Monday, May 25, 2015

Pentecost, Gemini and the Scales of Judgement

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

Welcome to all new babies born today! Those born at this time of year are born in the sign of Gemini, which is generally understood to stretch from May 21 through June 20.

This time of year is also associated with the Pentecost story described in the New Testament of the Bible: we are going to see that there is a powerful connection between the events of the Pentecost story and the zodiac sign of Gemini. In order to understand this connection, we have to first explore and understand a few aspects of Gemini: the constellation of Gemini (the Twins), its position on the zodiac wheel of the solar year, and some of the ancient mythological connections surrounding the Twins of Gemini.

Some of what follows has to do with "celestial mechanics," but don't be put off by that, even if it is a little unfamiliar to you. It is not that difficult to understand, with a little help (this video may be helpful as an overview). Additionally, it just so happens that right now the stars of Gemini are part of a beautiful display in the western sky, immediately following the setting of the sun behind the western horizon . . .

Because of the "delay" in the background of stars caused by the phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes, the sun is actually in the constellation of Taurus presently, with Gemini "behind" Taurus in terms of east-to-west progression across the sky. Gemini has been "delayed" and thus the sun is not "in" Gemini yet: the sun would be in Gemini at this time of year during the Age of Aries, and we are now approaching the end of the Age of Pisces and the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. However, there are good reasons for continuing to understand the signs according to the Age of Aries, and for these reasons if you were born from May 21 through June 20 you are considered to have been born in the sign of Gemini (for more on the "mechanics" of the constellations moving through the sky, and the "delay" caused by precession, see also this video).

If you consult astrological descriptions of the sign of Gemini, you will find that it is considered the third sign of the zodiac (after Aries and Taurus, which shows that the Age of Aries system is still in use, because even to this day Aries is considered the first sign of the zodiac, Taurus the second, and Gemini the third). You will also find that most astrological descriptions of this sign will tell you that one of the traits of Gemini has to do with skill in speech and persuasion. The signs of the zodiac are also associated with parts of the body, and the sign of Gemini is associated with the two lungs, as well as the two arms, and this association with the two lungs logically connects to the association of Gemini as being skilled in speech (it is also a Mercury sign, and Mercury is a god associated with persuasive speech as well, being the messenger of the gods).

Gemini is also what is known as an "Air" sign. The signs of the zodiac are traditionally ascribed to one of the "four elements" of Fire, Earth, Air, and Water (Alvin Boyd Kuhn's Lost Light has at least one chapter dealing with the spiritual significance of each of these Four Elements, and he puts forth the argument that this division was more spiritual in nature than it was scientific). Because there are twelve zodiac signs, the division of the zodiac into these Four Elements means that three signs will be associated with each element. That association, as well as the numbering of Gemini as the third sign of the zodiac, is shown in the diagram below:

So, to summarize what we have learned so far, Gemini is an "Air" sign, Gemini is associated with speech, and Gemini is the third sign in the progression of the zodiac wheel (starting with Aries). Gemini is associated with the period between May 21 and June 20, as the sun enters one of the twelve "houses" of the zodiac in succession throughout the year, approximately one month per sign.

We can also note that Gemini is one of the "uppermost" signs of the year, as it is located immediately prior to the June solstice (summer solstice for the northern hemisphere). The point of June solstice (which falls right around June 20 or June 21 each year, depending on calendar "slippage" which the leap-year days are designed to correct) falls at the juncture between Gemini and Cancer. So Gemini is the sign that marks the approach of the summer solstice.

It is also noteworthy that the Twins of Gemini in traditional representation are often depicted as "seated" in their posture, just as they are in the diagram above from AD 1618. The constellation itself does not really make the Twins look "seated," at least the way it is outlined by H.A. Rey in his indispensable guide to the constellations, but that is the way the sign was often traditionally represented. You can see numerous posts that explain how to find Gemini in the handy "index" of previous mentions found here.

