Kolob and the Sagittarius Star Cloud

Last year, a close friend pointed out a series of references to Kolob and the Sagittarius Star Cloud in a book. These references were intriguing since Kolob is a star that is said to be “near unto” the throne of God (Abraham 3:1-10).1 In a chapter entitled “Kolob, the Governor”, J. Reuben Clark, Jr. wrote the following:

Sagittarius_Star_Cloud_2 They also now affirm our galaxy is a gigantic disc, a whirling wheel, lenticular in shape, one hundred thousand light-years in diameter from rim to rim (Hoyle, pp. 54, 106, says sixty thousand light-years), ten thousand light-years thick at the hub or center (another estimate is twenty thousand light-years [Stanush, p. 97] ), believed to lie to the southward of us in America in the direction of the Great Star Cloud of Sagittarius. We are, say they, some twenty-five thousand to thirty thousand light-years from the hub or center of the galactic disc, out towards the rim. (Bart J. Bok, “‘The Southern Sky,” Scientific American (July 1952), p. 47; cited as Bok II.) We lie, they affirm, in or near the central plane of this great whirling disc of one hundred billion stars (Bok I, p. 32); and they also affirm that the galaxy thins out toward the rims; that very few stars are found out beyond ten thousand light-years from our own sun; that one-half of the Milky Way is “comparatively thin and dull, the other dense and vivid”; and that “there are ten times as many stars per unit area of sky in the Sagittarius cloud as in the richest part of the winter Milky Way.” (Ibid.)

At our position in this gigantic whirling wheel (about thirty thousand light-years from the center), the earth is credited with four rotary motions: (1) around its polar axis at a rate, in the United States, of seven hundred miles per hour; (2) around the sun at about seventy thousand miles per hour with some slight gravitation disturbances; (3) with the sun around the hub or center of the galaxy at one hundred fifty miles per second, or one million miles per hour at the outer rim; (4) the whole galaxy is moving through space as a unit  (Colton, p. 403) at a rate there seems to be no way of computing. . . .

More About the Hub, the Center of Our Galaxy – About Kolob

Apparently by almost, if not quite common consent (Bok II, p. 50), the hub or center of our galaxy is assumed to lie “in the direction of the Great Star Cloud of Sagittarius” in the area (southward from us) of the constellations of Sagittarius and Scorpio. (Bok I, p. 32, italics supplied.) Between us and this Great Cloud in which lies the hub, is a distance of from twenty-five thousand light-years to thirty thousand light-years. (Bok II, p. 47.) Astrophysicists now affirm that in this distance between us and the Sagittarius Cloud in which is the center or hub, “we can detect a network of dense dust clouds floating through space within 5,000 light-years of us or less; and beyond that, up to 25,000 light-years away, we can see the thickly huddled stars and star-clusters of the hub itself.” (Ibid., p. 57.) Some say now that this large Sagittarius Cloud “is estimated to be 80,000 light-years from us.” (Ibid., p. 48.) One observation is interesting in connection with this expression “thickly huddled stars” of the hub. Colton, speaking of the projected “Sky Survey,” holds out some hope for more knowledge by saying: “But the Sky Survey may reveal rifts in this curtain through which parts of the ‘hub’ can be photographed and studied.” (Colton, p. 418.) Hopeful also is Bok’s statement in re a spiral arm in which he speaks of a “knot of stars.” (Bok II, p. 47.)

The Milky Way, it turns out, is no ordinary spiral galaxy. According to a massive new survey of stars at the heart of the galaxy by Wisconsin astronomers, including professor of astonomy Edward Churchwell and professor of physics Robert Benjamin, the Milky Way has a definitive bar feature -- some 27,000 light years in length -- that distinguishes it from pedestrian spiral galaxies, as shown in this artist's rendering. The survey, conducted using NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, sampled light from an estimated 30 million stars in the plane of the galaxy in an effort to build a detailed portrait of the inner regions of the Milky Way. Used with permission by:  UW-Madison University Communications 608-262-0067 Illustration by: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC/Caltech) This hub or central area of the Milky Way (Sagittarius and Scorpio constellations) is extremely brilliant. As already stated, present photographs show that “there are 10 times as many stars per unit area of sky in the Sagittarius cloud as in the richest part of the winter Milky Way.” In short, one half of the Milky Way is comparatively thin and dull, the other dense and vivid. (Bok I, p. 32.) Evidence is said to show that some of the stars in the Sagittarius are a are “very far away.” (Ibid.)

It is declared that the area of the constellations Sagittarius, Aquila, and Cygnus, “seen best in summer, is so brilliant that parts of it may readily be mistaken for cumulus clouds when observed near the horizon.” (Ibid.)

The following statements are interesting: Because of several considerations, — dust clouds, latitude, and time of possible observation — “one of the most brilliant sections in the Milky Way cannot be seen at all from observatories in the U. S.,” whereas from the Boyden Station of the Harvard College Observatory in South Africa, observers “get the best view of the center of our galaxy, for as the Milky Way turns in our heavens, the center passes directly overhead at the latitude of the Boyden Station.” (Bok II, p. 47.)

While the language of the astronomers is uniformly to the point that the hub or center of our galaxy is in the direction of the Sagittarius and Scorpio section of the Milky Way, their discussions leave little chance for the layman to question their convictions that the hub or center is in that area. . . .

But this fact seems reasonably clear that this hub or center of a galaxy exists and performs, in broad principle, the functions of Kolob and that Kolob’s existence and function were known about four thousand years before our day.2

The references above to Kolob and the Sagittarius Star Cloud immediately caught my attention. And not just because I am a Sagittarius or because Carrie is a Scorpio. Rather it has to do with the idea that both constellations are located in the southern hemisphere. According to Giorgio de Santillana:

. . . In whichever dialect the phenomenon is spelled out, the fallen ruler of the Golden Age is held to dwell nearest to the celestial South Pole, particularly in Canopus which marks the steering oar of Argo, Canopus at the “confluence of the rivers.” This is true whether Varuna fastened the sky to the seat of the Rita (and his own seat), whether Enki-Ea-Enmesharra, dwelling in Eridu, held all the norms and measures (Rita, Sumerian me: Akkadian: parsu)—Thorkild Jacobsen called him very appropriately the “Lord modus operandi” –or whether Kronos-Saturn kept giving “all the measures of the whole creation” to Zeus while he himself slept in Ogygia-the-primeval.3

Although I’ve already written about Canopus, its possible connection to Facsimile 2 in the Book of Abraham, and as the center of gravity, I should add that the southern sky where all these celestial phenomena appear – at least to the ancients – seem to be associated with joyfulness and happiness.4 And to me, that seems to be an apt description of Kolob.

Sources:

  1. In fact, Brigham Young once commented that the earth was near the throne of Father in heaven prior to the fall.
  2. Clark, J. Reuben, Jr. Behold the Lamb of God. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1962. 42, 44; italics in original.
  3. de Santillana, Giorgio and Hertha von Dechend. Hamlet’s Mill: An Essay Investigating the Origins of Human Knowledge and its Transmission Through Myth. Jaffrey, New Hampshire: Godine, 1977. 265.
  4. Ibid. 269.

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  1. Anthony Larson’s avatar

    Popular LDS belief to the contrary, Kolob is not some distant body in the center of our galaxy.

    When the Lord opened a vision of creation to Moses, he specifically limited the scope of that account, saying, “But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you.” (Moses 1:35.) That is, Moses was not shown the “worlds without number” that God had created, just this earth. Read the account to satisfy yourself that I am correct.

    Now, if that was true of Moses’ vision, it was also true of Abraham’s vision of stars and planets, including Kolob. That is to say, Kolob and the other named orbs in Abraham’s vision are local bodies, pertaining solely to “an account of this earth” and the solar system where it resides.

