Axis mundi, or the Cosmic Axis is a symbol that is present in many cultures. The reference is to a point at which the sky and the earth, and all compass points converge. It is the division between our world and the nether world. It has also been referred to as The Navel of the World, as these legends are cosmological, they explain the origin of the world.
The Foundation Stone which rests in The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is one such location. According to Jewish mystics, The Foundation Stone (or The Rock) is the location from which God created the world. The Rock was the first created part of our world. The Rock reappears in many places in Jewish mythology as the place where Jacob saw the Ladder to Heaven, where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac, and is believed by some Jews to be the location of the Holy of Holies from the Temple. The Foundation Stone also exists in Muslim mythology as the location from which Muhammad ascended into heaven.
So as stated before, The Foundation Stone appears multiple times in Jewish mythology, but the one that fascinates me the most is where David is concerned. While there are varied accounts of David’s encounter with this supernatural rock, my favorite version is this account reprinted from Tree of Souls: The Mythology of Judaism by Howard Schwartz and Caren Loebel-Fried:
“When King David decided to build the Temple in Jerusalem, he commanded that shafts be dug to a depth of fifteen hundred cubits. And lo, they struck a stone in one of those shafts. As soon as he learned of it, King David went there with Ahitophel, his counselor, and with other members of the court. They descended into the pit, and there, at the bottom, they saw the immense stone, shining like the darkest emerald.
“All those who saw it were amazed, and they knew that it must, indeed, be that fabled stone, which served as the world’s foundation. Yet all at once King David was possessed by a great curiosity to see what lay beneath it. King David ordered it to be raised, but a voice came forth from the stone, saying: “Be warned that I must not be lifted. I serve to hold back the waters of the Abyss.”
“All of them stood in awe of that voice, but King David’s curiosity was still not sated. He decided to ignore the warning, and once more he ordered the stone to be raised. None of his advisors dared say anything, for they feared his wrath. After a great effort, a corner of the Foundation Stone was lifted up, and King David bent down and peered into the Abyss beneath it. There he heard something like the sound of rushing waters, and he suddenly realized that by lifting the stone he had set free the waters of the Deep. Once again the world was in danger of being deluged, as in the time of Noah.
“King David trembled with fear, and he asked the others what they might do to cause the waters to fall back, but no one spoke. Then King David said: “Perhaps if I wrote the Name of God on a potsherd, and cast it into the depths, we might still be saved. But does anyone know if this is permitted?” Still the others said nothing, and King David grew angry and said: “If any one of you knows this and still refuses to answer, then your soul will bear the curse of the end of existence!” Then Ahitophel spoke: “Surely the Name can be used to bring peace to the whole world.” So David picked up a potsherd and scratched the four-letter Name of God into it, and cast it into the bottomless pit. All at once the roar of the waters grew fainter, and they knew that they had been saved by the power of the Name.” (pages 96-97)
When LOST came to an end, many fans, myself included, were a bit shocked that a show that played in a realm of science fiction ended up becoming more mystical in its final season. Of particular shock was the reveal of the purpose of the Island. The mysterious Jacob claimed that The Island was like a cork on a bottle of wine. Only instead of wine, the bottle was Hell. The mythology of the show truly was mythology. In the final episode, Desmond descends into a cave at the base of a waterfall. This cave is full of light. Water streams into the cave from a network of tunnels and collects in a pool, in the center of which lies a stone. Desmond removes the stone, the light is extinguished and the water stops. There is obviously another tunnel under the stone and red light begins to emit from it. The Island begins to shake and fall apart. This stone plug in a Foundation Stone. The Island is a Cosmic Axis.
There are many things about Lost that I hope to figure out as I rewatch the series, but discovering this Jewish myth (a myth that is probably unknown in the Christian circles I tend to travel) helped me gain a new appreciation of the mythology of the show. The writers tapped in to a mythology that was virtually lost to the show’s Western audience.
I desperately want to watch that finale again.