Saturday, June 4, 2016

Conclusion to This Here Blog

     Everything that has a beginning has an end, Neo.  

     Well, my friends, this is the final post on this here blog. The very, very last one, in all probability (although I will continue to moderate any comments and may continue to mess around a bit with stuff on the sidebar). But at the same time, considering that it will be the first post that people clicking on will see, the one at the top of the queue, it may also serve as an introduction. Which just goes to show that everything and every moment is both a beginning and an end, as well as its own simple self. We are, all of us, the result of what we were yesterday, and the cause of what we will be tomorrow. But enough of moralizing, because this is the end.
     Although it may be best to let the blog speak for itself, I will offer one key to better understanding the mass of information contained herein. All my life I have loved playing devil’s advocate. Even as a little kid I delighted in saying nursery rhymes wrong on purpose, for the sake of gratuitous absurdity and pushing the proverbial envelope. Or, to be more precise, perhaps, I have somehow adopted a moral orientation in life which could be called lawful neutral.
     Those of you who remember the old pre-video Dungeons and Dragons game may recall that each character had not only a species (human, elf, half-orc, etc.) and a vocation (warrior, wizard, thief, etc.), but also an ethical orientation. So it turns out that, in the parlance of Dungeons and Dragons, I have become, philosophically at least, a lawful neutral cleric. If I remember correctly, pretty much only clerics adopt the rare and strange lawful neutral orientation. Lawful neutral means that a character must always fight for the side that is getting the worst of it, for the sake of maintaining cosmic balance; and if, because of the character’s skill in fighting or whatever other reason, the losing side actually starts to gain the upper hand, then he or she must switch sides. So in other words, if everyone is leaning to the left, especially if in an ideological way, then I endorse the right, and vice versa. It helps to keep the world in balance, sort of.
     This orientation is counterintuitive for me, as if I were really to play Dungeons and Dragons or deliberately to choose an ethical orientation, then I would probably choose something like chaotic good. In some ways I suppose I am chaotic good. It was a significant gleam of insight for me when I realized that I am driven to fight for deviant causes and losing sides, out of a liking for nonconformity, self-governance, and freedom of thought and expression. Especially when I consider that side to be more on the side of wisdom and truth, naturally.
     So one of the primary purposes of this blog is to challenge established points of view. In Burma the established view was Theravadin scriptural dogmatism, so I challenged that. After coming to America I found that the established views among Western Buddhists were more along the lines of scientific materialism and liberal political correctness, so I was quickly drawn toward bashing these. One advantage for me is that all these attitudes are so easily bashable for someone who can step outside the ideological matrix in which most of humankind are entrenched.
     Please consider the blog which lies before you as a kind of autobiographical philosophical book consisting of 210 chapters (if I counted correctly). Most “chapters” are just as relevant now as they were when they were written, a few possibly even more so. The list of themes at the bottom of the page may be used as a kind of index. The whole thing fairly accurately represents my view of Dharma, human existence, and the world, mainly from the point of view of an unorthodox Theravada Buddhist philosopher and lawful neutral human cleric who has a degree in Biology and has lived in a cave for half his adult life.
     If I appear to contradict myself at times, please bear in mind that I hold fast to no one particular perspective. “Objective truth” is itself somewhat of a myth, being only a relative term, with absolute objectivity being, methinks, an unreachable absolute. There are levels of truth, and various ways of looking at it. Also, we all view the world through the filters of our own biases, and that apparently includes the highest saints and sages also, to the extent that their thoughts are the result of conditioning causes.
     As venerable Ajahn Chah used to say, “If I see someone veering too far to the left, I say, ‘Go right’; and if I see someone veering too far to the right, I say, ‘Go left.’ But that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m contradicting myself.” It helps to keep a person’s perspective in mind—his or her assumed axioms—especially if that perspective is not necessarily shared. I suppose that’s another key to understanding this blog book: My assumed axioms are not necessarily those of the average guy, or even of the average Western Buddhist monk. And sometimes my axioms change for the sake of expedience and effective communication. Metaphysically I am a monster, a non-Euclidean geometer, or at least a throwback to ancient north India.
