From the flat earth to the sun’s chariot traditional spiritual texts seem wedded to outmoded cosmologies that show, at best, the scientific limitations of their authors. The Bhagavata Purana, one of the classical scriptures of Hinduism, seems, at first glance, to be no exception. However, a closer examination of this text reveals unexpected depths of knowledge in ancient cosmology. This shows that the cosmology of the Bhagavata Purana is a sophisticated system, with multiple levels of meaning that encode at least four different astronomical, geographical and spiritual world models. By viewing the text in the light of modern astronomy, Richard Thompson shows how ancient scientists expressed exact knowledge in apparently mythological terms. Comparison with the ancient traditions of Egypt and the Near East shows early cultural connections between India and these regions including a surprisingly advanced science. However, quantitative science is only part of the picture. This work also offers a clear understanding of how the spiritual dimension was integrated into ancient Indian cosmology.
Richard L. Thompson was born in Binghamton, New York, in 1947. In 1974 he received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Cornell University, where he specialized in probability theory and statistical mechanics. He has done scientific research in quantum physics, mathematical biology, and remote sensing. He has extenseively investigated ancient Indian astronomy, cosmology and spirituality and has developed multimedia expositions on these topics.