image: Wikimedia commons (link).
My recent article entitled "The Bible, the Myths, & The Zodiac Wheel," which appears in the most-recent issue of New Dawn magazine, is illustrated with a diagram of the zodiac wheel (the one found in many previous blog posts, such as this one), an image of the beautiful statue of the goddess Selket from the tomb of Tutankhamun (the same image seen at the end of this previous post), and the image of the Pythia at the Oracle of Delphi showing her connection to the important zodiac constellation of Virgo (the image seen in previous posts discussing the importance of the Pythia, such as this one and this one, and most especially the image found at the very end of this post).
The most dramatic illustration to accompany my article, is undoubtedly the image reproduced above, depicting the famous episode from Genesis sometimes referred to as "the temptation and blessing of Abraham." Interestingly enough, this is not actually an image which I sent along with the article, but was added by the editors of New Dawn on their own, to accompany the discussion of this crucial episode in Genesis.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the image that they selected, in addition to its vivid depiction of the horrifying scene, shown at the awful moment when the knife is raised in Abraham's hand and the Angel is swooping in to stay his hand at the last possible instant, is the fact that the artist who composed this 1860 print has depicted all the characters in the scene
in postures which suggest their celestial counterparts in the sky!
I have actually discussed this particular image before, and used it as an illustration when explaining the celestial foundations of the episode of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah (see this previous post). In order to make those connections perfectly clear, let's take a look at the portion of the night sky which I believe forms the basis for this ancient story.
Below is the image of the night sky containing the zodiac constellation of Aries, the Ram. In the episode of Abraham and Isaac in Genesis 22, we are told that when his had was stayed by the Angel, Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked and beheld "a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son" (Genesis 22:13). The presence of a Ram as the substitute in the Bible story is a strong clue that, if we suspect that this story has a celestial foundation, we should investigate the possibility that it involves the constellation Aries the Ram.
In this first image the constellations are presented unmarked, so that you can see the stars that will be connected and labeled in the following image, and verify that those stars are actually there and there is no "funny business" going on:
image generated using Stellarium.org Once again, this is a good opportunity to point out the inadequacy of some of the conventional constellation-outlining systems (such as the system employed in the image above), and the superiority of the system suggested by H. A. Rey in his classic text The Stars: A New Way to See Them.
Below, I have drawn in the outlines of the constellations involved in the Genesis 22 episode, using the H. A. Rey outlines for those constellations. First, study once more the 1860 drawing above of the dramatic moment from Genesis 22, which the editors of New Dawn added to my discussion of that Genesis story: we see Abraham with his arm outstretched, wielding the knife. We see the Angel, flying in from the right, arm outstretched to touch Abraham and urge him to stay his hand. We see the Ram, directly underneath the Angel -- held, in fact, by the Angel's other hand, in this illustration. And, we see the smoke of the fire for the burnt offering, floating up in a vertical column very close to Abraham and the Ram.
Now look down at the sky chart below:
According to my interpretation of the celestial players, the constellation Perseus corresponds to Abraham. Both arms of the constellation are stretched out, and it does not take much imagination to envision a knife or a short sword in either of the two hands (the illustrator of the 1860 drawing above has chosen to place the knife in the "easternmost" of his two hands -- east is to the left as we look at the chart above, and west is to the right).
Flying in from the upper right is the Angel, played by the stars of the constellation Andromeda. Note how close the stars of Andromeda come to the westernmost arm of Perseus: close enough to be seen as "staying his hand," if we use our imagination. In the outline of Andromeda as envisioned by H. A. Rey, she is actually lying with her feet towards Perseus, but if you look at the image of the Angel as envisioned by the illustrator of the 1860 print, you can re-imagine the stars as outlining an Angel flying towards Perseus, with wings arching above the body and arm reaching out to stay Perseus' hand.
Directly below the Angel in the night sky is the Ram of Aries, just as the Ram in the illustration is directly below the Angel.
Finally, the column of the Milky Way rises up like smoke from the horizon and passes right beside Perseus (he is actually partly in it). This column of smoke corresponds to the smoke of the "burnt offering" described in Genesis 22.
The Genesis 22 episode of Abraham and Isaac and the Angel and the Ram is, of course, one of the most formative and sacred stories in the entire Old Testament scripture. But understanding that it, like the other sacred stories of humanity, is founded upon a celestial metaphor does not take away its profound message: quite the contrary. For, as Alvin Boyd Kuhn has asserted, "the sacred scriptures of the world are a thousand times more precious as myths than as alleged history" (Lost Light, 24: emphasis in the original).
