We are on the verge today of a much greater appreciation for the scientific achievements of the world's most ancient civilizations and an understanding of the workings of the ancient mind. At a time when it is still fashionable for scientists to dismiss the possibility that the learned men of remote antiquity, long before the classical-period Greeks or the later Romans, could have known about phenomena like precession (the extremely slow wobble of the Earth's axis of rotation) without modern instruments, or about the spherical shape and dimensions of our planetary spacecraft or its orbit about the Sun as the center of a solar system, a few lone investigators have recently found traces of a very high degree of scientific sophistication and knowledge of the natural world preserved in a metaphorical code which we call myth.
It is ultimately the purpose of this article to provide a solution to the long-standing mystery of the "Star of Bethlehem" and, in a closely-related problem, to announce the date of the beginning of the New Age, the Age of Aquarius, as determined by a method believed to be the same one used by the ancient Magi of Chaldea and other astronomical priesthoods in very early times. These topics will indeed be covered in the second part of this report.
The validity of the statements to be made on these subjects, however, rests on the foundation of the logic and integrity of the system or method of very-long-term time reckoning which the Magi and others, it is believed, followed -- a system based on both planetary and precessional cycles. Therefore, it is necessary to develop the background or context in which our more specific later tasks will be seen to fit before dealing with them individually. This context turns out to be nothing less than the ancient holistic world-view or paradigm which Joseph Campbell identified as the World Monomyth.
A good indication of the alienation of the modern psyche from the ways of thought in ancient times is the current connotation of the term, 'myth.' A myth to us is a fabrication, a made-up story based solely on imagination, a lie. Outside of this 'definition,' most people today have no idea of what a myth actually is. Myths are metaphors expressing aspects of life in the natural world of human experience.
Campbell once asked an interviewer he didn't particularly like to give an example of a myth. After a long, uncomfortable silence the disconcerted man finally came up with: "The man runs like a deer." "That's not a myth," retorted Campbell. (It is a simile.) "The man IS a deer," stated Campbell. "But that's a lie," said the man. "No, that's a myth," said Campbell.
The meaning and intent of both expressions are much the same, to declare the swiftness of a particular man, but there is a subtle and profound difference. In the former case this is done merely through a comparison of one factor, speed, between separated entities, while in the latter there is an identification with and participation in the qualities of the deer in a holistic and non-separative sense. The ancient perception could distinguish between a man and a deer as readily as any other, but a man might identify with and celebrate admired qualities of animals in this metaphorical way without contradiction.
Holistic, simultaneous, non-separative perception is for us a very difficult proposition. It is involved in spiritual or religious perception. It is the opposite of the logical, sequential, objectified and difference-based mode of perception which we revere as the hallmark of civilized and scientific thought.
Mythology has been the victim of our scientific way of looking at things. We saw only illogical stories and fantastic adventures and not the resonance with life and nature which is its reason for being. We relegated the subject to world literature never guessing it might contain elements of wisdom to help harmonize human life with the conditions of the environment, and, in its fullest development, comprise an integrated body of naturalist observation and recording amounting to a 'pre-scientific' science.
Those readers familiar with the theory of the perceptual qualities associated with the right and left hemispheres of the brain will quickly relate the mythological form of knowing in terms of a direct participation in the wholeness of nature with the spiritual right hemispheric perception. The logical and analytical left hemisphere is clearly the one dominant in the scientific mode of perception.
Modern scholarship is indebted to the late mythologian, Joseph Campbell, for rescuing mythology from its fallen state and for discovering the common themes in the mythologies of all times and all lands. He showed its origins in the basic facts and conditions of life abstracted in icons, ritual objects and other artistic renderings and in the fundamental realities of life -- the masculine and feminine mystiques, birth and child rearing, food gathering, the transformations into adulthood and so on. The ground of mythology was shown as the expression of natural order in metaphorical form.
Not only is mythology based on nature, but there is an unexpected similarity in the major themes of the core mythologies of cultures widely separated by geography and time. Campbell came to the conclusion that it was as though the same story was being told over and over again, but with a vast number of minor variations as each retelling occurred in one culture and/or time period to the next. This universal story he termed the One Myth or Monomyth.
The existence of a universal mythology is unexpected because of the vast distances between ancient civilizations and cultures spread around the entire globe and the presumed lack of contacts between them. Here again, the modern scientific predisposition is to assume separation and lack of contact. But even without contacts, ancient cultures could have developed similar myths because all are based on the same natural order to a large extent with some variation for climate, locale, food sources, etc.
Another possibility is that the core myths of world mythology are much older than we suppose and have been handed down in a continuous stream as a verbal but non-written tradition perhaps from the earliest beginnings of human awareness. We have records and artifacts dating back only about 5 - 6000 years, a period which is brief by comparison with the time span of sentient man on Earth.
Joseph Campbell saw the symbols of myth as universal archetypes, as did psychologist Carl Jung, which appear again and again in dreams and are the inspiration for religion and art. He interpreted the heroic story of the Monomyth as a metaphor representing the inner psychological transformations and spiritual potentialities awaiting every man on his journey through life.
Contemporary with Campbell but much less well known is another investigator who wrote about the universality of the themes of world mythology and connected them not with the inner life of man but with his external environment, particularly the celestial vault. His name is Giorgio de Santillana, and, back in 1969 when his book, Hamlet's Mill, was first published, he was a Professor of Humanities at M.I.T. It is largely on the work of Prof. de Santillana that this article and the suggestions regarding the Star of Bethlehem and the Age of Aquarius in the concluding part are based.
It is highly instructive and appropriate that Campbell and de Santillana, though studying the same body of material, world mythology, would arrive at what would seem to be two totally different, even irreconcilable, interpretations of the significance of the Monomyth narrative. On the one hand, Campbell emphasized the inner psychological and spiritual dimensions of the story and had much less to say about any connections with astronomy. On the other, de Santillana had little to say on the psychology of the Monomyth story, but wrote nearly 500 pages connecting it with observational astronomy.
In the holistic mode of ancient thought, however, both perspectives are valid simultaneously. The ancient dictum, "As above, so below," is precisely an expression of this unity. The motions of the stars and planets were thought to express the same energies and natural laws as those which governed society and the internal workings of the human body. The basic ideas of astrology were born of this union of above and below. The nighttime sky was like a blackboard on which appeared messages from the Deity written in mysterious moving lights. If man could understand the signals of the gods and even predict some of their features, he might partake of divinity himself and control his own destiny.
