In another post, “World As Divine Symbol“, we devoted ourselves to the symbolic nature of the phenomenal world, that this world is essentially a symbol pointing us to something beyond itself, to something that stands behind and supports appearances, something itself not an appearance, and hence itself not subject to impermanence.
If the world is a symbol, then all its phenomena in their particularity must have symbolic significance. These phenomena communicate to us by way of signs and symbols our essential relationship with that immutable principle of all things. The cosmic phenomena constituting the macrocosm communicate to us the possibilities inherent in microcosm, namely man, possibilities to be realized through work and contemplation. In this post we focus on the symbolism of our solar system and how it manifests the various modalities by which man is related to truth.
Sun is the source and the principle, the center of creation. It is that source from which all things arise and around which all things revolve. We know that all the planets that are now revolving the sun are constituted by the elements created at the heart of sun. Not only all planets came out of the sun, but the earth as the one special planet hosting life, bearing the sons of the Sun, constantly depends on sun for the subsistence of life on it.
Sun is made of light and the most basic elements, hydrogen and helium. Light is the source of all life. The cosmos as a whole is an ocean of energy, and light is the basic constituent of all energy. Something that may sound strange to commonsense but is true from a scientific standpoint is that light by which all things become visible is itself something invisible. Photons cannot be seen when they’re in flight, and the process of capturing them is a destructive interference which annihilates the photon and converts its energy into material manifestation, namely the production of mater and anti-matter, usually an electron and a positron in a process known as pair-production. The sun that we see in the sky, besides being mostly the reflection of light from hydrogen and helium in the sun, is the result of the annihilation of photons coming from the sun upon their impact with our retina which converts their energy into electric pulses traveling to our brain: We never see light itself; we see only the object, the material manifestation, that is made visible by light’s reflection. Thus, that which makes everything visible is itself invisible.
Sun is the source of light; it is light itself. All other objects in the solar system derive their brightness from the light of the sun; they reflect the light of the principle, and hence the principle itself and its constant presence.
All the objects of the solar system, planets and comets, which have come from the heart of the sun keep revolving around their source; this is similar to the circumambulation ritual central to all religions in which the devotees rotate around a symbol representing the principle.
Planet earth represents the plane of existence, of material manifestation of the principle and the principle itself as the consciousness on earth whose principal bearer is man: Man being the most conscious being reflects more the light of the principle compared to other less conscious beings, animals and plants. Thus, human being has a special place since animals and plants, and even the whole of solar system, are phenomena reflected in man’s consciousness: Planets to the sun are like what creation is to man’s consciousness. Therefore, from a symbolic point of view the totality of solar system is also reflected within man with his/her consciousness playing the role of the light by which all phenomena are known.
We said the the sun is the source of all things, like the principle that is behind all manifestations. This makes perfect sense since the material elements of earth which are made of heavier atoms, such as iron, are produced at the center of the sun; only the intense heat and pressure available at the center of the sun can fuse together lighter elements such as hydrogen and helium into heavier elements such as iron. This process is known as nuclear fusion, a process central to the existence of stars; this fusion converts parts of matter into photons which is the main source of sunlight. Thus, the whole of earth and everything on it, including both organic and inorganic matter, not only came from the source but depend on it, as life depends on light, in every moment of their existence.
From the point of view of earth the sun seems to rise and set; but in reality the sun, the principle, neither rises nor sets; it is always there shining its light upon all its children, the planets and comets, etc. All these manifestations are sustained in their course by the gravitational force that the sun exerts on them, this attractive force representing the love of the principle for its manifestations: While the principle is reflected in the manifestation, the manifestation is prefigured in the principle. In the absence of this attractive force everything would fly away into the cold oblivion of empty space.
Day and night represent the states of the human soul in its relation to the principle, day representing the direct presence of the principle, and night representing the absence, or indirect presence, of the principle:
What is night: Night is when the earth, representing the purely material aspect, is between us and the sun; we call night the period of time during which the material earth comes in between us and the source of light, when from the point of view of the sun we are hidden behind the earth, and hence deprived of sunlight due to being situated in the shadow of the purely material globe. Night represents our being forgetfulness of the principle due to our being wholly preoccupied with its material manifestation. Night is when the light of principle is obstructed by the overshadowing presence of manifestation; it is when the manifestation becomes primary and the principle becomes secondary.
