The Myth of the Central Sun
© Lloyd

__VOL I, No. 11 May 3, 1997


[] Our next step is particularly vital because it will bring us to the threshold of a reconstruction, a concrete way to begin re-envisioning the past.

In any investigation of the ancient sun god you will inevitably run into a theme of profound influence on ancient thought: You will confront the myth of the central sun — the motionless sun, the sun that did not rise or set, but stood firmly in one place. There is, in fact, a decisive difference between the great luminary celebrated as the king of the world, and the body we call the Sun today: unlike our rising and setting Sun, the archaic sun-god did not move.

Perhaps the idea of a giant but visually stationary body in the sky will seem not just bizarre but impossible to visualize in any practical sense, given a rotating earth. There is an answer to that issue, arising from the ancient traditions themselves, but that answer will only raise other questions, so we've reached a point at which we have to be most attentive to the witnesses themselves.

>From the first stirrings of civilization in the Nile Valley, all of the tribes of Egypt celebrated the memory of Atum or Ra, father of kings, founder of the Tep Zepi or Golden Age.

Without exception Egyptologists have identified Atum-Ra as the rising and setting sun. And that's the first challenge we must meet, because there's a world of difference between the literal meanings of the texts and the familiar translations.

In the Egyptian religious system, the ruler of the sky occupies a designated place, presiding over what the priests remembered as "the age of the primeval gods." The Egyptian sun god gives motion to the heavens, but he does not himself move. It is said of Atum, for example, that he "gives motion to all things." But his domain is, emphatically, the cosmic center, a place of motionlessness or "rest." The texts say of Atum:

The Great God lives Fixed in the middle of the sky.

Atum occupies, and is the cosmic center, the "place par excellence," to use the expression of one of the most perceptive Egyptologists, the late T. Rundle Clark.

Thus one text proclaims Atum to be the "Firm Heart of the Sky." Other sources describe this cosmic center as the celestial "resting place" achieved by Atum. In the Egyptian chronicles this place of rest, the motionless center and summit of the sky, becomes the focus of the great celestial events of the First Time.

Nothing misrepresents original meanings more profoundly than the common translations of Egyptian texts relative to the daily cycle of the sun god. In the language of the Egyptians themselves, the god does not rise and set, but grows bright and dims. He shines brightly, then his light recedes.

The most frequently-used Egyptian words for [] this occasion are _uben_ and _pert_. The first word, _uben_, means "to grow bright." The second, _pert_, means "to come forth." Now the truth of the matter is that neither these, nor any other Egyptian words translated as the sun rising on the eastern horizon actually carry such a meaning.

When Egyptian sources speak of the sun god coming out, or coming forth, the meaning is precisely what you would intend in saying that "the Moon comes out at night", or "the stars come out." You would not mean that the moon or stars rise. You would mean that they "grow bright." And that is the literal meaning of the Egyptian words usually translated as "to rise": Related hieroglyphs mean to grow strong, to awaken, to come to life, and so on.

It is the resting, stationary god who comes forth at the beginning of the day. But remember what we've already learned. The ancient day began at sunset, as the sky darkened. So we need to be very clear on this. The planetary components were vastly more dramatic and unlike anything appearing in the sky today. It was the planetary bodies that occupied the center stage in the mythmaking era. As the sky darkened, the large planetary bodies — extremely close to the earth — began to put on a spectacular display. Then, at sunrise, as the sky lightened, the radiance of these planetary bodies began to recede. That's the fundamental character of the ancient daily cycle, and the mythmakers endlessly recorded images of the contrasting phases, as we will see.

One of the most common Egyptian expressions combined with words for "growing bright" or "coming forth" is the phrase _em hetep_. The sun god "comes forth _em hetep_." As usually translated the words mean "in peace." Now in what sense might we say that "Ra comes forth in peace."? Well, the root meaning is far more concrete. The words mean "to be at rest," or what is the same thing, "to stand in one spot." In other words, the phrase _em hetep_ directly complements the idea of the creator-king occupying his "resting place" in the sky. Literally, the Egyptian sun god "comes forth" or "grows bright" at the stationary _resting place_ — again, the center and summit of the sky.

