Ancient Astronomy & Cosmology : Sun Temple of Konark

From the Cult of  Apollo to Plato’s Phaedran Charioteer to the Egyptians and Hindus the Solar Chariot drawn by seven horses  has been a central metaphor not just of the passage of the Sun, but of Cosmic harmony itself. This entire temple is layered with cosmic symbolism .

The temples is oriented on the East – West Axis overlooking the Bay of Bengal.

Reading Hippocrates

Rod of Asclepius

Rod of Asclepius

Classical Greek physicians tried to find natural explanations as to why someone got ill and died, what constituted health or illness and the nature and actions of contagion. To this extent they broke with many of their contemporaries working in other fields because they were not seeking supernatural causes .They were certainly synchronized with mathematics however.  This did not mean they lacked piety. It meant that the signs of nature were viewed as a sufficient source of knowledge, particularly when cataloged, documented and shared. In this respect we can see the roots of scientific methodology

At the same time, the Greek Pantheon included Asclepius the god of healing and his daughter, Hygieia from whose name we get the word hygiene. It’s fair to say that the Greek Pantheon was in fact a system of archetypes and so the attributes of the god of healing should be those of the enlightened physician.

Hippocrates was among the first to make the shift from making supplications to the god towards embodying the healing qualities represented by Aesculapius. We really have no way of knowing how conscious this change was, but it produced a very different and highly effective form of medicine which was practised beyond the Renaissance and still has relevance today.

Asclepius & Hygieia

Asclepius & Hygieia

Until Hippocrates, Epilepsy was known as the “sacred disease” with supernatural origins and therefore could not and should not be considered an illness in any physical sense of the word.

Hippocrates is first and foremost concerned with the applications of medicine when diseases are said to be of supernatural origin and that those origins are to blame if the patient dies or fails to recover. The physician can take all the credit if the patient does recover, allowed for a systemic practise of fraud which prevented physicians from learning about the condition as it really is.

He writes “It is my opinion that those who first called this disease ‘sacred’ were the sort of people we call witch-doctors, faith healers, quacks and charlatans. These are exactly the people who pretend to be very pious and to be particularly wise. By invoking a a divine element they were able to screen their own failure to give suitable treatment and so called this a ‘sacred’ malady to conceal the ignorance of its nature.” Medical Works. Trans. John Chadwick (Oxford) pp. 179 180

Hippocrates carries this line of thought to its absurd conclusions such as blaming Poseidon if the cry of the patient was high pitched

If we return to the archetype model, we can see that Hippocrates does not go against it at all. What he does do is bring his practice in line with reading the signs of nature which have a divinity of their own, but not a catch all excuse for bad medicine.

Those who have a familiarity with Plato will recognize the trope. In the Pheadrus, there is a passage that that lies at the centre of Platonism and Neo Platonism.  At first glance it might appear that this mystical vision is at odds with Hippocrates:

“Beauty it was ours to see in all its brightness in those days when, amidst that happy company, we beheld with our eyes that blessed vision, ourselves in the train of Zeus, others following some other god; then were we all initiated into that mystery which is rightly accounted blessed beyond all others; whole and unblemished were we that did celebrate it … steadfast and blissful were the spectacles on which we gazed in the moment of final revelation; pure was the light that shone around us, and pure were we, without taint of that prison house which now we are encompassed withal, and call a body, fast bound therein as an oyster in its shell ” Phaedrus 249d-250c.

They are however perfectly compatible. Hippocrates is not a ‘materialist’ and Plato has no interest in ‘super-naturalism.” In their own ways they are overwhelmingly concerned with the return of the body and soul to its natural state.

Plato, Aristotle and their students hold Hippocrates in the highest regard. His specific spiritual beliefs are unclear except that he clearly shunned a religious cosmology in the usual sense of the term was a fallacy. The fact that Plato specifically mentions him in the Phaedrus certainly indicates they were of a similar mind.

The Pheadrus is among other things an allegory of a charioteer of the same name. He is the Soul and the two horses represent Spirit and Mind. Succinctly, the quality of the Soul and horses and the Souls’ ability to command them affords us a trinity of  being.

