Astronomical Notes in The
Presence of Siva by Stella Kramrisch
(with Material from Gnostic Christianity and Revelations)
John Major Jenkins
Stella Kramrisch, whose seminal book The Hindu Temple is still a primary source on sacred architecture, published a huge study in 1981 called The Presence of Siva. It delved more deeply into mythology and explores the many variants of the Vedic-Hindu Creation myth. She provides an unflinching revelation of the precessional underpinnings of the Vedic Creation myth, a clear indictment of the galactic alignment's involvement in Vedic metaphysics, religion, and mythology. My summation will be as brief as possible.
Kramrisch writes that the Rig Veda, which she calls the oldest and most sacred work of Indian religious tradition, contains a hymn that identifies itself as "a poem about the Wild God" (RV 10.61). This "Wild God" is none other than Raudra Brahman, a primary Creation Deity who manifests in later deities such as Prajapati. The Creation myth that unfolds involves Raudra Brahman engaging in coitus with his own daughter; however, the Archer deity (in this early hymn, it is Agni) shoots him and he pulls out at the moment of ejaculation and spills his seed. This leads to the manifest world arising from the spilled seed, the emergence of the manifest realm of multiplicity and form from the unmanifest essential unity. This is the beginning of time and the world of human beings who are separated from the unmanifested ground of being from which their souls came. This myth is the core of the Vedic Creation cosmology and is related to other redactions such as found in the Theft of Soma, the Churning of the Milky Ocean, and the union of Prajapati and Rohini. Prajapati's desire to move towards and unite with his daughter Rohini, an unparadonable movement that led to the generation of the limited realm of manifest existence, is a replication of Raudra Brahman's creation act.
After sketching the astronomical identies of these mythological deities, Kramrisch writes: "Rudra, who became Kala, Time, was the main actor in this primordial myth when Prajapati moved toward Rohini and made love to her. Prajapati the year had transferred its beginning from its accustomed place in Orion toward Aldebaran" (416). Thus, precession is unveiled as the root of this process: "[Precessional shifting] had its mythical image in Prajapati's unpardonable movement toward Rohini (Aldebaran). The precession of the equinoxes . . . became the cosmic, astronomically defined 'moment,' synchronized with the Father's approach to the Daughter" (416). Of course, it should be emphasized that precession itself can't be an "astronomically defined 'moment'"; it is the movement of the vernal point away from a previous position toward Aldebaran that defines a specific"moment" within precession that is associated with Creation in Vedic cosmology. Kramrisch clarifies this in the following passage: "The time when the sun at the vernal equinox no longer rose in Orion but moved toward Aldebaran was after 4500 B.C." (417). (For this and other calculations she draws from the work of M. Raja Rao, "The Astronomical Background of Vedic Rudra and Puranic Siva" in Bharatiya Vidya 13, 1952.)
The unpardonable fall into creation/manifestation is expressed in the myth of Prajapati's aborted coitus with his daughter, Rohini. Astronomically, this "fall" occurred right after 4500 B.C., ostensibly because the vernal point had moved out of Orion and was shifting toward Aldebaran. But this situation is equivalent to when the equinox-galaxy alignment occurred, circa 6,450 years ago. This was the era of the previous galactic alignment, an equinox-galaxy alignment after which the sky was observed to become "untuned" or disharmonius. I direct readers to my commentary on Hamlet's Mill. Thus, the Vedic Creation myth under discussion symbolizes the same fall and "untuning of the sky" that is the subject of Hamlet's Mill. That book mentions Rohini on page 398 and Rudra on page 365. The Presence of Siva, published by Princeton University Press, cites Hamlet's Mill in the bibliography.
So, with this brief summary we see that the Vedic Creation myth is rooted in a knowledge of galactic alignments. The epoch following such an alignment era, especially the historically accessible one of era-4400 B.C., apparently led to ideas of a "fall" and this reading, so clearly and brilliantly deduced in Kramrisch's book, supports the primary thesis of Hamlet's Mill. The conclusion to be made here is pretty straightforward. Precession and galactic alignments within precession are intimately involved in ancient traditions that encode ideas about Creation and the fall of humanity into materialism and ignorance. Conversely, the same astronomical players must be involved in eschatology (end of epoch events) and the ascension of humanity back to spiritual unity with the unmanifest ground of all manifest existence.
