Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Cosmology and Ethics

Alice C. Linsley

Cosmology is the study of the structure and dynamics of the universe. It involves our most fundamental experience of earth and the heavens. It necessarily involves recognition of the binary distinctions observed in the order of creation: night-day; axis of rotation-equator; north-south; east-west and finite-infinite. Ancient peoples believed that the structure and dynamics of the cosmos speak of the Creator’s eternal power and divine nature. [1]

Abraham's Horite caste were devotees of Horus who they believed was the marker of boundaries and the one who established "kinds" (essences). Horus controlled the wind and waves and guarded the four cardinal points. Horus' four appearances, as a deified ruler, a jackal, a falcon and a dog, are found on the four canopic jars that hold the organs of the dead rulers. These guard his body at the north, east, south and west.

The Horites spread their Horus- centered cosmology throughout the ancient Afro-Asiatic Dominion. The deity Horus was the son of Re, whose emblem was the Sun. The Sun and its daily east-west journey were a key feature of Horite cosmology. The Sun rises above the earth and this further distinguishes the heavens above from the earth below, and the Creator from the creation.
The binary distinctions impressed upon the ancient Nilotic and Proto-Saharan peoples the reality of their limitations. They had no power to make the Sun follow a different course or to move the polar star. These spoke to them of a greater Power who had established these luminaries as dark reflections of a greater Light. The Horite ruler-priests were conscious of boundaries all around them. Many words related to boundaries are derived from the name Horus: horizon, hour, horotely, Horologion, Harmattan, horoscope, etc. Aristotle links essence to boundaries (horos, horismos) or to definition. He says, “a definition is an account (logos) that signifies an essence” (Topics 102a3).

The Sun's observed path was thought to be the Creator’s daily "circuit", during which He surveys his territory "as far as the East is from the West". In recognition of God’s heavenly territory, Afro-Asiatic chiefs placed their two wives in separate households on a north-south axis. Abraham’s wife Sarah lived in Hebron and Keturah lived to the south in Beersheba. Lamech the Elder (Gen. 4) is portrayed as a braggart because he set his wives on an east-west axis, thereby setting himself up as God. [2]

When we examine the most ancient temples and shrines we find that these were structured and aligned with the poles, with their entrances facing east to welcome the rising light. The Jerusalem Temple was arranged taking the path of the sun into account and the great Pyramids face east. Many of the temples had zodiacs which were used to study the heavens (sidereal astronomy). The axis of the Dendera temple in Egypt aligns with the figure of a Horus falcon perched on a papyrus stem on the Dendera zodiac. While sky watching on the summer solstice in 1728 B.C. (July 7) the priests of Dendera would have observed that the Sun and Mercury were in Leo on opposite sides of the king star Regulus. This is a Trinitarian alignment – The Father (Sun) and Spirit (Mercury) surrounded the King in the constellation of Leo, the totem of the tribe of Judah. This was observed about 728 years before David became king in Israel.

The poles were associated with animals, numbers and experiences in life. North was associated with divine judgment and also death, its polar opposite was associated with birth and renewal of life. South symbolized Earth, fertility and birth. Abraham, still without a heir, consulted the Moreh/Prophet at the Oak between Bethel and Ai. The next event of his life was a journey south to Beersheba where he found his cousin-bride Keturah, by whom he had 5 sons.

The ethical implications of this are evident. The ancient Afro-Asiatics wanted to correctly discern and respect the boundaries that they perceived as having been established by God. Worship, daily ritual, kinship, gender roles and laws all reflected this ethical concern to honor boundaries and to prevent people from trespassing them. That being the case, the safest place to be is near the center of one’s territory, not near the edges.

The Cross and the Sacred Center
In other words, in this cross-shaped cosmology, the safest place is the sacred center. Jacques Derrida (an Arabic-speaking Jew who was born in Algers), after all his deconstruction, concluded that there is a center and that something is there. He claimed that throughout the history of Philosophy this metaphysical presence is called by different names, “God” being one of them. Abraham and his people would have understood what it means to be physically and spiritually present at the center of the perpendicular north-south and east-west lines that form a cross.

Before he died at age 108, Israel's leading rabbi, Yitzhak Kaduri, left a signed note indicating Messiah's identity: Yeshua - Jesus. A few months before, Rabbi Kaduri had surprised his followers when he told them that he met the Messiah in dreams and visions. He also had taught on Yom Kippur how to recognize the Messiah. His manuscripts, written in his own hand, have crosses painted all over the pages.

