Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Astronaut Theology: Osiris, the Star-Sailor

The ancient historian Plutarch tells us "That when Osiris reigned over the Egyptians he made them reform their destitute and bestial mode of living, showing them the art of cultivation, and giving them laws, and teaching them how to worship the gods." 

OK, that's a fairly standard story across the ancient world, particularly in these high civiliations. We also know from the old myths that upon his second death, Osiris "was translated to the nether regions where he reigned as 'Lord of the Underworld and Ruler of the Dead.' Here he presided at the bar of judgment and assigned to the souls of the departed their proper reward for virtue or punishment for sin." 

Again, not unusual in the context of ancient mythology. But I do have one problem with all of this. If Osiris is consigned to the Underworld...

...why do we always see him sailing around the stars in his flying boat? 

 I realize that this was an ancient civilization with a whole host of cults with different cosmologies. And I do realize that this was all very symbolic and mystical (where AMA- 'anything means anything') but there seems to be a basic contradiction here that I can't wrap my head around.

This isn't just a question of some outlier cult with their own mythos, this cuts to the core of what (we think) we know about this enigmatic belief system. Particularly this idea that the Pharaohs became Osiris and death and went to join with him in outer space. There's a distinct whiff of cargo cultism about all of that- a secret that was lost and attempted to be retraced.
This also ties directly in the theology of the Great Pyramid, inarguably the most compelling architectural work in human history. We know now about the alignments of the shafts from the so-called King and Queen's chambers. Orion and Sirius are the best known, but there are also the Ursa constellations, one of which is embedded into the state flag of Alaska. 

How fascinating that we saw not only Sirius symbolism during the last Clownshow Presidential election, but also Ursa Major personified by former Gov. Sarah Palin. What are the odds? You gotta love these coincidences...crazy stuff.But not only do we see these depictions of Osiris shooting around the stars, we often see him showing the other gods the way to something or other. 

Now I know there is this elaborate cosmology surrounding all of this, but ask yourself- what if all of that was added on later?

And then there are images like this, with Osiris and Horus in their flying disk, and Isis leading them to the stars. Again, maybe there's some elaborate mystical code for all of this, but the way I see it, the image itself is much more compelling and powerful if taken at face value. 

But that's just me, that's just something I enjoy.

But there's also the fact that Osiris was adopted by other cultures and often depicted as a man piloting a flying disk. Again, is there some mystical interpretation to be drawn here? Maybe. But which interpretation do you think would be more impressive to an ancient race- the mystical or the literal? 

What do you think would inspire a greater sense of awe and amazement in the ancients- the distant, nearly invisible movements of the heavenly bodies, or bunch of guys scooting around above their heads in a flying disk? I'm pretty sure I know what would impress me.

Things can get a bit anomalous in this light- here's Osiris in a ressurection chamber being, uh, resurrected. Note the coiled snake at his feet. For some reason, I can't help but think of that snake in the Denderah lightbulb/not-lightbulb. 

 I also can't help but think that maybe no one wants to consider the possibility that this extraordinary civilization could have worked out the science for a simple electric light fixture on its own. Why? Because that might lead people to begin to question what other secrets we haven't been told. 

Maybe if you pull on that one thread the whole tapestry will come apart.

Being a lifetime geek, I can't help but look at that Osiris image and think back to the thousands of comics and sci-fi book covers with the exact same motif- a resurrection chamber, powered by some exotic form of energy, bringing the dead back to life. Stargate fans will remember just such a device in the original theatrical film. 

How interesting then that the Air Force was so interested in "helping out" on the Stargate TV series.

  Then there are images like these, which show some strange kind of energy transfer from the body of Osiris into the enigmatic, undefined Djed pillar. We saw the pillar (or a version of it- the term Djed is nebulous in the extreme) supporting the weight of the Denderah lightbulb/not-lightbulb, and here we see this transfer of solar and stellar energy into what looks more like some kind of a protective suit than some nebulous mystical abstraction.
Again, another icon well-familiar to hardcore geeks such as myself. Here's an image from Jack Kirby's prophetic OMAC: One Man Army Corps, showing a similar kind of energy transfer into his new form.
Humor me, just for a second: what if the original revelation behind all of these star-sailor images was lost? What if this ingenious culture compensated for that loss by embroidering this complex and fascinating mythology around it? This is not a moot point by any stretch of the imagination. Why?

 Well, consider the hundreds of billions being funneled into the various space programs- both public and otherwise - during this excruciating worldwide recession. We've come to take it all for granted, but 'space stories' are no longer just a back-page footnote- they're front page news, every day now. 

There's more going on up there than at any time I can remember. Then think back on all of the stories we've looked at here that link ancient Egypt and space colonization- the new OSIRIS-REX rocket is only the most recent (and egregious) of this constant association. 

So why does any of this matter? It matters because it obviously matters to people making decisions that affect all of our lives.