Monday, March 23, 2009

Indiana Jones and The Lost Tracing Boards of Gnosis

At this point, I think I could do an entire blog on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. I've written about the film before (here and here) but there are so many layers of symbol and double-meaning, I don't feel like I've even scratched the surface. This post has been several weeks in the making - months really, it was supposed to be part of the WFC series.

It all started a while back when doing the Stairway to Sirius posts, and really got socked in the jaw by the whole angels descending a staircase imagery. I also found a variation on the Third Degree board that just struck me in a funny way. The standard board depicts a closed coffin...

...but this version depicted the coffin as open, and shows us the blazing five-pointed star of Sirius above it. But for some strange reason the image reminded me of this notorious scene from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull...

...where Indiana Jones escapes nuclear annihilation by hiding in a refrigerator that then is shot like a cannonball across the desert. Look at the rays emanating from Sirius from the tracing board- very similar to the blast of light from the mushroom cloud. And those evergreen branches you see on both sides of the fridge resemble the branches you see in Third Degree tracing boards (and at Masonic funerals). Looking at this image, it's hard not to see a man rising from his coffin, with some bizarre transmutation of base matter-type theme thrown in.

But what about the other tracing boards? We're starting at the Third Degree, is this yet another example of "reversal of time?" I looked at the Second Degree board. There are different variations on the board but you usually see a waterfall and a staircase.

Which instantly reminded me of the three waterfalls in Crystal Skull, which we see sometime after the atomic refrigerator scene. This too was one of the sequences in the film that put some people off for being too far-fetched.

So there's the waterfall, but what about the staircase? Or the pillars?

Here's another version of the staircase and waterfall. Note also that some Second Degree boards frame the staircase between Boaz and Jachin, the famous pillars of Solomon's Temple.

After Indy and his crew escape the waterfalls, they ascend a staircase towards an obelisk, which unlocks the door to the tomb of the gods (right after entering a chamber where the film's theology is explicitly spelled out, of course). Note the top of the stairway is framed by two columns, similar to the first Second Degree board we looked at. Interesting.

When the adventurers finally enter the tomb of the gods, we see yet more Masonic parallels. Cate Blanchett's character refers to the 13-piece variation on the Trinity, in that they are 13 figures who combine into one when revived. Very strange motif there (and we all know the importance of 13 in the Templar/Masonic tradition). Note also that the alien gods sit atop ziggurats. Stairs seem to be a very important motif in this film.

Cate also refers to them as a "hive mind," which recalls the Masonic beehive icon. These quotes from the 1724 tract, The Craft and Its Symbols, explain that particular symbol:

What Modern Masons call a Lodge was for the above Reasons by Antiquity call'd a HIVE of Free-Masons, and for the same Reasons when a Dissention happens in a Lodge the going off and forming another Lodge is to this Day call'd SWARMING.

The bee definitely is industrious. He works hard and tirelessly, not for himself, but for the swarm. He has a strength and knowledge of materials that cannot be duplicated. He works in complete cooperation, and without dissention, with his fellow bees.

Hmm, so there were two pretty interesting parallels to the tracing boards, some 13 action and the hive. Well, there are a lot of things going on in this movie- could this just be a coincidence? The way "Ox" (read: Serapis) carried around the skull caught my attention, as did the way the guardians of the tomb of the gods venerated it. Right there I'm thinking Templars and Baphomet. But then it got even better...

John the Baptist is a central figure in Freemasonry
(the first Grand Lodge was established on the Feast of St John the Baptist in 1717), as well as other esoteric traditions. No less a luminary than Pope Pius IX called John "the Father of the Gnostics" and identified John as the messiah of the Templar and Masonic "heresies." Note that Masonic iconography clever conflates the two Johns- the Baptist and the Evangelist- as one.

In the Bible, the villainess Salome had the Baptist killed against the wishes of King Herod. And since we are looking for reversal-of-time imagery here, it's fascinating to note that the villainess in Crystal Skull returns the decapitated head of the 13th alien, symbolically reversing an historical trauma.

And even still, this reverse-Salome dies a horrible death for her trouble. Pretty potent stuff here, almost like the payback of a long-held grudge. Interesting how the whole Cold War motif and the crazy action sequences distract people's attention from this blatant symbolism.

So we all know what happens after that, the aliens reconstitute and their ship takes off for the dimensional rift. Now, I suppose Freemasons will see Hope and Faith and Virtue descending to this mortal realm from the spiritual planes, offering enlightenment and awakening and fine feelings and all of that jolly rot, but I still see aliens descending from the solar system of Sirius. I always like to use this version of the board, since it looks like an old 50s sci-fi pulp cover of aliens deplaning off a glowing spaceship.

Once the aliens get ready to split, Indy and his family then ascend a staircase away from them, which really drives home that reversal motif. Note also that water is closely identified with Sirius in the UFO lore.

Veneration of the Alien Osiris, crucified on the Solar Cross

The reversal motif seems to show up a lot in symbolic narratives, but in reversing the Masonic icon-cycle, the message seems to be that the esoteric systems themselves are just a faint echo of the original revelation, which Crystal Skull makes crystal clear was alien contact.

