It seems our cultural heritage is full of the greatest codes and ciphers ever written, and we're just now beginning to crack them.
BRAINTEASER NO. 1
Look around you for a universal clock that will remain, thousands of years from now, intact, fully operational, a piece of machinery that will last for all time, that tells time, from any vantage point on Earth's surface. Hint: Look Up. At night. Far from the city lights. Now tell the time.
BRAINTEASER NO. 2
Now devise a means of taking a snapshot in time of a significant moment. Put it in a universal code, that anyone using the same clock can understand. Now preserve it so it may travel intact thousands of years into the future. Hint: This quote, The Universe is made up of stories, not atoms from Muriel Ruckeyser, will do nicely.
The very ancient, yet unacknowledged, culture which came up with solutions to these challenges laid the basis for traditions still in use today. As we awake from the Western society's cultural amnesia, we are piecing together the fragments of a long lost heritage.
The clock is Nature's own. This mechanism, provided by Earth's distinctive wobble within the solar system within the Galaxy, gives us the vantage point of sitting at the inner spring mechanism of a giant clock. It's small and large wheels within wheels are the visible planets, the constellations, and local Galactic arm, going about their orbits in relation to one another. This is how the ancients kept time, in the grandest sense.
Significant snapshots in time were recorded by a method equally ingenious: simple and entertaining stories containing precise astronomical notations. The mythmakers and astronomer-priests were one and the same, and simply watched the story's cast of characters (distinctly drawn personifications of the various planets and constellations) move about the night skies like actors on a stage. The story line would unfold as a celestial soap-opera.
Dr. William Sullivan is a cultural historian and archaeoastronomer specializing in the cultures of the Andes. He demonstrates, in his new breakthrough work, The Secret of the Incas: Myth, Astronomy, and the War Against Time, how myth works, on one level, as a technical language charting the passage of great cycles of time. The clever insertion of universally-understood, highly technical data within a universally-known, deceptively simple story becomes clear in the following version of a story known to just about every ancient culture around the world. Some consider this evidence of a worldwide flood, and there is geological evidence dating to 9,600 B.C. to support such a catastrophe. In the following Andean version of Noah's Ark, Sullivan finds another layer of meaning.
NOAH'S ARK: THE INCA VERSION
A shepherd hikes high into the mountains to check his flock of llamas, finding they are not eating, but watching the stars with anticipation and anxiety. One llama tells the shepherd, Pay close attention to what I am about to tell you. That conjunction of stars there means that the whole world is about to be destroyed by a flood. So the shepherd gathers up his family, his flock, and his seeds, and they flee to the top of the highest mountain. As the rain starts pouring down the water rises, and the various animals run up to the top of the mountain. Clinging to the very top, the waters crest and then recede. Everyone stayed high and dry, except for fox, who slipped and dipped his tail in the water. And that is why the tail of the fox is black.
In the Aymara dialect, pacca' means both llama and shaman, says Sullivan. Here, Fox is a specific celestial object, a constellation. And in the morning sky of A.D. 650, during the December solstice, fox had risen' except for his tail, which dipped down below the visible horizon, the metaphorical waters of the deep.' Thus a date is matched to a specific celestial conjunction, becoming a snapshot in time.
This now hidden meaning used to be obvious. Imagine living in a society that didn't have the lights on all the time; we could see all the stars. Now imagine living where there is less atmosphere to obscure the viewing, at an elevation of 12,000 feet, high in the Andes. There, you feel you can reach up and touch the stars. And the Milky Way is absolutely dazzling, says Sullivan, so bright that the clouds of interstellar dust block out the background glow of stars in certain areas, so they appear inky black and phantomlike. To the Inca, this landscape was well-known, populated by familiar animals that moved around the sky, just as we've named our constellations. If the lights were turned off so we could actually get reacquainted with the night sky, we too could see Fox dipping his tail'.
This concept isn't yet obvious to academia. It's been a long, lonely, largely self-financed labor-of-love since 1974, when two key books fell in Sullivan's lap. The first was The Roots Of Civilization, in which the author, Alexander Marshack, tells of reading an article about a bone with scratches on it. Dissatisfied with the explanations offered, he got a sudden flash of insight that it was a record of lunar cycles. In museums all over Europe, Marshack located additional Ice Age artifacts with similar scratches, some bearing the sequential marks of waxing and waning moons through a full year. He had found 25,000 year old calendars.
