"When once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return."
LEONARDO DA VINCI
"I loved flying. I couldn't describe the feeling it gave me, I only knew I felt proud and happy. In the air I felt that I was part of something very great and beautiful. I didn't know what it was all about, I only knew that I wasn't alone any more, but that I belonged. I felt that I was at home with the infinitude."
LARRY DARRELL, THE RAZOR'S EDGE
In the Codex Atlanticus Da Vinci makes notes on the flight of birds --- in particular the kite, a hawk-like bird found in Italy, Europe, and elsewhere, and known for its ability to glide effortlessly for long periods of time --- accompanied by a number of sketches and drawings. In the midst of these notes he makes the following comment:
"This writing distinctly about the kite seems to be my destiny, because among the first recollections of my infancy, it seemed to me that, as I was in my cradle, a kite came to me and opened my mouth with it's tail, and struck me several times with it's tail inside my lips."
THE CODEX ATLANTICUS PAGE
WITH-- DA VINCI "KITE" QUOTE
KITE BIRDS, KITE DREAMS, KITE REALITIES, AND ENLIGHTENMENT
In all the manuscripts and codexes by Leonardo, and there are literally pages and pages written by his own hand, very few if but only one, makes references to his early childhood or infancy. The above quote refering to the bird called a kite is that one. People have taken that quote and ran it out into meaning that Da Vinci's life from infancy on would revolve around the quest to fly, and through destiny as he writes, or by fate, coincidence, Karma, or simply Monday morning quarterbacking, such seems to be the case. The first Da Vinci Flying Machine showed up in drawings datable to around 1486 when Leonardo was thirty-four years old. They involved movable flap-wing contraptions replicating the movement of bird wings and required the strength of a man to keep them aloft. When that proved unsuccessful over the long run his designs morphed into Fixed Wing Gliders using wing structures closer in design to the wings of a bat. They inturn evolved into a flying machine that was:
"...like no other device he had ever sketched or built. He reached beyond nature to conceive a child's kite with flat surfaces to support it in the still air. It would have double wings, cellular open-ended boxes that would be as stable as kites of like construction. The pilot would not need to shift his balance to keep control. He would float on the air like a raft." (source)
A late 19th, early 20th century flying machine, a
virtual copy of the Florence Da Vinci glider. Click
to see pilot in lower wing center "Floating on the
air like a raft."
In the scheme of things it is totally interesting that whether through "destiny as he (Leonardo) writes, or by fate, coincidence, Karma, or simply Monday morning quarterbacking," that the Da Vinci flying machines went through a transformation from flap-wing and bird-like to being the most successful in their execution in the form of a kite. It is as though in his infancy the incident of the bird was implying, yes Leonardo, fly, but as an instrument of that flight use a kite.
My own experience from very early on in my youth, although not from infancy as Da Vinci, was very similar in it's impact. My older brother was born three years before me, and thus then, because of being older, started school several years before I did. As he went from kindergarten through to the third grade my mother helped him with his reading. Even though I hadn't started school because of being too young, I learned to read right along with him. By the time he reached third grade and I started kindergarten, I was reading third grade books probably as well or better than he was.
Two books I remember fondly right up to this day, both hardcover, that my mother and brother read over and over or I chose to read myself was one about Hoover Dam showing how it was constructed, it's inner workings with row after row of power generators and one with pages of black and white line drawings of Da Vinci's flying machines. Why either of those books or the contents therein would standout so much in my memory relative to any other books we may have read is not known.
On the third page of ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, relating living with my artist Uncle some years following my mother's death, I write that it was under his auspices somewhere approaching or near age ten that I first heard of Leonardo Da Vinci. Actually, more clearly, after reading the comic book with the Da Vinci story 500 Years Too Soon what happened was when my Uncle started showing me pictures of Da Vinci's flying machines I recognized them from my past as a preschool three or four-year old, I just didn't know (or remember) who Leonardo was or how the drawings related to him.