Pretty potent stuff for the multiplex, brought to you by the two most powerful creators in Hollywood. And presented in such an outlandish way as to not be taken seriously by the masses.

Hmm, kind of like the old stories about the Men-in-Black in that regard...

NOTE- I decided to finish this post (I have dozens of posts in one stage of completion at any given point in time) after watching the History Channel's Von Daniken smoochfest, Ancient Aliens. It struck me that as we learn more of all of the megalithic sites - the enormous size of the stones, the incredible construction methods, the celestial knowledge encoded in them- that perhaps these structures were created precisely that future generations would realize that they were indeed built with the aid of an extremely advanced technical culture. How interesting when we then make that connection between these structures and the basic iconography of Masonry, free or otherwise, in this film and so many others.


  1. Man o man. Great post.

    Why is there no alien tradition in Buddhism or Taoism? Demons, yes, but no gods. Taoism seems the most elevated of the worId's traditions. Hinduism is filled with alien/god imagery, I think, but Buddhism reformed all that, and Taoism reformed it even further, melded with traditions even older, according to some.

    Is this some kind of white man mark of Cain issue? Is that why the freemies are so racist, even tho the egyptians were black?

  2. That's a very interesting take on the Third Degree board. I have always been fascinated with the Stairway to Sirius/Heaven and Jacob's Ladder, and the meaning, origin and etymology of Israel.

    The meaning of it all is uncertain and explained in many ways, chiefly because it is limited to contexts which discuss the struggle of Jacob with the Angel of the Lord, insinuating that where our language uses the common verb 'struggle,' the Hebrew uses a word that is specifically reserved for a certain action: the action of struggling with God.

    The masonic parallels you attach in the post is quite striking especially the 13-piece variation, blatantly shown. The message that it sends to me is that the stairs acts as a transformative tool to another dimension where our minds are unified with that of the Gods.

    Your reference to the bees reminds of the sounds in the opening sequence in the Stanley Kubrick classic 2001: A Space Odyssey. The sound of the swarming bees when the monolith appears. The spiritual language of the Babylonian Mystery schools, perhaps?

    That final image of the staircase with light emanating from the apex, reminds so much of the Giza pyramid structure.

    The ALIEN Project

  3. Forgot to mention that in Sacred Geometry, stairs in a building strongly influence the flow of chi . A stairway is a potent channel of chi , and the shape of the staircase determines the movement of chi.

    As you spiral around and around the higher you reach towards the essence of Sacred Geometry. The spiral is a common element of Sacred Geometry as well as to all natural development. Spirals in nature tend to follow the Golden Ratio (Phi) or Fibonacci Sequence in their rates of expansion. The key to Sacred Geometry is the relationship between the progression of growth and proportion. Harmonic proportion and progression are the essence of the created universe and is consistent with nature around us.

    It must be remembered that Sacred Geometry is a term used to describe the basic building blocks of the universe. This ancient science explores and explains the physical and energy patterns that create and unify all things and reveals the way that the Universe of creation organizes itself. Every natural pattern of growth or movement conforms inevitably to one or more geometric shapes. From the molecules of our DNA (stairs) to the galaxy we spiral within, life and it's forms emerge out of geometric codes.

    The ALIEN Project

  4. The Salome imagery is indeed interesting. Though I haven't seen Crystal Skull myself, I remember an interesting comment someone made months ago. It relates to John Hurt playing a character who carries the titular object throughout the movie... which brings to mind his infamous scene in the original Alien movie. (In fact, the "Salome" image above seems almost reminiscent of the ancient crash site found in Alien.)

    At any rate, Hurt's character carrying the skull around sounds reminiscent of the "incurable wound" of Amfortas (King of the Grail Knights) in Wagner's final opera Parsifal. Considering that Alien takes place in roughly the early 22nd Century, while Crystal Skull takes place in the 1950s, it's almost seems like Hurt's presence makes Crystal Skull a reverse sequel of Alien.


  5. I haven't finished reading this post, but pause to wonder out loud.

    The bee definitely is industrious. SHe works hard and tirelessly, not for herself, but for the swarm. SHe has a strength and knowledge of materials that cannot be duplicated. SHe works in complete cooperation, and without dissention, with her fellow bees.

    If the Freemasons of 1724 had known then what we know now-- that communities of swarming insects are overwhelmingly female, and that the male's role in a hive is diminished compared to the male's role in their own societies-- would they have adopted the hive as a symbol? Would the knowledge have caused them to recognize and respect women as their equals?

    Excellent work, as always.

  6. Indy and his family climbing the stairway makes me think they were meant to be seen as the aliens, re-boarding their Sirian ship, especially the way they view the UFO flying off.

    Real interesting connections in this one, nice post.

  7. Just saw Knowing bootleg last night. There were M.I.B. and a Green sun. There was a Green sun in Dragonball too.

  8. I made a mistake in my earlier comment - I should have said 'social insect' instead of 'swarming insect'.

    By 'social insect' I meant bees, termites, ants, which live in hives.

