"The symbol of the Omphalos could be placed in a position that was simply the centre of a particular area - the spiritual centre, of course, rather than the geographical one, although in certain cases these might coincide. If the latter was the case, the place was indeed, for the people who inhabited the region in question, the physical image of the 'centre of the world', in the same way as their own tradition was an adapta- tion of the primordial tradition expressed in a form that suited best their mentality and conditions of existence. The best- known Omphalos is the one in the temple at Delphi, the temple that was the genuine spiritual centre for all ancient Greece."
"8Without enumerating all the reasons for making this asser- tion, it should be noted that there assembled twice yearly at Delphi the Council of Amphictyons, which consisted of representatives from all the Hellenic peoples and which in fact provided the only effective link between these peoples. The strength of this bond lay in its essentially traditional character."
"The material representation of the Omphalos usually con- sisted of a sacred stone, commonly called [in French] a 'betyle', a word apparently none other than the Hebrew Beith-El or 'House of God'.* This name was the name given by Jacob to the place where the Lord manifested Himself to him in a dream: 'And Jacob awoke from his sleep and said; "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not." And he was afeared and said: "How awesome is this place! It is the house of God and the door to Heaven." And Jacob arose early in the morning and took with him the stone on which he had laid his head, made it into a pillar and poured oil over it to consecrate it."
"And he named this place Beith-El, but the first name of this place was "Luz".'9 It is said that Beith-El, 'the House of God', subsequently became Beith-Lehem, 'House of Bread', the town where Christ was born.10 The symbolic relationship existing between stone and bread is always worth examining,11 and it should be made clear that Beith-El applies not only to the place but to the stone itself: 'And this stone that I have raised as a pillar will be the house of God.'12 Thus, this stone must be the true 'divine habitation' (mishkan), the seat of the Shekinah, although the designation was later transferred to the Taber- nacle."
"All this relates naturally to the subject of 'spiritual influences' (berakoth), so that when the 'cult of stones', common to so many ancient peoples, is mentioned, it can be seen at once that is was not the stones themselves that were worshipped but the Divinity residing in them. The stone representing the Omphalos could take the form of a pillar, like Jacob's. It is very likely that some of the 'menhirs' of the Celts had the same significance; oracles were uttered in association with them, as at Delphi, which is easily understood if it is seen that they were the abode of the Divinity. The 'House of God' is naturally identifiable with the 'Centre of the World'. The Omphalos could also have been represented, like the black stone of Cybele, by a conical shape where the cone represents the 'sacred mountain', symbol of the 'pole' or 'Axis of the World'."
"Another version was an ovoid, which would bring it into direct relationship with another extremely important symbol, the 'Egg of the World'.13 While the Omphalos was usually depicted by a stone, it sometimes took the form of a mound or sort of tumulus, again an image of the sacred mountain. In China, for example, a mound or hillock in the shape of a quadrangular pyramid was built in the centre of every kingdom or feudal state, made out of earth brought from the 'five regions'."
"Its four sides corresponded to the four cardinal points and its summit to the centre itself.14 Strangely enough, these 'five regions' were also to be found in Ireland, where the 'Chiefs standing stone' was in a similar way erected in the middle of each domain."
"15Among Celtic nations it is Ireland that provides the most data about the Omphalos; the country was formerly divided into five kingdoms, one of which was called Mide, nowadays Anglicized as 'Meath', from the ancient Celtic word medion, or 'middle', identical to the Latin medius.16 The kingdom of Mide has been formed by deducting portions of land from the other four kingdoms and became, through prerogative, the property of Ireland's supreme king, to whom the other monarchs were subordinate."
"17 There was a gigantic stone at Uisneach* - the exact centre of the country - called both the 'navel of the earth' and 'stone of portions' (ail-na-meeran), because it marked the place where the dividing boundaries of the four older kingdoms converged inside the kingdom of Mide. There, a general assembly was held annually on i May, that was very like the annual reunion of the Druids at their 'consecrated place', medio-lanon or medio-nemeton in Gaul in the country of the Carnutes."
"The similarity with the assembly of the Amphictyons at Delphi is clear. Ireland's division into four kingdoms, plus its central region where the supreme ruler resided, was a legacy of very ancient tradition. It was this arrangement that caused Ireland to be named the 'Island of the four masters',18 though this title and its synonym, 'Green Isle' or Erin, had originally been used to denote another, much more northerly, land called Ogygia or rather Thule, now unknown, perhaps vanished, which was once one of the principal spiritual centres, if not, during a certain cycle, the supreme one."
"The memory of this 'island of four masters' is also to be found, although previously unnoticed, in the Chinese tradition, contained in a Taoist text: 'The emperor Yao took a great deal of trouble, and sincerely believed he had reigned in an ideal way. However, after his visit to the four masters on the distant island of Ku-shih' - inhabited by 'real men', chenjen, those who have been restored to their 'primordial state' - 'he realized that he had spoilt everything. The ideal, he discovered, consists of the in- difference (or rather the detachment in action that is non- action) of the superior man19 who allows the cosmic wheel to turn.'20 In another interpretation, the 'four masters' are identified with the four maharajas or 'great kings' who, in Indian and Tibetan traditions, preside at the four cardinal points.21 They correspond at the same time to the elements."
"The supreme Master, the fifth, who resides in the centre, on the sacred mountain, represents the ether, Akasha, the 'quintessence' or quinta essentia of the Hermeticists, which is the primordial element from which proceed the other four.22 Analogous traditions are also to be found in Central America."