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Hamlet's Mill

Fragments of a lost whole

Fragments of a lost whole

image: Wikimedia commons, "Landscape with Buddhist Temples," 16th century, unknown artist (link). Cropped.

In a justifiably well-known quotation from the introduction to the ground-breaking 1969 book  Hamlet's Mill: An essay on myth and the frame of time, Giorgio de Santillana quotes from an earlier essay of his which he wrote in 1959 (and which, although I may be incorrect on this, I believe was published in 1962 or 1963 as an article in a literary journal, under the title "In the High and Far-off Times").

Often quoted for its most memorable lines, the full quotation is worth considering carefully (from pages 4 and 5 of the edition linked above):

The dust of centuries had settled upon the remains of this great world-wide archaic construction when the Greeks came upon the scene. Yet something of it survived in traditional rites, in myths and fairy tales no longer understood. Taken verbally, it matured the bloody cults intended to procure fertility, based on the belief in a dark universal force of an ambivalent nature, which seems now to monopolize our interest. Yet its original themes could flash out again, preserved almost intact, in the later thought of the Pythagoreans and of Plato.
But they are tantalizing fragments of a lost whole. They make one think of those "mist landscapes" of which Chinese painters are masters, which show here a rock, here a gable, there the tip of a tree, and leave the rest to imagination. Even when the code shall have yielded, when the techniques shall be known, we cannot expect to gauge the thought of those remote ancestors of ours, wrapped as it is in its symbols.
Their words are no more heard again
Through lapse of many ages . . .

Think for a moment of the implications of what is being asserted in the above statements. The author is saying that all of the world's surviving myths, rites, and even fairy tales are "tantalizing fragments of a lost whole" -- in other words, that they are all connected, or were at one time.

But, he says, like the "mist landscapes" of Chinese art, vast portions of this "great world-wide archaic construction" are now hidden from our sight, and all the little pieces or bits of ground which we can see today seem at first glance to be disconnected. 

Now, with the great ancient structure now in ruins, we can only pick out "here a rock . . . there the tip of a tree," or perhaps the corner of a gable on a roof, or even some mysterious artifact whose original purpose is now unknown.

Modern "isolationist" theory, and most conventional understanding of ancient sacred scriptures, treats this landscape as if each part is not and never was part of a single unified whole, that they are not descended from some single vastly ancient unified design. 

It is as if someone were to stand on one little "island in the mist" in a Chinese painting and declare that they are part of their own separate landscape, and that they have no connection to what is going on over on the other side of the mist-covered parts of the same painting.

Or, to use the metaphor from the first line of the above quotation, it is as if a vast ancient ruin of great antiquity can be seen poking up in various places around our entire planet, sometimes scattered in the sands of deserts, or peeking out of the vines of jungles, or rising up out of lonely swamps or marshes or even windswept tundras . . . and all of it apparently once functioning together as a single overarching and interconnected structure. 

After making this remarkable assertion, the authors of Hamlet's Mill, both university professors, then proceed to fill hundreds of pages with evidence to back up their reconstruction of the now-vanished lines of connection, connections which are now obscured by thick mists, or which must be lying deep beneath the shifting sands and the jungle overgrowth between the few fragments of ancient ruins that we can still see above the surface. In support of their argument, they provide hundreds of examples from mythology, images of the stars and constellations and of artifacts and art from ancient times, and extensive quotations and footnotes from scholars during the twentieth and previous centuries in the fields of mythology, religion, anthropology, history, linguistics, and literary criticism.

The "great world-wide archaic construction" whose now-fragmented pieces they are examining appears to have encompassed aspects of measure (of distance and of time), of music, of art and proportion, of architecture, of history, of astronomy, of cosmology, of physics, of what the authors call a "kind of Naturphilosophie" (p70), of consciousness, of the gods and their realm . . . and perhaps of much, much more.

And of course, central to this structure in some way appears to have been the myths -- like pillars holding up the vast over-arching design, not one single pillar perhaps but numerous pillars located in every single part of the globe, all different in some way and yet all connected and all mutually-supporting.

Carrying further the work that von Dechend and de Santillana have done in tracing the interconnectedness of these myths and myth-systems and cosmologies, we can see that it becomes harder and harder to deny that all the world's sacred traditions appear to share a common system, an esoteric system, a system founded upon the heavenly cycles and on celestial metaphor.

Since first encountering Hamlet's Mill, I have over the course of many years of investigating and pondering and even dreaming about various ancient myths and stories,  begun to see the outlines of this system -- particularly in regard to the myths of the world -- more and more clearly, and now believe that its outlines and connections can be seen even more extensively than even was visible at the time that de Santillana and von Dechend were writing. In addition to the "rock here" and "tip of a tree there," additional features have occasionally emerged out of the flowing mist, to the point that the existence of this vast ancient system cannot be denied.

The preceding post, explaining in fairly extensive detail all the celestial connections and clues preserved for our understanding in the ancient Hebrew scroll of Numbers (part of the Pentateuch) and specifically in the story of Balaam and the Ass and their encounter with the Angel on the way, is just one more example of an analysis that could be repeated again and again and again, using other sacred stories from around the world, including from AfricaScandinaviaancient Greeceancient Indiaancient Egyptthe AmericasChinaJapan, and many more.

Significantly, the same celestial analysis can also be repeated again and again in the stories of the Old Testament and New Testament (see the partial list here -- and dozens more could be provided).

The fact that the very same system of celestial metaphor can be seen forming the foundation for the sacred stories of the Bible that forms the foundation for virtually all the other myths, scriptures, and sacred traditions, from every part of the planet, shows that -- far from being somehow set apart from the rest of humanity, as some literalist interpretations have maintained -- the ancient wisdom preserved in these particular scriptures, and the stories themselves, are almost certainly also fragments of the same ancient structure.

To maintain that they are somehow disconnected and independent and self-contained is akin to some isolated group dwelling amidst some small part of the remains of this vast world-wide construction, ignorant of its original ancient purpose, standing on top of their own local clump of ruined blocks, and declaring that their piece of the whatever it used to be is superior to all the others, and that their portion cannot possibly be connected to the rest of the ruins, because obviously there are now great sections of wasteland in between the various places, and they could never have once functioned all together (and besides, some of them even say, all those other ruins are fakes, or at best copies of this one section over here in our territory).

The question, then, of whether the myths are all fragments of an ancient whole thus becomes one of incredible importance, and the evidence (overwhelming in its abundance once the system begins to emerge) that they are all connected by a common system of celestial metaphor thus becomes evidence which argues that the myths of humanity actually unite us, rather than divide us.

Taken literally, the myths and stories tend strongly towards dividing us from one another. Their literal interpretation has been very frequently used in the past (and indeed right up through the present) to divide instead of to unite different groups and branches of the human family.

In part, literal interpretations tend strongly towards division because, taken literally, the myths are understood to be about external, literal, historical individuals and groups -- individuals who are the ancestors of some of us but not of all of us.

For example, the Old Testament story of Shem, Ham and Japheth has been used in previous centuries to divide all people on earth into the supposed descendants of one or another of these three sons of Noah -- and to justify all kinds of oppression, denigration and mistreatment of one or another supposed set of descendants based on a literal interpretation of what I believe can be shown quite conclusively to be based upon a celestial metaphor.

But when the story is seen to be, like virtually every other sacred myth or tradition from around the globe, a celestial allegory, then it can no longer be used to claim that some are descended from one or another of the figures (if the figures are constellations in the heavens). Once this allegorical aspect is perceived, then the esoteric meaning of the myths can begin to impress itself upon our understanding: they cannot be about human progenitors of various people-groups, and so they must be about something else -- and that "something else" that they are about, I believe, is our human condition as simultaneously spiritual and material beings, inhabiting a cosmos which is also simultaneously spiritual and material . . . and all the incredible ramifications of those twin aspects of our incarnate existence.

The Star Myths of humanity are not about someone else: they are about each and every one of us, and the motions of the stars and the other heavenly cycles were selected because they perfectly allegorize our own spiritual experience of descending from the spiritual "realms above" into this apparently-physical material existence, and the necessity of our remembering the spiritual realm from whence we originally came, and of reconnecting with it and elevating it both within our own lives and in everyone and everything else around us, while we are "down here" in this "valley below."

And if they are about each and every one of us, then again it is clear that the myths unite us. If their message is primarily esoteric, and applicable to each and every human soul, then they are about you, and for your benefit, and they are about me and for my benefit as well.

When taken literally, however, the opposite can tend to happen -- they are seen as and taught as being about and for one group, and not for anyone else. That group can be defined by supposed physical descent from this or that historical person (as in the case of Shem, Ham and Japheth cited above), or it can be based upon acceptance of one set of literal interpretations and assertions, in which case those who believe and accept those assertions separate themselves from everyone else who does not.

All of these literal misinterpretations can be seen as a form of "living in one part of the mist landscape, and denying its connection to the rest of the picture," of falsely dividing and isolating and, if you will, "getting lost in the fog."

They are also a form of "physicalizing" teachings that, properly understood, are spiritual and esoteric in nature. De Santillana strongly hints at this mistake when he says, in the original quotation cited above, that "Taken verbally . . . " [and by this I believe he means the same thing I am saying when I say 'taken literally' or 'literalistically'] these ancient myths were mainly incorporated into "bloody cults intended to procure fertility" and to bend the ambivalent forces of nature for one's own interests.

In other words, they were basically "physicalized" and turned towards material ends, almost towards "animal ends," rather than pointing us towards the invisible and spiritual truths and the elevation of the divine spark (although occasionally, as in the teachings of Pythagoras and Plato, their "original themes could flash out again" and light up the general darkness).

Today, thanks to the tireless work of many, many researchers in the decades since de Santillana and von Dechend wrote Hamlet's Mill (many of those researchers inspired in their own work very directly by the "tantalizing fragments" which they encountered in Hamlet's Mill), we can see even more clearly  than when that book was published that we do indeed stand within and among the mighty ruins of a great, world-wide archaic construction.

Indeed, new and astonishing aspects of the physical remains of that ancient construct continue to come to light -- such as Nabta Playa and Gobekli Tepe, neither of which were known in 1969 when Hamlet's Mill came out.

Much of this "mist landscape" still remains shrouded with mist, to be sure.

But the fact that these fragments are part of what was once some ancient and very sophisticated unified system of understanding is now almost impossible to deny.

The ramifications of this fact are extraordinary.

But we can be encouraged in the knowledge that at least one of the important ramifications of the assertions made in that quotation, so long ago, and the evidence which continues to be found in its support, is the fact that we are all connected, that all of us as human beings share an incredible (if still mysterious) past history, and that we are all inheritors of the precious treasure of the ancient wisdom that was preserved in the world's myths for our benefit -- an inheritance that belongs to us all, and not just to some.

Balaam and the Ass

Balaam and the Ass

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The position of the earth on its annual journey around the sun is currently bringing the part of the heavens into view which I believe forms the basis for the fascinating ancient scriptural incident of Balaam and his ass (or donkey).

The account of Balaam is found in chapters 22 through 24 of the Old Testament book of Numbers, and it involves a number of important themes, chief among them the theme of blessing versus cursing.

The story of Balaam probably does not get much focus from those devoted to a literalistic reading of the scriptures these days (and my own personal experience during the nearly twenty years I was devoted to such an understanding was attending churches teaching a literalist understanding supports that assertion), due to the fact that it poses some fairly significant difficulties for those trying to read it literally.

Chief among these problems is undoubtedly the climax of the story, in which Balaam's donkey turns around and speaks to him to complain about Balaam's inhumane treatment. Balaam doesn't help things, because he answers right back to the donkey as if it is the most natural thing in the world do be accosted by one's mount while out for a ride. The two get into a conversation.

This is actually not the biggest difficulty in the text, as we shall see. The biggest problem is probably the fact that God appears to become angry with Balaam even after he explicitly tells Balaam to go ahead and travel to Moab, as we'll see in the text below.

Another factor which has probably led to the decline in focus on this story is the fact that the older translations consistently refer to Balaam's mount as an ass, which is what it is, because it was apparently not until some time in the 1700s that the word donkey was even used in English to refer to one particular sub-variety of ass. The 1611 King James translation, which had an enormous impact on literature and culture, thus refers to the animal as an ass, and the story has generally been referred to through the centuries in English-speaking cultures as the incident of "Balaam's ass."

However, if we can just get past those superficial problems, we can see in this story yet another example of the incredible worldwide system by which the same celestial foundations were dressed up in myth after myth after myth, in order to convey profound truths to us for our benefit during this earthly sojourn.

Unfortunately, trying to force the ancient scriptures into a literalistic-historical framework can cause us to miss their beautiful message altogether, or to distort it into something that means the exact opposite of what they were actually intended to convey.

The story of Balaam begins in Numbers chapter 22:

1 And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plain of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.
2 And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.
3 And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.
4 And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.
5 He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face [literally "the eye"] of the earth, and they abide over against me:
6 Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou belssest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.

The messengers from Balak come to Balaam and convey the message, but Balaam consults with God and is told in verse 12 not to go with them nor to curse the people, "for they are blessed."

Disappointed, Balak sends yet more princes to Balaam, even more honorable than the first messengers, and this time offers great honor and says that Balaam can name his reward if he agrees to come.

Balaam is again visited by God at night who tells Balaam that if the messengers ask Balaam to go with them, he should rise up and go, but only say the word which God gives to him (verse 20).

This brings us to the most famous part of the story (still in Numbers chapter 22):

22 And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
23 And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.
24 But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.
25 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again.
26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.
27 And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.
28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?
29 And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.
30 And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever won't to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.
31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.

The angel then informs Balaam that, had it not been for the fact that the ass perceived the presence of the angel, the angel would have slain Balaam. Balaam offers to go back home, but the angel tells him to continue, repeating the previous admonition from verse 20 that Balaam is only to say what is given to him to speak.

So Balaam continues, and joins Balak, who takes him "up into the high places of Baal" (verse 41). Balaam instructs Balak to have seven altars prepared, for seven bulls and seven rams, which are made into a burnt offering (Numbers 23: 1 - 6). But when the time comes that Balak expects Balaam to pronounce a great curse, Balaam announces that he cannot curse what God hath not cursed, and concludes with words of blessing (23: 7 - 12). 

Balak is upset, but Balaam notes that he had said from the very start when first approached by Balak's messengers that he could only say what was given to him by God for Balaam to say.

Balak doesn't give up, however, and suggests they try another location, where seven altars are again constructed for seven bulls and seven rams. But the LORD meets Balaam and tells him exactly what to say, resulting in an even more eloquent blessing than before (this time replete with celestial imagery, particularly of a great lion). Balak isn't very happy about this and asks Balaam if he can just say nothing if he's not going to pronounce a curse, but Balaam explains that he must say what the LORD tells him to say (23: 25 - 26).

Balak decides to try one more time, and seven more altars are built as before, with similar results. This time the blessing is even more elaborate and takes up the first part of Numbers 24 (verses 5 - 9). The text also tells us that to deliver this message, Balaam falls into a trance, in which his eyes are open but in which he was given a vision of the Almighty (Numbers 24: 4). 

After this, Balak tells Balaam to flee back to his home, but Balaam asks Balak if he wouldn't like to know more, and goes into another trance to give more predictions -- all of which I believe have to do with the celestial realms and to have spiritual meaning for our lives here on earth, but which could be (and often are) misinterpreted as literal predictions of things that would happen in earthly history. After delivering this message, Balaam returns to his place (Numbers 24: 25).

