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Down the Rabbit Hole
Paul Kiritsis, PsyD candidate, DPhil., MA (Psychology), MA (History)

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Minoan Lunar Consciousness (Part One)

Paul Kiritsis - Sunday, October 09, 2011

Much speculation surrounds the Minoan civilisation, especially when it comes to issues surrounding racial identity and socio-political concerns hoping to pinpoint the period in which the first Minoans actually settled Crete. What remains certain is that these peoples evolved into a highly sophisticated matriarchal culture and probably reached their apogee during the latter stages of the Taurean Age (4380-2220bce).  Sadly, the precessional shift into the Arian Age brought with it a patriarchal and war-loving consciousness that was not only alien to, but wholly antagonistic towards the primitive matriarchies and their tranquil mode of being. Hence, an unconscious reaction on their part was to develop natural defences to guard against probable incursions.  The Minoans used the wood of cypress and oak trees from the forests that blanketed the Cretan mountains to build a powerful fleet, a stealthy thalassocratia (sea-born empire), and proceeded to fortify their temple-palaces with stone walls. As a Bronze Age culture, Minoan Crete was to become increasingly marginalised until about 1645bce, a date which corresponds with the eruption of Thera. The paroxysm was an event which brutally crippled the Minoan defences and left the temple-palaces open to attack. Baring witness to this crack of doom, it wouldn’t have been long before the Mycenaean mercenaries set out from the Grecian shores to invade the island.

The Age of Taurus was a period ruled by the planet Venus and exalted by the moon. Those born under the stars of this primordial era would have been communal in their nature, and the collective thoughtforms of the time would have been entirely focused upon the night sky and attempting to make sense out of which celestial events gave rise to wholly favourable or unfavourable consequences for creatures inhabiting the earth below. Therefore it appears that whilst the astronomer priestesses of Cnossos were marking out the historical foundation of their empire in the stars based on a few inwardly felt archetypes, they were concurrently tracking the motion of groups of constellations, individual bright stars, planets and other astral bodies with great interest.

As progenitor of Nature’s waxing and waning metabolic processes–processes that include the surge of the ocean tides, the seasons and their microcosmic reflection in the mammalian menstrual cycle and the mental, psychic state of all human beings–the moon would have been an obvious choice. In fact, if one observed the nocturnal skies of the winter solstice from the south entrance of the Cnossian temple-palace, he or she would see the sphere of the moon rise to the mount of the heaven from in amongst the horns of the celestial bull. In light of this information we can conclude that the gargantuan set of limestone horns that stand in that vicinity of the Cnossian ruins today weren’t purely ornamental but encompassed a practical purpose, serving the Minoans in the manner that an anatomical clock built into a community bell tower serves people of our urbanised areas today. It measured several cosmic cycles, some of which included lunisolar nutation, the twelve lunar months and the rising and setting of the twelve constellations during the length of the solar year. As a multifaceted chronometer of time, the Cnossian Horns of Consecration was superior to its artificial equivalent which remains a morbid construct of human limitation, chiefly because it appropriated the star-spangled body of the Great Mother Goddess, or the Milky Way if you like, to ordain communal activities and movements without exhausting any natural resources or reserves.

Save for the moon, there is also ample evidence to suggest that the astronomer-priestesses of Cnossos would have busied themselves trying to follow the inferior conjunctions of the Venusian sphere. Like the moon, Venus exhibits phases of waxing and waning which would have implicated its wholly feminine spirit early on. One can only marvel at the scintillating light that comes from this, the brightest of luminaries in the night skies as it appears near the eastern horizon at dawn and then again near the western horizon at dusk. More so, it is the only sphere to weave such a distinct and definitive geometrical pattern in its sidereal dance around our own planet. It takes roughly eight years and one day for Venus to plait an imaginary five-petalled rose or five-pointed pentagram about the Earth, with the five-synodic periods of the eight-year cycle each transcribing the discernible shape of a love heart.

The astronomer-priestesses who tracked its movements during the inception of the Taurian Age would have been no less astounded by the planet’s adherence to this geometrical law, a celestial ‘signature’ unique in the heavens which not only stood as an eternal reassurance of cosmic truth and order, but was itself the cornerstone which imbued quantitative value with a qualitative judgement. What is meant by this is that the astronomer-priestesses would have perceived beauty and harmony in the celestial goddess’s geometrical journey through space. In hindsight, who could blame them? Could anything be more beautiful, mystical or harmonious for an unaided observer of the heavens than an eight-year cycle that unravelled the secrets of numerical creation (1, 5, 8, etc.) through a sympathetic association between the five-pointed star or pentagram, the five-petalled rose, the heart and, dare I say it, the apple.