     I very much do not wish to end this four-year-long experiment with hard feelings toward anyone. Everyone who has interacted with me, including those with whom the interaction was unpleasant, have helped me in some way (“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”), and I am thankful for the wealth of experience I have received. Writing this blog has been fun, it has helped me to stay out of trouble, sort of, and I have made some new friends by it, many of whom I have never seen. I hope that all this will be of genuine help to someone else also. If it helps anyone to be more awake, less entrenched in unexamined views, more comfortable about not following the majority, more uncertain of feelings and ideas yet more poised and at ease in the present moment, then my time and effort in writing have been well spent. And may all of you be as well and as happy as Samsara and the first Noble Truth will allow. My sincere blessings are upon all of you. Maybe we’ll meet again someday.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Reflections in Bellingham

     Greetings from Bellingham, Washington, where I am visiting old friends and supporters, and finishing this blog where I started it, thereby coming full circle in a way that seems poetic and just.
     This week’s post was going to be the absolute final one, the conclusion; although I started thinking that the first post of June has become more or less traditionally the blog’s anniversary issue, so it would be nice to end it on the big fourth anniversary. Also I considered that I wouldn’t want the final appearance of the sidebar to include in the final month’s offerings my endorsement of Donald Trump for US President. (It might give people the wrong idea about me and the blog in general.) So I’m sitting here in a guest room of the house of a good guy named Clint and am still trying to get a clear idea of what I should write about. I have lots of ideas, but no clear one for what would be appropriate for the second-to-last installment of this little dramatic literary presentation. So it looks like I may just meander aimlessly.
     One of my foremost interests lately is still the strange phenomenon of political instability in recent Western society, particularly in the USA, Western Europe (including the UK), and Canada. For example this morning someone sent me the news of yet another talk by Milo Yiannopoulis being (violently) shut down by Black Lives Matter enthusiasts and leftist pro-Bernie Sanders supporters at DePaul University. Then I clicked on a link showing anti-Trump protesters (also consisting largely of Sanders supporters) burning American flags, throwing rocks at police, and trying to break into a recent Trump rally in New Mexico in an attempt to shut it down. Some of the organizers of the anti-Trump demonstration were attempting to keep it nonviolent, but they eventually failed, with the demonstration turning into what police later called a riot. I still say, based on what I have seen, that most of the hatred, hostility, and howling hysteria at demonstrations in America, most of it, is coming from the political far left. (That may or may not include all the rioting black people in urban areas.) And it is finally starting to get more coverage in the big corporate media (who mostly lean to the left and hate Donald Trump) because leftist radicals are starting to cause trouble for the media’s favorite, Hillary Clinton. Anyway, just saying.
     It is too easy to adopt a side in a controversy and despise the other side as a bunch of fools, or worse. I’ve noticed an inclination toward that tendency in myself of course, and I assume others have noticed it in me also. So it’s good to bear in mind that everyone is doing the best they know how, and that everyone, aside from a few hypothetical enlightened beings, is literally delusional. I was reminded of this recently while watching a two-part video by Sargon of Akkad (here are parts 1 and 2) discussing a fellow that Sargon often refers to as Black Hitler. The guy is an American black supremacist who openly and virulently hates white people, often calling them “toilet-seat-complectioned Neanderthal cave beasts,” and even finding politically correct and rather soft-headed white people to testify against themselves on his videos. Anyway, in part 2 of the aforementioned video about “Black Hitler,” Sargon shows this man essentially having a rather extreme emotional meltdown in which he is, through his tears and sobs, expressing just how deeply he hates everything white people represent, and to some degree why he hates them/us. And at the very least one cannot help but see that this fellow is deeply, terribly unhappy. Even Sargon, who is often pretty cynical, was backing off and expressing feelings of compassion. It just goes to show that people who hate others and deliberately cause trouble for others tend to be unhappy people themselves. A happy person is most likely to live and let live. Troublemakers and “bad people” tend to be unhappy, and are lashing out in pain, even if they happen to he smiling or hooting with laughter while they’re doing it.
