What’s Out There?
Humankind is constantly evolving, and it often feels like every day there’s news of an invention of academic milestone that could very well change the way we see and understand the universe and, consequently, ourselves.
As theories of real time cosmology continue to expand (get it), so do our theories and representations about the universe itself. One artist’s depiction of the universe around us, carefully crafted to a logarithmic scale, is gaining a lot of traction this week, giving us a superhuman glimpse into what’s really out there, which made us wonder: what did we use to think the universe looked like?
The Omphalos at Delphi (ancient times)
Before modern discoveries and science, many theories purported that the world was the center of the universe, or indeed, the entire universe itself.
In ancient times, it was believed that the center of the universe was marked by an omphalos, meaning “navel,” which took the form of a stone artifact that Zeus sent down to Earth at its center. The one found at Delphi, seen above, was the most famous, believed to be stone that was deceitfully fed to Cronus in order to save Zeus. Other cultures and religions have their own omphaloi, located in places like Jerusalem, which similarly demarcated the center of the world.
The belief that the omphalos was the center of the world gave rise to the expression in some Romance languages calling egotistical people “the belly button of the world.”
Axis Mundi (ancient times)
In some ancient religions and philosophies, there exists the concept of the axis mundi, a sort of pillar of the world representing the connection between the heavens and Earth. It is often also believed to be the point of the world’s beginning. A sort of Jacob’s ladder, this was often depicted as a tree, a mountain, a stairwell, or a pillar that was sacred above all else, both in religious and secular beliefs.