The planetarium image below shows the constellation Gemini with the sun in the constellation Taurus, just "ahead" of Gemini on the east-to-west progression (this image is taken as if facing to the south, with east thus on the left and west on the right, such that constellations will move across the sky from left-to-right as we look at this image, due to the earth's rotation towards the east):

Obviously, you won't be able to see the stars like this when the sun is up in the heavens as it is in this image, but there is a reason for this image showing Gemini at zenith which we will get to shortly. However, as the earth continues to turn and the sun dips below the western horizon (to the right of the image) then you can imagine that Gemini will still be above the western horizon just after sunset, and the two bright stars of Gemini will be seen in the west hanging above the horizon, just as they in fact are right now.

In fact, if you look to the west after sunset, you can see a dazzling lineup of stars and planets and the moon. Venus is just below the two stars Castor and Pollux, the "heads" of the twins in the constellation Gemini (see inside the blue rectangle in the center of the image above). Above them (at an angle) will be Jupiter, and then the moon, all of them heading towards the western horizon in that order. You can see a good discussion and some diagrams of that sunset lineup in Sky & Telescope's weekly discussion notes here.

Again, the point is that the sun is not exactly in the constellation of Gemini right now -- precession has "delayed" Gemini in the heavens over the course of thousands of years -- but Gemini is close behind the sun, and if we were living back in the Age of Aries about 2,200 years ago, the sun would already be "in" the constellation of Gemini at this time of year (that is to say, from our position on the earth, looking towards the sun would be looking towards the "wall" of the dining room where the picture of Gemini is located, in the analogy of the earth going around the sun inside of a dining room, a helpful analogy that I explain here). 

All of this background is a prelude to the examination of the celestial foundations for an important episode described in the New Testament of the Bible -- the Pentecost, found in Acts chapter 2. Pentecost Sunday is celebrated by churches even to this day on the Sunday falling seven weeks after Easter Sunday. Seven weeks is of course forty-nine days, and the word "Pentecost" itself means "the fiftieth," meaning that it falls fifty days after the celebration of the Resurrection -- counting the day of Resurrection as the first of the fifty will end up with seven weeks later.

This New Testament event is closely connected and parallels an Old Testament event celebrated seven weeks after the Passover: the Feast of Weeks (or Shavuot). The Feast of Weeks celebrates the giving of the Law upon Mount Sinai, traditionally taking place seven weeks after the Passover and the episode of the Exodus from Egypt and crossing of the Red Sea (for more on the Red Sea and its zodiacal connections, see this previous post).

Because of the way the date of Easter is calculated, Pentecost will fall between May 10 and June 13 using the Western church reckoning of Easter, and between May 23 and June 26 using the Eastern church reckoning of Easter. In other words, it will usually fall within the sign of Gemini.

Here is a portion of the New Testament account of the episode celebrated at Pentecost, from the book of Acts of the Apostles, chapter two:
1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.
3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them.
4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
5 And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.
6 Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language.
7 And they were all amazed and marveled, saying one to another, Behold, are not all these which speak Galileans?
8 And how hear we every man in our own tongue, wherein we were born?
9 Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, and in Judaea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus, and Asia,
10 Phrygia, and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and in the parts of Libya around Cyrene, and strangers of Rome, Jews and proselytes,
11 Cretes and Arabians, we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God.
12 And they were all amazed, and were in doubt, saying one to another, What meaneth this?
13 Others mocking said, These men are full of new wine.
14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words:
15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
Now, having examined the characteristics of the zodiacal sign of Gemini, in which this "fiftieth-day" event takes place, several specific details in the above passage should fairly jump out at the reader:

