The axis mundi offers a means of travel
and correspondence between the two realms of
mundi is the place where the four compass directions unite, allowing
the Light of Heaven to be disseminated
The axis mundi
resides at the center of the world: at its
omphalos, the source of
emanation of the
The axis mundi
appears in all cultures and takes many forms.
The axis mundi
symbolic image is both feminine - an umbilical providing nourishment, and
masculine, a phallus providing insemination.
The axis mundi may have the form
of a natural object (mountain, tree, vine, stalk,
column of smoke or fire) or a
product of human manufacture (staff, tower,
(Irminsul), cross, steeple, rope,
totem pole, pillar, spire).
axis mundi exists in the Hindu linga, or lingam, and is featured
prominently in the most technologically advanced cultures -
wherever the impulse persists to link
a tower with the idea of a "world center."
The proximity of
mundi to Heaven may carry implications that are chiefly religious
or secular (obelisk,
of their own home, land,
place of worship as the center of
the world because they are designated
as cultural centers.
People think of
themselves as the axis mundi because that is the vantage point from which they
gaze out upon the noumenon.
People think of
the Source of the
noumenon as residing in the center but
gnostikos know there is no
In ancient Mesopotamia the cultures of ancient
artificial mountains, or
ziggurats, on the flat river plain with
stairways leading to temples, the axis mundi,
at the top.
Judaism has Mount Sinai and
Mount Zion as the axis mundi.
Christianity has the Mount
of Olives and Calvary as the axis mundi.
Islam has the Temple Mount (Dome
of the Rock) and Mecca, said to be the place on Earth that was forged
Japan's highest mountain, Mount
Fuji, has long symbolized the axis mundi in Japanese culture.
Kun-Lun is now the the axis mundi in China while the ancient Chinese recognized
four mountains, residing at the compass points, as pillars holding up the
Sioux believe the
Black Hills are the
Mount Kailash is holy as the axis mundi to several
religions in Tibet.
The pre-Columbian residents of Teotihuacán
in Mexico erected huge pyramids featuring stairways leading to temples at the
top - stairways to heaven.
The ancient Greeks regarded
several sites as places of earth's omphalos (navel) stone, notably the oracle
at Delphi, while still maintaining a belief in
a cosmic world tree and in Mount
Olympus as the abode of the gods.
All sacred places
constitute reality centers (omphalos) with the altar or place of prayer as the
the axis mundi.
Altars, incense sticks, candles and torches help form
the axis mundi by sending a column of smoke, and prayer, toward heaven.
The calumet, or sacred pipe, represents a column of smoke (the soul)
rising form an the axis mundi.
"Who is this that cometh up from the
wilderness like pillars of smoke, perfumed with myrrh and frankincense, with
all powders of the merchant?" - Song of Solomon 3:6
The architecture of sacred places often reflects the connection
between Heaven and Earth.
The stupa of Hinduism, and later
Buddhism, reflects Mount
Cathedrals are laid out in the form of a cross, with the vertical
bar representing the union of Heaven and Earth as the horizontal bars
represent union of people to
one another, with the altar at the intersection.
Pagoda structures in Asian temples
take the form of a stairway linking Heaven and Earth.
A steeple in a church or
a minaret in a mosque also serve as
connections of Heaven and Earth.
Palaces and castles, unlike the
fortress, had towers serving the
axis mundi connection function.
Dwellings also serve as centers of reality - the axis mundi of
The hearth participates in the
symbolism of the altar and a central garden partipates in the symbolism of
a primordial garden
In Asian cultures dwellings were traditionally laid out in
the form of a square oriented toward the four compass directions - east, west,
north and south.
A traditional Asian home was oriented toward the
heavens through Feng shui, a system of geomancy, just as a palace would
Traditional Arab houses are also laid out as a square surrounding a
central fountain that evokes a primordial garden paradise.
common shamanic concept,
and a universally told story, is that
of the healer traversing the axis
mundi, the connection between Heaven and
Earth, to bring back sacred mystical knowledge
The human form can function as an axis
Some of the more abstract Tree of Life representations, such
as the Sefirot in
Kabbalism and in the Chakra system
recognized by Hinduism and
Buddhism, merge with the
concept of the human body as an axis mundi between Heaven and
Disciplines of Yoga and Tai Chi begin from the premise of the
human body as axis mundi.
Renaissance image known as the Vitruvian Man represented a symbolic and
mathematical exploration of the human form as axis mundi.
Most world religions regard the
body itself as a temple and prayer as an axis mundi uniting Heaven and
serve as an axis mundi.
Many trees in legends serve this function
World Tree, Yggdrasil,
World Ash, Tree
of Life, Tree of Knowledge of Good
and Evil, Bodhi Tree, Iboga tree, Thor's Oak ...
attained enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree.
Polynesian cultures the
banyan tree, of which the Bodhi Tree is of the Sacred Fig variety, is the abode
of ancestor spirits.
Yggdrasil, or World Ash,
functions in much the same way in Norse mythology; it is the site where Odin
found enlightenment as
does Jievaras in Lithuanian mythology.
Christmas tree, which
can be traced in its origins back to pre-Christian European beliefs, represents
an axis mundi.
Oak Tree can serve as the
axis mundi as it did for pre-Christian Germanic peoples with Thor's
The Great Tree provides an axis mundi that unites three planes:
its branches reach for Heaven, its trunk meets the Earth, and its roots
reach down to Hell.
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Civilization is based on coöperation. Coöperation does not occur at
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American social mores and values have declined
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