It is not possible to go into every facet of de Santillana's argument and its extensive body of supporting material. Those interested in this are referred to the book by de Santillana and von Dechend cited above. However, an outline of the mythological code which enshrined and preserved ancient knowledge of the heavens can be given. De Santillana's own account is episodic and somewhat difficult to follow. One of the present tasks, therefore, is to collate his material and make it more coherent and unified.
The Craftsman God is responsible for having constructed the Universe we observe in nature. He is often depicted as a giant blacksmith hammering out a piece of iron to fit up for the roof of heaven. Sometimes he fashions the Universe by shaping it on a potter's wheel which he spins with his feet.
He is also the possessor of a magical mill, similar to ancient stone mills or querns used for grinding flour, except that this mill produces not flour from its turning but Time. Never ceasing, it turns out the days, years, centuries, millennia and eons of time. The lower stone of the mill is the earth as the foundation of heaven and the upper stone is the sky endlessly turning on its axis by day and by night. The Craftsman God, under many names in many cultures, rules the axis of the Earth's rotation and the machine which generates Time.
The fixed stars, since their patterns in the constellations do not appear to change over long periods, symbolize eternity, the transcendent realm, that which is beyond or outside of time and space. Saturn, which takes the longest time to travel around the Zodiac of all the planets which are seen without a telescope, was, therefore, considered the symbol of Time and identified with the Craftsman God.
Saturn was also thought to be closest to the fixed stars and the eternal realm because the planets were imagined to be caught up in a Zodiacal whirlpool, and, as such, the ones closer to the center revolved faster than the ones farther out, an excellent model for the true structure and behavior of the planets of our solar system revolving around the Sun.
The Sun was at the center of the whirlpool and the chief object of Creation as the god which provided light and warmth for the continuance of life, but Saturn seems to have held a special position as King of all the Planets and Creator of the World, the Sun and Moon being included as 'planets.'
Saturn had a rival, however, in the visually much brighter planet, Jupiter, and Jupiter could regularly be seen to catch up to and pass Saturn in the Zodiac due to his faster speed. This rivalry and periodic close proximity seems to have led to some interesting results for timekeeping in the way the ancients used natural cycles to set up a system for studying time and space.
The Sun, of course, circuits the Zodiac in one year and defines the seasons as it goes, so the year is bound to be one of the fundamental units or cycles of time. Saturn takes nearly 30 years and Jupiter nearly 12 years to complete their cycles. The numbers, 30 and 12, have clearly been very important in setting up our temporal and spatial units and coordinates.
Is it because Jupiter takes 12 years to move around the Zodiac that there are 12 constellations instead of some other number? Multiplying 12 by 30 gives 360, the number of degrees in a circle or a Zodiac of 12 signs of 30 degrees each. On the Equinoxes we have 12 hours each of daylight and night. The day has 24 hours (twice 12) of 60 minutes (twice 30) each. The number 360 is also close to the number of days in a year. The ancients had a calendar of 12 months of exactly 30 days each, the extra five days inserted between calendars being dedicated to the Lord of Misrule because they didn't fit in to the system. This was the festival period of the Saturnalia when the normal order was suspended and the fool was paraded as mock king.
De Santillana correlated the myths of cultures from all over the world and identified their similarities, a major task considering the sheer number of them. Most of the heroes of world mythology have not been associated with actual planetary bodies in the physical Universe in modern scholarship. Even the association of the Greek god Zeus with the planet Jupiter or Kronos with Saturn has been resisted by specialists in language, for example, specialism being another sign of the separatism and non-integration of modern science. Some have resisted the phonetic connection between the Greek name for Saturn, Kronos, and the root of English words related to time, such as 'chronic' and 'chronometer.' Nevertheless, for the purpose of demonstrating the large number of correlations which de Santillana has made to the universal myth, a table has been created. [See Table 1.]
Ptah <S> Egypt -- Memphis Khnemu <S> Egypt -- Elephantine Thoth <S><*> Egypt -- Hermopolis Osiris <S><*> Egypt -- Abydos Amen, Amon, Amun <J> Egypt -- Thebes Ra, Aten <*> Egypt -- Heliopolis, Akhetaten Enki <S> Sumeria Gilgamesh <S> Sumeria, Babylonia Enlil <*> Sumeria Marduk <J><*> Assyria, Babylonia Ilmarinen <S> Finland, Esthonia Kaleva, Kullervo <S> Finland, Esthonia Hermes <S> [also Mercury] Greece Hephaistos <S> Greece [form of Ptah] Dionysos Greece Hercules <J> Greece Kronos, Cronus, Chronos <S> Greece Zeus <J> Greece Prometheus <S> Greece [>India] Pan Greece Phaethon <S> Greece Adonis-Tammuz Greece Orpheus <S> Greece Odysseus, Ulysses Greece Oedipus Greece [>Egypt] Freyr, Frodhi <S> Iceland, Norway Orendil, Orwandel Iceland, Norway Hamlet, Amleth, Amlodhi <S> Iceland, Norway Saturn <S> Rome Jupiter, Jove <J> Rome Kavag, Kaweh, Kawa <S> Persia Kai Ka'us <S> Iran, Persia Kai Khusrau <S> Iran, Persia Jamshyd, Yima, Yama <S> Iran, Persia Huang-ti <S> China Yu <S> China K'uei <S> China Vishnu India Krishna India [incarnation of Vishnu] Samson Kolyvanovic Russia Samson Agonistes Israel [form of Orion] Jehovah <S> Israel Susanowo <S> Japan Quetzalcouatl <S> Mexico [Mayas] Tane-of-Ancient-Waters <S> Polynesia Tahaki <J> Polynesia King Conchobar, King Arthur Celts Cuchulainn, Sir Gawain Celts Sir Lancelot, Sir Galahad, Perceval England Parzival, Parsifal Germany
<J>=Jupiter <S>=Saturn <*>=Sun
In this table, I have listed most of the mythological god names mentioned in Hamlet's Mill and indicated their national origins. It will be seen that the list covers the globe with no major world civilization being left out. Secondly, while most of these heroes are archetypes associated with the Craftsman God and Saturn, in some cases, where the indications seemed fairly clear, the identification may be with Saturn's mythological son or rival, Jupiter, or with the Sun. The letter <S> after the name indicates Saturn, <J> indicates Jupiter, <*> indicates Sun. A few have no attribution; their mythologies have elements of the Monomyth but it is not clear which planet may have been meant.
