Editor’s Note: Clarity Magazine excerpted the following article from two articles on Mr. Cruttenden’s website and his book, Lost Star of Myth and Time. With Mr. Cruttenden’s permission, we have shortened and simplified the scientific discussion in order to make the article more accessible to Clarity’s audience. Information on Mr. Cruttenden’s writings and an upcoming conference can be found at the end of the article.
German site predates Stonehenge: Archaeologists have found what could be Europe’s oldest astronomical observatory near the town of Goseck in the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt. The site, which is estimated to be around 7,000 years old and measures 75 meters in diameter, is thought to be one of the oldest and largest of the 140 similar sites now discovered throughout Western Europe.
Hardly a week goes by without an announcement that some ancient structure or astronomical artifact has been found, or that some civilization is discovered to be older or more advanced than previously thought.
In recent years we have found that the Sumerians had a great knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, and that the ancient Egyptians not only built massive structures but also used orthodontics and prosthetic devices. We have learned that the ancient South Americans built massive stone structures of such fine tolerances that they did not require mortar, and that an unknown race etched out patterns on the ground that make sense only when viewed from the sky. We have discovered that the ancient Europeans built megalithic structures and astronomical observatories in England, France, Germany, and Ireland. Most of these ancient cultures also seemed to have had a profound knowledge of star movements as well as lunar and solar cycles.
The fact that there were numerous advanced ancient civilizations prior to the Dark Ages is slowly gaining attention. Consequently, a greater effort is underway to find out exactly how much the ancients knew, how widespread their cultures really were, and how far back their knowledge might date. Offshore searches, better technology and the ability to communicate and access obscure data quickly over the Internet are aiding in this spontaneous collaborative process.
The number one myth of the ancient world
As the evidence mounts, other major questions are being asked: What is the source of the ancient knowledge? Does it stem from a long lost civilization, possibly an Atlantis-type culture that predates even the early Egyptian and megalithic eras? Or as a History Channel program recently argued, was man really a hunter-gatherer on a slow path of evolution who suddenly benefited by contact with a highly advanced alien race? Or could it be that primitive man was not so primitive after all?
The groundbreaking book, Hamlet’s Mill,* points to an answer. It tells us that the myth and folklore of over 30 ancient cultures around the world speak of a vast cycle of time with alternating higher and lower ages caused by something known as the “precession of the equinox.”
What is so important about the precession of the equinox that it became the number one myth of the ancient world? Only the flood story is as widely repeated in the myth and folklore of these old world cultures.
What is the “precession of the equinox?”
The equinox is that day in the spring and fall when day and night are of equal length. The precession of the equinox occurs when the sun, observed on the day of the equinox, rises in different constellations of the zodiac. There are many constellations in the heavens, but those that form the zodiac, in front of which our sun and solar system move, are only twelve in number.
Here’s an example of how the precession works. If at the time of Christ we looked up in the eastern sky before sunrise on the day of the spring equinox, we would have seen the constellation Pisces at the point in the sky where the sun was about to rise. Today, if we look at the eastern sky at the same point on the day of the spring equinox, we would see that Pisces is receding and that the constellation Aquarius is coming into view at that point in the sky where the sun is about to rise.
In other words, the spring equinox, which has been moving through Pisces for about the last 2000 years, is about to rise in Aquarius. This is the meaning of the “dawning of the age of Aquarius.”
It takes about 2000 years for the equinox to move through each constellation. Over a period of about 24,000 years the equinox precesses, or moves backward, through all twelve constellations of the zodiac, returning to its starting point. This is one cycle of the precession of the equinox.
Precession: one of three celestial motions
Studying the myths and being cognizant of the cycles of nature, we can begin to understand why precession may have been so important to cultures of the ancient world.
We all know of two celestial motions that have a profound effect on life and consciousness. The first, the diurnal motion or earth rotating on its axis, causes mankind to move from a waking state to a subconscious sleep state and back again every 24 hours. Our bodies have adapted to the earth’s rotation so well that it produces these regular changes in consciousness without us even thinking the process remarkable.
The second celestial motion as defined by Copernicus – the earth’s revolution around the sun – has an equally significant effect, prompting trillions of life forms to spring out of the ground, 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 this 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, it is equally transformative in its effect. In fact, the ancients suggest that the precession was the driving force behind the rise and fall of civilization itself.
What disguises the impact of this precessional motion is its vast timescale. From any fixed point on earth we notice that the stars shift position by about 4 minutes per day due to the earth’s annual orbit around the sun. Precession, however, proceeds so slowly, about one degree per 72 years, that it takes very patient observation to notice this subtle shift in the position of the sun relative to the background stars. It would have taken generations, and careful record-keeping, to notice a large enough shift in movement to be certain that the equinox was indeed precessing through the constellations.
A megalithic structure such as Stonehenge, however, with its large fixed stones, would be an ideal vantage point for observing this slow movement of the stars from year to year. The ancient cultures certainly had many of these structures.
The “Great Year,” “Yugas,” and “Ages of Man”
As previously noted, the myth and folklore of virtually every ancient culture mention some type of grand cosmic cycle. Plato and the Greeks called this cycle the “Great Year” as did the early Chinese. The people of the Indus Valley called it the “Yugas.” These ancient cultures believed that as the heavens moved, the earth went through a metamorphosis from a dark age, to an age of enlightenment, then back again.
Just as the day and year have their phases of increasing and decreasing light, the ancients broke the Great Year into two parts: 12,000 years ascending and 12,000 years descending (when things are getting better and when things are getting worse). They also broke each of these two parts into four sections, which the Greeks called the Iron, Bronze, Silver and Golden ages. Each age was said to have a particular characteristic and to profoundly affect man’s consciousness and events on earth.