The meaning of these sacred Star Myths is profound, and operates on many levels, each deeper than the one before. The full import of what I believe them to be teaching is explored in The Undying Stars, and even with hundreds of pages of examination, it can be said that we only scratch the surface of the depths of ancient wisdom contained in these esoteric stories.
On the most general level, we can see that the act of encoding the motions of the majestic stars themselves in stories about men and women on earth is a form of "bringing the heavens down to earth," of "clothing" the stars in human flesh, so to speak . . . and this is exactly what the ancient scriptures were trying to teach about the nature of human existence: that we ourselves are in one sense "spirit beings" which have been "clothed" in human skins for a time, and that at the end of this earthly incarnation we will reascend into the spirit realm.
The sign of Aries is located at the spring equinox, where the sun crosses back up from the "lower realm" of darkness and winter (and incarnation, in this realm below the realm of the stars), and thus was associated with transcending the physical and the material and with bringing forth the spiritual or the divine which is hidden away within the physical and the material. For the metaphorical depiction of the stars as human beings does not just bring the heavens down to earth: it then promises to bring the earthly back up with it when it rises again to the heavens.
The fact that Abraham is described in Genesis as not just a father but a father of "a multitude of nations" (see Genesis 17:4) indicates that -- like the story of Adam and Eve, who can also be shown to be celestial -- these sacred stories are trying to convey truths about the common human condition, truths that apply to all incarnate men and women, and not just to a select few. If we only take them literally, then it stands to reason that some people might be descended from Abraham through Isaac while others are not -- a message which divides humanity.
But if -- like Adam and Eve and like Shem, Ham, and Japheth -- Abraham is a celestial figure, then the assertion that he is a "father of many nations" can be interpreted as teaching that all human beings are in a sense "descended from the stars," in that we are spiritual beings who have descended temporarily into this material realm.
There is also a profoundly shamanic aspect to the world's ancient scriptures, when they are understood to embody celestial metaphors which are designed to convey a teaching about the realm of spirit and the realm of incarnate matter. This shamanic aspect has been explained in numerous previous posts, but at its heart it involves the teaching that access to the spirit world is not only something that is important at the end of our journey through incarnation, but that such access is in fact essential throughout our life in this material realm.
The scriptures of the Bible are filled with stories meant to teach us that "seeing into" the reality of the Other Realm which surrounds and interpenetrates the material realm is vitally important for gaining knowledge which cannot be obtained any other way, or for solving real problems in the material realm which cannot be solved any other way. Think for example of the episode of 2 Kings 6, in which Elisha and his servant are surrounded by the horsemen and chariots and a great host of warriors from the king of Syria, and Elisha prays that his servant's eyes might be opened, "that he may see" -- and we are told that when the servant's eyes were opened, "behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" (2 Kings 6:17). In other words, the servant was enabled to see into the spirit world, which Elisha could apparently always perceive.
This ability to suddenly see beyond the material world which we perceive with our five senses, and to gain access to a "second sight" or spiritual vision is very similar to the description given in the Norse Eddas of Odin's ascent up the World-Tree, in which he hangs for nine days and nine nights upon the Tree until his eyes are suddenly opened and he can perceive what he could not see before. Odin's ascent up the Tree can be demonstrated to be distinctly shamanic (and it has clear parallels to the New Testament description of Christ on the Cross). For further discussion of the shamanic vision at the heart of the world's sacred myths, see for instance previous posts here, here and here.
The details of the Genesis 22 episode discussed above and in the New Dawn article should be sufficient to demonstrate that the stories of the Bible, like the sacred stories of many other cultures, are built on a system of celestial allegory. Beyond the correspondences in that single episode, there are many more which can be demonstrated in other stories from both the Old and New Testaments.
The understanding that the world's myths are built upon a common celestial foundation has tremendous ramifications. One of these is that this understanding should unite humanity, and not divide us. Another is that these sacred traditions do not lose their message even if they are interpreted other than as literal history. It should be a very positive message, and one that is uplifting and empowering to all men and women from all around the globe, and one that connects us not only to one another but also to nature, to all of nature, all the way out to the stars in the infinite universe.