Primum Mobile and Empyrean

Fantasy or fiction writers have always searched  to guess what are the laws governing the celestial vault. Since the remote antiquity, hypothesis were made about a moving dome. Anyway, there is a reliable masterpiece, well known all over the world,  which can help us in understanding more. In the Bible, concerning the new Jerusalem, a living temple, – and temples are always connected to our cosmos -, you can read:

“The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald,  the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass”. New International Version (Revelation21:18-21)

A fantastic synthesis of nacre and graphene

I would like to remark the point that each foundation has an opening made of a single pearl. I could suggest one idea: I would like to imagine the pearl as a knob on top of a lid. Even something like a pearl on top of a ring. These should be a portal avoiding or allowing the waters of above to enter down.

Notice that Chinese chemists have developed a new nacre-like material which is stronger  than natural nacre and most other composites. Nacre, which is also known as mother of pearl, is a naturally occurring composite formed from calcium carbonate and biopolymers that create a brickwork structure.

It is also nearly a thousand times stronger than any of its component parts and a major target for biomimetic synthesis. Gaoquan Shi, and colleagues, at Tsinghua University, Beijing, began by making a hydrogel from graphene and a silk protein, called fibroin.

Hao Bai, a specialist in materials engineering at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, US, agrees, telling Chemistry World that ‘this step forward could have an impact on the design and fabrication of nacre-inspired materials as well as the application of graphene.’

The team is particularly interested in exploiting the superior mechanical properties and biocompatibility of the component parts to develop the technology for use in tissue engineering and scaffolds.

See also the article on this blog “Temple and Time” edited in November 2016

In the book of Exodus 28:15-21 there’s another description reminding the one given in Revelation. It is the breastplate of the high priest. It could be a description of the skies as well. Here you can find the passage involved:

You shall make a breastpiece of judgment, the work of a skillful workman; like the work of the ephod you shall make it: of gold, of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen you shall make it. “It shall be square and folded double, a span in length and a span in width. “You shall mount on it four rows of stones; the first row shall be a row of ruby, topaz and emerald; …and the second row a turquoise, a sapphire and a diamond; and the third row a jacinth, an agate and an amethyst; and the fourth row a beryl and an onyx and a jasper; they shall be set in gold filigree. “The stones shall be according to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, according to their names; they shall be like the engravings of a seal, each according to his name for the twelve tribes.  New American Standard Bible

            Isaiah 40:12, in describing the creation of the skies, resorts to the same metaphor too: the span.

           “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?” Isaiah 40:12 English Standard Versions.

In the same chapter the prophet compares our cosmos to a bucket, but about this I am going to talk in a next session. Anyway, at least six or seven of the precious stones mentioned in Revelation or Exodus are belonging to the families of quartz.


Revelation refers to transparent and pure crystal to describe:

“a glassy sea like crystal,” which was probably  a representation of our cosmos;

  • the radiance of the holy city, the New Jerusalem, as ” a jasper stone shining crystal clear”;

Rock crystal, as mentioned in the Bible, is, of course, quartz in its purest form, composed of silicon and oxygen. Optically, quartz presents  highly transmissibility in the visible and in the ultraviolet. Crystal is also the term the Septuagint uses to denote ice, as in Ezekiel chapter 1:22.

Quite interestingly, quartz and crystals are connected with piezoelectricity, an important effect in the activities of the dome.

Piezoelectricity is the electric charge that accumulates in certain solid materials (such as crystals, certain ceramics, and biological matter such as bone, DNA and various proteins) in response to applied mechanical stress. The word piezoelectricity means electricity resulting from pressure and heat. It is derived from the Greek piezō(πιέζω) or piezein (πιέζειν), which means to squeeze or press, and ēlektron (ήλεκτρον), which means amber, an ancient source of electric charge. (Wikipedia)

You will be astonished to notice the use of the term electron in Ezekiel chapter 1:4,27 and 8:2 in the description of the expanse over the chariot wheels.

 Primum Mobile

In classical, medieval, and Renaissance astronomy, the Primum Mobile (or “first moved”) was the outermost moving sphere in the geocentric model of the universe. The concept was introduced by Ptolemy to account for the apparent daily motion of the heavens around the Earth, producing the east-to-west rising and setting of the sun and stars, and reached Western Europe via Avicenna.

Dante made the Primum Mobile the ninth of the ten heavens into which he divided his Paradiso.

Stoikeia or elementa

Here I would like to quote again the Scriptures, where Peter, in his second letter, refers to the skies as στοιχεῖα or the “elements”. He writes: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare”. 2Peter 3:10 New International Version
The original Greek text refers to the elements as στοιχεῖα while the Vulgate has the Latin word elementa.


προσδοκῶντας καὶ σπεύδοντας τὴν παρουσίαν τῆς τοῦ Θεοῦ ἡμέρας, δι’ ἣν οὐρανοὶ πυρούμενοι λυθήσονται καὶ στοιχεῖα καυσούμενα τήκεται  Greek Test Nestle GNT 1904

Caeli magnu impetu transient, elementa vero calore solvetur. Vulgate

I’ve quoted here 2Peter in order to explain the meaning of this Greek word στοιχεῖα corresponding to the Latin elementa. The words are connected with the fundamental principles of a science, of an art, of instruction or of an institution. They are also used by Lucretius in De Rerum Natura to indicate the last and minimal elements of the physical matter, atoms. In classical Greek, these are rudiments or first principles. The term was used to refer to a part of a series. In 2Peter elementa or στοιχεῖα are set into correspondence to οὐρανοὶ, the skies or the different moving layers of the dome.

There’s a Latin historical book written by  Flavius Arian of Nicomedia in the second century AD, which can help in understanding the meaning of the term. It is a military word used in the Anabasis to describe the orderly way soldiers march, always keeping the same distance from each other, starting from the front line up to the rear guard. The Greek verb στοιχεῖν corresponds to the Latin jugare and versare. There’s not a  Latin verb able to express the Greek στοιχεῖν by alone. Jugare means to tie together, for instance, jugare vineam or tying the vineyard above a support to make a trellis. Versare means to spin, to roll a rock or a boulder. So στοιχεῖν is really the right verb for the movement of a dome always keeping the same distance between its different layers and perpetually spinning. The Greek στοιχέω, in fact, corresponds to the English stay,  go,  walk in a row,  follow in a series, march one after the other. The adjective στοιχειματιχός was appropriately used for indicating the signs of the zodiac.

This reasoning can help me to understand the idea that the skies are divided into equal and regular spaces as ancient astronomers certainly did. For instance, Aristotle posited that the celestial bodies were moving on concentric hemispheres over the earth. Earth was set in the center of the Universe, surrounded by eight concentric celestial vaults. Stars and celestial bodies were set inside the hemispheric domes.  The movement of the skies was dragging the asters inside the dome. The inside dome was nestled with the fixed stars and was called Primum Mobile. It was the furthermost mobile shell of the cosmos characterized by a circular regular and uniform movement. It was also considered a motor fit to transmit movement to all the other celestial mobiles.


The total number of celestial spheres was not fixed. In the above 16th-century illustration, the firmament (sphere of fixed stars) is the eighth mobile, moreover, a “crystalline” sphere (posited also to account for the reference to “waters . . . above the firmament” in Genesis 1:7) is the ninth, and the Primum Mobile is tenth. Outside all was the Empyrean, the “habitation of God and all the elect.”The Empyrean was thought to be stationary and deprived of movement.

This is quite a messy description but, in my next article, I promise that I will try to make some order.

And for now, that’s enough. Bye, bye, my reader.

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