Here is an interesting thesis - I thought that Robert Tulip in particular might want to look into it. Of course, if we accept that Dionysus is significantly a sun god, that too would explain his "dancing with the stars."
Hi Acharya, I am sitting on my favourite spot, so I hope some of the chthonic telluric vibes from the good earth will come through.
Thank you for sharing George Latura Beke’s essay on Dionysus and the zodiac. I know George, and find this a fascinating topic, so have replied here at some length.
I discussed this topic of the zodiacal light with George a few years ago at a discussion board called calendersign, devoted to study of ancient calendars. George has pointed out that a visible faint line of light joins the planets along the ecliptic. Astronomically, this is due to the reflections cast by the sprinkling of space dust across the planetary disk of the sun. This zodiacal light forms a circular line in the sky at sixty degrees angle to the line of the Milky Way galaxy. These two lines, the zodiac and the galaxy, are great circles. ‘wheels within wheels’ in Ezekiel’s term, encompassing the visible heavens. Their crossing points are opposite each other, forming two Xs in the sky, one between Taurus and Gemini and the other between Scorpio and Sagittarius.
George’s analysis of the zodiacal light is debatable in the detail of the relation he suggests to Dionysus, as Acharya has pointed out. However, the zodiacal light is arguably central to understanding the Gnostic origins of Christianity among the Netser, the holy watchers, the Nazirites/Nazarenes who produced the cosmic myth of Jesus the Nazarene, later corrupted under the violence of Roman suppression into the Gospel encryption of Jesus of Nazareth.
So I am interested in how George’s observation of the zodiacal light relates to an astrotheological understanding of Jesus Christ. This story goes back to Plato, and of course much further back in time. In his dialogue The Timaeus, Plato appears to describe these two stable circular lines in the sky as the foundation of philosophy, as the basic concepts of identity (the galaxy) and difference (the zodiac).
A moment’s reflection will show why identity and difference are basic ideas, because they are used to compare things and find similarities and contrasts. This reference by Plato is not just important for philosophy though. The cosmic framework of the same and the different also stands at the origin of the Christian logos religion. The cosmic circles described by Plato in the Timaeus appear to be the logical origin of the Christian Chi Rho cross
, the prominent church symbol of Jesus Christ flanked by the alpha and omega, first and last letters of the Greek alphabet.
Some traditional interpretations argued that Plato was not talking about the zodiac, but rather about the celestial equator. This reading bears the hallmarks of Christian distortion and suppression, and its typical deluded hostility to actual observation of the sky and discussion of the zodiac. For when we look at the sky on a dark clear night, the X is plainly visible as the intersection of the zodiac and the galaxy, cohering far more directly with Plato’s description than the abstract map line of the equator.
Plato’s old description of the same and the different helps us to see how this Chi Rho cross is a natural origin of Christian theology. The central theological idea of Christology is known as the ‘hypostatic union’, the imagined unity of the divine and human natures of Christ and Jesus in the one person Jesus Christ. Hypostasis is widely seen as an incurably metaphysical piece of magical fantasy. But when we consider the Biblical ideas against a stellar framework, the concept of the union of heaven and earth starts to make scientific sense.
This cosmic framework of zodiac and galaxy provides the origin of the idea of Jesus Christ as anointed saviour, bringing together the eternal heavenly Christ, symbol of anointing, with the imagined historical Jesus as earthly symbol of salvation. The idea, understood as natural stellar theology, is therefore that the galaxy anoints with its unchanging stability so the zodiac can save us through the temporal connection it forms between earth and heaven. Together, the cosmic circles mark the cosmic union of eternity (galaxy = constancy = identity = anointed Christ) and time (zodiac = change = difference = saving Jesus). The union of time and eternity is seen as the two opposite X points in the sky where the zodiac (change) crosses the galaxy (constancy).
This big hypostatic idea - as above so below - can then be explained as a simple parable of Jesus Christ. For example, the Christian hymn ‘There’s a Light Upon the Mountain’ includes the line “the suffering dying Jesus is the Christ upon the throne”. Understood as the union of history and eternity, this hymn line points to the hypostatic union of the zodiac and the galaxy as the opposite points in the sky that are imagined to connect us to ultimate reality. These points were venerated as long ago as the time of the Epic of Gilgamesh, with its discussion of the scorpion as the gate of heaven.
