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Porphyry's Cave of Nymphs...

 
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Kevin



Joined: 19 Aug 2004
Posts: 251

Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2004 2:57 am    Post subject: Porphyry's Cave of Nymphs... Reply with quote

All,

Is anyone is familiar with Porphyry's Cave of Nymphs and Macrobius' commentary on the Dream of Scipio thought to be related to it? I am interested a modern interpretation of the Ancient Greek conception of the "Gates of the Sun", (the path the soul departs by and comes through), and how it may be related to the signs of Gemini/Cancer and Sagittarius/Capricorn, and more probably, to the Galactic Equatorial Nodes which now reside almost exactly at those degrees zero.


Sincerely, Kevin
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Sue



Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 945
Location: Australia

Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2004 10:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Kevin,

I presume when you include Sag/Gemini you are talking about the sidereal zodiac. I have read some stuff around the Gates of the Sun and the Galactic Equatorial Nodes in regard to Mayan prophecy. They relate it to the sidereal zodiac. I haven't really gone into it from that angle.

I am reasonably familiar with Cave of Nymphs particularly as it has related to Mithraism. There is quite a bit of academic debate about Porphyry's references to Mithraism. A lot of people now feel that his knowledge about these matters was quite poor but others use it as an argument for linking Mithraism with astrology.

But in terms of modern interpretations of the symbolism behind the Gates of Cancer/Saturn, I am not familiar with any. I see a lot of references to the belief that souls descended through the gates of Cancer and ascended through the gates of Capricorn. It is mentioned often but without real explanation and it seems that there is a lack of understanding of the true symbolism behind Porphyry's writings. I think Cave of Nymphs fits in very well with traditional astrology, but I haven't really thought about developing a modern interpretation of it. Porphyry's description fits in so well with many of the more important elements of astrology that are no longer in force in modern astrology in quite the same way.

Regardless of the procession of the equinoxes, Cancer and Capricorn are still at the solstice points in the tropical zodiac. And the symbolism behind the gates of Cancer/Capricorn still fits. To be honest, I have not thought about the symbolism behind Gemini/Sagittarius but I can't see that it would fit in quite the same way. The reasons behind Saturn and the Moon are too important to change it to Mercury and Jupiter. I realise you are not arguing for one or the other but rather looking to understand the symbolism of the Gates in modern terms. It's an interesting thought and I would like to pursue it but unfortunately I am not in a position to do so at the moment. I don't really know much about the Galactic Equinoctical Nodes and how they would fit in to this discussion. I read Macrobius' commentary some time ago but must admit that I don't remember much about it.

Cheers
Sue
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Kevin



Joined: 19 Aug 2004
Posts: 251

Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2004 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you Sue for excellent thoughts,

If I could expand my question, perhaps there is something more you can add. Apparently there is some discussion about the assignment of sidereal Cancer as the gateway of Souls by Porphyry, and Macrobius after him. It is thought that each was attempting to connect their thoughts to two passages in Homer's Odyssey, where the cave of Ithica is actually first referenced, passages Neo-Platonists saw as divine allegories.

"There is in the land of Ithica a certain harbor of Phorcys, the old man of the sea, and at its mouth two projecting headlands, sheer to seaward, but sloping down on the side toward the harbor. These keep back great waves raised by heavy winds outside, but inside the benched ships lie unmoored when they have reached the point of anchorage. At the head of the harbor is a long-leafed olive tree, and near it is a pleasant, shadowy cave sacred to the nymphs that are called Naiads. In it are mixing bowls and jars of stone, and there too the bees store honey. And in the cave are long looms of stone, at which the nymphs weave purple webs, a wonder to behold; and in it are also ever-flowing springs. Two doors there are to the cave, one toward the North Wind, by which Men go down, but that toward the South Wind is sacred, and men do not enter it; it is the way of the immortals." Book 13 (96-112)

and in Book 24,

"But Cyllenian Hermes was calling forth the ghosts of the suitors. He held in his hands his wand, a beautiful wand of gold, with which he lulls to sleep the eyes of whom he will, while others again he wakens out of slumber as well; with this wand he roused and lead the ghosts, and they followed gibbering...and Hermes, the Helper, led them down the dank ways. Past the streams of Oceanus they went, past the rock Leucas, past the gates of the sun and the land of dreams, and quickly came to the meadow of asphodel, where ghost dwell, phantoms of men who have done toils." Book 24 (1-14)

