Monday, January 24, 2022

Song of the Dragon (revisited)

Adapted from an essay by Antares, published in Journal One, October 1996,
and later included as a chapter in
Tanah Tujuh ~ Close Encounters with the Temuan Mythos...

TWO DAYS AFTER the monstrous calamity at Pos Dipang on 29 August 1996, when almost an entire Orang Asli village was demolished by a tidal wave of mud and dead trees, a dramatic black-and-white photograph appeared in the Sunday Star.

It showed the “dragon's trail of destruction” down one slope of the Kinjang Range - like a huge rip in the fabric of reality exposing the raw elemental underside of nature. An awesome sight, not exactly beautiful, but inspiring speechless awe, and reminding us of the two faces of cosmic forces - the malefic as well as the benign.

The Orang Asli village of Pos Dipang was wiped out by a gigantic mudslide on 29 August 1996
Those who survived the murderous mudslide later murmured that the naga (dragon) must have been very angry. But what exactly do the Orang Asli mean when they speak of the dragon's wrath?

“YOU ought to know,” said the editor of a monthly magazine to which I had been contributing, when I dropped in on their office soon after the Pos Dipang disaster, “you've lived with Orang Asli for quite a few years.”

I thought it over for a moment. “It isn't so easy to explain these ideas in rational terms,” I began. “One has to have a fundamental connection with the pre-industrial mythologizing mind; you need to intuit your way around these “dreamtime” spaces. I happen to be very sympathetic to mythic awareness myself - but nowadays you don't find too many people with the necessary experience or exposure to thinking-feeling through free association. Our modern education system trains minds to analyze rather than synthesize, to criticize rather than empathize. It would probably come across as ancient superstition or new age nonsense.”

“I still think you're the right person to make an attempt,” the editor said with persuasive earnesty. I had to grin. Was this just her way of nudging me away from my metaphysical musings and coming back down to earth? I told her I'd give the question of dragons some thought, and left it at that. (It didn't strike me at the time that, by some strange coincidence, the company that published the magazine was called Nagamedia - and the managing editor happened to be called Ty Fong, which sounds remarkably like Typhon, another name for the Great World Snake!)

Typhon, the largest monster in Greek mythology, was perhaps inspired by
a planetary cataclysm that destroyed entire civilizations

Spontaneous painting by Alex Grey
at the 2011 Rainbow Serpent Festival
in Australia
The problem is: most of us were raised in an intellectual environment defined by linear semantic conventions and encouraged by “career” demands to specialize further and further - until all our knowledge has become fragmentary and compartmentalized. To be able to see beyond the veil of the visible, one needs to temporarily renounce intellectual materialism and embrace the mystical-poetical-spiritual essence of gnostic re-cognition.

You won't come anywhere near an understanding of the invisible cosmic forces underlying geophysical upheavals simply by analyzing mud samples in the laboratory. Even if only as an exercise, you still need to look at phenomena through the metaphoric monitor-screen of myth - just as you can only experience the full effect of 3D movies by wearing 3D spectacles.

The more thought I gave it, the more complex the subject became. There were so many overlapping dimensions around the subject of dragons, serpents, snakes - and rainbows. Yes, rainbows somehow belong in this extended family of archetypal symbols. Take for instance this highly evocative quote:

The rainbow as a snake is a recurrent image among many ethnic groups and nations. The Pomo and Kato tribes of California consider it to be an aquatic, horned snake that provokes floods and earthquakes. The rainbow is also identified as a water snake among the people of South America. The natives of the Amazon believe it represents a bridge between the Earth and the temples of the royal kingdom of heaven. (Alberto Ruz Buenfil, Rainbow Nation Without Borders)

I was pleased to find a compact but erudite “dragon” entry in the Britannica's Micropaedia which opened with this intriguing comment:

The belief in these creatures [dragons] apparently arose without the slightest knowledge on the part of the ancients of the gigantic, prehistoric, dragon-like reptiles [dinosaurs]. In Greece the word drakon, from which the English word was derived, was used originally for any large serpent, and the dragon of mythology, whatever shape it later assumed, remained essentially a snake.

Dragons. No matter where you travel on the surface of this planet, you will encounter a dragon or serpent or rainbow myth in some form. In China and Japan the emperors were said to have descended from the Dragon gods who came from the sky.

