The origins of the Priory of Sion
Part 6: The axis of angels
Paradise Lost: Man's Fall from the Garden of Eden and the Great Flood
Les Bergers d’Acardie Version I by Poussin (1627)
are allusions and even clear references given in some classic works of literature
that infer that the Deluge (the biblical Flood) and the 'Fall of Man' were
both related to the same event. What if this subject was at the core of
some people’s preoccupation with angels?
The main theme of Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost is the “Fall of Man” from the ‘Garden of Eden. These lines are from ‘Book IX’: “Some say, he bid his Angels turn ascanse The poles of earth, twice ten degrees and more, From the sun’s axle; they with labour pushed Oblique the centrick globe . . .” ‘Askance’ means ‘sideways’ or ‘deviate,’ and we are told that “he” – meaning God – had “bid his Angels” to do this – i.e., ‘ordered’ that they tilt the earth and push it away from “the sun’s axle” – being the upright ecliptic pole.
The rest of Milton’s verse: “ . . . to bring in change Of seasons to each clime; else had the spring Perpetual smiled on earth with vernant flowers, Equal in days and nights, except to those Beyond the polar circles; to them day Had unbenighted shone. . .”
Milton really believe that the earth’s axis was once upright? If so,
then what was the source of his belief and the inspiration for his work?
We are told that his influences include the Bible, his own Puritan upbringing,
the Roman poet Virgil and Sir Edmund Spenser – an Elizabethan writer
on the theme of Arcadia. Of course, on these pages, the preoccupation of
the “Angelic Society” with Arcadia has been set out. In his
edition of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Scott Elledge takes it for granted
that the earth’s axis was once upright: “ . . . before the earth
was tilted on its axis at the time of the Fall, there were no colures, the
two circles that intersect each other at right angles at the poles, and
divide the equinoctial and the ecliptic into four equal parts. One passes
through the equinoctial, the other through the solstitial, points of the
In his analysis of Milton’s Paradise Lost, writer Pete Stewart informs us: “As Milton points out, were this not the case, were the Earth and the Heaven still ‘in eternal congress’, unseparated, then perpetual spring would smile, and conditions on earth would be those of a constant equinox, with day and night of equal length and no seasonal variation.”
Joscelyn Godwin also quotes the above lines from Milton’s Paradise Lost as well as Thomas Burnet’s Telluris Theoria Sacra, or The Sacred Theory of the Earth – written in 1681: “The Poles of the world did once change their situation, and were at first in another posture from which they are now, till that inclination happen’d [. . .] the earth chang’d its posture at the Deluge, and thereby made these seeming changes in the Heavens; its Poles before pointed to the Pole of the Ecliptick, which now point to the Poles of the Aequator, and its Axis is become parallel with that Axis [. . .] And I am apt to think, that those changes in the course of the Stars, which the Ancients sometimes speak of, and especially the Aegyptians, if they did not proceed from defects in their Calendar, had no other Physical account than this. And as they say the Poles of the World were in another situation at first, so at first they say, there was no variety of seasons in the year, as in their Golden Age.”
quotations given above suggest that both the tilt of the earth’s axis
and the Biblical flood resulted from the same global tragedy. Again quoting
“Milton suggests that this [Golden Age] had been the case prior to the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Eden. It was their disobedience which caused God to order the end of this timelessness.”
In his own summary of Book X of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Michael McGoodwin writes: “God causes the sun to move and changes the tilt of the earth, creating the seasons of cold and heat’.”
Another source gives this summary: “God tells the angels to transform the Earth. After the fall, humankind must suffer hot and cold seasons instead of the consistent temperatures before the fall. On Earth, Adam and Eve fear their approaching doom and blame each other for their disobedience.”
With Milton – and others – we need to ask the question whether, as a man interested in angels, he seemed to hold these angels responsible for the obliquity of the Earth. It is an intriguing observation to make when we note that one of the preoccupations of these people seems to have been the establishment of meridians. Furthermore, could it be that they seemed the end goal – the redemption of mankind – as literally putting the Earth right – upright – again?
