34. THE ORB OF POWER
The ancient Egyptian monogene lords left us their legacy in literature, writ indelibly in stone inside the pyramids of Saqqara, south of Cairo, about 2350 BC probably about 2750 BC. But by the time they were rediscovered in the 1880s it was too late for us. Our memory had long since faded and our minds were now filled with the new mythology of Christianity. But perhaps unwittingly, many of the old symbols survived in the iconography of the new faith. The glory of the new Christian god was celebrated in the magnificent artistry of medieval cathedrals of Christian Europe which unconsciously preserved many of the old pagan symbols.
One of the most spectacular frescos of Renaissance religious art is Raphael’s early 16th -century painting ‘La Disputa’ in the Vatican Museum – depicting a séance of theologians and thaumaturgists disputing the wonder of the Eucharistic transubstantiation of bread into the body of Christ. Well may they have disputed! St Thomas Aquinas recorded his bewilderment in Panis Angelicus … ‘By what miracle, O Lord, does the bread of men become the bread of heaven?’ To which the Lord may have replied, ‘O Thomas, only by the wonder of the word you know as YHWH’.
All the old Egyptian motifs are there. The participants are gathered around an oblong stone altar (the coffer) above which rises a dove symbolising the radiant aura of the ‘Holy Spirit’ in an amorphous ‘cloud’; from which arises a ‘son’ figure, (Osiris, Jesus) within a sunburst. And above all is the elderly figure of ‘God the Father’ holding his blue crystal ball of lapis lazuli. The ultimate source of supernatural power! As the Egyptian texts told us, ‘Hail Lord, dweller in the Lapis lazuli’.
It was spectacularly artistic and spectacularly ironic. An ethereal theological argument but incorporating all the symbols of the ancient reality. Perhaps even more ironic is the dislocation of our credulity. Raphael cannot have had the faintest clue what ‘God’ looked like, yet we instinctively believe or at least accept the imaginary human representation – while not understanding and not believing in the crystal ball. We prefer the fantasy.
Raphael was by no means alone in his dreams.
Just nearby in the Vatican on the north wall of the Sistine Chapel is a similar panel of the ‘Baptism of Christ’ by Pietro Perugino (1450-1523), again showing a similar representation of ‘God the Father’ holding a blue crystal ball. While in Milan is another fresco on the ceiling of the Chiesa di san Maurico al Monastero Maggiore, (from ca. 1503) – showing a more elderly ‘God’ with his crystal ball, surrounded by a sunburst set in an azure starry sky. And in the Milan Duomo Museum there is a graphic sculpture by Battista da Corbetta (ca 1554), showing a gilded and heavily bearded ‘God’ holding his golden ball (see Fig 99 & 100). None of these artists can have personally known what ‘God’ looked like but perhaps there was a master model somewhere. Yet another early fresco, preserved in the Byzantine Museum in Athens, shows a depiction of ‘God’ looking down on the Revelations – where the Byzantine image of ‘God’ and surrounds is a very similar composition to that of Raphael’s vision in the Vatican. Maybe they had the same divine inspiration.
Perhaps there was something in the air in the 1500s that faded away as theologians and artists realised that they didn’t actually know what the old ‘God’ looked like. He was the formless and ineffable YHWH. So they transferred their artistry and old symbols to Jesus, the new mortal incarnation of God. Just as the ancient Egyptians knew that Osiris, son of the sun, arose from an array of lapis lazuli – so too the new Christian mythologisers borrowed that imagery for their ‘divine son’ Jesus. Across medieval Christian Europe are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of churches and cathedrals displaying sculptures or paintings of Jesus with his magic crystal ball of lapis lazuli. Usually Christianised by the addition of a cross, of course. Oddly enough there are no images of Jesus as an adolescent teenager – he was either an infant or a Biblical thirty-year-old.
To digress slightly – the religious image of Christ the King with his blue crystal ball also became the stuff of mortal royalty. European Kings had long since abandoned claims to be directly descended from the gods – the old pagan gods – but they still aspired to ‘divine authority’, symbolised by the ‘orb of power’. So a long line of European royals were crowned in the pose of Christ with their hand firmly on the crystal ball, now called the ‘orb’ of royal authority, blessed by the new Christian god. More of that later.
