Friday, March 30, 2018

Parallels between the Odyssey and the Gospels

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The first full moon following the March equinox is approaching. There will be a full moon on March 31 -- and since the previous full moon was on March 1, the full moon on March 31 will be the first full moon following this year's March equinox, which took place on March 20.

This combination of the heavenly cycles of the earth's annual cycle around the sun and the moon's monthly cycle around the earth signals the observance of Passover and Easter in the traditions of Judaism and Christianity (the calculations of the dates of Passover and Easter are rather complex, but the full moon and the March equinox are central factors in the calculations).

In the celestial "code" which underlies the ancient myths of the world, the point of spring equinox represents the passage through death and into life, as explained by Alvin Boyd Kuhn in an extended discussion found in his essay Easter: the Birthday of the Gods, quoted at length in this previous post (just beneath the zodiac wheel diagram in the middle of that blog post).

Similarly, the ancient sacred traditions found in cultures around the world used the cycle of the moon to figure the same spiritual journey undergone by each human soul, down through the realm of death (which Alvin Boyd Kuhn explains is a reference to this incarnate life) and then into light and life again -- and in his 1887 lecture entitled Luniolatry; Ancient and Modern, Gerald Massey argues that the descent into darkness of the waning moon represents death, and the rebirth at new moon and subsequent waxing towards full represents life, which would argue that the full moon following the point of spring equinox would be associated with fullness of life (indicated by the full moon) after crossing through the "valley of death" (indicated by the achievement of the point of spring equinox, following the toiling passage through the "lower realms" of the winter months, when darkness dominates, which precede that point of spring equinox).

Thus, the concepts which are celebrated at Passover and at Easter represent profound and important truths, with vital meaning to each and every man and woman, because these concepts have to do with the journey of each and every human soul, passing through this "lower realm" as if a prisoner in the house of bondage, but toiling through this lower passage with the ultimate purpose of transcending and elevating the spirit. In very much the same way, the heavenly cycles show us the stars sinking down into the western horizon only to rise back up again at the eastern horizon, or the sun's path sinking downwards throughout the year towards the winter solstice, only to turn back around and cross back up at the spring equinox, or the moon's progress throughout the month ebbing into darkness, only to be renewed and grow into greater and greater light. 

And while the Passover and Easter stories provide us with beautiful illustrations of these truths, truths which are imminently applicable to our lives in ways which are both practical and profound, they are by no means the only such illustrations of the successful passage through the lower realm and the triumph over the power of death to be found in the world's varied myths and sacred stories. There are countless others, from cultures found on literally every inhabited continent of our planet, and all the islands as well. And, not only are all these myths related thematically, but they can be conclusively shown to be based upon the very same system of celestial metaphor which underlies the stories in the scriptures of the so-called "Old" and "New" Testaments of the Bible which form the basis for the Passover and Easter traditions as well.

One particularly compelling example of a myth from a different culture which can be shown to have powerful celestial correspondences to stories found in the Biblical scripture is the myth of Odysseus, presented in memorable form in the text of the Odyssey, the date of composition of which is still hotly debated by scholars, but which scholar Robert Fagles, author of superlative modern translations of both the Iliad and the Odyssey, puts somewhere around 725 BC to 675 BC for the Iliad (perhaps slightly later for the Odyssey), but based upon a long tradition of oral poetry stretching back many centuries before that (see extended discussion in Fagles' introduction to the Odyssey, and particularly the assertions on pages 18 and 19 of that introduction).

In other words, according to the consensus of many scholars, and based upon an abundance of cultural, archaeological (including Greek pottery dating back to nearly 700 BC showing recognizable scenes from both the Iliad and the Odyssey), and textual evidence, the Odyssey was written down several hundred years before the canonical gospels, and is probably based on oral traditions stretching back several additional centuries into the past before it was written down -- and yet there are numerous striking parallels between the Odyssey and specific episodes in the gospel accounts, parallels which can be shown to be based on this common system of celestial metaphor which informs the sacred stories and myths from around the world.

For example, many of us who grew up in western cultures with centuries of Christian influence are aware that there is an important "foot-washing scene" in the ancient accounts of the Last Supper (it is actually found only in the gospel according to John, in John chapter 13, although there are episodes which contain strong parallels to the foot-washing scene found in Matthew chapter 26, Mark chapter 14, and Luke chapter 7). But how many of those who know of the foot-washing scene in the description of the Last Supper are aware that there is also a vitally-important "foot-washing scene" in the Odyssey as well, in Book 19 of the Odyssey, when Eurycleia, who once nursed and cared for Odysseus as an infant, when she herself was young and beautiful, and who is now very old, washes the feet of the disguised and travel-weary Odysseus, and instantly recognizes the returning king by the distinctive scar in his thigh.

Both of these foot-washing scenes can be shown to be based on the constellation Aquarius (as well as surrounding constellations which provide other details found in the respective texts), as I explain in Star Myths of the World, Volume Two (focusing on the Greek Myths) on pages 621 - 626 and in Star Myths of the World, Volume Three (Star Myths of the Bible) on pages 674 - 677. Additionally, paintings of the Last Supper down through the centuries invariably portray Jesus in a posture which corresponds to the outline of the constellation Aquarius itself:

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The above depiction of the foot-washing episode from John 21 was painted in the early 1700s, but many others could be provided to demonstrate that artistic conventions consistently portray Jesus in this scene as having unmistakable characteristics of the constellation Aquarius (shown above the painting).