[A note of caution, however, is needed here. There is also a great deal of evidence suggesting that the great sphere revolves through phases and that these phases are inseparably tied to the cycle of day and night. A sphere turning in the sky is much different than a rising and setting sphere. ]

The principles of the central sun appear to hold far beyond Egypt — even in cases where scholars have never doubted the god's solar identity.

No cuneiform specialist has questioned the identity of the Babylonian "sun" god Shamash. Yet the texts describe Shamash "suspended from the midst of heaven." "Like the midst of heaven may he shine!" they say. "O Sun-god, in the midst of heaven ... " His place in the sky is "the summit house," called also "the fixed house" and the "house of rest." In the cuneiform language these are not abstract phrases, but designations of very specific attributes and a very specific place in the sky. Center and summit (or "zenith" in many translations) are one and the same place: "In the center he made the zenith," states one text.

The language makes clear that Shamash was a precise Assyrian and Babylonian counterpart of the Egyptian sun god Ra. The equation of center and summit — the cosmic place from which the sun god ruled in both the Egyptian and Mesopotamian systems — points to an archetypal idea. We will find that the idea pervades the myths of India, of China, the great native cultures of the Americas, and numerous other cultures as well. The conclusion is revolutionary: the first stargazers did not care about the body we call Sun today, while there was nothing in the world they cared about more than the exemplary life of the primeval, central sun.

How could people on a rotating earth see a huge planetary body as stationary in the sky?

For an earthbound observer, there is only one stationary spot in the revolving sky. It is the celestial pole — for those of us in the northern hemisphere, the north celestial pole, roughly identified in our night sky today with the star Polaris. Close by you see the constellation of Ursa Major, or the Great Bear, most familiar to us as the Big Dipper.

When you look at the northern sky at night, the stars you see are actually cutting a circle around a motionless point. This wheeling of circumpolar stars around the visual center is, of course, due to the rotation of the Earth. As the earth rotates, the Great Bear will revolve visually around the motionless Polaris. [Since the Earth wobbles very slowly over thousands of years, the celestial pole has not always been Polaris, of course.]

You can see this motion through a time lapse photograph of the circumpolar region. That stationary point, in the ancient religious and astronomical systems, is the sacred center and summit.

Resting place, motionless site, axis, pivot, still place, silent region, the fixed or stable center of the turning heavens, the zenith, summit, top of the world — a rigorous, comparative approach will leave no doubt that this very spot is the remembered station of the primeval sun.

Of course from the vantage point of modern astronomy the entire idea is outrageous. So our next step must be to look carefully at the language of the cosmic center in the different cultures.

__VOL I, No. 12 April 29, 1997



In the sixth century B.C. Xenophanes of Colophon offered this definition of the true god: "There is one God, greatest among gods and men, neither in shape nor in thought like unto mortals. He abides ever in the same place motionless, and it befits him not to wander hither and thither."

I think it will become clear to anyone who takes up this subject with any seriousness that Xenophanes was expressing, not a new abstract philosophy, but a very ancient tradition elevated to a philosophical principle.

A remarkable parallel occurs in the Hindu Upanishads:

"There is only one Being who exists Unmoved yet moving swifter than the mind Who far outstrips the senses, though as gods They strive to reach him, who, himself at rest ... Supports all vital action. He moves, yet moves not."

As more than once scholar has pointed out, such images arose from the idea that the ruler of the sky stood motionless at the polar center, while yet turning the heavens. Which is to say that the philosopher's Unmoved Mover had an ancient mythical prototype in the central sun, the founder of the Golden Age.

So one step in the reasoning here is simply to note the language applied by the first astronomers to the celestial pole and to compare that terminology to the earlier language applied to the great rulers of the sky.

Consider the image of the pole in Shakespeare:
" ... I am constant as the northern star, Of whose true-fix'd and resting quality There is no fellow in the firmament"

The speaker here is Shakespeare's Caesar — whom tradition regarded as the supreme ruler on earth, a replica of the celestial power. Is it significant that he locates this supreme power at the celestial pole? Many centuries before Shakespeare, Hipparchus spoke of "a certain star remaining ever at the same place. And this star is the pivot of the Cosmos." That language turns out to be the very language used by the ancient Chinese in describing the pole star as the "star of the pivot." And this was anything but an abstraction, for Chinese astronomy insisted with one voice that the pivot was the ancient location of the celestial emperor Shang-ti, the ruler of beginnings.

To the Polynesians the pole is the station of the "Immovable One." The Pawnee call it "the star that stands still" and regard it as the governor of the sky. This star, they say, "is different from other stars, because it never moves." To the Hindus, the star is Dhruva, meaning "firm," while the region of the pole is esteemed as the "motionless site," the celestial "resting place" of gods and heroes.


The worldwide astronomical designations of the celestial pole become crucial pieces in a puzzle, for this reason: the language establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that the pole is the remembered location of the archaic sun god Saturn. In modern astronomical terms, a planet at the celestial pole is a preposterous idea. All of the planets in our sky, together with the Earth, move on a common plane around the Sun, so that from Earth we see the planets moving on roughly the same arc across the sky as the Sun. The paradox is glaring.

No planet today approaches Earth's celestial pole! And yet the ancient tradition of the polar sun confronts us everywhere.

In ancient Egyptian cosmology, possibly the oldest known thought-system, one finds a mystifying connection of the sun god Atum with the pole. The French scholar Jacques Enel, in his study of Egyptian imagery, for example, assures us that the Egyptians remembered Atum's station as "the single, immovable point around which the movement of the stars occurred." To the Egyptians, states Enel, "Atum was the chief or center of the movement of the universe at the pole."

Much the same language is used by the eminent Egyptologist, T. Rundle Clark, who tells us the pole was the place par excellence. Atum, according to Clark, is "the arbiter of destiny perched on the top of the world pole." So when the text declare that "the great god lives, fixed in the middle of the sky," the reference is to the polar station, according to Clark.

Clark writes that "the celestial pole is 'that place,' or 'the great city.' The various designation[s] show how deeply it impressed the Egyptian imagination. If god is the governor of the universe and it revolves around an axis, then god must preside over the axis."

That the Egyptians would remember a former sun god at the celestial pole may seem hard to digest. And yet the preeminence of the celestial pole as the resting place of Atum is both emphatic and unequivocal. Clark writes: "No other people was so deeply affected by the eternal circuit of the stars around a point in the northern sky. Here must be the node of the universe, the center of regulation." (Our only disagreement here is with Clark's assumption that ancient nations outside his own area of expertise — Egypt — were less preoccupied with the celestial pole.)

Atum, the first form of the sun god Ra, was thus the 'Unmoved Mover" described in Egyptian texts many centuries before Aristotle offered the phrase as a definition of the supreme power. The Egyptian hieroglyph for Atum is a primitive sledge, signifying "to move." To the god of the cosmic revolutions, the Book of the Dead proclaims "Hail to thee, Tmu [Atum] Lord of Heaven, who givest motion to all things." But while moving the heavens Atum remained _em hetep_, "at rest" or "in one spot." Throughout all of Egypt this "resting place" of Atum was remembered as the site of the First Occasion, the drama of cosmic beginnings.

Remember that the sun god Atum and the sun god Ra were one and the same, though the Egyptians insisted that the god himself evolved with the unfolding events. The god who was Atum became Ra in the course of his own unfolding, as the originally formless god began to acquire certain distinct attributes.

Thus Atum's counterpart Ra, according to the sources themselves, "rests on his high place." He does not roam about the sky. Like Atum, Ra is the pivot, with the lesser lights revolving around him. These are, as the texts say, the "stars who surround Ra." "These gods shall revolve round about him." "The satellites of Ra make their round." Again, the picture is of a stationary god serving as the pivot of celestial motions.