     But forgiving others for their trespasses seems to be going as out of fashion as the Christianity which formerly endorsed it. In the new PC ideology all the responsibility seems to be on the person who speaks, with none on the hearer. In the old days people were advised to retain some equanimity and emotional maturity and forgive someone who spoke offensively, whereas now anyone who speaks in a way that could conceivably be considered offensive to somebody is seen as someone to blame and silence, and not usually with compassion. The pendulum swings from one extreme to the other, with most of us seemingly not aware that a place in the middle, with regard to responsibility in a conversation or with regard to political orientation, or spirituality, or whatever, is usually wisest and most conducive to the happiness of the majority.
     The same is true with regard to gender. First we had an overtly male-dominant society. As feminism became more mainstream more people began seeing this as wrong…but instead of finding balance, with masculine and feminine virtues being equally honored, now we have the pendulum swinging toward feminine dominance, with masculinity itself being seen as a problem to be eliminated. This results in a situation even more out of balance than before, and more unstable. But it’s politically incorrect to say that.
     So I guess I’ll just round out this meander with a few reflections on male/female relationships in Western society—certainly not as complaints, but as respectful suggestions, more or less. I must admit that I have always had a natural, instinctive, intuitive admiration for and openness toward women, but that over the past few years I have become intellectually somewhat more inclined toward a kind of misogyny. I assume that the aggressiveness and man-bashing of feminism nowadays have bred more misogyny in American culture than there has been in a long time, possibly ever. But, on a rather dim bright side at least it helps me to remain a celibate monk. I would prefer to love women, however, even if I don’t cohabit with one. Love is very important in life. Love is acceptance.
     Part of my trouble is that I have a degree in Biology, and am inclined to see human beings as a species of animal when I am not seeing us as embodied spirit. We are a kind of upgraded ape. And being a head-oriented objective male besides, I freely acknowledge that men and women naturally differ physically and psychologically. We have natural human instincts that are bred into us, and male instincts (largely because of male hormones) are different from female instincts.
     One instinctive difference between men and women, speaking very generally, is that women are more inclined to favor security to freedom, while men’s preference tends to be vice versa. A liking for security for everyone is one of the numerous reasons why women are more likely to lean toward the political left and socialism. It is also a reason why women, again speaking very generally, tend to try to keep their mate (usually a man) under their control, as much as they are able. But this leads to an interesting problem, which may be of interest especially to guys who read this. 
     Have you ever been outdoors and seen two butterflies fluttering around with the one if front engaging in hyperactive evasive maneuvers and the one behind in hot pursuit? Sure you have. Well, the one in front is female, and the one behind is male. This is because female butterflies have evolved a behavior pattern of trying to escape from amorous males. This ensures (get this) that only a male who is faster and more agile than the female in question can chase her down and mate with her. It makes perfect sense: A female should mate with a male who is stronger than she is, in order to give her offspring the best genetic traits possible. Many species of animal are like this, including humans. 
     In the book Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Carl Sagan and his wife (whose name I don’t remember, and am too lazy to look up), the authors cite the extremely politically incorrect scientific finding that women are actually more likely to date a man who successfully date raped them on a previous occasion than they would be to date a man who tried to date rape them, but failed because she succeeded in fighting him off. This is the same instinct at work: A woman instinctively has more respect for a man who is stronger than her. The same instinct accounts for the fact that women are more likely to be unfaithful to their mate with men of higher status and social power than their mate—like their doctor or boss, for example.