Upsetting the divine order and regularity of the cosmos was an evil factor and this was associated with the phenomenon of the precession. This is the very slow gyroscopic wobble of the Earth in which its axis of rotation completes a circle in the sky in about 25,800 years. [See Figure 1.] The motion causes the seasons of the year to very slowly get out of sync with the stars normally associated with those seasons. For example, Orion is a winter constellation for us in the nighttime sky, being mostly invisible in daytime skys during our summer months. In about 13,000 years, it will be a summer constellation, seen at night in the warm months.
There isn't usually a North Star either. The axis now happens to point near Polaris but through most of the precession cycle there is no star to mark the pole. In about 13,000 years another star, Vega, will be near the North Celestial Pole.
The extreme slowness of the change made it seem insideous, and the fact that it contradicted the perfection of heavenly order caused it to be symbolized by the idea of "working iniquity in secret." Thus, in the story of the Monomyth, a tyrant usurps the legitimate authority, usually murdering the rightful king and marrying his queen, setting the stage for the hero (the rightful king's son) to journey into exile, live in disguise until the right moment and ultimately avenge his father.
The story of Hamlet was adapted by Shakespeare from the Icelandic and Norwegian myth of Amlodhi or, in a later version of the name, Amleth, which became Hamlet. It is a Norse retelling of the Monomyth. And Amlodhi was associated with a mill and the planet Saturn, hence "Hamlet's Mill."
Current scholarship claims that precession was unknown before the 2nd Century B.C. when it was 'discovered' by a Greek named Hipparchus. This is because the effect is too small to be detected in one human lifetime without modern precision instruments. Our science doesn't say how Hipparchus discovered it without modern instruments, however.
But modern instruments are not, in fact, required -- only dedication and persistence in observing the major features of the heavens over long periods of time, at least a few centuries. This the ancients possessed in abundance. Festivals were held on the solstices and equinoxes. The spring equinox was particularly important. The Zodiacal constellation rising in the East before the Sun as night turned to dawn was memorialized in myth.
These celebrations went on year after year for centuries and precise astronomical records were also kept in many of the high civilizations of antiquity. After only a century or two, the changes due to precession would be noticeable to a trained astronomical priesthood. And after 2000 years a whole new constellation would be rising before the Sun on the Vernal Equinox. The Equinox point itself moves backwards through the Zodiac at a rate of about one degree in 72 years, or one 30 degree sign in about 2160 years. De Santillana believed that the ancients not only knew about the phenomenon but were virtually obsessed by it.
This is not to say that precession was understood in the terms we know today, involving a torque or force on the spinning planet from the gravitational pull principally of the Sun and Moon acting upon the uneven distribution of the planetary mass. It only means that they were well capable of observing its long-term effects. They also knew the length of the precession cycle to some degree of accuracy. Plato is said to have used a figure of one degree per century which is a bit too slow, but the excellent star watchers of ancient Babylon and Persia may have had a more precise value.
De Santillana suggested that the Zodiacal figure rising before the Sun on the Vernal Equinox held a special place in the religious worship of ancient peoples and was celebrated in ritual and storytelling during its tenure, on the average about 2160 years, before the next constellation took its place. The period of the precession of the Vernal Equinox Point backwards through one Zodiacal group is referred to as a World Age, and each figure so rising before the Sun (called heliacal rising) gave its name to the Age.
In all of recorded history, covering a mere 6000 years, only three World Ages have taken place. These are the Ages of Taurus (about 4400 - 2200 B.C.), Aries (2200 - 0 B.C.) and Pisces, the current era (about 1 - 2200 A.D.). In the Taurean Age, according to de Santillana, the Bull was worshipped as the chief religious symbol. In the Arian, it was the Ram or Lamb, and, in the Piscean, it is the Fishes, though this practice has been mostly forgotten now.
Each age apparently put its own symbolic imprint upon the World Monomyth and reworked the story with a new cast of characters. Mostly it was just the names and incidental details which were new; the basic themes did not change much. There was always a hero whose birth was foretold by signs and portents in the heavens who would come to save the people from the rule of a tyrant. The tyrant is usually a usurper who has killed the former king, often his own brother, tried to kill the hero while still an infant because he is the legitimate heir, and has taken the former king's queen for his wife.
The child is spirited away for his protection and grows up in exile or in some foster home. He is recognized to have special powers and often plans his revenge from an early age. However, he must disguise himself and hide his great abilities from the evil forces of the state until the proper time arrives to act. To do this he feigns madness or folly. He convinces everyone that he is either insane or a simpleton by doing and saying absurd things. The chief Tarot card of the series of 22 major trumps, number 0, The Fool, is the symbol of the Monomyth hero in his disguise. It is also a pictorial representation of the bright constellation, Orion.
In some versions, as that of Hamlet, for example, he thwarts the tyrant-king's plots to find out if he is only pretending to be mad and to kill him by sending him away with companions whose orders are to see that he never returns. In these cases he always shows his true genius by discovering the plot and turning the situation to his advantage. There's no way the tyrant can get rid of him. In the end, he always returns, kills the usurper with his own sword and terminates the evil order. A new World Age then begins.
Support for the idea that ancient religious worship was centered on the constellations rising before the Sun on the Spring Equinox has come from a recent book about the religion of Mithras which has, for its central symbol, the killing of a bull. Author David Ulansey has this to say in The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries (p. 83):
"... it would be difficult to conceive of a more appropriate symbol for the precession than the symbol of the death of a bull, representing the death of the previous Age of Taurus brought about by the precession..."
While the ancients could easily have been aware of the effects of precession in shifting the constellations with respect to the seasonal reference points, the equinoxes and solstices, and could have known the length of the Great Year, as they called it, fairly well, they could not easily have determined the exact moment of the start of a New Age and end of the old by observing precession alone to an accuracy better than plus or minus a few centuries. The movement is just too slow and the constellations rising before the Sun on the Spring Equinox are bathed in the growing light of dawn. This would make the fainter stars disappear well before the full constellation had risen and make the visual sighting of constellation boundaries a very tricky matter.
This technique is obviously very inaccurate. However, nature and human ingenuity contrived a very precise system for inaugurating World Ages, making it possible to identifiy a period as short as a day or two for the great transition rather than a century or more. The ancients observed everything going on in the skies and made records particularly of planetary motions which covered long periods. They discovered a peculiar cyclic pattern in the coming together of the planets Jupiter and Saturn which they called Great Conjunctions to distinguish them from the more frequent lesser conjunctions involving the other, faster-moving planets. Great Conjunctions occurred about every 20 years but every third Great Conjunction, in about 60-year intervals, occurred most often in the same constellation of the Zodiac.