Hesiod, the Greek poet and scholar (750 B.C.), writing about the “Ages of Man,” described the attributes of each age in great detail. As did so many other cultures throughout the world, Hesiod spoke of a distant Golden Age, a time of the gods and a near perfect world:
[Men of the Golden Age] lived like gods with a carefree heart, remote from toil and misery. Wretched old age did not affect them either, but with hands and feet ever unchanged they enjoyed themselves … and they died as if overcome by sleep. All good things were theirs, and the grain-giving soil bore its fruits of its own accord in unstinted plenty, while they at leisure harvested their fields in contentment and abundance.
The Vedic culture probably expounded on the precessional cycle better than any other. In great detail they described the vast powers of man in the higher ages and the misery and chaos of the darkest age, which they called the Kali Yuga. Unfortunately, during the last Kali Yuga or Dark Age, the correct method of calculating the yugas became obscured. The time period of one ascending or descending age, correctly noted as 12,000 years in the Mahabharata, was multiplied by 360, resulting in an immense period of time that lost all correlation to the precessional cycle or the archaeological record. Such is the way of the dark ages!
The authors of Hamlet’s Mill tell us that ancient mythology is the scientific language of antiquity. Our ancestors knew the sky intimately. Not only did they share an understanding of celestial mechanics, they meticulously charted celestial causes and effects over thousands of years of observations. Entire cultures fully embraced the idea of the “Great Year” and a “Golden Age.” By studying their myths and folklore, we too might gain insight into the true meaning and mechanics of the precession.
An unsuccessful attempt to explain the procession
During the dark ages, mankind lost the knowledge that the earth was spinning on its axis and that the earth went around the sun. So also did it lose the knowledge of the grand precessional cycle. The “Great Year” went from being the number one topic of discussion in the ancient world to near total oblivion.
As the Dark Age receded, Copernicus, relying on the ancient Greek heliocentric writings, correctly explained the first two motions of the earth: the daily rotation of the earth on its axis and its annual rotation around the sun. Copernicus did not, however, have access to ancient knowledge on the third motion. Nonetheless, since precession was a known though little understood phenomenon in astrological circles, he attempted to explain it by suggesting that the earth must “wobble.”
Copernicus’ theory of precession, developed without knowledge that the solar system could move, inevitably proved inadequate. Newton later tried, unsuccessfully, to clarify Copernicus’ theory.
Swami Sri Yukteswar’s explanation of the precession
In 1894, a great Indian sage, Swami Sri Yukteswar, offered a different explanation for the precessional motion of the stars and the rise and fall of the ages. He stated that it is the motion of the sun, revolving around a companion star or “dual,” which causes the precession of the equinox:
We know from Oriental Astronomy that moons revolve around their planets, and planets revolving on their axis with their moons revolve around the sun, and the sun takes some star for its dual and revolves around it in a period of about 24,000 years causing the backward movement of the equinox.
Interestingly, Sri Yukteswar’s statement was made at a time when there was very little knowledge of companion star systems. According to the latest NASA figures, however, up to 80% of all stars may be part of a binary or multiple star system. When we consider also that a huge number of stars (such as Brown Dwarfs) are difficult to see, it begins to seem possible that the sun might be part of a binary or multiple star system yet to be discovered.
Most astronomers would say that if our sun were part of a binary system we would know it by now. However, if the companion star’s orbit period were long enough, or if the star itself were faint enough, it is quite possible we would not presently know whether our sun has a companion star.
Recent scientific research suggests that if the binary orbit were slightly elliptical, as all orbits are, then precession would average about 24,000 years, as proposed by Sri Yukteswar. This figure agrees well with the ancient Indian interpretation of the Yugas and strongly suggests that a binary system may be the most plausible explanation of the phenomenon of precession, even though astronomers have yet to discover a companion star to the sun.
Scientific corroboration of ancient myths
If the binary model is correct, it would go a long way to shedding light on the great myths and folklore from around the world. No doubt there are great catastrophes such as comets, asteroids, large earth movements, or possibly even pole shifts that befall the earth from time to time and interrupt the history of man.
But none of these explain why there was a progressive decline of civilization for thousands of years before the Dark Ages, or why man’s intelligence and technological capabilities generally seem to be advancing so rapidly since then. A binary system of our sun traveling through space, taking the earth on a long elliptical journey and exposing it to different electromagnetic sources, could very well explain the myths that come to us from every world culture.
The dawning of the age of Aquarius
According to Time Magazine, over 17 million people are now meditating in the United States alone. Slowly but surely consciousness seems to be expanding, boosting our ability to better understand the mysteries of the universe, and the mechanisms of the precessional cycle. If the cycle is real, perhaps we are close to rediscovering how to once again live in harmony with the earth and to achieve our full human potential.
Consider what a Golden Age might have been like, when people revered the heavens and aligned their structures in harmony with the motions of the earth and stars. Were wizards, saints, sages, and enlightened people the made-up stories of a fantasized higher age? Or were they beings much like you and me who discovered a higher consciousness?
The time now is akin to the last days of winter, things are thawing out and a sense of promise is in the air. While all the flowers do not necessarily bloom on the first day of spring, an understanding of the grand precessional cycle suggests we are moving into a brighter, more beautiful time.
It is great to see articles like this in Clarity magazine. I highly recommend anyone who enjoyed this article to check out the CPAK conference in Sedona, AZ that is mentioned above. This will be the fourth conference, put on by Walter Cruttenden, to which I have taken my college students. Each time it is informative, expansive, and fun!! See you there. Nakula Cryer, Ananda College of Living Wisdom
Thanks again for such mesmerizing topics and knowledge. God bless, Mary
Great information indeed. It is so fascinating to know about the depth of understanding of Swami Sri Yukteswarji.