     So here’s the interesting problem. A woman will try to bend a man to her will, and if she succeeds she will experience a certain satisfaction, but she will also lose a certain amount of respect for him. So if the man displays the firmness of his backbone and refuses to be her “beta bitch,” so to speak, will she love him more? Well, maybe. That’s the way it allegedly used to be, but nowadays feminist and “progressive” ideology may have inhibited the latter response in favor of outraged indignation and loathing. Sorry, guys. Mandatory equality has thrown the proverbial monkey wrench into the works of natural heterosexual relationships, in more ways than one, or even ten. The new societal norms result in a no-win scenario for men, or at least for men who mate with the new breed of Western woman. I don’t know what to tell you on that one, except that you should be very careful, and that celibacy really does have its advantages. 
     Still, it’s better than old-fashioned male dominance though, right? Well, not necessarily. It is true that men had many social advantages over women, and I really do not endorse inequality of opportunity between the two sexes. (I won’t use the word “gender” here, as recently there have come to be any number of those.) But a family setup in which the man went out and worked for a living, making all or most of the money, while the woman stayed home most of the time and raised children and maintained a home and a family, was a system that did work for a very long time, and which was pretty much in harmony with instinctive human nature (which nature the new ideology denies, but the new ideology is based more upon what feels right than on empirical facts). But consider: Not only did it prove to be a system that was viable for propagating the species, it really did include feminine influence in society on a par with male influence. This is true because in the old days almost every human being had as her or his primary guide in the formation of their character none other than a woman, their own mother. This was a profound power of women, which unfortunately is belittled nowadays, and not only by feminist ideologues. It is also true that consumerism and an unnecessarily high standard of living contribute to having both parents working, with small children farmed out to daycare centers where said children learn to be politically correct. But even the unnecessarily high standard of living is largely a feminine by-product, as it is also feminine nature to dislike discomfort and a Spartan existence more than men do, and to care more about what the neighbors think. 
     The old-fashioned way, with women being expected to be more virtuous than men and to raise children, inspired a respect for women that is now in decline, partly at the insistence of feminists. Much of a man’s inspiration to “make good” and be a supporting member and even defender of women and of society came from this age-old value system. Western men have become less interested in being dedicated fathers, with deleterious effects on children. (My own father had a profound effect on my character, as he taught me such qualities as fearlessness, determination, and a love of freedom that I would not have acquired from my mother or from a schoolteacher. They taught me other things.) Statistics show that children raised without a father are much more likely, for example, to resort to a life of crime later in life. So simply replacing fathers with a socialized welfare state is not working out nearly so well in that regard as the system it replaced. 
     Here I would like to ask a serious question to any woman who reads this. What could be more important, fulfilling, and sacred for an ordinary, normal woman than to create a new human life and to nurture it, teaching that new person how to be a good and happy individual? Seriously. How could imitating a man and pursuing a career be more important than making every effort to be as good a mother as possible? This seems so obvious to me, but feminism has actually disdained traditional motherhood to some degree, being in my opinion rather misogynistic, as it rejects possibly the most important role of a woman in human society and encourages women to be like men instead (in addition to pressuring men to be more like women). But men can’t take up the slack on creating new humans. Only women can perform that miracle. Most men don’t have the nurturing, mothering instincts that most women have either. Personally I am sorry to see that Western civilization is neglecting an age-old and revered feminine role out of a kind of pseudoscientific new social ideology. 
     But I do believe in equality, and in equal opportunity. If a woman wants to pursue a career instead of staying at home for the first several years of her children’s lives, or chooses not to have children at all, that certainly should be her right. But the choice of adopting the old-fashioned way should not be vilified or despised. Motherhood is a sacred thing, and should not be neglected for the sake of political ideology and the adoption of masculine values. Being a mother is about as feminine as a woman can possibly be, especially if she is a good and wise and conscientious mother. A kind of misogyny teaches women to imitate men and despise what is truly feminine. 
     So anyway, this is my last public appeal on this blog for the health and well-being of society. Take it or leave it for whatever it is worth, and be happy and well. And forgive me my trespasses, as I also forgive those who are indebted to me.


ah, I love the Pacific Northwest
(this is what it's like)


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Moby Dick as the Left Fist of God

     Moby-Dick, or the white whale.
     A hunt. The last great hunt.
     For what?
