A Unified Theory
By David Talbott
Perhaps few claims I've made for the Saturn model will seem more
outrageous than the assertion of a unified theory. But all I am
really saying is that there was a mythmaking epoch of human
history. It had a beginning and an end. Its focus was an
unstable congregation of planets close to the earth, moving
through phases of beauty, awe, and terror. The "myth-making"
epoch was unlike anything which followed. With the drifting away
of the planetary gods, attention shifted radically to the tools
for remembering. Through mythical representations and
reenactments, our ancestors sought to keep alive and to give
meaning to experiences more intense than anything experienced in
later times. Myth requires an active imagination, but something
more as well. Always the myths point to EXTRAORDINARY EVENTS
re-defining the course of human history.
A study of the archetypes—the first forms and enduring themes of
myth—will show that they are already present with the flowering
of civilization. AND NONE ARE ADDED OVER THE SUBSEQUENT
MILLENNIA. Though quite remarkable from the usual vantage point
(which assumes an expanding corpus of myth through history), the
fact is expected under the Saturn model.
I've stated often that there are hundreds of archetypal themes of
myth. But there is, at root, a unifying thread, which I called
the "One Story Told Around the World." The statement is indeed
preposterous, but of this truth I no longer have any doubt. All
of humanity experienced the same events.
I believe that a series of snapshots of the polar configuration,
together with animations illustrating the seamless connections
between the different phases, will do the most to make the
outrageous claims believable. It will also lend enough clarity
and specificity for readers to see how easily the model will be
disproved if our claims are fundamentally false.
For a few weeks now I've been musing over the ways to establish
the core principles and work outward from there, so that something
more than random details will be evident. Though entirely
understandable, the popular sense of randomness is the most
pervasive misperception of myth. There is no such thing as a
random original theme of myth. Randomness enters the picture only
as the archetypes are subjected to localization, a process which
can only introduce contradictions.
As a testament to the unity of world mythology, I list below the
archetypal personalities of myth. It's a small list. There are
Though multiple bodies are involved in the planetary
configuration, one planet in particular came to be identified as
unified power, presiding over cosmic beginnings. That planet was
Saturn. In this sense it is not inappropriate to call the archaic
god, the subject of the One Story, the god Saturn, so long as it
is clearly understood that other planetary powers in the
configuration provided distinctive aspects of that god.
Our first "snapshot" depicts the universal sovereign just prior to
the visual displacement of the planetary bodies in conjunction.
It is with their visual displacement that aspects of the unified
god begin to emerge as separate powers, becoming the active forces
in the "creation" and setting in motion a series of more complex
events. With the emergence of distinct and independent forms,
arising from aspects of a primeval Unity, other archetypal
personalities take the stage, all standing in a fundamental
relationship to the sovereign god we have called the Universal
Monarch, and all playing distinctive roles in the One Story
QUEEN OF HEAVEN
Wherever you find the Universal Monarch you will find close at
hand the ancient mother goddess—the feminine power whom the
Sumerians called Inanna, the Queen of Heaven, and the Babylonians
called Ishtar. For the Egyptians the prominent goddess figures
include Isis, Hathor, and Sekhmet, each with numerous counterparts
in their own and in other lands. Familiar names of the great
goddess would include the Greek Aphrodite, Athena, and Artemis, or
the Latin Venus, Minerva, and Diana, but many hundreds of
counterparts could be named, all expressing a similar complex of
While the goddess will at times appear as the mother of the
universal sovereign, the more common role is as the god's daughter
or spouse. When the goddess idea is traced to its earliest roots,
one notes two crucial themes reflected in the symbolism:
1) The goddess is the central, animating source of the sovereign
god's power. She is his "radiance," his "glory," even his
"life,"—a role she fills concretely in her capacity as the god's
central, luminous eye, heart, or soul. All of the leading
Egyptian and Mesopotamian goddesses, for example, reveal this
2) The departure of the goddess begins a series of events leading
to a descent into chaos, the onset of world-destroying catastrophe
and the perceived "death" of the sovereign himself, whose flaming
"soul" rages in the sky in the form of the angry, lamenting, or
warring goddess. The most common form of the raging goddess is the
female serpent or dragon attacking the world.