    Further, the quote by Brigham Young you cite in a footnote about Earth once being close to the “Throne of God” before the Fall further reinforces that idea. That is, to traverse the prodigious distance from the center of the galaxy to its present location after the Fall would require that the Earth travel millions of light years, a time span clearly absent from either the revealed word of God or the scientists’ estimate of Man’s earthly sojourn.

    More likely, Earth was once a satellite of the gas giants in this solar system–probably the very Kronos/Saturn mentioned by de Santillana and Von Dechend in “Hamlet’s Mill”–that settled into its present orbit during the time of Adam and his posterity.

    You can see the evidence and logic for my arguement at:
    http://mormonprophecy.blogspot.com/2008/08/knowledge-of-stars.html

  2. Clark Goble’s avatar

    I always favored the Sirius = Kolob explanation best. It works quite well with the allegory of Abr 3 given a geocentric astronomy. Kevin did a nice post on this back at BCC a few years ago.

  3. Greg’s avatar

    Hi Clark. Thanks for your comment and pointing me to that post. I’ve been meaning to post about Nibley’s writings on the Semitic root of Kolob (he suggested three possibilities as noted in that post), since I think he was the first to propose the idea.

    The post above is just the first of many posts on this topic, but I thought President Clark’s views to be of some interest. Not so much that he was trying to propose a definitive location of such a star, as much as it appears he was trying to suggest that “this hub or center of a galaxy exists and performs, in broad principle, the functions of Kolob” as evidence of the explanation given to Abraham in Abraham 3.

    Sirius seems to have held an extremely important role among the ancients and de Santillana and von Dechend referred to it as “the first star of heaven and the kingpin of archaic astronomy” (p. 285). Over time, I hope to draw upon their rich, but very difficult to decipher sources when I do get around to blogging more about Kolob. Nibley quoted de Santillana many times and after my first read-through of Hamlet’s Mill, I could see more clearly that his later writings were infused with these concepts although he at times, did not directly refer to them. Thanks again . . . hopefully in the near future you’ll see additional material about the “kingpin of archaic astronomy” – the Dog Star.

  4. Greg’s avatar

    Hi Anthony – thank you again for your insightful commentary. I hope I didn’t imply that Kolob is some distant body at the “center of our galaxy”. As I mentioned in my response to Clark, it appears President Clark was trying to suggest that “this hub or center of a galaxy exists and performs, in broad principle, the functions of Kolob” as evidence of the explanation given to Abraham in Abraham 3. My comments at the end of the post above were to suggest that the southern sky – where Canopus, the Sagittarius Star Cloud, Scorpio, and Sirius are all located – seem to have a rich ancient tradition.

    Concerning your comments about Moses and Abraham’s vision as recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, I concur that there are a number of similarities between the two visions (cf. 2 Nephi 27:7), but feel that they were unique to each. Consequently, Kolob may have been a “local” celestial body in that far-off time known as the Golden Age (Council in Heaven?; i.e. before the fall), but subsequent to the fall “the earth fell into space, and took up its abode in this planetary system, and the sun became our light” (see Earth Was Near the Throne of Father in Heaven). Perhaps this is one reason why Benjamin F. Johnson later said the Prophet Joseph Smith “gave us to understand that there were twelve kingdoms, or planets, revolving around our solar system, to which the Lord gave an equal division of His time or ministry and that now was His time to again visit the earth” (see Twelve Kingdoms or Planets).

    Concerning Kronos/Saturn, although I have not yet read his writings, I believe Immanuel Velikovsky may have concurred with de Santillana and von Dechend about the prominence of that orb among the ancients concerning the Golden Age. However, in contradistinction to the idea that the Earth was once a satellite to Kronos/Saturn, could it be possible that that orb was one of the “governing ones” and also “fell” into orbit around our solar system as did the earth? Just a thought.

    Thanks for the link. I look forward to reviewing it.

    Update: Anthony, I just reviewed your post and have to thank you for a wonderful explanation! Thanks so much.