As I have already noted the ancient Sumerian counterpart of Atum was the creator-king An, the Akkadian Anu, whose "terrifying glory" was a repeated subject of the hymns and rites. This was "the terror of the splendour of Anu in the midst of heaven," and the starworshippers did not mean by the "midst" of heaven some vague and unfamiliar metaphor. The "midst" (kirib sami, Kabal sami, meant, very concretely, the cosmic center), making the polar god, according to Robert Brown, Jr., a nocturnal sun. The words translated as the "midst" mean, according to Brown, "that central point where Polaris sat enthroned."

Both Sumerian and Akkadian texts are replete with references to the "firm" and "steadfast" or "motionless" character of the dominant gods. The great god Enki of Eridu is "the motionless lord," and god of "stability." A broken Sumerian hymn, in reference to Ninurash, a form of Ninurta, reads:

"Whom the 'god of the steady star' upon a foundation — To ... cause to repose in years of plenty."


Failing to perceive the concrete meaning of such terms, solar mythologists like to think of the place of "repose" as a hidden "underworld" beneath the earth, a dark region visited by the sun after it has set. But the place of repose is no underworld. It is:

"The lofty residence ... The lofty place ... The place of lofty repose ... "

What, then, of the famous Assyrian and Babylonian god Shamash, the sun god whom we now recognize as Saturn? A remarkable fact is that Shamash "comes forth" (shines) and "goes in" (declines, diminishes) at one spot, the "firm," "stable" or motionless station of supreme "rest".

This place par excellence was symbolized by the top of the ziggurats the famous Babylonian axis-towers constructed as symbolic models of the Cosmos. Hence, the uppermost level was deemed the "light of Shamash," and the "heart of Shamash," denoting (in the words of E.G. King) the pivot "around which the highest heaven or sphere of the fixed stars revolved."

The Babylonian tradition of the polar sun has been preserved up to the twentieth century in the tradition of the Mandaeans of Iraq. In their midnight ceremonies these people invoked the celestial pole as Olma l'nhoara, "the world of light." It is therefore not surprising to find that chroniclers of the Mandaean rituals call the polar power the "primitive sun of the star-worshippers."

The recurring concepts are these: a stationary location, the celestial place of rest, the place round which the heavens turn, and the cosmic center, the place where the myths begin. Firmness, stability, pivot, axis, center, and summit or zenith. The imagery is both archetypal and universal.

To the Hindus the sacred celestial spot, the province of the creator-king, was the place of "supreme rest," called also "the motionless site." The Hindu Dhruva, whose name means "firm," stands on this very spot — "a Spot blazing with splendor ... and which subsists motionless." In the Sanskrit texts, Dhruva means the celestial pole.

What remains to be explained by mythologists is that the sun god Surya "stands firmly on this safe resting place." Surya, states the Sanskrit authority V.S. Agrawala, "is himself at rest, being the immovable center of his system." Just as the Egyptian and Mesopotamian sun gods "rise and set" in one place, Surya occupies samanam dhama — "the same place of rising and setting." The words translated as "rising" and "setting" can only mean the phase of brightness followed by the phase of receding light.

Another name for the stationary sun, according to Agrawala, is Prajapati. "The sun in the center is Prajapati: he is the horse that imparts movement to everything,"

The motionless Dhruva, Surya, and Prajapati compare with the light of Brahma, called the "true sun." This is the ancient sun, the texts say, which "after having risen thence upwards ... rises and sets no more. It remains alone in the center." Here, too, center and summit are synonymous. Brahma, observes Rene Guenon, is "the pivot around which the world accomplishes it[s] revolution, the immutable center which directs and regulates cosmic movement."

Moreover, this stationary and axial character of the greatest gods seems to be common to all of the primary celestial figures in Hindu myth, with its diverse pantheon gathered from so many cultural traditions. The god Varuna, "seated in the midst of heaven," is the "Recumbent," and called the "axis of the universe." "Firm is the seat of Varuna," declares one of the Vedic hymns. In him "all wisdom centres, as the nave is set within the wheel." One of Varuna's forms is Savitar, the "impeller." While the rest of the universe revolves, the impeller stands firm. "Firm shalt thou stand, like Savitar desirable."