  • There is a sound of rushing mighty wind (Gemini is an Air sign).
  • The sound filled the house where they were sitting (the sign of Gemini is one of the twelve houses of the zodiac, and the Twins are traditionally depicted as sitting).
  • The effect of the miraculous wind is the ability to speak with other tongues (Gemini is associated with Mercury, the messenger of the gods, with the lungs and with speech).
  • When some mocked this miraculous ability, and said they were full of "new wine," Peter stands up and his speaking ability is emphasized in the text, which says that he "lifted up his voice," and then declared, "be this known unto you, and hearken to my words" (Gemini is associated with Mercury, the messenger of the gods, with the lungs and with speech -- same as the previous point).
  • Peter then declares that these who are declaiming in various tongues are not drunk, as some suppose, and could not be, "seeing it is but the third hour of the day" (Gemini is the third sign of the zodiac).
The abundance of clues that we are dealing with a "Gemini event" is truly compelling, especially in conjunction with the fact that Pentecost falls within the sign of Gemini.

Added to these clues from the second chapter of Acts is the traditional understanding that the above events took place while Peter and the other disciples were gathered in the Upper Room, most likely in celebration of the Shavuot or Feast of Weeks. In the first chapter of Acts, in the thirteenth verse, the text itself tells us that the disciples "went into an upper room" and there abode in prayer and supplication awaiting the power of the Holy Ghost that was promised in Acts 1:8.

As has been pointed out already, and as can be seen in the zodiac diagram above, Gemini is an "upper room" constellation (for more discussion of the Upper Room, in conjunction with the events of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem described in the four gospel narratives, see this previous post). Gemini is located at the "top of the zodiac wheel," immediately prior to the point of summer solstice, which itself is the very summit of the year, and the highest arc that the sun will make across the sky before beginning its "downward journey" towards winter solstice again.

Some astute readers may be wondering at this point about the famous "cloven tongues like fire" which come down and sit above each of those gathered after the sound of a mighty rushing wind which filled the room where they were sitting. The mighty rushing wind can be confidently connected with the fact that Gemini is an Air sign -- but how can we reconcile the fact that Gemini is an Air sign with the image of tongues of flame coming down in conjunction with the wind and stationing themselves over the heads of each of them, as the text says in verse three? 

The presence of fire would seem to confuse all the previous arguments based on Gemini as an Air sign.

However, the fact that tongues of flame come down and sit on or over each of them, far from being a problem for this argument, turns out to be one of the most conclusive details in this story pointing to the identification with Gemini.

The most prominent aspect of the constellation Gemini in the heavens, of course, is the fact that the two stars marking the heads of the two Twins are very bright stars: you can verify this for yourself by going out tonight just after sunset, where the two bright stars of Castor and Pollux are clearly visible even in the fading glow of the sun and the waxing brightness of the moon. Indeed, the heads of the Twins are so bright in relation to the other stars in the constellation that the Twins themselves are associated with fire -- see for instance the depiction of the Twins as carrying torches in the Roman sculpture below (and see also previous discussions about the Twins as "fire sticks" in myths and sacred traditions literally around the world):

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

It turns out that the episode of a mighty rushing wind and heavenly fire descending to rest above the heads of "each of them" has a history in mythology that precedes the traditional dating of the New Testament cycle of stories -- and that it is in fact explicitly associated with the Twins of Gemini, the mythological heroes named Castor and Pollux (or Polydeuces).

These two mythical Twins were the sons of Zeus by a mortal mother, and traditionally one of them was immortal and the other was mortal. Because they were the sons of the god Zeus, they were also referred to as the Dioscuri (sometimes spelled "Dioscori," although this is not as common today), which means "sons of god" or "sons of Zeus."

Some of the ancient mysteries are thought to have been devoted to the Dioscuri, including the mysteries of Samothrace; the ancient mysteries are very important -- one of the most important of the mysteries of the ancient world took place at Eleusis and is discussed here -- and their significance is discussed in my book The Undying Stars (including some discussion of the mysteries at Samothrace).

In Book IV of the very important multi-volume history written by Diodorus Siculus (who lived and wrote during the first century BC), of which just under half has survived to this day (perhaps the other texts will be discovered someday), Diodorus relates an episode from the voyage of Jason and the Argonauts (who were pursuing the Golden Fleece, a goal that is clearly connected to the sign of Aries the Ram). See if you can spot some elements in this account, which historians believe was published sometime between 60 BC and 30 BC (but which relates mythological details which were certainly much older), that remind you of elements in the Pentecost story:
As for Heracles, after he had been splendidly honoured with gifts and the appropriate tokens of hospitality, he left Hesione and the mares in keeping with Laomedon, having arranged that after he had returned from Cochis, he should receive them again; he then set sail with all haste in the company of the Argonauts to accomplish the labour which lay before them. 
But there came on a great storm and the chieftains had given up hope of being saved, when Orpheus, they say, who was the only one on shipboard who had ever been initiated in the mysteries of the deities of Samothrace, offered to these deities the prayers for their salvation. And immediately the wind died down and two stars fell over the heads of the Dioscori, and the whole company was amazed at the marvel which had taken place and concluded that they had been rescued from their perils by an act of Providence of the gods. For this reason, the story of this reversal of fortune for the Argonauts has been handed down to succeeding generations, and sailors when caught in storms always direct their prayers to the deities of Samothrace and attribute the appearance of the two stars to the epiphany of the Dioscori. [From Book IV, end of chapter 42 through beginning of chapter 43,  translation of C. H. Oldfather, 1933: available online here].
The parallels between the above account from the mythical journey of the Argonauts and the events in the second chapter of Acts are striking: there is a "great storm" which is characterized primarily by wind, because after Orpheus offers prayers to the deities of Samothrace (which deities the text makes clear are the Dioscuri themselves) we read that "immediately the wind died down."

Then, we read that "two stars" fell over the heads of the Dioscuri (Castor and Pollux were members of the heroic crew of Jason's ship, the Argo -- a detail that is a little strange, since Orpheus is praying to them, when it seems they should be able to just stop the storm directly, but remember that this is a myth, and these sorts of seemingly contradictory details actually reveal that this myth is in fact very ancient and that even at the late date that Diodorus Siculus was writing, in 60 BC to 30 BC, the myth already involved layers of mythical tradition that had come down through the centuries, to the point that it was already "hoary," or covered in cobwebs and dust).

Finally, we read that "the whole company was amazed" and they went about telling this story everywhere, and handing it down to succeeding generations.

These parallels should absolutely cement the identification of the account in Acts 2 with the zodiacal  house of Gemini, especially when considered in conjunction with the abundance of clues that we have already examined above.

To put it as plainly as possible: the descent of tongues of heavenly fire which came down and rested upon the company in the upper room in Acts 2 is an image anciently associated with Castor and Pollux, the Twins of Gemini, and known to have been described in literature written prior to what is considered to be the time of the New Testament.

Many other important elements of the Acts 2 account, including the powerful wind, are also associated with the Twins of Gemini and can be shown to have been associated with the Twins prior to the appearance of the Acts account.

And yet there is actually even more evidence which supports this interpretation of the Pentecost story, and of the associated Old Testament commemoration of the Feast of Weeks which corresponds to the Pentecost story (and which most interpreters say that the disciples and the visitors to Jerusalem from other lands who are described in the Pentecost account in Acts 2 were there to celebrate -- that is, they were celebrating Shavuot or the Feast of Weeks when Pentecost took place, which is why there were so many visitors from other lands in Jerusalem who could be amazed at the speech of the disciples and who all heard the messages in their own native language or mother tongue).

The Feast of Weeks, as mentioned previously, celebrates the giving of the law on Mount Sinai, after the crossing of the Red Sea. The previous post discussing the episode of the crossing of the Red Sea gave evidence that this event refers to the crossing of the equinox point at spring equinox, in which the sun (or the earth on its annual orbit, depending on the point of view we wish to use) crosses up out of the lower half of the year and into the upper half of the year (when days become longer than nights again, and continue lengthening on their way to the very summit of the year at summer solstice).

We can see that "going up a high mountain" after crossing into the upper half of the year at equinox corresponds rather nicely to the going up onto Mount Sinai after crossing the Red Sea out of the house of bondage in the lower half of the year. But what about the giving of the law?

The Reverend Robert Taylor (1784 - 1844), whose interpretation of the Pentecost event informs all of the arguments outlined in this blog post so far, gives a very good explanation of why the sign of Gemini is associated with the giving of the law, and the balanced scales of justice. He explains that when the Twins of Gemini are at their zenith point on their arcing path across the sky (as they are in the planetarium screenshot presented above, in which I have outlined the constellation of Gemini with a light-blue rectangle), the two equinoctial guardians of Virgo and Pisces are rising in the east and setting in the west, creating an image of balance and harmony.

You can see that this is the case from the image above: Virgo is rising along the eastern horizon (left side of the image, because we are "facing to the south"), and Pisces is setting towards the western horizon. The head of Virgo and her distinctive "outstretched arm" (marked by the star Vindemiatrix) are above the horizon. Most of Pisces is visible -- only the lower of the two fishes has disappeared under the western horizon, but the "fish-band" that holds the two fishes together, and the other fish, are clearly visible above the horizon.

To understand why these two signs are associated with the equinoxes and with the scales of justice, please go back and read through the arguments and evidence presented in previous posts "Isis and Nephthys: March equinox 2015" and "The horizon and the scales of judgement."

Thus, when Gemini is high in the sky (at its highest point), it basically creates an image of the scales of justice, equally balanced -- with Virgo the sign just prior to the fall equinox on one side, and Pisces  the sign just prior to the spring equinox on the other (during the Age of Aries, the sign of Aries was the first sign after the spring equinox: Pisces was the last sign before it).

And, there are ancient sources which attest to the fact that the Twins of Gemini were associated with the concept of justice. For instance, in the quotations about the Twins collected on this page, we see that in the Nemean Ode of Pindar (an ancient Greek poet who lived from 522 BC to 443 BC), in the second sentence cited on that page, it is said of these two divine twins: "And due regard have they for men of justice" (Nemean Ode 10: 3 -5; italics added here to make the connection).

Again, in fragment 6 of Book VI of the history of Diodorus (also quoted on the page linked in the preceding paragraph) we find the Twins described as follows: "And, speaking generally, their manly spirits and skill as generals, and their justice and piety as well, have won them fame among practically all men, since they make their appearance as helpers of those who fall into unexpected perils" (and at this point, the editor of that page explains, "that is, they appear to mariners in storms"). In the preceding quotation, I have added italics to the word "justice," to make it clear that ancient authors associated the Dioscuri with justice.

Thus, the episode of the giving of the law upon the high mountain of Mt. Sinai, which is also associated in the New Testament with the feast of Pentecost and the descent of holy fire over the heads after the visitation of a divine wind, can be seen to contain details or symbology which connects to the zodiac sign of Gemini, the Twins.

In fact, there are so many points of correspondence here that the association is practically undeniable. And, the fact is that the same kinds of celestial correspondence can be demonstrated over and over again all throughout the stories in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible -- as well as throughout  the myths and sacred stories found in virtually every part of the globe in every culture (see for example some that have been discussed previously, listed in this "Star Myth index").

Now, to those who have been told that the stories of the Bible are meant to be understood literally, as events which happened on earth to historical figures, and who have believed that this is how they are supposed to be understood and for whom such an understanding is an important part of their personal identity and life (and I used to be one who understood them in just such a way, and for whom such a literal interpretation was an important part of my personal life and identity), the discovery of overwhelming amounts of evidence which shows that these stories are in fact clear celestial metaphor rather than literal history can be quite a shock, to say the least.

Such a discovery can lead one to feel as if the entire meaning of the stories has been lost.

However, after long and careful consideration of this very question, I believe that this discovery actually enables us to understand their intended meaning -- while trying to force a literal reading onto scriptures that were never intended to be understood literally will almost certainly force us to misunderstand their meaning, perhaps quite egregiously.

