picture of the day
The Ladder of Angels, a representation
of Jacob's dream. Credit: The Yorck Project
May 29, 2008
The Ladder to Heaven
To Jews and Christians Jacob's ladder is just as
familiar as Buddha's sky ladder is to Buddhists. Could they
be images of electrical phenomena?
symbol of a ladder extending from Earth to heaven appeared
in a dream to Jacob, son of Isaac, at Beth-El. The icon of a
cosmic stairway on which angels move up and down between the
earth below and Yahweh at the top is recorded in the Hebrew
bible. The same imagery is found in Buddhist literature and
is presented as the Great Sage at his final coming,
descending once more to the earth.
Within the major
world religions, the image of the sky ladder is little more
than a vestige of a motif that played a far more prominent
role in ancient cosmologies worldwide. In ancient writings
and arts, the major gods and goddesses of early pantheons
are frequently seen to employ such cosmic ladders in the
course of their mythical careers.
Nergal, the sun god and the war god of ancient Babylonia,
traveled from the underworld to the sky on a cosmic
stairway; Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent of Aztec
tradition, reputedly came down from the highest heaven by
means of a ladder; and visionaries and shamans resort to a
similar sky ladder on their cosmic peregrinations.
Repeatedly, traditional cosmological systems testify to a
conspicuous ladder or stairway that used to connect heaven
and earth in the distant past age of the gods.
catastrophic disruption of this umbilical life-line does not
allow "modern" people to see it for themselves anymore,
mystics and medicine men continue to claim the ability to
visualize and transcend this column.
The ladder to
heaven, traversed by deities and legendary heroes; or the
disembodied souls of the dead and the enlightened souls of
the living, has always served as a prime example of what
mythologists call the axis mundi. But at no time has
this ingrained trait of world mythology made so much sense
to a group of scientists as in the past decade. The
realization that virtually all cross-cultural properties of
the cosmic axis are explicable as descriptions of an
unprecedented auroral storm that must have hit the Earth
during the transition from the Paleolithic to the Neolithic
era, has been revealed through an analysis of "geometric"
At that time,
the stream of charged particles impinging on the earth's
magnetosphere precipitated the formation of a giant
collimated plasma tube, called a z-pinch by plasma
physicists, which glowed with such intensity that
contemporary human eye-witnesses long after continued to
describe it as a radiant, lightning-like gateway to heaven.
Rens Van der Sluijs
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