For Christians the image of Christ on the Cross takes on even deeper meaning when we remember that He was pierced in his center and from that center came forth blood and water, the two most sacred symbols of Holy Tradition.

Directional Poles and Numbers
Using the binary oppositions of east-west and north-south, ancient man assigned names to phenomena that he perceived as belonging to certain vectors on a circle. An example is the designation of winds that proceed from directions between the 4 cardinal poles: a southwest wind or a northeast wind. To each wind was given a meaning. Winds proceeding from the west were regarded as a positive omen. Theophrastus, a 4th century BC scholar wrote, “Zephyros, the west wind, is the most gentle of all the winds and it blows in the afternoon and towards the land, and is cold.” The east wind (called “Sirocco” in Arabic) was less welcome as it brought heat, dust and swarms of locusts carried on strong winds.

We have confirmation of the association of 1 with north and 3 with south in I Kings 7:23-26 and II Chronicles 4:1-4. Here we read that the altar in Solomon’s temple was to rest on 12 oxen: 3 facing north, 3 facing west, 3 facing south and 3 facing east. We note that north heads the list, having the position of priority (number 1). Then comes west (associated with 9 and 10) and then in the third position we have south. [3]

In the Afro-Asiatic scheme, vector 1 would be that space on earth where sunlight falls as the sun makes its journey from morning to noon. Vector 2 would be that space on earth where sunlight is seen as the sun journeys from noon to dark. Vectors 3 and 4 would be associated with the sun’s hidden activity from dusk to the Sun’s rising again (vector 4). Thus, according to ancient Egyptian hymns, the sovereign Deity was both immanent (present as light), transcendent (present beyond sight) and “double-concealed.”

The cosmology of Abraham’s ancestors resembled that of ancient Egyptians. For example, the notion of the shrine of the heart as the sacred place of the indwelling god is evident in Egypt as early as 1200 BC, when personal piety entailed facing the rising Sun, thereby inviting the most sovereign Deity to dwell in the person.[4]  The Pharaoh was called “son of Re,” the celestial being whose emblem was the Sun. Rulers were not chosen based on hereditary bloodline which explains why Egyptian texts never mention an earthly "father of the king". Kingship was a manifestation of the solar deity’s cultic overshadowing of noble women. [5]

Symbols of Afro-Asiatic Cosmology
The cosmology of Abraham’s people is represented in the Egyptian Ankh, the sign of Tanit, the Agadez cross, and the horned altar of Israel. The loop at the top of these symbols represents the Sun. The cross bar represents the Sun's daily journey from east to west. The Sun is shown resting at the mountain top or the sacred center (high noon, and as James explains, "In Him there is no shadow..."). Mountain tops were a meeting place between God and man. Consider the many incidents of biblical heroes meeting with God on the tops of mountains.
The Sign of Tanit, associated with Carthage, has been found with the TNT inscription in the temple of Eshmun near Sidon. It dates to about the 5 century B.C. The name 'Tanit' is a guess, since no one knows how TNT should be rendered. It almost certainly is related to the metal working chiefs who live in the Air Desert surrounding Agadez. They maintain 2 wives in separate households on a north-south axis and speak a secret language called TeNeT (National Geographic, Aug. 1979, p. 389). They are the artisans who create the Agadez cross.

There are at least 22 different patterns of crosses in Africa. The different crosses identify the towns where people come from. The four points represent the four corners of the world. Originally, these were passed from father to son. The father would say: "My son, I give you the four corners of the world, because one cannot know where one will die."

The upright horns are similar to those on the Tanit symbol. The horned altar is a negative image signifying the same view of God's sovereignty over the earth, only here the circle has disappeared and God's hidden presence is signaled by the negative space.

Abraham's people were concerned about respecting the God-established boundaries that they observed in creation. In doing so they showed respect to the God who established the boundaries. This God respects individual persons.  Unlike mythological gods (Zeus comes to mind) this God never uses His power to impose. The One who established boundaries and expects us to honor them does so Himself, a mark of holiness.


1. The Apostles Paul alludes to this in Romans 1:20.

2. Adah is related to the word for dawn and T-zillah is related to the word for dusk.

3. The number system of Abraham’s people was base 9. The number 10 represented the beginning of a new cycle.

4.  The Spirit of God indwells by invitation unlike demons who possess by trickery and without consent of the victim.

5. Holy Tradition teaches that Mary conceived the Son of God when overshadowed by the Holy Spirit after she had consented to bear the Christ.

Related reading:  Theories of Change and Constancy; Levi-Strauss and Derrida on Binary Oppositions

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