If the earth did not tilt from an upright position, and had never been vertical, it appears that such a scenario was nevertheless believed by many to have happened, as Milton's Paradise Lost suggests, or perhaps the vertical position of the earth was possibly an ‘ideal’ that only existed in the mind of man and largely based on ‘upright’ spiritual ideas and concepts that are shamanic in origin. I cannot stress this enough, because it’s not my intention to prove that the earth was once upright, nor my own belief that it ever was – only to bring attention to the evidence that it was once ‘believed’, and perhaps still believed that this was once a reality and/or should be or will be again.
A key feature of the Earth’s tilt is 23.5 degrees. It is literally the number that gives us our seasons. While scouring the various paintings that have been linked with the subject of Arcadia and the Angelic Society, I focused specifically on Guercino and Poussin, specifically as their paintings have been linked with the theme of Arcadia.
first painting to feature the enigmatic phrase ET IN ARCADIA EGO was painted
by Guercino (Giovanni Francesco Barbieri Guerchin – an Italian Baroque
period Painter, 1591–1666) sometime between 1618 and 1622.
Two young shepherds are featured: one cleanly shaven and dressed in white and the other bearded, dressed in rustic red and wearing a red cap. In these paintings, we are being shown how man fell further into division and ‘duality’ – the world of opposites: that the condition of our world is one of imbalance; our consciousness reflected in our world which is tilted and vice-versa.
Et In Arcadia Ego by Guercino (1618–1722)
Guercino’s painting, both shepherds are looking at a worm and fly-infested
skull on a stone pedestal on which the famous words ET IN ARCADIA EGO are
It is agreed by many that they are Cain and Abel – the sons of Adam and Eve, but again this has symbolic connotations relating to the polar opposites expressed in Abel “good” and Cain “evil”. If these two figures are Cain and Abel, then does the skull belong to Adam their father?
Perhaps we should not rush to such judgment, but let us note at present that we are indeed in the presence of an “Angelic painting”, carrying as it does a tomb and the inscription ET IN ARCADIA EGO, which according to Maurice Barrès were what gave membership in the Angelic Society away.
Poussin’s ‘The Shepherds of Arcadia’ (Version I)
Poussin’s painting shows two male shepherds and a shepherdess examining a decoratively designed tomb with the inscription “ET IN ARCADIA EGO” on the side. The shepherdess is wearing white, and the two shepherds are wearing red and dark blue/black. We thus have the same colours worn (red/white) as in Guercino’s painting, plus one additional colour, blue/black.
male shepherd in red holds a shepherd’s crook which is bent slightly
and angled at 75 degrees and the other shepherd (and some say it is the
shepherdess) is holding a wooden staff, which is angled at 60 degrees.
One interesting detail in the painting is the edge of the tomb which is angled at 30 degrees. This is perpendicular to the staff on the left angled at 60 degrees. If we draw a line through the staff and a line to indicate the edge of the tomb we create a cross tilted at 30 degrees.
The staff on the left at 60 degrees and the edge of the tomb at 30º creates a tilted cross
If we now begin a line from the centre of the cross where the 30º and 60º lines intersect and extend it to the end of the crook/staff on the right, the angle of this line is between 72 and 73 degrees (72º shown here).
The angle of 72º
The Crook and Flail of Osiris
the staff on the left angled at 60 degrees be a ‘flail? In ancient
Egypt the crook (heka) and flail (nekhakha) were symbols of power and rule,
held by the god Osiris as well as pharaohs and high officials. Like Osiris,
the template upon which any “Resurrected Saviour” – like
Christ – was based, the king was considered the “shepherd of
his own people”. Many ancient peoples (especially in Mesopotamia)
referred to their kings as ‘Shepherd Kings’ – as if in
respect of those ‘Shepherds of men’. Let us note that the Sumerians
named the star constellation of Orion ‘the Shepherd’.