The second book, written in 1969 and ignored by academia, was Hamlet's Mill, (the title likens the great wheel of time to a millstone turning). Authors Santillana and von Dechend proposed that myth works as a technical language encoding extremely sophisticated astronomical observations, created prior to writing and complex mathematics, and transmitted by storytellers not necessarily understanding the technical components. Staggered by the implications, Sullivan set out to test if that were true. The Inca, he decided, were the perfect test subject.
Armed with a decryption formula, (animals are stars, topography refers to constellations, gods are planets) Sullivan searched the archives for the earliest version of Inca myths. Then he ran computer generated star charts backwards in time, to the skies over the Andes. Using Skyglobe to test the match of the skies, code, and myths, he found they lit up the computer screen like a pin-ball machineŃall the right spots at the right time, proving that these myths are constructed on many levels simultaneously, and one of those levels happens to be astronomy.
Then there was field work. Being there in the Andes, gazing at the night sky with anyone kind enough to talk to me, I asked, what do you call that,' and do you know any stories about those stars out there?' People young and old were naming the constellations and telling me versions of stories that I later found in the Spanish chronicles, the earliest source of the Inca myths, written in the early 1500s. Myth has proven itself a tenacious carrier wave.
WATCHING THE HEAVENS TICK
With an overhead clock to preoccupy you nightly, naturally you'd chart where you are in the great wheel of time's passage. That was a central preoccupation of these myths, according to Sullivan. The mechanism was that peculiar motion of our Earth known as Precession of the Equinox
To the ancients, the clock worked like this: Earth, set like a wobbling gyroscope, spins and rotates on a tilted axis, slowly drawing a spiral as it moves through space. The visual effect: stars and planets move about the heavens, rising above or setting below the visible horizon. Each symbol of the zodiac (from the Greek, meaning dial of animals) represents one of 12 constellations, arrayed around Earth like the numbers on a clock face. The horizon at the solstice and equinox is like the hand of the clock, marking to the constellation of the hour, or Age. One cosmic day, or complete cycle around the clock, takes 25,920 years. At the time of Christ, the constellation Pisces was visible above the eastern horizon on the Spring Equinox; today, two thousand years later, due to precessional motion, Pisces has been replaced by the constellation Aquarius, (12 into 25,920 = 2,120 years per Age) giving us the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Such astronomical observations gave rise to the Inca's own ideas of their place in history, to the delineation of world ages, and to the metaphor the world is destroyed and a new one created' for continuous cycles of time.
It seems the Inca took this metaphor literally, with tragic results. Few people realize that in 1532, when a handful of Spanish adventurers destroyed the Inca Empire, it was less than a century old, yet the heir of a tradition already 2,000 years old, says Sullivan. The impetus behind the Inca formation was a 1437 prophecy foretelling the utter destruction of Andean civilization within five generations. Incan activities and institutions were nothing less than a comprehensive response to this bleak vision.
HOLDING THE GATE OPEN
To ancient cultures the world over, the Milky Way was a river or pathway, traversed by the gods and the spirits of the ancestors to and from Earth. To the Inca, it was a gateway to these supernatural worlds. Due to the rhythms of precessional time, that Gateway would open' or shut' when the Milky Way fell above or below the horizon at the Solstices. That the Milky Way would no longer be visible rising at the December solstice in 1532 was a predictable astronomical event. Yet to the Inca that spelled disaster: If the Gateway shut, the spirits of their ancestors could not return to ritually renew the culture; everything would end.
Sullivan believes the Inca decided it was their duty to attempt to stop the Gateway from shutting. He explains that Andean society was organized as a template of the celestial realm on Earth. Each tribe thought itself descended from a different star or constellation. This formed the basis for peaceful co-existence among tribes. Just as each star is different but lives in fixed relation to the other, each tribe had its own identity, customs, language, homeland and lived in harmony with the other tribes. For nearly 100 years, at the December solstice, the Inca Empire sacrificed one or two children from each tribe, with the intent that the souls of those children would return to their homeland among each constellation, and beg all the stars in concert not to move about the heavens in such a way as to slam the Gateway shut.
How did this fundamentalism, or literal interpretation, take hold? The Inca took the ancient idea as above, so below,' and stood it on its head, says Sullivan. They tested the relationship between the movements of the heavens over long periods of time in human history, and events on Earth. They asked, can we enact ritual in the hope of influencing the heavens, and thereby change our history by changing the course of the stars? It was an unprecedented experiment in sympathetic magic. I wonder if the Inca set themselves up for a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom. Still, the Spaniards showed up right on time, and while it's easy to imagine the six-million strong, well-armed Inca Empire defeating instead of surrendering to Pizzaro, there was no stopping the inevitable onslaught of Western invasion. It still puzzles Sullivan that his research shows concurrence between the archeological record, major transformations in Andean society, and the rhythmic changes and accessibility of the Milky Way Gateway. When we trace the major social transitions and developments of the Andean culture over a couple of millennia, with their interpretation of reading the stars, he says, it fits. How do we explain that?
