Paradise Found, by William F. Warren, , at sacred-texts.com
THE EDEN STARS.
THE EDEN DAY.
THE EDEN ZENITH.
THE NAVEL OF THE EARTH.
THE QUADRIFURCATE RIVER.
THE CENTRAL TREE.
THE EXUBERANCE OF LIFE.
REVIEW OF THE ARGUMENT.
When the Sun the East forgets,
E vidi stelle
We have already reminded the reader that in an Eden situated at the North Pole the stars, instead of seeming to rise and set as with us, would have had a horizontal motion from left to right round and round the observer. This appearance of the heavenly bodies could of course be found nowhere but at the Pole. If, therefore, we could anywhere in the world of ancient tradition find any statement of a belief that at the beginning of the world the movements of the heavenly bodies were different from their present movements, and particularly if we should be able to find trace of a belief that the primeval motion of the stars was in orbits apparently horizontal, this would certainly be a most striking and cogent and unexpected evidence that human observation of the starry heavens began at the Pole.
Now it so happens that we have traces of just such a belief. In the tantalizing fragments of ancient lore, preserved to us in the pages of Diogenes Laërtius, we find ascribed to the illustrious Greek astronomer Anaxagoras this remarkable teaching:
"In the beginning the stars revolved in a tholiform manner.
Now to revolve in a tholiform manner is to revolve in a horizontal plane, like the θόλος, or "dome," of an astronomical observatory. Anaxagoras himself defined the motion more fully when he said that it was a motion, not ὐπὸ, underneath, but περὶ, around the earth. 1
Anaximenes would seem to have had the same idea, for he is reported to have likened the primitive revolution of the sky to the rotating of a man's hat upon his head. Another explanatory expression (whether originating with Anaxagoras or with his reporter we do not know) is this: "At first the Pole star, which is continually visible, always appeared in the zenith, but afterward it acquired a certain declination." 2
Here, then, we have as a doctrine of the ancient astronomers the singular notion that, in the beginning of the world, the celestial Pole was in the zenith,
and that the revolutions of the stars were round a perpendicular axis. 1 What could have led an astronomer to invent such a doctrine it is impossible to say. On the other hand, if it was one of the interesting and seemingly paradoxical traditions of the early postdiluvian world, it is perfectly easy to see how imperishable a story it would be, particularly among the star-loving Chaldæans and Babylonians, from whom the earliest Greek astronomers and scientists received no small share of their doctrines. 2 And that the Chaldæans and probably the Egyptians had precisely this idea is not a notion here advanced for the first time. 3
Another interesting question now suggests itself. When and under what circumstances was this alleged "declination" of the Pole imagined to have taken place? Was it gradual, or sudden? Did the ancients suppose it to have resulted from a movement in the regular order of nature, or from one in
violation thereof? Was it to them a normal and ever on-going change, or was it the record of a natural catastrophe?
Our hypothesis would lead us to expect the latter of these suppositions. 1 The only rational and credible explanation of the declination is to be found in a transfer of the theatre of human history from the circumpolar home to some land of lower latitude. Now if, during the prevalence of the Deluge, or later, in consequence of the on-coming of the Ice age, the survivors of the Flood were translocated from their antediluvian home at the Pole to the north slope of the "plateau of Pamir," the probable starting-point of historic postdiluvian humanity, the new aspect presented by the heavens in this new latitude would have been precisely as if in the grand world-convulsion the sky itself had become displaced, its polar dome tilted over about one third of the distance from the zenith to the horizon. The astronomical knowledge of those survivors very likely enabled them to understand the true reason of the changed appearance, but their rude descendants, unfavored with the treasures of antediluvian science, and born only to a savage or nomadic life in their new and inhospitable home, might easily have forgotten the explanation. In time such children's children might easily have come to embody the strange story handed down from their fathers in strange myths, in which nothing of the original facts remained beyond an obscure account of some mysterious displacement of the sky, supposed to have
occurred in a far-off age in connection with some appalling natural cataclysm or world-disaster. 1
Now it is difficult to believe it a mere accident that in various ancient authors we find allusion both to an extremely ancient displacement of the sky and to its supposed original state. None of these allusions have ever been explained by writers on the subject. One of them occurs in Plato's Timæus, where, in language ascribed to an Egyptian priest of Solon's time, "a declination of the bodies revolving round the earth" is spoken of, and this declination is offered as the true explanation of the partial destruction of the world commemorated in the myth of Phaëthon. As this destruction was by fire there would at first sight seem to be no connection between it and the destruction at the time of the Deluge; nor is there in the context anything to suggest such a connection. Fortunately, however, we have in Hyginus a fuller version of the myth, from which it appears that the Greeks supposed Deukalion's universal flood to have been providentially sent to extinguish the fearful conflagration which Phaëthon's unskillful driving of the steeds of the sun had
occasioned. This makes the connection clear and direct. The Flood and the "declination of the heavenly bodies revolving round the earth" are at once brought into a true historic relation. 1
In like manner, in the Bundahish, in the first five chapters, and in Zâd Sparam's paraphrase of the same, it is stated that during the first three thousand years, before the incoming of the Evil One, "the sun, moon, and stars stood still," but as soon as the Destroyer of the good creation came he assaulted and deranged the sky, as well as the earth and sea. 2 And remarkably enough, it is stated that as a result of this assault the Evil One mastered as much as "one third of the sky" and overspread it with darkness. 3 Moreover, in the thirtieth chapter, in giving a prophetic account of the final restoration of the material world to its primeval state, there seems to be an allusion in verse thirty-two to a necessary resetting or readjustment of the celestial vault by the hand of its Creator. 4
To all such facts, wherever found, we have in the hypothesis of an Arctic Eden and a transfer of the human horizon at the time of the Deluge to lower latitudes a perfect key.
