(c) Julie Loar 2016
Could Dark Matter or Dark Energy play a part in explaining a mysterious hidden planet spoken of in esoteric lore?
“Of the four elements, air, earth, water, and fire, humans stole only fire from the gods. And with fire forged mortal will upon the world.”
For a time, Vulcan was a small planet, or large asteroid, proposed to exist between Mercury and the Sun. Its astrological significance is still part of esoteric astrology, having a deep and hidden relationship to the sign of Taurus, the Bull. Attempting to explain peculiarities in Mercury’s orbit, 19th-century French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier hypothesized that these anomalies were the result of another planet, which he named Vulcan after the Roman god of fire. A number of reputable investigators joined the search. Among these was Henry C. Courten of Dowling College, New York. Studying photographic plates of the 1970 solar eclipse, he and his associates detected several objects that appeared to be in orbits close to the Sun. Even accounting for artifacts, Courten felt that at least seven of the objects were real. The appearance of some of these objects was confirmed by an observer in North Carolina and another in Virginia. Courten believed that an intra-Mercurial planetoid between 130 and 800 kilometers (80-496 miles) in diameter was orbiting the Sun at a distance of about 0.1 AU. Other images on the eclipse plates led Courten to postulate the existence of an asteroid belt between Mercury and the Sun.
Searches by NASA’s two STEREO spacecraft failed to detect asteroids between Mercury and the Sun that might have accounted for the claimed observations. Most astronomers abandoned the search, but a few remain convinced that not all of the alleged observations were unfounded. Some of these—and other intra-Mercurial objects—may actually exist, being unknown comets or small asteroids. In recent years some astronomers have offered convincing logic for so-called vulcanoid asteroids, and the data from the SOHO satellite, a cooperative venture between NASA and ESA, which is examining the Sun for other reasons, will search for these objects. If found, one will of course be named Vulcan.
The Roman Vulcan, or Vulcanus, was the lame god of fire, crafts, and blacksmiths. His domain included the fire of volcanoes, and the word comes from his name. Gerard Capdeville traced the origin of Vulcan back to a young god from Crete named Velchanos, who also had a mastery of fire and was a companion, rather than son, of the Great Goddess.
In myth, Hephaestus, the Roman Vulcan, was the Greek god of blacksmiths, sculptors, metallurgy, fire, and volcanoes. He was portrayed with a hammer, anvil, and pair of tongs. He was a master craftsman who forged armor and weapons for the gods from metals found in the depths of the Earth. Hephaestus accomplished numerous feats of craftsmanship, such as marvelous palaces built for Olympian deities and Achilles’s armor during the siege of Troy.
According to the epics of Homer, the Iliad, and the Odyssey, Hephaestus was the son of Zeus and Hera. In one account, Hera threw Hephaestus from Olympus after he was born because he was crippled. However, Hesiod informs us that Hera bore Hephaestus alone—parthenogenically—without a father. In this story Hephaestus tried, and almost succeeded, in freeing his mother when Zeus punished her for this by hanging her on a golden chain between heaven and earth. Angry at his son’s interference, Zeus hurled him from Olympus, causing his injury and disability. Either way, as a heroic figure, Hephaestus had to deal with rejection, abandonment, and being crippled.
Most sources claim that Hephaestus landed in the sea near the island of Lemnos and was washed onto the shore where his body lay broken until he was rescued by the Nereids, the famous sea nymphs Thetis (mother of Achilles) and Eurynome (mother of the Three Graces). Hephaestus lived in secret with these goddesses, working in a cave deep within the Earth for nine years, awakening his creative energy, and becoming a master craftsman. He was later accepted back to Olympus, becoming craftsman of the gods. He was married to Aphrodite/Venus, ruler of Taurus in astrology, which is a mythic hint of the deeper relationship between Venus, Vulcan, and Taurus. The spiritual path is often characterized as molding the noble self out of the denseness of earth through the fires of aspiration. It is a paradox that works of greatest beauty sometimes arise from the healing and transformation of our deepest wounds.
In the modern mythos of TV and film, Vulcans are a fictional extraterrestrial humanoid species in the Star Trek franchise, who originate from the planet Vulcan. They are noted for their attempt to live by logic without interference from unruly emotions. They were the first extraterrestrial species in the Star Trek universe to observe “first contact” protocol with Humans. Vulcans later became founding members of the United Federation of Planets. Science and science fiction had a happy collaboration related in the July 1991 issue of Sky & Telescope. The article reported how Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, and three Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics scientists, chose an actual star (40 Eridani) as the fictional planet Vulcan’s sun because of its characteristics.
Metaphysics has long held that what we can see is a fraction of what exists. According to the Planck mission team (the spacecraft measures Cosmic Microwave Background) and based on the standard model of cosmology, the total mass-energy of the known universe contains 4.9% ordinary (baryonic) matter, 26.8% dark matter, and 68.3% dark energy, a mysterious and invisible force that seems to be the opposite of gravity. Dark matter plus dark energy constitutes 95.1% of the total mass/energy content of the universe. The barely 5% that’s left is the visible universe—including Earth, the Sun, other stars, and galaxies—that are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons bundled together into atoms.
