Wednesday, December 17, 2014

John the Baptist

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Caution: this post will examine evidence that the stories in the Biblical scriptures were not intended to be understood literally. Those not comfortable examining such evidence may not wish to read further.

As we approach the "lowest point" on the annual wheel of the year, the winter solstice (which is the December solstice, for those in the northern hemisphere), we approach the celebration of Christmas and all the rich symbolism and powerful traditions which surround that special day on which the sun finally stops its "downward journey," pauses, and then turns back around to head back "upwards" towards lengthening days and the return of warmth and life after another winter.

The arrival of Jesus in each of the four gospels which were included in the canon is first discussed in conjunction with another extremely important figure: that of John the Baptist. He is the one who goes before the Christ, preparing the way, in fulfillment we are told in each of the four gospels of the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3 -- "For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight" (Matthew 3:3). The gospel according to Mark cites the additional prophecy of Malachi 3:1 -- "As it is written in the prphets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee" (Mark 1:2).

The gospels of Matthew, Mark and John all introduce John the Baptist at the River Jordan, preaching a "baptism of repentance," baptizing with water, and announcing the impending arrival of one who will come after him: "There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost" (Mark 1:7-8). The gospel according to Matthew adds "and with fire" to describe the baptism of the one who will come after John (Matthew 3:11). 

The gospel according to Luke also introduces John the Baptist as the one who will go before Jesus, but does so by describing the announcement through the angel Gabriel to John's father Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth will bear a son, who will go before the Lord (Luke 1:13-20). The gospel of Luke also describes the meeting of Elizabeth and Mary the mother of Jesus, and from the details provided in Luke 1:36 and 1:56-57, we can conclude that John was born six months ahead of Jesus -- going before him in the order of their birth as well.

I believe that there is overwhelming evidence which supports the conclusion that the stories of the Old and New Testament describe the motions of the celestial actors in the heavenly realm: the sun, moon, stars, and visible planets. I further believe that this celestial foundation connects the sacred scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to the sacred scriptures and myths and traditions of virtually every other culture around our planet, which can also be shown to employ the same system of celestial metaphor. I discuss the evidence for this conclusion, and the implications of this evidence, in my book The Undying Stars (sample chapters available online here). I also discuss many examples of this system at work in previous blog posts examining the sacred myths from around the world, which I have indexed (with links) here

I believe that in the person of John the Baptist, and the details we are given about his life in the four gospels which made their way into what we today call the Bible, we are given an extraordinarily powerfully illustration of this system at work.

Cautionthis post will examine evidence that the stories in the Biblical scriptures were not intended to be understood literally. Those not comfortable examining such evidence may not wish to read further.

As Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend argue in their seminal 1969 work, Hamlet's Mill, one of the characteristics of the celestial system is the fact that the various heavenly "actors" will take on different roles, from one myth-system to another, as well as within the same myth-system (and even, at times, within the same story -- like an actor who appears as two or more different characters in different scenes of the same movie or play). This phenomenon is described in this previous post

Which of the celestial players is most likely to be the "actor" who plays the role of John the Baptist in the gospel accounts?

If we are familiar with the "cast" of possible actors who travel in cycles through the heavens, then the descriptions of John as one who is specifically described as "baptizing with water" (for instance, in Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, and John 1:26) should call to mind one particularly important zodiac constellation: the Water-Bearer, Aquarius. And indeed, there are numerous clues included in the text which appear to indicate that John the Baptist is associated with the constellation Aquarius.

Below is a screen-shot of the night sky as it appears to an observer in the northern hemisphere, looking towards the southern horizon, when the Milky Way is rising up like a shimmering stream across the sky, and the glorious and very bright zodiac constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius are flanking the base of the Milky Way on either side. Scorpio and Sagittarius are both constellations associated with the "lower half" of the zodiac wheel, when the annual cycle is descending towards winter solstice, because the "sign" of Scorpio and of Sagittarius both take place in the months just prior to the low-point "turn upwards" of the winter solstice. As an aside, the sign is derived from the month in which the sun rises in the "house" of that constellation -- the constellation's stars being visible above the eastern horizon just above the point where the sun will rise, and growing fainter and fainter as the sun approaches and the pre-dawn sky becomes lighter and lighter. 

Aquarius is visible on the left side of the image, just above the Goat outline of Capricorn. Just to the right (west) of Capricorn is Sagittarius (guarding the left-hand side of the rising Milky Way, as we look south), and beyond Sagittarius a bit further right (west) is the sinuous form of Scorpio, low down and close to the horizon, most of its body immersed in fact in the stream of the Milky Way. 