Also occupying the stationary center is the popular god Vishnu — who takes a firm stand in that resting place in the sky." The location is the celestial pole, called "the exalted seat of Vishnu, round which the starry spheres forever wander." Vishnu is the polar sun or central fire: "Fiery indeed is the name of this steadfast god," states one Vedic text.

To the Buddhists this is the center of the cosmic wheel, the throne of the Buddha himself. It is acalatthana, the "unmoving site," or the "unconquerable seat of _firm_ séance." Thus, as noted by Coomaraswamy, the Buddha throne crowned the world axis.

Given the great variety of mythical figures pointing to the same underlying concepts, it is crucial that we recognize where Hindu and Buddhist myth located this cosmic center, the celestial resting place. It was, according to the most widely respected Sanskrit authorities such as Ananda Coomaraswamy, the celestial pole, the axis of the turning heavens, a verdict repeated again and again by Rene Guenon, Mircea Eliade, and others.

According to ancient Chinese astronomy the revered Emperor on High, prototype of kings, stood at the celestial pole. Chinese astrologers, according to Gustav Schlegel, regarded the polar god as "the Arch-Premier ... the most venerated of all the celestial divinities. In fact the Pole star, around which the entire firmament appears to turn, should be considered as the Sovereign of the Sky." It was thus proclaimed that the celestial pole was the seat of the supreme ruler Shang-ti, mythically, the first king of a great dynasty in the remote past. His seat was "the Pivot," and all the heavens turned upon his exclusive power.

Raised to a first principle, the polar power became the mystic Tao, the motor of the Cosmos. The essential idea is contained in the Chinese word for Tao, which combines the sign for "to stand still" with the sign for "to go" and "head". The Tao is the Unmoved Mover, the supreme ruler, who "goes," or "moves" while yet remaining in one place — revealing a striking correspondence with the images of the polar power in other lands.

Chinese sources proclaim the Tao to be the "light of heaven" and "the heart of heaven." "Action is reversed into non-action," states Jung. "Everything peripheral is subordinated to the command of the centre." Thus the Tao, in the words of Erwin Pousselle, rules the "golden center, which is the Axis of the World."

Significantly, these same overlapping images of a polar sun or sovereign luminary at the pole occur in the Americas. In southern Peru the Inca Yupanqui raised a temple at Cuzco to the creator god who was superior to the sun we know. Unlike the solar orb, he was able to "rest" and "to light the world from one spot." As the pioneering Mesoamerican scholar, Zelia Nuttal, noted many years ago, the only reasonable position in the sky for fulfilling this requirement is the celestial Pole. "It is an extremely important and significant fact," writes Nuttall, "that the principal doorway of this temple opened to the north." (Since the north celestial pole is not visible from Cuzco, 14° below the equator, Nuttall assumed that this tradition of a polar sun was carried southward.)

It seems that the memory of the central sun established itself around the world. Other reflections of the polar power in the Americas are noteworthy.

Cottie Burland tells us that, among the Mexicans, "the nearest approach to the idea of a true universal god was Xiuhtecuhtli, recalled as the Old, Old One who enabled the first ancestors to rise from barbarism. Xiuhtecuhtli appears as the Central Fire and "the heart of the Universe." "Xiuhtecuhtli was a very special deity. He was not only the Lord of Fire which burnt in front of every temple and in the middle of every hut in Mexico, but also Lord of the Pole Star. He was the pivot of the universe and one of the forms of the Supreme Deity." An apparent counterpart of this central fire is the Maya creator god Huracan, the "Heart of Heaven" at the celestial pole.

The Pawnee locate the "star chief of the skies" at the pole. He is the "star that stands still." Of this supreme power they say, "Its light is the radiance of the _Sun god_ shining through."

__PUTTING A NEW FACE ON PREHISTORY Skeletons Suggest Caucasoid Early Americans

By Boyce Rensberger Washington Post Staff Writer

Skeletons unearthed in several western states and as far east as Minnesota are challenging the traditional view that the earliest Americans all resembled today's Asians. The skeletons' skulls bear features similar to those of Europeans, suggesting that caucasian people were among the earliest humans to migrate into the New World more than 9,000 years ago.