It will be our contention that the full complex of goddess images
answers to the role of Venus in the planetary configuration. With
a visual model as a reference we will see that the original
"beauty" or "radiance" of the great goddess, her "life-giving"
attributes; her role as "star" par excellence; her centrality in
relation to the universal sovereign; her birth as an independent
power; and her terrible aspect, are all rooted in the highly
concrete visual appearances of Venus through two prominent phases,
one quasi-stable, the other highly unstable, unpredictable, and
But a third, most fundamental attribute of the goddess must be
mentioned as well: that is her role as the mother of another
This is the great national hero, originally the Demiurge, the
servant of the Universal Monarch, but passing into later myth as
the laboring warrior, messenger or servant of a great chief or
renowned ruler. He is the Hercules archetype, a figure combining
knowledge and brutish strength, quick wit, and episodic
foolishness. He defeats the chaos monsters in primordial times,
and he reconfigures the world. This is the most active
personality in world mythology, clearly dominating the more
developed chronicles and epic literature, while the more passive
Universal Monarch fades into the background. The warrior-hero is
the prototype of the famous tricksters and buffoons of later myth
and folklore, flowering into innumerable tribal variations.
Noteworthy instances of this warrior archetype would include the
Egyptian Shu, Horus and Sept, Sumerian Enki, Damuzi and Ningirsu,
Akkadian Ea, Ninurta and Nergal, Hindu Indra, Norse Thor, Greek
Ares and Hercules, Latin Mars, Aztec Huitzilopochtli and
Tezcatlipoca, North American Coyote and Raven, to name the barest
few among thousands.
The comparative approach will identify this warrior figure as the
planet Mars. In the Saturn model, that means the innermost circle
or sphere in the pictographic representations under discussion. In
the myths, Mars' displacement from that visual position is most
commonly recorded as the "birth of the hero" and the "descent of
the hero," two themes of immense impact on the ancient world. But
numerous other themes must be confronted as well.
Reducing this complexity to its most crucial details, four
principles must be noted here.
1) In the earliest versions of the story, the warrior-hero is
born from the womb of the mother goddess, who is Venus. The
"birth of the hero" means the displacement of Mars from the
position depicted in our initial snapshot of the planetary
2) Periodic movement of the warrior-hero along the world axis
occurs, a motion associated with the visual descent and ascent
of the god. This movement along the axis also bears a
distinctive relationship to episodes of catastrophe.
3) The reunion, or consorting, of the warrior-hero with the
mother goddess was celebrated by every ancient cultures. This
pervasive story was rooted in the visual conjunction of Mars
and Venus as they drew nearer to each other in the
configuration. From this conjunction arose the repeated myth
of the hero's liaison with the daughter or spouse of a
renowned "king," or the hero consorting with his own mother.
4) In connection with the descent of the god, a cosmic column
appeared, a luminous stream stretching along the world axis. This
cosmic column will be the world mountain, or the mountain upon
which the hero was "exposed" at birth, or the mythic river into
which the hero was cast at birth. By this association the hero
himself was inseparably linked to the world pillar. Originally,
it was his essence as the Atlas figure, supporting the turning
sphere of "heaven" (Saturn) upon his shoulders.
These satellite figures are presented in a variety of contexts, as
seers or wise men, archangels, patriarchs, children, dwarves,
stones, eyes, stars, orbs, heads of the chaos monster. They are
the first (but not the only) reason for the sanctity of the number
seven in ancient symbolism. We meet these gods as seven stones of
fate, or seven demons in Sumerian and Akkadian symbolism; seven
eyes of God in the book of Zechariah; seven Watchers of Enoch;
seven stars and seven spirits of God in the book of Revelation;
Seven Sages of Arabian epic literature, Seven Immortal Fates of
the Persians; seven Rishi of the Hindu Vedas. Seven daughters of
Aphrodite, or Seven Sisters in Greek myth. Seven heads of the
primeval serpent or dragon in Egyptian, Babylonian, Hebrew,
Christian, Hindu, and Mesoamerican traditions. In more than one
land, constellational astrology eventually localized the Primeval
Seven as stars of Ursa Major or the Pleiades.
In the Saturn model these will be the seven moons or "satellites"
originally seen in the presence of Saturn. (This point cannot
really be clarified until we take up the polar enclosure, the
visual dwelling of the primeval seven.)
Here we meet the darker, more menacing powers, possessing an
often-veiled link to aspects of the mother goddess or warrior-
hero. Of these darker creatures none is more prominent than the
cosmic serpent or dragon, a monster whose attack upon the world is
synchronous with the twilight of the gods, and whose ultimate
defeat signals the birth of a new age or, symbolically, a new
year. Babylonian Tiamat. Egyptian dragon of Apep. Greek Typhon.
But within every culture, endless variations will be found:
hundreds of monsters held responsible for the primeval
catastrophe, each providing a different nuance, a different
accent, a different way of remembering the cosmic agent of Doomsday.