     For Moby-Dick, the huge white sperm whale: who is old, hoary, monstrous, and swims alone; who is unspeakably terrible in his wrath, having so often been attacked; and snow-white.
     Of course he is a symbol. 
     Of what? 
     I doubt if even Melville knew exactly. That’s the best of it.
          —D. H. Lawrence

     “…But as I was going to say, if thou wantest to know what whaling is, as thou tellest ye do, I can put ye in a way of finding it out before ye bind yourself to it, past backing out. Clap eye on Captain Ahab, young man, and thou wilt find that he has only one leg.” 
     “What do you mean, sir? Was the other one lost by a whale?” 
     “Lost by a whale! Young man, come nearer to me: it was devoured, chewed up, crunched by the monstrousest parmacetty that ever chipped a boat!—ah, ah!”
          —from Moby-Dick 

     I consider Moby-Dick, written in the mid-19th century by an American fellow named Herman Melville, to be a book containing more profundity and genuine spiritual wisdom than many religious scriptures, including the Old Testament of the Bible. The novel could reasonably be called Upanishadic; or at least it could be called one of the most Upanishadic texts in all of American classic literature, especially in fiction. This is largely because Moby-Dick is a mystical text; an elaborate parable describing, in allegorical or poetical terms, the nature of “God,” or, if you prefer, of Ultimate Reality, the ultimate Kantian Thing in Itself, from which this apparent world we live in unfolds. Melville was a kind of transcendentalist mystic, which was somewhat in fashion in his day, and which is manifest in this his greatest, most acclaimed, and most analyzed novel. 
     So I suppose the thing to do here is to present my case.
     One recurring symbol of the Divine Infinite in the novel is the sky, and, more particularly, the sun. For example in chapter CXVIII, “The Quadrant,” on a beautiful sunny day in the North Pacific, off the coast of Japan, Captain Ahab, in a fit of disgusted, rebellious impatience, suddenly decides to stop using his quadrant (an astronomical instrument used for determining latitude) for navigation, literally and symbolically refusing to look to the heavens for guidance any longer. He throws the quadrant to the deck, smashes it…and immediately afterwards commands the helmsman to steer toward the Equatorial fishing ground to the southeast, which is the white whale’s most likely location.
     Another example: On the very same day that Ahab directs the ship toward the central ocean where Moby Dick awaits, a typhoon unexpectedly rises, shredding the ship’s sails, smashing Ahab’s whaleboat, gravely endangering the ship, and, with a kind of St. Elmo’s fire, causing the masts and rigging of the vessel to glow with a luminous electrical corona. The crew of course see this as a bad sign, with the usually carefree, irreligious second officer Mr. Stubb becoming unusually serious and downright frightened, so that he begins praying, essentially, with exclamations of “The corpusants have mercy on us all”—corpusants being an old-fashioned name for the luminous plasma discharge. So upon renouncing the guidance of the heavens and directing the ship in the direction of the white whale, the heavens themselves seem to remonstrate with the whole ship and essentially give fair warning of what they are getting themselves into.
     Melville places more spiritual emphasis upon the sea, however; which is understandable when one considers that water is the universal symbol for Spirit. In the very first chapter of the book the narrator discusses his deep calling to go to sea, and he shares such ruminations as this:
Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries—stand that man on his legs, set his feet a-going, and he will infallibly lead you to water, if water there be in all that region. Should you ever be athirst in the great American desert, try this experiment, if your caravan happens to be supplied with a metaphysical professor. Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded forever.
Ishmael continues to make such watery, meditative statements throughout the tale, like, “in landlessness alone resides the highest truth, shoreless, indefinite as God”; and in a chapter in which he describes standing watch at a masthead on the lookout for whales, he becomes particularly poetically metaphysical: 
…lulled into such an opium-like listlessness of vacant, unconscious reverie is this absent-minded youth by the blending cadence of waves with thoughts, that at last he loses his identity; takes the mystic ocean at his feet for the visible image of that deep, blue, bottomless soul, pervading mankind and nature; and every strange, half-seen, gliding, beautiful thing that eludes him; every dimly-discovered, uprising fin of some undiscernible form; seems to him the embodiment of those elusive thoughts that only people the soul by continually flitting through it.
At the conclusion of his biographical sketch of old Perth, the ship’s blacksmith, a man who ruined his own earthly life, lost his family in a horrible calamity, and turned to a life of the sea, the narrator strongly implies that becoming a whaleman is true renunciation; and we may surmise that, likewise, true renunciation is an essential step toward becoming a symbolic hunter of the Whale.
     Before moving on to the obvious, most central symbol of the mysterious Divine, I will point out that the ocean seems more of a metaphor for the emptiness, the boundless, infinite field of being, from which manifestations of divinity arise, and not so much a distinct manifestation itself. In the jargon of the Hindu Vedantist philosophy, the shoreless sea would represent Nirguna Brahman, the unthinkable Ultimate Reality which bears no discernible characteristics. The aspect of “God” which is a manifested agent in our world, Brahma the personification of the highest reality, Ishvara the Lord of the Cosmos, the occasionally wrathful “God Almighty,” is the Whale.
     An obvious case of whale as God is Melville/Ishmael’s mention of “Vishnoo,” the divine sustainer of the cosmos in Hindu theology, in his first earthly avatar manifesting himself as a gigantic fish—with, it should be remembered, the 19th-century narrator considering whales to be the biggest kind of fish. So Vishnu first appeared in this world as Leviathan. Also, of course, whales in general are referred to as Leviathan repeatedly in the novel, which lends some Christianity to the god-as-fish motif. When Ishmael first sees Moby Dick swimming majestically through the sea, he compares him to the great god Zeus (alias Jupiter) after He assumed the form of a white bull, swimming from Phoenicia to Crete carrying the beautiful maiden Europa. And the most blatant, unignorable instance is the case of “Gabriel,” a crazed whaler turned prophet aboard the whaling vessel Jeroboam who insists that Moby Dick himself is none other than an incarnation of God Almighty. Towards the end of the story Moby Dick is called, flat-out, “the grand god,” and the body of the ship after being rammed by him the “god-bullied hull.” As early as chapter I of the story, when Ishmael is receiving his call to the sea in his dreams, the White Whale is there, lurking in the deep shadows of his subconscious mind:
By reason of these things, then, the whaling voyage was welcome; the great flood-gates of the wonder-world swung open, and in the wild conceits that swayed me to my purpose, two and two there floated into my inmost soul, endless processions of the whale, and, mid most of them all, one grand hooded phantom, like a snow hill in the air.
And this was before he had ever heard of the white whale Moby Dick.
     At this point it is expedient to mention a certain feature of the novel that many readers and critics have disliked since its publication; and that is a great number of chapters (no fewer than 37 of them) that are straightforward discussions of whales and the whaling industry that do not necessarily make any direct contribution at all to the plot. There may occur as many as five of these chapters in a row, which I must admit distract from the story and can get a little tedious. They discuss every possible angle the author could think of regarding whales and the hunting of whales. But there are two symbolic reasons why these seemingly extraneous chapters are included; and one of them is to provide hints at the divinity and divine wrath lurking within whales in general, and in the White Whale in particular.
     Consider: Ishmael mentions that the whale is the greatest being of all, the greatest that has ever lived, with the sperm whale being the largest species (this being due to the fact that larger whales like blue whales and finbacks were too fast and elusive for sailing ships and rowboats in those days to come anywhere near them), with Moby Dick implied to be the largest sperm whale of them all. Whales have existed since immemorial time: “I am horror-struck at this antemosaic, unsourced existence of the unspeakable terrors of the whale, which, having been before all time, must needs exist after all humane ages are over.” The sperm whale in particular is called the terror of all other sea creatures, with most human whalers not daring to hunt it.
