An In-Depth Interview With David Talbott

David Talbott, perhaps best known for his 1980 book, The Saturn Myth, has been researching the Saturnian phenomenon since the 1970s. He has, since then, published much about the subject -- mainly in Research Communications Network News-letter, KRONOS, and, more recently, in the pages of AEON, which publication he him-self inaugurated in 1988. Following the November 1994 symposium held in Portland, Oregon, Talbott decided to devote his time to the production of a series of videos, in lieu of the written word, through which he intends to better illustrate his Saturnian thesis. Throughout the years, continuing research has forced him to change various aspects of his unfolding Saturnian scen-ario, although the basic premise behind it remains unchanged. Even so, this has led to a certain amount of confusion among his followers concerning what portions of his work he still believes to be valid and what others need to be re-evaluated, amended, and developed further. In an endeavor to clarify his present beliefs, he has granted AEON time for a series of interviews, of which the following is, hopefully, only the first. 

Dave Talbott and Wal Thornhill
David Talbott and Wal Thornhill


AEON: Can you tell us what you've been working on this past year?

Talbott: At the moment I'm working with others on a series of home videos offering a comprehensive reinterpretation of myth. The series is called MYTHSCAPE, and will give us a chance to present a new view of the past in a visual medium that could save a lot of time.

We're also in development on a broadcast quality documentary called "Immanuel Velikovsky: Ancient Myth and Modern Science," directed by the Canadian filmmaker Robert Nichol. We've completed a first draft on a script and secured most of the quality footage on Velikovsky. Additionally, some twenty-three scholars were interviewed extensively at the 1994 symposium in Portland, Oregon, to add perspectives on Velikovsky.

AEON: Are you encouraged by the changing intellectual environment?

Talbott: I see the intellectual environment today as extremely volatile -- an advantage on the one hand, and a considerable challenge on the other.

People are no longer willing to believe everything they've been taught, and innovators are questioning theoretical underpinnings. What is needed now is a clearer sense of ground rules for assessing unusual ideas, but the traditional protocol has to be changed. Given the fundamental level of the challenges to mainstream theory today, the "peer review" -- or should we say "jeer review"? -- system often becomes an absurdity in actual practice.

Of course the answer to mainstream dogmatism isn't to recklessly embrace every exotic idea, but to give well-researched and well-reasoned ideas appropriate consideration, even if these ideas are highly novel. By all means, give the benefit of the doubt to traditional theory, but there is no virtue in regarding traditional theory as sacred dogma.

AEON: What about your own field of inquiry?

Talbott: Well, first of all it's necessary that our working hypotheses be stated as clearly as possible. I think much more needs to be done to clarify a general thesis based on historical research, and much, much more needs to be done to gain a critical review by experts in the fields from which we are drawing the evidence. This is why I eventually concluded that a long-term video project could save time. It permits a big picture summary through shortcuts that cannot be achieved in print. You cannot assess a thesis until you can visualize it.

AEON: One of the trends certainly seems to be a growing interest in catastrophism in general.

Talbott: Yes, and a person would have to be blind not to notice that this discussion is becoming more and more "Velikovskian" every year. 

On the margins of the mainstream, we see a fundamental re-thinking of the past -- the origins of man, the origins of civilization, cometary disasters in relation to early historical events. Then, farther removed from the mainstream, we see a chaotic mixture of claims ranging from the scientific to the occult: discoveries of Atlantis, newly revealed secret doctrines, and countless Doomsday prophecies and predictions (the latter might include anything from global warming to devastating earthquakes, from overpopulation to the return of the Doomsday comet). Add the imminent passing of the millennium and you have a situation that couldn't be more ripe for feeding public fascination and anxiety.

Within the academic community, there's not just a growing scientific and scholarly interest in the role of comets and planetary upheavals, but the first signs of interest in myth, including the possibility that ancient myths and pictographs might contain evidence of past natural events -- global catastrophes, cometary intruders, natural spectacles in the sky.

Examples would include Victor Clube and William Napier, Fred Hoyle, and the Australian astronomer Duncan Steele, all of whom have resorted to references in myth to substantiate the ancient experience of cosmic catastrophe.

Even Carl Sagan and Nancy Dru-yan, notice the prevalence of an ancient symbol, the swastika, and propose a celestial origin for the symbol. It was, according to them, a rotating comet spewing streams of gas into surrounding space.

