humanity, the individual sacrifices his inner life. His personality is lost in following this ideal. Because mankind thinks of the interests of all, it forgets its own personal interest as Christ preaches: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” This means: “Love yourself so much that you respect the divine principle in yourself, the suprapersonal that prohibits selfishness and obliges you to give yourself to others unconditionally, loyalty to yourself from the I as a personal centre of life.” [4] [5]

“This requires a major balancing act between self-interest – in which the world is reflected – and sacrifices for others – whereby each sacrifice for another is a sacrifice to yourself”, you say.

“Somewhere I read that a beggar and a benefactor show compassion for each other by an offering. The beggar gives the benefactor the opportunity to demonstrate compassion and the benefactor shows compassion with another expression of his own life”, I say.

“To give offerings in an unconditional manner, we still have a long way to go. Andrei Tarkovsky describes a first step towards a Buddhist bodhisattva [6]. The ideal of salvation and the unconditional offerings to others is present. Only the efforts and the ways to achieve one’s own perfection before the bodhisattva encourages others to prepare for enlightenment, lacks”, you say.

“Within mahâyâna [7] Buddhism enlightenment is only possible for everyone at the same time. The metaphor of Indra’s Net shows this. First one’s own glass bead has to be prepares for enlightenment. Thereafter, all other glass beads have to be able to enter enlightenment. If one glass bead is illuminated, all other pearls are also lit: no jewel within Indra’s Net is left behind, because otherwise the dust on one non-enlightened jewel reflects on all”, I say.

“Absolutely. Because the protagonist is not clear in his mind, he cannot save the world. If he does so, he remains behind with his faults and is at least one small part of the world that is not saved. Hereby the protagonist is not a bodhisattva, but a tragic hero”, you say.

“He cannot be a classic tragic hero, because he believes in a God who may grant him salvation,” I say.

“Later on our Odyssey, we will encounter enlightenment again. You and I share the same shortcomings as the protagonist in the film. I hope we are able to see a glimpse of the enlightenment. Odysseus has been tied to the mast of his ship in the vicinity of the Sirens. The ears of his crew were filled with wax to prevent noticing the seductive sounds. This reasoning is not sound, anyway”, you say.

“Let us watch the movie”, I say.

The last film of Andrei Tarkovsky – finished shortly before his death – begins with the monologue by the father – Alexander – to his son who will not speak during the entire movie due to a throat disease: “A long ago, an old monk named Pamve was in an Orthodox monastery. He has planted a dead tree. His pupil – named Ivan Kolvo – may give water to the tree every day. Every morning he climbs with a full bucket of water uphill and gives water to the dead trunk. On one day after three years, the tree blooms with full blossom [8]. Every action has its consequence. If you perform undisturbed at the same time every day the same ritual, the world will change irrevocably. [9]

“My mother once put a dead stick on the ground outside to the wall. After several months, the stick has rooted”, you say.


During the film a threat of a war develops that will destroy everything and everyone. Under this pressure, the main character – Alexander – goes to his study. He kneels on the ground and does something he never has done before. He prays: “Lord, save us in this fearful hour. Do not let my children and friends die, my wife, everyone who loves and believes in you. And those who do not believe in you because they are blind and have not given thoughts to you because they have not really been unhappy. Anyone who will lose his hopes now, his future his life and the opportunity to be guided by your word. Those who are filled with fear and feel the end is nearing. Who do not fear for themselves but for their neighbours. For those who nobody else can save but you. Because this war is the last, a terrible war. After this there will be no victors and vanquished any more. No towns and villages, trees and grass. No water in the springs or birds in the sky. I give you everything I own. I leave my family that I love. I destroy my house and take away my son. I will remain silent and talk to nobody. I renounce all that binds me to this life. If you only ensure that everything is as it was. And I am freed from that deadly, unbearable, animal fear. Lord, help me. I will do what I promised.”

The next morning, the threat is disappeared. Alexander sticks to his word and lures all the residents to the seaside before putting the house on fire. All his possessions are on fire. He sacrifices his soul for his neighbours and the world. He is retrieved by an ambulance for admission to a mental institution.


“This sacrifice is not only a sacrifice of the protagonist. It is also a sacrifice made by his family and friends. Without any direct say, they lose Alexander, their house and possessions. Can a sacrifice be a real sacrifice when innocent people involved “[12], you ask.

While the ambulance passes, the son is ready to water the dead tree with full buckets of water. The Aria “Erbarme dich“ from St. Matthew Passion begins.

“Erbarme dich,
Mein Gott,
Um meiner want Zahren
Schaue here
Herz und Auge weint vor dir

The son looks at the crown of the tree and says his only words during the film: “In the beginning is the word [14]. Why Father? “.