When royal authority descended into democracy the symbol of power passed on to the peoples’ parliament as the symbolic ‘mace of office’ – which was of course a copy of the Egyptian mace, or Biblical rod. The real source of power was in the rod. In June 2014 when Petro Poroshenko was inaugurated as President of Ukraine, he was photographed uncertainly grasping the historic ‘mace of office’ of Ukraine – in the Egyptian style of Menes from pre 3000 BC. In an echo of the original functions the current version is made of gold, comprising a hollow tube attached to a hollow ball – called ‘the apple’, evoking the ‘golden apple’ weapon of the Persian Immortals. The Ukrainian version also once had an emerald jewel button which released a hidden blade – it was a weapon (see Fig. 98)
Just as the Egyptian Osiris, son of the sun, and Moses’ god YHWH, arose within an amorphous aura or ‘cloud’ of radiance – so now the Christian mythologisers struggled to capture the visual imagery for their new creation of Jesus. The amorphous aura surrounding the Biblical ‘ark’ became visualised as a nebulous white cloud, and the shimmering tongues of fire were gradually animated as ‘angels’. What the Gnostics had struggled to describe as non-being beings of light, the Christian iconographers now turned into genderless humanoid ‘angels’, dancing in ‘heaven’. There were legions of them – which became ‘all the hosts of heaven in their great array’, meaning the symmetrical ‘arrayed’ matrix of ‘2 x 7 cubed’ balls of shimmering fire. The matrix was construed as the ‘orders’ including the Seraphim (burning ones), the Thrones (many-eyed ones) and the Virtues (brilliant shining ones).
One of the earliest portrayals of ‘angels’ is in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which was originally the Christian cathedral of Constantinople for about 900 years. The pendentives of the dome are decorated with formless tongues of fire fringed in the azure blue flame of lapis lazuli … uncertainly merging into vaguely humanised forms with wings and faces.
The image of the ‘seven cubed’ array of lapis lazuli balls in the oblong coffer, which was visualised by the Egyptians as the ‘flower of life’ symbol in the Temple of Osiris at Abydos, was also preserved by early Church iconographers in the altar of St Mark’s Basilica, Venice. As the Egyptian texts had recorded long before … Lord, Hail dweller in the lapis lazuli … my homestead is there among the lapis lazuli … the King arose like the sun from a chamber [coffer] of lapis lazuli.
The origin of ‘God the Holy Spirit’ arising from lapis lazuli was preserved literally elsewhere by use of lapis lazuli in the structure or ornamentation of altars of early churches … notably in Siena Cathedral (from 13th C), the church of St Maria della Pace, Rome (from 15th C), the Jesuit Church of St Roch, Lisbon (from 16th C), and the St Ignatius chapel of the Jesuit church of Gesu, Rome (ca 1700). This was not just confined to the early churches in Europe. When the Catholic cathedral of Ballarat in SE Australia was built in 1858-63, the Vatican supplied a high altar in Carrara marble inlaid with lapis lazuli. It was as though the Vatican had a rule book, so even in the furthest reaches of the empire the ancient symbolism was observed … ironically, pagan symbolism out of Egypt.
The sacred number seven was also preserved in the seven candles of fire decorating the altar – although in most Christian (Catholic) churches the middle candle has been replaced by a crucifix so as not to look too much like a copy of the precedent Hebrew menorah. But the original motif of the seven candlesticks is still displayed in many places, including the cathedral of Sorrento, Italy. The Christian Church liked to protest that it was ‘different’ but under a thin skin it was just a collection of old pagan symbols and beliefs. Christ ‘the son’ was just a make-over of Egyptian Osiris, born in a sunburst from a pyramid – and that visual imagery was preserved all over European Christendom.
The altar of the Chiesa del Gesu & St Ignatio in Rome features the ‘name of Jesus’ (IHS) emerging in a blue ball within a sunburst above a ‘pyramid of the sun’ within a ‘cloud’. While St Mary’s (Orthodox) Cathedral in St Petersburg also features the symbol of the ‘pyramid of the sun’ above the main portal, and again more graphically above an interior side chapel. Similarly, St Mary’s (Orthodox) Cathedral in Athens features the symbol of the ‘pyramid of the sun’ above the main portal, and includes the detail of the Egyptian all-seeing ‘eye of Ra’ – the supreme sun-god.