Later, I tell how my interest in Da Vinci flying machines exploded with a scene I saw in a 1947 Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie titled Tarzan and the Huntress, wherein Tarzan's son Boy builds a glider-type plane capable of flying and their chimp Cheetah, apparently seeing the glider's potential, steals it. Hanging on for dear life Cheetah jumps off some rocks and covers quite some distance before crashing into the trees. Haranguing my uncle over and over on the idea of flying he eventually drew a life size drawing of a Da Vinci like craft on the floor of the studio and from there, together, we built an actual machine capable of flying. I go on to say I was not sure what my Uncle's exact plan for the machine was, but one day without his knowledge a friend of mine and I hauled it out of the studio and up to the top of the second story apartments across the street, and hanging on for dear life, launched it, the results of which are summed up in the following:
"It was only a short time after returning from the desert during the summer of 1948 that I, just before school started and around age 10 or so, removed the flying machine my uncle and I built from the hanging position of it's construction lair and hauled it up to the rooftop of the second story building across the street. Then, holding onto the machine for dear life, I jumped off.
"At first the craft seemed easily able to maintain the same two-story height advantage over quite some distance. But then, partway into the flight, instead of continuing in the direction I wanted, it began tipping lower on the right and turning. Without ailerons or maneuverable rudder controls and with inexperienced over-correcting on my part creating an adverse yaw followed by a sudden stall, the ensuing results ended with a somewhat dramatic drop, crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house diagonally across the way."
Since I loved to read in those days, if I wasn't reading hardcover books I was reading comic books. At the exact same time I was reading and learning about the construction of the dam in a formal way, because of the thunderclouds of World War II were looming so heavily during my childhood, I was also reading and learning about the destruction of Hoover Dam via, would you believe, comic books. Although the Hoover Dam link refers to an attempt to destroy it in 1944 using a submarine the page below is from a comic book with a story that ran 16 pages that appeared in Four Favorites Comics with a cover date of January 1942, barely a month after the U.S. entered World War II and probably printed or in production weeks, possibly months before the war. In the story the hero Lash Lightning attempts to halt the destructive activities of Professor Grosskop, identified in the story as a Nazi, who is trying to destroy Boulder Dam on the Colorado River as well as disrupting electricity to hinder the war effort at production plants.
(for more please click image)
Another major inspiration stemming from a comic book had a story on Da Vinci called 500 Years Too Soon a story that delved into Leonardo's attempt at constructing and flying his first in a series of flying machines --- a story that had a huge impact on my early childhood and my own attempt at flying. On the third page of my paper ZEN ENLIGHTENMENT: The Path Unfolds, relating living with my artist Uncle some years following my mother's death, I write that it was under his auspices somewhere near or pushing age ten, that I first heard of Leonardo Da Vinci. Actually, more clearly, what happened was that the moment my Uncle first showed me pictures of Da Vinci's flying machines I recognized them from my past as a preschool three or four-year old, I just didn't know (or remember) who Leonardo was or how the drawings related to him.(see) Later, I tell how my interest in Da Vinci flying machines exploded with a scene I saw in a 1947 Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie titled Tarzan and the Huntress, wherein Tarzan's son Boy builds a glider-type plane capable of flying and their chimp Cheetah, apparently seeing the glider's potential, steals it. Hanging on for dear life Cheetah jumps off some rocks and covers quite some distance before crashing into the trees. Haranguing my uncle over and over on the idea of flying he eventually drew a life size drawing of a Da Vinci like craft on the floor of the studio and from there, together, we built an actual machine capable of flying. I go on to say I was not sure what my Uncle's exact plan for the machine was, but one day without his knowledge a friend of mine and I hauled it out of the studio and up to the top of the second story apartments across the compound, and hanging on for dear life, launched it.
(please click image)
"Initially the flight played out fairly well, picking up wind under the wings and maintaining the same two-story height advantage for some distance. Halfway across busy Arlington Street though, the craft began slowing and losing forward momentum. It began dropping altitude rapidly, eventually crashing into the porch and partway through the front windows of the house across the way. Other than a few bruises and a wrecked machine, nothing was broken, although as it turned out, my dad wasn't nearly as proud of me as intended. I never forgot the thrill of that flight and carried that thrill and Leonardo's dreams into my adulthood."(source)
The idea of manned-flight didn't end for me the day I crashed the glider into the neighbor's house across the street. Matter of fact, as a grown man, after hearing of a powerful 'devil wind' that blows downslope in the High Sierras given the name 'Washoe Zephyr' by Mark Twain and others, wherein the wind was able to lift a full grown mule off of 7900 foot high Mount Davidson --- up and behind Virginia City, Nevada --- and carry it 5 miles across the valley setting it down unhurt, I had to see it. Experiencing the might of the 'devil wind' at it's full force was the inspiration my second attempt at manned-flight. See:
In The Boy and the Giant Feather I write:
"One day, when I was around ten years old or so, I went for a hike deep into the desert unescorted. When myUncle discovered I was gone he went looking for me. During my walk I happened across the carcass of a dead rabbit and was fascinated by it for some reason. When my Uncle found me after cresting a small hill he saw me squatted down with the carcass. Joining me quite comfortably in a circle with the rabbit were three what were, because of this incident, to eventually become my Totem Animal --- VULTURES. From what he was able to discern from his initial vantage point I was neither afraid of them nor were they remotely afraid of me. As well, and he swore this to be true --- although I have absolutely no recollection of it and construe it as a possible total misinterpretation of facts --- that the vultures and I were sharing meat from the carcass between us."
Turning now to the Wanderling's Journey, writing of my experience with the mysterious man of spells called an Obeah high in the mountains of Jamaica, after telling him of my like for the vultures that could fly for hours and hours without flapping their wings:
"That the Obeah seemed to like. Soon a cool breeze fell across my face even though it came from a direction from across the fire. The Obeahman took a vessel of water and tossed it onto the flames. A huge cloud of steam burst forth followed by a thick cloud of smoke. I jumped back and turned away, stumbling to the ground while covering my face and eyes. Then it got cold, very cold. The breeze began to blow harder and I could no longer feel the ground underneath me. It felt as though I was moving very fast, yet as far as I knew I was still on the ground by the fire. I moved my arm away from my face just barely squinting my eyes open. For an instant I was still in the billowing white smoke, then suddenly I broke through to clean, fresh air. The smoke was no longer smoke, but clouds high in the night sky. I wasn't on the ground, but hundreds of feet in the air, soaring through the night, arms along my side, wind in my face, stars over my head."
THE ZEN MAN FLIES
Taken together, with all of the talk of giant feathers, vultures, flying machines, Da Vinci, Obeahmen, et al, people continually ask what does all of it mean and how does any or any of it relate to Zen, Buddhism, or Enlightenment. For starters, I invariably refer those with such questions to this page along with the following and their respective links:
THE BLACK CONDOR: THE MAN WHO COULD FLY LIKE A BIRD
FLYING MACHINE: CHINA, CIRCA 400 A.D.
(please click image)
After all of the above is said and done --- or passed over as the case may be, I finally refer those who may still be interested to the following:
Basically, my uncle stated many times that he felt the reason for my destiny and fascination regarding all aspects of giant flying creatures went back to an incident that involved the fly over of a giant airborne object that I witnessed as a young boy. The object, of an unknown nature and an unknown origin, was seen by literally thousands of people along the coast of California barely three months into World War II. Eventually to be called The Battle of Los Angeles: 1942 UFO, the incident is mostly forgotten now except by maybe myself and a major chronicler of the event C. Scott Littleton whose critiques of my eyewitness accounts of the event are explored in Littleton Vs. The Wanderling. Anyway, as the story goes, during the early morning hours of February 25, 1942 the whole city and surrounding communities were in an uproar as thousands of rounds of anti-aircraft shells were expended in an attempt to pull down whatever it was in the sky that night. The slow moving object, said to be as big or bigger than a Zeppelin, was caught in the glare of the searchlights from Santa Monica to Long Beach and seemed impervious to the the constant barrarge of shells. It eventually disappeared out over the Pacific after cruising along the coast and cutting inland for a while. The huge object was never clearly explained and was basically hushed up without response from the authorities.
BATTLE OF LOS ANGELES, 1942.-- 800 FOOT ZEPPELIN-SIZE UFO
FLEW DIRECTLY OVER THE TOP OF THE WANDERLING'S HOUSE.
While it is true the L.A. UFO no doubt had a major impact, I personally feel what really capped my fascination regarding the ability to fly, flying machines, giant flying creatures, giant feathers, et al, that seemed to dominate in later life, was born from a germ initiated from building, flying, and watching a Captain Marvel paper cut-out with a penny in it's nose for a weight, flying toy. Here was a man flying on his own, no wings, no motors, no balloons. As the young boy that I was I saw no reason why not.
FLYING CAPTAIN MARVEL
ZEN AND THE ART OF FLYING MEN
AND NOW THIS:
A major blunder people commit is judging the Enlightenment of spiritual teachers, gurus, Sadhus, etc., by the Siddhis they display. For the Buddha, Siddhis and miracles are nothing more than manifestations of phenomena not understood by the common people. They are not seen as demonstrations of Enlightenment or Wisdom, as supernatural powers can be mastered by anybody. In some cases Siddhis and the powers of their outcome can be initiated or brought about by the use of drugs or herbs even by an uninformed novice as outlined in Aushadhis and alluded to in various Sutras such as, for example, by such noteables as Patanjali (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Chapter IV, verse 1). The supernatural is seen as natural phenomena NOT understood by the unenlightened. The ability to perform miracles is seen as a by-product of spiritual development - of minor importance and relevance to the real goal of spiritual development itself. Though the Buddha had full mastery of psychic powers, he used them only out of compassion and skillful means to teach others. He never used his powers to win followers through blind faith and dependency on miracles. He taught that the highest miracle is the "conversion" of an ignorant person to a wise one.
The following paragraph by Sri Swami Sivananda from his paper Satsanga and Svadhyaya as found in SIDDHIS: Supernormal Perceptual States, is cited here as an example of how the use or non-use of Siddhis are viewed and should or should not be considered for use or non-use as one seeks toward Enlightenment:
In the world generally, the common inclination is to judge the merits and ability of a Sadhu through his Siddhis. It is a blunder indeed. They should not judge the Enlightenment of a Sadhu in this way. Siddhis are by-products of concentration. Siddhis have nothing to do with Self-realization. A Sadhu may manifest Siddhis due to strong passions and intense desires, and if that be the case, he is undoubtedly a big householder only. You must believe me when I tell you that Siddhis are a great hindrance to spiritual progress, and so long as one is within the realm of Siddhis and does not try to rise above it and march onwards, there is not the least hope of God-realisation for him. But, this does not mean that a person manifesting Siddhis is not a realized soul. There are several instances of such persons who have exhibited several Siddhis purely for the elevation and uplift of the world, but never for selfish motives.
So said, in conjunction, the following should be of interest:
Spiritually inclined seekers of truth, after investigation conclude that the urge for superpowers is born out of the egotistical lower self and is therefore unholy. The real purpose of human life is to know God and to worship Him, and finally to attain His nearness. The aspiration for any supernormal powers is thus seen by the spiritually advanced beings as an ignoble and accursed thing because it is born out of a hankering for material gains and a desire for fame and applause.
Further, the development of such powers is generally undertaken at a great cost both physically and spiritually to the individuals interfering with psychic forces.(source)
In the Kevatta Sutta (Kevaddha) of the Digha Nikaya the Buddha is represented as warning against the use of magical wonders saying, "It is because I perceive danger in the practice of mystic wonders, that I loath, and abhor, and am ashamed thereof." In the Vinaya Pitaka it is stated that a monk should not display psychic powers before the laity beyond the powers of ordinary men. The Sampasadaniya Sutta of the Digha Nikaya makes it clear that there are indeed two types of Siddhis, one which is termed ignoble and the other noble. The ignoble are powers discussed in the Samanaphala Sutta and elsewhere in the Nikayas. In the Sampasadaniya Sutta the Siddhis are labeled ignoble since they are concomitant with mental intoxicants and worldly aims. In other words, it is possible to employ the fruits of the Jhana or the Siddhis in such a manner that the mundane world, rather than being transcended, becomes even more attractive and one's involvement within it is deepened even further, that is, being seduced by it rather than deepening toward Enlightenment.