At the appearance of the text mentioning that the film is dedicated to the son of Andrei Tarkovsky – with hope and consolation, the crown of the tree seems to bloom.

“The son makes three sacrifices. He loses his father because his father sticks to his word and to God’s word. He makes his second sacrifice by continuously giving water to the tree and bringing this tree back to life. By the third sacrifice he remain silent throughout the film. Fully justified the son asks his father – and God – why his father must keep his word”, you say.

“For me this is a film of hope, because the last film by Andrei Tarkovsky is dedicated to his son with hope and consolation. At the end of this film, the light gives bloom to the tree of life. The life of his father – now a dry tree, because he has stopped acting – becomes a tree of life for the son by means of water. The son does not need any words for his sacrifices; his life, his actions and his knowledge precedes all words”, I say.

“A great enhancement of my impressions. Tarkovsky transcends “the sealed time” with this end of his last film”, you say.


The next post is about the Lamb of God as sacrifice.

[1] Source image: front of DVD-cover of the Swedish version of the film “Offret”.

[2] Tarkovski, Andrei, Sculpting in Time – Reflections on the Cinema. 1989

[3] Tarkovski, Andrei, De verzegelde tijd – Beschouwingen over de filmkunst. Pagina 203.

[4] Tarkovski, Andrei, De verzegelde tijd – Beschouwingen over de filmkunst. Pagina 207 – 208.

[5] For consideration: Indra’s Net as metaphor; see also: “Indra’s net” in post “Introduction: One – Pantheism – Indra’s net” of 8th April 2011

[6] The word bodhisattva consists of two words “bodhi” and “sattva” meaning “perfect knowledge, wisdom” and “being, conscience, living being” in Sanskrit. The school of mahâyâna buddhism knows the bodhisattva ideal. According to this ideal a human who is on the verge of enlightenment – named bodhisattva, will refrain of entering until the complete universe and every particle is capable to enter enlightment. In the meantime a bodhisattva will prepare everyone and everything for enlightenment.

[7] Mahâyâna means “large vehicle”. All and everyone is enclosed in this large vehicle, no particle is excluded.

[8] See also the post of 2nd of April 2011 “Introduction One – Blossom.”

[9] See also the posts of 24th en 27th March 2011 on rituels.

[10] Source image: http://www.jaapnoordzij.nl/credo/2010/09/offret-het-offer.html

[11] Source image: http://www.discordance.fr/top-5-les-meilleurs-epilogues-du-cinema-27740/1_offret

[12] Source: Fanu, Mark Le, The Cinema of Andrei Tarkovsky. London: BFI Publishing, 1987, page 125

[13] Aria from the St. Matthew Passion by the German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Translation: “Have mercy, my God, regarding my tears, look at me, heart and eyes weep for you bitterly.”

[14] See also: Opening of the Gospel of St. John from the New Testament.

[15] Source image: http://www.elitisti.net/artikkeli/2005/02/004308/offret_1986_uhri.html

Introduction: Three – Object in the middle – Meditation rooms

In previous posts, you and I have visited several houses of God. With churches as “object in the middle” the faithful express a mutual trust between people and God. This confidence is continuously and periodically confirmed through rituals. Besides, the churches often create a bond between people mutual, but sometimes churches cause rejections. Churches are trying to be a timeless reference point from which the environment – air/heaven and earth separately and in combination – is experienced. The churches also provide hope for a transcendence of human life through a resurrection in an afterlife. We will visit all the churches that we encounter on our Odyssey.

We also encounter “objects in the middle” which give room for meditation. These special areas create the possibility for transcending the human scale and/or experiencing a complete oneness. Specific parts of the natural landscape have been used for this purpose for centuries. During our Odyssey we have seen stone circles, caves and stones in the landscape.

Probably with the occupation of homesteads people have created rooms for meditation that resemble their homesteads. Initially, the rooms for meditation are mainly located in or near their residences. Over time these rooms become major sacred places for worship and/or houses of God. Some of these places have been transferred in worldly contemplation places that we now encounter as museums and art galleries. During our Odyssey we visit almost all museums, but we cannot report on these visits.

Let us visit two special rooms for meditation. This first room – the Mark Rothko [1] chapel in Houston from 1967 – is building for religion and for art. The exterior is a monolithic octagon with a small entrance. At first glance it looks like a mausoleum.