The 20-year conjunction points are roughly one-third of the Zodiacal Circle around from each other. If the points are connected, they form a near equilateral triangle within the circle. Each successive 60-year Great Conjunction occurs an average of about nine degrees farther down the track, in the forward direction through the Zodiac, from the previous one. Therefore, the entire triangle can be thought of as rotating in the forward direction through the Zodiac in increments of nine degrees every 60 years. This grand pattern is referred to as the "Rotation of the Trigon of Great Conjunctions." Any one of the corners of the triangle or trigon will move through 30 degrees in about 200 years and completely around the Zodiac in 2400 years. These intervals were easily discoverable by the ancients with simple observational persistence and record keeping; no sophisticated instruments were required.
Could this 60-year periodicity in the meetings of Jupiter and Saturn in the same constellation have given extra importance to the number 60 such that it was incorporated in the number of seconds in a minute and minutes in an hour? Could the Trigon of Great Conjunctions have suggested a harmony between all constellations one-third of the circle around from each other that came to be enshrined in the astrological idea of the triplicities -- the air, fire, water and earth signs?
The time of one full rotation of the Trigon of Great Conjunctions, 2400 years, is of an order close to the length of an average World Age, roughly 2200 years. The Trigon would, therefore, make a fine vernier for subdividing the lengthy ages into smaller time units while still utilizing observable features of the heavens. The sky becomes a Great Clock the 'hour hand' of which is the Vernal Point moving very slowly backwards through the Zodiac by precession and the 'minute hand' of which is any corner of the Trigon of Great Conjunctions moving forward through the Zodiac.
It doesn't matter that a complete rotation of the Trigon is not exactly the length of an average World Age. All of these observations would have been made in the real sky against the background of the actual constellations of stars. The constellations, as we know, are not of the same size.
Some, like Virgo and Scorpio, cover nearly twice as many degrees along the Zodiac or Ecliptic as some others, like Cancer and Libra. Therefore, the World Ages of Virgo and Scorpio may be expected to last much longer than those of Cancer and Libra, by as much as 1000 years or more! Similarly, a corner of the Trigon will take longer to traverse the larger constellations than the smaller ones.
All that is needed to precisely mark the moment of the beginning of a New Age, however, is a unique but predictable event selected from a convenient and known system for breaking down world-age periods into smaller intervals. Here is how de Santillana believed it was done. The mythology prescribes a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn "at the place of passage," meaning as close as possible to the location of the Vernal Equinox Point as it precesses into the next World Age constellation. This is all that is required, with some judicious reasoning regarding constellation boundaries, to identify the exact moment when a New Age might commence. The two hands of the Cosmic Clock must coincide.
In mythological terms the Great Conjunctions were associated with a magnanimous motif in which "Father Time," Saturn, King of the Planets, gives "...all the measures of the whole creation" to his son, Jupiter. Saturn is also "Lord of the Measures," that is, of the sacred units for measuring the Universe he created, the units of time, space and mass or weight. As his first official act following Creation, the Craftsman God measures everything he has made using himself as the fundamental unit-maker. Thus he measures time and space "by his stride." And we have seen that the orbital periods of Saturn and Jupiter may have provided numbers which came to be the basis of our coordinate and time-measuring systems. [See Figure 2.]
The writer hopes that something of the unity and naturalism of this magnificent system for reading the signs and messages of the gods writ large in the heavens, of its coherence and integration on many levels from the celestial to the inwardly human, and of the great reverence and worship which the ancients gave to the cosmos as the inspiration for their mythology and religion will come through to the reader. One must use one's own right-hemispheric appreciation of wholeness and intuitive insight to put the pieces of so large a puzzle together -- that of rediscovering the significance of ancient mythological science.
In Part 2, the world-age time-reckoning system developed here will be applied to the question of the meaning of the Star of Bethlehem or Star of the Magi and to the determination of the true dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Some of the implications of the World Monomyth for history and religion will also be examined. And finally, the question will be posed whether a resetting of coordinates in astrology will be needed when the New Age begins.
1. Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill: An essay on myth and the frame of time, 2nd paperback ed. (Boston: David R. Godine, 1983).
2. David Ulansey, The Origins of the Mithraic Mysteries, 1st paperback ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).
The first part of this article, entitled "Celestial Cycles And Ancient Mythological Science," laid the foundation for the more specific, though still immense, reconstructive task being contemplated here. In it was discussed the metaphorical code of mythology which has so long escaped our notice as the language of pre-scientific science that it is. Myth was distinguished from its modern connotation of falsehood or fantasy and identified with the holistic, unified form of consciousness associated in contemporary psychology with the right hemisphere brain function.
The common denominators of the core mythologies of all times and peoples were then presented in the form of the universal heroic saga which the late mythologian, Joseph Campbell, dubbed the World Monomyth. The Monomyth was found to work on more than one level. Campbell saw in its scenes and symbols the psychological and spiritual transformation of everyman through the phases of life. Another investigator, Giorgio de Santillana, saw a connection with the heavens and early astronomy. Both perspectives, the inner and the outer, can be valid simultaneously in the ancient holistic world-view summed up in the phrase, As above, so below.
The de Santillana association of mythology with celestial factors has not received to date the attention it deserves, and part of the purpose of the present effort is to make this work more widely known. It also leads to some surprising results in connection with the Star of Bethlehem, the Age of Aquarius, and the influence of mythology in history and religion.
Both parts of this article are based primarily on Prof. de Santillana's landmark book, Hamlet's Mill.
Let us now apply the de Santillana hypothesis to what the author firmly believes to be the solution to the long-standing mystery of the nature of the Star of Bethlehem or Star of the Magi referred to in the Bible, which astronomers and others have struggled to interpret, as yet without reaching an acceptable conclusion or consensus.
It is safe to say that everything under the Sun has been proposed at one time or another to answer the question, "What was this 'star' which led the Wise Men to Bethlehem and which heralded the birth of Christ?" Was it something real, visible to everyone looking up at the sky, or was it imaginary, miraculous or hallucinatory and, therefore, 'visible' only to certain individuals? Was it symbolic and neither psychic nor physical?
This investigator hopes to show that the basic, underlying story of the life of Christ is a retelling of the World Monomyth and is involved with the concept of World Ages and the symbolic astronomy pertaining thereto. It is a big task for a short paper but all of the critical elements are now in place. If we can put ourselves into the holistic, unified, intuitive and mystical mode of thought of the ancients, which relates to the now mostly recessive right-hemispheric brain functioning, some of what follows may even seem obvious.
Researchers looking for a physical explanation for the Star of Bethlehem start by defining a time period, based on historical sources, during which Christ's birth is estimated to have taken place, usually about ten years before and after Year Zero. Then they make every kind of guess as to what the star could have been from all the types of known astronomical phenomena. Finally, by searching historical references and running computer simulations of the skies over the Middle East from 10 B.C. to 10 A.D., they look to discover any likely candidates in suitable documentable phenomena falling within this period.
They have looked at meteors, comets, supernovae, eclipses and planetary alignments. Of these, only the supernova looks and behaves anything like a special, one-point-source star. Bright supernovae are very rare, however, and would be expected to be seen and recorded all over the world for the few to several days of their normal duration. For example, a famous one was seen by the Chinese in July of 1054 A.D. It was bright enough to be seen in daylight, like the planet Venus, for 23 days. We now study the remnants of this great stellar explosion as the Crab Nebula and Pulsar, Messier Object Number One.
Unfortunately, no records corresponding to the apparition of a supernova are found close to the time of Christ's birth. Similarly, no strong evidence is found for very bright meteors or comets occurring during this period. Christ's nativity is often inferred in Biblical chronologies from the time of a total lunar eclipse which Josephus said occurred not long before the death of King Herod, so this was probably not the Christ Star. No eclipses of the Sun were found to have occurred either leaving planetary alignments as the only possibility.
The writer's experience in planetarium production and in delivering countless "Christmas Star" shows has aided the inquiry. In ancient usage the term 'star' was construed much more broadly than it is today. Any luminous object or configuration of objects in the sky could be termed a star of one kind or another. There were the fixed stars of the background. Planets were "wandering" stars (from the Greek, planetai, wanderers), comets were "hairy" stars (from the Greek, kometes, long-haired) and novae "new" stars (from the Latin, novus, new). Therefore, it is not at all unreasonable to expect that an important configuration or alignment of more than one celestial object would also be termed a 'star,' as in "Star of Bethlehem" or "Star of the Magi."
Closing in on a planetary configuration, a consensus seemed to be emerging in the planetarium world that the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 6 B.C. was the most likely candidate. Two planets may come close together in the heavens on more than one occasion in a relatively short period of time due to what are called retrograde motions. This occurred with Jupiter and Saturn moving against the background stars of the constellation of Pisces on about May 20th, October 17th and November 16th of the year 6 B.C.
Just this last year (1991), however, and well in time for Christmas, two new and imaginative ideas emerged concerning the nature of the Star. One appeared in the October edition of Omni and substituted a series of conjunctions of Jupiter with Venus in 3-2 B.C. The other appeared in the San Jose Mercury News on Christmas Eve and suggested an eclipse of Jupiter by the Moon, technically termed an 'occultation' of Jupiter, in 6 B.C. The point is that astronomers are still trying to solve the mystery but have lacked a convincing proof or context in which to frame the problem such that their 'solution' may be seen as the only credible one. The missing context is, in this researcher's opinion, the Monomyth-World Age time-reckoning system of the ancient astronomical priesthoods.
Of all the great civilizations of antiquity, the one most noted for its mathematical and astronomical prowess, and which has influenced Western thought the most, is the Babylonian. In Biblical times, Babylon or Mesopotamia was famed as the age-old center of astrology by the Hebrews and all other cultures with which it had contact.
Also called Chaldeans, their powers of divination by the stars were held in such respect, even fear, that they were ascribed to magic and works of the devil by their less-advanced neighbors rather than to the careful observation and very long-term record-keeping of celestial cycles coupled with the mathematical calculations that were actually involved. The Babylonians were noted for being able to predict eclipses of the Sun and Moon, a very difficult problem, as well as for having set up the basic celestial coordinate system which we still use today. Even our modern dictionaries give as one definition of Chaldean, "an astrologer, soothsayer, or enchanter."
The three Wise Men who are said to have paid homage to the infant Jesus, bringing three gifts, are Magi, a class of astronomer-priests and prognosticators from the general Chaldean-Persian region reputed to possess supernatural powers. The term, "Magi," is also assigned a definition as "astrologers," and is the root of the word, "magic." The Star of Bethlehem is equally well-known as the Star of the Magi, those said to have seen the heavenly sign when they were in the East (Chaldea-Persia) and then to have traveled West to Jerusalem.
They are also the very people to have prophesied (predicted by calculation) the beginning of a World Age. Their priesthood would have observed the precession over the centuries and known how to use the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn to uniquely select a precise starting date. They would have expressed these ideas in mythological or metaphorical terms as a revision of the universal story, the Monomyth, keeping most of the same basic elements but incorporating the symbols of the new constellation rising before the Sun on the Vernal Equinox.
In Part 1 it was suggested that many of the numbers used in organizing our celestial, calendrical and time-keeping systems (of Babylonian origin) are based on the orbital periods of Jupiter and Saturn, about 12 and 30 years respectively, and possibly also on their 60-year conjunction cycle. Now we shall see that most of the chief factors in the life of Christ have direct counterparts in both the standard Monomyth story and in astrological symbolism related to the World Age of Pisces.
The author believes that the solution to all of the mysteries can be found in a new consideration of the triple Great Conjunction series in 6 B.C. However, where the astronomy community came up with a good guess in choosing this as the most likely candidate for the Star, we can now place these events into their proper context and show that everything fits together coherently.
What the astronomers have ignored about the Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions of 6 B.C. is that they took place against the background of the constellation of Pisces (both physically and symbolically speaking). The fishes is a Christian symbol. Furthermore, the Vernal Equinox Point at that time was just on the border between the constellations of Aries and Pisces moving backwards and, therefore, into Pisces.
Without knowing it, they discovered one hand of the Cosmic Clock and also did not realize that there is another, and that both come together to inaugurate a World Age as part of a tradition probably older than the brief 6000-year span of recorded history.
The limitations of space prevent reproducing figures for each of the three Great Conjunctions that occurred in 6 B.C. Therefore, only the first one is shown, the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on May 20, 6 B.C. Figure 1 is a computer-generated graphic reconstruction of a portion of the sky for this date.
The slanted dotted line represents the Ecliptic, the apparent path of the Sun through the Zodiacal constellations with respect to the background stars through the year. Planetary and other positions referred to are to be understood as the positions of the objects when projected onto the Ecliptic. A line at right angles to the Ecliptic passing through the object will intersect the Ecliptic at this projected position.
The horizontal dotted line represents the Celestial Equator, or the Earth's Equator projected onto the Celestial Sphere. When the Sun's position on the Ecliptic is one of two possible points where the Ecliptic intersects the Celestial Equator, at noon on that day the Sun will be directly overhead as observed by all persons living on the Earth's Equator. The two points of intersection are called the Equinoxes because, on the days when the Sun is there, we experience an equal number of hours of daylight and nighttime.
The figure shows the Equinox which, when the Sun is at this position on about March 21, officially announces the beginning of Spring in the calendar. This intersection of the two lines (actually great circles around the sky) is called the Vernal Equinox even when the Sun is not there, and is used as the primary reference position for locating all directions in space from Earth. It is the [0, 0] position of our celestial coordinate systems.
It is this point of intersection, this zero reference point, which is precessing slowly along the Ecliptic in the reverse direction through the Zodiac as the Earth's axis wobbles. It is as though, in the figure, the Zodiacal constellations are slowly moving upward and to the left along the slanted Ecliptic while the Equinox point remains stationary. Fortunately the precessional motion is extremely slow or the Vernal Point would not be much good as a stable reference. The movement is about 50 seconds of arc per year, less than 1/60th of a degree.
Other names are the Sigma Point (symbolized by the Greek capital letter Sigma) and the First Point of Aries, which we will see is something of a misnomer now. However, in 6 B.C. when the positions were in effect, the Vernal Point was close to the first point of the constellation, Aries, abbreviated 'Ari' in Figure 1. The lines connecting the principal stars of each constellation indicate its rough shape and extent along the Ecliptic.
A line drawn at right angles to the Ecliptic and between the constellations of Aries (Ari) and Pisces (Psc) in the figure would cross the Ecliptic slightly to the upward-left of the intersection point, the Vernal Point, shown.
It has been mentioned that observation of precession alone was too inaccurate for the ancients to date a World Age within a century. Adding the requirement of a Great Conjunction as close as possible to the Vernal Point eliminated this difficulty. However, it also meant that the Vernal Point would generally not be exactly on the boundary between constellations when a new age began. Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions return to any particular constellation, as we shall see, approximately every 800 years. Therefore, the closest position of the Vernal Point to the constellation boundary must be chosen from the 800-year-interval "windows of opportunity."
For the World Age of Pisces, the best Vernal Point position is that shown in Figure 1, placing it somewhat inside of Pisces. The earlier window, 800 years previously, would place the Vernal Point about 10 degrees to the upper-left along the Ecliptic and too far inside of Aries. This is the best position of the Vernal Point Hour Hand of the Cosmic Clock for the start of the Piscean (and synonymously the Christian) Age.
One of the trickiest problems in deciphering the meaning of the Star of Bethlehem from its Biblical description, in terms of an astronomical phenomenon, has been the statement that the star, originally seen in the East by the Chaldean astrologers, somehow travelled West with them as they journeyed, it is thought over several months, first to Jerusalem and finally to Bethlehem, where it seems to have settled in the West over the town, guiding the Magi to the Child. Let us first dismiss the simple explanation that everything in the sky rises in the East and sets in the West by day and night. The story indicates something occurring over a period of several months, the time it would have taken in 6 B.C. to travel from Persia-Mesopotamia to Jerusalem, and not a daily event taken by itself. Let us examine the broader observational scenerio of Jupiter and Saturn from May to November.
Figure 1 shows only the first of the three conjunctions which occurred in 6 B.C. The computer's symbols for the planets show them in exact conjunction as projected onto the close-by Ecliptic. This was on May 20th. About five to six months later, on October 17th and November 16th, they were again in exact conjunction, a few degrees Westward (to the lower-right) of this position due to retrograde motions.
On May 20th the Sun would have been about 60 degrees East of the Vernal Point and the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction would have been seen rising in the East very late at night, about four hours before Sunrise. This might have been when the Magi first saw the Sign of Christ's birth "while they were still in the East."
Because the Sun moves one degree along the Ecliptic eastward each day, the planets would have risen earlier and earlier each night until, several months later (not in exact conjunction but still near each other), they would be found above the Western horizon shortly before sunrise, having arced across the sky all night, and would be rising soon after Sunset. In October and November of 6 B.C., back in or close to exact conjunction, the pair would have been seen high in the sky at sunset, and the early hours of the evening would have found them gliding down to the Western horizon to set around midnight.
They would have briefly touched the Western horizon at a particular point before setting, perhaps suggesting the idea of a star which came to rest over a single house. It must be borne in mind that myth is metaphorical and symbolic, and should not be interpreted in a very literal way. Over all, the observational factors concerning Jupiter and Saturn in 6 B.C. seem to work well as the prototype of the description of the Star of Bethlehem's movement as poetically construed in the Bible.
The story of the Magi's visit may be metaphorical. The journey of the three Wise Men from the East, bearing a total of three gifts, may be mythical code language indicating a connection with Chaldean astrology and the fact that the Great Conjunction of the New Age of Pisces was repeated three times over a period of about six months, initially in the East for only a few hours before Sunrise, and, at the end, as a star in the West, setting well into the evening after the Sun.
Joseph Campbell has suggested that myth became more and more concretized, literally construed and historically interpreted over the centuries; it lost its "transparency to transcendence," to use his terms. The writer would argue that this was the result of the parallel shift of perceptual dominance from the right to the scientific, rational left hemisphere of the brain which Marshall McLuhan and others have studied.
So the question becomes: "Is it real or is it Memorex?" Was Jesus a real, historical person or the archetypal hero of the World Monomyth, an ideal of what man should be? There is much to connect his life story with the Monomyth.
As outlined in Part 1, the birth of the hero of the Monomyth is usually prophesied long in advance and attended by omens, celestial signs and the like. Certainly true of the Christ. His arrival somehow threatens the established authority, often a king who has taken the throne illegitimately, who is a tyrant, and who determines to kill the hero while still a baby or child. The astrologers went to King Herod bringing the news of the Star, and Herod decided that he did not want a Messiah challenging his rulership. He demanded to know when the Star appeared and had all the male children born around that time executed.
The hero escapes by being taken into exile for his safety and we read that Jesus spent some time in Egypt for the same reason. The hero always has special powers which he generally hides by pretending to be insane or dull-witted, the theme of the feint of folly, again for protection and disguise until the right time to act. Christ performed miracles but did not pretend madness or stupidity. However, the "King of the Jews" is mocked by the crowd and made to wear a crown of thorns, recalling the fool's theme in the Saturnalia festival when the village idiot was paraded as mock king during the intercalary days before the New Year.
In Part 1 a Table listed the numerous gods and heroes of mythology whose symbols and lives are examples of the Monomyth story, told and retold countless times over the ages. Most of these are believed to be mythical Saturn and Jupiter archetypes.
