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KRONOS Vol X, No. 3

Guidelines To The Saturn Myth

(Part One of a Series)

DAVID TALBOTT

BACKGROUND

Recent issues of KRONOS have included several papers dealing with Saturn and the Golden Age. Though the resulting portrait may not be entirely clear, readers surely have noticed certain overlapping images. The portrait has also been clouded somewhat by disagreements on some fundamental issues, several of them concerning my proposed "polar configuration".

In 1972, while serving as publisher of Pensee, I presented to several of the journal's associates an unusual idea, one which (to the best of my knowledge) had no theoretical precedent. I suggested the prehistoric existence of an apparition towering above the Earth and centered upon an ancient sun god of the north celestial Pole. This old god, I believed, was the planet Saturn, the now-distant body which Velikovsky - for one - had claimed once ruled the Golden Age. Specifically, the suggested configuration involved a number of separate components, several of them planets in an astronomically improbable (others would say impossible) alignment, together presenting a generally unified image to terrestrial observers. The cover illustration which I supplied to KRONOS (X: 1) captures, with modest amendments, the original illustration of 14 years ago.

Portions of the related evidential material were included in a highly condensed (419 page) volume, The Saturn Myth, completed in 1977 and published in 1980 by Doubleday.

In the fall of 1972, with a preliminary view of a polar configuration in hand, I conveyed the illustration to Fred Jueneman, whose response was enthusiastic. The result was a series of Jueneman "models for physicists", all of them interesting, some perhaps promising, though more than one seemed to rest uneasily upon the mythical base. Also, in 1974, I sent to Lynn Rose a paper identifying Saturn as a polar "sun". He said it got him thinking about the Central Fire of Philolaos, and the resulting "model" - developed in the absence of any evidential material on the polar configuration and as an alternative to a polar Saturn - was subsequently published in KRONOS. Various versions of Jueneman and Rose models have since traveled around a bit, periodically cropping up in later speculations of others and perhaps creating some confusion as to where all of this is headed. I will address several aspects of the current versions in a subsequent paper in this series.

SATURN AND BEGINNINGS

In their broadest sense the global Saturn myths suggest a unified origin of civilization and of self-conscious man. The remarkable advances of the first civilizations arose from certain ritual practices, and these drew their formal content from a Saturnian form stretched across the northern sky. Closely related is a mythical biography of Saturn, recounting the planet's cataclysmic history and indicating the roles of other planets in the celestial drama.

In the myths, Saturn brings "the arts of civilization" to man. To begin to understand the tradition, one need only consider what civilization itself meant: the first pictorial "alphabets", the first use of the wheel, organization of cities and kingdoms, elaborate kingship rites, the practice of sacrifice, and sweeping wars of conquest. On examination, all such components of the new order reveal a deep symbolic tie to cosmic events. And their roots lay in the desire of civilization's builders to align themselves with ruling powers in the sky. To an amazing extent, this quantum leap into "civilization" was the consequence of a collective ritual, honoring through imitation the visible attributes of planetary gods, at once beautiful and terrifying.

Significantly, the ritual elements seem to have little if any precedent in a more primitive era. The overriding purpose emerges suddenly: to establish on Earth a sacred order defined in the sky, to bring forth and to extend at every level of collective activity a Saturnian kingdom. And the manner in which this was to be achieved permitted no deviation from the "plans" of the celestial designer himself, whose own life and attributes expressed all of the necessary cosmic principles.

What I have suggested, then, is that Saturn's role in civilization's beginning was both direct and compelling:

1. The first ideographs or alphabets combined two levels of imagery: a) drawings of the polar configuration and its various aspects, and b) pictures of man-made and natural objects which themselves served as sacred hieroglyphs, representing distinct attributes of Saturn's celestial order. The "archetypal" celestial forms inspiring these first expressions of writing were Saturn's own creation; hence, in the myths, Saturn "invents" the alphabet, or "teaches" the alphabet to man.

2. The wheel was not originally a "practical" device. Before there were useful wheels there were ritual wheels, carved in stone or turned on the walls of temples as duplicates of Saturn's great wheel in heaven. It is said that Saturn "was the first to use the wheel", and it is not difficult to trace the process by which its hand-formed replicas gradually evolved their practical functions. But in more than one land, the sacred, cosmic wheel never did develop a practical use, remaining "sacred" from start to finish.