All the old pagan motifs were there, now joined by some tortured new European imagery. Where the original sources said Osiris, son of the sun, burst forth in a mushroom ‘cloud’ like the blooming inflorescence of the ‘burning bush’ … now European translators struggled with the visual imagery of an animate ‘god’ emerging within a boiling, billowing inflorescence of shining white light. So they came up with the rustic imagery of a sheep’s fleece. The new ‘god’ who was the ‘child of the sun’ became ‘Agnus Dei’ the laboured image of the ‘lamb of god’ – originally a Syrian rite introduced in the western European Church about 700 AD. Jesus, son of the sun-god, emerged from the blooming white ‘fleece’ of the lamb of god. A visual rendition is preserved on a gilded plaque in the 17th century church of Santo Stefano, Menaggio, Lake Como – where the ‘lamb of god’ emerges above a ‘coffer’ within a ‘cloud’ and a sunburst – accompanied by the inscription, ‘Behold the lamb of God who taketh away the sin [darkness] of the world’. (Fig 54)
From time to time the maturing western Church instituted purges against idolatry and attempted to rid itself of the old pagan symbols. But it could not. Jesus was just a remake of Osiris, son of the sun, and ‘his’ visualisation as a sunburst was preserved front and centre of every church in western Christendom. In St Peter’s, Rome, Bernini’s affected ‘Chair of Peter’ altar features an enormous sunburst emanating from a dove symbolising the ‘holy spirit’. (Fig 54)
While nowhere is ‘Christ the risen sun’ more grandly displayed than the altar of Chiesa St Maria di Campitelli, Rome, featuring a magnificent sunburst arising from a naos within a golden cloud flanked either side and below by seven candles of fire. (Fig 55)
In these resplendent, inspiring sanctuaries the faithful congregation gathered to hear the word of God – and the Word was Light, nothing but light. It’s a measure of the depths of the group delusion that millions gazed upon the artistry of imaginary angels and lifted their innocent voices to the heavens to sing the 23rd Psalm … ‘Yea though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil; [because] ‘thy rod’ will comfort me’. Literally meaning … I won’t be afraid of anything because I am armed with the nuclear rod of YHWH. My cup runneth over. The Psalms of the old religion taught that the light of YHWH was taken and brought forth out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, where it caused vapours to ascend and made lightnings for the rain. It brought them out of the darkness. But then out of [Mount] Zion the light appeared and went forth as an all-consuming fire. The light was awesome and terrible out of its holy places. Our fathers have told us how it drove out the heathen and afflicted them … not by the sword but by thy arm. A fire went before him and burneth up his enemies. Remember the wonders of old, the ‘rod’ of your inheritance. Even Paul, apostle of the new religion, tried to maintain the old truth … protesting it was only foolish men who changed the glory of the light into an image of man … who changed the truth of YHWH into a lie and worshipped the [new] creature more than the creator.  But the new Church was truly a sanctuary – an asylum, a refuge from reality. It was the theatre of its day where the faithful were seduced by the artistry of Bernini, Raphael and Michaelangelo. So seduced that the new religion became reality. But it was all artistry, imagery, fantasy – a delusion.
We were deluded not just by visual artistry, but also by the literary imagery of the Bible … hammered into countless millions of churchgoers and innocent Sunday-School students. Nowhere more so than in the traditional account of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden [Odin] which may be interpreted thus …
The lords [plural] made a ‘garden’ [plant complex], in the midst of which was the ‘tree’ [plant] of good and evil which produced ‘apples’. The children of men were very envious of the secret wisdom of the lords and wished to obtain the power of the serpent [rod] for themselves. And the lords said to Adam and Eve … you shall not even touch the ‘apples’ or else you will surely die. But Adam and Eve were sorely tempted by the power of the ‘serpent’ [rod] so they entered the plant complex. When they approached the ‘apple plant’ they saw that ‘rivers’ of ‘waters’ flowed from it on all four sides. They were very afraid because they were ‘naked’ … without the prescribed safety clothing. They heard the lord approaching and heard his voice in the ‘breezes’ [winds] … and he chastised them and banished then from the ‘garden’ and erected flashing lights at the gates to deter other intruders. 2
Adam (the first hybrid ‘red man’) and Eve were the first children of men to attempt to possess the sacred apple. They failed in this early attempt but later Moses and Aaron made a successful foray, defeating the Pharaoh’s rods and escaping with a golden ark filled with the sacred ‘tablets’.