    Your analysis of symbolism in the Crystal Skull is very interesting.

    Setting things right seems to be in fashion. I wonder if the movie's screenwriters/producers reversed the Masonic icon-cycle (as you say) in order to symbolically right wrongs, or admit mistakes.

  9. 13 makes me think of Jesus and his disciples.

    The twelve disciples representing the twelve signs of the zodiac, and Jesus representing the sun or son of God.

    Could the myth of Jesus and his 12disciples represent an original 13 gods(aliens, atlanteans, or what have you.) who brought sacred knowledge to mankind.

  10. Anony 914- Buddhism and Taoism are much later, and there seems to be an issue of a timeline. Hence the earlier traditions have these motifs and the later Axial Age traditions do not.

    Andre- Interesting that you bring up Jacob and the Angel and 2001, given Jack Kirby's interest in both. I wonder if the bees motif is some garbled memory of the sound of spacecraft- that seems as good an explanation as any. These parallels are very interesting, especially in light of Lucas being the main plotter of the story and his obvious interest in symbolism and mythology. Very weird, very hard to pin down.

    And it is very interesting in so far as all the stairways there, especially given the obvious symbolism inherent in them, as well as the more esoteric viewpoints.

    Jason- Again, we have to wonder what Lucas was up to. On the DVD doc it seems that Spielberg was a bit reluctant to do this story but that Lucas really pushed and pushed for it.

    Lynnertic- It's funny if you follow that link one of those guys says that bees are androgynous. That whole issue of the hive and the Matriarchy is very strange in these kinds of films. The Borg, the Alien films the Wicker Man remake and more than I'm sure I'm missing. At the same time you have these esoteric traditions that are oriented towards the Goddess, the Queen. I wonder if there is some deeper meaning here at work.

    Tommy- Interesting point, Tommy. That reminds me of the Martian Chronicles- and there was water involved in that revelation as well. What a very strange film this is- it's presented as being inherently ridiculous and yet there is so much bubbling under the surface. Kind of spooky in a way.

    James- Can you post some screenshots from Knowing? I'd be interested to see some of the visuals.

    Caleb- Well there is this very old tradition that sees John as the Messiah and Jesus as the usurper. So the John figure and the 12 disciples is fascinating in that regard.

  11. With Spielberg being of Jewish descent and I believe G. Lucas is as well, do you think that maybe there is a dual meaning between John the Baptist and say...Antiochus Epiphanes

    Antiochus destroyed the temple and or desecrated the holiest of holies by putting bad blood on the sacred altar. And by cutting the head of Zeus off of a statue and putting it in the temple. Soon after he put a huge sculpture of his own head in there. This all lead to the Maccabean Revolt and subsequently the festival of Hannakah(?).

    This would be putting a negative view though on the aliens themselves. But it would explain the quick act of retribution against Cate Blanchett.,M1

  12. ...on the google book link I just sent in, make sure to scroll back a bit. the stuff I was really reading was sort of up higher in the text.


  13. If you are looking for the blazing five-pointed star of Sirius, just check out Spalko's belt buckle. You can see it best in the scene when she's hanging from the tree to avoid the killer ants.

  14. national treasure was before this right? Chris was it not you who said they were taking back the symbols in this IJ movie? I think you have a distinct through line here now on that point...

    maybe it's Bruckheimer went to UofA and Lucas is a USC guy! This could all be over some sports rivalry ;)

  15. Michael- Yeah, NT was before this but the two films almost seem like companion pieces. Funny that Riley busted out some AAT in the first NT.

    Incidentally, Lucas is Methodist.

  16. Carrying on the Parsifal theme, the overture appeared in a couple of episodes of Millennium. I know the site says one episode, but I could swear it was in at least two episodes.

    Carrying on the Alien theme, regulars here should know that Lance Henriksen was in two films from the series as the android Bishop. Of course, he also played Frank Black in Millennium.

    So, with John Hurt as "Amfortas," it seems that we have a double-whammy of a Parsifal/Alien series synch between him and Lance Henriksen.


  17. Thanks, Jason. I need to get back to my Millennium posts some day. Dont forget Henriksen is also in Close Encounters.

  18. I keep forgetting Close Encounters. Probably because of the other weird stuff Henriksen has been in, like the first Terminator, and the sequel to the original Omen. Actually, there's some odd stuff there that ties back to Salome. Here goes.

    1. William Holden starred in the same Omen sequel as Henriksen. Holden also starred in Sunset Boulevard, where Gloria Swanson's fading silent movie star wanted to make a comeback with a movie of Salome.

    2. Henriksen also played a character named John Milton (!) in Scream III, which also featured Liev Schreiber in his recurring role in that series. Schreiber also starred in the Omen remake from a few years ago... which featured a portion of the final scene from Strauss' Salome.


  19. just wanted to add that mitochondria is a wholly separate dna from that of your typical "DNA". it only comes from the female....passed down child to child. male and female.

    from the mother. perhaps its one of her many gifts. besides giving birth to souls....

  20. I enjoyed your blog. Interesting ideas. Keep searching.

    Vide, Aude, Tace

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