Now, how can we be reasonably certain that this event, preserved in ancient scripture, is allegorical and not literal and historical?

Setting aside the fact that donkeys cannot actually carry on conversations with humans as Balaam's ass is literally described as doing, there are abundant clues in the story which indicate the exact set of constellations involved.

The best place to start is with Balaam himself. The specific detail that he has his foot crushed by his donkey's efforts to avoid the awe-inducing presence of the angel (Numbers 22: 25), gives us our first clue as to his identity -- and it is a very important one. There is one specific constellation who appears to have a severely twisted foot, and that constellation is currently rising brightly in the east during the "prime-time" viewing hours after the sun goes down: the constellation Perseus.

Below is a star diagram looking generally south and east, in which I have drawn in the outline of the constellation Perseus and several of the accompanying constellations surrounding Perseus which may also play a role in this story.

I've labeled Perseus as playing the role of Balaam in this story, and noted the location of the foot that was injured (ouch -- that looks pretty bad):

Now, if we're correct in identifying Balaam with Perseus (primarily on the basis of the crushed foot in the story, although there is plenty of other corroborating evidence that we will find shortly), then we need to find out which constellation is playing the role of Balaam's mistreated beast of burden in the story: the ass.

It just so happens that, directly beneath the figure of Perseus is the zodiac constellation of Taurus the Bull. Now, we know that this story has not come down through history as the famous tale of Balaam's Bull but rather of Balaam's Ass, so how can we possibly assert that Taurus could be playing the role of an ass in this story?

Well, as you can see from the diagram above (and the labeled diagram below, both of which indicate the outline formed by the brightest stars of the constellation Taurus using orange lines), the zodiac constellation of the Bull primarily consists of the brilliant V-shaped Hyades, and then there are two stars much further out above each of the "prongs" of the "V" which enable us to trace a long line in our imagination from the top of the Hyades to the ends of two mighty bull-horns.

These "horns" could also be envisioned as the ears of an ass.

The ass as a species can have some pretty long and impressive ears, as shown in the image collection below (all images from Wikimedia commons, links to originals hereherehere and here):

Looking again at the stars of the constellation Taurus, it is not hard to understand why the formulators of the world's ancient Star Myths sometimes chose to envision this outline as a long-eared ass:

In the diagram, I've indicated the location of the V-shaped Hyades, and then if you look directly to the "left" of the "V" you can see the two stars which form the tips of the horns (if playing the role of the Bull) or the tips of the ears (if playing the role of an ass, as in the story of Balaam).

But in addition to the fact that the outline of the brightest stars in Taurus can very easily be envisioned as fitting a story with an ass or donkey, there is also plenty of evidence from other myths which help to confirm that our interpretation of the story of Balaam is on the right track so far.

Perhaps the most powerful piece of confirmatory evidence comes from elsewhere in the Hebrew scriptures themselves, for the V-shaped Hyades feature prominently in another Star Myth which I have outlined and discussed in some detail: the Samson cycle of myths.

In the story of Samson, of course, Samson's chosen weapon for slaying thousands of Philistines is the famous "jawbone of an ass," which does not seem to make much sense if the story is taken as literal history. Perhaps Samson might use such an implement in a hurry for one or two opponents, but it hardly seems likely that he would continue to employ it over and over against literally a thousand: wouldn't he decide to pick up one of their weapons after slaying a few enemies who had swords or spears? (Unless, that is, all his opponents were also using jawbones as weapons that day, which seems unlikely).

The account is recorded in the scroll of Judges, chapter 15 and verse 15. I have explained in previous posts and in a video that the story of Samson is clearly not intended to be understood literally, but that it was almost certainly intended to convey powerful esoteric truths regarding our experience in this physical incarnate life (Samson was not a literal-historic character but in fact represents aspects of the incarnation of each and every human soul: in a very real sense, the story of Samson is all about you).

The understanding that Samson's jawbone-weapon is actually a group of stars -- that this jawbone is, in fact, the very specific V-shaped formation of the Hyades -- was one of the first breakthroughs in my own understanding that the stories in the Bible are built upon the very same celestial foundation that underlies all the other myths found in virtually every culture and every corner of our planet. This conclusion is explained by Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana in their groundbreaking 1969 text, Hamlet's Mill, in which they present evidence that jawbone-weapons are described in myths from the Americas and from the Pacific Islands as well, and all of them relate to the Hyades (the Hyades are located above the constellation Orion, who can be seen "reaching out" towards them, just as Samson is described as "putting forth his hand" to grasp the jawbone in the book of Judges -- you can actually see a few stars of Orion peeking above the horizon in the star-diagrams presented here).

If the Hyades can function as a jawbone-weapon, and if that jawbone is described as "the jawbone of an ass" rather than "the jawbone of a bull" (as we might expect, since the Hyades are in Taurus), then this is very strong confirmatory evidence to support the proposition that Taurus is functioning as the ass in the story of Balaam as well.

Interestingly enough, as can be seen from the included diagrams here, Perseus is reaching out with one arm in the direction of another important constellation: the beautiful maiden Andromeda, whom Perseus rescues in the Greek myth based upon these same stars. In a moment, we will see that Andromeda is playing the role of the powerful angel in this Old Testament story, but first let us briefly note another important confirmatory piece of evidence from Greek myths which also involves the theme of "ass's ears," and that is the story of King Midas.

In that story, of course, Midas reaches out towards his daughter (played, I am convinced, by the same constellation of Andromeda who plays the heroine in the story of Perseus). It is very noteworthy that Midas was later given ass's ears as a sign of his foolishness, given the above discussion regarding the likelihood that Taurus functions as the ass in the story of Balaam in the Old Testament. The existence of another myth involving Perseus and Andromeda, and featuring ass's ears, indicates that myths involving Perseus and Andromeda can also feature nearby Taurus, but as an ass rather than as a bull in some cases.

Note also that there seems to be an element of greed or of overstepping proper bounds due to temptation of money in both the story of Balaam and (much more clearly) the story of Midas.

All of this evidence appears to indicate that we are on the right track in our analysis of the Balaam story. Let's proceed to the identity of the angel.

In the scriptural text, we are told that an angel blocks the path of Balaam, and that specifically (in Numbers 22: 24) the angel "stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side."

Andromeda is positioned between Perseus and the Great Square of Pegasus, and she is actually touching one corner of the Square itself. If the Square represents the vineyards that are mentioned in verse 24, then it is quite evident that indeed she has a wall on "this side" of her, and a wall on "that side" of her. In fact, I believe this is exactly what the scriptures intend us to understand (it is very common for Star Myths all around the world to contain this very kind of super-abundant evidence, pointing us towards a fairly clear understanding of which constellations they represent).

Just in case we are still in confusion, we can also take a look at verse 22, where the angel is first mentioned, and see that in that verse we are told that Perseus is traveling with "his two servants with him." Just beneath the Great Square of Pegasus is one of the notable "dual constellations" in the zodiac wheel: Pisces. I would argue that the twin fishes of Pisces are probably the "two servants" of Balaam, traveling along the road with him (the road, in this case, following the zodiac through the heavens, up from Taurus to Aries to Pisces to Aquarius).

In fact, I have previously outlined another very important Biblical Star Myth in which Andromeda plays the role of an intercepting angel: the story of Abraham and Isaac. In that story, Perseus plays Abraham about to sacrifice his son, and Andromeda is the angel who stays his hand and points the way to the substitute: the Ram of Aries (located below Andromeda). In fact, the artist who drew this image  included in that previous post does a very good job of depicting the characters as they are arranged in the sky -- Abraham standing with his arms out like Perseus, the angel flying in with outstretched arm in the location that Andromeda is found in the heavens, and the Ram trapped in the thicket just about where Aries is actually seen in the sky as well.

The fact that Andromeda plays an intercepting angel in another Biblical scripture is very strong confirmatory evidence that our interpretation of the Balaam story is on track.

Let's have a look at the analysis thus far:

All in all, the amount of details included in the scriptural account provide overwhelming evidence that the story of Balaam is a celestial allegory, and that it is specifically a celestial allegory involving the region of the heavens containing the constellations Perseus, Taurus, Andromeda, Pisces and the Great Square. To hold that all these celestial correspondences are "merely coincidental" and that the story is really supposed to be understood as a literal-historical account of someone named Balaam (who also happens to have a literal conversation with his donkey using spoken human language, when his foot is crushed because the animal sees an angel blocking the path) seems to be a very unlikely hypothesis at this point, because the texts themselves provide us with abundant evidence that they want to be read as celestial metaphor.

One more set of clues from the text is worth a brief mention, which is the construction of seven altars for seven burnt offerings, which Balaam requests to have built each time Balak takes him up to a high place. Of course, the number seven is fraught with many layers of significance and may be present in the story because of some other aspect of its numerical and symbolical import. However, a very strong argument can be made that the presence of seven altars in this story (a detail repeated over and over) is one more textual clue regarding the celestial origin of this episode.

Just beneath the twisted foot of the constellation Perseus can be found one of the most beautiful celestial formations in the heavens: the brilliant Pleiades. The importance of the Pleiades to cultures around the world is very well known, and has been explored in numerous previous posts on this blog over the years: see for instance

Much more could be written about the importance of the Pleiades in other cultures as well (such as across the Pacific Islands, from Hawai'i to Aotearoa).

The Pleiades is a dazzling cluster of bright and beautiful stars, unmistakeable once you know how to locate it in the sky. It is currently rising up above the eastern horizon in the hours after sunset, and just last weekend I was sitting on a beach in California with some good friends watching the Pleiades climb higher and higher above the horizon in some of the best star-gazing conditions I can remember seeing in a long, long time.

While the number of stars in the Pleiades cluster which can be visible to the naked eye under good conditions number far more than seven, the Pleiades in many myth-systems of the world are depicted as "Seven Sisters" or as related to the number seven (the brightest of the Pleiades are six in number, and sometimes there are stories about the "missing sister" as well, although as you can see from the NASA images and my own hand-drawn diagrams in the blog posts above, there are more than seven stars that you can probably identify for yourself in the Pleiades cluster).

Because of the strong connection between the Pleiades and the number seven, and because the Pleiades are located very near to Perseus (Balaam) and are in fact technically part of Taurus (the ass in the story), I believe it is very possible that the seven altars which are built in the Balaam story are a reference to the Pleiades.

This possibility gains further traction from the fact that we are told that the altars are the site of burnt offerings -- very appropriate for a cluster of glowing stars. 

Additionally, we are told that the burnt offerings are bulls and rams. Of course, the two zodiac constellations in this part of the sky are Taurus and Aries.

Below is our now-familiar diagram of the Perseus - Andromeda region of the sky, with a few final labels added to round out the details we've discovered in our analysis of this Star Myth:

With this many details, I believe we can make a very strong case to argue that the incident of Balaam and the Angel is entirely celestial in nature, and that its message is thus allegorical and not literal-historical.

But what does it all mean? That, of course, is open to interpretation, but previous posts have cited the assertion of Alvin Boyd Kuhn to the effect that the ancient myths are not

about fabulous kings, powerful warriors, or even enlightened sages and mystics, but are actually about the experience of each and every human soul in this incarnate life (see for instance herehere and here). In an important 1936 lecture entitled "The Stable and the Manger," Kuhn said:

The one actor in every portrayal, in every scene, is the human soul. The Bible is the drama of our history here and now; and it is not apprehended in its full force and applicability until every reader discerns himself [or herself] to be the central figure in it!

That means that we don't have to try to imagine an external literal-historical figure named Balaam having a conversation with his donkey -- the story is not really about anyone named Balaam at all! It is about each one of us. 

But we will not be able to figure out what it is trying to convey to us if we try to force the text to be about a literal-historical figure named Balaam. In fact, as we will see shortly, doing so risks inverting the esoteric message entirely.

To understand what I think the story of Balaam is intended to convey (or at least part of what it is intended to convey -- there is no doubt much more to this very deep metaphor, the depths of which each reader is invited to plumb on his or her own), we must understand that the specific part of the heavens which we have been examining in our analysis is very significant due to the sun's rising in the sign of Aries at the point of the spring equinox during the Age of Aries during which many ancient myths (and especially Biblical myths in the Hebrew scriptures) are set.

This is the point of "crossing upwards" into the upper half of the year, when hours of daylight begin to dominate again over hours of darkness, after the long winter months in which darkness dominated over day.

The constant interplay between the "lower half" and the "upper half" -- between the forces of "darkness" and the forces of "light" -- were anciently allegorized in myths around the world as a great struggle or battle. Previous examinations of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavad Gita, for instance, have discussed the evidence for this assertion, and the stories of the Trojan War in the Iliad as well as the crossing of the Red Sea in the Old Testament can be shown to relate to this same interplay.

But the myths are not "just" about the natural cycles of the year: they can be definitively shown to have used the great cycles to convey knowledge about spiritual truths. In other words, the myths use the most majestic physical models conceivable -- the mighty cycles of the heavens, the turning of the stars through the night, the progression of the zodiac signs and the planets through the year, the interplay of the seasons and the sun's path from equinox to solstice and back, the phases of the moon, and even the longer cycles of planetary conjunctions and the titanic precessional mechanism that grinds out the ages over the course of thousands and thousands of years -- in order to convey to our understanding truths about invisible matters.

In terms of the great zodiac wheel, at least on one level of metaphor, the upper half of the year is associated in myth with the invisible realm of spirit but also the spiritual and divine aspect in each and every incarnate human being, just as the lower half of the wheel is associated with our physical, material, animal, corporeal nature, into which we are plunged upon incarnation.

Much of the purpose of the myths of the world appears to have been to remind us that we are not merely physical, to awaken the spiritual within and point us towards the truth of our divine inner nature. Previous posts such as those linked above have connected this awakening of the "spiritual component" in ourselves, others, and in all the universe around us, with the concept of blessing

The opposite impulse, of course, denies the spiritual, seeks to degrade, debase, brutalize and otherwise reduce to the physical and the animal (which is why violence is so wrong, on any level). All forms of cursing can be seen to be connected to this opposite "physicalizing" and "brutalizing" impulse.

In the story of Balaam, the concept of blessing and cursing is clearly central to the narrative. In the allegory presented, Moab and her king Balak are representative of the lower half of the wheel, and the forces of darkness. The king, Balak, specifically wants cursing, and seeks to hire Balaam to do it.

The children of Israel in the metaphor are representative of the upper half of the wheel. In one part of the Biblical passage quoted, the text tells us that they "cover the face [literally the 'eye'] of the earth" (Numbers 22: 5). In other words, they are associated with the sun (the "eye of the earth") and with the half of the year in which the hours of daylight cover more and more of the hemisphere in question (the summer months, the upper side of the wheel).

The upper half of the year metaphorically represents the realm of spirit, and the re-establishment and re-affirming and uplifting of the divine present at all times in men and women (and in all of creation). It is  the same concept expressed by the raising-up of the Djed Column in ancient Egyptian myth-systems discussed in many previous posts and videos, such as here and here and here.

It should not have to be repeated at this point, but because literalism has so firmly entrenched itself in the cultural consciousness of the west for the past seventeen hundred years, it must be stressed that the children of Israel in this story do not represent historical or literal personages, any more than does Balaam (or, for that matter, King Midas). The text is a spiritual allegory. The children of Israel in this story represent a spiritual aspect of reality that is present in all of us -- not a group of literal or historical people (the allegorical understanding is inclusionary, not exclusionary as the literalistic understanding tends to be).

