The Sun, The Soul, and the Longest Day:
A consideration of the Solstice points in one’s life
The Kailo Interfaith Community The Rev. Peter Edward Lanzillotta, Ph.D.
Today’s theme is a mythopoetic one- it’s about symbols and syncronicites and the archetypal connections between the yearly cycle of the Sun, the solstice, and the changes in one’s life; the revolutions of the heart, the seasons of the soul.
The inescapable importance of the warmth and light of the Sun on earthly life cannot be disputed. We know that the Sun and sunshine affects all life cycles and the patterns of growth in all living things. I propose, through the connections and corrolations of myth and metaphor, that the Sun has other influences on us- on our psyches, our attitudes, our sense of self and our understanding of soul in the context of wholeness and life.
The light, heat, vitality and energy we unselfishly and indifferently receive from the Sun have been known to affect people’s moods and temperaments. We have all heard of situations and conditions wherein the amount of sunshine a person receives can change or alter their mood and attitude towards daily life. In warm climates or with prolonged humidity, the extra intensity of the summer Sun can make some of us testy, aggressive, and “hot under the collar”.
Where I came from in New England it was the opposite. The lack of sun was always blamed, along with the local weatherman predictions, for people being grumpy, pessimistic, depressed and often impatient for the spring thaw and the brief summer warmth.
In psychological theory and literature, there seems to be a strong connection between people’s moods and the amount of sunshine they receive- there is even a recognized mental or emotional illness called SAD (Seasonal Adjusted Disorder) where a person has to have artificial sunlight installed in their home to ward off certain forms of depression. That certainly gives validity to the claim that the Sun certainly affect us on many levels! (MN lamp)
We are now coming to the Summer Solstice- which is the day in astronomy or in scientific measure, when the Sun shines for the longest time, creating the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The opposite occurs on or about December 21, some six months away. That is the time of the Winter Solstice, when we experience the least amount of sunshine, or what we call the shortest day of the year.
From a mythical viewpoint, one that can connect a deep sense of light to the energy within us, the experience of the light and warmth of the Sun gives our souls a clue for their best expression. The length of daylight corresponds to the time we are urged or encouraged to go or be outdoors in the light, and the sun also signals when it is best for our psyches or souls to seek the darkness for contemplation and rest.
The longest time period for light and outward energies occurs during June-July and the Shortest time occurs between December and January. In the time of increasing light, the soil and the soul warms to invite growth, expansion, and the planting of seeds. Fertile possibilities now can take root, and grow in the earth and in our minds and hearts. In this time of the expansion of light and heat, plants grow to the peak of their height and ripeness, and the creative energies of nature dominate landscape and life. As this time period applies to humans, what seems to happen more in June or July than any other time of the year?
Hmm… let’s see… traditionally there are more weddings during this time period than any other… more children are conceived …. more people graduate, ripen, mature or move out and away, further up and farther out into the world…. are there any others you can name or add?
Conversely, what could be said about the shortest days? They correspond to an ingathering, a more restful, contemplative and focused energy- a time for reading, introspection, meditation, evaluation and for welcoming more warmth or quiet into our lives.
I suspect that is one of the many psychic reasons that the crass, commercial crunch of Christmas is so hard to endure…
It goes against the natural rhythms of sun, soul, and life! But since it is an artificial holiday anyway, I am all for simplification.
Christmas is more accurately and originally celebrated in the early church on January 6th or if celebrating Jesus specifically, it is more likely that he was born in early February or March- but that’s another sermon!
The reason for bringing your attention to these cycles and seasons of the Sun, and their potential effects on us, is my concern for the health and well being of each of you as a spiritual and soulful person.
In the fields of transpersonal psychology and spirit centered theology where I make my academic home, it is affirmed and supported that when a person, or a culture, or a nation loses its sense of natural rhythms, cycles and seasons, it endangers their soul; it puts at risk our needed attunement to nature as sacred, which results in a loss of regard for our needs to nurture and reflect, express and create along with these natural cycles.
As geologian Thomas Berry put it:
The human community and the natural world will go forward
as a single, sacred community or we will both perish.
In astrological and mythological symbolism, the Sun has come to represent the core, true individuality of a person, as opposed to the learned personality traits or how one learns to respond to cultural ideas and attitudes that comprise social conduct, behaviors, perceptions, and outlooks.
The Sun is the signature self; how we most naturally relate to what is sacred and holy in ourselves, in others, and in nature; The Sun reveals how we best express the gifts and graces, talents, desires, and skills of this life. When a person or a culture forgets about the Sun and the seasons, they can lose contact with the essentials of our interpersonal and interdependent life- the more heart-centered empathetic, and nurturing ways that make relationships more enjoyable and for having a gratitude for life and love more sustainable. (What I worry about concerning electronic addiction or an exclusively social life based on emails and web sites… Obesity and the general lack of communication skills and social graces… The creation of fantasy worlds vs. The courage to live in the real one!)
A couple of provocative, maybe loaded questions:
Do you feel that our society has lost touch with these seasons and reasons? How can we best recover our souls?