John Major Jenkins. Copyright. October 7, 2002.
Re: the Max Pulver article, 10-12-02:
The Vedic concept of the descent of souls into creation that occurs upon the spilling of Prajapati's seed finds a counterpart in Gnostic-Christian tradition. However, the counterpart decribes not the dispersion of soul-force (spermata) into manifestation (the hyle of matter), but the role of the Gnostic Redeemer (Christ) in gathering up the dispersed spermata and ascending back into the unmanifest Godhead. While Prajapati's sin was apparently timed with the equinox-galaxy alignment of era-4400 BC (see above), the reascent of the Gnostic Redeemer is apparently timed with the solstice-galaxy alignment, in the following way. I will adhere to the evidence given in Max Pulver's article "Jesus's Round Dance and Crucifixion According to the Acts of St John" in The Mysteries (in Papers From the Eranos Yearbook, ed. Joseph Cambell) and then, since Christ's return relates to Judgment Day and Revelation, I will draw from the biblical Revelation of St John, a late Gnostic text.
The evidence relates to the apocryphal Acts of John, specifically the episode in which John flees the crucifixion only to have a vision of Jesus in a cave with the cross. Rather than being the cross of wood upon which Christ was hung, this is a cross of light inside a cave that represents, like Plato's cave, the cosmos. It also relates to the Round Dance of Jesus, described by the same John who wrote Revelations and visited the kingdom of Prester John. Finally, it relates to the gnostic meaning of the Eight, the Ogdoad, the "primordial god" who like Prajapati injected spermata into the manifest creation, and through whom the redeemed spermata (souls) must ascend back into the unmanifest. The gnostic Poimandres prophesies the ascent of the soul in the Corpus Hermeticum (Scott, p 249).
According to Pulver, "For the Egyptians the Eightness represented the body of the primordial god; it provided the instrumentality for Creation by the Word, orarchaicallyby the emission of the sperm" (Pulver, 187). The "Eight" is the Eighth Gate or Eighth Sphere. Similarly, "Basilides knows two Christs, one in the Ogdoad, and a lower, solar Christ" (187). The sideways eight is the infinity symbol. The Eighth Gate is the entrance out of the cave of manifest existence, beyond the seven planetary spheres of the sensible world. Jesus says "I am the door." In the vision of Jesus in the cave, John witnesses the inner meaning of the cross, an illuminated cross inside the cave, spinning around the head of Jesus. Like the Medieval fresco paintings of Jesus Pantocrater, the center of the cross is the head of Jesus, or his third eye, where sensory time and space are transcended. I propose that the bright cross symbolizes the equinox and solstice axes. In the later "revelation" of John, we find the four evangelists and horsemen who symbolize the four cardinal constellations. When the equinox-solstice axes align with these constellations, eras of Galactic Alignment occur.
According to Pulver, Christ's role is to issue forth from the pleroma (the unmanifest) and descend into manifestation to "fulfill his mission of collecting the divine spermata which are dispersed through matter" (186). This idea relates not to the crucifixion but to Judgment Day and Revelations. Revelations provides the astronomical alignment with the use of the cardinal constellations of alignment eras and the fact that Jesus was born of the winter solstice. This all seems to be a metaphor for the ascending process by which the seeds (fallen souls) return to God (the paradise of the unmanifest). This situation is the opposite of the Prajapati-Rohini episode that is associated with souls' descent into manifestation and the equinox-galaxy alignment of era-4400 BC.
In The Celstial Key to the Veda (ITI, 1999), Sidpath suggests that the Prajapati episode refers not to 4400 BC but, because the "beginning of the year" was originally associated with the solstice point, to the era a quarter-precession cycle prior to that. This would place the "descent into matter" on the previous solstice-galaxy alignment of era-10,800 BC, and the ascent out of matter with Christ's Return and Judgment Day, 2000 AD, the era of the current solstice-galaxy alignment. This descending-ascending process is precisely the message of the Vedic yuga doctrine that I reconstructed following the clues of Sri Yukteswar, Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet, and David Frawley.
Copyright 2002. John Major Jenkins