     The whale is implied to be formless, as we cannot see its shape when it is covered by water, and when killed and pulled out of the water it loses its true shape. And if we fall into the water and come near enough to see it as it is, we die. Furthermore, the narrator emphasizes that the sperm whale has no face: if you look at it from the front all you see is a blank wall, with its eyes, nose, and mouth all located elsewhere. 
But in that great Sperm Whale, this high and mighty god-like dignity inherent in the brow is so immensely amplified, that gazing on it, in that full front view, you feel the Deity and the dread powers more forcibly than in beholding any other object in living nature. For you see no one point precisely; not one distinct feature is revealed; no nose, eyes, ears, or mouth; no face; he has none, proper; nothing but the one broad firmament of a forehead, pleated with riddles; dumbly lowering with the doom of boats, and ships, and men.
It does, however, show off its tail, thrusting its flukes high into the air whenever it dives; and Ishmael compares this to the LORD who may show his hind parts to an Old Testament prophet, but will show the glory of his face to no one. 
     It is emphasized that Moby Dick is also colorless, being white; and in the noteworthy chapter XLII, “The Whiteness of the Whale,” Ishmael points out not only that whiteness is associated with purity and supernaturalism, but that according to science, everything as it really is could be called white in the sense that it is ultimately colorless, color being a perceptual construct of the human mind, not something truly inherent in nature.
     The whalers, those symbolic renunciant pilgrims of Spirit who seek the greatest Mystery, have evolved many legends concerning the whale Moby Dick—those who believe in his existence, that is, as there are many who haven’t heard, or if they have heard do not believe. The legends suggest that Moby Dick cannot be killed, and is immortal. Furthermore some sailors maintain that he can appear in more than one place simultaneously, making him ubiquitous if not omnipresent (with immortality being a kind of ubiquity in time). 
     Then there is the gold doubloon which Ahab has promised to the first sailor who spots Moby Dick on the day that he spouts red gore and is slain. This coin is the symbol, the representative, the “talisman” of the white whale aboard the Pequod. The coin was minted of “purest, virgin gold” in Ecuador, a country lying on the Equator and thereby situated, in a sense, in the middle of the world. The doubloon is covered with images and rune-like symbols with each person looking upon them interpreting them differently, and with the most mundane minds interpreting them most mundanely. 
     Moby Dick himself is finally located at the Equator, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, which Ishmael asserts is the center of the world map, with the Atlantic and Indian Oceans being mere arms to the Pacific.
     Put all this together and we have Moby Dick the white whale as a vast, timeless, immortal, unkillable, supernatural, all-powerful, ubiquitous being with no discernible form, no face, and no color; which is found in the center of the world, in the center of all things, at the heart of Reality. And that, my friends, to a theistic mystic at least, is “God.” 
     Melville/Ishmael makes many other statements suggesting that whales in general, and the white whale in particular, are God, or at least divine instruments, occupying a broad spectrum, with one end of the spectrum fading out into such subtlety that the symbolism is very vague and questionable. But some of the more obvious miscellanea that support the thesis are: There are at least two mentions of religious temples or shrines made from the skeleton of a whale, with the dimensions of one of these carefully tattooed on Ishmael’s arm (along with many other tattoos, causing Ishmael’s symbol-covered body to be reminiscent of Parker in Flannery O’Connor’s story “Parker’s Back”); Moby Dick’s lower jaw is bent into a sickle shape, allowing associations of a Grim Reaper wielding his fateful scythe (and actually it is not uncommon for old bull sperm whales to have twisted or otherwise deformed lower jaws, as they use them in combat amongst themselves in fights over females); the harpooneer Queequeg—a purplish yellow South Sea Island cannibal with his teeth sharpened into points—at one point declares that mere sickness does not have the power to kill him, but only, in Ishmael’s words, “some violent, ungovernable, unintelligent destroyer,” like a whale or a storm at sea, for instance; and it is mentioned again and again in the story that the ship Pequod itself is plentifully inlaid with sperm whale teeth and bone, Ahab’s stool or “throne” is made of whale bone, and even Ahab’s peg leg is composed of sperm whale bone—hinting that the world of the ship itself and even “God’s” most bitter enemy contain “God” in their composition, like Emerson’s omnipresent Brahma:

          They reckon ill who leave me out;
          When me they fly, I am the wings;
          I am the doubter and the doubt,
          And I the hymn the Brahmin sings. 