3. In constructing their cities and temples, the ancient architects took as their model a celestial prototype fashioned by Saturn himself in the primeval "Creation". In fact, it appears that no ancient nation failed to identify the sacred terrestrial habitation as a duplicate of the old sun god's world wheel: so the myths could insist with perfect accuracy that Saturn "taught men to build cities and temples". And Saturn himself was the legendary first king, the founder of kingship rites, the model of the good ruler. Originally, therefore, the "divine rights of kings" meant nothing else than the duty to accomplish what the first ancestor achieved "in primeval times".

4. The usual kingship rites included a mystery play re-enacting the "first king's" succession by another - often conceived as his own son - whose ascension to the throne involved great celestial catastrophes. Hence, when the crown passed from one terrestrial ruler to the next, the entire ritual expressed ideas rooted in former celestial events.

It was the customary practice of ancient nations to trace their line of kings back to the mythical first king; by this process they sought to certify that the duly established rites of succession were never broken and that the new king was indeed the "son" of the great god. And the same traditions which point to Saturn as the first king make clear that his son and successor was the planet Jupiter.*

[* In various articles, Dwardu Cardona has insisted that, long before Saturn "begot" Jupiter, Saturn was considered to have been his own son. - LMG]

5. On a violent occasion, it is said, the old sun god died. His "heart" departed, or was taken from him, later to rise as a flaming "star". A crucial episode in Saturn's creation, this was the first sacrifice, involving the end of one epoch or phase of creation, and the beginning of another.

Beneath the grotesque rites of sacrifice practiced around the world one discovers precisely this collective memory: the rites were, for the practitioners themselves, the extension of creation in time, a ritual for renewing vital cosmic cycles.

6. Saturn, as the Creator, brought order out of formlessness, and this achievement produced a royal imperative: In their military expeditions, the warrior-kings of old extended sacred space, bringing neighboring "barbarians" under the unified authority of the sun-god's own regent, the king. The language which they themselves employed will show that the "barbarians" slaughtered in these ventures were seen as the terrestrial versions of celestial chaos (the "fiends of chaos"), the latter appearing as disorderly material ejected by Saturn, but eventually gathered into a circle, the unified kingdom of Saturn's wheel.

The Saturnian ritual was, self-evidently, a commemoration of former events. But even more fundamental to ancient religious practices and to civilization's birth was the "teaching" embodied in the events themselves: nothing was deemed more essential to order than reverential obedience to those forms and practices laid down by the supreme teacher himself, the cultural hero, the one who raised mankind from barbarisrn. Saturn's celestial kingdom thus constituted the prescribed order, the Way.

In all of this there is a central message: if civilization emerged as man's response to cosmic events, then the distinguishing patterns of the new order are vital symbols of the primeval sky, and as such they provide a reservoir of evidence as to the nature of the celestial phenomena involved, the source of the catalytic, upward pull on human imagination.

LOOKING FOR A METHODOLOGY

In presenting the case for Saturn's polar configuration, one cannot avoid drawing upon a "general theory" about the origins of myth and symbolism, the history of the solar system, the beginnings of religion and civilization and the nature of mythmaking consciousness. But this general theory is itself the outgrowth of highly unusual findings, and has very little in common with familiar views in the effected fields. How, then, can the thesis be convincingly demonstrated in separate pieces, each of which, to become intelligible, requires that the others be granted tentative acceptance? The problem may indeed seem insurmountable within the space limitations of a journal such as KRONOS .

Of course, it is possible to develop the theoretical edifice one brick at a time. The argument can be divided into various discrete theses and constructed level by level from the ground up; here one might lay the first floor with a few of the most elementary mythical principles:

Saturn was the ancient sun god.
The ancient sun god occupied the Pole.
Saturn occupied the Pole.

Readers of The Saturn Myth will recognize this level-by-level approach as the one adopted there. (And by this approach one does not arrive at the image of the polar configuration until after page 200 - by which time reader attrition is high.)

Moreover, at each level of argument one must deal with another consideration: stated as separate theses, the various levels rarely require one to move beyond principles already acknowledged by someone else of a wholly non-Velikovskian persuasion. Thus, the three "mythical principles" listed above, though never stated in combination before The Saturn Myth, have all been stated separately by well-respected scholars, most of them unaware of the related "discoveries" of the others. And none of these researchers were moved by their respective surprises to question the accepted history of the solar system. [But cf. D. Cardona in KRONOS III:4, pp. 24-44. - LMG]

The noted Assyriologist Morris Jastrow found that the Babylonians identified their "sun-god" as Saturn. But "solving" the mystery was not difficult: the mythmakers must have needed an imagined sun of night to complement the sun of day, so they gave Saturn the name of the Sun.(1) Finding the same connection of Helios and Sol with Saturn, Franz Boll offered a very similar explanation.(2)

Likewise, the tradition of a former polar god or polar sun has been chronicled by a host of scholars;(3) together they have succeeded in demonstrating a universal tradition. In the late nineteenth century John O'Neill even recognized the god as Saturn and had to contrive a distinction between the god and the planet to account for the identity. Later, the specific connection of the planet with the Pole was noted by Léopold de Saussure. But not one of these innovative researchers ever wondered if their polar suns or polar gods might have actually been there! And this fact alone should emphasize the scale of resistance the level-by-level argument must overcome along the way.