Anthropologists have known of such bones for years, but did not fully appreciate their significance until reappraising them over the last few months. The new analyses were prompted by the discovery last summer of the newest addition to the body of evidence - the unusually complete skeleton of an "apparently Caucasoid" man who died about 9,300 years ago near what is now Kennewick, Wash.

D. Gentry Steele, an anthropologist at Texas A&M University, speculates that people of both races migrated into North America in separate waves, possibly thousands of years apart. Where they met, he suspects, they "made love, not war," and thus both populations may be ancestral to some or all of today's Native Americans.

Until now, most anthropologists thought that the earliest humans to inhabit the Americas all resembled today's Asiatic peoples, popularly called Mongoloids. Prehistoric Americans are thought to have migrated from Siberia into Alaska and then spread southward, probably during an ice age when sea levels were hundreds of feet lower than now, exposing a "land bridge.

Now, however, many anthropologists believe that early colonization of the Americas was a more complex process, involving not only Mongoloids but Caucasoids as well, probably in separate migrations. Some Native American peoples today resemble the people of Asia and some are more European. Much of this mixture is the product of intermarriage in recent centuries, but some may date back thousands of years.

__VOL I, No. 13 May 16, 1997


[] To the traditions of a polar power, previously cited, should be added the following:

In the Persian Zend Avesta the creator-king Ahura Mazda rules from atop the world axis, the fixed station "around which the many stars revolve." Iranian cosmology, as reported by Leopold de Saussure, esteemed the celestial pole as the center and summit of heaven, where resided Kevan, the sovereign power of heaven, called "the Great One in the middle of the sky." Throughout the ancient Near East, according to the comprehensive research of H. P. L'Orange, the "King of the Universe" appears as a central sun, "the Axis and the Pole of the World."

These archaic traditions can help us re-interpret the images of the sun god kept alive by Greek and Roman symbolists. In astrological representations, the primeval "sun" occupies the central, axial position while the other planets or stars revolve around him. The definitive celestial profile of Helios is as Basileus, the Royal Sun, recognized by Franz Cumont as the prototype of terrestrial kings or princes surrounded by their guards. In the time of the Roman emperor Nero, the sun-god was still remembered as the axis, the genius loci, the center of the cosmos, and presented as such in astrological depictions, with the emperor himself serving as the terrestrial image of the original sun god.

It is significant too that, as noted by John Perry (Lord of the Four Quarters), the Etruscans — predecessors of the Romans — claimed there was one supreme deity, held to be the axial "Pole" Star.

"According to Jewish and Muslim Cosmology," wrote the eminent authority on Semitic religions, A.J. Wensinck, "the divine throne is exactly above the seventh heaven, consequently it is the pole of the Universe." (An echo of the ancient tradition will be found in the words of the prophet Isaiah, who locates the throne of El in the farthest reaches of the north.)

Amongst Finno Ugric peoples, the supreme ruler of the sky is Ukko. As stated in the Finnish Kalevala the seat of Ukko was at the Pole. And this assertion, according to the prominent chronicler Uno Holmberg, was part of a pervasive tradition of the creator-king seated atop the world pole.

A remarkable counterpart is provided by the Ashanti of Ghana, who remembered the old sun god as "the dynamic center of the Universe, from which lines of force radiate to all quarters of the heaven." Thus, according to the Ashanti, this former sun god is "the center around which everything revolves."

This idea of an ancient sun god ruling from the axial center stands in dramatic cont[ra]st to the common suppositions of mythologists and historians. To the modern mind nothing could be more absurd than a polar sun. Yet the unmoving sun is the ancient tradition, as noted by E.A.S. Butterworth in his insightful work, The Tree at the Navel o the Earth. Upon evaluating the archaic images of Helios and other ancient sun gods, Butterworth concluded that this luminary "is not the natural sun of heaven, for it neither rises nor sets, but is, as it seems, ever at the zenith... There are signs of an ambiguity between the pole star and the sun."