We enter the chapel. The interior radiates serenity – as monolithic as the exterior. The light comes from above. Internally I sing the first chorus of Cantata 131 by Johann Sebastian Bach:

”Aus der Tiefe rufe ich, Herr[3], zu dir.
Herr, höre meine Stimme, lass deine Ohren merken auf die Stimme meines Flehens!“


The windows to the outside consist of paintings by Mark Rothko from 1964 – 1967, shortly before his death.


The paintings render all impressions of the World. It seems that he tries to imprint on the panels – in translucent blue/black ink – every word ever written and spoken.” You say.

“That’s right. All glass beads of “Indra’s Net” [6] are included in the paint of the panels, the colours are so dense.” I say.

The sun breaks through. The blood of the earth lights in a purple red glow on the triptych.


We sit next to a meditating – Zen? – Buddhist. When the Buddhist stands up, we go outside.

Outside you say: “I once read: “A man asks a female Buddhist hermit in contemporary China to calligraphy the essence of Buddhist practise on paper. She puts the paper aside. A few months later, he receives four words by post: goodwill, compassion, joy and detachment. Her calligraphy is strong and clear as her mind.[8] Are these four words applicable to the chapel?”

“Yes.” I say.

“I have hesitated on joy, until the sun broke through.” You say.

In the next post we will watch the last part of the movie “Offret” – or “The Sacrifice” by Andrei Tarkovsky from 1986.

[1] For further information on Mark Rothko: Hughes, Robert, The Shock of the New – Art and the Century of Change; and Arnason, H.H., A History of Modern Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1979, pages 533 – 534

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestand:Rothko_chapel.jpg

[3] Maybe the German word “Herr” is linked to the verb root “hṛ” meaning “offer, present” and “seize, take away” in Sanskrit. Source: electronic version of the dictionary Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta. Both meanings of the verb root “hr” express the two roles of the warrior caste within the cattle-cycle: they rob the cattle and give a part of the cattle to the priests for offers to the Gods. A lord has also two roles: offering protection and taking a part of the harvest. Probably the role of Lord coincides with the role of God. In the experiences of many nationals the king and God are closely interwoven.

[4] Translation: “From the deep, Lord [3], I cry to you. Lord, hear my voice, let your ears hear the voice of my doubt!” In German the word “Flehens” means supplication. Here this word is translated with doubt, because doubt is the origin of nearly all supplication to God. See also the book Job from the Old testament.

[5] Source image: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703445904576118063020357484.html

[6] For further information on “Indra’s net”: the post “Introduction: one – Pantheïsm – Indra’s net” of 8th of April 2011.

[7] Source image: http://hayleygilchrist.wordpress.com/2008/04/09/contextual-studies/

[8] Source: Porter, Bill, Road to Heaven – Encounters with Chinese Hermits. Berkeley: Counterpoint, 1993. page 109

[9] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In_the_Tower_-_Mark_Rothko.JPG

Introduction: Three – Person in the middle

During our third stage on our Odyssey, you and I have encountered the Trito myth and the cattle-cycle. These myths – with rituals – are a first way of restoring confidence between the gods, priests, men and classes of people themselves. Livestock is a metaphor for mutual trust, a role that money has taken over in our society.

After the first all-encompassing division between earth and air, all is disintegrated in innumerable parts. Then an initial structure is arisen, after which a start is made ​​with a creative process by giving a first meaning and deriving a first order from this initial structure.

You and I remain entirely separate from the complete oneness. It probably disappeared during the separation of earth and sky. Or is this oneness still present in the background? We do not know, but we will investigate this during our Odyssey.

In the Trito myth about the origin of the world, you and I have met the gods: Manu creates with the help of the gods the world from the parts of Twin. In this myth, the gods are necessary for Many to create the world. Who are these gods? You and I do not know. Are there more Gods or is there only one god? We do not know; each society has given different answers to this question. Is there a world without gods? We do not know. Are the gods an integral part of the complete oneness? We do not know. But you and I will investigate this later during our Odyssey. Let us provisionally accept that the gods exist. For now, they are necessary to create and maintain the world.

Following the creation of the world, the sky gods give cattle to Trito. After the storm gods help him during his adventures with the three-headed serpent, Trito sacrifices cattle to the air gods to restore and consolidate the mutual trust.


Within the cattle cycle, priests sacrifice animals to the gods in order to restore and maintain the confidence between gods, priests, people and categories of people.

According to these first myths, you and I have seen in the Proto-Indo-European world, the gods are needed to create and maintain the world. The trust and aid of the gods is vital for these people. How the people in this Proto-Indo-European world perceive the god in their daily life, we do not know. Though in this society, soon persons emerges who create and maintain the connections between the world of humans and the gods.

The forerunners of people who are not able to live without  a connection between humans and gods, we already have encountered in both myths.