At our symposium in November of 1994, I asked the astronomer Tom Van Flandern if he agreed with this statement: that there is considerable evidence to suggest that ancient civilizations may have arisen in the shadow of celestial catastrophe -- and if so would he agree that ancient myths and symbols deserve careful study and cross-cultural comparison to see if they might point to the nature of the upheavals. I found it quite gratifying when he agreed with both statements.

This has, of course, thrown open the door in a way that will unnerve many scholars. The moment accredited researchers begin to entertain ancient myth as evidence for unusual natural occurrences, it becomes a new ball game.

If Sagan is permitted to draw on global symbolism of the swastika to suggest an unusual cometary phenomenon, are we not permitted to show the general associations of the swastika with the triskelion and whorl, or the mutual associations of these symbols with the long-flowing, disheveled hair of the angry goddess, the goddess who rages in the sky in the form of a serpent or dragon at the time of a world-ending disaster -- the angry goddess who just happens to be the planet Venus?

AEON: For the benefit of our new readers, let's go back to the beginning for a moment. In the age of science and reason, why should anyone care about myth?

Talbott: Because the myths can tell us about events we've forgotten -- extraordinary events, awe-inspiring, terrifying events.

We've always assumed that the natural world of the myth makers was the same as our own. But only a few thousand years ago myth making man was responding to a completely different world. The celestial environment was intensely alive with activity, things that are not happening today.

If we can penetrate to the roots of the myths, they will tell us more about the history of man, the history of the Earth, and the history of the solar system than either historians or planetary scientists have ever imagined. And perhaps the most surprised of all will be comparative mythologists, because very few indeed have ever wondered whether the myths might point to unfamiliar, uncommon, often terrifying experiences -- things that simply don't happen in our world today.

AEON: And yet many people would ask how anything as chaotic and subjective as myth could tell us anything reliably?

Talbott: Well, one has to begin by allowing for the singular possibility that our intellectual and scientific frameworks have denied. It was because the events were extraordinary that they registered so deeply on human consciousness, and the themes survived for thousands of years. It's true that the stories are filled with fantastic and unbelievable creatures, but these imaginative, mythical creatures didn't arise out of a vacuum. They were, on the contrary, man's way of interpreting, remembering and re-enacting highly dramatic, often catastrophic natural events.

A good starting point is simply to acknowledge that there was a myth making age, a period tracing to what the myths themselves call "the age of the gods." It happens that over many centuries, as we've mused upon the fabulous gods, heroes, demons, and monsters that populate the mythscape, we never answered the most important question of all: why do the myths insist -- with one voice -- that before the arrival of the present age there was a quite different time, an age of the gods?

In our own time, we don't know what to do with this strange idea. Only rarely do we even pause to wonder if the myth makers may have experienced natural events that are no longer occurring.

AEON: What about relevance? How does all of this relate to us today?

Talbott: Is planetary history really "relevant"? Yes, in more ways than one.

Just consider the money we've spent on the space program, predicated on theoretical frameworks that will never survive. Or the incalculable sums we invest annually in tools of learning -- books and institutions and teachers, all passing on tenets about the past, the nature of the solar system, the evolution of the earth, the origins of man, the emergence of civilization, the birth of the first ritual, literary and artistic traditions -- all fundamentally rooted in uniformitarian error. Or the billions in funding of research institutions around the world seeking to penetrate the mysteries of the past, institutions that are, in fact, chasing chimeras. They are asking the wrong questions, and they have no framework for understanding the answers even when these answers stare them in the face.

But that's only the beginning. A reinterpretation of planetary history will push outward the existing theoretical boundaries. It's impossible to explore these things without strengthening new possibilities within other fields of study. It will help us to see that beliefs are not necessarily true just because they've been held for a long time and are taken for granted by great crowds of people.

Deeper still, I believe, will be certain insights arising from an honest consideration of the myth making age and the distinctive forms of civilization arising from that unique epoch. What one confronts, in terms too explicit to be denied, is the image of the "separated self" -- consciousness aware of having been torn from a primordial unity, projecting its own fears onto capricious and vengeful gods; nations violently warring against their neighbors, hoping to recapture a lost order; massive labors in earth and stone, motivated by a collective yearning for the splendors of the age of the gods. I believe that a proper understanding of myth can open a window to the human condition, in the sense that the roots of that condition are presented in the most explicit terms, therefore making it almost impossible to miss the point.

AEON:: What is the most difficult challenge facing proponents of the "Saturn Thesis"?

Talbott: The first and foremost challenge, I think, is the inertia of collective belief.

Certainly it's an indisputable fact that the models dominating mainstream science arose under the pervasive influence of the "uneventful solar system" -- perceived as a symphony of regular and predictable motions occurring virtually from the beginning.

Now the academic requirement for one to accept this theoretical framework may have been understandable in the 50s, before the coming of the space age and planetary exploration. But now we know that all of the planets show far more activity -- and much more evidence of planet-wide catastrophe -- than any astronomer had anticipated in the 50s.

But in modern times no one -- until Immanuel Velikovsky -- wondered whether the theoretical model of the uneventful solar system is fundamentally wrong. Velikovsky was the first to propose that the positions, motions, and relationships of planets have been fundamentally altered in geologically recent times.

Now we are claiming, in very specific terms, that, some time before the birth of civilization, huge planetary forms were present in the sky. In the myth-making epoch, a spectacular planetary configuration stretched across the sky. And this assembly of planets, moons and cosmic debris was visually centered on the gas giant Saturn.

One of the foundations for this re-interpretation of myth is ancient man's obsession with events in the heavens. Around the world the first stargazers drew surprisingly similar pictures of things in the sky -- things that do not exist today. They told surprising similar stories about things that never happen -- in our sky. So we are simply suggesting that the objects of the obsession were planets moving close to the earth, a claim well-founded on the emphatic statements of the first astronomers. And the moment one allows for this possibility, things will begin to make sense.

There was an "age of the gods," when the planets were the gods, and the entire story content of global mythology traces to this unique period.

AEON:: In our everyday perception myth appears to be nothing more than the way primitives entertained themselves -- making up stories about things they didn't understand.

Talbott: Yes, that's the common opinion, though in fact the original reason for storytelling was not entertainment. Storytelling became entertainment, among many other things. The original motive of storytelling was not to forget. Storytelling emerged out of much broader rites and festivals -- collective activity re-enacting the spectacular and traumatic -- the memorable -- events in the age of gods and heroes.

What global mythology gives us is a profile of the way humankind related to intense experiences of beauty and terror. The two components of myth making experience are human imagination and extraordinary natural occurrences. Spectacular events are interpreted through the lens of imagination. In the earliest sacred or ritual forms of storytelling, the overriding purpose was to be "true" to the gods, to re-live the dramatic episodes in the biographies of the gods. Now, to a considerable extent the sense of rupture, separation, fear and guilt leads the way, and a great deal of projection is going on.

But there is great poignancy in the stories as well, and a hope above all hopes of renewing the sense of connectedness with the gods, a linkage that was broken with the departure of the gods and the catastrophic collapse of the world in which the myths originated.

One of the universal features of the great mythical traditions is the underlying idea that, once, the gods were present, that heaven was once close to the earth, that the gods dwelt with man, that man communicated directly with the gods, that in the "First Time" described by the myths the gods arose as great teachers, as examples or models for human behavior. It is only after an overwhelming catastrophe that we see the gods wandering off, like the Aztec Quetzalcoatl, or rising into the sky in a pillar of smoke like the Greek and Latin Hercules, or, like the Egyptian Atum-Ra or the Sumerian An, removing themselves to more distant realms.

And this is in no sense an incidental idea. It is really the driving force of the first civilizations. Suddenly, a few thousand years ago, there was an explosion of collective activity, of monument building, construction of great temples and cities, flowering of kingship, of all-encompassing religious rites and practices, of brutal sacrifice, of sweeping holy wars and nationalistic expansion. But what modern scholars as a whole have failed to realize is the connection of these attributes to the most powerful memory in the history of the world. The almost frenzied rush toward civilization was driven by the urge to honor and to relive a remembered celestial drama.

This is why the identifications of the gods as planets in the first astronomies is the key. All that is necessary is a willingness to explore possibilities denied by modern scientific theory or, I should say, denied by the suppositions or guesses of conventional science, since there is not a shred of proof when it comes to the underlying assumption that the solar system has not changed.

AEON: Are you satisfied with the progress of your own work to build a scenario?

Talbott: Many new aspects of the research have opened up in the past ten years, with some terrific surprises. More than a few backward steps have been necessary as well.

But I need to acknowledge a frustrating situation here. People want to know where the "Saturn thesis" is headed. The impression may well be that things have gotten bogged down. The published pieces don't adequately convey the big picture. And yet to talk about the big picture without substantiating the pieces may not only fail to persuade, but create a great deal of misunderstanding.