Another table could be created of names which we have always thought belonged to actual historical figures who lived as physical human beings on Earth but whose life stories parallel once again the themes and motifs of the Monomyth, leaving us to wonder whether they really lived or not. This list would include names such as Jesus, Moses, King David, Buddha, Socrates, Alexander the Great, Emperor Claudius, Lucius Junius Brutus, and others.
Recognizing that mythology and religion may be overly interpreted as historical rather than as transcendent or spiritual truth, the safest thing to say is that these persons certainly could have existed but that the Monomyth is primary and does not require the physical existence of human avatars even though it may be written as a story about exactly that. It exists as a universal instruction or guide in its own right with or without human embodiments. It seems that the lives of certain individuals may fall into the Monomyth pattern, however, and become associated with it.
Associations of the Christ story with astronomical factors abound. The Vernal Point and the Great Conjunction came together in Pisces. As the Bull and Ram had been worshipped during the preceding Ages of Taurus and Aries, the Fishes became the great mystical symbol. Christ was said to be a "fisher of men" by way of incorporating this into the updated Monomyth. Another Christian symbol, the sacrificed lamb, likely refers to the end of the prior age, Aries, just as the slaying of the Bull in the Mithraic religion is believed to represent the end of the Age of Taurus.
Similarly the death of Christ, the Crucifixion, I think contains a symbolic reference to the end of the Age of Pisces when the Age of Aquarius begins. Christ's body was fixed to the Cross (Cruci-fixion) but astrologers know of something called the "Fixed Cross." This is the group of four so-called "fixed" Zodiacal signs forming a cross within the circle of the Zodiac: Taurus, Leo, Scorpio and Aquarius.
When the Vernal Point precesses into Aquarius, the four seasonal points, the two Equinoxes and two Solstices, themselves always forming a cross, will have moved into the fixed signs or Fixed Cross of the Zodiac from the mutable signs where they are now. And on the way to his Crucifixion, Christ also made twelve stops, known as the "Stations of the Cross," another allusion to the twelve Zodiacal signs.
As Pisces rises, Virgo, the Virgin, on the opposite side of the Zodiac, sets, and vice versa. The idea of Christ's being born of a Virgin is likely a reference to this relationship. The name, Bethlehem, means "house of bread," another possible reference to Virgo because the mythological constellation figure of the Virgin shows her holding a sheaf of wheat.
Easter is the festival commemorating the resurrection of Christ after death. It is observed on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. It was originally a spring festival celebrating the return of the light after the bleak, relatively dark winter, the days of warmer weather, more hours of daylight, and renewed plant growth. Here again we see elements of the story of Christ tied to celestial and seasonal factors.
The present year-numbering system was intended to have begun with the birth of Christ, a metaphor of the Monomyth-scripted birth of the Age of Pisces. There is disagreement concerning the correct date of Christ's birth, some scholars placing it in 2 B.C. and others some years earlier or later. If the meaning of Christ's birth is really the birth of the Piscean Age, then 6 B.C. should have been Year Zero.
The person credited with having devised the current system of reckoning dates from the birth of Christ is an abbot named Dionysius Exiguus who lived more than 500 years later. From this distance in time he was not able to calculate the date of the Great Conjunction to better than the known 6-year error, assuming he used astronomical records. He is also said to have not included a Zero Year between 1 B.C. and 1 A.D., compounding the error. Our time-reckoning system insists that there is an entire year called Zero rather than merely a Zero Moment.
Just as the mystery of the Star of Bethlehem seemed finally to have been solved and its timing accurately determined, a new problem arose. There had been so much attention given to the 6 B.C. Great Conjunctions and the other candidates for the Star in roughly this same time frame that it had not seemed necessary to check that this was indeed the Great Conjunction closest to the Vernal Point. Since the precession moves backwards along the Ecliptic and the corners of the Trigon move in the forward direction, it seems necessary to ensure that the Great Conjunction taken to start a World Age be the one occurring closest to the Vernal Point when the Vernal Point, in turn, is closest to the constellation boundary.
In the year 54 A.D., one 60-year Trigon interval later, there was another, and final, Great Conjunction in Pisces. It took place only a degree or two from the Vernal Point and much closer than any in the 6 B.C. triple series. This conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is depicted in Figure 2 and, by the ancient system of the Magi, should have been the one to inaugurate the Age of Pisces. However, there is another object in the picture.
The disk symbol just above the symbols for Jupiter and Saturn represents the Sun. This Great Conjunction should have been predicted but, occurring on March 18, 54 A.D., a few days before the first day of spring, would not have been seen around the time of exact alignment due to being in nearly the same direction in space as the Sun. The event occurred in the day-time! One can only guess that this is the reason why we do not date the Christian/Piscean Age from this event instead of the earlier one.
There is no problem, however, in determining the exact time of the end of the Age of Pisces and the beginning of the New Age of Aquarius. It is necessary, however, to first determine, as before, the correct "window of opportunity."
Since the Trigon of Great Conjunctions completes a full cycle in about 2400 years, it turns through one-third of the Zodiacal Circle in 800 years. This means that when JupiterSaturn conjunctions are occurring in any particular constellation as one corner of the Trigon sweeps through, it will be about 800 years later before the next corner of the Trigon sweeps through the same constellation and Great Conjunctions take place there again.
In 800 years the Vernal Point moves westward about ten degrees. It is from these ten-degree steps that we must choose the Vernal Point position which most closely meets the boundary between Zodiacal constellations. Figure 3 is a portion of a star map showing the Ecliptic (slanted dotted line) as it passes through the modern astronomical constellations of Pisces and Aquarius. The Celestial Equator is the solid horizontal line labelled 0 degrees in the left margin. Since the star map used was prepared for the precessional epoch of 1950 A.D., the Vernal Point, at the intersection of these two lines, is shown in its position for that year.
The modern boundary line between Pisces and Aquarius is the lighter horizontal dotted line crossing the Ecliptic where the astrological symbols for these constellations are located. It is readily seen that the position of the Vernal Point (labelled with the Greek capital letter Sigma) in the 25th Century, the next window of opportunity, is much closer to the boundary than the one 800 years later in the 33rd Century. This is, therefore, the window we must choose.
The Zodiacal constellations are not of equal extent along the Ecliptic. Some, like Virgo and Scorpio, are as much as twice as big as some others, like Cancer and Libra. The World Ages of these constellations, then, may differ in length by as much as 1000 to 2000 years. Furthermore, constellation boundaries, like modern geographical boundaries, are set somewhat arbitrarily and by convention. Who can say exactly where they were set in ancient times or how accurately the Vernal Point could be located in relation to them.