Osiris is usually depicted holding the crook and flail (his emblems) in each hand and with his arms folded across his chest – the same regal position that Tutankhamun and other pharaohs were depicted; and in these later depictions these two power symbols were held is such a way that they made a diagonal cross. In Poussin’s painting the two staffs are featured in front of a large leaning tree, like the crook and flail held by Osiris – especially when Osiris is depicted as the Djed column.
Osiris as the Djed Column
also represents the shamanic axis mundi – the “axis of the world”.
The axis of the world, of course, is related to the meridian, and hence
the obliquity of the Earth.
Is it a coincidence to discover that the large tree behind the tomb in Poussin’s painting is leaning at 23.5 degrees – the same angle as the earth’s axis? I found that the trees in many of Poussin’s paintings are leaning at the angle of 23.5 degrees. Furthermore, in ancient Egyptian art – especially the many profile depictions of Osiris – we find that the Atef crown like the tree is angled at 23.5 degrees. Are these further hints, if not little jokes, incorporated into paintings by members of the Angelic Society, aware of and interested in such angles?
On page 125 of The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly P. Hall writes: “Frank C Higgins, a well-known Masonic symbolist, has astutely noted that the ornate headgears of certain gods and Pharaohs are inclined backwards at the same angle as the earth’s axis”. It is a remarkable statement, as Higgins identified a “coincidence” that may not be one at all.
Is it a mere coincidence that the crook and staff held by the shepherds in Poussin’s painting are in the same slanted positions as the crook and flail held by Osiris, as depicted in ancient Egyptian art? It is impossible to say, but if we compare the image of Osiris taken from the Papyrus of Ani – i.e., the positions and angles of his crook, flail and Atef crown with the positions and angles of the staff, crook and tree, we have an almost perfect match.
On the left is a detail from the Papyrus of Ani showing Osiris (The ‘Green Man’) seated in the Hall of Maat. The orientation of the Atef Crown (23.5 degrees) and the Crook and Flail match the orientation of the tree (23.5 degrees) and the two staffs in Poussin’s painting of the Shepherds
Let us conclude by mentioning that the Djed column was raised up on the Spring Equinox – one of two days in the year when the earth returns to the same conditions of the Golden Age of the upright axis as appears to have been believed. Coincidence, or design?
amazing thing about this painting is that the crook of Osiris is in the
correct position in this leaning cross to create the Chi-rho [also spelt
Chi-ro] monogram or symbol. Remember that we are compelled to create this
cross in the painting by drawing lines based on the obvious perpendicular
angle of the staff and the edge of the tomb, the crook then falls into place
as the ‘P’-like head of the Chi-Rho symbol.
In the series The Rise on this site [French version], Isaac ben Jacob has done a more detailed analysis of this symbol, linking it firmly within the mystery of Saunière.
The symbols on either side are the Greek letters A and O – signifying the Alpha-Omega point at the centre of the cross.
The Chi-Ro symbol in the painting
Some researchers and authors are convinced that the name Cairo, given to the capital city of Egypt some 10 miles east of Giza, was based on the name Chi-rho as given to this Christian monogram or symbol. Why a Muslim city should be given the same name as given to this Christian symbol really doesn’t make sense. However, here’s an interesting example of this connection from a book written and published in the early 20th century, by Frank C. Higgins entitled, Ancient Freemasonry (1919):
‘A still more wonderful symbol of these old cosmic speculations is found in the famous monogram X P, “chi rho,” which is the origin of the name of the modern city near which the pyramid stands – Cairo. [Corrupted by the Arabs to “El Kahiryeh”] This monogram, although placed on the labarum, or standard, of Constantine the Great, in accordance with a vision, appears on Egyptian coins of the Ptolemies and on Indian coins several hundred years B.C. It is the old Sanskrit word “Rch,” meaning “light,” and the Egyptian derivative meaning “Ch R” or Horus, the animating spirit of the earth, “Horus of the Pole” and “Horus of the Two Horizons”, so he is called’.