The priests [6] have a role to establish and maintain a connection between the sky gods, the world and the people by preforming smoke sacrifices and rituals. This connection is of paramount importance to maintain and continue the rhythm of life. This connection maintained by the priests in the pre-scientific age, also gives a first answer to the questions where mankind comes from, why they are on the earth and what future awaits them. In the Catholic Church the pope acquires a role of Pontifex Maximus – or the great builder of bridges – between heaven and earth. In this church the Pope is – as first among his peers – the “person in the middle” who maintains the connection between heaven and earth and/or between God and humanity.


The warriors – and over time their chiefs in the form of emperor, king or general – get the role to establish and perpetuate order in society by conquest and military operations (with its rituals and practices). Later – as a representative of the gods – they regulate the affairs of the society on earth. For earthly matters, they increasingly act as the representative of the gods on earth. In this form they become a “person in the middle” between on one hand the complete oneness and on the other hand society and humanity. According to this way of thinking, society ceases to exist without this “person in the middle”: Roman legionaries fall into despair – their entire existence on earth falls apart – as a general of a legion threatens to leave the legion to its own fate [3].


The arrangement between priests and warriors – or between church and state – is usual sensitive. The hierarchy between these two roles changes continuously. Sometimes balance occurs: the pope crowns the emperor so the profane role of the emperor receives recognition by a sacral ritual performed by the pontifex maximus, while the role of the Pope – as a bridge between heaven and earth – is recognised and perpetuated within the same ritual.


The next post is about “the object in the middle”.

[1] Source of image: POVRAY – Clouds JvL

[2] Pope Gregorius I

[3] See also: Goldsworthy, Adrian, In the Name of Rome (2003)

[4] Charles Magne

[5] Coronation of Charles Magne as Emperor by Pope Leo III

[6] In Sanskrit √pṛ means: “be able, to show”; Ish: “ruler, god”; and √tṛ: “to cross”

Introduction: Three – Dubio transcendit

You and I arrive at the third stage on our Odyssey. Now we will give a first interpretation to – and derive a first meaning from [1] – the complex universe around us. By making sense and derive meaning from the things around us, a creative process starts. Most of this process of creating and recreating is beyond our perception [2]. This invisible creative process goes its own way. We can only trust in the good event of these developments beyond our control.

The tiny part of the creation and recreation that you and I may control, we try to change to our advantage. We think that we need this advantage for our survival. Here we act selfish. Later, you and I will encounter more complex forms of ethics. Now we start at the beginning of conscious creativity and our opinion about it.

Our selfishness is often overtly and socially acceptable in our society. We hunt and gather, we perform farming, we work in factories or offices, or by mutual agreement we will prevail over others. All these actions are questionable: later we will come back to this. But sometimes this selfishness is unacceptable and is obtained by force or by law suits.

In specific cases, we camouflage our selfishness by adding appropriate images to acts that are not acceptable on its own. Around wars and the conquest of land linger all sorts of myths and rituals [3].

In one particular case the number three is also used to justify the theft of cattle in a myth: it is the Trito myth followed by the myth of the cattle cycle [4] [5].

In the Proto-Indo-European world, the creation of the world is interpreted by the Trito myth.
The twins Manu – related to the word “man” [6] – and Twin travel through the universe accompanied by a cow. The two brothers decide at a certain moment to create the world. This requires that Twin must be sacrificed. From the remains of Twin, Manu creates with the help of the gods the separate parts of the world. By this act Manu became the first priest [7] and the first inventor of the ritual sacrifice by which the world was created.

When the world was finished, the sky-gods gave cattle to the “third man” named Trito. But the cattle was cleverly stolen by a three-headed snake. With help of the storm gods, Trito killed the snake and freed the animals. Some of the cattle were given to priests for a smoke offering to the sky gods. By this act Trito [8] was the first warrior. He restored the prosperity of the people and his gift of livestock to the gods ensured that the cycle of gifts between gods and humans continued.

The second myth – the cattle cycle [9] – is a continuation of the Trito myth. In the cattle cycle, God [10] gives cattle to the farmers who in turn take care of the cattle and and increase the herd. Foreign men raid the cattle. The warriors seize the cattle back and give a part of the cattle to the priests for smoke offerings to God who in turn thanks for the sacrifices by giving cattle to farmers again.

The raiding of cattle has obtained a central place in this culture by both myths.  It is an essential act to acquire property. With the acquisition of livestock by raiding, warriors may obtain means of exchange for acquiring one or more women [11]. In the Proto-Indo-European world, women represent the only real property of value [12]. Only by holding the highly regarded medium of exchange – cattle – warriors can get women for posterity.

