(The adoration of the Magi, from the Ducal Palace, Dijon)
In 1972, following a pilgrimage to Bethlehem I made by bicycle, I also began searching for the masters. I was convinced that the secret school, if it existed, was in some way connected with the story of the visiting Magi at the start of St. Matthew's Gospel. I was sure that this seemingly trivial episode concerning kings and gifts of Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh was highly significant if only it could be properly understood.
G.I.Gurdjieff who came to the West in 1920 and who opened a mysterious, esoteric school of his own in France, claimed to have tracked down a secret and very ancient organization called the "Sarmoung Brotherhood". Following up on clues he left behind in his semi-autobiographical work: "Meetings with Remarkable Men", I ascertained there was substance to his story and that this brotherhood was probably the last surviving remnant of a Christian Gnostic School that once flourished in Northern Mesopotamia.
I have found traces of this lost school in South-Eastern Turkey.
(Antiochus I of Commagene )
I believe that this man, Antiochus I of Commagene, was closely linked with the Sarmoung brotherhood of his day. In his little kingdom on the Upper Euphrates there are monuments indicating his interest in lion (Leo) symbolism. His funerary monument at Mount Nimrod indicates he knew a great deal both about astrology and the Hermetic tradition. In fact it gives two astronomical dates which I believe relate to his birthday and his initiation, when he received the title "epiphanes". Elsewhere in his kingdom there is a mysterious shaft, angled at 35º, 155 metres long and leading nowhere. Archaeologists have long been puzzled by this but I have found that this also was intended to give two significant dates, including the "Royal Birthday" of the Kings of Commagene. This was when the sun is conjunct the star Regulus in Leo, which in that epoch would happen on 29th July.
I have also found evidence at the city of Edessa (now called SanliUrfa) for an amazing astrological cult based on the movements of Orion and linked with the Old Testament prophets.
(Edessa, the Sacred City)
This city was famous in the early days of Christianity for its schools of learning as well as certain sacred relics preserved there. It was again important in the early years of the crusades, whilst its fall to the Moslem armies of first Zengi in 1145 and then his son Nuraddin in 1146, sparked the second crusade.
Putting other pieces of the jig-saw together and carrying out further "on the ground" researches, I have found traces linking this lost brotherhood with the Magi story of Matthew's Gospel. I have found evidence that the Magi were expecting the birth of a King/Messiah not on our so-called Christmas Day of 25th of December, (which is in any case based on the old pagan festival of the Birth of Mithras) but rather on 29th July 7 BC. On this day there was a special configuration in the sky. Each year at that time the Sun would rise in the "King's Birthday" position: conjunct with the "Little King" or "Lion Heart" star of Regulus in Leo. At the same time, just prior to the dawn, Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, would make its first appearance after a period of invisibility. According to the mythology of Egypt, Sirius was the special star of the goddess Isis. Her reappearance represented the goddess coming out of confinement to give birth, at dawn. to her son Horus, represented by the Sun-conjunct-Regulus.
(Osiris (Orion) with the goddesses Isis (Sirius) and Nephthys (Procyon))
The mythology behind this arrangement of stars was, I believe, Christianised by the early church so that Sirius now represented Mary giving birth not to Horus but to her son, Jesus. Other stars visible at dawn on that day are also significant. Orion, which in Egypt represented the consort of Isis, her husband Osiris, is now Joseph. The star Procyon, which like Sirius rises after Orion, I believe had represented Isis's sister Nephthys. It is now the ‘mid-wife’, who appears in some of the Nativity stories.
The stable is represented by the zodiac: the place of animals. Visible in it are the Ox (Taurus) and sheep (Aries). The manger in which the baby Jesus is laid is the place where the animals get their food. In Hebrew Bethlehem means "Place of Bread". It was also a city in the province of Judah, the Lion tribe of Israel, and is therefore represented by the star Regulus in the Leo or Lion constellation. The sun conjunct Regulus is therefore symbolic of Jesus in the Manger.
The three shepherds are stars that "lead the way". They are in the hills, symbolic of being north of the line of the Ecliptic. They are represented by the stars Procyon, Castor and Pollux which all rise before Sirius and therefore, like shepherds, lead the way.