The more pure and spiritually developed a person is (especially if they are actively working towards real spiritual advancement) the more attention they will attract from the negatives to pull them down(Mara). In other words, the potential of any aspirant generates their level of negative opposition, plus their level of positive assistance, as set by Karmic Law. This is the natural way of things, and is part of the reason why real long-term spiritual development is so difficult. And this is also why those that achieve any significant level of spiritual / psychic development usually live fairly difficult lives, or have a painful past.
Robert Bruce -- White Light Shields
Refering to Karmic Law above, in The Truth of Karma the following is presented:
Cause and effect, just like birth and death, lose their significance at the Enlightened level because at the level of basic nature there is no one to receive the effect of Karma, whether it is good or bad. Therefore, at the extreme, when one is Enlightened, the law of Karma is not applicable. All that the Enlightened one does, says, or thinks is through free will, a manifestation of basic nature, and not the effect of past Karma.
LEONARDO DA VINCI: CODEX ON THE FLIGHT OF BIRDS
MEDITATION ALONG METEOR CRATER RIM
THE WANDERLING'S JOURNEY
My uncle's wife was a powerful curandera in the tradition of 'la Catalina,' and like 'la Catalina,' held in awe by most that came within her presence. Tall and straight-backed, with perfect posture and beautiful skin, instead of taking steps she appeared to almost glide when she walked. In restaurants and public places people were reluctant to sit near her table and the help was afraid to serve her. Some have said they had seen a glass of water slide across the table to her hand without her even moving her arm.
Upon hearing the story regarding myself and the vultures she was certain, at least as she viewed it from her own perspective, that if my uncle had not come across the the circle when he did I would have flown off with them, or, if not then, the six-foot wingspan raptors would have carried me off with them as if I was one of their own (again, her perspective).
Years later my uncle told me something he had never told his wife nor discussed with me. The distance I traveled that day, from the point I started to the location he found me, was way to far for me to have covered given the time, especially considering the level of my own abilities, the terrain, heat of the day, etc. He told me he had tracked me some distance quite clearly, then my tracks suddenly just ended as though I had disappeared into thin air. Knowing I didn't have a large supply of water or any at all he continued to look in areas he thought I might seek out and just happened across me --- many, many miles from where he had last seen my tracks. How I got there he couldn't say with any amount of certainty. However, he told me, and he kept it a secret from his wife even to the point of burning my shirt, that my shirt below both shoulders as well as part way down the back and along my sleeves were punctured in spots and appeared to have what he called grip marks on them. So too, my skin had red abrasions almost like minor scratches as though my arms had been clutched by something. He told me he was sure I had been carried off and if he hadn't happened across me I may had been carried off even further, maybe even never to be found.
In that my uncle was not able to get me to tell him verbally --- OR I was unable or unwilling to put into words my experience of what happened that day --- my uncle suggested I sit down and draw whatever pictures came to mind that related to the event. All of those drawings are long gone as are any finite memories of same, except for one. I remember it clearly as if only yesterday because of the striking comparison my uncle made between one of my drawings and an ink and watercolor drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci. They were nearly identical, desert landscape and all. The major exception was that where Leonardo's drawing depicted a lake with a shape similar to a bird, my drawing, although having a similar shape, was instead, a SHADOW of a giant bird.
Leonardo Da Vinci: Bird's-Eye View of a Landscape. 1502.
Pen, ink and watercolor on paper. Windsor Castle, Windsor, UK
TALON AND SCRATCH MARKS FROM THE GIANT BIRD