  5. David Littlefield’s avatar

    May I suggest a different view of things.

    Let me propose a question. If was had a space ship that would go a trillion light years a second, could we take it to the “center” and find God?

    I don’t think so. If we got to the center we would be at the place closest to where our physicality breaks down, where time almost stops. We would be nigh unto leaving this dimension and entering another dimension. I submit that other dimension is where God dwells.

    -David Littlefield

  6. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks David! A beautiful point of view. Personally, I wonder if we do not have to travel very far at all if we learned how to control our thoughts as suggested by Suzanne Freeman in Good Vibrations and be imbued with that “spiritual fluid” as mentioned by Parley P. Pratt in New Birth.

  7. Dave Collingridge’s avatar

    Greg,

    I enjoyed reading this post and the comments. It is a interesting issue for us cosmology nerds to explore. When I take my telescope out during the summer, Sagittarius (the “tea cup”) is one of my favorite constellations to explore given the rich abundance of nebula and star clusters that reside toward the center of our galaxy.
    I don’t know if the center of our galaxy is the dwelling place of God, but if I had to guess, I think that is where Kolob is located (for reasons mentioned in my post which you’ve seen). If the center of the galaxy is the location of Kolob then it would be fair to say that our galaxy comprises all His creations. Indeed the number of stars and planets in our galaxy comprise “worlds without number.”
    Extending the discussion a bit further, what about all the other galaxies? Are they part of God’s creation or do they belong to others celestialized gods? I do not mean to limit the extent of Heavenly Father’s reach into the cosmos, but in LDS theology we believe that He had a god when he was like us, before He ascended to become an exalted being. Where does His father reside? Perhaps at the center of some other galaxy.
    Considering all the galaxies in the universe (of which about 1500 are pictured in the Hubble Deep Field photo), one really gets a sense of how there was no beginning and there will be no end.

    Please let me know your thoughts on this: I used to think that Kolob was a star, but after reading the POGP again I think it is a star cluster. In Abraham 3: 13 and 16 the Lord says that Kokaubeam are stars and that Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam.

    I’ve added a link to your site at mormonsandscience.com. I look forward to reading some of your other posts. Cheers. -Dave

  8. Greg’s avatar

    Hi Dave – Sorry its taken me a few days to reply. I’m jealous though, I still don’t have a telescope after lo these many years, but have to rely on my ever faltering lack of vision.

    Wow, fascinating that you would suggest Kolob as a star cluster. If you haven’t yet read Anthony Larson’s post A Knowledge of the Stars: What Joseph Smith Taught the Early Saints, may I recommend it? It contains the following quote by Orson Hyde and other interesting material:

    God says he will gather all things into one; then he will gather the earth likewise… The gathering will be upon a larger scale in time to come; for by and by the stars of heaven will fall. Which way will they go? They will rally to a grand center, and there will be one grand constellation of worlds. (Journal of Discourses, 1:130).

    Recently, I contacted Anthony about the material in this post and asked him if he was aware of other related teachings along these lines. When I told my wife about my exchange with Anthony, she said that when she first read the quote above by J. Reuben Clark, Jr. she had the feeling that Kolob may be just that – a “grand constellation of worlds”.

    Anthony has a lot of wonderful material that may be of interest to you – it certainly is to me – see his blog at Mormon Prophecy also titled Things They Are, Were and Are to Come.

  9. Anthony Larson’s avatar

    Greg,

    Thanks for the boost. I hope you and others will take the time to read all the material in my blog, not just the story you referenced. If any Latter-day Saint wants to know the connections between the past, the language of the prophets, the symbolism of prophecy and the meaning of our temple symbols and rituals, they can learn much reading my views.

    Again, many thanks, Greg, for having an inquiring mind and a willing spirit.

  10. Greg’s avatar

    Anthony – no problem at all. When you mentioned the “restoration” and the “marvelous work and a wonder” in your email to me a couple weeks ago, I understood what you meant. I look forward to reviewing your posts in more detail in the coming weeks.

