Previously, we examined the evidence that the threat of literal hellfire which continues to be used to this day (see examples here and here, among many other places on the web and in print) is based on a mistaken literalistic understanding of ancient scriptures, in the post entitled "No hell below us . . ." (05/04/2014).
One of the consistent patterns of the ancient sacred texts from around the world is the depiction in vivid myth of the annual cycle of the sun between its northernmost point of rising and setting (at the summer solstice) and its southernmost point of rising and setting (at the winter solstice; note that all descriptions here are described as they are observed in the northern hemisphere, since the myth-system itself uses northern-hemisphere-centric zodiac allegories, even though the same allegories are also found in the myths of Africa, Australia, and the South Pacific, a significant clue which falls outside the scope of this particular discussion).
The portion of the year in which the sun's ecliptic path is above the celestial equator during the sun's daily journey (and days are longer than nights) is allegorized as a shining mountain, and the portion of the year in which the sun's ecliptic path is below the celestial equator during the sun's daily journey (and nights are longer than days) is allegorized as a deep pit (for diagrams and discussion of the ecliptic and the celestial equator, see here).
The upper half of the year was further allegorized in the ancient system of celestial metaphor as the Promised Land in the Old Testament (as opposed to Egypt, the House of Bondage), as fair Achaea in the Iliad (as opposed to Troy and the wind-swept plains of Ilium), as a city upon a holy hill or as a heavenly city where the streets are paved with gold (as opposed to gloomy Sheol in the Old Testament or Hell in the New), as shining Mount Olympus (opposed to Tartarus), as shining Asgard (opposed to Niflheim), and so on.
There is abundant evidence to support this identification of Hell with the lower half of the zodiac wheel (and the point of crossing from the upper half into the lower half as a place of sacrifice and death), some of which is discussed here. However, some readers may still be skeptical of this identification (or concerned by the assertions in the two tracts linked in the first sentence of the first paragraph, above, which sternly warn that the eternal flames of Hell described in the ancient scriptures cannot be interpreted in any way other than strictly literally). If the assertion is true that the descriptions of Hell are really meant to be understood within this ancient system of celestial metaphor, then we should be able to find compelling celestial metaphors corresponding to scriptural descriptions of heaven.
And in fact, once the system of celestial allegory is understood, the evidence turns up right where we would expect to find it. This predictive power of the system, by the way, is one of the hallmarks of a correct theory: once the model is understood, it should be able to predict future discoveries, and this is exactly what happens with the ancient system of celestial allegory which informs all the myths of the ancient world (for an example of this predictive power from the Greek myths, see this previous post).
In that post, we surmised that the approach of the planet Jupiter to the planet Venus, which was taking place at the time I was writing that post, back in February of 2012, would probably have a corresponding myth, most likely of a sexual nature, in which the god Jupiter or Zeus would be amorously pursuing the goddess Venus or Aphrodite, and a short search through the mythology turned up just such a story (with rather graphic detail). In this case, we might predict that if the identification of the Promised Land with the upper half of the year is correct (and specifically with the very peak of the summer solstice), there might be imagery from the zodiac signs associated with that part of the sun's annual journey which is found in descriptions of that Promised Land in the ancient scriptures. Since the summer solstice takes place at the juncture between the signs of Gemini and Cancer (at the juncture marked by the red arrow in the diagram below), we should expect to find veiled references to one or both of these zodiac constellations or their known mythical characteristics within the ancient scriptures dealing with paradise, heaven, the heavenly city, or the Promised Land.
Readers who have absorbed some of the discussion found in the first three chapters of The Undying Stars (those first three chapters can be read online here; link will open an online pdf version in a new window or tab) will recall that the constellation Cancer the Crab, one of the two signs guarding the summer solstice at the very "summit of the year," contains the beautiful star cluster known as "The Beehive," and which was allegorized in the myth of Samson found in the Old Testament book of Judges. In conjunction with a search for celestial imagery in the descriptions of the Promised Land from the ancient Hebrew scriptures, this should immediately ring a bell, because one of the most common scriptural descriptions of the Promised Land is that it is "a land flowing with milk and honey" (see for example Exodus 3:8 and 3:17 and 13:5 and 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27 and 14:8 and 16:3 and 16:14; Deuteronomy 6:3 and 11:9 and 26:9 and 26:15 and 27:3 and 31:20; Joshua 11:5; Jeremiah 32:22; and Ezekiel 20:6 and 20:15).