Saturn's polar station is often so explicitly stated that the mythical tradition as a whole would seem beyond dispute. "What has Saturn, the far-out planet to do with the Pole?" wondered de Santillana and von Dechend, after uncovering the startling tradition. But neither of these specialists in the history of science were unnerved; without a second thought, they spoke boldly of an archaic, hidden symbolism yet to be understood. And that was that.(4)

With respect to the layered argument of The Saturn Myth, I noted a curious statement by Ashton (KRONOS X:1) that the evidence for the polar sun in the book is "meager" (presumably by comparison to the total sum of available evidence; the dense, 22-page summary in The Saturn Myth does seem to have had the desired effect on him).

Though Ashton's paper shows admirable care in developing an idea, the obvious constraints on space in this journal suggest it will literally take years to cover comprehensively the single thesis ("Saturn was the polar sun"). And at that pace, developing the full argument on behalf of the Saturnian configuration - which means bringing into the discussion countless myths of world mountains, cosmic wheels, Saturnian sun-crosses, revolving crescent-ships and a hundred other related and vital motifs - I am afraid we will all be on Social Security by then.

Therefore, I am inclined to suggest a speed-up of the evaluation process - and to propose that this be achieved by short-circuiting the level-by-level "proof", beginning instead with the end of the story: a description of the polar configuration, unencumbered by the more complex language of the myths, and at the obvious risk of appearing cavalier: "Forget the evidence - here's what happened!"

An advanced summary of the polar configuration may have the disadvantage of reader incredulity at the start, but it has one advantage over the slow and rigorously evolved presentation. It offers at the outset a full context for investigation by others. Those with prior interest in the subject matter, and a willingness to consider even the "unthinkable", have already demonstrated the ability to work from an outline of the polar configuration toward independent verification, quickly expanding their own familiarity with various mythical traditions.

Moreover, Saturn's polar configuration is too specific an idea to allow for slippery ambiguities in interpretation - the usual difficulty in evaluating "keys" to ancient traditions. If invalid, the proposed images, behaving in a highly specific way, must constitute the easiest possible target for refutation. But on the other hand, if the required mythical images are confirmed, the level of specificity will tend to prevent the investigator from conjuring the types of ad hoc explanations noted above. The Saturn Myth claims that the polar configuration was the singular source of myth and symbol. It can therefore be subjected to many hundreds of tests in which the implications of the model are clear and leave little room for debate.

Before proceeding with the summary, however, I must add one qualification: With respect to the illustration which I offered to KRONOS (and which is outlined below) the subject is a configuration with a dynamic history. It emerges through a sequence of dramatic events and undergoes certain tumultuous and earth-shaking transformations. How this configuration evolved, and what happened to it must eventually be considered - and in fact these aspects of the "model" will contribute heavily to the most crucial tests. But even the simple outline below will provide the serious researcher with a sufficiently concrete map to begin independent investigation.

DEFINING THE CONFIGURATION

Because the north celestial Pole was its pivot or center, I called the proposed Saturnian form the "polar configuration". To a terrestrial observer, the apparition stretched upward from the northern horizon and filled the circumpolar sky with a nightly display, an interplanetary light show against which our night sky today would literally disappear.

It must be understood, however, that the issue is one of mythical images and their source in a concrete celestial image. While the "model" does involve considerations of logic and perspective, I am not proposing an "explanation" for physicists. Our subject is something seen by ancient man and reflected in all of man's responses to it.

[*!* Image]

The outlined configuration included these components:

1. The sun-like body in the center of the "wheel" is the planet Saturn, fixed squarely at the north celestial Pole, so that, while the rest of the wheel visually turns around Saturn, the central orb itself remains stationary. To "work" at all, the model requires that the Earth and Saturn share a common axis of rotation.