Many people have said to me: "Please, don't feel you have to prove everything. We just want to have an outline of the big picture." That's only natural due to the increasing lag-time we're experiencing. Publication has fallen many years behind the consolidation of a thesis. That is, in fact, one reason why I felt a long-term video project was necessary. But whatever the medium, it's necessary for us to provide enough of a sense of a model that, as evidence is brought forth, can be seen as evidence for something.

AEON: Why is producing an overview so difficult?

Talbott: In retrospect I can say that while producing The Saturn Myth was quite a chore, it was a breeze compared to the present situation, because now an incomparably larger story is involved. Every thread or theme quickly grows too complex and draws you into a maze of details, all vital to the context needed in order to make sense of the theme. For example, every chapter of The Saturn Myth needs to be qualified, or amended, or turned into a separate volume.

How do you summarize or present an overview when not one piece stands alone, and the very words we use carry meanings, conventionally, that are not the correct meanings when it comes to the original experience?

But still an overview is essential and overdue -- which is partly the reason behind this interview.

AEON: What about the planetary identifications that are so fundamental to your conclusions?

Talbott: We know that a great deal of confusion in planetary identifications has occurred. Many ancient cultures did not track the planets sufficiently to preserve the link of god and planet. We can only guess to what extent meteorological factors may have contributed to this, but the fact is that it was vastly easier for cultures to preserve the stories and the images of the gods than it was to preserve the planetary associations.

As a rule I don't think it's helpful to argue about the planetary identities of the gods until the archetypes have been fully clarified. It isn't a question as to whether you can determine the Hindu god Indra's planetary association in terms of the few statements in the late astronomical sources, or by trying to connect the god to a planet through peripheral links to other gods or names associated with a planet. At this level everything is debatable and many of the most crucial identities will never be resolved in any definitive sense.

Let me give an example. I have a very distinct recollection of two conversations with Ev Cochrane going back perhaps ten years or so. He asked me about two figures: the Greek Apollo and the Hindu Indra. It was his opinion, on the basis of the gods' characters and biographies (not late, or remote, or speculative planetary associations), that they were Mars figures -- a particularly interesting conclusion because neither figure is popularly associated with Mars. I found his assurance rather interesting because I had never examined either figure in any detail, and that encouraged me, over the following year, to take special note of these figures.

Well the result was stunningly clear, and removed all doubt in my mind: he was correct. These two figures reveal all of the key archetypal traits of the warrior hero.

But is the powerful archetype of the warrior-hero really derived from planetary behavior, and is the source really Mars? These questions are initially answered at two levels: 1) the general accord of the earliest astronomies identifying Mars as the warrior-hero, and 2) the fact that, in the model of the polar configuration, allowing Mars to play the role of the warrior hero works.

AEON: There have been various modifications of your own model. Are you concerned about confusion here?

Talbott: Many years ago I began to follow a simple principle. I would treat noth-ing as a given. Whenever I suspected that a particular celestial form or event might lie behind the myths, I would immediately begin looking for evidence challenging the idea.

This has proven to be the fastest path to making necessary corrections in the mythically-based model, and has led steadily to unanticipated dimensions.

Now, after almost 25 years of exploring the myths and symbols, I can only say that some things are very well established, some are tentatively supported, and others are wild guesses. As a rule I've kept the wild guesses to myself until I can see there are at least enough grounds for a tentative conclusion. Nevertheless, over many years, a few of the really wild guesses have turned out to be keys as the related pieces fell into place.

AEON: With respect to the status of the hypothesis today, what tenets would you say are most solidly established?

Talbott: I think that numerous components are solidly enough established to give the outlines of a unified theory, a theory that will account for the myth making age as a whole. The tenets include --

The roots of myth in planetary behavior. This means that we cannot understand the myths apart from planets moving close to the Earth. Myth will never be explained in terms of any present natural references. What existed once no longer exists. The great catastrophe myths, for example, relate directly to unstable planetary movements.

The idea of a Golden Age, a distinctive, harmonious epoch ending in massive catastrophe. It was the Golden Age that defined for terrestrial man the ideal condition, the object of all collective endeavor. In fact, the idea is implicit in the archetypal meaning of the word "sacred." That which was sacred embodied the principles of the First Time.

The original presence of Saturn and other planets close to the Earth. More particularly, this would include: The great sphere of Saturn as the unformed world of the creation myths. Saturn as the original sky god, unity, or "heaven" of the First Time, when heaven was close to the earth.