Maybe it is that need to recognize and affirm natural ways and cycles of revealed truth that is the yearning that is behind our interest in recapturing many of the Native American celebrations, or the Wiccan and Celtic wisdom traditions, that clearly celebrate the seasons with reverence and delight???
Going a little deeper, we can see in the mythical literature a need to look to the Sun to define our inner being.
In The Upanishads, the ancient sacred texts of Hinduism, we are given a reply to the question the Brahman asks of Ajuna, one of the gods of light and life:
“[Who are you? … I am a season, and the child of the seasons. I am sprung from the womb of infinite space,
the seed of the husband and the wife, I am the light
of the year, the Self of all that is; and whatever you are,
I am also. … I am but a phase of the universal life, and
a child of the manifest cycles… I am a spark of the Divine, evolved through the cycle of the twelve stages,
And signs and by my means, is all growth accomplished.]”
Moving to the consideration of the Solstice as the longest and shortest days, we are given the contrasting image and the complementary rotations or resonance that represents the revolving seasons of the soul. One definition of the cycles of the year and the seasons is this; A year, in the life of day and night, is the way the soul moves, manifests and matures itself.
Some of the mythopoetic and metaphysical corrolations are these: The solstice points are the only time in the whole year that the Sun stays stationary or is seen as standing still. This station can be seen as a time of concentrated self or soul energy…
A time that reinforces what you know about yourself and can affirm the next steps in your path to more complete selfhood.
Second, the two solstice points act as complementary and supplementary mirrors of beginnings and endings. The solstice points act as the mirror that has two faces- one summer one is concave- a view that elongates the search for authenticity and true definitions, and the winter one has a convex face that widens and deepens introspection, assessment, discipline and inner peace. These points at the beginning of the summer and the winter act as the two faces in the mirror of our being. They complement one another and they place before us the completion of an important life’s task– These two points give us a special time for expressing and then for integrating what you know about yourself.
Lastly, the solstice points are an opportune and gracious time for the recapturing and the reconnecting of your personal and relational missing links- those parts of you that you had previously let go or places in your life where you have felt lacking or where you have felt that something is missing. The solstice time period offers us the spiritual opportunity that gives us both the time and energy to reclaim and reconnect them.
As the seasons transpire, circling through the cosmos in their divinely ordered rounds, we who value renewal and the potentials for self and soul, are urged to align and attune ourselves to these cycles. We can adjust ourselves to accepting that we need to heed the rhythm and flow of energy and life.
A parting thought, from one of my recent research projects about connections and corrolations between grace and time:
“[We live in a soul-centered universe, and all beings share in the blessed perpetual motion of the world within and the world without. … These cycles of time and awareness are ours to discern and comprehend; to translate and apply to the complex world of human understanding and behavior. By following the mythic path of The Sun that will reveal out inner and outer connections to a more seasonal, sensual, and soulful life, we can find more of the answers to how we can find out more about our true selves.]”
Happy Solstice… and may the Long Time Sun shine upon you, All love surround you… and may the gifts of the Solstice be yours to know! So Be It!
May the long time sun
Shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.
“The world has become too dangerous for anything but the Truth and too small for anything but Love” The Rev. William Sloane Coffin
Selected Reading: Thomas More on The Sun
The Sun corresponds poetically to what Emerson called the Soul of the Whole. Its effect on our existence are a sum total, for directly and unmistakably, the Sun influences all of life. Much earlier in human culture, during the Renaissance, people were much more in touch or in tune with the cycles of the Sun, and how it affected their city and rural life. The philosopher and alchemist Marsillo Ficino, writing in his metaphysical treatise on the planets, put it this way:
[Our sun, besides maintaining the particular power of itself
promotes the common power of life all through us, but especially through the heart, the source of intimate fire for
the soul. Similarly, the World Soul flourishes through the Sun, unfolding and shining, giving us the common power of life.]
In later contemporary language, we have the observations of Carl Jung and Thomas Moore, a Jungian trained theologian whose book, Care Of The Soul and other works have become popular. Specifically, Carl Jung spoke of this tendency and recommends that we maintain our connection to the Sun and the Soul. He gave this statement for our consideration. He said:
The concept of Sol or the Sun [has much] to do with the growth
of modern consciousness- especially as we derive and connect
the observations of the natural world with our inner being.”
In his first book, The Planets Within, Thomas Moore, makes this observation and conclusion:
There is a solar consciousness, an awareness of the spiritual value in material things, bringing these things
to life, animating them … giving them soul.”
This ability of the Sun to influence us can be taken one step further. As our emotional patterns and possibilities are very much a part of each of us, so too, it could be said that the Sun adds to the vitality and to the clarity of our identities– that the Sun affects the human soul or the human psyche as well.