Whilst the apple is often implicated as an implement of the goddess in myth, not many people know of its link with the celestial Venus. It appears that acuity in astronomical observation was balanced by acuity in agriculture and hunting, and the priestesses that concerned themselves with the latter would have discerned that the arrangement of the pips enclosed within the flesh of the apple mirrored the divinely inspired movements of the goddess. Because the Venusian cycle added a multidimensional tier of intellectual understanding and emotional value to geometrical form, the Cnossian astronomer-priestesses went to great lengths to replicate and incorporate it into their frenzied and ecstatic dance patterns. The movements of the dance patterns themselves proceeded in spirals, meanders and other labyrinthine motions and sought to attract to the intoxicated supplicant the psychic conditions necessary for an encounter with the numinous Great Mother Goddess. Archaeological evidence has since revealed that labyrinthine patterns symbolising celestial events were inscribed onto the floor of the Cnossian temple-palace. The same motifs appear again on two Cnossian coins which date to classical Greek period (350bce), one of which is adorned with the symbol of a crescent and the other a rose. Not only do these coins preserve the memory of celestial dance patterns based upon a primordial cosmology, they clearly identify the objects of veneration–the moon and Venus, respectively.

I think the question that remains to be answered is rudimentary to the study of consciousness; why did the astronomer-priestesses of Cnossos track the precise movements of these two planetary bodies with such vigour in the first place? Was there a living, interactive energy streaming between the heavens and the earth? Was there a tangible energy between the planetary forces, the natural elements and human consciousness, a by-product of intuition felt by our ancient ancestors which is now lost to us? The modern-day orthodox religion of quantitative analysis that parades under the guise of “science” and critical inquiry won’t be offering up any answers to those questions any time soon seeing that any such acknowledgement would inevitably rock the materialistic foundation upon which its entire cosmology has been built. Further, it would require a conciliation of spirit and matter, two qualities that have been divorced from one another since the time of Rene Descartes (1596-1650ce). There’s no way that modern science would ever do that. It would be sacrilege, like reverting to the world of our primordial ancestors, a world of primitive superstition and irrational fear, and admitting they were right for perceiving no clear distinction between the world of spirits and the world of matter.

Hence if we wish to recapitulate the fruitful and multidimensional essence of Minoan consciousness, to delve into the mists of the past and temporarily experience the world through the eyes of the Cnossian astronomer-priestesses, it is necessary to reconcile spirit and matter and base our knowledge of reality on integral and direct experience rather than draw inferences from conceptual actions which base all knowledge on past experience in the manner that our short-sighted orthodox scientists do today. On an inner level, there can be no doubt that the Minoans would have perceived the energies of creation that ordered the anatomy of their own psyche in the outward realm of metals, properties and other natural markers. Connections that seem entirely nonsensical, heterogeneous and discordant to our ego-orientated minds today formed entirely meaningful, homologous and harmonious relationships in Minoan consciousness, a holistic framework which yearned for unbounded wholeness and reunion with the divine.

In this transcendent cosmology, there was an obvious connection between the metal copper, creatures like the scorpion and the octopus, the conch shell, the colours green and turquoise, gemstones like turquoise and emerald, the iridescent hues of a peacock’s feathers, apples, the mistletoe plant, and the qualities of beauty, sexuality, desire, harmony, tranquillity and nirvana. Because the qualitative feature that coursed through and manifested through these elements was sensual and aesthetically feminine, the Minoan astronomer-priestesses reasoned that they had all been stamped by the magical ‘signature’ of that power–the power of Venus. Likewise, there was a discernible connection between the metal silver, the element of water, the reproductive and menstrual cycle, heat, electricity, sound, and human thought which measured and reflected the conceptual world of an individual in quite the same way that the moon reflected the supernal life-bestowing light coming from the progenitor of our solar system, the sun. Given that the aforementioned manifested qualitative markers that were passive, pliable and mirror-like in nature, then it stood to reason that they had all been stamped by the lunar energy or power.