We use the above citation because of the references to the poles and the “two horizons”, which of course brings us back to the “Fall” of the Earth and the Angelic Society.
of these references from Ancient Freemasonry: An Introduction to Masonic
Archaeology by Frank C. Higgins (1919).
Top: ‘Greek Painting’ from page 54. Note that together the orientation of the two staffs angled at 23.5 degrees, make 47 degrees - being the angle relating to the cone created by the titled axis – the diameter of the precessional cycle – 2 x 23.5 degrees = 47.
Bottom: The angles of 23.5 in architecture and Masonic symbolism – which together create the precessional cone of 47 degrees
statement that the word Chi-Rho derives from the ancient Egyptian “Ch
R” for Horus, is significant and supports the belief that Jesus “the
Christ” was based on the pagan Horus “the KRST” –
the son and reincarnation of Osiris the ‘resurrection god’.
Throughout his books, and based on ancient sources, Higgins gives many examples taken from Freemasonry symbolism of references to the angle of 23.5 degrees, as well as the angle of 52 degrees, being the angle of the Great Pyramid’s four sloping sides.
The epithets given to Horus – “of the Pole” – “of
the Two Horizons” as mentioned in the quote by Higgins, shows a connection
between the shamanic/pagan ‘resurrection god’ (e.g., Osiris,
Horus,) and the earth’s axis, as well as the rising and setting positions
of the sun as it moves back and forth between its extreme solstice points
on the horizon. We can, of course, wonder what type of relationship this
may have with the famous cartographer Cassini, creator of the Paris Meridian,
or even the creation of this meridian. But that is no doubt another story.
The Theme of the Skull
in Guercino’s painting, Poussin’s painting also features a skull
which is shown resting on top of the tomb – likely to be the head
of the one who rests inside the tomb.
A skull also makes it way into Shakespeare’s Play of Hamlet. In the Play, Hamlet examines a skull, and wonders whom it might have belonged to. This connection is all the more significant when we realise that Hamlet is based on an ancient myth about the “Mill”, a metaphor for the earth’s axis.
The authors of Hamlet’s Mill, Giorgio De Santillana and Hertha Von Dechend, contend that all myth is essentially cosmological. From the data presented in their book, it is now certain that our distant ancestors felt it necessary to preserve their advanced knowledge by passing on complex cosmological information – especially knowledge of the ‘Precession of the Equinoxes’ – in the form of stories and anecdotes about gods, creatures and men. Intriguingly, the “Fall” of certain gods is described as the disappearance of a certain constellation from a primary location, due to precession. The constellations were specifically linked with the vernal equinox, the time when the Djed pillar of Osiris was raised. But should we perhaps not also interpret the role of the “Fall” of Mankind with precession?
The title, Hamlet’s Mill is in reference to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who was himself based on Amleth, Amlodhi or Frodhi of Scandinavian myth. This individual was the proud owner of a mill – again, a metaphor for the earth’s axis on which the earth turns and gyrates. Surprisingly, the story of Hamlet is a very ancient one reaching far back into the depths of antiquity. The authors trace the same story in Livy’s account of Lucius Junius Brutus in Rome; the national epic of Finland, The Kalevala and its hero Kullervo Kalevanpoika;’ the national epic of Iran – i.e., Firdausi’s Shahnama (the Book of Kings) and its hero, Kai Khusrau – as well as the ancient epics Yudhishthira and the Mahabharata, of India.
Walker’s essay about Hamlet, entitled Mirror for Everyman: A View of Hamlet's Midnight, is enlightening – especially in view of Santillana and von Dechend’s study which he acknowledges. In Walker’s view, Hamlet is the focus for “Everyman” – in that he represents the present condition of the human race . . .
the surface Hamlet is an entertaining story. Underneath Bacon has fashioned
two faces. One looks to the past to the origin of the story of Hamlet which
had its basis in the astronomical symbolism of the pole, on which the earth
turns, breaking loose from its peg, and the tilting of the earth’s
axis which resulted.
‘As Hamlet said: “the time is out of joint, O’ cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right.”