How could such an improbable "ambiguity" have dominated the cosmological thought of ancient star worshippers — in every corner of the world? Butterworth's insights have a considerable history behind them. The precedence of the cosmic center among the great ancient cultures has been noted and documented by others. Almost a hundred years ago, William F. Warren, in his groundbreaking work, Paradise Found, identified the celestial pole as the home of the supreme god of ancient races. "The religions of all ancient nations ... associate the abode of the supreme God with the North Pole, the centre of heaven; or with the celestial space immediately surrounding it. [Yet] no writer on comparative theology has ever brought out the facts which establish this assertion."

In the following years a number of scholars, each focusing on different bodies of evidence, reached the same Conclusion. The controversial and erratic Gerald Massey, in two large works (The Natural Genesis and Ancient Egypt), claimed that the religion and mythology of a polar god was first formulated by the priest-astronomers of ancient Egypt and spread from Egypt to the rest of the world.

In a general survey of ancient language, symbolism, and mythology, John O'Neill (Night of the Gods, two volumes) insisted that mankind's oldest religions centered on a god of the celestial pole.

The renowned Mesoamerican authority, Zelia Nuttall, in Fundamental Principles of Old and New World Civilization, undertook an extensive review of New World astronomical themes, concluding that the highest god was polar. From Mexico she shifted to other civilizations, finding the same unexpected role of a polar god.

Reinforcing the surprising conclusions of these researchers was the subsequent work of others, among them the noted Finno-Ugric authority, Uno Holmberg (Der Baum Des Lebens), who documented the preeminence of the polar god in the ritual of Altaic and neighboring peoples, suggesting ancient origins in Hindu and Mesopotamian cosmologies; Léopold de Saussure (Les Origines de l;'Astronomie Chinoise), who showed that primitive Chinese religion and astronomy honor the celestial pole as the home of the supreme "monarch" of the sky; René Guenon (Le Roi du Monde and Le Symbolisme de la Croix), who sought to outline a universal doctrine centering on the polar gods and principles of ancient man.

In the nineteenth century and early twentieth century these revelations were viewed as highly unorthodox and generally given little attention. But more recently the pioneering historian of religion, Mircea Eliade, together with many of his colleagues, has documented numerous traditions of the cosmic center — the place where it all began — and noted again and again the relations of the cosmic center to the celestial pole.

Most of the writers cited above possessed a common — if unspoken-faith in the ceaseless regularity of the solar system, seeking to explain the polar god in strictly familiar terms: the center of our revolving heavens is the celestial pole; the great god of the center and summit, in view of his role as axis, must have been the star closes[t] to this cosmic pivot.

But then, as we have seen, it's simply impossible to separate the tradition of the polar power from that of the former sun god, the central sun, lighting the world from one spot. So it is not just a matter of ancient star worshippers looking up at the pole and noticing that the circumpolar stars slowly wheel around that center. The mystery is the location of the supreme luminary, the power many nations called "sun", at this improbable station in the sky. How did an idea contradicting all natural experience today, establish itself around the world?

__VOL I, No. 14 May 21, 1997


[] In this investigation we will see that many threads of evidence lead to the same unified conclusions. In preceding segments we have reviewed these unexplained associations:

€ Helios as Saturn; Helios as central sun, and Helios as axis of the celestial revolutions.

€ Assyrian Shamash as Saturn, Shamash as central sun, Shamash at the polar "midst" and "zenith."

€ Egyptian Atum-Ra as central sun, Atum-Ra as Saturn, Atum-Ra atop the world pole.

There is a way to test the integrity of the ancient ideas we have reviewed. Are there any independent astronomical traditions enigmatically connecting the outermost visible planet to the celestial pole? This would be particularly significant because nothing in the appearance of Saturn today could conceivably suggest such a connection? And it would show a coherence of the collective memory beyond anything historians would have thought possible.