This screenshot is from the outstanding open-source planetarium app at It shows the outlines of the constellations (these can be turned on or off), but it does so with an outlining convention which I do not believe is the most helpful or useful for envisioning the constellations in your mind. I much prefer the outlining system proposed by H.A. Rey.

Below, I will draw in the outlines using the H.A. Rey system, and you will immediately see that Aquarius can be envisioned as a man holding a large pitcher of water, from which he is pouring two streams. This fact cannot be easily envisioned using the atrocious outlining system seen in the above image (the Goat and Scorpion outlines are OK in that system, but the outlines for Aquarius, Sagittarius, and many others are most unsatisfactory). We will see from the image with outlines drawn in that Aquarius, who is associated with water, can be seen as a strong contender for the role of John the Baptist, whom the texts describe very specifically as "baptizing with water."

In the image below, I also identify two additional clues from the Biblical texts, which I believe can be used to help bolster the case that this scene from the night sky is the origin of the descriptions of John baptizing in the wilderness. We are told that John's food consisted solely of "locusts and wild honey" (for example, in Matthew 3:4). In the image below, we see that the brightest stars within Sagittarius, which are often referred to as the "Teapot," can also be imagined to look like a bright celestial grasshopper: a locust. This identification of the Teapot asterism within Sagittarius with locusts described in the Bible is also supported by the celestial analysis of Revelation chapter 9, in which Sagittarius is almost certainly being described, and locusts are prominently referenced there as well. 

The locusts of John's diet live at the base of the Milky Way, near Aquarius, but where is the "wild honey" that the scriptures refer to? As we have seen in previous posts, the honey is located at the other end of the Milky Way, where it crosses the zodiac band again, this time just below the feet of the Twins of Gemini, who are located at the "top" of the zodiac wheel, just prior to summer solstice and just prior to the sign of Cancer the Crab. As we have discussed in previous posts, an important feature in Cancer the Crab is the famous Beehive Cluster, which finds its way into many myths around the world. So, John's food can be located at the "lower" and "upper" ends of the Milky Way stream, the locusts at the point where the Milky Way crosses Sagittarius, and the wild honey at the point where the Milky Way crosses near Cancer.

Additionally, as shown in the image below, John has a rather rough way of addressing the penitents who come to the River Jordan to be baptized of him. Speaking in particular to the Pharisees and Saducees, we are told that John asks: "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (for instance, in Matthew 3:7). As we can see from the image below, the vipers are present, right next to the locusts:

As noted above, if the Milky Way is here representing the River Jordan, where John the Baptist is performing his baptism of repentance, it does appear that the "vipers" are at least getting in the river to be baptized!

There are additional clues that Aquarius is the correct celestial origin of John the Baptist. First, when Jesus arrives, John is described as looking up and declaring, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). If John "goes before" Jesus and "prepares the way" for his arrival, then it could be expected that John is here referring to one of the zodiac constellations which he "goes before" in the nightly rotation -- and sure enough, the constellations which follow Aquarius in the zodiac band are Pisces (just visible in the above image, as a polygonal shape to his left, below the letter "J" in the "John the Baptist" label) followed immediately by Aries the Ram. And, as you can see from the H.A. Rey outline of Aquarius, his head is actually "looking" in that direction -- he really will be able to see the Ram (or Lamb) of Aries rising up behind him as the sky continues to turn from the east to the west (from the left to the right in this image).

We are also told in many of the gospels that John declares that "There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose" (Mark 1:7). This mention of "stooping down" is very helpful, because Aquarius does seem to be "stooping" in the sky, or pitched forward in his posture as he leans forward with his jug. 

Who is the one whose shoes he is not fit to untie? 

I believe this scripture refers in fact to Orion, who is indeed "mightier" than Aquarius, being a true giant in the sky and also the constellation with the highest ratio of bright stars to total stars of any in the night sky (in marked contrast to Aquarius, who is it must be admitted a constellation rather dim and difficult to make out). Orion has a significant "shoe" or "foot" in the bright star Rigel -- in fact, his "toe" is referred to in other myths from other cultures, as Hamlet's Mill discusses. Orion does indeed come after Aquarius in the sky -- his form is located just below Taurus the Bull, which is the zodiac constellation which follows immediately after Aries. 

But the clinching detail in the scripture which indicates that John is referring to Orion with this line about the one mightier than he who is coming after him is the fact that some of the gospels make mention of this "mightier one" carrying "his fan in his hand" (Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17). The upraised arm of Orion (on the left side of the outline as we look at it in a star chart) is holding what is sometimes described as a club, but which is actually more like "a long rectangle on a stick" -- this is the object which I believe the scriptures are references in the mention of "his fan." It is the same "winnowing fan" that is mentioned in the final book of the Odyssey, and it is also the "paddle" carried ceremonially by chiefs across the islands of the Pacific:

These abundant details should be more than sufficient to establish the celestial foundations of the John the Baptist episodes found in all four gospels in the canonical Bible.