The implication of an energetic syncretisation between the planets, the metals and human consciousness falls way outside the scope of conventionally orientated thought at this point in time. As preposterous as it may seem at first, the idea begins to suspend disbelief if we proceed along the logical avenue that all planetary bodies (including the earth) are like magnets and that each exerts a gravitational pull on the others. If one continued along this same train of thought–entirely scientific and credible I might add–he or she would see that the waxing and waning of this gravitational force is hinged entirely upon the planet’s relative position to the other heavenly spheres. Indeed, humans and all living creatures are unconsciously wired to them, though it appears that only the more intellectually adroit and curiously inclined ever come to terms with this fact during the course of their lives. When the Minoans and all other ancient peoples discerned these living, interacting energies that pervaded the cosmos, it mattered not that their naked eye could see no further than Jupiter, or that the sun and moon were erroneously thought to be planets; the celestial spheres were merely exoteric markers for the qualitative powers that governed our multidimensional and majestic universe.          

Interestingly, this perceptible association between the planetary spheres and their rulership over the metals becomes even more of a reality when we take into account a series of experiments that were conducted by Frau Lily Kolisko, a follower and confidante of anthroposophist Dr. Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925). Kolisko was convinced that the planet-metal relationship rudimentary to the holistic cosmology of most primordial cultures wasn’t imagined and illusory at all; it was, on the contrary, real, observable and quantifiable. She devised a chromatographical method whereby filter papers were used to transcribe or record chemical changes that occurred in metal salt solutions when their celestial constituents entered into conjunctions and oppositions with one another. Under strictly controlled conditions, Kollisko was able to show that the images or pictures produced by the silver salt solutions encompassed a striking resemblance to the crater-ravaged surface of the moon, and that certain characteristics manifested at the appearance of each lunar phase, particularly the full and new moons.

In 1978, Agnes Fyfe used a similar filter paper method to descry whether the annual planetary movements of Venus would have any discernible effect upon one percept copper acetate solutions that had been placed inside extracts of plant sap. Just like the planet enacted its most powerful impression upon human consciousness when it was allowed to shine in the twilight glow of early morning as the Eosphoros (Bringer of Dawn) or in the late evening as Hesperos (Star of the Evening), the metallic reactions on the filter papers were strongest when Venus assumed positions in the sky in which it remained unobstructed by the sun. Kolisko’s experiments using gold chloride and copper salt solutions to discern changes in filter papers during a solar-Venusian conjunction were equally astonishing, revealing a dramatic precipitation of light green along the plastic films when Venus was at its highest point in the sky.

A curious observation that came to light during the experimentation phase of the solar-Venusian experiments was that the reaction rate varied with the changing of the seasons. This was, amongst other things, both odd and unprecedented. How could a chemical reaction vary according to the time of the year? Strange, no? Orthodox science remains curiously silent on such issues, given that its doctrines decree that chemical reactions should not vary with seasonal rotation. Kolisko claimed that the strength of the reactions dissipated and disappeared between December and January, only to reappear again stronger than ever between the months of March and May. Save for being the equinoctial marker for spring, the said months comprise the premium time in which the laborious processes of the alchemical Great Work should commence. Astrologically it is the period in which the sun rises in the constellation of Taurus, a time in which the Venusian energy becomes most expressive and powerful. As we can see, the occult connections are plentiful and far too meaningful to be purely coincidental.

Many of Kolisko’s experiments, particularly those that traced the Mars (iron)-Saturn (lead) conjunction, were replicated in 1949 by Theodore Schwenck and again in 1964 by Dr. Karl Voss of Hamburg. Both scholars successfully reproduced the same results and dutifully arrived at the same conclusions as Kolisko, publishing their works in various astrology journals in an attempt to spur further studies in astrochemistry and eventually integrate these scientifically demonstrable theories into our communal knowledge. Sadly, the implications of such were perceived to be heretical and controversial by the scientific community, and before long the negative sentiment had spilt over to the greater community–to the literati, university presses and media–all of whom ignored them completely. The reception of silence ensured that, in time, all memory and trace of experimental data in support of qualitative content and the holistic cosmology of our ancestors would be forgotten completely.

Other than adding credibility to the Hermetic tenet of “what is above is like that which is below”, the said experiments introduce alchemical esotericism into the cosmological equation as foremost of the methods through which Minoan consciousness and its foreign modes of thought might be interpreted. Alchemy itself remains an entirely holistic and humanistic science which uses metals, their properties and chemical transmutation to delineate seven levels of consciousness and the manner whereby spirit becomes matter. In studying alchemical treatises where continual cycles of dissolutions and coagulations or a prime substance (or prima materia) is supposed to produce the Philosopher’s Stone, two images which continually crop up are Sol and Luna.   