Kukulcan, Mayan version of the
Plumed Serpent
In Central America the most revered deific figure is called Kukulcan by the Maya and Quetzalcoatl by the Aztecs; he is represented as a Plumed Serpent, and has been linked to the Peruvian legends of Viracocha. (Thoth, a major Egyptian god, is also associated with the Serpent - as was his father, the Sumerian progenitor god Enki.) It's worth noting that the national emblem of Mexico is an eagle with a snake in its claws.

In India the Nagas are described as a race of demigods who emerged from the bottom of the sea and brought civilization to the aboriginal tribes. Yogis depict the Life Force, kundalini, as a serpent uncoiling up the spine when aroused. At the crown, the serpent reveals itself as the seven-headed cobra, symbol of mastery over the illusory realms of matter.

The Celts and Picts of pre-Norman Britain called their kings Dragons - Pendragon (meaning the Great Dragon) being the symbol of the Supreme Ruler of the British Isles. Uther Pendragon and his famous son Arthur were the last known historical personages to bear this exalted rank. And to this very day in Britain there are numerous Pendragon Societies dedicated to the resurgence of the Pendragon lineage, which they hope to see regain the throne of “New Jerusalem” from the usurpers, the secular House of Windsor. This momentous event will be heralded by the reappearance of the bardic archdruid Merlin (note the combination of Dragon/serpent and Merlin/hawk: Earth and Sky!)

Vindicta Pendragon 

However, the dragon/serpent motif acquired a totally negative connotation when the Hebrews invaded Canaan and enforced exclusive worship of their fiercely patriarchal god Yahweh. From this violent overthrow of the goddess-worshiping cultures associated with the Earth-loving serpent, grew the image of the dragon as an emblem of Evil, of the torrid temptations of carnal Nature.

In Europe, owing to the Judeo-Christian prejudice against the Earth-Mother-Goddess-Serpent aboriginal archetype, the dragon has been portrayed as the enemy: Nemesis, agent of Satan, Lucifer's earthly form, the Worm of Hades. Statues and paintings abound that show the Archangel Michael, and later St. George, slaying the dragon of pagan beliefs.

Unfortunately the same arid, patriarchal bias infected Islamic ideology, forcing goddess-worshipers to go underground, so to speak, and seek initiation into the ancient mysteries through dervish dancing and the private study of sacred geometry (wherein the feminine principle could be secretly revered in the form of arches, domes and spheres).

The accumulated effects of belligerent parochialism over the past five thousand years has also resulted in certain built-in behavioral traits amongst explorers, researchers, and academicians - a tendency to be invasive, divisive, possessive, and exploitative - which might explain why the proliferation of scientific and technology-using societies seems to have always been at the expense of Mother Nature.

Obviously, there is no simple straightforward way to discuss what the Dragon means to the Orang Asli - and to every tribal culture indigenous to planet Earth. The amount of available information on this mythical creature is actually quite staggering when one begins to research the subject seriously. Here's a random sample of interesting data involving the dragon/snake/rainbow motif:

• The dragon signifies royalty in a great diversity of cultures around the planet. In China and pre-Norman Britain, it was the national emblem (appearing in Wales as the griffin); while in Japan it was believed that the Emperor was descended from a race of flying dragons. Taoists regarded the dragon as one of the most important deified forces of nature.

• In Babylonian mythology the dragon Tiamat symbolized the watery goddess of Primordial Chaos, later subjugated by Marduk, a masculine deity of Law & Order & Civilization. Zecharia Sitchin, author of the controversial Earth Chronicles, has a radical interpretation of this myth. According to Sitchin, the ancients called all the planets “gods” - and “Marduk” was an invading celestial body, wandering in space after being flung off its original orbit by some stellar explosion. Marduk's satellites smashed into Tiamat, which broke in half from the impact, leaving a trail of icy debris that now forms the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter. The remaining portion of Tiamat was flung into a new orbit between Mars and Venus, where it became known as Ki or Ge or Gaia or Earth. Marduk, known to the Sumerians as Nibiru or the Planet of the Crossing, constitutes the twelfth planet in our solar system (including the Sun and Moon). Sitchin asserts that Nibiru is the home of the Sky Gods who created the human race. Those with access to arcane knowledge support this notion - but add that the Nibiruans couldn't have done it without a little help from the Sirians, their mentors!