Homer's assignment of the path of the Immortals to the South Wind properly places it at the sign of Capricorn, and the path of Men to the North Wind, at the Sign of Cancer, yet there seem to be reference to the gates of the Sun and the Milky Way which Macrobius draws forth. In the 12th chapter of his commentary,

"The soul, therefore, falling with this first weight, from the zodiac, and milky-way into each of the subject spheres is not only clothed with the accession of a luminous body, but produces the particular motions which it is to exercise in the respective orbs."

The intersection of the Milky Way (The Galactic Equator) and the Sun's path (Ecliptic) is thought to be these two "gates of the Sun", and some have proposed that Porphyry and Macrobius are stretching their position in Sidereal Gemini and Sagittarius to match up with Homer's description, as Homer at this point is venerated as infallible. Such stretching of observation was apparently not unknown. There is also some thought that astrology at this time may have described each gate as Cancer or Capricorn because these were the signs that were rising as each Gate of the Sun had come visible above the horizon, having just risen, even though properly it was not in that sign.

What is of interest to me is two things. If the Gates of the Sun are these points of intersection of the Ecliptic and the Milky Way, would not these points be of deep interest even for a Tropical astrologer, for they are really of the same substance as the Nodes of the Moon, hypothetical points of intersection of planes of orbit? They compose a kind of "nodes of the Sun", the crossing of the Sun's orbital plane and the Earth's orbital plane and may even have landmarked the metaphysical landscape of the "ancient" sky from Homer on. One can say that the Ecliptic and the Milky Way are by far the two most prominent and visible features of the night sky, besides the physical appearance of the Sun and the Moon. As landmarks as well, they may have, through the Neo-Platonic tradition, defined or rooted our sense of what the signs of Cancer and Capricorn are, even if we have not retained these specific meanings. Yet as they reside in sidereal Sagittarius and Gemini, they most probably were very strong influences also how we define those signs. Hermes as the psychopomp and his association with Gemini may very well be linked to the gate of the Sun in that Sign. With Sagittarius marking the Galactic Center (his arrow tip Al Nasl literally points to it), and the "cave" rift in the stars of the Milky Way that opens between Scorpio and Sagittarius, and holding the Immortal "gate of the Sun", speaks directly to the kind of wisdom that Sagittarius has come to represent.

Notably, precession has brought these two "gates" to the Tropical signs of Cancer and Capricorn degree zero. I have seen two Tropical measurements (29sag15 and 0cap03 and points polar) and do not know which is correct, but the point is that the nodes of the Sun's orbit and the surrounding sidereal stars that may have structured our metaphysics of Cancer and Capricorn have reached those Tropical Signs. As you mentioned some take this as a fulfillment of the Mayan Calendar, which is not so much of interest to me. Rather I am exploring the essence of the zodiac and how its metaphysical construction can help us read the more complete meanings of the signs. (Parenthetically, these gates of the Sun also seem to approximately mark the 6th and 20th Mansions of the Moon when taken from an sidereal Aries point 0).

Sue, if you have further information or comment on these points I would be very glad to hear. Forgive me as I am new to your site and do not know your position on fixed stars and other sidereal points, if you use them at all, or how you integrate of the ancient source meanings of the Tropical signs. Do you simply graft ancient sidereal observations onto the Tropical or do you discount them some?


Sincerely in thanks, Kevin
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Sue



Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 945
Location: Australia

Posted: Mon Aug 30, 2004 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I take your point about the importance of the Galactic Equatorial Nodes. I havenít come across any references to them in astrological works. That isnít to say there isnít any. I just havenít seen any. I am not familiar enough with them to comment but I am a bit confused as to their relationship with the whole issue about the Gates.