  11. Marc Stacy’s avatar

    Greg…I have just recently found this site. I am impressed by your thoughts.

    I would like to mention here as well…that I have a strong testimony of Anthony Larson and his website Mormon Prophecy. I have been a follower (if you will) of Tony Larson for years. I have found…by way of…the test of Alma (Alma 32) that what Tony teaches has grown in my heart “as a seed growth.” I would admonish your readers to consider what Alma says in Alma 32. Along with Moroni 10: 4-5. If we ask the Lord…as Joseph (James 1:5-6) did…the truth will “cut it’s own way.”

  12. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks for your thoughts Marc. I haven’t studied Anthony’s books yet, but from what I already know about them, I am excited to explore them.

  13. Nick’s avatar

    Is it plausible that this allegory is not literal? That Kolob is not an actual star, rather a figurative representation of Christ? Read the text again with this mind and see if this is actually a means of teaching a principle with symbols, as opposed to pinpointing the positioning of the throne of God in the universe. I doubt that the actual habitation of the Lord will ever be revealed until his return, so speculation is very interesting but nevertheless it is fruitless. More likely than not, it will be a significant deviation from the actual place.

    I believe this is a parable to assist us in recognizing the central role of the Savior in our lives, which given the context, is more important than an Astronomy lesson (and the purpose of Scripture).

    [if my tone seems contentious - I apologize - I do not intend to be antagonistic, I just want to present a clear, alternative perspective on the matter].

  14. Greg’s avatar

    Nick, I think there are many points of view that are plausible and your comments are appreciated. Concerning Kolob as a “figurative representation of Christ”, you may enjoy reading a reminiscence of Benjamin F. Johnson in Twelve Kingdoms or Planets and Hugh Nibley’s comments about cosmism in Cosmology in Early Christianity.

    Your comment that the “actual habitation of the Lord” won’t be revealed until his return is well taken. Although there will be multiple appearances by the Lord as part of his Second Coming, we do know that one of these general appearances will be accompanied by a planet, or a comet (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. 286-287; cf. Joseph Smith – Matthew 1:26).

    Also, Latter-day Saints consider the Book of Abraham as scripture. This book contains numerous references to various orbs that were revealed to the Patriarch Abraham by the Lord, including Kolob (Abraham 3). Abraham was commanded to teach these things to the Egyptians (Abraham 3:15).

    So in essence, cosmism is part and parcel of the Lord’s plan of salvation.

  15. Jared’s avatar

    I don’t have time to do the research now but I remember reading Anthony Larson’s opionions on Kolob. Since Anthony has been commenting on this blog can he clarify his opionion for me? If I remember right, his opionion is that Kolob is Jupitor… again, it has been a while since I have read anything from Tony. I believe from what I read he takes this view from a drawing from Philo Dibble. When I researched Philo Dibble’s drawing (given him by Joseph Smith) it was remarked by him that the two spheres below and above the earth were not Jupitor. How do you reconcile this with your speculation Tony? Just wondering since I came across this blog entry. Feel free to email me if you see this post. jru...@sbcglobal.net. Thanks.

  16. Anthony E. Larson’s avatar

    Please see my notes in the first comment on this subject, made back in January. Additionally, you can read my observations in more detail on my blog at http://mormonprophecy.blogspot.com/search?q=Kolob

  17. David H.’s avatar

    God told Abraham that the name of the “great one” was “Kolob” and it was set to govern worlds of the same order as ours. Joseph Smith detailed the “15 fixed stars” that govern, including Kolob, Oliblish, Kaevanrash, and others.

    I believe Kolob is the great star that is a Black Hole in the center of our Milky Way galaxy, and is the grand governing star of this galaxy. The PoGP account to Abraham points to a single great star, not a cluster. There may be a cluster that has power “in affinity” with each other, but Kolob appears to be distinct as a “solar” body. Also, for those of you who are going to say “but Black Holes are dark, and the place of God should be light” I say “there are more radiations than just visible light, and we will be able to see them all when we are resurrected with celestial bodies/glory.”