• The feminine principle was revered by the Ophites whose sacred symbol was the Cosmic Snake coiled round the World Egg. This image also recurs in Egyptian and Greek mythology as the worm Ouroboros, the serpent swallowing its own tail - a powerful symbol of eternally regenerative cycles. Joseph Campbell, the pre-eminent mythical scholar, puts it succinctly in a famous televised conversation with journalist Bill Moyers: “The serpent sheds its skin to be born again, as the moon its shadow to be born again. They are equivalent symbols. Sometimes the serpent is represented as a circle eating its own tail. That's an image of life. Life sheds one generation after another, to be born again. The serpent represents immortal energy and consciousness engaged in the field of time, constantly throwing off death and being born again. There is something tremendously terrifying about life when you look at it that way. And so the serpent carries in itself the sense of both the fascination and the terror of life.”

• Amazonian natives revere the Anaconda - guardian spirit of their sacred river. Like the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia, they perceive the snake/dragon as a celestial as well as terrestrial phenomenon. On earth the Anaconda lives as a giant freshwater python that guards the physical flow of life-energy-water. In the fourth-dimensional or astral zones, the Anaconda is magnified in scale into mythic proportions: a wind-raising, fire-belching, earth-shaking Elemental Force that could destroy all animal and human life if angered beyond certain established limits.

• I once heard an Orang Asli mother tell her child to avert her eyes whenever there was a vivid rainbow in the sky. She believed it was created by the Orang Halus (elves) as part of their sacred rituals, and that the rainbow was actually the invisible people's processional pathway to the heavenly realms. This is an idea echoed by many Native American tribes, who view the rainbow as symbolic of a dimension where Spirit and Matter are harmoniously wed.

The Temuan have great reverence for all hills and mountains and the rivers and streams that water them. In their creation stories, the dragon or naga plays a key role in preparing the Earth for human habitation. Fire Nagas are “technical supervisors” of events like the Big Bang wherein suns and planets are created. Water Nagas work with Nagas of the Air to cool down and mould the newborn world.

by Genzoman
There are tales of an Aeon of Celestial Fire, followed by the Aeon of Great Cold and an Aeon of Universal Flood. When the waters finally receded, the Temuan's earliest ancestors were found clinging to a gaharu or eaglewood tree resting atop Gunung Raja (the Royal Mountain). The landscape that evolved around Gunung Raja is therefore keramat - conforming to a heavenly blueprint and lovingly guarded by their ancestral spirits. Every rock and boulder, every tree and shrub, every spring and tributary is a familiar aspect of their dreamscape which is animated by spirits fine and coarse. The physical world, which is really a shadow of the higher realms, is where humanity dwells, till such time as we prove ourselves worthy of permanent residence on Pulau Buah (the Isle of Fruits) - in other words, Paradise. Guardian spirits like the ular and naga (snake and dragon) are also being tested. They too can evolve to the higher worlds (there are seven levels on Tanah Tujuh, the living cosmos that is planet Earth). If the Naga's dwelling place in the upper reaches of the river is desecrated, it will get very angry and leave in a great huff, thundering and thrashing its tail on its way to the sea where it becomes a naga laut (nautical dragon). That's why it is dangerous to infuriate the Nagas - and every high mountain has its own Naga.

The Orang Asli also believe that they were placed on Earth as Guardians of the Rainforest. “If Tuhan (God) sees that the Orang Asli are no longer serving their sacred purpose,” said Utat, “the whole world will be turned upside down and humanity will perish. Those of us who have been true to our duties will find ourselves naked on Pulau Buah (in other words, stripped of earthly flesh and restored to the spiritual realms).”

Nadi Pak Empok told me he dreamt of the Naga once, back in 1990. The Naga asked him to visit a particular spot along the river three times in three weeks - but Nadi was too afraid to obey. One evening, he happened to be passing near the spot on his way home, when he was startled by a roaring noise -”like a helicopter landing on top of you.” Nadi hid behind a rock and nervously looked around. Suddenly the river exploded into shiny golden scales as a gigantic Naga raised its mighty antlered head from the water. It seemed to hang in the air for an eternity before diving back into the river and disappearing. Nadi's legs went limp and he had to recuperate for an hour before he could get up and walk home with a troubled heart. The headman of his village in Pertak had allowed loggers into the area, and the Penunggu (guardian spirit) was issuing the Temuan a warning through Nadi.