The Sol principle can be heat, red, sun, light, youth, gold, east and fire; Luna, on the other hand, can be moon, silver, green, white, ocean, age and ocean. In a labour-intensive process that involves repeated distillations of the prime matter in the alembic of the alchemist, the level of refinement attained is revealed through each union or reconciliation of the Sol and Luna principles. Hence the form which these two principles assume changes with each conjunction and reveals in chronological and ascending order the couplings of hen and cock, dog and bitch, a red man and white woman, and finally, the Red King and White Queen. The last of these signifies the culmination of the Great Work. In a Chinese Taoist text titled The Secret of the Golden Flower, Sol and Luna are vociferously clad as a celestial cloud demon and corporeal white ghost. Carl Gustov Jung (1875-1961), who spent many years brooding upon the hidden meanings and apocryphal image-based language of alchemy, interpreted them as the masculine anima and the feminine animus, the archetypal contents of the human psyche. It stands to good reason that Jung’s understanding of alchemy as an unconscious transcription of the individuation process should not be doubted, but on the whole it’s slightly one-sided and monocular. Jung was introduced to alchemy at a time when his theories on the collective unconscious and the archetypes were instigating a full-fledged intellectual revolution, a fact which no doubt prejudiced him towards a purely psychological interpretation and limited his cosmographical scope.  

Hence if we jettison Jung’s somewhat reductionist perspective, we see that Sol and Luna are merely metaphors for the concepts of form, the active and spiritual power that seeks expression, and hyle, the wholly passive undifferentiated substance that mirrors water in that it is formless yet at the same time forming. The two principles incarnate as polarities on the cosmic totem pole, with the latter reflecting the true nature of the former. Their conjunction or chemical marriage if you like, occurs at the fundamental and cardinal level of existence from where it ascends to encompass sentient, conscious and transcendental modes of being. Let’s proceed with a tangible example, using the generative forces of Mars and Venus as our prima materia for Sol and Luna, respectively.

At the elementary level the energetic Martian red mixes with harmonious Venusian green to materialise brown, the colour of earth. When they acquire metal form, they unite to form copper-iron pyrites deep in the cavernous depths of the earth’s crust. In human metabolism, these metallic constituents work in symbiotic harmony to produce haemoglobin and determine the sex of a child. In a striking observation reminiscent of the alchemical opus, the metallic form of the generative powers is sex-linked and their personalities are best comprehended when juxtaposed. Evolving onto a more physiological level, they are the male and female gender yet they are also the two hemispheres of the brain united by the corpus collosum. Here, in the most complex piece of matter in the universe, Mars is the dominant sphere, the left, from where he proceeds to orientate himself to the cosmos through deductive reasoning and logic. Alternatively, Venus is the non-dominant hemisphere, the left, and her intrinsic powers of intuition allow her to experience reality as a fundamental unity.

From what has just come to light the formative forces of Mars and Venus, a random marker for the alchemical Sol and Luna, do in fact interact like partners in a marriage where one is active and domineering and the other is passive and unassertive. Further still it wouldn’t be wrong to say that this chemical marriage is eternal and entirely indigenous to all planes of existence, unable to enter into history or change. If we were to transpose everything to the psychic level, to the level of thought, then we would no doubt come to the realisation that the masculine aesthetic as defined by Sol is the will to differentiate and dominate Mother Nature whilst the feminine aesthetic, or Luna, aches for reunification and wishes to connect with her on the broadest levels. By quantifying the characteristics that define the formative, opposing forces of Sol and Luna on the cosmic totem pole and applying them to the spectrum of human consciousness and to the inward realm of the human soul, we can at once see with the eyes of the Minoan astronomer-priestesses and recapitulate a starry world that was wholly under the spell of two feminine powers. 

Using the law of analogy, we might think of Bronze Age Cnossos as a deep sea organism like an octopus whose respiratory system is mediated by a copper molecule instead of the fiery and restless iron-based haemoglobin, hence enabling it to enjoy a far more tranquil mode of existence. Had we disembarked here from the Grecian mainland during the Protopalatial Period, we would have seen an unfortified Herculean edifice rising out from the kill of Kephala as a man-made mountain phosphorescing in opalescent silver when struck by the rays of the noonday sun. The decision on the part of the astronomer-priestesses to leave the temple-palaces unfortified has nothing to do with ignorance or apathy and all to do with a genuine inability to perceive transcendence through domination, an entirely masculine aesthetic enterprise and approach to life.