Saturn as the primeval sun god ruling before the present Sun. Saturn as a central, stationary , luminary. Saturn's polar station.

Saturn as Universal Monarch, king of the world, first in the line of kings, model of the good king.

The presence of the Great Conjunction of Saturn's epoch. In the beginning the planets did not just dominate the sky. They stood in line. That our sky, today, provides no basis for this ancient idea is precisely why the recurrence of the idea from one culture to another is significant.

Venus as the heart or soul, a central star animating the Universal Monarch. Venus as central eye, navel, nave of the world wheel. Venus as female power, mother goddess, daughter and spouse of the Universal Monarch. Not a single aspect of the Venus archetype will find support in the present positions and movements of the planets.

Venus as hair star, feathered, or winged, star, great flame, and fiery serpent or dragon. Venus as angry goddess attacking the world. Venus as the Doomsday Comet.

Mars as warrior-hero. Mars as son and consort of the mother goddess. Mars as child born from the heart or eye of the Universal Monarch. Mars as victor over the chaos monster. Mars as Demiurge, laboring on behalf of the Universal Monarch. Mars as murderer of his own father. Mars as interrex and usurper. Mars as messenger or shaman moving along the world axis. Mars as prototype of the trickster and fool. 

The great crescent appearing on Saturn and turning with the cycle of day and night.

Formation of the polar mountain or cosmic column, related directly to the movements of Mars along the polar axis.

Formation of a circumpolar band, intimately tied to the activity of the spiraling Venus comet.

The presence of the chaos hordes, large volumes of comet-like debris moving in shifting relationships to the participating planets, stretching between planets and giving the evolving polar configuration many of its most distinctive forms.

These would be a few of perhaps a couple of hundred fundamental tenets I believe to be well established -- and, in fact, unchallenged in terms of the historical argument. Then there is a considerable number of tentative hypotheses, which I will be happy to include in this discussion, perhaps even including a few of the wilder guesses.

AEON: What about progress toward developing a physical model?

Talbott: There have been three key contributors -- and, interestingly, they are all Bobs: Bob Grubaugh, Bob Bass, and Bob Driscoll.

Bob Grubaugh is an engineer with many years of professional experience in orbital calculations. He looked at some interesting possibilities dynamically, and has proposed ways to support the concept of polar alignment. 

Bob has suggested a collinear system of planets revolving around its own center of gravity synchronously with the system's movement around the Sun. One of the interesting possibilities being explored by Grubaugh is a planetary system revolving retrogradely as the system moves progradely around the Sun -- such that the line running through the participating planets continues to point to the same background star. In that case, no precession of the pole is necessary to maintain polar alignment. What I like about this innovative concept is that it potentially removes two objections to the "physically impossible" aspects of the configuration -- the sustained planetary conjunction and Earth's polar alignment -- in one stroke. But in its pristine, gravity-only form, the distance between planets (not to mention the implied climatic extremes) won't satisfy all of the data to be explained. So I'd like to see a consideration of certain variations in the basic scheme.

Robert Bass is a former professor of physics and astronomy and perhaps the most wide-ranging and brilliant fellow I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. Over a period of several months, he looked at aspects of Grubaugh's work and added some significant details. Particularly interesting is Bass' calculation of tidal friction on the participating bodies, showing that, though the forces are extremely small, tidal friction works to stabilize a configuration that, despite the theoretical equilibrium, might otherwise be explosively unstable. Bass also carefully examined a unique coordinate system Grubaugh developed for his simulations and was able to confirm that, in the case of a collinear arrangement, this coordinate system allows greater accuracy than the coordinates usually employed in integration routines.

Additionally, as a very pleasant surprise growing out of his work on the Grubaugh models, Bass believes he's succeeded in mathematically deriving Bode's Law, a well-known empirically-based statement of the spatial relationships between planets in the solar system. Though I could never do justice to Bass' mathematics, his work would suggest that planets might have moved in a primitive system, entered a period of chaos, and then, with surprising rapidity, settled into their current positions. His calculations show that, in a chaotic system, the planets will continually bump each other resonantly until they achieve a defined equilibrium, wherein they experience the least interaction. At those equilibrium positions, which accord with Bode's empirical "law," a computer retro-calculation would deceptively suggest that they had been in those positions for countless millions of years, even if they arrived at those positions only yesterday on the geological time scale.

I should mention that the work of physicist Bob Driscoll is also potentially very significant because it draws heavily upon electromagnetism. For a number of reasons, I'm inclined to believe that electromagnetism played a major role in the evolution of the configuration -- perhaps even a dominant role in the earliest and possibly most stable phases. Driscoll has emphasized that electromagnetism, in addition to adding a stabilizing force to the in-line arrangement, permits the planets to move in much closer proximity to each other.

With all of this said, there's still no escaping a kind of stalemate between the historical evidence on the one hand, and scientific skepticism on the other. But I think we can at least be pleased with the headway, since only a few years ago it looked to all of us as if no resolution of the stalemate was likely, or even conceivable.

AEON: Readers seem to be particularly interested in your unpublished ideas. Are you ready to begin addressing these?

Talbott: Yes, but with summaries first, asking readers to tolerate the limitations of an overview. When Carl Sagan says that extraordinary claims require extraordinary levels of proof, I think I can agree with him. And an overview, on its own, can never satisfy that expectation. It is just that, in this case, there is no effective demonstration of the real point until a hypothesis is adequately stated.

For one thing, the celestial forms associated with the evolving configuration are more diverse than I had ever dreamed when writing The Saturn Myth. In the short term, this is a disadvantage but, in the long term, the shifting forms of the configuration will provide an incredible advantage of specificity: concrete forms evolving in highly specific ways, ways that can be tested in detail against global evidence. I believe it is possible, on the basis of historical evidence alone and without any consideration of the physical/dynamic conundrums, to validate certain fundamentals of a planetary configuration having existed in the myth making age, and to demonstrate that the myth making age, in its entirety, arose in response to the evolution of that configuration.

For the benefit of these discussions, I can present a series of celestial images, many of which I've never discussed in print. I believe this will be sufficient to show that if a planetary configuration anything like that proposed was experienced by ancient man, there are hundreds -- actually thousands -- of tests one can apply to the historical evidence. While the model will suggest or predict highly specific answers under these tests, these answers are so different from the answers suggested by other perspectives on early man that they provide highly compelling evidence: and that's what I mean when I say that, at the most fundamental level, the thesis of the polar configuration is a testable hypothesis.

AEON: Perhaps you could identify the basic components of the model first, before we get into the evolutionary stages.

Talbott: The thesis can be reduced to four most fundamental tenets:

  1. Ancient Planetary System. The thesis postulates a former congregation of planets having no analogy in the present solar system and dynamically tied to the gas giants Jupiter and Saturn, with the participating bodies moving in extremely close proximity to each other. For terrestrial witnesses the planets were huge and often-terrifying bodies in the sky.

  2. Planets in Line. The model begins with an apparently stable or quasi-stable collinear system, with Saturn occluding the terrestrial view of Jupiter, Venus appearing in the center of Saturn, and Mars appearing inside of Venus.

  3. Earth's polar alignment. The thesis claims that the axis of the Earth was aligned with the collinear system so that, for the observer on Earth, the juxtaposed orbs occupied the celestial pole. The resulting celestial forms did not move across the sky, but simply rotated visually with the rotation of the Earth on its axis.

  4. Interplanetary Fields of Debris. At various junctures in the evolution of the configuration, streams of gas, ice, dust, rock or other material, alternately stretched between planets or spiraled around planets, contributing significantly to the unique forms of the evolving configuration. In periods of apparent dynamic instability, this comet-like material constituted a sky-darkening, at times Earth-threatening, cloud.

Now one of the purposes of this summary will be to show that these tenets are anything but randomly derived. On these fundamentals there is an unexplained accord, a stunning integrity of ancient testimony. And that is, to put it bluntly, an impossible situation -- unless the dominating experiences of early man involved natural experiences that have not only eluded modern science, but eluded historians, archaeologists, anthropologists and comparative mythologists as well.

Also, I think it would be helpful, as we proceed with the summary, to simply note the types of physical markers one might look for, based on the implications of our reconstruction. It is not sufficient for a unified theory to predict the content of the mytho-historical record or to embrace all of the recurring themes of myth. This particular theory is predicated on a natural environment physical scientists have never dreamed of, and that means it must ultimately encompass vast realms of physical data that do not fit conventional models.

One of the most fundamental differences separating our approach from mainstream theory is that we are claiming that planets interacted dynamically at very close distances. So when we see the clear-cut evidence of a catastrophic, planet-wide volcanism on Venus -- in fact, the sudden re-surfacing of the entire planet -- we would urge that large-scale planetary interactions be considered. Similarly in the case of the missing atmosphere and oceans of Mars. We would claim that the stripping away of these constituents involved extremely close interactions between Mars and both Venus and Earth.

But the problem we face here is that conventional theorists have never entertained such questions as even remote possibilities.

In visualizing an earlier planetary arrangement, one that will hopefully account for the full range of data (both historical and physical), I've made the tentative assumption that the former planetary system occupied the present region of Earth's or Venus' orbit, perhaps closer to Venus' orbit, so that Venus experienced the least orbital shift following the collapse of the system. That would, perhaps, account for Venus presently possessing the most circular of orbits.

The participating planets moved in alignment, with synchronous periods, and they remained in this in-line relationship at least long enough to allow for a series of recorded events, though at certain junctures a departure from perfect alignment becomes extremely significant. Moving "upward" from Earth you have this sequence: first the planet Mars, then Venus, then Saturn, then Jupiter. So the appearance of planetary spheres in conjunction is simply the result of a collinear arrangement, with the dissimilar sizes of the planets providing an extraordinarily precise fit with historical information.

Actually, two basic tendencies of the in-line planets are indicated. In addition to the periodic lateral displacement, which had a pronounced effect on what was seen from Earth, the distances between the planets changed, particularly in the case Mars' relationship to Venus and the Earth. Mars seems to have moved progressively on a more elliptical orbit, coming closer to the orbit of the Earth with each cycle. That behavior, in combination with the collinear dynamics and the polar alignment of the Earth, meant that the dominant visual motion of Mars occurred along the polar axis (the periodic displacement from the axis occurring as a secondary effect). This is what I mean by the unique sizes of the planets cooperating in the model. Of the planetary members of the configuration, only Mars is small enough for an observer on Earth's 45th parallel to be able to see "over" the planet so that its approach would appear visually as a descent from the polar center (see color plate on p. 36, Fig. 4). It is also the significantly smaller mass of Mars, according to Grubaugh, that explains its progressive displacement by resonance into a more elliptical orbit.

To these apparent motions one must add the presence of material stretching between Venus and Saturn, between Venus and Mars and between Mars and the Earth, something we will want to discuss at length. One of the lines of evidence for the periodic non-alignment of Mars and Venus, for example, will be those images suggesting gas and material being pulled from Mars and spiraling around Venus.

Similarly, as Mars moved closer to the Earth, a stream of atmosphere, dust, and ice was pulled toward the Earth and, in a catastrophic episode, apparently reached the earth.

AEON: Your starting point, with respect to recorded myths, is the Great Conjunction. At point zero, mythically, the planets stand in line.

Talbott: Yes, it's stunning how consistently the Great Conjunction of Saturn's Golden Age appears as the first chapter in the age of the gods, and once you enter the subject at this level, where you have much more than pictographic themes to work with, the evidence is massive. This is mythically the First Time, when the myths say that heaven was close to the Earth. "Heaven" means nothing else than the Universal Monarch -- Saturn -- in his undifferentiated state (i.e., before the activity of the mother goddess and hero as independent powers).

The Sumerian An, Egyptian Atum, Greek Ouranos, Hindu Varuna, Chinese Huang-ti -- these figures represent the primordial Unity when the planet-god appeared as a simple sphere, with a single "eye" or "heart-soul" constituted by the juxtaposed orbs of Mars and Venus, visually appearing in the center of Saturn. Their story is the story of the timeless epoch, an age with apparently no time-keeping references, but passing into a more cosmically conscious epoch, in which time-keeping became a central concern.

One of the things we will want to show is that in the first expressions of the time-keeping impulse, the focus was on a daily cycle in the sky -- a cycle that has nothing in common with our own day and night. This is something we can touch on when we arrive at the revolving crescent. Under the "tutelage" of Saturn, man was drawn upward from the pre-civilized epoch into a new evolutionary stage of consciousness, one in which sacred calendars and cosmic cycles played critical roles in the ancient cultures. Saturn's designation as Father Time was no accident. Measured time began with key events in Saturn's epoch, and the archetypal motif will find no meaning whatsoever in the behavior of the planet today.

AEON: With respect to the "starting point" in the myths, you have the planets standing in line, with Venus in the center of Saturn and Mars inside Venus. And I think you included this condition as one of the "verifiable" tenets of the thesis.

Talbott: Yes, one verifies this arrangement by showing that it is the only arrangement consistent with the full body of evidence. It really doesn't make any difference where the evidence comes from if it is evidence. But this is probably the hardest thing for conventional theorists to come to grips with. Pictographic evidence, written testimony, and the global ritual practices commemorating a lost epoch are not subordinate to the physical sciences when it comes to reconstructing the past. Why should we spend time worrying that hundreds of diverse and global ancient themes would speak with one accord for something that never happened? That is not only highly implausible, but impossible. More impossible than objects falling up rather than down. The only question is: do the recurring themes speak with unanimity? If it can be shown beyond any reasonable doubt that they do, then it's time for conventional theorists to begin questioning their age-old assumptions about the past. And if conventional theorists will only do that, they might also help us discover how planets could have interacted dynamically to produce the vivid celestial drama remembered around the world.

To verify an ancient experience through a historical argument does not exclude scientific inquiry in the least. Under our approach, questions of dynamics are simply held in suspension as the historical argument unfolds, since it is the historical argument, not physical theory, that raises the question in the first place, and only the historical argument can verify the ancient experiences to be explained. But the farther the historical argument takes us, the greater the need for scientific clarification -- and, yes, even corrections where necessary.

Let's go back to our starting point, mythologically, and explore the foundations a little further. In the color plate (page 36), Figs. 1 to 3, we offer three variations of the in-line planetary configuration as seen from the Earth.

The first image is the most elementary and happens to correspond to one of the most common pictographic images in the ancient world. The second is only a slight variation of the first, suggesting an ovoid shape of a massive gas or debris cloud moving around Venus. The third, also represented globally, is presented in so many variations that we will have to approach these variations with a good deal of discrimination. But these three illustrations reflect numerous ancient drawings of the way "heaven" looked in the prehistoric period, when the myths and first astronomies present Saturn, ruling alone, as Universal Monarch, distinguished by the solitary eye, heart, or soul. Conventionally, images of this sort are called "sun signs," which should be the first clue that there is something terribly wrong in the accepted approach to ancient symbolism.

As for the first two images, I should also add one further qualifier. There is reason to believe that, in the dynamic interaction of Venus and Mars, Venus' ovoid shape was due to gases or material being pulled from Mars and moving as a cloud about Venus. But since this egg-shape seems to give way rather quickly to other events, we can devote most of our attention to the more commonly depicted spherical shape.

With respect to the third image, considerable evidence suggests that, at certain points, material stretched from Venus toward Saturn, and various symbols of what I am calling the "Radiant Venus" appear to relate directly to that condition. I think we will want to take the time to consider a wide range of variations on the underlying idea.

Then there is the issue of planetary colors. The illustrations show Mars as red because that is the color it acquires. I've not found much to suggest that Mars possessed this attribute in the earliest phase. It's in connection with specific events that a deep rusty red comes to dominate. I've presumed, tentatively, that this reddening was related directly to the removal of atmosphere and oceans from Mars early on -- an occurrence for which the evidence seems decisive. The original color was something like a light blue or blue-gray, I would suggest, though illumination by the Sun seems to have generated associations with a golden hue as well, gold being a universal glyph for "brilliance."

With the evolution of the configuration, then, the colors associated with the participating planets are:

    Saturn: yellow, gold, ochre.

    Venus: white, silver, gray, turning to bright turquoise.

    Mars: blue-gray, growing to deep rusty red.

    Jupiter (unseen until displacement of Saturn): brightly ornamented with bands, undulating streams and colorful spots.

AEON: Let's give an overview of the myths relating to these early phases of the configuration. You have one phase in which Venus and Mars are simply viewed in conjunction, and another phase in which they still stand in conjunction, but material is streaming out from Venus. At least that's the way it apparently looked from Earth.

Talbott: Perhaps we should start with a well-known Babylonian image -- the famous "wheel" of Shamash.

Though the wheel here is set in a mythical  context, with human-like figures and various symbols of cosmic kingship, the form stands alone in original concept. Throughout Mesopotamia, artists recorded pictures of a "wheel" of this sort, appearing in the sky as the special form of the sun god Shamash -- who just happens to be identified astronomically as the planet Saturn. But when scholars offer their perfunctory comments on the "sun" wheel, they do not even pause to consider the fascinating details, or any relationship of these details to other images.

How strange to think that the ancient sky-worshippers would see such an extraordinary and improbable image in our Sun! And how unfortunate that the inertia of prior belief has prevented any discerning analysis of the image by modern scholars, or any recognition of the ways in which the image, taken in its literal details, will illuminate the recurring attributes of the great gods and goddesses -- not just in Assyria and Babylonia, but in every corner of the world.


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