Though we must oversimplify things in stating the planetary
identifications, the general rule is that the female chaos monster
is the terrible aspect of the mother goddess, who is Venus, while
the male chaos monster is the terrible aspect of the warrior-hero
Mars. Both planets participate directly in the unstable and
catastrophic phases, yet paradoxically both are linked to the
vanquishing of chaos and renewal of the world. Moreover, the
close conjunction or interaction of the two bodies does not allow
for an unequivocal distinction between the two, as I will seek to
These are the companions of the monster figures. They are the
swarming powers of disorder and calamity, the fiends of darkness—
flaming, devouring demons which so many magical rites were
contrived to ward off. From the Norse Valkyries to the Greek
Erinyes, from the Babylonian Pazuzu-demons to the Egyptian "Fiends
of Set," every culture remembered the onslaught of these chaos
demons, moving across the heavens as a sky-darkening cloud and
ushering in the cosmic night. In their earliest expressions, they
do not just announce the primeval catastrophe, they ARE the catastrophe.
The chaos hordes signify the cometary debris fields and gas or
dust clouds particularly prominent in the unstable phases of the
configuration. Mythically, they are to retinues of the goddess
and hero in their terrible aspects, while also giving shape to the
bodies of these monsters. And yet, in the phases of stability,
they become the raw material of creation itself, giving form to a
luminous habitation in the heavens. Both the polar column and the
polar enclosure are constituted from this raw material, which the
Egyptians called the "primeval matter," the alchemists' prima materia.
Lastly, there is the compelling personality of the dying and
resurrected or transformed god-king, whose return to life is
reflected in the dramas of the ancient New Year. As a global
symbol, the "New Year" recalls the passing from one age to
another, a remembrance often celebrated annually but on many other
schedules as well. Though his identity is inseparably tied to the
Universal Monarch, the resurrected god nevertheless emerges in
distinction from that god as his son. He is simultaneously a
younger version, and the rejuvenated form of his father, and his
appearance or "reappearance" is synonymous with the renewal of a
world which had fallen into darkness and discord. Such appears to
be the underlying character of the Egyptian Osiris, Akkadian
Marduk; Persian Ahura Mazda; Norse Balder; Hebrew Yahweh;
Phoenician Bel, Greek Zeus, Roman Jupiter. This archetypal.
renewed god will frequently appear as a more passive figure in
contrast to the mother goddess and warrior-hero personalities,
both of whom are highly active in the break between world ages and
are typically involved directly in the episodes leading to the
sovereign god's transfiguration or renewal.
It is common in our time to represent the coming of the New Year
as the departure of the elder "Father Time"—along with the
emergence of the ever-young or new-born babe or "child" of the New
Year. We are simply extending an ancient tradition whose meaning
we have forgotten.
The rejuvenated sovereign is the planet Jupiter, not visible in
the illustrated phase (our first snapshot) because it was hidden
behind Saturn, but becoming visible with the disruption of the
collinear system, and emerging as the apparent re-birth of the
original sovereign. Indeed, the identities of Jupiter and Saturn
are so intertwined that we are really dealing with two aspects of
the same mythical figure—the god-king's original form as Saturn,
and his renewed and transformed state as Jupiter. Mythically, the
younger Saturn is Jupiter, and the elder Jupiter is Saturn.
In the above listing, while we have not separated the chaos
monster into its male and female aspects, we do separate the
Universal Monarch into his elder and younger versions. So while
there are different ways one might distinguish or count the
archetypal personalities, we arrive at an acid test. Do the
listed categories actually encompass the vast layers of world
mythology? While I have no intent to minimize the presence of
ambiguous or unexplained details, the significance of the
structure should not be minimized either, for the implications are
quite astounding. Patterns do not exist without a cause. And
that means that an explanation of the patterns must be possible.
The implications become all the more astounding as one begins to
see that each of the personalities has a defined role in the One
Story. As will become clear, each archetypal figure achieves a
turn of the prism, putting the focus on a particular aspect of the
One Story and providing more colorful action and detail. But
throughout these dramas, the core personalities of myth all know
each other and interact in highly meaningful ways.
The question, therefore, must be asked: what events could have
unleashed human imagination in this way, inspiring a story so
powerful as to have retained its underlying structure for
thousands of years?
Structure implies coherence, an integrity between the parts.
Clearly, human imagination must have gone wild to have produced
the incredible vistas, the complex personalities, and the magical
events of world mythology. But structure is there too, and
structure means that human imagination was not operating in a
vacuum. It is the structure that directs our attention to common
experiences and to the external references, without which a
unified substratum would be impossible.