Hermes Trismegistos, whom the Greeks revered as the patron deity of science, philosophy and the healing arts, is usually shown carrying a caduceus - a winged staff with two snakes entwined along its length. This Hermetic wand of magickal power was chosen by the followers of Hippocrates as their guild emblem. Even today, the medical profession is symbolized by the caduceus of Hermes (an incarnation of Thoth, the Egyptian god of wisdom and general wizardry).

• In Bali the highest aspect of divinity is known as Tintya (inspired by the dancing form of Shiva-Natarajah). Tintya is often depicted in sacred paintings as an agile, elvish figure on a chakra (wheel of cosmic energy) - flanked by two dragons (one green, the other red) representing the ida and pingala - or the positive and negative poles of all energetic systems - and, by extension, the planet's electromagnetic field.

Now, this is truly significant. The green and the red, the positive and the negative, the yang and the yin, the male and the female, electricity and magnetism.... herein lies the most important clue to the grand mystery of the Dragon's Song.

Rainbow tube torus: shape of
the Earth's electromagnetic field
WHOLE SYSTEMS THINKER R. Buckminster Fuller was fond of teleologizing - which means, essentially, to derive elegant general principles from observing natural phenomena. When he declared that Unity was “plural at minimum two,” he had truly put his finger on the paradox of integrity as a complementary duality: radiation and gravity, outwardness and inwardness, convexity and concavity, electricity and magnetism, maleness and femaleness. However, Fuller was at pains to point out that complementary opposites were never intended to be in static 50-50 balance.

Indeed the laws of dynamic flux require that the Golden Mean be set at what is called the “phi ratio” - which has been approximated at 1.6180339 - a number that goes on forever. (The phi ratio is a sort of “golden mean proportion” or Fibonacci spiral formula that underlies all organic structures. It can be found in the relative bone-lengths of animal skeletons; in the design of plants; in the geometry of crystal formations; even entire constellations and galaxies.) This mysterious phi ratio determines that interactions between the “feminine” force of gravity and the “masculine” force of radiation are never “perfectly” symmetrical. Indeed the built-in asymmetry between bi-polar forces ensures that “true balance” is endlessly sought, so that yang and yin can intertransform, each into the other ad infinitum, ensuring thereby that the “status quo” never stays static for too long.

It would appear that Buckminster Fuller was restating in 20th century terminology what ancient wisdom was already fully cognizant of in mythic language. The serpent lays the egg that translates into the binary code of “1” and “0”: lingam and yoni, phallus and vulva. Line and curve, electricity and magnetism. Radiation (i.e. differentiation, dissipation, and disintegration) and Gravity (i.e. cohesion, compassion, and unconditional love). All phenomena in the waveform universe can be described by this classic Fullerism: Unity is plural at minimum two. (Fuller later revised this to “unity is plural at minimum sixfold” but let’s not get into multidimensionality at this juncture!)

How does this relate to geophysical upheavals, nightmarish distortions of the electromagnetic field that can annihilate whole cities in an instant? Flashfloods, earth tremors, tsunamis, landslides, volcanic eruptions, periodic shifts of tectonic plates, axial polarities, and visionary paradigms? Petulant dragons with whiplash tails? Waveform deformities, wormholes that can suck entire star systems into the antimatter universe? Where does myth end and science fantasy begin?

WHAT HAS BEEN dismissed as “fantasy” is in truth the Unseen beyond the Seen - electromagnetic quirks occurring above and below the range of human sensory perception. Do you regard the Earth as a living Goddess, the Abode of Beauty, a sacred sanctuary, a temple, a home? Or do you dismiss her as a dead hunk of rock, covered with psychedelic lichen and acrawl with contentious lice?

Do you have serious difficulty sensing the intimate intercorrelations between dragons, snakes, rainbows - and power spots, psychic centers, interdimensional portals, planetary chakras? In acupuncture, the physical body is perceived as a dense configuration of energy patternings emanating from subtle constellations of perfect principles. It is the meeting place of Spirit and Matter, a vibrant multidimensional field of vital possibilities.

