Part 5: The “Theory of Shadows”: The Early Science of Determining the Earth's Obliquity Angle

Gary Osborn

Copyright © Gary Osborn 2012. All Rights Reserved.

We are told in the history and science books that over 2,000 years ago great thinkers like Eratosthenes of Cyrene (276–194 BCE) and Abu Abdullah Al-Battani of Harran, (868–929 AD) had managed to calculate the tilt of the Earth by using pillars, obelisks and gnomons, as the ancient Egyptians did before them.

Its a simple fact that the earliest astronomers would simply place a stick vertically in the ground on a level surface and then measure the length of the shadow.
It was understood that the changing angles of the Sun’s rays and at different times of the year should result in different length shadows if the same stick is measured at specific times – i.e., always at noon and especially during the Solstices and the Equinoxes.
The stick would measure a very short shadow during the Summer Solstice (caused by the Sun being high in the sky) and a long shadow during the Winter Solstice (caused by the Sun being low in the sky.)
Simple trigonometry was then used to determine the angular variation of the Sun and it was found that the angular height varies around 23.5 degrees – or whatever the obliquity (tilt) of the Earth’s axis was at that time – between either the Equinoxes and the Solstices.
Following is a quote by Dr. Carl Weiland, who informs us of this ancient method:

“Measuring the lengths of the shortest and longest shadows was very important to these ancient astronomers, as their religious feasts were tied to these two special days. If you got the measurements wrong, your head would probably roll! So these results were carefully recorded on stone and papyrus. Many of the measurements taken over the past 3000 years from places such as China, Europe, England, India and Egypt are available to us today. The length of the shadow really depends on the tilt of the earth”.

Source: An Asteroid Tilts the Earth. by Dr. Carl Wieland, (Ex Nihilo, January 1983), pp. 12-14.

Or rather that the changing length of the shadow in one place at different times of the year, depends on the tilt of the Earth, because if the Earth were upright there would be no change – or maybe only a very slight change depending on the change in the elliptical orbit of the Earth around the Sun – i.e., how far or how near the Earth is to the Sun.

It is a fact that one of Freemasonry’s great symbols is the Obelisk, a tall stone pillar capped with a small pyramid or capstone known as a pyramidion or benben. We find these large, stone pillars in most major capital cities of the world, including the 555 foot tall obelisk in Washington DC, placed there to honor America’s founding President, George Washington, a high-ranking Freemason.

"We have historical authority for this “theory of shadows,” as it is called, having been applied in Egypt at a much later period by a celebrated philosopher named Eratosthenes, who lived between B.C 270 and 196, and was the librarian of the world famous “Museum” of Alexandria. The legend is to the effect that Eratosthenes, who was a native of Syene, the modern Assouan, near the great dam of the Nile and the island temple of Philae, attempted an exact measurement of the magnitude of the earth, and that the measure he adopted was the same as astronomers have used ever since. He had observed that as his native city of Syene, in the southern Egypt, vertical bodies at the same time of the summer solstice cast no shadows at noon, or in other words that the sun was at this time exactly overhead at Syene.
"Now Eratosthenes measured at Alexandria the length of the shadow cast by the gnomon [obelisk, pillar] at midday on the summer solstice at the very moment when he supposed the sun to be vertical at Syene. The angle was found by Eratosthenes to be included by one-fiftieth part of the whole circumference.
The whole circumference of the earth must be therefore fifty times the distance between Alexandria and Syene, which Eratosthenes estimated at 5,000 stadia, or about 31,250 miles, an estimate not greatly wide of the truth although as we now know, there were several source of error in the data. Syene, for instance, is not on the meridian of Alexandria, as Eratosthenes supposed, but widely to the east of it.
This is the story told of Eratosthenes, and here there is reason to suppose that as one of the wily Greek courtiers of the Ptolemaic capital, he had seized upon an opportunity of turning a secret of the ancient Egyptians, whose teachings were the basis of most of the Greek learning, to the renown of his native town and the scene of his own personal prominence.
"The measurement which Eratosthenes made from Alexandria to Syene is not nearly so correct as the measurement of the Nile from the Great Pyramid of Gizeh to the Tropic of Cancer, which is about 464 miles and so much closer to the 25,000 miles of the earth’s actual circumference and the 8,000 and odd miles of its diameter, being one fifty-fourth of the former (463 x 54 = 23,002).
"With this true distance from Gizeh to the Tropic of Cancer as a basis and the distance of the earth’s centre ascertained, we can realize what an enormous volume of information lay open to the seer, who in ancient times, however, jealously guarded the secrets of nature while conniving at the feeding of the common people upon the wildest delusions. The symbol of the compasses open at the angle of sixty degrees, is a striking allusion to a system based on the fact that sixty degrees is the arc of the chord presented by the points of the compasses at any opening and that this chord is also the radius of the circle which it will draw at that opening.
Anywhere on the earth’s surface the plumb points equally to the zenith and the centre of the earth at an angle of ninety degrees, or the fourth part of the circle to the horizon, which at Gizeh, is sixty degrees above the thirtieth parallel or north latitude".