The three kings are something different. I believe that the "Star of the Magi" which supposedly guided them to the stable in Bethlehem was the great conjunction of the two large planets Jupiter and Saturn. This conjunction lasted on and off for several months and took place in Pisces, the sign of the fish and symbolic of both Christianity and the then new age. These planets would rise about 9.30 in the evening and then, as the brightest stars in the sky, be visible until shortly after the dawn. I believe they represent two of the kings: Melchior (Jupiter, the king of gold) and Caspar ( Saturn, the king of myrrh). Jupiter is the planet of wealth (gold) whilst Saturn is concerned with death and graveyards but also longevity. Myrrh was primarily used for mummifaction and is therefore emblematic of Saturn. The third planet was Mercury, which on that day was the closest to the Sun. He is Balthasar (or Belteshazzar) and his name means "Lord's leader". He rises just before the Sun and, like a vizier, is in close attendance. Hs gift is Frankincense, symbolic of the priestly or magical functions always associated with this planet.
I am now convinced that the story of Matthew, when read correctly, gives us Jesus's horoscope. He is born to be a king (like a Horus of Ancient Egypt) and receives, as we all do, the appropriate gifts from the planet's of his birth. In the following chapter of Matthew's Gospel he is tempted to misuse these gifts for selfish purposes. He resists these temptations and refuses to practice Magic (turning stones into bread), to challenge god to save him from certain suicide (a temptation against his promise of longevity: Saturn) or to have himself made "King of the World": the temptation of Jupiter. Following these events he then meets up with John and is Baptised in the Jordan River. At this moment a dove comes down from heaven and Jesus receives a higher gift that those of the planetary kings: he becomes the vehicle of the Christos or Logos.
The importance of Jesus' Baptism was, I believe, better understood by the early church, which is why they celebrated the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus on January 6th. Later this was changed to being Jesus' Birthday (Old Christmas) and then later still this feast was moved back to 25th of December, the old festival of the Roman Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithras (who, incidentally is also really Orion).
To illustrate all of the above I commissioned a picture from the gifted Swedish artist Bengt Alfredson, who is also an old friend of mine. As the stars concerned span nearly half of the sky, they have had to be compressed, into a "fish-eye lens" projection. However, if you take account of the curving horizon, this is how the stars would indeed appear. This is probably the first time that a anyone has attempted to paint an authentic "star-correct" adoration of the Magi. To make this clearer I have also included a printout from the SKYGLOBE program, showing the stars and constellations as they would appear at dawn on 29th July 7 BC.
(Star-correct adoration of the Magi by Bengt Alfredson).
(The ‘Nativity stars’ on 29 July 7 BC at Bethlehem)
If all this seems far-fetched to you, I can assure you it is thoroughly researched and documented in my latest book: Magi: The Quest for a Secret Tradition, which has just been published by Bloomsbury. This book, however, covers very much more than the Christmas story, interesting as this is. It reveals for the first time who the Magi really were, where they came from and how their knowledge was preserved and passed back to the West at the time of the crusades. It also gives a lot of information concerning the Mediaeval cathedrals, the "secret history" of Europe and a possible date for the "Second Coming". This book is based on serious and scrupulous research. If you are interested in mysteries and enjoyed The Orion Mystery or The Mayan Prophecies then I am sure you will find it fascinating.
Chapter 1: A Pigrimage to the City of David
Chapter 2: Meeting with a Magus
Chapter 3: A Search among the Sufis
Chapter 4: Hermes Trismegistus
Chapter 5: The Orion Mystery
Chapter 6: A Search for the Secret Brotherhood
Chapter 7: The Lion of Commagene
Chapter 8: The City of the Patriarchs
Chapter 9: A Tale of Two Cities
Chapter 10: The Pillars of Nimrod
Chapter 11: We Three Kings
Chapter 12: The Second Crusade and the Temple on the Rhine
Appendix 1: The Birth of Horus and the Great Sphinx of Giza
Appendix 2: Orion the Hunter
Appendix 3: Abraham's Journey to the Promised Land
Appendix 4: The Ascension of Jesus.
328 pages, with 16 pages of colour plates plus a number of other maps and diagrams.
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.
2, Soho Square, London, W1V 6HB, Great Britain.
ISBN 1-7475-2859-4, price £17.99
Copyright © Adrian G. Gilbert 1996.