Macrobius talks about the Gates of Cancer and Capricorn but clearly states that the ĎGateí is where the zodiac and the Milky Way intersect. And, as you point out, that is at Gemini/Sag and has been for thousands of years. The authors of ĎHamletís Millísay that when Macrobius says Gate of Cancer he means Gemini. But I donít see how that fits in with everything else he says and what Porphyry has to say. The whole symbolism of the Gates is clearly tied into Cancer/Capricorn and not Gemini/Sagittarius. Porphyry connects them to the solstice points Ė the winter solstice where no part of heaven is nearer to the south and the summer solstice where no part of heaven is nearer to the north. He talks about how the Sun proceeds as far as these signs when it descends from the north to the south and then to the north again. Cancer, having reached its full height, has nowhere else to go but to descend. Capricorn, having reached its lowest point, has nowhere else to go but to ascend. Porphyry says that Capricorn and Cancer are situated about the milky circle, Cancer occupying the northern extremity of the circle, and Capricorn the southern. So I am wondering whether it was ever meant that these signs were actually in the Milky Way and at the point where the zodiac and Milky Way intersect. You make the point about perhaps stretching the truth a bit to make it fit into what Homer had to say. That is quite possible. It certainly happens a lot, even today.

Gates usually denote boundaries. Gemini and Sagittarius are right in the Milky Way. If the Milky Way symbolizes where souls go in between times then it seems that Gemini and Sagittarius canít be the Gates. Plato is quoted as saying the gates afford a passage to those either ascending into the heavens or descending from the heavens. Sounds a bit like some sort of docking station, which is sort of what Porphyry says when he talks about souls who are to attract bodies must verge to humidity and be incorporated with humid natures becoming moist, thus need to enter through Cancer, a moist sign. Well, thatís my interpretation of it. Iím not sure if the symbolism is directly tied into the Galactic Equatorial Nodes but rather the solstice points. The only reference I have found that specifically places the Gates at these points is from Macrobius and he still sees the Gates as being Cancer/Capricorn. Iíd be interested to know if there are other references that point to the Gates being at these nodes. There is so much mention of the gates being at Cancer/Capricorn that it seems a bit simplistic to say that Macrobius meant Gemini when he talked about the Gate of Cancer. There is quite a bit of information about various attitudes to the Milky Way, many of which centre around the Milky Way being some sort of path for dead souls. 'Hamlet's Mill' is a good example. I will have to go and read it more closely to perhaps get some clues.

Of course, these are just my opinions so feel free to disagree with everything I have just said. I am always keen to be confronted with different points of view. If we were to accept that it should be Gemini/Sagittarius that we should be looking to in explaining the 'Gates' how would you go about it?

Cheers
Sue
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Kevin



Joined: 19 Aug 2004
Posts: 251

Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2004 1:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sue,

Thanks for your great response. If you could clarify something for me though. Your thought about boundaries I do not follow:

Quote:
Gates usually denote boundaries. Gemini and Sagittarius are right in the Milky Way. If the Milky Way symbolizes where souls go in between times then it seems that Gemini and Sagittarius canít be the Gates.


I am unsure of how Gemini and Sagittarius being in the Milky Way keeps them from being "gates" or "portals". The Milky Way is the "Road of Milk" and gates must be on that road by reason don't you think? I believe that the visual image is that souls depart through Capricorn, travel along the Milky Way and enter through Cancer.

Also let me suggest again one attempt to clear up the Solstice/Sagittarius blurring besides the "stretching to Homer" theory, and I alluded to it before, as John Jenkins writes

Quote:
Also, an accurate ancient conception, at odds with modern assumptions, is revealed when we understand that Greek skywatchers viewed the constellation rising heliacally on the solstices. Thus, when the solstice was in sidereal Capricorn, the constellation rising heliacally was Sagittarius, which is where the Milky Way/ecliptic crossroadsóthe gateway of ascentóis located.


