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Modern Myth Articles
The Saturn Theory Overview
How can the disparate threads of memory, expressed in seemingly contradictory symbols, through stories that are often barely intelligible, and in archaic words of uncertain meaning, ever provide a dependable guide for reconstructing cosmic events?
The first essential is to expose the "substratum" of memory, and this can only be accomplished by limiting what counts as evidence. Only broadly-repeated themes are to be included in the early phases of the inquiry, and only the clearest facts, or undisputed principles qualify as building blocks in the reconstruction.
When I speak of the "historical argument" for the Saturn theory, I am referring to all sources of evidence suggesting "things remembered". Before the Egyptians, Sumerians, Hindus, or Greeks ever raised a temple or founded a city, they would consciously and deliberately look backwards to a remembered event. The foundation ceremonies would "reenact" a memorable occasion in the lives of the gods—the construction of a vast dwelling in primeval times, a celestial "kingdom" brought forth by the Universal Monarch, a temple "floating on the clouds." Similarly, when the warrior-kings of Egypt and Assyria and numerous other lands launched their campaigns against neighboring peoples, they summoned memories of cosmic catastrophe, when the gods themselves battled in the heavens. Symbolically, foreign armies meant "the fiends of darkness," and were to be dealt with accordingly. The warrior-kings saw themselves defeating neighboring forces in the same way that, in primeval times, the great gods devastated and controlled the Chaos Hordes, when these dark powers overwhelmed the cosmic order.
It is a remarkable fact that the builders of civilization declared, with one voice, that the first cities and first kingdoms organized in the ancient world, the first pictographs drawn on rock or on temple walls, the vast complexes of sacred festivals and rites, had their prototypes in dramatic events occurring in the age of the gods. Ancient art and architecture, hymns and prayers, the origins of writing, the rise of kingship, nationalistic wars of expansion, ritual sacrifice, the first athletic competition, the roots of drama, tragedy, and comedy—and all other forms of collective activity associated with the flowering of civilization—were commemorative in nature, re-enacting, re-living, and honoring above all else the archetypal events, when the gods themselves ruled the world. Such an idea may seem incomprehensible to us, but there is no escaping the festive and commemorative aspects of emerging civilizations, all pointing "backwards" to remembered events. How has it happened that nothing—and I do mean "nothing"—in the world familiar to us today can illuminate these pervasive (often highly obsessive) memories?
The field of evidence we must draw upon includes every feature distinguishing these civilizations from the prior, more pastoral epoch of human history. That is a huge library of evidence!
Moreover, there is a taproot feeding the explosive, upward movement of the first civilizations. That taproot is the ONE STORY TOLD AROUND THE WORLD. Each recurring cultural theme, in truth, is linked in the most explicit ways to this global memory. But don't forget that the memory is at once pristinely simple and highly complex, depending on which level you are looking at. To the figure of the Universal Monarch, the subject of the ONE STORY, I added six additional archetypal figures of myth, brashly asserting that these personalities all intersect with the ONE STORY in highly specific ways, and claiming that the myth-making epoch has not presented us with any other elementary types. If true, this will mean that the pervasive motives of the first civilizations, cited above, must bear a direct relationship to the "remembered activities" of the seven archetypal figures. Hence, this is a testable hypothesis. If it is incorrect, it can and will be easily disproved under the groundrules we have proposed.
This leaves two other issues relating to the foundations of a theory. What are the relationships of these root personalities to "planets"? And what is their relationship to the illustration presented on our website as a starting point for this discussion? So let's go back to the beginning.
The Universal Monarch, the true subject of the ONE STORY, is the planet Saturn. In the illustration, this is the large sphere visually dominating the sky.
The Mother Goddess is the planet Venus, the luminous central orb from which the radiating streams of material course outward.
The Warrior-Hero is the planet Mars, the small red orb seen inside the sphere of Venus.
The Primeval Seven, though not shown in the oversimplified illustration, should be considered as seven smaller orbs revolving in the vicinity of Saturn.
The Chaos Monster denotes the interacting forms of Mars and Venus in the evolving configuration, as gas and dust (or other material) stretched between Mars and Earth, between Mars and Venus, and (apparently) between Venus and Saturn, giving shape to particular aspects of the monster in different phases of the evolving configuration.
The Chaos Hordes, in the phase illustrated, will be the material visually radiating out from Venus. I have tentatively assumed that the material was actually stretching "upward" toward Saturn.
This latter identification may seem curious since, in the illustrated phase, the material is not chaotic. Whatever this stuff is, it "stretches between planets" in different ways, moving through stable and unstable aspects in relation to the phased metamorphosis of the configuration. During unstable phases the Chaos Hordes constitute both the retinue and the "form" of the Chaos Monster.
The Rejuvenated Creator-King is the planet Jupiter, not visible in the illustrated phase because it was hidden behind Saturn, but becoming visible with the disruption of the collinear system.
It needs to be emphasized that the planetary identifications suggested here did not fall off the wall. They are the result of a patient reconstruction of ancient astronomical traditions over many years. Portions of the material have already been published either in The Saturn Myth, or in AEON articles.
But what is the most efficient way to clarify and to test the hypothesis as a whole? The only way to prove a theory is to demonstrate its explanatory power. And what I believe we can demonstrate through rigorous testing is that the Saturn theory does indeed account for, or predict the recurring themes of myth, ritual, and symbol, down to many hundreds of extraordinary details. This testing procedure will show that myth was anything but random make believe, as so often assumed. There was a "myth-making" epoch, involving a natural environment and intense human experiences unlike anything known in our own time.
We can achieve this testing by simply granting the hypothesized condition, then asking if that condition leaves any aspect of a particular theme unexplained. Then we can go to the next theme, then another, until we have explored every general theme of myth (if our endurance holds up that long). This kind of testing can be very explicit and will remove subjective interpretation and selective use of evidence altogether, because only acknowledged or indisputable, broadly recurring themes count as evidence, and once the question is asked, the answers will tend to be self-evident, so that the critic, or the one asking the question, can be just as assured as we are that the answer "works".
Let me explain what I mean by this. While the theory suggests events never imagined by modern science, no one would dispute that "if" Saturn hung immense in the sky, the identity of Saturn as the archaic "sun" god is explained. "If" that now-distant planet did indeed occupy the summit of the world axis, there can be no surprise in finding that diverse traditions actually placed the ancient Saturn at this astronomically absurd location. And no one would dispute that "if" Venus formerly appeared as a radiant "star" in the center of Saturn, the worldwide "sun" pictographs depicting precisely this relationship are explained.
Similarly, no one would deny that "if" light from the solar orb placed a crescent on Saturn, the enigmatic crescent wrapped around the ancient Saturnian "sun" god is explained. And how could anyone claim that, "if" a collinear planetary system once towered above ancient stargazers, the mystery of the Great Conjunction of the Golden Age would remain unsolved?
Through a comprehensive testing process of this sort, I believe it can be made clear that the Saturn theory does, in fact, achieve what could not be achieved by a fundamentally incorrect hypothesis. Successful predictions in one or another case will never validate such an usual theory. But the ability to predict "all" of the dominating forms of the myth-making age—and all of the indisputable, concretely-defined relationships "between" these forms—could not be an accident.
Irrespective of the different viewpoints and theories held by participants in this group, I trust we can agree on this as a fair statement out of the gate.