The point is that the ten-degree steps were accurate enough to make the system work very well. One of them could always be found in best agreement with the boundary region. The advantages of precision, predictability and having a clear and visible sign in the real sky of incorporating Great Conjunctions into the World Age dating process far outweighed any disadvantage from not locating the Vernal Point precisely on the boundary.
There was also the advantage of an automatic warning system of the immanent commencement of a new World Age. When the precession has reached its last ten-degree notch and it can no longer be denied that a new constellation is rising before the Sun on the first day of spring, there is then, on the average, a 200-year period in which the conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn every 60 years in this constellation can be seen moving closer and closer toward the Vernal Point. The ancients knew where the Vernal Point was even when the Sun was not there, of course, in relation to the background stars. The World Age conjunctions did not have to occur on March 21st.
Applying this to the Age of Aquarius, there will be at least two or three "Announcers" of the beginning of the Age before it actually starts. Figure 4 is a diagram of the Cosmic Clock for the dawning of the Aquarian Age. It shows a corner of the Trigon sweeping through the astronomical constellation of Aquarius on its way toward the Vernal Point. The Great Conjunctions in Aquarius announcing (and preceding) the New Age will occur on Feb. 2, 2259; April 27, 2318; and Feb. 18, 2378.
The minute and hour hands of the Big Clock will precisely coincide on May 10-11, 2437 A.D. Figure 5 shows the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn on this date. It can be seen in this computer simulation that the positions of the planets are not merely in conjunction with each other but so close to the Vernal Equinox Point as to be in mutual conjunction with it.
This is surely the most precise celestial alignment possible for the commencement of any World Age! While the politics and record-keeping of Biblical times as well as the contingencies of astronomical motions seem to have made something of a muddle of the exact beginning of our current era, if we wish to continue the tradition of the Magi into the next World Age, we can do so now with an ease and precision which they certainly would have envied.
So the popular song from the musical, "Hair," entitled "The Age of Aquarius," was a little premature and got most of the details wrong. It's doubtful that, anytime soon, peace will guide the planets or love steer the stars. The true dawning of the Age of Aquarius will have nothing to do with the Moon being in the 7th or any other House, will involve Jupiter aligning with Saturn and not Mars, and will be more than 450 years too late to have been of any help to the flower children of the '60s. But it was a nice thought and a great song at the time!
A few collateral considerations remain. If the astronomical time reckoning system of the Babylonians is continued into the Age of Aquarius, then the year 2437 A.D. will become a new Year Zero A.D.A. The abbreviation A.D.A. stands for "Anno Domini Aquarii" (in the Year of Our Lord of Aquarius).
We do not yet know the name of the new Avatar of the Aquarian Age or even if there necessarily will be one, so we can only number the present period by counting backwards from the beginning of the Age and inserting a blank in the identifier. Thus the year 1992 becomes the year 445 B.X. where the X stands for the initial of the name of the Aquarian Avatar not yet born.
We can assume that the World Monomyth will need another revision but will tell the same eternal story in a new updated way, somehow utilizing the symbols associated with the constellations of the Water Carrier and its opposite, Leo, the Lion. Perhaps the hero of this Age will be born of or raised by a lion and have a career in water conservation.
It has long seemed too coincidental that the astrological signs, measured by regular 30-degree intervals from the Vernal Point, are not much more than 30 degrees or one sign out of synchronization with the actual star constellations. Precession has moved the Vernal Point from the first degree of Aries to about the 6th degree of Pisces now. When the Age of Aquarius begins it will be at the beginning of Pisces moving backwards through the back door of the constellation of Aquarius. It is a misnomer to refer to it, as we still do, as the "First Point of Aries" when clearly it will soon be at the first point of Pisces.
And how did our astrological system come to be set up when the Vernal Point was moving from Aries into Pisces at the time of the birth of Christ when we know very well that the Magi had set up the system and had been practicing astrology for thousands of years before that? The misalignment of the stars with the seasons should be at least two or three whole signs, not one.
The way out of this dilemma is to reset the coordinates at the beginning of each New Age so the signs named and measured along the Ecliptic from the Vernal Point are the same as the star constellations in the same vicinity. This would require changing the name of the Vernal Point from the First Point of Aries to the First Point of Pisces and shifting all of the signs by one House.
The 1st House would then be associated with Pisces, the 2nd with Aries and so on around to the 12th which would be that of Aquarius. Repeating the process each World Age, the signs and constellations would never get more than one sign out of sync, and this must have been what was done at the start of the Age of Pisces. Astrology was invented long before the time of Christ's birth; its coordinate system, however, must have been reset to connect the 1st House with Aries instead of Taurus (as it would have been from the beginning of the Age of Aries around 2200 B.C.).
The Precession Cycle and the long- and short-term movements of the stars and planets in the heavens formed the central myth and mystery around which ancient civilizations were organized. Each new day provided a unique, never-to-be-exactly-repeated read-out of the Cosmic Clock: its face the background of fixed stars and the special group of twelve Zodiacal constellations and its pointing hands the Vernal Point and the corners of the Trigon coupled with the positions of all the planets, the Sun and Moon, and anything else that might from time to time appear in the sky.
The World Monomyth, on one level perhaps a kind of manual for studying and interpreting the dials of the Universal Clock, in combination with the body of astronomical knowledge with which it is associated, is probably the oldest and most important creative and scientific work of mankind to survive to the present. It has been in use longer than we can know, 6 - 10,000 years, at least. Civilizations have devoted their energies for millennia to the study, refinement and preservation of this tradition. We might well continue to honor it through the remainder of this Age and on to beyond the end of the next.
And yet, like all the works of Man, however grand, it is as nothing in the face of Eternity -- a breath of wind, a flash of light, a glimpse into the One Mind. We have taken the measure of our greatness and our insignificance in but a few turns of the Mill of Time.
The above Figure depicts the event which will inaugurate the Age of Aquarius as it will be seen in the early morning hours just before sunrise on May 11, 2437 A.D. from the latitude of San Jose, California. The computer-generated image shows the exact conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn with the Vernal Equinox very close to the boundary between Pisces and Aquarius.
1. Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill: An essay on myth and the frame of time, 2nd paperback ed. (Boston: David R. Godine, 1983).
2. VOYAGER: The Interactive Desktop Planetarium, V. 1.2 for the Apple Macintosh (San Leandro, California: Carina Software, 1988).
Copyright 1991, Terry Alden -- All rights reserved
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