Tuesday, February 22, 2011


The Oracle at Delphi was famous throughout the Ancient world for the quality of the visions - and their interpretation - that could be obtained there.  A caste of priests did the interpretation, and very likely embodied an astute mix of politics and Madame Clio style hucksterism; this was no doubt a major contributor to Delphi's reputation.  But the power came from a deeper, more primal source.

The Pythia was the priestess who, perhaps under the influence of volcanic vapors or drugs, went into the trance and received the vision.  It was the vision that tapped the deep root of the psyche, and undoubtedly it made an enormous impression on the supplicant.

Visions are known throughout the world, in all societies and all times.  The people who have visions are universally held to be sacred, tabu.

I can understand this, not just intellectually, but in my gut.  Seeing someone communing with forces not of this world is a powerful, mystical experience.  Knowing that it's the mind itself that is the original source of these upwellings makes it more powerful, not less.

It's awe inspiring, and I write this as a scientifically trained son of the Enlightenment.  There is something mystical, and holy, and unintelligible present, something that makes our efforts at comprehending the Universe seem puny indeed.

No matter how impressive IBM's Jeopardy winning computer is - from a technical viewpoint - it shrivels to insignificance in the presence of the Oracle.
Lord, if You had not revealed to me what You revealed to me,
this would not be happening to me.
Lord, if You had revealed to them what You revealed to me,
this would not be happening to me.
Lord, praise be to Thee in all Thy works.

- Sufi mystic Mansur al-Hallaj, as he was crucified for heresy

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