‘The face which looks to the past finds a mirror for everyman in antiquity. That mirror is the ancient doctrine that events which take place in the great world of the macrocosm (the earth,) are reflected in the little world of the microcosm (man).
‘When the axis of the earth became tilted. When the earth lost it’s alignment with the sun, the macrocosmic event was reflected on a microcosmic level by man losing his alignment with his spiritual source (symbolically causing the death of his spiritual self)’.
earth losing its alignment with the sun means that the earth lost its alignment
with the ‘ecliptic plane’. The earth’s axis is tilted
by 23.43 degrees – meaning that the equator is tilted 23.43º
in relation to the ecliptic plane – the sun’s orbital plane.
The axis being tilted means that the north polar axis is no longer pointing to the ecliptic centre – the ‘still point’ location in the heavens it would be pointing if it were upright.
Arcadia ... A Place ‘Before’ and ‘Out of Time’
the name or term, ‘Arcadia’ is quite popularly used today, its
origin remains confusing and indecisive. The word ‘Arcadia’
is often used to encapsulate our quixotic vision of a pastoral earthly paradise;
a utopian Eden, which exists partly in the collective imagination. Arcadia
has been described as a place of ‘perfection’ and a place where
happiness reigns – a stark contrast to the complicated life in today’s
urban societies. This idealised version of Arcadia is based mostly on the
writings of the Roman poet Virgil.
I would interpret Arcadia to be the Tep Zepi of the ancient Egyptians – the ‘First Time’ or the ‘time before time’. After the tilt of the axis, time was measured by the seasons as agriculture became a necessity. It’s interesting to note that Osiris is a god associated with the harvest; that like Jesus Christ, his rebirth from the Underworld coincided with the Spring Equinox when Day and night are equal and balanced; a day from which begins the positive half of the annual cycle and when the crops begin to sprout and life begins anew. Again this was the day when the Djed column was ritually raised-up (resurrected) by the Pharaoh.
Incidentally, in ancient Egyptian art, we sometimes find the Djed column placed upright between the opposites as symbolised by the slanted Crook and Flail. Combined with the Djed in this neutral, balanced, position is the Was Scepter – a symbol of power and really ‘power over death’.
god Ptah holding the Djed column
between the Crook and Flail
Earlier I mentioned that like Osiris and Horus, Jesus too would also follow in being associated with the Earth’s axis. The raising of the Djed column of Osiris is replicated in the story of Jesus, who carries the cross on his back (tilted axis) to the hill of Golgotha. We see this in the tilted cross at 30 degrees which is centred on the back or spine of the shepherd in red in Poussin’s painting, and before him and on top of the tomb is a skull. Golgotha itself, of course, was linked with the skull and specifically believed to have been the site where Adam’s skull was buried. Was Jesus stepping in the “shoes” of Adam?
In any case, it is on this hill (symbolising the ‘primordial mound’) where the cross is lifted up (upright axis) and from this position Jesus enters the heavenly kingdom (the ecliptic center) and at the point of enlightenment. Here, ‘enlightenment’ really expresses the time of the Golden Age and the balanced condition of the earth and human consciousness during this time and when man was possibly more intuitive and psychic and attuned to the natural world around him.
So then the connections made between Osiris the ‘resurrection god’ and the earth’s axis, is that it is the earth’s axis that should be resurrected, according to ancient belief, and that this is the real purpose and meaning behind the conception of the universal ‘resurrection god’ and all related beliefs and traditions. In other words, the whole messianic mythos is based on the belief that this archetypal hero or god whose own spine represents the celestial pole and vice-versa, therefore has the power to bring back the ‘golden age’ of the upright axis which was lost in ‘the Fall’ – a more balanced world along with his own rebirth or resurrection through reaching ‘enlightenment’. In terms of the collective human consciousness, this is the real meaning behind ‘Ascension’.