The theme of the chariot in Hellenistic astrology is well known. Here, the first horse is obedient, capable and noble while the other is “a crooked lumbering animal, put together anyhow; he has a short thick neck; he is flat-faced and of a dark colour, with grey eyes and blood-red complexion; the mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf, hardly yielding to whip and spur.” (253 e.)

The Chariot of Apollo - Odilon Redon

The Chariot of Apollo – Odilon Redon

It’s very easy to understand this in the context of traditional astrology. The different elements of our being, their condition and relatedness,  determine what we begin with. The chart shows this clearly, but it takes a skilled astrologer to read it fully and to know where to begin. Traditional Astrology and Traditional Medicine are very similar insofar as they look to the signs of nature, catalog findings and point to ways the body, soul and intellect can best be nurtured to their optimal, *natural* state.

Bright Sky : Thunderbolts & Tin

Jupiter and Semele - by Moreau

Jupiter and Semele – by Moreau

This is to discuss some of the etymological and ubiquitous symbolic qualities of the Sky God known by several names, but most famously as Zeus or Jupiter. He is perhaps best known as the Master of the Heavens.

He was identified by the Romans as Jupiter or Jove. Jupiter is known as the earth-shaker. At will, he could  summon rain, snow, hail, and all other meteorological phenomena.  He married his sister Hera.  Zeus was known for his countless love affairs. Neither chastity nor restraint are jovial attributes.

The son of Jupiter was Bacchus , synonymous with the Greek Dionysus. He shares some of his father’s traits, but in exaggerated form. He is typically depicted as the god of harvest, grapes, fertility and theater: other traits such as drunkenness, altered states including ecstasy makes him the opposite of Apollo.The “Apollonian and the Dionysian”  have been identified as archetypes in their own right.

Apollo, Dionysus & Hermes-Feasting. C. 450 BC

Apollo, Dionysus & Hermes-Feasting. C. 450 BC

Dionysus was very much his father’s son and was the subject of Mystery Cults, particularly in Greece.

Jupiter’s most feared and revered weapon was the lightning bolt, forged for him by the Cyclopes. Most cultures have a deity sharing enough similarities to associate it with Zeus.

120px-jupiter_symbolsvg

Zeus’ name translates to “Bright Sky.” The letter zeta, is the Greek letter z for Zeus. Zeus is Jupiter’s namesake in Greek mythology. The same symbol represents tin, since it is one of the planetary metals in alchemy.   His Roman names are Jupiter and Jove. He is usually shown with his characteristic scepter and attendant eagles

I view the planets and luminaries as powerful archetypes, recognized cross culturally and for millenia. I prefer to think of these archetypes as Plato’s Forms.

This isn’t a modern idea as some misguided Traditional astrologers would say. It’s primordial.  

Indra, the Hindu king of the gods, is always shown with a vajra (thunderbolt) held aloft in his right hand. He too is an Earth shaker and bringer of all kinds of meteorological phenomena.

Images of Jupiter and Zeus were employed to portray Christ, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox Church, but there are plenty of examples to be found throughout Christendom. Justin Martyr is said to have converted a man to Christianity by assuring him that the Christian God was just like Zeus ! Read Plato’s On the Soul’s Recollecting True Being and Beauty from The Phaedrus for a the Platonic and Neo-Platonic conception of Zeus.

Also read William Lilly’s Of the Planet Jupiter & his Signification. for the the Medieval Astrological Jupiter.

Indra Holding Thunderbolt Vajra

Indra Holding Thunderbolt Vajra – Keshava Temple, Somnathpur

In astrology, Jupiter is a rich matrix of symbolism greater than the sum of its parts. He is power, excess, benevolence, jurisprudence. philosophy, joviality, exaggeration, generosity, and largesse. The thought of “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” comes to mind ( William Blake – The Marriage of Heaven & Hell)

It is  becoming increasingly apparent that Europeans , Central and South Asians migrated from a common region in and around what used to be called Aryana.  The term Indo European can be taken more literally than it has been.

The Celts  had deities which are almost perfect parallels to Greek and Indian gods.  There are perhaps thousands of words in English almost identical to Sanskrit: for example, such as naam and name. The Celts  had deities which are almost perfect parallels to Greek and Indian gods. See this article for a list of thunder gods

I stress this because our recovery and understanding of ancient astrology depends on having some deeper knowledge of anthropology as well as philology, history. philosophy and geography.