Ancient Freemasonry: An Introduction To Masonic Archeology
by Frank C. Higgins, (1919). pp. 224 - 225.

It seems somewhat ironic that such a simple instrument of science that could so easily prove the tilt of the Earth (ergo a rotational axis, ergo the heliocentric universe of Copernicus) and also the Earth’s circumference, was erected in 1586 (having been moved from its original home of Heliopolis in Egypt) by the Church fathers, to stand tall in the center of Saint Peter’s Square at the heart of the Vatican; the means by which to prove the heliocentric universe, once again, placed in plain sight.
And so we have a simple and perfectly logical explanation for the Masonic association with the obelisk – the two pillars – and the words of their 'Second Degree', that the Sun’s rays (combined with a true and straight obelisk) would enlighten one in the ways of science and nature – the obelisk and the Sun may well have been the instruments used to determine the angle of the Earth’s axis of rotation and its circumference. And it goes without saying that such scientific knowledge and the means by which to achieve it would have been deemed completely heretical by the Church in former times and, as such, the meaning and purpose of the obelisk would remain one of Freemasonry's foremost secrets. This is surely the reason why this knowledge was encoded in various sources - for example, the 17th century painting ET IN ARCADIA EGO by Guercino (1628) - one example of the numerous sources that encode this knowledge.

The above is basically why the twin pillars symbolise the two Solstices.
And again, as noted, the symbolic twin pillars named Jachin and Boaz - also named Severity and Mercy - each symbolise the positive and negative, male and female, Sun and Moon opposites and are therefore associated with Duality.

However with some logical deduction we are then led to the significance of the 'third force' situated between the Sun's positions on the days of the two Solstices - being the Equinoctial point of the Sun at the centre as signified by the dot at the centre of the Solar symbol, and this is what its really all pointing to, while at the same time providing us with some clues as to how the size of the Earth and its obliquity were determined.

In Masonic symbolism sometimes there is a third pillar situated between the first two symbolising the generative principle of the "third force" or 'neutral point', as indicated in the worldwide Triad, Trinity and Triptych symbolism. Sometimes the middle pillar is represented by a door or staircase - the path to inner knowledge, and wisdom, enlightenment.

Like the twin "Solstitial Lions" found flanking entrances and gateways (according to 32nd-Degree Mason Frank C. Higgins writing in 1919), the two pillars also stood flanking entrances and gateways, and the initiate seeking wisdom and enlightenment was required to walk between them - the "Middle Way" of balance. The same symbolism is applied to the Temple of Solomon, in that to access the Holy of Holies, one had to walk between the two pillars of Jachin and Boaz and through the entrance in the middle.

Again, we are reminded of the central, etheric nerve channel that aligns the spine and known in the Hindu mystical tradition as the susumnâ. If so, then the two pillars also represent the pingala and idâ nerve channels (nâdîs) of the physio-kundalini-chakra system – often depicted as spiralling twin snakes or serpents and as illustrated in the Caduceus. 

These motions of the Sun from Solstice point to Solstice point, form a narrow diagonal cross – much like the narrow arms of the diagonal cross we see in the Christian Chi Rho monogram associated with Christ (below right).

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So to conclude: Present at the Crucifixion are,

1), a male figure who is called "the disciple" and who has been identified as John 'the Evangelist' or John 'the Divine'. He stands to the left of the Cross in Cocteau's mural.
However, being dressed in red (male) and green (female) in Borokivovsky's painting (figure 33), we are told that he symbolises not only the Two John opposites, but also Osiris and Isis.
These male and female opposites united as one in the "disciple" relate to the Day and Night opposites of of the Daily Cycle and the Two Solstice opposites in the Annual Cycle.

Also present are,

2), the 'Three Marys' who are standing to the right of the Cross in Cocteau's mural - each co-joined as one to make one female figure - again Isis in her role as the threefold goddess, each of which relate to the three phases of the monthly Moon Cycle.

Again, what we have here are the male and female opposites; each representing the Sun and Moon, (Sun and Moon cycles) which are often depicted as flanking the left and right sides of Jesus as he hangs from the cross.

The Crucified Jesus, who also represents Horus, symbolises the two Horizons in the Daily Cycle, the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes in the Yearly Cycle and the Prime Meridian of the Earth when the Earth is upright and aligned with the Pole of the Ecliptic.

The 13th At the Centre

Now we have got that out of the way, let's now move onto the subject of the Solar and Lunar Eclipses and how these also apply to these symbolic themes surrounding the Crucifixion.

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