But that is by no means all of them. The story of John the Baptist contains a veritable plethora of celestial information. The next important clues can be found in the death of John the Baptist, which is described in the gospels of Mark and Matthew. In those gospels, we learn that "the daughter of Herodias"  came in to the birthday supper of Herod, and she "danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him," and he swore to her that he would give her whatsoever she should ask of him (Mark 6:21-25). She is instructed by her mother to ask for the head of John the Baptist (Mark 6:24 -- the Matthew account in Matthew 14 adds "in a charger" or platter). Herod is dismayed, but keeps his oath, and John is beheaded.

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

This gruesome scene can be observed in the icon-image above -- and readers can take comfort in the fact that the artist appears to be aware of the celestial origins of this terrible story (i.e. I don't think it happened on earth in literal history -- I think it happens in the sky above). We see John, pitched forward, just as the constellation Aquarius is pitched forward or "stooping down" in the sky. His hands are bound, but they project from his body at the same angle and attitude as the "leg" that can be seen protruding from the center of the constellation Aquarius. 

The daughter of Herodias is kneeling, with one arm reaching forward and holding a disc-shaped charger to take his head: these are the crucial characteristics of the constellation Virgo, as can be seen in some of the illustrations from ancient Greece shown in this previous post.

Finally, the artist in the scene at top has added an executioner who is depicted with many of the characteristics of the constellation Perseus. I think he is taking artistic license here -- there is no indication of a Perseus-figure in the Biblical texts. However, there is every indication that the story of the beheading of John the Baptist involves the constellations Aquarius (which we have already identified as the celestial actor playing the role of John) and Virgo (who plays the role of most queens, maidens, damsels, and goddesses in myths the world over). 

And, as Robert Taylor pointed out in the 1800s, in a sermon recorded in The Devil's Pulpit, the motion of the sky actually seems to "behead" the constellation Aquarius, when the figure's head is below the horizon and the rest of the constellation is above it. It just so happens that this "beheading" of Aquarius takes place when Virgo is setting in the west, and Aquarius is rising in the east:

Above, the line of the horizon is seen as a dark "arc" at the bottom of the screen, as we look to the south (from an observation point in the northern hemisphere). We can see the constellation Virgo, playing the role of the daughter of Herodias, dancing at the right-side of the sky (in the west). In the east, we see Aquarius, rising up -- and again in his peculiar pitched-forward or "stooped down" posture. His head is basically "trailing" the rest of his body as he rises -- and when he is actually coming up out of the horizon, his head will still be below the horizon as his body rises up (I have indicated the motion his constellation takes as it rises by adding a little blue arrow on the screen image).

This added episode should confirm the celestial foundations of the John the Baptist story, and his identification with Aquarius. 

But there is still more in this incredibly rich Bible story. Recall that the gospel texts make clear that John was conceived six months before the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary, and that he thus "goes before" Jesus by six months as well. If we turn to our zodiac wheel, familiar from many previous posts such as this one, we will observe that it is divided into twelve segments, and that this means that two players who are "six months" apart will "mirror" each other as they go around the annual circuit:

Thus, John the Baptist is in many ways the "opposite" or the "dark twin" of Jesus. This is no doubt the celestial source of the famous quotation from John when he says of Jesus, "He must increase but I must decrease" (John 3:30), and possibly also the declaration by John that "He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me" (John 1:15). When two zodiac constellations or zodiac signs are opposed as shown above, it will mean that when one sign is rising or "increasing," the other will be descending or "decreasing." 

Of course, as with all the ancient scriptures and sacred myths of humanity, this passage (and all the episodes above) contain profound esoteric and spiritual truths, in addition to the specific celestial connections discussed here. But it is very difficult to deny that these specific details in the texts appear to be pointing the way to the conclusion that these episodes and characters have a celestial origin.

The implications of this discovery are profound. For one, this common celestial foundation which can be discovered in the stories of the Bible links those scriptures to the myths of the rest of humanity, which can also be shown to operate on the same celestial foundation. For another, the existence of this common system, with very specific details which can be shown to be in common across very broad geographic distances and even across vast stretches of time, argues that the ancient history of the human race may be very different from what we are taught by the conventional academic narrative.

And, the existence of this incredible system of celestial metaphor across all the myths of the world argues that these myths are trying to tell us something very important. I believe they are conveying ancient truths about the nature of our universe and of human existence, and that an understanding of their celestial and allegorical nature is extremely helpful in allowing us to perceive that profound message.