Clearly, if we suspect that the Promised Land represents the "summit" half of the year, and we look for clues in the vicinity of the "summit" of the zodiac wheel (between Cancer and Gemini), the discovery of the connection to the Beehive Cluster (Messier 44) in one of the two constellations at that summit is a powerful confirmation of our theory.
But what about the other half of the appellation? We see a possible source for the "honey" -- now, what about the "milk"? Readers of Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend's 1969 masterwork, Hamlet's Mill: an Essay on Myth and the Frame of Time, may recall that the authors devote an entire chapter to a discussion of the shining band of the Milky Way and its manifestation in the sacred texts and traditions around the world (Chapter XVIII: The Galaxy, which can be read online here, part of a site containing the entire text of Hamlet's Mill here).
In that chapter, de Santillana and von Dechend demonstrate myths from around the world in which souls in between incarnations ascend the path of the Milky Way in the heavens, from the lower gate between the constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius all the way up to the "upper gate," located near the sign of Gemini, from whence they descend into incarnation again. They cite Macrobius in his commentary on Cicero's Dream of Scipio. There, de Santillana and von Dechend explain, the constellation Gemini (the zodiac sign at the upper end of the Milky Way band) is referred to as "the Gate of Cancer" (Hamlet's Mill, 242).
The visible path of the Galaxy can be seen to pass right beneath the feet of the Twins of Gemini in the dual-hemisphere star chart shown below:
In this chart, the line of the ecliptic (which connects the constellations of the zodiac) is shown as a green line. If you find where that green line intersects the broad blue band of the Milky Way galaxy in the right-hand hemisphere, you will be able to find Gemini on the chart. The constellation of Cancer is slightly to the left along the same green line of the ecliptic in the right-hand hemisphere of this chart. Obviously, then, the "milk" in the descriptor "milk and honey" must refer to Gemini rather than Cancer. The "honey" is a reference to Cancer.
Just as the system of celestial allegory predicted, we find in the scriptural description of Paradise two very clear references to the two zodiac signs that we would expect to find referenced, if the identification of Heaven (or Paradise, or the Promised Land) with the upper half of the zodiac wheel (and Hell with the lower) is in fact correct.
Not only does this exercise provide strong supporting evidence for the argument that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are built upon a foundation of celestial allegory, and that they were not intended to be understood literally but rather were intended to be understood esoterically, but it also shows that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament are built upon the exact same system of celestial allegory upon which are built the myth-systems of ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, of northern Europe, of Africa, Australia, the Americas, and the islands of the Pacific (and nearly every other ancient culture or civilization as well). Examples of this system in the mythology of Japan, of the First Nations people of the Pacific northwest, and of the Norse can be found in a series of three previous articles, entitled "Odin and Gunnlod," "The old man and his daughter," and "The celestial shamanic connection: Ancient Japan." The analysis in those articles demonstrates that, just as with the search for clues regarding the "land of milk and honey," once one understands the system of celestial allegory, clues within the ancient narrative point to the part of the cyclical patterns of the heavens that a particular myth or motif is personifying or allegorizing.
This clear kinship with the myths of the "pagan" world also puts to rest the literalist notion that there is a sharp demarcation between those who believe the Old and New Testaments and those who follow (or followed) the other sacred traditions of humanity (including those of Japan, or of pre-Christian Scandinavia, or of the native peoples of the Americas). This artificial distinction is based upon the mistaken notion that the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, and the myths of the rest of the world, were all intended to be understood literally. They were not: they are all equally esoteric.
And yet it is upon this false distinction that the promoters of the literalist threat of eternal torment in a literal Hell (such as the authors of the two tracts linked above) base their argument.
This literalist error has been the cause of a massive amount of suffering throughout the centuries, and it continues to cause people mental torment to this day. Additionally, the threat of eternal suffering in the literal fires of a literal Hell continues to be used as a form of mind control in some quarters, and to coerce obedience to certain authorities on the idea that disobedience can invite that harshest of all sanctions. This is a clear example of the importance of understanding the system of celestial metaphor. And, the sacred texts of the world were not just clever stories invented to teach about the motions of the stars and other celestial bodies (as awesome and as majestic as those celestial motions undoubtedly are). They used these motions to convey even more profound truths, as discussed here and here.
Those profound spiritual teachings, perhaps, can point us towards the true "land flowing with milk and honey," one not to be found by following the literalist approach, but one which presents itself once we understand the key.