As you rightly state, the symbolism of the Gates points directly to the Solstices, but I feel that given that the Helical rising of the Gates in the signs of Sagittarius and Gemini, their presence there did much to determine our understanding of these signs. In this explanation we have both the Solstice and sidereal versions conjoined. These signs would seem the Mutable preparations for those Cardinal extremes. In terms of the history of astrological literature, they were not privileged by the spectacular events of eclipse that drew attention to the calculation of the Moon's nodes, and in fact did not have to be calculated but could be plainly seen. The Way of Milk though has a long heritage of being the path or abode of Souls. The Orphics refer to it as such and had ritual use of Milk in the quest for immortality. Perhaps only in the Neo-Platonic heritage and in the meanings of Cancer and Capricorn are the metaphysical meanings of the Galactic Equatorial Nodes preserved - but I find it hard to believe that such apparent features of the sky lodged within the signs of Sagittarius and Gemini would have no bearing on the meaning of those signs either in the sidereal or tropical zodiacs. Like the Moon's nodes, these too must be active points of importance, despite the ambiguity of their Neo-platonic location.



Sincerely, Kevin
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Kevin



Joined: 19 Aug 2004
Posts: 251

Posted: Thu Sep 02, 2004 9:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sue and others that may be interested,


Just a follow up on the obscure question of whether the ancient "gates of the Sun" are in Tropical Cancer/Capricorn or Sidereal Sagittarius/Gemini. In search of further support of the "helical rising" theory as above, I checked out the night sky at the Ancient Solstices using astronomy software just to see what they saw. I also imagined that the Greeks and Hellenized Rome did not have the conception of the Galactic Equator as defined line, so the pure and locatable Galactic Nodes may not have existed as points even.

At Winter Solstice the Milky Way lies flat upon the horizon in a band of stars, rising with the Sun. The notable rift in stars which some have called a womb or a cave spreads out horizontally from the Galactic Node point which defines its Eastern tip, reaching out beneath Scorpio.

At Summer Solstice, the Milky Way now is perfectly vertical, and a rift in the stars (smaller than the one at the other node) drops down out of the Southern stars of Gemini. Here too, the Galactic node lies at the tip of the opening. Theoretically, these two rifts could be the two "gates of the Sun". The "falling of the Soul" specifically spoken of by Macrobius and other before him could be attributed to the vertical position of the Milky Way which stretches down in a band of white.

To add to the helical rising thought is the passage that immediately precedes the initial description of the Cave of Nymphs in Book XIII.

"Now when that brightest of stars rose which beyond others comes to herald the light of early Dawn, then it was that the seafaring ship drew near the island."

The occasion of laying the sleeping Odysseus at the door of the sacred cave occurs at the helical rise of Venus. This coupled with the Solstice would happen every eight years. Visually it might very well look like a brilliant soul passing into the cave of the stars, just as light is breaking. Could this be being "clothed in a luminous body" that Macrobius describes, or a metaphor for Immortality? None of this is meant to be conclusive, but only a few more thoughts to consider as to the meaning and location of these points.


Thanks for your wonderful thoughts, Kevin
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Sue



Joined: 11 Oct 2003
Posts: 945
Location: Australia

Posted: Fri Sep 03, 2004 12:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Kevin,

Sorry for the delay in responding. I have been flat out.

I think you raise some very interesting points. There must be some significance to the Gemini/Sagittarius combination. I am not very comfortable arguing a particular point when I don't really understand the other perspective. I haven't thought about the points you have raised before so I can't agree or disagree with you with any conviction. I would like to look into it further. I am heading off to England tomorrow and will be away a couple of months so I will have to get back to you on it. I will certainly think about it some more.

Cheers
Sue
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Kevin



Joined: 19 Aug 2004
Posts: 251

Posted: Sun Apr 17, 2005 8:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A small note of interest, the self-proclaimed Jewish Messiah, kabbalist Sabbatai Zevi, amid widespread millennial thinking on behalf of Christians and Jews alike, predicted The Redemption to occur on June 18, 1666. On this date Pluto, close to the ecliptic, was conjunct the Sun in tropical Gemini, conjunct the north Galactic node, the possible "gate of the Sun".




Kevin
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