ET IN ARCADIA EGO
for this enigmatic inscription, many have tried to interpret the meaning
behind the inscription. The most direct translation is, “And in Arcadia
I...” but this incomplete sentence just adds to the mystery. Poussin’s
first biographer, Giovanni Pietro Bellori, interpreted “Et In Arcadia
Ego” as quoted: “…the grave is to be found even in Arcady
and that death occurs in the very midst of delight.”
Writer and Rosicrucian Anneke told me that the term ‘Ego’ (also meaning ‘I’ or ‘the One’) was used by mystics in the Renaissance to address the ‘Divine Self’ and so the phrase Et in Arcadia Ego should be read as: Et-in-Arc-a-Dia-Ego: “And in the Arc is the Divine Self” – the divine soul in each of us. Dia is derived from Deus – meaning ‘God’. Of course, addressing our “Divine Self”… could that be linked with the guardian angels? And addressing our “Divine Self”, or “battling with our guardian angels” is precisely what the members of the Angelic Society were required to do.
Arcadia was/is obviously a place. But again, does Arcadia mean a place in
time, or perhaps ‘out of time’? A period before the tilt of
the earth’s axis? A period before the symbolic death of Osiris, and
a time “before time” associated with God’s paradise –
the Garden of Eden?
Peter Dawkins writes:
“Arcadia was one of the primary mystery names given to the state of the world in a Golden Age, and the whole Arcadian imagery and allegory is that of a Utopia or Paradise on earth that might be achieved.
The significance of this quotation is even more intriguing when we discover that the source from which this quote was taken is entitled: Arcadia: The Ancient Egyptian Mysteries. Nowhere do we find in these recent discussions on the name ‘Arcadia’, a link with ancient Egypt. But someone obviously believes there is a link. And it is within that context that my “folly” of trying to see Egyptian symbolism in Poussin’s painting should be interpreted. One important question to ask is whether the Angelic Society had somehow retained information about the “true Earth”, as well as “original Earth”, a belief that may have been far more astronomical than religious. After all, Cassini was not a priest, but a man of science: an astronomer.
Return to the source
On the subject of Poussin’s painting, Professor of French and Classics, Marc Wiesmann, has this to say:
‘From Poussin’s painting, Arcadia now takes on the tinges of a melancholic contemplation about death itself, about the fact that our happiness in this world is very transitory and evanescent. Even when we feel that we have discovered a place where peace and gentle joy reign, we must remember that it will end, and that all will vanish’.
everything happens in cycles, it’s possible that whatever ended the
“Golden Age” is something that could happen again, and if true,
then why would important information about it be encoded? – Especially
if our own survival depended on it.
The answer to this is complex – especially when we find that there are people who believe that the next event could possibly even right the earth and bring it back to its vertical position, creating a new Golden Age.
first version of The Arcadian Shepherds was completed some years after Poussin
settled in Rome, and there is now reason to believe that Poussin was a member
of the ‘Underground Stream’ that had both preserved and encoded
esoteric knowledge in many different sources throughout history. That this
knowledge has been passed down through this ‘Underground Stream’
is indicated by the god Alpheus, the ‘river god’, reclining
in the foreground in this painting by Poussin.
Alpheus is also the name of a mythical river that flowed through the Peloponnesus in Greece and through subterranean channels from its source in Arcadia. In Renaissance symbology this river indicates an underground stream of esoteric traditions or secret knowledge.
When looking at the sheer volume of related and supportive data associated with the subject of the earth’s geophysics – especially its axis – the axis mundi, the world mountain, the world tree, the ‘resurrection god’ – and all along with these numerous references to the angle of 23.5 degrees and 52 degrees – perhaps these people knew something we don’t; that they were privy to undisclosed information and knowledge that had been preserved and passed down through the ages. Perhaps what they knew and understood was closer to the truth. I will end this essay with an extract from John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost.
‘Some say, he bid his Angels turn ascanse
The poles of earth, twice ten degrees and more,
From the sun’s axle; they with labour pushed
Oblique the centrick globe . . .’
Paradise Lost, 1665, John Milton
with additions by Filip Coppens
For more information, visit the author's website