    I also think that Ezekiel’s “Wheel Within a Wheel” is a description of our Galaxy.

    I don’t understand why anyone would think that God could not show Moses and Abraham the big picture, and then only give them details about the earth. No big deal there.

    To think that Sirius is “the great one” seems unlikely, as there are much larger and denser stars. Also, Sirius doesn’t exactly “govern” us, as we rotate about the Sun and the Sun rotates about the Galactic core. It seems far more likely that the Galactic center is the place of government.

    Regarding Jupiter and Saturn being potential governing ones, and/or Kolob, that seems highly unlikely to me. What, so the throne of God is located on a “planet” still circling Jupiter? I don’t think so. Sol, the sun, is more of a great governing body than either of those planets.

    As for speed of travel, remember that with the right gravitational well, time will cease. God measures time by the rotation of Kolob (or the orbit of His planet about it) but is not affected by time. In the Celestial Kingdom, “everything is here, and everything is now.” It is entirely possible that travel of persons and worlds from one location to another could take place via wormholes.

    You might read “The Kolob Theorem” for some good info on the center of the Milky Way being the place of Kolob and the celestial kingdom, and the location of God’s throne. While I see some holes (pun intended) in a few of the details the author subscribes to, overall the theory seems sound.

    Dave.

  18. Marvin Calderon’s avatar

    Hi Greg.

    I just found your site and I’m really impressed, and astonished, with all of the commentary and following you have. I first began hearing about things such as the Kolob Theorem and allegorical interpretations for Moses’ vision and the Book of Abraham. I will definitely keep following you and really enjoyed your post on the the brother of Jared and the Temple principles. You may have already read or touched on this but Matthew B. Brown also quotes LDS scholars on the temple references found in Mosiah 2-5, and 3 Nephi 12-14 in his book “The Plan of Salvation.”

    Thanks again for your posts.

  19. Greg’s avatar

    Thanks Marvin. I haven’t read The Kolob Theorem or Mr. Brown’s book yet, so thanks for the references.

  20. Ed Goble’s avatar

    http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KolobAndThroneOfGod

    I just created a discussion group for this theory and other related theories about the Book of Abraham and KEP. I’m looking for other researchers on these subjects that have similar beliefs.

    I have written a book on this subject named the Nail of Heaven.

  21. Steven Montgomery’s avatar

    Ed,

    I could find no such discussion group.

  22. Kurt’s avatar

    “And I Abraham…saw the stars, that they were very great, and that one of them was nearest unto the throne of God…and the name of the great one is Kolob, because it is near unto me, for I am the Lord thy God: I have set this one to govern all those which belong to the same order of that upon which thou standest. And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim, that Kolob was after the manner of the Lord.” The Book of Abraham, Translated from Papyrus by Joseph Smith, 1878 edition.

    “Thus, I Abraham , talked with the Lord…and he told me of the works which his hands had made…and I could not see the end thereof…he said…this is Shinehah, which is the Sun…and Kolob, which is Star…and Olea, which is the Moon…and Kokaubeam, which signifies Stars…Kolob is the greatest of all the Kokaubeam”. – Pearl of Great Price, The Book of Abraham, Translated from Papyrus by Joseph Smith, 1878 edition.

  23. Chip Royce’s avatar

    Students of the most advanced physical theory today confess that they cannot hope to describe or even imagine what the waves and particles they deal with really are; what keeps them going and reassures their faith in the reality of those mysterious entities is the principal of consistency. A hypothetical structure is worth working on if it is consistent within itself and agrees with whatever limited data are available; as long as the known data agree with each other and experimental predictions, we are on the right track. So it has always been with the study of the past. We never shall know what really happened or exactly what it was like back then, but consistency of sources keeps the game going. 
    -Hugh Nibley “Abraham in Egypt” page 50 2nd paragraph 

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