They (like the Danaans in the Trojan War) represent the upper half of the zodiac wheel, and allegorically the realm of spirit and the uplifting of the divine spark present in all human beings (and all nature as well). This is made clear in some of the "blessings" pronounced by Balaam in Numbers 22 - 24 (see for example the mention of the Lion in Numbers 23: 24, which is undoubtedly a reference to the sign of Leo, strongly associated with summer and the "upper half" of the zodiac wheel). None of us are literal descendants of any constellation -- but the idea of being descended from the stars conveys a an allegorical truth about our spiritual condition.

Moab and Balak represent the lower half of the wheel. The story is about spiritual matters, and not about historical and literal battles between different physical branches of the human family.

Thus, when Balaam is asked to curse the allegorical representatives of the divine spark, the invisible realm of spirit -- the very aspect of our dual human nature that we are supposed to be lifting up and calling forth -- he is being asked to deny the spiritual, the divine, and everything associated with the invisible realm.

Doing so would be to send the message that we are nothing but physical, animal, brutal beings, with no invisible, spiritual, divine component.

Of course, whenever Balaam gets in touch with the realm of spirit, with the realm of the divine, by going into a state of trance, he is strongly warned not to convey such a brutalizing, cursing message. He is instead given a message that raises up the spiritual -- and indeed a message that predicts the eventual and inevitable triumph of spirit over the brutal, the physical, the debasing and the degrading aspects of our physical incarnate condition.

Whenever Balaam is on the way to cooperate with the king of Moab, he is opposed by the angel, representative of the invisible realm (and indeed, invisible to Balaam until his eyes are opened). We watch as he grows more and more angry at his beast, more and more violent, more and more brutal, until his ass with her just questions appears to be at least as human as he is.

She is more in touch with the spiritual realm than he is, and she saves him from destruction even though he beats her for it.

Clearly, Balaam in this story is representative of our own human condition. And this helps us to understand one of the aspects of the scriptural passage which could give literalist readers major difficulties -- the fact that God told Balaam to go along with the messengers of the king of Moab, and then sent the angel to oppose Balaam (literalist interpreters often try to construe some kind of culpable motive to Balaam in his going along, even though he has just been told in a dream to do so).

If Balaam is representative of some aspect of our own soul's condition, here in this incarnate life, then our entry into incarnation is akin to "going into the kingdom of Moab" and it is ultimately for our own good and in thus in accordance with the divine will. In other words, we descend into this life from the realm of spirit for our own benefit. But our mission here is not to become brutal, not to become violent, not to become bestial, but rather to bless and to uplift and to reconnect with that upper half of our nature -- our spiritual and divine True Self.

When we understand this allegorical system, then the story begins to make sense in a way that it does not when we try to force a literal reading on the text. It is a story of hope and of the dignity and divinity inherent in each and every human being. We all are a combination of physical and spiritual, but we are told that the spirit will eventually and inevitably triumph, no matter how ugly the physical circumstances and situations may become, and no matter how our own spiritual blindness will often lead us to do stupid and even self-destructive things as we go up the path.

When we understand the story as esoteric and allegorical, then we see that it applies to each and every person, and that it teaches us to work to lift up the spiritual in ourselves and in others, and not to put them down.

But when it is taken as literal and historical, this message can become distorted, because when it is externalized then it can be mistakenly seen as a message which lifts up some groups and puts down others.

In fact, by externalizing the text, a literal reading can lead to some conclusions that are "180 degrees out" from the interpretation just offered. A "physical" message, so to speak, instead of a spiritual one.

But, when we see the clear and overwhelming evidence that the text describes the motions of the stars, it becomes clear that the literal and historical reading -- already very difficult to maintain in light of the incidents in this particular episode -- is almost certainly not the intended message of the ancient text.

The same exercise can be performed with virtually every single other story in the scriptures included in what we today refer to as "the Bible" (both the "Old" and "New" Testaments), and indeed with virtually every other myth and sacred story from around the world.

Leaving us with what I believe are several inescapable conclusions, among them:

that we are all connected,

that we are all primarily spiritual and that thus the external and physical should not be used to divide us from one another,

that we should pay attention to the invisible realm (as Balaam learned "the hard way" in the story, but as we ourselves also generally "learn the hard way" in this life),

that we should bless and not curse,

that we should lift up and otherwise draw forward the divine spark in others and, as much as possible, in the part of the cosmos that we can impact around us

(including by planting gardens, opposing degrading treatment of animals, and opposing the pollution of the air and land and waters around us),


that the side of uplifting will ultimately and inevitably win out, and that those who are on the side of cursing and debasing and brutalizing may seem to be powerful now but that in fact they are not.

Glorious Jupiter and Venus, and the Five-Husband Pattern in the Mahabharata and John 4

Glorious Jupiter and Venus, and the Five-Husband Pattern in the Mahabharata and John 4

image: Stellarium (

Observers of the night sky have for some time now been watching with great anticipation the steady approach of the planet Jupiter to dazzling Venus in the western sky during the hours after sunset. 

The two are now extremely close, just over one degree apart on June 28. As described in the always-helpful "This Week's Sky at a Glance," from Sky & Telescope, the two will be a mere 0.6 degrees apart on June 29, and reach their closest point on June 30 when they will close to 0.3 degrees before Jupiter passes on and continues on his way. (Note that these dates are based on the the date effective for an observer located in most of the western hemisphere and North America in particular, but if you are located in another part of the globe you should be able to easily find a site on the web that will tell you what the calendar date will be in your area when these passages take place).

In the image above, you can see Jupiter approaching Venus directly above the letter "W" that signifies the cardinal direction west. Jupiter is located higher in the sky and towards the "left" for an observer facing west in the northern hemisphere -- Jupiter has been approaching Venus from further east on the ecliptic path that both the planets generally follow: that is to say, from the direction of the star Regulus which is also marked on the diagram above and which is located in the zodiac constellation of Leo the Lion, the importance of which will be discussed a bit later.

It is not hard to imagine why the approach of one significant celestial body to another in this manner was frequently allegorized as a seduction or a sexual liaison in the world's mythologies. During the buildup to a previous "close approach" of Jupiter to Venus, back in 2012, I discussed the fact that Zeus (Jupiter) was described in ancient mythology as pursuing Aphrodite (Venus) but being rejected by her and not actually having direct sexual relations with her, and that this detail from the myths is no doubt derived from the fact that Jupiter always passes close to Venus but the two never actually conjoin in the sky.

One might wonder why Venus is very often depicted as a female goddess, while Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are depicted as male gods. I believe it has to do with the fact that as an interior planet -- with an orbit that is within the orbit of the earth, relative to the sun (Venus orbiting on a path closer to the sun than does the earth) -- an observer on earth must always look in the general direction of the sun in order to see Venus (if you are having trouble visualizing this, there are some outstanding diagrams on the excellent website of Nick Anthony Fiorenza, here, and some further discussion of the celestial mechanics of our observation of Venus in a previous blog post here).

What this means is that Venus will never be seen to be very far from either the western horizon that the sun has just disappeared beneath (when the sun sets and Venus is on the part of her orbit when she is seen in the west) or from the eastern horizon whence the sun is preparing to burst forth in the morning (when the sun is getting ready to rise and Venus is on the part of her orbit when she is seen in the east). In other words, Venus will always be "tethered" to the sun and thus will never be seen ranging across the middle of the sky at midnight: Venus will always be seen above either the western horizon or the eastern horizon, in fairly close company to the sun (currently, Venus is seen above the western horizon, after the sun sets).

On the other hand, the "outer planets" whose orbits are outside of the earth's orbit around the sun (they orbit at a distance from the sun greater than the distance of earth's orbit) can be seen to range across the entire night sky. They always follow the same general "track" of the ecliptic path ( the path that the sun also follows, as well as the moon, although the moon like the planets can deviate by a small number of degrees either above or below the ecliptic line that the sun follows), but along this track they can be seen across the entire width of the sky -- unlike the interior planets who are "tethered" to the sun.

This means that Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn can be seen crossing the middle of the sky at midnight, when an observer on earth is turned completely away from the sun. A planet in the middle of the sky at midnight can only be located outside the orbit of the earth (because an observer on earth looking into the center of the sky at midnight is looking out into the heavens in the opposite direction from the sun, which is on the other side of the earth at that time). So Venus can never be seen out in that direction (neither can Mercury, whose characteristics will be addressed in a moment).

Because of these mechanics, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn can all approach Venus from the center of the sky, as Jupiter is doing now, and when they do so, they resemble a man pursuing a woman, or advancing their cause with a woman to seek either marriage or an amorous liaison with her.

Of course we all know that it is also possible for a woman to pursue a man, and such pursuits are certainly portrayed in the ancient myths -- but when Jupiter is striding across the sky in a long, purposeful pursuit of the beautiful shining Venus, as he has been doing for some time now and getting closer every night, the ancients allegorized this behavior in mythology as the confident but amorous leader of the gods chasing after the goddess of beauty in order to have an affair with her.

As for Mercury, his orbit is even closer to the sun than that of Venus, and so he can only be seen under the same conditions that we see Venus, but "even more so." Tethered even more tightly to the sun, Mercury can only be observed above the eastern horizon just before the sun comes up, or above the western horizon just after the sun goes down, and the planet has an even more limited range above the horizon (and away from the sun) than does Venus. Thus, Mercury is usually seen being approached by Venus, rather than the other way around -- and so he is the one who is described in myth as being pursued by the love goddess.

Once we understand that it was very common for these close conjunctions of celestial bodies to be described in mythology as sexual affairs, we can perhaps unravel what seems to be a very important theme found in more than one myth across different cultures: the situation in which a woman is described as having five husbands.

In the Mahabharata, for instance, one of the two epic Sanskrit poems of ancient India (and which by itself is equal to about 7.2 times the combined length of the Iliad and the Odyssey), the five principle heroes of the story -- the Pandavas or "sons of Pandu" -- are actually the children of the two wives of Pandu but by five different gods or divinities.

Pandu's two wives are Kunti (also known as Pritha) and Madri. Because of an incident in which the glorious Pandu while out hunting thoughtlessly shot a stag while it was mating, which turned out to be no ordinary stag but rather a powerful rishi in the form of a stag, who before expiring told Pandu that he would meet his death the next time he approached one of his wives out of desire, Pandu took vows of strict austerity and abstinence. Therefore, in order to obtain children, Pandu instructed his wives to use a powerful mantra which could instantly summon the celestial powers, which they did.

Kunti first summoned the god of justice in his spiritual form, and from their union was born the eldest of the Pandavas, Yudhishthira. After that, she used her mantra to cause to appear the god of wind in his spiritual form, and from their union was born the mighty Bhima, who is also known as Vrikodara. Then, a third time, she used the mantra, and this time summoned Sakra, the king of the gods, and from their union was born the great hero Arjuna.

Then, Kunti told Madri the secret of the mantra, who used it to summon the divine Twins, known as the Ashvins, and from their union Madri herself had twins, whose names were Nakula and Sahadeva. The description of the births of Yudhishthira, Bhima, Arjuna, and the twins Nakula and Sahadeva can be found in Book I and sections 123 and 124.

Together, these five heroes were known as the Pandavas. The Mahabharata relates many stories of their adventures during their upbringing, and how they were versed in the Vedas and in all the martial arts as they grew up. Their tremendous prowess caused their cousins, the descendants of Pandu's brother Dhritarastra, to become very jealous of them, leading to intense rivalry and eventually to the battle of Kurukshetra, which forms some of the central action of the Mahabharata, the celestial and spiritual aspects of which have been discussed in the two preceding blog posts and accompanying videos: here  and here (with videos here and here).

Interestingly enough, when the mighty archer Arjuna won the hand of Draupadi, the Princess of Panchala and the most beautiful woman in the world, in a heroic test of his prowess designed by her father to test her many suitors, she becomes the common wife of all five of the brothers!

This situation arises because as they returned to the hut where Kunti was waiting for them, and called out to Kunti to see what they had won, she said (before they came into her view): "Enjoy ye all what hath been obtained," which leads them to decide to all share Draupadi (she appears to be amenable to this situation) but which is so directly contrary to custom and to the directives found in Vedic scripture that it leads to several discussions with leading human figures and with gods about whether or not such an arrangement can be proper, before it is finally decided that it is not usual but it can be condoned in certain situations (see Book I and sections 193 and following -- note that the Roman numerals used in the online version of the Mahabharata linked here are incorrect in this instance: the second "L" should be a "C," according to my analysis of the chapters and my understanding of the system).

However, as with so many other events described in the ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred stories, this is a situation which I believe has a celestial foundation and in no way reflects something that we should interpret literally -- any more than we should interpret literally the Old Testament stories about the rash vow of the reluctant general Jephthah, or about the two she-bears summoned by the prophet Elisha to rend the youths who taunted him.

To understand why this situation of Draupadi marrying all five Pandava brothers is almost certainly a celestial myth and not mean to be understood literally, first consider the fact that it seems to mirror very closely the five different divine fathers of the Pandavas themselves (although with two different women, Kunti and Madri, rather than with a single woman). What is it about five different "husbands" in mythology?

While we ponder that question, readers who are familiar with the scriptures of the Bible may be asking themselves whether there could be any relationship between these "five-husband" situations in the Mahabharata and the famous episode described in the New Testament book of John, chapter 4. There, Jesus is described as going through a city of Samaria, and coming to Jacob's well, and being wearied with his journey sitting down to rest at the well, where he encounters a woman of Samaria, and asking her for drink.

During the course of the conversation, he tells her to call her husband, and she tells him she has no husband, whereupon Jesus replies:

Thou hast well said, I have no husband:
For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband: in that saidst thou truly [John 4:17 - 18].

This passage has been the subject of much interpretation and debate amongst those who try to understand it as if it were describing a literal and historical event, but I believe that here again we are dealing with a celestial allegory. It is certainly remarkable to find a situation with five "husbands" in the New Testament scriptures which parallels so closely the "five-husband pattern" that we have just observed operating not once but twice in the stories contained in the Mahabharata of ancient India (which scholars believe to have been in existence in many of its central details by about 400 BC, and to  contain stories and episodes whose origin goes back many centuries earlier than that).

I believe that we can begin to unravel the celestial metaphor at work in these "five-husband" myths, based on the understanding of the pattern of sexual allegory observed in the approach of Jupiter to Venus with which we began this discussion, above, and which can also be seen operating in other ancient myths such as the Greek myth of the dalliance between Aphrodite and Ares described in the Odyssey, in which the rightful husband of Aphrodite, Hephaestus, springs a trap for his unfaithful wife -- and which the author's of Hamlet's Mill (basing their analysis on the work of previous researchers from the eighteenth century and even from ancient times) argue is an allegorization of a conjunction between the planets Venus and Jupiter in the vicinity of the Pleiades (which represent the shimmering net with which Hephaestus traps the adulterous couple).

Now, it is certainly possible to interpret the identity of the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 as being associated with the zodiac constellation of Virgo -- and indeed, I believe the story contains clues to make an identification with Virgo in this particular story a correct connection, as we will see in a moment.

However, I believe that the part of the story of the woman at the well in which we learn that she has "five husbands" comes from somewhere other than the sign or constellation of Virgo.

Seeing that the woman in many ancient myths is often related somehow to the sign and the constellation of Virgo, we might first try to use that knowledge to find the origin of the multiple husbands. We might ask ourselves, how would an identification with Virgo explain this persistent pattern of "five husbands" which we have observed in both the Mahabharata and the John 4 episodes?