2. To the earthbound observer, the visual, daily revolution of the wheel relates fundamentally to the motion of the crescent, which makes a full turn around Saturn with each rotation of the Earth. The surrounding sky is darkest, and thus the configuration its brightest when the crescent appears below, as in the illustration. Its radiance is dramatically reduced when the crescent is above. The reason for this is that the source of the crescent is the light of the rising and setting solar orb (i.e., the body we call "Sun" today).

3. The four arms of the sun-cross [*!* Image] should be conceived concretely as streams of "something" propelled violently and symmetrically outward, ejecting luminous material into space.

4. From the surrounding band, streams of dust or gas radiate in all directions.

5. Inside the band, seven lesser bodies revolve around the stationary globe of Saturn.*

[* But see Cardona - "Saturn: In Myth and Religion", KRONOS X:1 (Fall 1984), p.8 - who vouches for nine bodies circling within Saturn's band(s) - LMG]

6. The spiral-like appendage curling out from the band also revolves, but considerably faster than the daily circuit of the crescent. Visually, it appears to "lead" or "tow" the wheel around. The small orb at the termination of the curl is the planet Venus.

7. The modest-sized orb constituting the rounded peak of the "mountain" is the planet Mars, rotating on the same axis with the Earth and Saturn, and from which a luminous stream of gas, dust or debris of some kind descends toward the Earth. The resulting column, appearing to support the celestial wheel, thus rises along the world axis. As the Earth rotates, producing the cycle of night and day, this axis-pillar does not move.

8. Also participating crucially, but not seen (during the stable phase of the configuration), is the planet Jupiter, hidden behind Saturn.*

[* In his "Required Research for a Viable Saturnian Scenario," which was read at the Haliburton seminar sponsored by the C.S.I.S., Sept. 4, 1983, Cardona asked that a Jupiter "hidden" at Earth's south celestial pole should also be considered. - LMG]

It must be emphasized, of course, that this "model" allows for many deceiving appearances. Did the band actually surround Saturn? Did Venus actually revolve as a Saturnian satellite outside the band?

To emphasize the distinction between what ancient man saw and the apparent underlying planetary relationships, I offer on the opposite page a celestial "bird's eye view" of the polar configuration as I have come to visualize it. The reader will note that the model involves three planets - Earth, Mars, and Saturn - rotating on a common axis extending "out" or "down" from Jupiter (or "up"; the ideas are relative). However, a substantial disruption of this shared axis - or its complete dissolution - could not fail to cause Jupiter to then come into view.

With respect to the dating of this configuration, I have little to offer, other than to state its obviously prehistoric role.

As to the physics involved, I have urged from the beginning that all such issues be suspended at least long enough to permit the encumbered testing of the archetypal imagery upon which the proposed configuration is based.

[*!* Image]

And this testing process must include a careful review of those event-sequences which enable one to deduce various planetary positions along (or, in the case of Venus, "around") the Saturnian axis.

Next: ON TESTING THE "IMPOSSIBLE"

REFERENCES

1. Morris Jastrow, "Sun and Satum," Revue d'Assyriologie et d'Archeologie Orientale, Vol. 7 (1909).
2. Franz Boll, "Kronos-Helios," Archiv fur Religions-wissenschaft, XIX (1916-19).
3. The following are the major works cited in the order in which they appeared:

  • W. F. Warren, Paradise Found (Boston, 1885).
  • John O'Neill, The Night of the Gods (London, 1893).
  • Zelia Nuttall, Fundamental Principles of Old and New World Civilization, Archaeological and Ethnological Papers of the Peabody Museum, Vol. II (Harvard, 1901).
  • Gerald Massey, Ancient Egypt (N.Y., 1970). Originally published in 1907.
  • Léopold de Saussure, "Origine Chinoise de la Cosmologie Iranienne," Journal Asiatique (Oct.-Dec. 1922), "Origine Babylonienne de l'Astronomie Chinoise, "Archives des Sciences Physiques et Naturelles, Vol. 5 (Jan.-Feb. 1923); "Le Système Cosmologique Sino-lranienne, Journal Asiatique (April-June 1924); "La Série Septénaire, Cosmologique et Planetaire," Journal Asiatique (April-June 1924).
  • Uno Holmberg, Der Baum des Lebens (Helsinki, 1922); Die Religiösen Vorstellungen der altaischen Völker, Folklore Fellows Communications, Vol. 125 (1938).
  • Rene Guenon, Le Roi du Monde (Paris, 1958); Le Symbolisme de la Croix (Paris, 1931). Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend, Hamlet's Mill (Boston, 1969). EAS Butterworth, The Tree at the Navel of the Earth (Berlin, 1970).
4. De Santillana and von Dechend, op. cit., 136.

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