The answer is clear, and it is stunning. Wherever ancient astronomies preserved detailed images of the planet Saturn, it seems that Saturn was declared to have formerly occupied the celestial pole! The priestly astronomy of Zoroastrianism knew the planet Saturn as Kevan, called "the Great One in the middle of the sky," and they located the primeval seat of Kevan at the celestial Pole. In neo-Platonist symbolism of the planets, Kronos-Saturn is claimed to rule the celestial Pole, or is placed "over the Pole."

It is also known that Latin poets remembered Saturn as god of "the steadfast star," the very phrase used for the pole star in virtually every ancient astronomy. Thus Manilius recounts that Saturn, in his fall, toppled to the "opposite end of the world axis." Hence his original throne could only have been atop the world axis.

A stunning example of the polar Saturn is provided in Chinese astronomy, where the distant planet was called "the genie of the pivot." Saturn was believed to have his station at the pole, according to the eminent authority on Chinese astronomy, Gustav Schlegel. In the words of Leopold deSaussure, Saturn was "the planet of the center, corresponding to the emperor on earth, thus to the polar star of heaven."

Interestingly, the theme also appears to have passed into the mystic traditions of numerous secret societies (Rosicrucian, Masonic, Cabalistic, Hermetic, and others rooted in an unknown past). The greatest authority on such societies was Manly P. Hall, who published numerous volumes on the related belief systems. In the general traditions reviewed by Hall, the god Saturn is "the old man who lives at the north pole." Even today, it seems that in our celebration of Christmas we live under the influence of the polar Saturn, for as Hall observes, "Saturn, the old man who lives at the north pole, and brings with him to the children of men a sprig of evergreen (the Christmas tree), is familiar to the little folks under the name of Santa Claus."

Santa Claus, descending yearly from his polar home to distribute gifts around the world, is a muffled echo of the Universal Monarch spreading miraculous good fortune. But while the earlier traditions place his prototype, the Universal Monarch, at the celestial pole, popular tradition now locates Santa Claus at the geographical pole — a telling example of originally celestial gods being brought down to earth

A planet at the celestial pole? The consistency of the message cannot be denied, and it is anything but the message anticipated by conventional models of the ancient sky.

As odd as this tradition of Saturn at the pole may appear, it has been acknowledged by more than one authority, including Leopold de Saussure. The principle also figured prominently in the recent work of the historian of science, Giorgio de Santillana and the ethnologist Hertha von Dechend, authors of _Hamlet's Mill_. According to an ancient astronomical tradition, the authors suggest, Saturn originally ruled from the celestial pole!

As for the rationale of Saturn's polar station, the authors could only suggest that the concept arose as a "figure of speech" or astral allegory whose meaning remains to be penetrated.

"What has Saturn, the far-out planet to do with the Pole?" they asked. "It is not in the line of modern astronomy to establish any link connecting the planets with Polaris, or with any star, indeed, out of reach of the members of the zodiacal system. Yet such figures of speech were an essential part of the technical idiom of archaic astrology."

It seems that the primordial age, as chronicled in accounts around the world, stands in radical contrast to our own era. One can no more explain Saturn's ancient connection with the pole by reference to the present arrangements of the planets than one can explain, within conventional frameworks, Saturn's image as the Universal Monarch, as founder of the Golden Age, or as primeval sun god. Yet the fact remains that throughout the ancient world these images of Saturn constituted a pervasive memory which many centuries of cultural evolution could not obliterate.

Separate threads of evidence, each posing its own mystery for the specialists, thus suggest a remarkably unified memory: myth of the Golden Age, myth of the creator-king or celestial prototype of kings, reverence for a former sun god, the archaic day beginning at sunset, placement of the sun god at the cosmic center and summit, identification of the cosmic center with the axis of the turning sky, Saturn as founder of the Golden Age, Saturn as creator-king, Saturn as primeval sun or best sun, Saturn as god of the day (the day beginning at sunset), Saturn as resting god or god ruling the "day of rest," Saturn at the cosmic center and summit, Saturn ruling from the celestial pole.

In attempting to comprehend such enigmatic threads, we can no longer afford to ignore the most fundamental of questions: Is the sky we observe today the same sky experienced by the first stargazers?

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