HINTS OF A MOTHER CULTURE
Still other mysteries fill in the outlines of the mythic, lost, worldwide high civilization mentioned by so many early cultures who considered a former Golden Age the mother of their own culture. Could we read other versions of Noah's Ark, such as the Sumerian story of Gilgamesh, in similar fashion? Could the Andean preist-astronomer-mythographers have conversed, using precisely the same meta-language,' with a Chaldean Magi or Polynesian navigator?
Recent interviews on my nationally syndicated radio show include several researchers decoding other pieces of this same puzzle:
Carl Munck (The Code) found that by assigning the Prime Meridian to the the Great Pyramid at Giza, and with ancient standards of measure, various monuments around the globe know their grid coordinates, expressed through their own dimensions and design, encoding redundant, self-referential mathematical values (with lots of pi and phi.)
Stan Tenen, (Geometric Metaphors of Life; The Alphabet in our Hands) with an intuitive sense of pattern recognition, and a 20 year pursuit of the hint try base 3, found an alphabet of hand gestures, the precursor of the Hebrew letters, based on shadowgrams of one mathematically inspired spiral slice of a toroidal shape encoded in the sequence of letters in the first line of Genesis.
Paul LaViolette (Beyond the Big Bang) has found within ancient Egyptian, Sumerian, Babylonian, Hindu, and Maori creation myths, as well as the symbols of astrology and the Tarot, metaphors describing the rise of matter from a non-physical matrix, recently confirmed by modern science. What's more, this ancient cosmology of continuous creation' better fits new data coming in from astronomical observations, computer simulation, and theoretical physics than does the Big Bang Theory. LaViolette considers it no mere coincidence that our constellation pictograms for Sagittarius and Scorpio both point (with a spear and a tail) to what astronomers have only recently recognized as the center of the Galaxy. It's the most energetic part of the Galaxy, and its hidden from our view by the Milky Way's arm.
Robert Bauval (The Orion Mystery) discovered the ancient Egyptians were building heaven on earth' with the Nile as the Milky Way, and the three Giza pyramids cast as the three stars of Orion's belt. Bauval and Graham Hancock (Fingerprints of the Gods) expand on this work (The Message of the Sphinx) to find evidence this same ancient, technical language formed the basis of the architecture, cosmology, and mythology of ancient Egypt. They wound the clock of the heavens back in time to find the Sphinx, a lion, is an astronomical marker for 10,500 B.C. This date is corroborated by Geologist Robert Schoch and Egyptologist John Anthony West's work in identifying, in addition to wind erosion, the extreme erosion by precipitation of the Sphinx, significant because the last time the Sahara Desert saw heavy rainfall was over 9,000 years ago. (The Mystery of the Sphinx).
It's more difficult to find an early culture that did not participate in this tradition, says Sullivan. This language is so sophisticated and idiosyncratic, it's hard to believe it was independently cooked up in different places. In all the world's great traditions, and that includes those native to North and South America, this is the cultural package, the body of ideas that created civilization.
The irony of Spanish conquistadors traveling to a neighboring continent to destroy a foreign civilization, not realizing it was a branch off the same trunk as their own, is not lost on Sullivan. That common heritage is still denied. He cites the example of one early Spanish chronicler who reported that the Andean characterizations of the planets closely matched those of the Greek and Roman (Mars = god of War; Venus = goddess of Love). It was distrusted and ignored, so fanciful and inexplicable seemed the match. Consequently, scholars today believe the Inca had no names for the visible planets save Venus. Hard to believe of a culture with a rich heritage of megalithic monuments, ancient machinery' that both calculated astronomical observations, and enshrined in their very design ratios and proportions so significant, so expressive of Nature's secret inner workings, its geometry is regarded as sacred. If mythology is the software, concludes Sullivan, megalithic monuments are the hardware. With software in hand, the next quest is to log onto that megalithic hardware. Who says computers need be built of silicon and plastic?
Build a computer of stone that will endure flood, earthquake, an Ice Age, and thousands of years of erosion; wanton human destruction could be a problem. Scale: The bigger the better. Then program it to cure the cultural amnesia that may be a function of these great cycles of time