What could there be in the heavens that add up to the number five and that somehow pursue Virgo in a way that could be allegorized in this way? Well, we know that there are five visible planets which an observer on earth can easily see with the naked eye: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. It could be that the "five husbands" represent the five visible planets, passing through the constellation Virgo at various times, and giving rise to these myths about one woman having five husbands -- but I do not believe that this is the correct interpretation, for a couple of reasons.

First, as we have already seen, out of the five visible planets, Venus and Mercury are "interior planets" and thus they stay closely "tethered" to the sun. Because of this fact, and because of the planet's brilliance and beauty in the sky, Venus is usually depicted as a female goddess, who is "pursued" by the outer planets. This would seem to disqualify Venus from being one of the "husbands" if we are trying to count the five visible planets as the five husbands.

More importantly, the interpretation of the "five-husband pattern" as being based upon the constellation Virgo being visited by the five different visible planets does not work very well as an interpretation of the myth of the birth of the five Pandavas by the two wives of Pandu, Kunti and Madri, because Madri is specifically described as calling upon the twin Ashvins using the mantra, and by union with these divine Twins she herself bears the twin Pandavas, Nakula and Sahadeva. The celestial Twins are associated not with two of the visible planets (none of which can really be described as a "twin" to any of the others), but rather with the constellation of Gemini, the Twins. Because the Twins of Gemini do not "make their way" across the sky to the constellation Virgo, it is likely that the solution to the "five-husband pattern" is something else.

I believe that in the case of the two wives of Pandu, Kunti and Madri, we are dealing with the two interior planets, Venus and Mercury -- with Kunti (the primary consort of Pandu) corresponding to Venus and Madri corresponding to Mercury. Additional evidence to support this interpretation is found in an episode related in Book I, section 125: after the birth of the five Pandavas, Pandu forgets his vows when he is overwhelmed by Madri's beauty as they are alone in a place of great natural beauty during the spring when all the trees are blossoming, and as he approaches her in his passion, he perishes because of the curse described above (from the time he shot the rishi, who had taken the shape of a stag).

Madri, stricken with grief, decides to immolate herself upon Pandu's funeral pyre. Again, I believe that this event is not to be taken literally, but rather that it describes quite well the behavior of the planet Mercury, which is very close to the sun and always seen near the sun (not far above the western horizon after sunset, or not far above the eastern horizon before the dawn). Mercury can only be seen by an observer on earth when its orbit takes it farthest out from the sun: during much of its orbit, Mercury is either in front of the sun or behind the sun, or too close to the sun on one side or the other to be seen by an observer from earth. To an observer on earth, Mercury is often "swallowed up" by the sun as its orbit takes it too close to the blazing orb to be seen by us.

I believe that in these myths, Pandu is the sun itself (and specifically the sun in the upper half of the zodiac wheel, as is Achilles in the Iliad), and his two wives Kunti and Madri are Venus and Mercury, respectively: the two planets closest to the sun, and always appearing in his close vicinity.

Who, then, can be the five husbands who become the divine fathers of the five Pandauvas? They cannot be the three remaining visible planets, which obviously do not add up to five, and who would not account for the fact that Madri has union with the divine Twins (and, as we have just observed with the planet Jupiter, its orbit does not bring it close enough to Venus to actually "consummate" the union: the two pass one another on either side of the ecliptic line).

The answer, I believe, lies in the detail of the Twins who are the divine progenitors of Nakula and Sahadeva: the five husbands are five bright stars along the ecliptic path, found in different zodiac constellations, whose location in the sky will cause them to pass close enough to Venus (or Mercury) to be envisioned as having a "sexual union" with them.

When one of the planets actually covers another celestial object (from the perspective of an observer on earth), this is known as "occultation" (similar to a solar eclipse, which uses the term "occultation" to describe the covering of the sun by the intervening moon). If Venus were to completely cover a bright first-magnitude star, for example, this would be referred to as "occulting" that star -- and it would create a situation that would allegorically resemble sexual union (even more than what will take place in the next few days between Jupiter and Venus).

It just so happens that there are three first-magnitude stars which are close enough to the path of the ecliptic to be occulted by the planets -- including by Venus. They are the stars

  • Regulus (in Leo the Lion, which is along the line created by Jupiter and Venus right now, and a little above and to the left of the two approaching planets, for observers in the northern hemisphere above the tropics), 
  • Antares (in the heart of the Scorpion), 
  • and Spica (the brightest star in Virgo).

I believe that these are the three celestial divinities who, in their spiritual forms, fathered the first three Pandavas by Kunti (producing Yudhishthira, Bhima, and Arjuna).

The other two bright stars in the zodiac close enough to the celestial equator to be contenders are in fact the two bright stars who form the heads of the Twins of Gemini: Pollux and Castor. However, they are not close enough to be occulted, although in the distant past it is likely that they were (due to the changing of the earth's obliquity over the millennia, and the motion of precession). In spite of the fact that they do not currently lie in a location that can allow them to be directly occulted, because the Mahabharata specifically states that Madri summoned the celestial Twins, it is almost certain that these two stars constitute the other two "husbands" and round out the five.

In the case of Draupadi, we no longer are dealing with "two wives of Pandu" but only "one wife of all five Pandauvas," and since she is described as being the most beautiful and the most dazzling woman on earth, she is almost certainly the brilliant planet Venus (Mercury is not part of this particular "five-husband metaphor"). But, she still takes as her husbands the three first-magnitude zodiac stars Regulus (probably Yudhishthira), Antares (probably Bhima) and Spica (probably Arjuna), plus the stars of the Twins: Pollux and Castor (Nakula and Sahadeva).

Here is a diagram of the night sky facing to the south for an observer in the northern hemisphere, showing Venus and Jupiter, as well as Regulus just to their "left" (or east of them), Pollux and Castor (to their "right" or west, not far from the glow of the sun which can be seen setting in the west), and further east the first-magnitude stars Spica and Antares:

Note that Spica and Antares are actually located "below" or south of the celestial equator, which is the "latitude line" of zero degrees that can be seen arcing between the letters "E" and "W" in the simulated celestial "globe" above. The "latitude line" (properly termed the "parallels of declination") above that celestial equator zero-line is the ten-degree parallel: stars located along it are said to have a "declination" of ten degrees north, or "plus-ten" degrees. The parallel of declination below (to the south) of the zero-line of the celestial equator is the minus-ten parallel. Stars along it have a declination of ten degrees south, or "minus-ten" degrees. Because the line of the ecliptic "yawns" above and below the celestial equator as we go throughout the year by as much as 23.4 degrees (due to the tilt of the earth's axial rotation, also called "the obliquity of the ecliptic"), the planets and the sun and moon (which basically follow the track of the ecliptic) can "occult" the stars north and south of the celestial equator.

Thus, it is my present belief that the "five-husband" pattern found in the Mahabharata and in the New Testament book of John with the Samaritan woman at the well can be understood as mythologizing the allegorical "unions" of the brilliant feminine planet Venus with the five stars Regulus, Antares, Spica, and the Twins of Gemini.

Trying to make sense of the Samaritan woman at the well when interpreted literally  rather than celestially causes some difficulties, as the perceptive analysis here (from someone who believes the story was intended to describe a literal-historical event) points out. That analysis first discusses the textual clue of Jesus arriving at the well "at about the sixth hour" (John 4:6). He argues that this means the time corresponding to what we would call six in the evening, not twelve noon as other literalist interpreters have tried to argue as part of their thesis that the woman must have been an outcast (due to the community's rejection of her having had five husbands).

How could she have obtained five husbands, if she was supposedly rejected by the community, this interpreter asks? And why would the community have listened to her after her encounter with Jesus? And, most importantly, if the whole community rejected her because of her five husbands, then the fact must have been common knowledge, and the fact that Jesus told it to her would not have been all that surprising, and would certainly not have led to her realization that he was the Messiah!

These kinds of literal analyses, however, are probably missing the point of the story as celestial allegory. While I believe that the "five-husband" pattern found in this New Testament story is a feature of ancient myth (as evidenced by its existence in the Mahabharata, from many hundred years BC), I believe that the "sixth hour" reference in this passage specifically refers to the constellation Virgo.

As already discussed at some length in the video about the goddess Durga, and the reason that Arjuna is urged by Lord Krishna to utter his hymn to Durga upon "the eve of battle," the zodiac sign of Virgo is located at the very "gateway" to the lower half of the zodiac wheel: metaphorically the half of the wheel associated with incarnation, where we undergo the endless interaction and struggle between the realms of matter and spirit, and the half of the wheel allegorized as the underworld, as well as with the ocean (and with water, one of the two "lower elements," along with earth).

Hence, the "woman at the well" -- at the edge of the lower element of water -- would correspond nicely with the sign of Virgo: and the fact that Virgo is the SIXTH sign of the zodiac during the Age of Aries (as counted from Aries, the first sign after the "upward crossing" at the spring equinox, the beginning of the sacred year in many ancient cultures) makes the connection between the woman at the well and the zodiac sign of Virgo almost a certainty.

We are also told specifically in the New Testament passage that the Samaritan woman "left her water pot, and went her way into the city" in John 4:28. This is another detail which helps connect her with Virgo -- because right besides Virgo in the heavens is the sinuous form of Hydra, the Serpent, who carries on his back the constellations of Corvus the Crow (a bright little constellation very close to Virgo, and always staring at her brightest star Spica, in fact) and Crater the Cup -- which is also near to Virgo and which can certainly be said to resemble a "water pot," thus accounting for this detail in the text.

Now, the reader may be wondering at this point, "But what does all this mean?"

I believe, in fact, that the meaning of these Star Myths is quite profound, and that the message they are intended to convey is extremely helpful to us in our daily lives -- even extremely practical. Some aspects of that message are discussed in the previous posts and videos linked already (in the discussions of the Bhagavad Gita and of the Hymn to Durga, both found in the Mahabharata). See also the discussion and metaphor found in the post just prior to those, entitled "Self, the senses, and the mind."

Those previous discussions, of aspects of the Mahabharata, explained that these Star Myths may well be intended to convey the knowledge that we have access -- immediately and at all times -- to what we might call "the infinite" or "the absolute" or "the unbounded" (and which cannot in fact be defined, because the very act of "defining" something means to draw a boundary around it), and that this access to the infinite is found within us.

I believe that we can see this message being conveyed again in the mythical birth of each of the Pandavas, in which Kunti and Madri are depicted as uttering a powerful mantra which has the ability to immediately summon a divine celestial power. If reciting a mantra can summon divinity, and if that divinity actually appears immediately, then these are two clues to point us towards the possible conclusion that the divinity is actually within us, all along.

But we can also, I believe, see the same message being conveyed in the story of the woman at the well. There, Jesus says to the woman that if she would ask, he would have given her "living water." This water, he says, is such that whosoever drinketh of it shall never thirst: "but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14).

Note that this water is described as being "everlasting" -- it is, in fact, infinite. It has no ending, and thus no "boundary" in at least one direction.

Secondly, note that the promised water is found "within" the one who is given it. The contact with the infinite, in other words, is somehow inside of us.

And, just like the story of Kunti and Madri, all we actually have to do in order to obtain this intimate union with the infinite, is ask.

When they ask, the divine powers appear immediately.

In the teaching of John chapter four, the infinite well of living water is obtained in a similar fashion: by simply asking -- because we are already in contact with the infinite.

Ultimately, these stories are not just there to entertain us: they have a very powerful message, and one that can actually transform our lives.

This gives us plenty to meditate upon, as we watch the beautiful near-conjunction of Venus and Jupiter taking place in the celestial realms this week.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The Djed Column everyday: Tantra and Fong Zhong Shu

The Djed Column everyday: Tantra and Fong Zhong Shu

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

If all the world's sacred scriptures and mythology actually consist of stories in which the motions of the celestial spheres take on the personalities of men, women, gods, goddesses, angels, demons, monsters, djinn, and other mystical creatures (and they most certainly do), then we are left with a very important question:


I believe the answer certainly includes as a central feature the profound teaching embodied in the Great Cross of the Year, formed by the solstices and equinoxes, and associated with the concept symbolized in ancient Egypt by the "casting down" of the Djed column of Osiris and the subsequent "raising-up again" of the same: an esoteric concept which depicts the entire nature of human existence as a divine soul thrown down into incarnation, while voyaging through, reflecting and in some mysterious way embodying the infinite universe at the same time -- a universe which is itself composed of both a visible realm and an even more important and subtle invisible realm.

Recent posts and videos which have attempted to outline this critically-important central teaching (found, I believe, in virtually all of the world's sacred traditions in varying depictions and disguises) include: 

and many others.

Those discussions presented evidence that the concept of "raising the Djed" conveys a powerful message regarding the long process of our realization of the infinite divine sleeping within ourselves and indeed within every atom of the living universe around us, a process which takes place during the entire cycle of our earthly existence and perhaps over the course of many successive "existences" -- but it is also (we saw) a message which appears to urge upon us the practice of "raising the Djed" every single day, through the practice of blessing, through the recognition and elevation of the divine in ourselves and others, and through the special form of spiritual elevation leading to the state of ecstasy or ecstatic trance, in which our perception actually transcends the physical body and makes contact with the invisible world (for more on ecstasy and trance-conditions see also herehere and here, among many other previous posts).

And, while the entry into the ecstatic state is perhaps the most intense and most transcendent of the forms of recognizing and reconnecting with and calling forth and raising up the infinite divine spiritual realm which is always present, around us and within us, we have also seen evidence that in addition to incorporating techniques of ecstasy into our lives on a regular basis, we can also practice other forms of "raising the Djed" into our lives as well, even when we are not in the ecstatic state (since it is not possible to exist in a state of ecstasy at all times). It seems likely that consciously incorporating more than one of these into our lives is quite possible and probably beneficial -- and that they are not at all "mutually exclusive" (incorporating one does not require that we renounce all the others, although there is obviously a limit to how many we can choose to really pursue seriously).

In order to simply provide a very cursory pointer towards some practices which have been developed in different cultures from very ancient times, for those who may wish to learn more about them on their own, I started a short "mini-series" of posts discussing a few such practices which seem to fit into the general category of "raising the Djed." The first one we mentioned briefly was the practice commonly called qigong or chi gung, which clearly involves contact with "the invisible" in some way (the "invisible within," the "invisible without," or both), and which enables its practitioners to directly and tangibly experience the fact that we are made of more than just physical substance.

The goal of this little mini-series is not to try to teach these practices, or even to point to specific teachers or resources where people can learn more about these practices, but rather to simply make people aware of the existence of these many different disciplines which fit into the general category of "raising the Djed" and which some readers may find very beneficial if they choose to pursue them. Many of these practices, while extremely ancient, are not well known in "the west" -- that is to say, in the parts of the world in which the ancient esoteric knowledge was largely replaced by a literalistic rather than esoteric understanding of the ancient sacred stories and myths.

Another discipline which clearly falls into this same category is the practice of techniques known in some cultures (especially India and Tibet) as maithuna and usually known in China and Taoism (or Daoism) as fong zhong shu or 

房 中 術

The above calligraphy shows traditional characters, but in simplified characters the final character above is changed to 术 (which is present in the middle of the traditional version of that character) and so the same phrase would be rendered as

房 中术

In either case, the three symbols stand for "bedroom - within - skill" (pronounced fong zhong shuin Mandarin and fohng jung seuht in Cantonese) and are usually rendered into English using the phrases "bedroom arts" or "art of the bedchamber" and corresponding very generally to what is often referred to in the west as "Tantra" (although apparently that word actually encompasses a much wider landscape of transformative disciplines involving meditation, mantras, mandalas, visualization, and other practices in addition to what most people in the west today envision when they think of Tantra).

In general, these related arts involve transformation through sexual ritual, a practice which can be seen to have been highly developed in ancient China, ancient Japan, ancient India, ancient Tibet, and many other cultures around the world, including some Native American cultures. There is some evidence that the spiritual potential of this aspect of human existence was also developed in "western" cultures in various forms prior to being largely rejected or suppressed with the advent of literalist Christianity.

Although still perhaps not so very widely known, excellent books on Taoist fong zhong shu have been available in English for many years, including the work of Daniel P. Reid and Mantak Chia, among others. 

Additionally, some of the ancient Chinese texts that traditionally formed the foundation for the preservation and development of the knowledge of fong zhong shu have survived in varying degrees of completeness.  

Of these, perhaps the most important, and almost certainly the most often-cited and well known is the Su Nu Jing, or 素女經.

The title is often translated as "Classic of the Plain Girl," but the three characters actually stand for "natural-colored [often used to describe natural-colored or undyed silk]" - "woman" - "classic or canonical text" and because the first word can also mean "plain" as in "unspotted" or "without markings" or simply "white, pure, or undyed," the same title is also sometimes translated as the  Classic of the "Immaculate Woman" or the "Pure Woman."

This figure appears in some aspects to be a goddess or divine figure, who is in some cases associated with grain and hence may connect to the celestial figure of Virgo (this would not be a surprise). Interestingly enough, this would also connect her to the Greek goddess Demeter, whom Plutarch uses as part of his powerful argument against the consumption of animals for food, and the same word and symbol sometimes translated "Plain" that is used to describe her in China is can also be used to mean "vegetarian." She is sometimes depicted as giving instruction to the Yellow Emperor or Huangdi (sometimes spelled Huang Ti), whom Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana identify as a Saturnian figure in Hamlet's Mill.

So, Su Nu Jing means "Pure-Undyed-Silk Woman Classic" in Mandarin, and would be pronounced Seuh Neuih Ching in Cantonese, and the last word in the title (Jing or Ching) is the same word found in the title of the Tao Te Ching. It is certainly at least as old as the Sui Dynasty (AD 590 - AD 618) and may be even older, perhaps originating in the Han Dynasty (221 BC - 207 BC) -- and the knowledge it contains may of course have come from an even earlier source.

As explained in Sexual Life in Ancient China: A Preliminary Survey of Chinese Sex and Society circa 1500 BC till 1644 AD, by R. H. Van Gulik (1961), no complete original text of the Su Nu Jing nor of several other ancient Taoist fong zhong shu texts has survived. However, much of the text of the Su Nu Jing was preserved in a different text that quotes large portions of it, which is called the Tung-hsuan-tzu and which may have been written by the scholar Li Tung Hsuan in the 7th century AD.

The text of the Tung-hsuan-tzu begins as follows (as translated in 1961, when conventions were slightly different than they are today -- the modern reader may wish to mentally substitute "humanity" for the general "man," which in previous decades was generally used to mean all of humanity and not specifically men to the exclusion of women; they also seem to have been more tolerant of what is sometimes today called a "comma splice"):

Master Tung-hsuan said: Of all the ten thousand things created by Heaven, man is the most precious. Of all the things that make man prosper none can be compared to sexual intercourse. It is modeled after Heaven and takes its pattern by Earth, it regulates Yin and rules Yang. Those who understand its significance can nurture their nature and prolong their years; those who miss its true meaning will harm themselves and die before their time. 135.

This introduction is extremely significant, and author R. H. Van Gulik notes that most of the more ancient Taoist sexual texts also begin with an expression of the cosmological aspect of human sexuality, which was seen to "model Heaven and [. . .] Earth."

Later, we reach a portion of the text in which the Su Nu Jing is quoted extensively. In the introductory chapter, entitled "The Supreme Significance of the Sexual Act," the Plain Girl declares that in sex:

Woman is superior to man in the same respect as water is superior to fire. [. . .] The union of man and woman is like the mating of Heaven and Earth. It is because of their correct mating that Heaven and Earth last forever. Man, however, has lost this secret, therefore his age has gradually decreased. If a man could learn to stop this decline of his power and how to avoid ills by the art of Yin and Yang, he will attain immortality. 135 - 136.

Here we again see the explicit "macrocosm-microcosm" understanding that the motions of men and women on earth mirror the motions of the great cycles of the heavenly objects, and also mirror the motions of the earth which contribute to our interaction with the celestial mechanics in the heavens above. We are also introduced to one of the central concepts in Taoist fong zhong shu and related disciplines, which is the inherent superiority of the woman to the man, in that she is already capable of multiple, progressive, and basically unlimited orgasms (leading to the raising of chi, prana, or the kundalini, and ultimately to ecstasy), while the man must learn to achieve this capability and does not usually obtain it without the cultivation of fong zhong shu, primarily through the ability to separate orgasm and ejaculation and achieve multiple orgasms without ejaculation. 

Without going any further into the specifics of that subject, which interested readers can pursue for themselves, it is worth noting that in this ancient text, the Natural-Silk Woman or Immaculate Goddess uses the expression "as water is superior to fire." This phrase is loaded with esoteric symbolism, as we have explored previously in the post entitled "Fire and Water," where we saw that the concept of fire plunging into water is an esoteric metaphor for the process of incarnation itself, by which the divine spark of spirit is plunged into and submerged within the physical material realm and a physical material body.

Because of this understanding, we can then gain a better appreciation for the insistence in these ancient texts that human sexuality itself somehow "models Heaven and Earth" and becomes an esoteric symbol for our incarnation itself . . . and for our ability to be spiritually transformed and elevated by our experience in a physical body, an experience which ultimately leads to transcendence of the physical nature. 

Rather than being extinguished by and completely subsumed within the material nature in which we find ourselves, our task is to hold on to the spiritual, call it forth from within this physical world, and ultimately to transform both matter and spirit together -- "raising the Djed." It can readily be perceived that the arts that are often referred to as Tantric are esoterically and experientially involved in just this very purpose as well. 

Just as the myths themselves "bring the stars down to earth" by depicting the sun, moon, stars and planets as human beings and as gods and goddesses walking among humanity, rituals which we undertake that mirror and embody the motions of the heavens and the earth (as the Plain Silk Girl tells us that fong zhong shu most certainly does) connect us to the motions of the universe, and "bring the heavenly motions" down into the human realm, the microcosm reflecting and embodying the macrocosm of the infinite cosmos.

Finally, it is worth noting that here that, as in so many other places where the esoteric ancient wisdom has somehow been subverted, a practice and a body of knowledge which is clearly intended for the elevation and liberation and positive transformation of individual men and women has instead been turned too often into a negative force for degradation, dehumanization, oppression, and powerful feelings of shame, hurt, and alienation. 

The fact that, as we are told by the Immaculate Woman, in the bedroom "the woman is superior to the man as water is superior to fire" can lead to tremendous insecurity and resentment on both sides, when these ancient practices are not known and understood -- but when they are understood and put into practice, they can lead to tremendous security and empowerment for everyone involved.

This subject provides yet another example of how vitally important it is to understand what the ancient texts and the ancient treasures which were entrusted to humanity are actually trying to tell us, and how we can learn to incorporate them into our lives on a very practical level -- and what a great tragedy it is that this ancient inheritance imparted to the human race has somehow so often been turned completely upside down.

The Djed Column every day: Earendil

The Djed Column every day: Earendil

Orion rising on the eastern horizon (left), crossing the center of the southern sky (center, directly over the letter "S"), and sinking down into the west (right). (Click to enlarge). Planetarium app:

In the previous post, we took what appeared to be a quick break from the discussion in the preceding posts regarding one of the central foundational themes of all the world's ancient myths: the dual physical-spiritual nature of human existence and indeed the dual physical-spiritual nature of the world / universe / cosmos in which we find ourselves, embodied in the great annual cross of the solstices and equinoxes, and in the "casting down" and "raising-up" of the Djed column of Osiris in ancient Egyptian symbology.

Previous posts explored evidence of that cycle operating in the Easter cycle in the New Testament, beginning with the scenes of the Triumphal Entry, followed by the descent that takes place beginning with the Last Supper through the Crucifixion and ultimately the Resurrection or Anastasis (a word which literally means "standing again"). 

Included in the examination was a video entitled "The Zodiac Wheel and the Human Soul" which attempts to illustrate some of the connections between the celestial mechanics involved in this worldwide mythological metaphor and the spiritual message that I believe it was intended to convey.

During that extended discussion, the assertion was made that this great foundational cycle was intended not only to explain important aspects of the "big picture" of our incarnation in this body (throwing light on central issues concerned with "the very meaning of life," if you will), but alsoto illuminate the importance of connecting with this cycle within the "shorter cycles" of our life here in this incarnate existence -- in fact, something we can and perhaps should be connecting with every single day, and maybe even throughout our waking and sleeping travels within each day!

One way that ancient sacred traditions around the world reminded themselves of the reality and immediacy of the invisible, divine, spiritual world that is present at all times in every single being and that in fact infuses and animates everything within the visible universe was certainly through the practice of what Mircea Eliade called "techniques of ecstasy" and which other researchers including Gerald Massey called "trance conditions" -- the practice of actually making contact with or entering into the invisible world, of projecting one's consciousness into the other realm. 

There is plenty of evidence that the scriptures that made their way into what we call "The Bible" are no exception (see for instance the previous post entitled "The Bible is essentially shamanic").

And, it is certainly possible to practice such techniques on a regular basis -- even every day. I initially began a "mini-series" exploring some of the methods which cultures around the world have used to enter into such a state, entitled "Ecstasy every day." However, it is not really practical to remain in such a state at all times. Therefore, I have decided that it is actually more appropriate to make a distinction between the concept of what can be called "raising the Djed" (of recognizing and remembering and elevating and evoking the spiritual aspect in ourselves and the world around us) and the practice of entering into "trance" or "ecstasy" itself (which is, in some sense, temporarily "crossing over" the condition of stasis into the realm of the spiritual to a greater or lesser degree). 

Both are important, but it may be that the condition of "ecstasy" is a special form of "raising the Djed," and that the broader concept of raising the Djed can be practiced more often -- even "all the time," while entering into a trance or ecstatic state cannot.

Therefore, I've decided to re-imagine that "Ecstasy every day" title to be a little more "broad" and examine "the Djed every day" instead. The first installment of that examination touched on the practice of qigong (or chi gung).

After that first installment, we took what seemed at the time to be a "quick detour" to explore the wonderful perspectives offered by The Lord of the Rings and the music of The Lord of the Rings. 

But as it turns out, upon further reflection, it wasn't a detour at all, because it can be satisfactorily demonstrated that the same fundamental theme is absolutely operating within Tolkien's story, on multiple levels -- which is not surprising, given the fact that J.R.R. Tolkien himself had a deep connection to ancient myth and was one of the most knowledgeable scholars in the world on certain families of mythology during his lifetime.

In fact, Tolkien's work provides a beautiful window which leads right in to the discussion of the vital importance of the Djed concept.

As some readers are already aware, the Djed column in ancient Egypt was associated with the god Osiris: it was known as the "backbone of Osiris" and the symbol of the Djed column itself was usually depicted with horizontal segments resembling "vertebrae" in a backbone (see for instance the images of the Djed from the Papyrus of Ani discussed here). 

In some ancient Egyptian art portraying episodes from the story of the murder of Osiris by Set and the recovery of the tamarisk tree containing his casket by Isis, such as the imagery discussed in this previous post, the tree with the casket is depicted as a Djed. The Djed column, in other words, was understood as a symbol of Osiris.

Readers are probably also aware that Osiris was strongly associated with the constellation Orion -- the constellation in the night sky with the highest ratio of bright stars to total stars, and one of the most-recognizable figures in the heavens, making it a fitting representation of the "lord of the underworld," if the heavenly realm is seen as a symbol of the incorporeal realms. The glorious nearby star Sirius, the brightest of all the fixed stars, was associated with Isis.

Once we understand that the Djed is symbolically associated with Osiris, and that Osiris is associated with Orion, then we can more readily understand that the motion of the constellation Orion itself illustrates the great theme of the casting down and the raising back up of the Djed. 

In his nightly motion, Orion can be seen rising in the east and tracing an arc across the sky prior to sinking back down into the west, just as the sun does during the day. During different times of year, of course, Orion rises at a different time due to the progress of the earth in its orbit, which means that at some parts of the year he is already far across the sky by the time the sun goes down (as he is now), but just considering his motion in general we can see how he embodies the casting down and the raising up of the Djed.

When Orion is first rising on the horizon, he appears in a nearly horizontal position, as can be seen in the image at the top of this post (in which the view is from the perspective of an observer in the northern hemisphere at about latitude 35 north, similar to the latitude of Egypt and the Mediterranean, and looking towards the south, with due south in the center, the eastern horizon to the left, and the western horizon to the right). As he arcs upwards into the heavens he becomes vertical. Then, as he sinks back down towards the western horizon he becomes horizontal again.

In the image above, the stars of Orion are shown in all three locations: rising in the east, vertical in the center of the sky at the high point of their arc across the heavens, and then sinking down into the west and becoming horizontal again. Readers who are able can go out this very evening after sunset and see the stars of Orion with his distinctive three-star belt sinking down towards the west.

Below, the same image is reproduced, but this time imagery of Osiris has been added, illustrating the way that the stars of Orion himself portray the "casting down" of the Djed (particularly as Orion sinks down into the west) as well as the subsequent "raising back up" (or Anastasis) of the god -- and a vertical Djed column is depicted directly above Orion's head in the central position:

To add further support, if any is needed, to the argument that the nightly motion of Orion was anciently associated with the casting-down of Osiris and the Djed and with the subsequent raising back up of the same, there are many examples of sacred art in ancient Egypt which actually depicts Osiris lying "cast down" on his funeral bier in the same striding posture that typifies the stars of Orion -- see for example here.

Since no one can, as a practical matter, stride around anywhere while lying upon a bier, and since the ancient Egyptians obviously knew that just as well as we do, the fact that they sometimes depicted Osiris in a horizontal position but with his feet apart as if walking purposefully forward is a major clue that these drawings depict the constellation Orion as he looks when he is near either of the two horizons: horizontal rather than upright, but still in the characteristic "striding" posture that Orion always has, whether he is straight up or lying down.

Below is one more set of images I've prepared in order to illustrate the identification of Orion with the celestial Osiris, and with the casting down and raising up of the Djed.

First, a closer "zoom" of the constellation as it appears on the horizon, to show that Orion really does look "horizontal" when he is near the horizons (the images above de-emphasize this fact, because of the fact that they "wrap" the horizon like a planetarium, and so the horizon itself on the left edge and right edge or east and west of the image, as well as constellations parallel to the horizons on the left and right sides of the images above, appear more "vertical" and upright in those images than they do along the actual horizon outside):

In the above image, you can see that Orion really does look as if he is lying on his funeral bier when he is located at the eastern horizon (rising), and the same is true after he crosses the sky and begins to sink back down into the western horizon (setting).

If we superimpose the outline of the "striding Osiris" on a bier as he is depicted in the Dendera Temple relief linked previously, we can see how this celestial figure represents the Djed of Osiris "cast down" (but preparing to rise again):

Below is another version of the "Orion in three positions" crossing the night sky, this time with the horizons left more "flat" (without the "planetarium wrapping effect"):

(Click to enlarge).

And one more time, with the outlines of Osiris added, to assist in locating the constellation Orion for those less familiar, as well as to illustrate the way Orion's motion embodies the "Djed cast down" and "Djed raised back up."

Now, to bring in the Tolkien connection to this subject, we must delve into the mythological traditions discussed by Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend in their landmark examination of the celestial foundations of the world's myths, Hamlet's Mill (first published in 1969). There, they cite previous generations of scholars who demonstrate that the myths upon which Shakespeare's Hamlet are based, in which a king is murdered by his brother and must be avenged by his son, existed in northern Europe going back many centuries before Shakespeare, and that in the 12th century version discussed by Saxo Grammaticus, Hamlet's father's name is Horwendil. This same mythical figure also appears in the Eddas and in other myths, under names that are vary slightly but can clearly be seen to be linguistically related, as Orwandel, Orendel, Erentel, Erendel, Horvandillus, Horwendil, Oervandill, Orvandil, and Aurvadil (see Hamlet's Millpages 12, 87, 95, 155, and especially Appendix 2; an online version of the text is available here).

But the mythological pattern of the Hamlet myth goes back even further, as de Santillana and von Dechend demonstrate: in fact, it is clearly the exact same pattern as the Osiris myth, in which the rightful king  (Osiris) is killed by his malevolent brother (Set) and must be avenged by his son (Horus). Von Dechend and de Santillana demonstrate convincingly (with citations and references to numerous scholars of previous generations) that Orvandil the father of Hamlet represents a manifestation in mythology of the mighty archer in the sky, Orion, in the same way that Osiris does in the sacred traditions of ancient Egypt.

And, as some readers have perhaps already deduced, the name of this lost father of Hamlet -- Orvandil or Erendel -- is very close to the name of Earendil in the saga of The Lord of the Rings. In fact, there is abundant evidence that Tolkien imported this name directly from Old English, where it is found in a poem by Cynewulf, and a poem that Tolkien the premier scholar of Old English had commented upon as a personal favorite as early as 1913, forty years before the publication of the Ring story.

Specifically, Earendil is the spelling that Tolkien used for the very similar name Earendel, which is found in line 104 of Cynewulf's Christ part I (it is a poem which, like The Lord of the Rings itself, is broken into three parts). You can see it for yourself in the Old English on page 5 of the "poem" portion (after the lengthy "Introduction" portion) of this online version of Cynewulf's poem, which is actually page 115 of the online file (use the "slider" at the bottom of the "two-up" version and go to page 114 out of 421, which shows you pages 114 and 115 of the file). 

There, we read:

104 Eala Earendel, engla beorhtast
105 Ofer middengeard monnum sended

which is translated in Hamlet's Mill as follows:

"Hail, Earendel, brightest of angels, thou
sent unto men upon this Middle Earth . . ." (355).

and which is actually part of an extended section of the poem praising the Christ using many epithets. What is most interesting is that the Old English poet Cynewulf (who lived in either the 8th, 9th, or 10th century AD, depending on which scholarly argument you accept) is here clearly associating the Christ with the celestial figure of Orion, whether Cynewulf knew it or not (and one should not assume that poets of previous centuries knew less about these esoteric subjects than is known today -- in all likelihood, they knew much more).

Cynewulf is thus associating the Christ with a figure who is cast down and who rises again, and we have already seen from previous discussions, including some of those linked in the second paragraph from the start of this essay, that the Christ of the New Testament can be shown to have very clear Osirian parallels.

That Earendel in the poem is also a starry figure is fairly clear from the context -- and in fact this portion of the poem is translated by Charles W. Kennedy on the top of page 4 of the year 2000 translation available online here in unmistakably celestial terms, as follows:

Hail Day-Star! Brightest angel sent to man throughout the earth, and Thou steadfast splendor of the sun, bright above stars! Ever Thou dost illumine with Thy light the time of every season.

In The Lord of the Rings, Earendil is the ancient High Elven king who carried the light of the morning star on his brow to Middle Earth in the high and far-off times. This star is the most beloved star of the Elves, and a portion of its light is given to Frodo to help him in his quest, in the Phial of Galadriel. 

Earendil is also the father of Elrond the Half-Elven, which is extremely intriguing, and makes Elrond something of a Hamlet figure. And indeed, in the story, Elrond is a figure who is often shown as somewhat conflicted, able to see the future but in a way that nearly drives him to despair. He is also shown as bringing his daughter to tears by his harsh words, in much the same way that Hamlet in the Hamlet story drives Ophelia to tears (and worse).

Eventually, Elrond declares that the time of his people is over, and they must disappear into the west (which is exactly what Orion the celestial Earendil does as he sinks down into the western horizon).

So, we see that The Lord of the Rings appears to contain a reflection of the great Osirian cycle of the god who comes down to dwell among humanity (Osiris and other Osirian figures throughout mythology including Saturn, Prometheus, Quetzlcoatl, Kon-Tiki, and others are usually benevolent, civilizing figures credited with teaching men and women how to cultivate grain and in some cases how to stop eating one another) and who then disappears, often into the sea or into a cave beneath the ocean.

And, as has been argued in numerous previous posts, this moving story -- which is found in various forms in myths literally around the globe -- has an incredibly hopeful and uplifting message for us as human beings, in that it speaks not only of our "casting down" but also of our eventual "standing up again," and that it also conveys to us the message that within this life we should be going about the business of remembering who we are, and of recognizing that the visible and physical and material realities with which we are daily confronted are not the only reality or even the highest reality, that there is an invisible and spiritual reality within each and every one of us and that in fact interpenetrates every single molecule and sub-atomic particle of the universe around us, and that we can and should be actively engaged in "raising up" and bringing forward that positive spiritual reality within ourselves and within the rest of creation.

There are many, many ways that we can do this every day -- some of which involve the ecstatic state, and others which may not.

Previous posts have mentioned the practice of blessing and not cursing, the practice of aligning with and not contending with the flow of the universe (or the Tao), the practice of nonviolence on the many levels upon which that concept can be applied, and many more which each can be incorporated into daily life -- all of them related to the concept of "raising back up" as opposed to "casting down" (as opposed, that is, to degrading, debasing, objectifying, cursing, dehumanizing, and brutalizing).

Clearly, Tolkien was aware of this concept on some very deep level, and incorporated it into his beloved literary masterpiece.

Perhaps seeing these connections will cast additional light on the subject for all of us, and help us as well, in our own journey through this Middle Earth.


Below is a short video I made showing the path of Orion across the sky and the connection to Osiris and the Djed, as a supplement to the illustrations included in this post. 

Also, here is a link to a previous post from all the way back in 2011 that discusses Tolkien, Orion, and Earendil.



image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The preceding post examined evidence found in the treatise on the Therapeutae, written by Philo of Alexandria sometime prior to AD 40 or 50, which suggests that -- in addition to pursuing an ascetic lifestyle characterized by a vegetarian diet, daily intermittent fasting, regular periods of longer fasting, long periods of meditation and prayer, simplicity of dress, lack of material possessions, and participation in a community of others who practiced the same lifestyle -- the Therapeutae studied ancient sacred writings with an eye to their esoteric content and message, and that at least some of the Therapeutae were able to enter a state of ecstatic trance in which they spoke messages which came from the realm of non-ordinary reality.

In that post, we also examined the arguments of Gerald Massey (1828 - 1907) regarding the importance of the many similarities between the ancient descriptions of the beliefs and practices of ascetic communities such as the Therapeutae and the doctrines described in many of the New Testament texts. 

Massey points out that early literalist Christian authorities such as Eusebius (c. AD 260 - c. AD 340) would sometimes try to argue that these similarities are evidence that the Therapeutae were very early communities of literalist Christians, but that in doing so those writers make a revealing error, because in doing so:

  • these writers admit the undeniable similarities between elements of the Therapeutae descriptions and the sayings attributed to Christ or taught in the New Testament Epistles, but that . . .
  • because the Therapeutae and other such communities -- and their teachings -- were in existence long before the time of the New Testament, this shows that they are part of a stream which is far more ancient, and which thus refutes the historical framework advanced by literalist polemicists such as Eusebius.

In other words, one way of expressing this thesis would be to say that surviving descriptions of ancient communities such as the Therapeutae contain evidence that places these ancient communities squarely within the current of the rest of the world's ancient wisdom traditions -- traditions which can also be shown to be founded upon esoteric sacred texts or mythologies, and to be founded upon a worldview which included ecstatic trance and which can be described as essentially shamanic -- but that the literalist-historicist system advanced by Eusebius and others during the subsequent centuries rejected both the esoteric and shamanic aspects and consciously and deliberately cut itself off from that same current of the world's ancient knowledge.  

Rather than representing a new and different teaching, the texts of the New Testament can be shown to be based upon the same system of celestial metaphor common to the rest of the world's sacred traditions, and to contain clear parallels to other systems of myth going back thousands of years (some previous posts discussing aspects of this evidence include "The shamanic foundation of the world's ancient wisdom," "Namaste and Amen," "Epiphany: revealing the hidden divine nature," "The Angel Gabriel," and many others). 

And, rather than representing an early example of a new Christian faith built upon a literal and historicist interpretation of these ancient scriptures, communities such as the Therapeutae can be shown to be part of a very ancient wisdom tradition, and one with strong parallels literally around the world. In other words, it fits into a stream which appears to connect humanity both across the distances of time and of space: one which not only flows back across time through millennia, but one which also appears to flow across vast stretches of geographical space, across continents and seemingly very different cultures.

And, when the literalists self-consciously cut themselves off from this stream, it can be said that they also in a way cut themselves off from a deep connection to the universe, insofar as their insistence on approaching the sacred texts as descriptive of literal, historical events which took place on planet earth can be seen as a deliberate repudiation of the celestial basis underlying all the stories of the Biblical scriptures, from Adam and Eve and the Serpent, to the story of Noah and his three sons, to the sacrifice of Abraham, the crossing of the Red Sea, the adventures of Samson, the horrible oath of Jephthah, the Judgement of Solomon, the events in the life of Elisha, the Vision of Ezekiel, and all the rest -- including the stories in the New Testament as well.

One important message conveyed by all of these stories is the connection between humanity and the wider universe -- the stories themselves depict stars, planets, constellations, and the sun and moon as human beings walking on earth and going through all "the heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to" (as Hamlet says). In doing so, they implicitly suggest that we ourselves and our "motions" in this mortal life are in some way connected to and reflective of the motions of those heavenly actors.

Indeed, as many previous posts and the book The Undying Stars discuss at length, the deeper esoteric message of the Star Myths found in the Bible and in the rest of the ancient sacred traditions and scriptures around the world may involve a view of the universe in which there is an unseen spirit realm in addition to the visible material reality with which we are familiar, and the message that the material realm is in fact connected to, interpenetrated by, and even projected from the unseen realm.

By cutting themselves off from this understanding, the literalists were in effect cutting themselves off from and setting themselves against not only all the other cultures and sacred traditions of the rest of humanity but also the very "flow of the universe" itself -- that concept which is expressed in Taoism as the eternal Tao.

The details of the Therapeutae described by Philo, and the attempts by later literalists such as Eusebius to co-opt them into literalist Christianity, provide an invaluable window through which to observe this important concept in action. For the literalist system advanced by Eusebius and his colleagues can be seen to have strongly rejected what are arguably the most vital aspects of the Therapeutae way as described by Philo: their allegorical and non-literalistic hermeneutic with regard to sacred texts (which, as I have argued above, convey an esoteric message involving a deep connection between our lives on earth and the motions of the heavens and of the earth on its course around the sun, and to the spirit world which interpenetrates and thus connects everything in this visible universe), their high regard for knowledge obtained while in a state of trance (which is a form of direct and unmediated revelation to the individual, and which provides immediate confirmation of the invisible connection just described), and even their decision to abstain from the eating of flesh (which evinces a sense of connection to the other creatures of our planet, rather than the belief that animals are created for humanity's exploitation, which has led to the situation today in which animals in the food industry are regularly treated in the most inhumane manner imaginable, a situation only possible in a society in which large numbers of people feel no connection to these animals at all).

All of these aspects of the Therapeutae can be seen as belonging to the family of teachings which seek to align with what we could describe as the flow of the universe, or the Tao -- and they are the very aspects of the Therapeutae way which were not incorporated into literalist Christianity, which is in keeping with the above observation that the literalist approach to the scriptures almost of necessity represented a self-imposed isolation not just from the rest of the world's wisdom traditions but also from the flow of the universe itself.

And here is where another insight from Gerald Massey opens up a whole new vista of evidence to support this assertion. Beginning most explicitly in the fourteenth paragraph of the treatise entitled "Gnostic and Historic Christianity" which was discussed in the preceding post, Massey argues that the Therapeutae seem to be part of a tradition stretching back to the Pythagoreans, and that this connection was indeed advanced by at least one important ancient author.

The reader may remember that the Pythagoreans were strongly associated in ancient times with the practice of a vegetarian diet (see discussions here and here, for example), as well as the fact that the Pythagoreans practiced a deeply esoteric approach to number, with the study of number and geometry functioning very much as an ancient "text" from which they derived profound truths regarding the nature of the universe and of human existence, in exactly the same way that other esoteric communities derived the same understanding from written texts or sacred myth. Thus, the possibility of a continuity of tradition between the practices of the Pythagoreans and those described by Philo among the Therapeutae appears to be well-founded. It obviously argues that the practices of the Therapeutae are part of a stream that is much older than the literalists such as Eusebius would have us believe.

There is also the abundance of ancient texts which declare that Pythagoras was an accomplished healer, and that he believed and taught the healing power of music, rhythm and vibration -- and that he in fact "tuned himself up" every morning with a period of singing, dancing, and playing the lyre! This connection provides yet another support for placing the Pythagoreans and the Therapeutae within the same ancient stream, because as we have seen from Philo's description, the Therapeutae also placed great emphasis on the importance of harmonic and rhythmic singing, and of course their very name has come to be associated with healing the body -- a very important aspect of this group which connects them not only to the Pythagoreans but to many other similar groups found in other cultures as well (and see also this previous post).

Whether of not Pythagoras was a literal and historical human figure is actually open to debate, but the traditions surrounding his life state quite clearly that much of his knowledge came from Egypt, where he is said to have traveled in order to gain access to the ancient wisdom kept by the Egyptian priests.

Massey then offers some linguistic connections which lead to some frankly mind-blowing possibilities. He argues that the root of the name Pythagoras most likely stems from the ancient Egyptian god Ptah, which can also yield Putha and Put, and which may in fact be the original source of the name of the Buddha, and even of the Therapeutae!

Now, this is truly a revolutionary insight. Because, as noted in the preceding post, some of the features Philo describes regarding the Therapeutae -- such as the abstention from eating meat, the simplicity of dress, and the giving away of all possessions -- are not really features associated with the literalist Christianity advocated by Eusebius and his colleagues, but they are indeed features strongly associated with many expressions of "Eastern" traditions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and others. 

And, previous posts have made note of the parallels (which have been noted by other researchers as well) between some aspects of ancient Egyptian priests and priestesses (of Isis, for instance) and elements of Buddhist monasticism. Also, I believe Patricia Awyan in correspondence with me has mentioned the importance of the Ptah connection as well.

Taking the ball from Massey at this point and running with it a little further, so to speak, it can also be argued on linguistic principles that the word Tao could be said to have connections to the name of the invisible Ptah as well. And thus we see that the name of the Egyptian Ptah can be argued to have connections to Buddhism (if we insert a vowel between the first two consonants, which also leads to the connections to the name of Pythagoras) and to Taoism (if we do not).

Further, while some may protest such a connection, it is linguistically feasible to suggest a connection to the sacred name JAH along these same lines as well, which is the version of the divine name used in Psalm 68 and verse 4.

Additionally, we might also argue that there are sound reasons to suggest a connection between the name of Ptah and the Egyptian name Sahu, which was associated with the constellation of Orion. 

The likelihood that Orion was associated with the Egyptian god Osiris is well-known, has been argued for over a century by many researchers, and is I believe well-established by the evidence offered by researchers such as Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana in Hamlet's Mill, and Jane B. Sellers in Death of Gods in Ancient Egypt  (see also the discussion in previous blog posts including "Dawn of the Golden Age," "Precession = the Key," "Hamlet, Hamlet's Mill, and Astro-Theology," and "Capella, precession, and the end of the Golden Age").  

However, there are strong connections between the characteristics associated with Osiris and many of the characteristics of the god Ptah, who was also anciently depicted as being swathed in mummy-clothes as was Osiris, and who fulfills a role very similar to that of Osiris within some aspects of ancient Egyptian theology, particularly that associated with Memphis which is sometimes known as the "Memphite theology." Further, in ancient depictions of Ptah, he is regularly shown holding a Djed-column scepter, which is a symbol that is also strongly associated with Osiris and with Orion. 

Thus, the possible connection between Ptah and Sahu -- already defensible on linguistic grounds alone -- appears to have further evidence to back it up. 

It can also be noted at this point that Osiris (and other "Osirian" figures in other myth-systems, including Saturn and Kronos) was a deity associated with grain, and with teaching humanity how to cultivate the fields for food (and, in some myths, with teaching humanity to refrain from eating one another as food -- he was a "civilizing" figure in many ancient myths, dwelling on earth and presiding over a Golden Age of peace). Thus, the fact that the Pythagoreans and the Therapeutae were practitioners of vegetarianism suggests that this proposed connection to Sahu in addition to Ptah is defensible from multiple angles.

We can even go so far (although this is, admittedly, wandering rather "far afield") and suggest the possibility that the word Shaman itself may somehow connect back to these shared sounds of Sahu, Tao, JAH, and Ptah. 

It is true that the word Shaman is of Tungusian origin, from a land and a people very far removed from ancient Egypt. And yet, it is equally true that one of the most essential characteristics of the Shaman, in cultures around the world, is his or her role as a healer. That this healing technique almost always involves singing, chanting, and the playing of harmonic flutes or rhythmic drums seems to argue some kind of parallel with the practices attributed to the Pythagoreans and the Therapeutae, and hence the possibility of a linguistic connection between these names is not too outrageous to make. 

It is also well-attested that Shamans around the world express their voyages to the spirit world in terms which are frequently celestial in nature, and in fact the evidence of possible shamanic aspects of ancient Egyptian sacred tradition and of some kind of connection between ancient Egyptian knowledge and shamanic technique found around the world is abundant, and worthy of careful consideration (some of it is discussed in previous posts such as this one and this one).

And so, what we are seeing is that there are strong arguments to be made for a connection between all of these different expressions of ancient wisdom, and of a consistent stream which stretches back deep into the time of ancient Egypt, and which can already be seen to potentially unite some aspects of Taoism, Buddhism, and Shamanic culture. The Therapeutae described in Philo's text appear to be squarely within that ancient stream, and the fact that their sacred texts sometimes express the sacred name in the form JAH can be seen as a connection to PTAH, TAO, and even BUDDHA. 

The chart below shows one way of outlining these connections:

This chart, following the argument of Massey, depicts the different linguistic permutations as being descended originally from the ancient Egyptian name of Ptah, and there are certainly good reasons to decide that ancient Egypt's incredible antiquity argues for Egypt as the original source and fount of all the others. After all, Ptah may be an even more ancient god than Osiris, and Osiris and his myth-series was already fully developed by the time the Pyramid Texts were inscribed, some of the most ancient  texts known to history, some of which were written as early as 2300 BC (which argues that the Osiris myths are even older than that, and the Ptah myths may be older still).

However, it is also certainly possible to posit that all of these different names descended directly from some still more ancient source, and that they all resemble one another only because they all resemble some original name from this now-unknown original source.

The diagram below shows this possibility, and adds yet more names from the world's sacred traditions which may serve to show how widespread and indeed universal this ancient stream really may be:

Here, in addition to the names already discussed, are added several more whose linguistic connections may be disputed, but which are certainly defensible as possibilities under the generally accepted principles of linguistic transmutation of related sounds.

In the first line we see the names PTAH, TAO, JAH and PUT, which have already been discussed. Below these are PytahgorasBuddha, and Therapeutae, but also Manitou, which is a name from the Native cultures of North America which can be used to describe both the denizens of the spirit world (the Manitous) but also when singular is used to indicate the Great Spirit.

In the next line below that, we see listed Sahu and Shaman, but also the Native American sacred name Ta-Iowa or Taiowa, which is a name which the Hopi elders used when they passed on their sacred traditions to Frank Waters and Oswald White Bear Fredericks in order to ensure that their ancient wisdom was not lost or forgotten, and which can be found in written form in The Book of the Hopi. The linguistic connections of this name to the sacred name of JAH can hardly be disputed. It is also difficult to ignore the fact that this name has been preserved as the name of one of the United States: the state of Iowa, discussed in this previous post.

These examples from the Native American sacred traditions shows that this stream not only stretches across millennia but that it also spans the globe. It is the stream within which the Therapeutae can be seen to be firmly planted, but from which the literalists such as Eusebius were consciously separating themselves.

That previous post on Iowa and the sacred name also discusses the likelihood that the names of Zeus and Jupiter (or Iu-Pater or Zeus-Pater) fit within this same family of names and can be shown to be linguistically connected to JAH and TA-IOWA.

The implications of all this apparent connection between the sacred myths and sacred scriptures of the world (to include those which ended up in the Bible, but which were radically reinterpreted by the literalists) are indeed profound.

This analysis would suggest that, although they have superficial differences, there are important fundamental connections between the worldviews that are expressed around the globe and across the ages in the messages of the Tao, of the Buddha, of ancient Egypt, of the Pythagoreans, of the Biblical texts esoterically understood, of Greek myth, of Native American spiritual teaching, and of shamanic cultures in general.

It also suggests that all of these traditions emphasize an interconnectedness of all creatures as well as an interconnectedness between individual men and women, and between humanity as a whole, and the rest of the earth and indeed the entire universe, including the invisible realm which flows through the entire universe and every being within it. 

We can also see in many of the specific descriptions and practices of groups such as the Therapeutae, the Pythagoreans, and many expressions of this spiritual stream in Buddhism and Taoism an emphasis on the importance of living in harmony with the invisible flow and energy of the universe, or with the Tao (to use the name given to this concept in one of these related traditions). The knowledge of ways to preserve or restore health to the human body which is obviously very central to many of these related traditions can be seen as a direct and logical aspect of this emphasis on trying to align with and remain in harmony with the energy of the universe or the Tao.

And, indeed, this emphasis can be clearly seen in the stories contained in the New Testament Gospels themselves.

However, although some literalist Christian writers try to argue that groups such as the Therapeutae represent early members of their literalistic system, the similarities are only superficial, and it is clear that the literalists rejected the most important features of the Therapeutae approach, the features that connect the Therapeutae to the wider and deeper current which flows also through the Pythagoreans, the ancient Egyptians, and connects even further to Buddhism and Taoism and to shamanic cultures around the globe.

In setting themselves against this ancient stream, the early proponents of literalism may or may not have realized that they were setting themselves against all of these things. And yet it is quite evident from the above analysis that this is in fact exactly what they did do. 

Because of this, and because of the fact that "western culture" can be seen to be directly descended from and most powerfully influenced by the heirs of Eusebius and the system that they put into motion, it can be clearly demonstrated that modern western civilization today is directly at odds with the flow of the universe in numerous important and world-threatening areas. 

Additionally, it can even be said that modern western society discourages harmony in many ways, and that it contains powerful structures which seem almost purpose-built to hinder individual men and women from aligning themselves with the Tao, and even some which seem purpose-built to actually act to the detriment of the health of their physical bodies in many ways -- the opposite of the goal of healers and healing communities such as the Pythagoreans or the Therapeutae.

And, it can certainly be said that modern western society is built around principles which are basically the exact opposite of the practice attributed to the Therapeutae of giving away their possessions and living with very little "stuff."

If we examine the scriptures themselves, we might ask ourselves which approach seems more in line with those ancient texts: that which resulted from centuries of literalist influence, and which we see manifested in modern western civilization today, or that pursued by the Therapeutae and other communities who lived prior to the rise of literalism, or who were far enough away from the Roman Empire to avoid falling under its sway in the subsequent centuries.

The good news is that, as the analysis above demonstrates rather conclusively (I think), it is really the divisions between us that are artificial: all cultures and all people (including those  whose connection to the ancient wisdom was stamped out by the rise of literalism in Europe during the Roman Empire and in subsequent centuries) are actually connected by this ancient stream, which exhibits different surface characteristics in different places and different time periods, but whose core practices or teachings can almost always be shown to share a few important common features. 

And, whether we recognize it or not, we are all actually connected one to another, as well as to the earth and to the infinite universe, and to the invisible realm which may in fact be the most important element which connects it all.

It is the self-imposed separation initiated by the literalists from the rest of the world's traditions, and from what we could hardly do better than to refer to as "the Tao," which is really the artificial separation, and indeed the illusory separation.

Even the very names show that this separation is an illusion, and that JAH, TAO, PTAH, TA-IOWA, BUDDHA, and all the rest reveal that we are all part of the same stream which flows around and through us all and connects us with one another and with the universe. 

The "Recent Zodiac" Canard, or: One of the most common arguments used by opponents of astrotheology, and why it is almost certainly wrong

The "Recent Zodiac" Canard, or: One of the most common arguments used by opponents of astrotheology, and why it is almost certainly wrong

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

I believe that there is overwhelming evidence to support the conclusion that virtually all of the world's ancient myths and sacred scriptures and stories -- to include those contained in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible -- are based on a system of allegorizing the motions of the sun, moon, visible planets, and stars (especially the stars in the zodiac band).

This general thesis is not new: ancient writers and philosophers, including Aristotle, can be seen in their surviving writings to make reference to or even to advocate this understanding.

More recently, this thesis that the world's myths and sacred stories (including those in the Bible) describe the motions of heavenly bodies has been given several different labels; among these are "astrotheology" and "mythicism" (or, "the mythicist" position, as distinguished from the "historicist" position).

Frequently, opponents of "mythicism" or "astrotheology" will assert that it cannot possibly be correct, because (they declare) the zodiac constellations were not even codified until some time in the 1st millennium BC, perhaps around 700 BC. 

Examples of this assertion, used as a counter-argument to astrotheology or mythicism, can be found fairly readily. For instance, in an essay found on this web page, Christian author and associate professor in theology at Houston Baptist University Mike Licona states while arguing against any zodiac foundation for the twelve tribes of Israel as described in the Old Testament (parenthetical "footnote" designations preserved in this block quotation are in the original essay by Mike Licona, and can be found on the bottom of the page linked):

Were the 12 tribes of Israel representative of the 12 signs of the zodiac as she claims? (9) She asserts that Simeon and Levi are Gemini. Judah is Leo. And the list goes on. She also claims that when Jacob set up 12 stones representing the tribes that they were really representing the 12 signs of the zodiac.(10) But this is impossible. Genesis was written approximately 1,000 BC and contains the story of the 12 tribes of Israel which would have occurred even earlier.(11) The division into the 12 zodiacal signs did not occur until the Babylonians made the divisions in the fifth century BC.(12) Therefore, reading astrology into the twelve tribes is anachronistic. 

Note that the fifth century BC refers to the years between 500 BC and 401 BC, or the years generally numbered in "the 400s" on the BC side.  If the zodiac was not known until that late date, it would be very difficult to argue that ancient texts including the ancient Egyptian pyramid texts (circa 2350 BC), the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian epics preserved on clay tablets such as those found in the library of Asshurbanipal (some as old as 2400 BC or even 2600 BC), the ancient Hindu Vedas (possibly as early as 1700 BC), or even many of the scriptures preserved in the Old Testament of the Bible (the Hebrew Scriptures) could possibly have been built upon a system of celestial metaphor which uses the zodiac as its central foundation!

Other modern authors place the "invention" of the twelve-sign zodiac slightly earlier than the fifth century, some of them arguing that the twelve-sign zodiac is a product of the first half of the first millennium BC, which would be the centuries beginning with 900 BC to 801 BC, then 800 BC to 701 BC, then 700 BC to 601 BC, then 600 BC to 501 BC, and finally 500 BC to 401 BC. All of these would qualify as the first half (the first five centuries) of the first millennium BC.

The latest century of that first half of the first millennium BC would be the century already mentioned above, by Dr. Licona in his essay, in which he states definitively that "the Babylonians made the divisions in the fifth century" and footnotes this proclamation with a personal email he received from astronomer Jay Pasachoff -- see footnote 12 at the bottom of his essay on the same page already linked.

Even granting the possibility that the zodiac system was created in one of the centuries preceding the fifth century BC, perhaps in the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth century BC, it would still be too late to form the basis for texts written in the year 1000 BC or for those written even earlier (especially those written as early as 2300 BC to 2600 BC, as some of the pyramid texts and ancient Sumerian tablets are judged to have been written).

In addition to the email from astronomer Jay Pasachoff (who is the Chair and Field Memorial Professor of Astronomy at Williams College, and who received his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard and who is no doubt a distinguished astronomer)  referenced in Dr. Licona's essay as the source of his assertion that the zodiac was not divided into the familiar twelve signs until the fifth century, Dr. Licona also cites a different email which he received from Professor Noel M. Swerdlow, who is a Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, in which Professor Swerdlow states, in the process of "debunking" the idea that the ancient myths (including those in the Old and New Testaments) might contain references to the shifting of precessional ages, such as the shift from the Age of Aries to the Age of Pisces:

In antiquity, constellations were just groups of stars, and there were no borders separating the region of another. In astrology, for computational purposes the zodiacal signs were taken as twelve arcs of 30 degrees measured from the vernal equinox. Because of the slow westward motion of the equinoxes and solstices, what we call the precession of the equinoxes, these did not correspond to the constellations with the same names. But . . . within which group of stars the vernal equinox was located, was of no astrological significance at all. The modern ideas about the Age of Pisces or the Age of Aquarius are based upon the location of the vernal equinox in the regions of the stars of those constellations. But the regions, the borders between, those constellations are a completely modern convention of the International Astronomical Union for the purpose of mapping . . . and never had any astrological significance. I hope this is helpful although in truth what this woman is claiming is so wacky that it is hardly worth answering.(5) So when this woman says that the Christian fish was a symbol of the 'coming age of Pisces,' she is saying something that no one would have thought of in antiquity because in which constellation of the fixed stars the vernal equinox was located, was of no significance and is entirely an idea of modern, I believe twentieth-century, astrology.(6)

In both of the quotations cited above, and in Mike Licona's article in general, the astrotheology position in general is being attacked by attacking the arguments put forth in a specific book written by D. M. Murdock / Acharya S, and the condescending language such as "this woman" and "wacky" is certainly a very regrettable although not unrepresentative example of the kind of tactics sometimes employed to try to marginalize the person making the arguments instead of dealing with the arguments in a more dispassionate and objective and respectful manner.