I believe that their true meaning is far more profound than simply "stories that embody the motions of the heavens." In fact, although one might conclude from the foregoing explication that these stories are actually all about the constellations, the zodiac, and the motions sun's progress through the background zodiac stars in the annual cycle of the year, I would argue that in spite of all that has been demonstrated above, in one sense the true meaning of the stories has little or nothing to do with the stars at all!

That's because I believe that in these stories, the entire celestial realm and all the actors in the heavens above (sun, moon, planets, and stars) are themselves metaphors or allegorical pointers towards the spiritual truths that the myths of the world are all trying to convey, using the heavenly actors to convey invisible concepts that are very difficult to grasp directly and must be explained through poetry, comparison, allegory, and myth.

In other words, as many previous posts have explained, these stories are not actually about disciples who were gathered in an upper room, nor semi-divine heroes who were sailing on the ship Argo in the quest for the Golden Fleece, nor even about the glorious sun passing through the glittering constellation of Gemini on its way to the summer solstice at the top of the year. These stories are about the human soul, the condition of the human soul in a physical body, and the condition of the human soul in a universe that is simultaneously physical and spiritual at the same time (a universe which has an invisible component which is not so easy to grasp but which is extremely real, nonetheless, and which is even more important in many ways than the physical and material side of the universe that we more easily see and experience every day).

In other words, in an important sense, these stories are all about YOU.

(For more discussion of that critical assertion, see previous posts such as this one, this one, and this one).

The story of Pentecost has many important and profound messages which can be incorporated into our everyday life, far more than can be elucidated here, and so just a few will quickly be touched upon, although each could be the subject of much more elaborate investigation and consideration.

For one thing, it shows the connection between the visible and the invisible world -- the immediate presence of the divine or the infinite, which rests upon each person, and which is dramatically depicted in the story of the events in the upper room. Previous posts which have dealt with this subject include "The peace of utter stillness," "Epiphany: revealing the hidden divine nature," and "Amen and Amenta."

Connected to this theme, which is vast in its import, is the related concept of ecstasy, which can be argued to be absolutely central to almost every ancient sacred tradition around the world -- including the scriptures that made their way into what we call "the Bible," as I have argued in previous posts such as "The Bible is essentially shamanic," "The centrality of ecstasy, according to ancient wisdom," "The shamanic foundation of the world's ancient wisdom," and "Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: Paul the Gnostic opponent of Literalism" (among many, many others).

Certainly the "Pentecostal" event has been associated with the idea of ecstasy and the ecstatic in some interpretations of its significance, although to greater and lesser degrees which have varied widely among different approaches to these texts.

Finally, the above discussion and the clear connections to the concept of law, judgement, and the "celestial scales between the two horizons" shows that while we transit between the "two horizons" in this incarnate existence, we are indeed passing through the scales of judgement, or what the ancient Egyptians called the Hall of Two Truths: the Hall of Judgement. Our actions in this world are in some way profoundly important to the condition of our soul, and they are in a very real sense being "weighed in the balance."

One of the most urgent themes of the Hall of Two Truths scene in the Egyptian Book of the Dead is the admonition to not tell lies, and the "negative confession" by the subject of the weighing that he or she has not told untruth during this life. Taking these scriptures and teaching that they mean something that is virtually the opposite of what they were intended to mean would thus appear to be a grave mistake indeed.

Ultimately, these passages have a very uplifting message about the dignity and indeed divinity of each and every human being, man, woman, or newborn child, and about our connection to the infinite, even as we pass through this incarnate realm of material existence. For although incarnation was allegorized as the "lower half" of the zodiac wheel (between incarnation at the fall equinox and re-ascent to the spirit world at the spring equinox), even so we are connected to the very top, the "upper room," and the world of spirit which is always present, even if not always visible.


Warmest welcome to AJK!!!

Also, special thanks to reader and correspondent Pat B. for sending his own thoughts and analysis on Pentecost and the stars!