192:1 See "Des Écrits et de la Doctrine dAnaxagore" in Histoire de lAcadémie des Sciences et Belles Lettres de Berlin. Berlin, 1755: vol. ix., pp. 378 ff.
192:2 Diogenes Laërtius, ii., 9: Τὰ δ᾽ἄστρα κατ᾽ ἀρχὰς μὲν θολοειδῶς ἐνεχθῆναι, ὥστε κατὰ κορυφὴν τῆς γῆς τὸν ἀεὶ φαινόμενον εἶναι πόλον, ὕστερον δὲ τὴν ἔγκλισιν λαβεῖν. Letronne (Des Opinions Cosmographiques des Pères de lÉglise rapprochées des Doctrines Philosophiques de la Grèce) says that the opinion cannot have been limited to the school of Anaximenes and Zenophanes. "Elle a dû faire partie de la doctrine physique de plusieurs des sects anciennes." Revue des Deux Mondes. Paris, 1834: p. 650.In this connection it is well worthy of note that in the Japanese cosmogony the predecessor or "father," of our present sun and moon is represented as beginning his activities in the new-created world by repeatedly performing in a horizontal plane a circumambulation of the "Island of the Congealed Drop;" also that in Chinese tradition the first man held the primeval sun and moon one in each hand. Our latest Chinese writer upon the subject speaks of this as particularly noticeable. Revue des Deux Mondes, May 24, June 1, and June 14, 1884. A few passages are cited in The Catholic World. December, 1884, pp. 320-323.
193:1 Since writing the above I have read Richard A. Proctor's "New Theory of Achilles Shield," and have been particularly struck with his argument, from the position of the aquatic constellations in the most ancient astronomy, that the celestial equator at the time of the invention of the constellations must have been "in a horizontal position." Light Science for Leisure Hours. London, 1870: pp. 309-312.
193:2 The instructor of Thales was a Chaldæan, a fact which writers on the early cosmological speculations of the Greeks have almost uniformly overlooked. See also L. von Schroeder, Pythagoras und die Inder. Leipsic, 1884.
193:3 "Il est de même vraisemblable que les Chaldéens ont eu lidée dune destruction et dun renouvellement du monde, cest-à-dire, de la surface de notre globe, et conjointement avec cette destruction, dun déplacement des corps célestes du firmament. . . . Diverses inscriptions dans les temples Égyptiens et des hiéroglyphes . . . me paraissent aussi être des essais de représenter distinctement la catastrophe du déluge et le changement qui alors sest opéré dans lancien ciel."Klee, Le Déluge. Paris, 1847: p. 307.
194:1 Bailly in his Histoire de lAstronomie des Anciens inclines to the opinion that the ancient Egyptians thought the declination a gradual one, but Klee expresses decided doubt. Le Déluge, p. 301.
195:1 The only other plausible explanation of the facts now under consideration would be that furnished by the long ago proposed but emphatically rejected theory, that in some distant geological age in consequence of some cataclysm the axis of the earth's rotation was changed, bringing the new or present Pole into a region before temperate or torrid. C. F. Winslow, M. D., in his pamphlet on The Cooling Globe, Boston, 1865, was one of the most recent theorists to favor this view. But see Maedler, Populäre Astronomie, p. 370 ss., who states that, according to the calculations of Bessel, the bodily plucking up of one hundred and fourteen cubic miles of the Himalaya mountains and the transfer of them to North America would change the position of the earth's axis less than one hundred feet. Still stronger statements are made in the paper read before the London Geological Society, Feb. 21, 1877, by Professor J. F. Twisden.
196:1 Compare Milton, Paradise Lost, x. 648-690.
196:2 "The Aztecs said that when the sun had risen for the first time, at the beginning, it lay on the horizon, and moved not." Dorman, Primitive Superstitions. Phila., 1885: p. 330. Both of these reports look as if they had sprung from misapprehension of the original tradition given by Anaxagoras.
196:3 West, Pahlavi Texts. London, 1880: Pt. i., p. 17. West translates uncertainly. Justi renders the passage, "Er nahm vom Inneren des Himmels ein Drittheil ein." Der Bundahish. Leipsic, 1868: p. 5.
196:4 West, Pahlavi Texts, Pt. i., p. 529. This last remark is based upon West's version; it is not supported by Windischmann's.