Brettmann Archives

“Of that place beyond the heavens,” wrote Plato, “none of our earthly poets has yet sung, and none shall sing worthily.” Undaunted by Plato’s warning, artists sought to depict what might lie past the sphere of the cosmos as this well-known woodcut illustrates. Alone and far from the safety of his village, a figure bravely pierces the boundary of the cosmos with his head and one hand, while still gripping the familiar earth with his body. The sun, moon and stars—the known celestial bodies—appear within the arch of the heavens. Outside are unfamiliar orbs, turbulence and the machinery that moves the universe. It is there that Mithras rules: In its elaborate symbolism, Mithraism depicts Mithras slaying the bull—moving the spring equinox out of Taurus the Bull—thus showing himself master of the realms beyond the heavens.