The Meridian and the Hexagram: The Revelation of France's Foundation Plan (cont.)
By William Glyn-Jones
It seemed to me that if 1446 was just a little too soon for full-on Neoplatonism to have been so fully manifest way off in Scotland, then here with these Biblical traditions we did at least have a context appropriate to the pre-Renaissance mentality. When the historians Oxbrow and Robertson examined the iconography of Roslin Chapel in the research for their book Roslin and the Grail what they found was a catalogue of references not so much to the old Jerusalem of Solomon, but to the last book of the Bible, that of Revelations. The Sinclairs, it seems, imagined themselves rising from their graves in the crypt below the chapel on the 'day of judgment'. In Revelations the old world passes away, but a New Jerusalem appears. The dimensions given for this in Revelations are interesting. Not only is it as broad as it is long, but the same distance is also given for the height. Therefore, the New Jerusalem appears to be in the shape of a cube. It is one of the interesting features of the hexagram, extended to form the hexagon, that it forms the image in 2D of a 3D cube (albeit without perspective), and the cube - one of the Platonic Solids - is in fact a much-repeated motif in the stonework of Roslin chapel - there are 213 in all.
My romantic self could not help but wonder, therefore, if the geodesic plan of France, the meridian and the hexagon, duplicated in Scotland, was intended to be the establishment of the New Jerusalem on Earth. I then started to think about the Templars, who called themselves the Knights of the Temple of Solomon, and of their cathedral-building activities, and wondered if this plan went back to those mysterious figures. After all, the construction of the Louvre in its earliest form was initiated by Phillip II, of the House of Capet, when he ascended the throne in 1180. At this time the Templars had been going strong for a century, and their order would not be suppressed until a century later. This same king actually went on a crusade to the "Holy Land" with Richard the Lion Heart. Had the enthusiasm for the Seal of Solomon - the Hexagram - been picked up from Arab legends during these times? Phillip, judged a good king by his people, became ill and lost his zeal for the crusade and returned home. So much for the Old Jerusalem, why not build the New Jerusalem somewhere closer to home, in a place we don't have to fight for, he may have thought.
There is in fact an intriguing link between the Jerusalem site - the location of the Temple of Solomon, whether First, Second or Third - and the Seal of Solomon, via a natural feature of the latitude and an element of Freemasonic tradition. The Freemasonic writers Lomas and Knight in Uriel's Machine relate an intriguing piece of Freemasonic lore: a Solomon Rectangle is one produced by aligning from a particular point to the Winter and Summer Solstice sunrises. The point then becomes the centre of the rectangle, and the extended alignments to these points become the diagonals of the rectangle. The alignments can be found by observing shadows cast by posts. Such a function then becomes attributed to the twin pillars said to stand at the front of the Temple of Solomon, Jachin and Boaz. At the latitude of Jerusalem the Sun can be observed rising at 30 degrees north and south of due east on the two solstices. This makes the Solomon Rectangle at this latitude the Square Root of Three rectangle that is formed by the Seal of Solomon pattern.
And the outer ground-plan of Rosslyn Chapel, including the buttresses, does in fact conform to this pattern.
There is also, within the Freemasonic Third Degree initiation, an element of the rite which connects the Temple of Solomon with a north-south meridian. A certain Hiram Abif is struck at around noon by a man standing at the south gate with a plumb bob in his hand. I want to suggest a new interpretation of this. In Ancient Egyptian Thebes, the Sun-god Amun-Ra destroyed the darkness-serpent Apoph at noon, the strong-time of the Sun. (The Sun-god Apollo repeated this at Delphi, according to legend, slaying the serpent Typhon.) I want to put forward the proposition that "Abif" = "Apoph". "Hiram" simply meant "king". Whether or not this is correct, there can be little doubt that a man standing due south holding a plumb bob was engaged in plotting out the North-South line, the Meridian, to align the temple. So the solar connections give us, through Masonic tradition, connections between the Temple of Solomon and both the hexagram and the meridian. One might even imagine the "Sol-" of "Solomon" pertaining to the Sun, if he wasn't a Semitic figure.
These intriguing realizations could easily have set me off down a Templar = Rosslyn = Freemason = Egyptian course, at which point I realised my romantic self was threatening to put me in a position where my head was on the scholar's chopping block, Dan Brown style, so I pulled back on the reigns, out of self-preserving interests, if nothing else. Besides, the Sinclairs testified against the Templars, so I'd be more inclined to look to royalist roots, given the general flow of things. There was a temptation to engage in wild speculation without much actual fact to go on. History spread before me a tangled web of names and dates, and then I realised, or remembered, that Reason alone wouldn't get me where I wanted to go. It was time to move to that fourth zone, that of intellectus divines as the Florentine NeoPlatonists called it, and to perceive the whole with the "incorporeal eye" as a "supercelestial idea" rather than just some unsolved historical puzzle. To put it another way, the value in all this, it seems to me, is in the basic establishment of a harmonious geometric plan as the foundation for a nation. It uplifts the sense of place, infusing the idea of a nation with a certain essence of harmony and order.
But my Reason still had a question or two it wanted answered. Is it feasible from the technical point of view that as early as 1446 Europeans were not only plotting out straight north-south meridian lines, but that they were also able to measure latitude so as to divide these lines up into ratios and regular divisions?
I soon discovered that not only was the technology available then, but in fact it had been for some time. Unlike a geocentric Universe, a flat Earth was never, in fact, a Christian dogma. Although there were one or two Christian writers that didn't believe in the globe, Classical Antiquity did in fact bequeath this knowledge to the Dark Ages of early Christianity. The Greeks had worked out that we live on a globe, and from at least the time of Eratosthenes around 235 BC even the rough size was known from calculations based on shadow lengths at different latitudes in southern and northern Egypt. Phineas, a philosopher resident in the Greek colony of Marseilles in the South of France, travelled up from there through the British Isles taking latitude measurements along the way, and the figures quoted show he went to the north of Scotland. In the second century BC the Greek philosopher Hipparchus had been working with a system where the Earth was divided up into lines of longitude and latitude; by Claudius Ptolemy's time longitude was measured with respect to a Zero Meridian through the Canary Islands (a line running due North-South), and Ptolemy had even used projection formulas to transfer the map from the curved surface of the globe to a flat representation. No-one seemed to be writing about longitude or latitude during the Dark Ages, but by the turn of the eighth century the Venerable Bede certainly had no doubts that the Earth was spherical. Then by Chaucer's time in the Early Renaissance (in the 14th century) the ancient method for calculating latitude by use of an astrolabe to guage solar or stellar inclination angles was certainly known, for Chaucer actually wrote a poem about it. This is knowledge that allows one not only to plot out a north-south meridian line, but also to divide it up into particular ratios, based on relative latitudes.