Another scene which provides strong parallels between the Odyssey and the gospel accounts is the episode early in the adventures of Odysseus, in Book 5, when Odysseus is escaping from the island of Ogygia upon a home-made raft, and Poseidon sends a tremendous storm over the seas. Odysseus is visited by a goddess who descends in the form of a bird, and directs him to remove all his clothing and instead tie a sash, which she provides him, around his waist before abandoning his raft and plunging into the water. 

As I argue in the above-linked books, as well as in this previous post from 2016, this scene from the beginning of the adventures of Odysseus contains very strong parallels to the scene at the beginning of the ministry of Jesus, in which he goes down into the river Jordan to be baptized by John the Baptist, and the Holy Spirit is described descending upon him in the form of a dove (see for example Matthew 3: 16). And note that in depictions of this baptism scene throughout the centuries, Jesus is invariably depicted as wearing only a sash of linen about his waist.

Perhaps the clearest and most incontestable parallel between the accounts of the life of Jesus contained in the canonical gospels and the text of the adventures of Odysseus from ancient Greece many centuries earlier is the passage in Book 11 of the Odyssey, in which Odysseus goes down to the land of the dead and consults with the shade of Tiresias. Tiresias gives Odysseus precise directions for appeasing Poseidon and the other deathless gods, and central among his directives to Odysseus is the command for the long-suffering traveler, after he finally returns home, to take his own oar and carry it on his shoulder inland until he reaches a people who know nothing of the sea, and who do not even season their food with salt, and who will ask Odysseus about the "fan to winnow grain" across his shoulder (not knowing that it is an oar for a seafaring ship). 

As I have explored in numerous previous posts (such as this one) as well as in a video entitled "All the World's Myths are Written in the Stars," this important passage from the Odyssey has strong echoes in the gospel texts, when John the Baptist declares that "he that cometh after me is mightier than I," and is one "whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner" (Matthew 3: 11 - 12). The text of this passage clearly indicates that John in the episode is describing a winnowing fan, in a parallel to the directives of Tiresias to Odysseus in the Odyssey.

As explained in previous posts and in the video linked above, the similarities between these descriptions in the Odyssey and in the gospels can be understood when we realize that both are describing celestial figures and using metaphorical language to do so -- in this case, the constellation Orion, which does appear to be carrying a "winnowing fan" in the upraised arm of the constellation.

And these are just a few of the parallels between the Odyssey and the New Testament gospels. Many more parallels could also be offered, but the above parallels should be sufficient to establish the undeniable correspondences between the narratives. Indeed, there is even a stone which is too heavy for Odysseus and his men to move and which traps them inside a cave which threatens to become their tomb, before Odysseus devises an ingenious plan to make good his escape, which has clear parallels to yet another passage in the gospels, and one which I have shown to be based upon the very same constellations which provide the basis for the corresponding episode in the Odyssey.

Does all of this prove that the scriptures of the Bible are in some way "not true"? My answer to that question is: "It does not prove them to be 'not true' at all" -- although I would argue that these stories (like all the other myths of the world) are not based on literal or historical events. However, I absolutely believe the world's myths are intended to convey to us profound truths -- and to do so using powerful and spiritually eye-opening stories, characters, and episodes, all of them built upon a system of celestial metaphor which is rich and multi-layered in its meaning, and which can continue to reveal to us new insights every time we come back to them, year after year throughout our lives.

Like the stories which inform the observance of Passover and Easter, one theme of the Odyssey is the return from the dead, the escape from the land of bondage, the successful crossing of this "lower realm" -- which is figuratively the realm of water, one of the two "lower elements" and one of the elements out of which our bodies are made (we can be said to be traveling through this incarnate realm in a body which itself is mostly made of water, and hence like Odysseus we ourselves are "crossing the sea" at all times in this incarnate life).

The strong parallels between the Odyssey and the gospel stories should not lead us to denigrate the gospel stories -- quite the contrary, these parallels should cause us to evaluate them in an entirely new light, and realize that they have so much to show us, which we can perhaps best appreciate once we begin to understand the language that they are actually speaking.

However, the clear evidence that the Biblical texts are in no way "exclusively true" but rather that they are closely related to all the world's other Star Myths, preserved in different forms among all the different cultures of our planet, should conclusively demonstrate that there is no room for denigrating the myths or sacred traditions belonging to those other cultures, because they all appear to be closely related and built upon a common, worldwide system. I am convinced that all of these ancient myths, using this ancient system, are pointing us towards the same truths about the real nature of this simultaneously material-and-spiritual cosmos in which we find ourselves during this incarnate life -- the same truths about the existence of and importance of an Invisible Realm -- the same truths about ways we can and should be connecting with and harmonizing with that Invisible Realm and with our own Higher Self during this "lower passage" through this life.

I hope that you will have time to contemplate the powerful message embodied in the stories connected to this special point in the great heavenly cycles, when the earth has crossed through the point of the March equinox and light once again triumphs over darkness each day (in the northern hemisphere, where days are now longer than nights, and growing longer each day), and when the moon has reached its greatest fullness and resplendence -- and to recognize and appreciate the divine spark in each and every man, woman and child you see around you, and to recognize and appreciate it in yourself as well.

Ultimately, as Alvin Boyd Kuhn also said in a different lecture, these stories are not about ancient kings or queens or heroes -- they are about each and every human soul. They are about you.


For more on this subject, see also: