Previous articles in this series
In last month’s article I discussed some of the many close encounters between Earth and celestial objects that had occurred in recent decades. This came on the heels of a series of events that, for a brief few days at least, riveted the world’s attention on the bigger picture of the cosmic environment. In the wake of the events of February, the well known Professor of Theoretical Physics, Michio Kaku, wrote in Newsweek,
“It’s sobering to realize that we live in the middle of a cosmic shooting gallery. There are about a million asteroids that orbit near the path of Earth. Of these, NASA estimated in 2007 that perhaps 20,000 can one day pose a direct threat to Earth . . . Today our instruments are revealing how frequent near misses really are, and the results are deeply disturbing.”
While the furor seems to have died down as of this writing, (late March) the close encounters continue to accumulate. Between March 4 and March 10 four new asteroids buzzed Earth. The largest of the four, at 120 to 130 feet in diameter, was almost the size of the Tunguska object of 1908. None of four these objects had been detected more than several days to a couple of weeks prior to their close fly by. Engineer Paul Cox of the Slooh Space Camera in the Canary Islands remarked,
“This should be a wake-up call to governments. We know the solar system is a busy place. We’re not sitting here on our pale blue dot, on our own in nice safety.”
Then clustered around April Fools Day, dramatically reinforcing the concern of Michio Kaku, Paul Cox and a growing number of scientists, four more asteroids zoomed through near Earth space. This was widely reported in Russian media but seems to have slipped through the cracks in the U.S. The largest of the four was 4034 Vishnu, about 800 meters across, discovered in 1986. This asteroid had a volume about 5000 times greater than the Tunguska object. An object this size impacting Earth would most definitely have serious consequences, causing widespread environmental havoc, millions of casualties and most likely triggering a global economic collapse that could take years or decades to recover from.
An object this size impacting Earth would most definitely have serious consequences, causing widespread environmental havoc, millions of casualties and most likely triggering a global economic collapse that could take years or decades to recover from.
What we see happening is the beginning of a major paradigm shift regarding our planetary status in the Universe. A number of parallel strands of research are now converging. As made clear in these last several months, and as discussed in my two previous articles, astronomers now realize that near Earth space is densely populated with a variety of cosmic entities. Geologists have in turn realized that Earth bears the scars of hundreds of encounters with these entities and that the known craters, or astroblemes, are but a small fraction of the estimated number of impacts that have occurred.
Meanwhile paleontologists have recognized that major and dramatic interruptions have occurred repeatedly in the ongoing evolution of life on Earth, thought to be largely the result of these repeated encounters. And now, many archeologists and pre-historians have become aware of the fact that the historical record, like the biological record, displays numerous interruptions, and evidence is mounting that these interruptions are also the consequence of incursions by cosmic objects into the terrestrial environment.
What we see happening is the beginning of a major paradigm shift regarding our planetary status in the Universe. A number of parallel strands of research are now converging.
And finally, mythologists and historians of religion are beginning to recognize that the legacy of archaic wisdom traditions are replete with accounts and stories of those encounters and the profound role they played in shaping the history, psychology and religious beliefs of earlier cultures.
Over the years as I have lectured on the importance of cosmic encounters in the history of life on Earth and on the evolution of civilization, I have been asked on several occasions, why, if these celestial events played such an important role in history are there not more explicit accounts from the writings of ancient cultures.
The answer to that question is that they exist in abundance, but can only be understood within the framework of symbolism in which they were recorded. To ancient peoples meteors, fireballs, comets and so one were represented by a variety of images, the most prominent of which were dragons and serpents.
Such examples could be multiplied many times over.
Of course we also have Zeus, or Jupiter as he was called by the Romans, well-known for hurling his mighty thunderbolts. Astronomers now understand the important role that the giant planet Jupiter plays in hurling asteroids and comets from the outer Solar System into near Earth space. Interestingly, the Buddha too, is often depicted holding the thunderbolt, or dorje, symbol of cosmic power.
In addition to dragons, serpents and thunderbolts, other images and symbols invoked by the ancient peoples to represent celestial objects were burning torches and lamps, swords, swastikas, beams, and stones. Comets were often indicated by long hair or beards, brooms, the omega symbol, chariots and scythes or sickles.
Literacy in this language of cosmic symbolism opens up a whole new domain of understanding about our human past on this planet, and elucidates one very important reason that ancient cultures all over the Earth were so obsessively interested in what happened in the heavens. The legacy of ritual, symbolic architecture, and the sacred and prophetic writings of our ancient predecessors conveys a powerful and compelling significance concerning our place in the Cosmos. It would behoove us mightily to pay attention to their message even as the denizens of the Deep continue to encroach upon our celestial neighborhood.
More to come.