Moore points out that we should conscientiously read these Mythic and astrological symbols as ways to view our internal landscape. He favors the view that the symbolic qualities of the planets, the luminaries, the Sun and the Moon, and even the stars of the heavens, create for us distinct patterns for discernment- they create patterns not only in the night sky, but also in our psyches- [a sky-chart within. ]
The planets in this sky within, correspond with the deeply felt movements and inclinations of the soul.] In the mythopoetic language of astrology and mythology, professional astrologers will teach that these movements and the patterns they create, can be seen as celestial clues that correspond to our internal workings, and their movements might be barely perceptible at first, but within time can provide a person with insight and knowledge that can be cumulative and transformative.
In the many years that I have practiced astrology, I have heard this insight many times from my clients and my students. They are keying into the fact that they are a personal cosmos; a singular universe… That they contain the heavens within them, and that the heavens can inform, and inspire, because they can be used to teach us about life, the soul, and all the interactions of our existence.
i thank god for this amazing day
i thank god for this amazing day, for leaping greenly spirits of trees and blue true dream of sky, and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes
I who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun’s birthday, this is the birth day of life, and love, and wings: and of the gay great happening illimitably earth
how should tasting, touching, hearing, seeing, breathing any– lifted from the no of nothing– humanly merely being doubt the imaginable you?
now the ears of my ears awake, and now the eyes of my eyes are opened!
Pastoral Meditation and Body Prayer
Background: Without getting too deeply into Astronomy 101, I do want to explore the symbolic and spiritual lessons that can be found in a greater appreciation of the Solstice. In my understanding, the yearly path the Earth travels around the Sun can be instructive, and can lead us to greater truths about how our human will and the spiritual path can be connected. The variation has two distinct points, when the Earth is at apogee, or when the Earth is the farthest away from the Sun, and perigee, or when the Earth is closest to the Sun…
Q: What season of the year connects to the time when the Earth is closest to the heat of the Sun? Winter! Therefore, the season when the Sun is the furthermost away from the Earth would be… Summer… And the midpoint or the times when the Sun and the Earth are equidistant are the times of the Vernal and Autumnal Equinox, or Spring and Fall…
Now what accounts for this seeming contradiction? Why would we be feeling the intensity of the summer heat when the Earth is the farthest away, and why would be feel the freezing cold when the Sun was the closest to us? Its all about how the Earth has been tilted on its axis, or how it sits or how it leans in the space … Our planet is tilted… 23 degrees at the poles, so that even when Earth is the farthest away it is still leans towards the Sun, and when Sun is the closest to the earth, it is tilted away… This is why we have different or reverse seasons when we live below the equator!
OK… Enough science… Now for the metaphysical correlation’s and to take a look at how human will and intention tilts… If we, for the moment, remember that the ancients saw the Sun as representing God, the central and most powerful being or source of energy for all life, historically it is how we respond to what the Sun teaches or what God intends that can become the basis of many religious truths.
I contend and observe that there is an axis point in our souls… And that we can be seen as intentionally tilting towards God or tilting away from God by how we choose to respond to life’s questions and demands. Just as the earth goes through the year first bending in towards the Sun, and then after Solstice begins to bend away as we move into Fall and Winter, so, too there are seasons within the human soul when we are more willing to bend towards the light and away from our egos and our fears.
What determines our willingness? While the study of human will and motivation is a complex, deep discussion, for today, I will try answer it briefly and reveal it in a visceral way… I will ask you to experience what this tilting or bending can mean for you spiritually and intentionally…
As you are able… Please stand… Comfortably, loosely… You can do this exercise in three different body prayer positions:
1) You can place your hands together in Gasso, in Namaste, or in a more Christian prayer position…
2) You can place your active hand over your heart, and the receptive hand on your lower abdomen representing the center point of balance and will in the Japanese systems of movement, and it is also known as the Hara point of your diaphramic breathing or the Chinese Tan tien center of your vital energies.. .
3) You can stand in the Buddhist Mudra of Humility and/or Courage; arms crossed, And palms flat and open… Or for courage each hand is closed with a gentle fist…
Each of these positions can work for you, and yet the responses that I have received and that I have been told by others can be different…
While you are in position, please close your eyes, briefly recall a time when you felt away from God- when you felt alone, estranged, disconnected… Then inhale deeply and slowly…
Now as you exhale, tilt or bend your body gently as far down as you are comfortable, without being yogic or acrobatic, say a gentle 45 to 60 degree angle… Hold yourself in that position for a moment or for three slow normal breaths, and then slowly come back up straight, breathe and relax…
Again… This time, take either the same feeling or another feeling that you find difficult, think briefly about it, take the body position and then slowly lean into it, visualize yourself as tilting you body towards the Sun, towards God, towards whatever is the sacred source for acceptance, forgiveness, and gratitude, for you… Hold for 3 breaths, slowly straighten, and relax..
A third and last time… and if you choose not to do this a third time, then just gently stand in the position without the bending…
As you bend, feel yourself lean in and tilt your whole being towards the Sun, the Source… This time feel bathed by it, feel yourself moving away from ego and towards your essence, and feel that you are being released from any depression or oppression you might feel… And as you breathe, as you straighten, feel yourself moving back into a posture or a position of freedom and dignity, into wholeness and peace…