Practitioners of acupuncture familiarize themselves with detailed mappings of the human bioenergetic hologram form - which can be manipulated in terms of flow with conductive needles inserted at particular internodes - just as the planet's etheric body can be adjusted geomantically with crystals, dolmens, monoliths, stone circles, obelisks, and pyramids. Geomancy - the study of geodetic flowlines, the movement of wind and water (fengshui) - entails a thorough knowledge of major and minor “dragons' paths” or leylines.

Ancient power spots like Machu Picchu, Silbury Hill, Stonehenge, Iona, Uluru, Sacsahuaman, Teotihuacan, Tiahuanacu, Giza, Avebury, Chichén Itzá, Mount Ararat, Gunung Agung, Mount Shasta, Mount Fuji, Mount Meru, Gunung Raja and other earth-sun-moon-star temples were invariably sited at strategic intersections of dragons' paths.

Men-an-tol (Martin Gray)
Among indigenous tribes, all shamanic rituals are actually “geomantic” in function: realignments of chakras on individual and collective levels, etheric manipulations of weather conditions through the devas of wind, water and geomagnetic harmony, healing through invocation of the Earth's compassionate gravitational field, the Mother Goddess Force. (Drunvalo Melchizedek - alchemist, hermeticist and founder of the Flower of Life “portable” mystery school - informs us that there are at least 83,000 sacred sites guarded by indigenous tribes, strategically located around the Earth.)

Why have we forgotten this invaluable heritage? How did industrial societies fall so far from a wholesome, organic relationship with natural forces, with the electromagnetic Dream Body of the Earth Goddess? Any civilization that was aware of the cosmic patterns of energy flow would certainly not be committing covert genocide against its aboriginal tribes, and overt ecocide against Mother Earth, on the horrendous scale we see all around us.

The answer lies in the written records of what we call history: in the last 5,000 years or so since the sudden advent and swift adoption of alphanumeric symbols, oral traditions have been supplanted by the scriptural text, the Book. Although written language has proven to be an efficient tool for mass communication (and mind control), it has also propelled us towards more precise but narrower modes of perception and thinking. What we gained in specificity, we lost in the ability to apprehend generalities. We ended up not seeing the forest for the trees, and then seeing only the “merchantable biomass.” Business-as-usual is no way to experience and reconnect with the cosmomythological context that forms an eternal background to our frenzied preoccupation with clock time.

Which explains why the Chief Minister of Perak wasted no time in denying that logging had anything to do with the Pos Dipang catastrophe. He reasoned that since there was no sign of recent clear-felling on the hillslopes (“They stopped logging ten years ago!”), the blame must fall on the rain. It's all the weather's fault, in other words. But are we looking to blame anyone? We're on this planet to learn certain codes of ethics and aesthetics. Not to consume ourselves in puerile games of economics, politics, and ideological oneupmanship.

But let's be honest about it. A 360-year-old hardwood has a root system that could easily reach a depth of 120 feet; add the intricate root intertwinings with neighboring trees, and you can assume a subterranean spread of half-an-acre. If you chainsaw a jungle giant off at the stump, the root system remains firm for at least three or four years, then it may start withering and rotting for another five or six years before a mighty downpour washes it all down, together with a massive portion of the hillslope. Multiply this effect by 3,000 trees - and you get the Pos Dipang scenario. Don't blame it on the rain... or the terrain! Blame it, if you must, on the scarcity conditioning and competitiveness (read FEAR & GREED) that has made us blind to the beauty, the divinity, and the truth of the Seen - as well as the Unseen realms.

Postscript: Two years after this essay was published, anthropologist Jeremy Narby published his seminal work, The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge, in which he interprets his own ayahuasca initiations with Asháninka shamans from the Peruvian Amazon. Narby's profound insight into the connection between serpents, dragons, rainbows and the helical structure of DNA molecules constitutes a significant breakthrough in building a bridge between mystical visions and scientific investigation. Through Jeremy Narby's conscientious research, the cosmological and ontological meaning of the serpent coiled around the world egg has finally been revealed as symbolizing the genesis of Life itself.

[First posted 26 January 2012, reposted 27 October 2016 & 24 October 2021]