Human traditions from virtually every culture and period
recalled an 'age of myth', an 'era of creation',
a 'golden age' or a 'time when the gods lived on Earth'.
This was an epoch at the dawn of remembered human history
characterised by the remarkable activities of supernatural
beings and a series of transformative events in the
sky and on Earth, including the destruction of former
worlds and the formation of the sky and the earth as
they appear today. This rich body of 'creation mythology'
is surprisingly consistent from culture to culture,
despite the anomalous nature of its most salient themes.
The traditions allocate a central place to a stupendous
stationary column of dazzling radiance, which joined
the respective regions of the cosmos on the vertical
as well as on the horizontal planes at a time when the
sun, the moon and the other stars were hidden from view.
Anthropologists habitually refer to it as the axis
mundi, the 'axis of the world' or 'cosmic axis'.
The mythology of the axis mundi, comprising numerous
specific traits, is remarkably uniform among the respective
branches of mankind.
Collecting sources from a wide array of disciplines
in the humanities - including archaeology, mythology,
anthropology and the history of art, of science, of
religion and of literature - and following a rigorous
comparative method, it was possible to reconstruct a
universal template, based on more than 400 themes
arranged in a rough chronological order, upon which
the creation myths of individual cultures could have
been based; the formation, metamorphoses and demise
of the axis mundi emerged as its narrative backbone.
What remarkable circumstances in the natural environment
inspired the traditional cosmologies? What were 'creation',
the 'age of the gods' and the axis mundi in real
If human traditions concerning the 'age of creation'
are allowed to speak for themselves rather than being
straightjacketed into Jungian, Frazerian or Durkheimian
paradigms, an economic explanation is that they trace
to eye-witness accounts of an extraordinary episode
in the recent history of the planet. What exactly transpired
can be reconstructed by means of an interdisciplinary
research programme, in which the traditional cosmologies
of man are compared to empirical scientific knowledge
concerning the condition of the Earth in the past 20,000
years. Data culled from the humanities at best inform
about what was seen, felt and heard, but are principally
unfit to identify physical or astronomical objects and
mechanisms as they filter all experiences through a
lens of interpretation. The 'hard' sciences will have
the last word on what exactly transpired in physical
An abundance of cutting-edge palaeoclimatological and
other geophysical evidence points to worldwide environmental
turbulence associated with the end of the last glacial
period in the present Ice Age. The entire period
from the onset of the Oldest Dryas stadial (c. 20,000
BCE) to the mid-Holocene (c. 5,000 BCE) is characterised
by (1) a series of natural catastrophes on the
surface of the earth, associated with climate changes,
(2) disturbances of the geomagnetic field, (3)
possible flybys of disintegrating comets , (4)
cosmic ray events or solar proton events and
(5) mass extinctions that collectively seem to
match the circumstances attending the 'age of myth'.
Extreme fluctuations in the solar wind, perhaps interacting
with a comet or Venus' giant magnetotail, and repeated
episodes of weakening of the earth's magnetic field
will have led to enhanced activity levels of the aurora,
producing worldwide displays of high-energy density
plasma instabilities rarely seen in the earth's atmosphere.
Humans, awestruck and terrified in equal measures, would
have perceived the spectacular lively forms assumed
by the atmospheric plasma as gods, mythical heroes,
ancestors, dragons or other supernatural beings, whose
mysterious antics in a low-hanging sky constituted the
destruction and creation of worlds. Intense-auroral
activity centred on the earth's magnetic poles inspired
memories of an axis mundi, a stupendous pillar
of light reaching from the horizon to the highest region
of the sky, among people at all latitudes.
It seems possible that spectacular events transpiring
in that 'alien sky' and only partly recoverable by the
methods of modern science afflicted humanity with a
profound trauma, while inspiring or modifying
core elements of human civilisation, ranging
from religion, art and architecture to social organisation,
rites of passage and infrastructure. These forms could
have been recorded on stone in millions of rock art
images all over the world, enacted in myriads of rituals
celebrated until the present day and narrated in scores
of myths now baffling scholars and laymen alike.
representation of the solar wind impinging on the
Long after these events, the sky would have remained
filled with debris, occasioning meteoric activity
and zodiacal light at a higher intensity than has been
familiar in the modern era. It would have taken until
the 1st millennium BCE for the sky to have
cleared up sufficiently for planetary astronomy to emerge
and for modern philosophy to embark on 'sanitising'
the traditional mindset.
If this analysis is correct, the mythology of 'creation'
was not concerned with the actual origins of the universe
and of the earth, as creationists and countless others
have traditionally thought, but with a relatively
recent transformative episode in the history
of the earth and its electromagnetic environment. While
some traditional societies interpreted these events
as the absolute beginning of the cosmos and others -
correctly - opined that such episodes are a cyclical
occurrence, the entire subject of creation mythology
is simply irrelevant to the heated cosmological debate
of Big Bang versus 'steady state' theory.