The cattle cycle provides a basis for a ritual of mutual trust – Credo (I believe) – between gods, priests, men and classes of people themselves. In this case, cattle are a metaphor for mutual trust, a role that money has taken over in our society.

In the following messages you and I will encounter the “person in the middle, “the object in the middle” and the “spirit in the middle”.


[1] See : Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phénoménologie de la Perception

[2] See also: Eames-Charles&Ray, Powers of Ten (1977) and the post on this subject.

[3] See also: Keegan, John, A History of Warfare (2004); Goldsworthy, Adrian, In the Name of Rome (2003); Crefeld, Martin van, The Culture of War (2008).

[4] See: Anthony, David W., The horse, the Wheel and Language (2007), p. 134

[5] See: Mallory, J.P., In Search of the Indo-Europeans, p. 137

[6] √man: means “think” in Sankrit; “manu” means “intelligent, thought, wise”. Maybe this name already refers to the division of mind and matter similar to the division of sky and earth.

[7] In Sanskrit √pṛ means: “be able, show”; Ish means: “ruler, god”; and √tṛ means: “cross”

[8] kshatriya means warrior in Sanskrit.

[9] See: Mallory, J.P., In Search of the Indo-Europeans, p. 138

[10] “go” means “cow or bull” and “da” means “give”

[11] See Anthony, David W., The horse, the wheel and Language (2007), p. 239

[12] See: McGrath, Kevin, STR women in Epic Mahâbhârata. Cambridge: Ilex Foundation, 2009 p. 9 – 15

[13] Source image: Povray – Float Cloud JvL

Introduction: Two – Night at the beginning of spring

You and I have tried for several years to see the first rays of sunlight on the first day of spring. Many generations before us have looked for the moment the sun rose above the horizon on the first day of spring at exact six o’clock in the morning. To date you and I have not succeeded to experience this, because once it rained all night, another time it was foggy, or one of us was sick and other years we had our work commitments.


For you and me, this moment is so important because our ancestors needed this moment to determine the time of the year. This time served as a benchmark for e.g . determining the sowing time of wheat [2].
The importance of this time for our ancestors was evident because in all Catholic churches the altar faces east – the center of the windows above the altar receives the first ray of sunrise exactly at sunrise at 6 o’clock in the morning on the first day of spring. The sermon is always held in the direction of the morning light – the light of the resurrection (of nature).
During funerals, the deceased are carried with their feet forward towards the altar, so that the first thing  the dead will see on the day of the resurrection, is the morning light. Many graves of ancestors also have this direction [3].

Now we are sitting on a peninsula with water all around us. Just to the north it is connected to the land. There is little wind but it promises to be a cold and beautiful night.

After diner in twilight we prepare for the night at moonlight:


“Did you see my flashlight?”

“It is full moon, no flashlight needed.”

“I like to set the alarm correctly.”

“The alarm is set at five.”

“Enough time to wake up.”

“I hope the night and dawn will be clear. Then we may see the sun rise nicely.”

“We’ll see.”

“It will be a cold night.”

“That is the reason we have warm sleeping bags.”

“I hope there will be no fog and mist.”

“What is wrong with fog and mist.”

“It will spoil our view of the sunrise.”

“You want the sunrise with fireworks and Clarion blasts?”

“Better than waking up in a thick fog.  After so many years we have deserved it. We are not that often in the open air at the onset of the spring.”

“From primeval fog we originate, perhaps it is more realistic to look at the fog.”

“I’d rather see the view that many people before us have looked at. There is good reason for the orientation of the altars to the East.”

“OK, then a beautiful resurrection tomorrow morning. But don’t worry if it we have a different view.”

“How shall we lie, head over to the West and feet to the East?”

“Similar to our funeral. With the feet to the altar.”

“I don’t want to think of my funeral. I’m needed at my family and at my work.”

“I prefer to live. But I would like to be unique by following the footsteps of our ancestors. Who has done this before?”

“No one is as crazy as us.”

“It is nice to look at the sky during a clear night. Our ancestors have done this so often. When you snore I’ll have a view at the universe. Tomorrow I hope to share the unique view that our ancestors have seen. We deserve it after all these years”

“Will you also share the day of resurrection your ancestors?”

“I don’t know. Sleep well, have a nice dream.”

“Dream of dreams”.

[1] Source image: POVRAY – Sunrise JvL

[2] Calvin, William H., De Rivier die tegen de Berg opstroomt – een reis naar de oorsprong van de aarde en de mens. 1992

[3] Depending on the latitude, graves are oriented to the East or to the South. Source must be retrieved.

[4] Source image: POVRAY – Moonlight JvL