Dark matter (not to be confused with anti-matter) is a hypothetical kind of matter that can’t be seen with telescopes and neither emits nor absorbs light, or any other electromagnetic radiation at any significant level. It doesn’t interact with “ordinary” matter, and is completely invisible to light. Dark matter has not been detected directly, making it one of the greatest mysteries in modern astrophysics. Its existence and properties are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation, and thus on the large-scale structure of the universe. Dark matter accounts for discrepancies between the mass of large astronomical objects determined from their gravitational effects, and their mass as calculated from the observable matter (stars, gas, and dust) they contain. Many physicists and astronomers think dark matter is composed of exotic particles that that don’t interact with normal matter or light but still exert a gravitational pull. These particles have so far eluded detection during particle accelerator experiments or discovery among cosmic rays. Several scientific groups, including one at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, are working to generate dark matter particles for study.
According to standard physics, stars at the edges of a spinning, spiral galaxy should travel much slower than those near the galactic center, where a galaxy’s visible matter is concentrated. But observations show that stars orbit at more or less the same speed regardless of where they are in the galactic disk. This puzzling result makes sense if the boundary stars are feeling the gravitational effects of an unseen mass—dark matter—in a halo around the galaxy.
Dark energy is even more enigmatic than dark matter, and its discovery in the 1990s was a shock to scientists. Dark energy originated from efforts to understand the observed accelerating expansion of the universe. Unlike dark matter, scientists have no plausible explanation for dark energy. Dark matter attracts while dark energy repels. Previously, physicists assumed that the attractive force of gravity would gradually slow down the expansion of the universe, but when two independent teams tried to measure the rate of deceleration, they found that the expansion was accelerating. Scientists now think the accelerating expansion of the universe is driven by dark energy, a repulsive force generated by quantum fluctuations in otherwise “empty” space. This force seems to be growing stronger as the universe expands. Perhaps dark energy hides portals to, or borders between, parallel universes or hidden gateways to unseen realms?
According to another idea, dark energy is a fifth and previously unknown type of “fundamental force” called quintessence, which fills the universe like a fluid. The idea was first presented by R.R. Caldwell, Rahul Dave, and Paul Steinhardt. Science borrowed the term quintessence from ancient wisdom and alchemy where quintessence is the fifth and highest element that permeates all nature. According to ancient science and Medieval philosophy aether, quintessence in Latin, is the material that fills the region of the universe above the terrestrial sphere. In Homeric Greek aether means “pure, fresh air” or “clear sky” and was thought to be the essence breathed by the gods.
In the alchemist’s hierarchy the Supreme Architect caused a division within itself into two principles, and from these the four elements resulted: Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. The four elements, with the addition of Aether, formed the Quintessence of Matter. The alchemist combined the four elements by way of Sulfur, Salt, and Spirit (Mercury) and sought to transmute metals, especially gold. Sulfur is “the stone that burns” that characterized the principle of combustibility, and Mercury contained the idealized principle of metallic properties. Over time quintessence has become synonymous with elixirs, medicinal alchemy, and the Philosopher’s Stone itself.
Alchemy is also a metaphor for refining the personality into the “gold” of the spiritual nature. Vulcan/Hephaestus was an alchemist in the truest sense. He was thrown from the lofty heights of Olympus, losing his birthright for a time, but he worked deep in the earth, transforming buried metals into beautiful objects with the fire of his forge. Instead of the destructive force of revenge, he used his experience in constructive ways. The message is to discover what’s buried deep within us, learn how to mine the riches, and transform the potential into priceless gifts.
In Esoteric Astrology by Alice A. Bailey, the Tibetan Master DK stated, “Vulcan is veiled by the potency of Mercury and hidden behind the planet. Vulcan can go into the depths of sub-consciousness and reveal obstructions upon the spiritual path.” Alan Oken says in Soul Centered Astrology, “The sign of Taurus has two planetary rulers: Venus and Vulcan. Venus is the personality ruler, and Vulcan is both the soul ruler and the hierarchical ruler. Both are considered to be sacred planets, while Vulcan is a “hidden” planet. The fact that both ruling planets are sacred (and one is hidden) hints that the inner journey of Taurus is deeply hidden, mysterious, highly significant, and sacred.”
This inquiry links chemistry, physics, and metallurgy with the radical and exploratory area of meta-materials and superconductivity at the frontier of modern science. The noble metals of the platinum series that includes silver, gold, and platinum, achieve seemingly inexplicable states at certain phases. One of the amazing properties of these noble elements is they become invisible in their super conductive states. For humans these states move into the realm of spiritual mastery and immortality.
Science now believes that 95% of the universe is invisible, and our understanding of dark matter and dark energy is still preliminary and certainly just as inconclusive as the idea of a “veiled” planet in Esoteric Astrology. As technology peers deeper into space we see the borders between astrophysics, alchemy, and esoteric astrology blurring. The ancients understood much that we are only rediscovering. We may come to understand Vulcan as a symbol for the priceless gold that alchemists have sought for millennia.
Originally published in Atlantis Rising Magazine