Here we see the origins of Christology in cosmology, the long regular ancient observation of the slow movement of the stars. The cosmology of the Chi Rho cross seen in the sky provides a celestial skeleton for ideas that were enfleshed with the historical parables of the Gospels. The entire concept of Jesus Christ is parable, and the Gospels served to try to make the cosmic allegory meaningful to the ignorant. Unfortunately, the parable of historicism, Jesus of Nazareth, was so wildly popular that the corrupt fools of orthodoxy were able to ally with the ignorant to thoroughly suppress the real cosmic origins of the myth in the story of watching the heavens. All we have now of the old high cosmic wisdom is fragmentary traces, the few hidden coded remains that survived the onslaught of barbarous Christian destruction.
On 28 October 312 AD, before the battle of the Milvian Bridge, Roman Emperor Constantine allegedly saw a cross in the night sky which supposedly inspired him to convert the Roman Empire to Christianity. At this time of year, the X in Sagittarius formed by the zodiac light and the galaxy was visible in the western sky at evening, and the X in Gemini crossed the sky through the night, standing high in the west before dawn. As George points out in his essay, today you have to go to a place far away from modern light pollution to see the zodiac light, and even to see the Milky Way, but for the ancients these lines in the sky were well known.
George’s research into Dionysus is interesting. He asks why Dionysus does not have a planet named after him. Dionysus was not one of the twelve Olympian Gods, but nor were Saturn or Uranus. Only six of the Olympians have planets named after them. Since reading Nietzsche’s characterisation of the Dionysian and Apollonian archetypes many years ago, I have thought of Dionysus as dissolving whirling dancing frenzy. It is interesting to explore how the archetype of the myth relates to cosmic observation, and how logically the observation – watching the sky – stands as the prior cause of the mythological narratives based on what we can see.
In the Antigone, Sophocles calls Dionysus ‘leader in the dance of the stars that circle in the night’. George suggests this is a reference to the zodiacal light. On face value, my impression would be to agree with Acharya to associate this idea of dance leader with the sun, which drags Mercury and Venus along in a beautiful waltz, while also forming the weekly phases of the moon. Hence Sophocles’ description of Dionysus bears comparison with the solar god Jesus Christ.
The stairway to heaven revealed by the zodiacal light is the next big idea. The dancing path of the planets along the ecliptic may relate to Jacob’s Ladder, with the angels seen as the planets moving up and down in their forward and retrograde motion. Genesis 28 tells us that Jacob took a stone, and put it under his head, and lay down to sleep. He dreamed of a stairway set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven, with angels of God ascending and descending on it, and God standing above it. Jacob then vowed to use his dream stone as a pillar, anointing it with oil to form a worship shrine.
It is entirely plausible that Jacob’s ladder is allegory for the visible zodiac, with the planets as angels, and the ascent and descent their observed wandering motion among the fixed stars. The omission of any explanation of the dream is an example of how the ancient astral religion of the Jews was suppressed and censored by the politics of a degraded supernatural monotheism.
In associating Dionysus with the zodiacal light, George is opening up a path to comprehension of the stellar meaning of myth. But, considering Dionysus as a Christ type – especially in his role as a dying and rising fertility god – this stellar origin appears more close to a description of the sun than of the zodiacal light. Further, when the Lord of the Dance is understood as the sun, the path of the zodiacal light points us to the Christological union of eternity and time, in the Chi Rho cross formed by the galaxy and zodiac. Hypostasis here becomes a scientific concept, observable in the sky in the historically visible relation between change and stability. The use of hypostasis in conventional theology points towards this scientific understanding, but is degraded and corrupted by the politics of literal Christ historicism. The pervasive claims that Christian myths are literally true is a baleful delusion that has served to hinder progress towards rational knowledge.
Here, with the cosmic origin of the Christ Myth, we see the logical path from gnosis to belief. The gnostic watchers at the origin of priest-craft held a secret esoteric understanding of how the changing appearance of history relates to the unchanging reality of the cosmos, readily seen in the stars. Plato, following Parmenides, characterized this relation between appearance and reality in terms of belief and knowledge, illustrating how changing appearance does not provide the secure knowledge that is only available from unchanging reality. Gnosis, knowledge of the eternal truth, is seen in Plato’s allegory of the divided line in The Republic as absolutely central to the ancient idea of salvation, as the core of Plato’s ethical vision of the philosopher king.
The zodiac light does indeed provide the stairway from change to stability, because the planets move along the unchanging path of the sun but constantly change their positions in it, moving up and down like Jacob’s angels. So we could say the zodiac forms the “Jesus” temporal half of the “Jesus Christ” hypostatic union, with the galaxy forming the “Christ” eternal half. For those who have Acharya’s 2013 Astrotheology Calendar
, I have presented diagrams of the two great wheels in the sky marked by the zodiac and galaxy. Acharya has kindly published these sky maps as the illustration for the month of October in her calendar, a month when under dark skies we can best see the zodiacal light.