Ancient cultures around the world spoke of a vast cycle of time with alternating Dark and Golden Ages; Plato called it the Great Year. Most of us were taught that this cycle was just a myth, a fairy tale, if we were taught anything about it all. But according to Giorgio de Santillana, former professor of the history of science at MIT, many ancient cultures believed consciousness and history were not linear but cyclical, rising and falling over long periods of time. In their landmark work, Hamlet’s Mill, de Santillana and coauthor Hertha von Dechend, show that the myth and folklore of more than thirty ancient cultures speak of a cycle of time with long periods of enlightenment broken by dark ages of ignorance, indirectly driven by a known astronomical phenomena, the precession of the equinox. This is where it gets interesting.
We all know the two celestial motions that have a profound effect on life and consciousness. Diurnal motion, Earth’s rotation on its axis, causes humans to move from a waking state to a sleep state and back again every twenty-four hours. Our bodies have adapted to Earth’s rotation so well that it produces these regular changes in consciousness without our even thinking the process remarkable. Earth’s revolution around the sun —the second celestial motion, which Copernicus identified — has an equally significant effect, prompting trillions of life forms to spring out of the ground, to bloom, fruit, and then decay, while billions of other species hibernate, spawn, or migrate en masse. Our visible world literally springs to life, completely changes its color and stride, and then reverses with every waxing and waning of the second celestial motion.
The third celestial motion, the precession of the equinox, is less understood than the first two, but if we are to believe ancient cultures from around the world, its effect is equally trans-formative. What disguises the impact of this motion is its timescale. Like the mayfly, which lives but one day a year and knows nothing of the seasons, the human being has an average life span that comprises only one-360th of the roughly 24,000-year precessional cycle. And just as the mayfly born on an overcast, windless day has no idea that there is anything as splendid as sunshine or a breeze, so do we, born in an era of materialistic rationality, have little awareness of a golden age or higher states of consciousness – though that is the ancestral message.
As Giorgio and Hertha point out, the idea of a great cycle linked to the slow precession of the equinox was common to numerous cultures before the Christian era, but today we are taught nothing about it. Yet an increasing body of astronomical and archaeological evidence suggests the cycle may have a basis in fact.
More importantly, understanding its ebb and flow and the character of each epoch provides insight into civilization’s direction. So far the Ancients are right on; consciousness does seem to be expanding since the depths of the dark ages, reflected as vast improvements throughout society. So what drives these changes and what can we expect in the future? Understanding the cause of precession is key.
The observation of Earth’s three motions is quite simple. In the first, rotation, we see the sun rise in the east and set in the west every twenty-four hours. And if we were to look at the stars just once a day, we would see a similar pattern over a year: the stars rise in the east and set in the west. The twelve constellations of the zodiac — the ancient markers of time that lie along the ecliptic, the sun’s path — pass overhead at the rate of about one per month and return to the starting point of our celestial observation at the end of the year. And if we looked just once a year, say on the autumnal equinox, we would notice the stars move retrograde (opposite to the first two motions) at the rate of about one degree every seventy years. At this pace, the equinox falls on a different constellation approximately once every 2,000 years, taking about 24,000 years to complete its cycle through the twelve constellations. This is called the precession (the backward motion) of the equinox relative to the fixed stars.
The standard theory of precession says it is principally the Moon’s gravity acting upon the oblate Earth that must be the cause of Earth’s changing orientation to inertial space, a.k.a. “precession.” However, this theory was developed before astronomers learned the solar system could move and has now been found by the International Astronomical Union to be “inconsistent with dynamical theory.” Ancient oriental astronomy teaches that an equinox slowly moving or “precessing” through the zodiac’s twelve constellations is simply due to the motion of the sun curving through space around another star, which changes our viewpoint of the stars from Earth. At the Binary Research Institute, we have modeled a moving solar system and found it does indeed better produce the precession observable, while resolving a number of solar system anomalies. This strongly suggests the ancient explanation may be the most plausible, even though astronomers have not yet discovered a companion star to Earth’s Sun.
Beyond the technical considerations, a moving solar system appears to provide a logical reason why we might have a Great Year, to use Plato’s term, with alternating dark and golden ages. That is, if the solar system carrying the Earth actually moves in a huge orbit, subjecting Earth to the electromagnetic (EM) spectrum of another star or EM source along the way, and shaping the subtle electrical and magnetic fields through which we move, we could expect this to affect our magnetosphere, ionosphere, and very likely all life in a pattern commensurate with that orbit. Just as Earth’s smaller diurnal and annual motions produce the cycles of day and night and the seasons of the year (both due to Earth’s changing position in relation to the EM spectrum of the Sun), so might the larger celestial motion be expected to produce a cycle that affects life and consciousness on a grand scale.
Just recently NASA discovered (March 2014) that the earth’s rotation and motion through space rearranges the electrons in the radiation belt into a zebra pattern! This was entirely unexpected. It was always believed these particles were moving too swiftly to be affected by the earth’s motion.
A hypothesis for how consciousness might be affected by such a celestial cycle can be built on the work of Dr. Valerie Hunt, a former professor of physiology at UCLA. In a number of studies, she has found that changes in the ambient subtle electrical, EM and magnetic fields (which surround us all the time) can
dramatically affect human cognition and performance. In short, consciousness appears to be affected by subtle fields of light, or as quantum physicist Dr. Amit Goswami might implies, “Consciousness prefers light.” Consistent with myth and folklore, the concept behind the Great Year or cyclical model of history is based on the Sun’s motion through space, subjecting Earth to waxing and waning stellar fields (all stars are huge generators of EM spectra) and resulting in the legendary rise and fall of the ages over great epochs of time.