It may as well be noted that the main reason why Ahab stayed in seclusion before and shortly after the beginning of the Pequod’s voyage is that his whale bone leg suddenly snapped while he was walking near home, with the jagged end stabbing him in the groin, seriously injuring him; so Ahab’s sworn enemy and reputed cause of all his suffering, the whale, continued to task him even when he was on dry land. (It also is significant that Captain Ahab has a white scar, a streak of Moby Dick’s whiteness, reputedly running the entire length of his body, which evidently was caused by him being struck by lightning while participating in some kind of pagan ceremony.)
     As the sun is to the sky, so the white whale is to the ocean; yet despite all this, as is proper for a mystical text, there is also a fair amount of hinting that the whale is merely a phenomenal agent or manifestation of the world-transcending emptiness of God, as is everything else really, including Ahab himself and his tempter the fire-worshipping Zoroastrian Mephistopheles. I am reminded of a passage in the Old Testament, I think in the book of Isaiah, in which the evil king of Assyria is declared to be, despite his personal belief that he is working out his own selfish ambition, an instrument or agent of God in unleashing His divine vengeance upon the rebellious people of Israel. But Moby Dick, though monstrous and fierce in his wrath, is never really portrayed as evil. He fights only in self defense or in defense of his own kind, and mainly just minds his own business. In the final chase of the white whale he is apparently in mid transit from one place to another and continues to follow a straight line, ignoring the ship, until the boats are lowered after him with lethal intent. And even then he gives fair warning before committing to the final onslaught. So Moby Dick is not exactly the Godhead, but is more like God’s left fist.
     One recurring theme supporting the idea of whale as servant, agent, or instrument of God is the continued comparisons to the great fish or whale or Leviathan that swallowed the prophet Jonah in the Bible. The whale performed God’s will, but wasn’t exactly God. And Ishmael wasn’t exactly Jonah either of course, but was indeed a spiritual fugitive who defied the great power, and was punished by it, but was eventually spared for a higher purpose.
     One odd borderline case concerns the fact that the white whale’s body was fouled with old, bent harpoons, lances, and ropes tangled together from many previous attempts on his life. (This apparently was not extremely uncommon; for example the non-fictional whale Mocha Dick, on which Moby was largely based, allegedly had nineteen harpoons found embedded in his body, most of which were presumably relics of earlier, less successful attempts to kill him.) So the image is of a formless, colorless, faceless entity which bristles with the outward appearance of the results of human actions. These human artifacts which protrude in a tangle from its body lend the inscrutable being a perceptible, recognizable outward shape and color, so to speak.
     I mentioned above the multitude of seemingly extraneous chapters describing everything Ishmael could think of concerning whales, including cetacean taxonomy and physiology, whales in art and legend, and how to cook whale and what it tastes like, much of which information has nothing obviously to do with the actual plot of the story; and I mentioned that the first of two reasons for these chapters is to drop symbolic hints about the mystic identity of the Whale. The other reason is this: Ishmael was the only person on board the Pequod who wasn’t simply trying to kill Moby Dick, or simply trying to make a living as a whaler without deep reflection on what his profession was all about. He deeply wanted to understand the whale as perfectly as he could. In chapter CIV, “The Fossil Whale,” Ishmael says, “Since I have undertaken to manhandle this Leviathan, it behooves me to approve myself omnisciently exhaustive in the enterprise; not overlooking the minutest seminal germs of his blood, and spinning him out to the uttermost coil of his bowels.” This is why he is the sole survivor of the ultimate oceanic spiritual quest, and of the divine apocalyptic wrath finally poured upon the world of the Pequod, the only one found worthy of salvation. He is a jnani, one who attains the ultimate good through knowledge. He is the only one who yearned to know the highest being face to face. But of course he has no face.