However, as noted previously, this general thesis has been argued for centuries -- even for millennia -- going back to Aristotle and to others in the ancient world. It is not going to "go away" simply by using a condescending tone and labels such as "wacky."

Further, the belief offered at the end of the quotation cited above, that the different "ages" of the zodiac are "entirely an idea of modern, I believe twentieth century, astrology" is demonstrably false. Many proponents of a "mythicist" or "astrotheological" approach in previous centuries, including the Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844) have presented extensive evidence in support of the conclusion that the world's most ancient myths refer to the zodiac, and to the subtle motion of precession and the shift in ages that it causes once every 2,160 years (approximately, if we use the rounded "precessional constant" of 72, which can be found to be present in very ancient myth in numerous world cultures, as well as in very many of the extremely ancient monuments and megaliths around the globe).

Further, it is now generally accepted that ancient symbolism such as the tauroctony scenes found in the Mithraic meeting-places known as mithraea and which can be definitively dated back to the first centuries AD almost undoubtedly refer to the transition of precessional ages (in their case, for reasons which may prove to be very significant, the symbolism appears to commemorate the end of the Age of Taurus). This fact by itself conclusively demonstrates that the assertion that "in which constellation of the fixed stars the vernal equinox was located, was of no significance and is entirely an idea of modern astrology" is completely incorrect.

Nevertheless, this quotation from the email from Professor Swerdlow which is cited in the Mike Licona attack on astrotheology has become a kind of unassailable "proof" among some critics, who use it to claim that astrotheology has now been "conclusively debunked." One can, for instance, copy all or part of the block quotation above and then paste it into the search window of a web search engine, and find a lengthy list of other essays or screeds claiming that this quotation all by itself nullifies any arguments that the world's sacred texts (especially the Bible) could possibly have a basis in zodiac imagery.

A few examples include "Astrotheology Conclusively Debunked," "Zeitgeist Part One Refuted," and "New Agers, you've been had. The age of Pisces, age of Aquarius is a modern invention!"

Note that conventional academia, correctly perceiving that the subtle phenomenon of precession could not have been detected prior to the development of a fairly sophisticated astronomical science, including the means for observing and accurately measuring the precise location of certain stars when observed on specific days of the year, as well as the discipline of recording those measurements for many decades or even centuries, almost universally maintains that Hipparchus (c. 190 BC - 120 BC) was the first to "discover" precession, in 127 BC. Of course, this would be even later than the supposed invention of the zodiac, making it even more "impossible" for extremely ancient myths to incorporate precessional metaphors into their sacred stories.

It would seem that, with the zodiac supposedly not invented until after 500 BC (or, at the earliest, perhaps some time around or after 700 BC, certainly not before 1000 BC) and precession supposedly not discovered until around 127 BC, the mythicist or astrotheological approach is built upon an impossibility, an anachronism, a case of "seeing things that aren't there." Can we then conclude that anyone who accepts such arguments "has been had"?

Only if those assertions about the late dates of the understanding of the zodiac and of precession are correct.

It can be decisively shown that they are almost certainly not correct.

As has already been intimated, there is extensive evidence from around the globe, both in the form of myth and in the form of ancient monument, which powerfully refutes the conventional positions repeated by most academics today.

The authors of the seminal text Hamlet's Mill (1969), Hertha von Dechend and Giorgio de Santillana, assembled an extensive collection of arguments in support of what could be labeled the mythicist or astrotheological approach, including evidence that not only the zodiac but also the phenomenon of precession was evident in some of the most ancient myths and sacred texts on the planet. Many of the scholars they cite being from centuries prior to the twentieth (for which they have at times been attacked by "debunkers" who claim that all their sources are now "outdated").

They were fully aware of the controversial nature of the evidence they were presenting, and the fact that it would upset the conventional apple cart in a major way. They pointed out that astronomers were generally not well versed in literature and comparative mythology, and that literary professors were often fairly ignorant of celestial mechanics and the causes of subtle phenomena such as precession. That  excuse is a charitable explanation for the lack of attention to the abundant evidence within the world's mythologies of an ancient worldwide system of celestial metaphor: now, nearly fifty years after their encyclopedic work was published, it may be time to conclude that more than simple academic compartmentalization is at work in keeping the abundant evidence which supports the astrotheological thesis marginalized to the degree that it continues to be.

The Wikipedia entry on Hamlet's Mill contains only three "external links" -- one of them a link to an online version of the text, one a link to a German-language webpage honoring one of the authors, and one a link to a lengthy criticism of the authors of Hamlet's Mill and its general thesis. The link to that lengthy criticism comes first in the order of external links, and has for years. Some years ago, I wrote a post responding to some of its arguments, entitled "Has Hamlet's Mill been debunked?" which eventually led the author of that piece to insert some paragraphs questioning my qualification to assess the subject matter, and criticizing some of my arguments in defense of the importance of the thesis presented in the work of de Santillana and von Dechend.

That extremely long webpage criticizing Hamlet's Mill (the only discussion of the thesis included in Wikipedia's "external links" list) concludes in its very third-to-last sentence with this familiar proclamation:

The fatal flaw with this speculation is that it [the argument for pre-Hipparchan precessional knowledge, upon which much of the discussion in Hamlet's Mill revolves] relies on the assumption of an ancient evenly divided 12-constellation zodiac before its clearly documented invention by the Babylonians in the 1st-millennium BCE.

Clearly, this is an argument of great importance to the opponents of astrotheology, and one which they believe is decisively in their favor.

We might, before offering clear evidence from ancient myth, ask how anyone can be so sure when the zodiac was invented. How can one know at this remove, over 3000 years later, the time of its supposed invention? Is it not at least possible that certain knowledge was kept secret for centuries prior to appearing in records which survived the eons of intervening time between their day and ours? Or even that certain knowledge might have been widely described but only in texts or formats which did not survive the intervening ages?

But, we don't need to resort to those objections, as valid as they are. The ancients managed to provide what I believe to be conclusive evidence in very early myth and text documenting their understanding of the precession of the equinoxes, and their convention of marking it using the same zodiac constellations that we use today -- texts which survive in their original formats even to this day.

Among the most ancient texts we have are the ancient Sumerian tablets, some of which contain the Gilgamesh epic (or "Gilgamesh series" of texts), which scholars agree was composed no later than 2000 BC and which some scholars argue to be referenced in Sumerian texts going back as early as 2600 BC (although the consensus is that an earliest date of 2200 BC or 2100 BC for tablets with the Gilgamesh series is probably a safer estimate). Later Akkadian tablets from Old Babylonian culture contain numerous texts of the Gilgamesh epic, probably from 1800 BC to 1700 BC as a safe estimate.

These are texts of almost-unbelievable antiquity. They certainly predate the supposed time of the development of the zodiac used by "anti-astrotheology" writers to confidently declare astrotheology theory "impossible." They predate the accepted "discovery" of precession by even further spans of time.

And yet one does not need to be a lifelong scholar of the Akkadian or Sumerian languages or a specialist in the tablets on which the Gilgamesh series of texts are preserved to recognize the precessional and zodiacal metaphors present in the events of the story. These precessional and zodiacal elements are especially evident to those who understand the pattern as it is found in literally dozens (and probably hundreds or even thousands) of other myths from around the world. I outline well over fifty of them in previous blog posts, most of which are linked in this handy Star Myth Index here.

In my first book, The Mathisen Corollary (written at a point in time at which I was recognizing the celestial foundations of non-Biblical myth, but at a point in time at which I was still accepting the "historicist" or literalist interpretation of the Biblical stories), I explain the clear zodiacal and precessional metaphors present in the Gilgamesh epic (particularly on pages 80 - 90). Some of the most obvious include the following:

  • Gilgamesh and Enkidu chop down "the highest of trees, the cedar whose top reached the sky." This cedar is located on a sacred mountain, "the mountain of both heaven and earth," and a dwelling place of the gods and goddesses. To reach this heaven-touching cedar, Gilgamesh and Enkidu must go across a total of seven mountains: likely connected to the sun and moon plus five visible planets. The felling of this central sacred cedar almost certainly has connections to the "unhinging" of the central axis of the sky, which is a metaphor for precession in myth the world over. This is one strong clue that the Gilgamesh series of texts was composed by ancients who perceived the motion of precession.
  • The fall of the tree is described in terms of a whirlwind. This is a metaphor used frequently for the central point around which all the stars in the night sky appear to turn (the celestial north pole, which is the point that is "unhinged" by precession, as if the "central pole" or "tree" supporting the heavens has been brought down), as well as for the motion of all the stars in the sky (not just those closest to the central point of the celestial pole). Other myths make use of the whirlwind metaphor in this regard, including the important Vision of Ezekiel in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel, and the authors of Hamlet's Mill demonstrate that other mythologies use a similar metaphor of a whirlpool to describe the same celestial motion. 
  • The next episode after the toppling of the central cedar sees the goddess Inanna or Ishtar send the Bull of Heaven to attack Gilgamesh (as retribution for resisting her advances). Gilgamesh promptly slays the Bull. This can almost certainly be seen as a reference to the zodiac sign of Taurus, and the ending of the Age of Taurus which is caused by the action of precession, the very same celestial motion caused by the "unhinging" of the sky's central axis which was represented by the felling of the great cedar whose top reached to the heavens. Note also that the association of a goddess with the bull is very likely a reference to the zodiac constellation of Virgo as well -- the connection between a Virgo-goddess and the Taurus-bull is discussed for example in this discussion of the goddess Durga of the ancient Vedas, who slays a bull-headed adversary named Mahishasura.
  • Then, Gilgamesh declares his intention to use the great cedar he has cut down and fashion from it a new door, a door through which only gods and not human beings may pass. This is the final clue we need to declare that the above metaphors from the Gilgamesh series are almost certainly related to the precessional motion of the sky's central "axis-pole," and the movement of the equinoxes out of the zodiac sign of Taurus caused by that central pole's unhinging. The equinox points, as the authors of Hamlet's Mill point out, is encoded in myth the world over by the metaphor of a door: specifically, a snapping door that yawns open and shut, just as the two lines of the celestial equator and the ecliptic path of the sun seem to yawn open and shut as the year progresses, snapping shut at the two points of the equinoxes and reaching the maximum "yawn" at the two solstices. The fact that the sun, moon, and planets (which are named for the gods) progress along the path of the ecliptic and hence "go through the door" of the equinox is the likely explanation for the fact that the ancient texts have Gilgamesh declaring that this new door he will make will be a door for gods only, and not for earth-bound humans. It is a new door because the motion of precession has moved it into a new zodiac sign. The Heavenly Bull was slain in conjunction with this new door because the door has moved out of the sign of Taurus.

The above evidence, from very ancient texts which (amazingly) we can still hold in our hands today (these are not transcriptions and cannot be accused of being later "interpretations" or "interpolations"), should decisively debunk the debunkers, and put to rest any arguments that the zodiac was unknown until after 500 BC, or that the phenomenon of precession was unknown until 127 BC. There are other ancient texts and myths, including those of ancient Egypt, which also can be shown to contain clear precessional clues and metaphors.

But, to stay with the ancient Sumerian and Babylonian metaphors just discussed from Gilgamesh, we can see a couple more clues in the "cylinder seal" depicted below. It contains an image of a kingly male figure holding an inverted Bull, in an apparent gesture of triumph (the Bull is clearly vanquished, perhaps even slain):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This may or may not be an ancient depiction of Gilgamesh himself, slaying the Bull of Heaven, but even if it is not, it is likely related to the same celestial metaphor.

An even more dramatic example can be found in the ancient cylinder seal depicted below:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

That series of images attempts to show all sides of the cylinder in question, as well as a top-view of the cylinder showing the hole down the central axis. Let's "zoom in" on one specific image from this cylinder, so that we can better examine and discuss the zodiac imagery (we'll look at the second image from the far right of the series of images above):

In this part of the cylinder, we seem to be looking at a lion and a man (lion on left as we observe it on the page, and man on the right). They are either wrestling or at least "touching hands" together, and in between them there is a vertical pole of some sort, with at least the lion's paw appearing to touch the top of this pole.

What could this mean?

I believe that a very likely possible explanation, in light of the extensive use of a very similar pattern in myth around the world is that the lion and the man in this seal represent the constellations Leo the Lion and Aquarius the Water-Bearer, the two signs opposite one another at the two solstice positions during the Age of Taurus -- see again the Vision of Ezekiel zodiac metaphor discussion, towards the bottom of the post where I have placed images depicting the zodiac wheel and indicated the "great cross" constellations during the Age of Taurus.

Numerous previous blog posts have discussed the abundant evidence from around the world that the vertical line on the annual cross of the zodiac wheel corresponds to the line between the solstices, and that this vertical component was represented as a vertical pillar, as the Djed column of ancient Egypt, the backbone of Osiris, and the vertical portion of the Cross in Christian and other symbology (see also here and here).

The presence of a vertical pillar in between a lion and a man on this ancient cylinder seal indicates the possibility that it is intended to reference the zodiac signs associated with the solstices in that ancient precessional age, and that it also refers to knowledge of the zodiac system and metaphor system at work in many other myths from around the globe and across the ages.

Some readers may object to the identification of the man in this seal with the constellation of Aquarius, pointing out that the headdress of the man appears to be horned (perhaps indicative of Taurus again). However, it is also clear that this man has a short baton at his side, which is indicative of the outline of Aquarius (see for instance the discussion here). I believe there are other examples of art from ancient Babylon showing a man with a baton in the position that would be expected to belong to Aquarius: I discuss one of them here.

All of this evidence should establish rather decisively that the zodiac as a measure for the wheel of the year was indeed known long before the conventional "fifth century BC" estimate that is so confidently trotted out as a settled fact that demolishes the mythicist or astrotheology approach. Indeed, while the above evidence is fairly dramatic, it is only one possible ancient culture which has left physical evidence that fairly proves the far earlier knowledge of precession and the zodiac: as mentioned, other myths and texts including the ancient Egyptian pyramid texts could be used to prove many of the same points. And, from a completely different set of metaphors, many ancient monuments around the world -- including the Great Pyramid itself -- seem to encode precise understanding of precession from literally thousands of years prior to the supposed discovery of precession by Hipparchus in 127 BC.

It is hoped that such evidence will be of use to those who have perhaps been fooled by those confidently claiming that the astrotheology approach is "impossible," "anachronistic," and "wacky." Not only does it show that astrotheology is a very plausible thesis, it also shows that those confidently declaring that nobody cared about the constellation above the sunrise on the morning of March equinox until the twentieth century are the ones who are anachronistic.

It might also be hoped that this evidence would change the minds of some in academia, and prompt a re-look at the work of scholars from previous generations such as Hertha von Dechend, Giorgio de Santillana, and the many even earlier scholars they cite in Hamlet's Mill, not to mention the work of earlier philosophers such as Robert Taylor or (here's a wacky one) Aristotle. 

However, there may be more at work in academia's reflexive rejection and marginalization of this theory and those who advocate it than simple "compartmentalization" or lack of available evidence. These cylinder seals and Akkadian and Sumerian texts have been around and available for study for many decades now (as has the work of the authors of Hamlet's Mill, as well as that of the earlier researchers they cite). It may be that someone wants to suppress this theory, not because it is wacky, but because it is right.