It’s more than likely that the sheer size and scope of the Cnossian temple-palace would have been mesmerising, if not overwhelming. Many of its small, narrow rooms would have served as multi-purpose storehouses for the needs of a living populace. Logically, the primary values of the aesthetically feminine are friendship and love, virtues that reconcile the bonds between spirit and matter, mind and body, but more importantly so, strive for the betterment of a communal egregore without destroying or being detrimental towards other extensions of life. Extreme focus on communal spirit rather than the transitory and corruptible state of personality would have drawn their attention away from the inevitable phenomenon of individual death. Nowhere among the Minoan temple-palaces do we see remnants of mortuary temples erected to preserve individual memories or accomplishments of a royal figurehead or priesthood for the sake of posterity. There are no tombs tucked away in obscure valleys intended to preserve material wealth for use in successive lifetimes either.

There would have been no shortage of stimuli or vivid iconography at Cnossos either; numerous vestibules would have been lined with red and black pillars and decorated with frescoes depicting bulls, oxen, griffins, and other mythological creatures, all of which would have been painted over with rusty reds, golden yellows and azure blues. The avid use of the three primary colours in Minoan visual art delineates a celebration of the vital qualities and a harmonious orientation of their collective psyche towards both positive and negative aspects of Nature as to reflect a complete absence of anxieties. This is the reason why one might see the priesthood engrossed in activities which to our untutored minds seem outrageous and life-threatening, as is the case with the Toreador Fresco which immortalises an acrobatic stunt enacted during a bull-grappling ritual and adds to the mystique and elegance which surrounds the Minoan culture. It might also be worth mentioning here that maintaining the cosmic order through ritual was sacrosanct, taking precedence over individual fate and the preservation of human life. Any resistance or attempt to alter the trajectory of a wholly divine enterprise constituted a rude attempt to alter cosmic justice and transcend Nature–something which appears to have precluded Minoan cosmology at all times.

In addition, it should also be noted that the war element on Minoan frescoes is strikingly absent. There are no depictions of soldiers, no stern-faced monarchs. This shouldn’t be the least bit surprising considering the nature of the powers at work in Minoan consciousness. The lunarised powers working through human beings and Mother Nature herself warn against the dangers of transcendence. Much to the detriment of feminine aesthetic consciousness, these collective thought forms arrest the evolution of universal brotherhood and love by generating social hierarchy and conventional marriage, institutions which preclude the qualities of trust and empathic mutuality. In turn, the unconscious suppression and distortion of these forms of truth quickly breed ignorance, prejudice and eventually extirpates life through the cycle agent of war. Therefore any continued pursuit that attempts to attract to itself the polarity of vainglory and nobility through masculine aesthetic consciousness will not only spur devolution but will continue to devastate the powerful, spiritual forces of true love and friendship–qualities conductive to the survival of life itself.

Having established the Minoan preoccupation with the mysteries of life in the fullest sense of the word, we can now see why the astronomer-priestesses of Cnossos imagined their goddess to be a bee, or a bee-like entity. Bees are, for the most part, mutually cooperative in their communal habits and tireless in their striving to recapitulate the process of creation ex nihilo; like little alchemists they seek out base substances in flower pollen and transmutate them into syrup or honey without harming or destroying any other extension of Nature. Honey is indeed an Elixir of Life for it exhibits medicinal properties and is the only edible substance known to humankind that doesn’t spoil. Moreover bees also foment golden honeycombs in hexagonal patterns, a feat of nature strikingly reminiscent of the celestial embodiment of the same generative power which weaves a geometrically sound pentagram in sidereal space around the earth within an eight year period. As we can see, interlaced into the lifecycle of the bee was a nexus of meanings that implicated the creature as a vessel of the Great Mother Goddess–a vessel that carried along with it a distant memory of the original uroboric wholeness. The greatest will of the Cnossian astronomer-priestesses, and in fact the entire reason for the existence of the Minoan vision, was to diligently and industrially reunite the variant forms of creation under the aegis of ritual and keep that intuitively felt memory alive through love.

Indeed, everything does return to the divine and sacred source through the agent of love…               

 

            

 

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