What is day: Day is when we put behind ourselves the earth, the purely material aspect; it is when the earth is no more between us and the source but rather we are between the source and its manifestation; it is when the principle becomes primary and its manifestation becomes only secondary. From the point of view of the sun, day is when we are directly facing the sun while the earth is behind us playing only the role of a support.
It is important to note that in both day and night our feet is always touching the earth: We do not become separated from the earth which signifies our essential dependence on material manifestation insofar as we are living in the manifested order. As a result, the manifestation by itself does not keep us from facing and knowing the principle. Manifestation conceals the principle only when we give priority to it, only at night during which we put the material aspect, the earth, between ourselves and the shining sun.
Thus, the essential difference between day and night is not a difference between accepting or rejecting the material aspect, an aspect on which our existence depends. The essential difference is rather between our fundamental orientation relative to the source while still being tied to the manifestation, namely grounded on earth; it has to do with our focus, whether we’re focused on the principle or the manifestation, and whether we are wholly given to the manifestation or simply use it as a vehicle for reminding and transporting us toward the principle.
In the case of night, the material earth coming between us and the sun represents our forgetfulness of the principle under the shadow of the manifestation, that is when we give priority to the material effect rather than to the immaterial cause. Day, on the other hand, signifies the state in which while depending on the material effect we are conscious of the immaterial source; we are facing toward it, which means the immaterial source, the principle, has become our priority and the material earth reduced to only a means and a vehicle for realizing the priority and the superiority of the principle.
Night represents the darkness of the soul, its forgetfulness of its own nature as something essentially made of light. Day represents the soul’s consciousness of its source; the earth’s day represents the bright hours of the soul, its being immersed in the light of the principle and hence directly conscious of it.
Despite the fact that night is a state of facing away from the source, and more precisely when the material aspect obstructs the immaterial source, even at nights there comes the moon that reflects the light of the obstructed sun, and hence assisting us in the remembrance of the truth. Thus, the moon which reflects the sunlight and hence brings light, however pale, to our nights represents the prophet and the sage who by their mere purified presence reflect the light of truth, precisely in times of spiritual darkness, and help us remember our essential nature and true source. The full moon represents the prophet at the apex; its maximum brightening power signifies the intensity of a principal divine revelation which descends vertically and propagates horizontally in time and space, hence reverberating throughout history and attracting millions to itself. The other states of the moon, the half, quarter, etc. can be viewed as representing the presence of saints and sages whose divine inspirations, often emanating from their involved participation in an initiatic chain going back to the prophet and hence to a principal revelation, keep the light of principle available in the nights of the soul.
There always comes nights where the moon is fully dark, and hence we are deprived of the sunlight altogether; these nights represent the dark night of the soul. But this darkness is transitory and always passes and the moon, if not the sun, always reappears to lessen the weight of darkness. Though we cannot see the light of our sun when the moon is dark, we can still see shining stars which are far away; these dim lights represent our access to the truths of revelation-based traditions through the “letter.” The Spirit in the letter, as Logos and as the Word, shines through scriptures and the writings of the saints and sages that can console the dark nights of the soul.
Thus, we see that light is never fully absence; there’s no absolute darkness even in the depths of space. There is no point in deep space where you can stand and not see a single star. In other words, the empty space, and the whole of cosmos, is filled with light, whether visible light, meaning light of a certain range of frequencies detectable by human eye, or invisible light which consists in frequencies that our eye cannot detect and translate into colors. Totality, even in its darkest state, is filled with the ever-present light of the Principle.
The seasons, which are caused as a result of our distance and mainly the angle of earth’s axis relative to the sun, represent what religious traditions recognize as the cycles of life which govern both history as a whole and the stages of a human life in particular: It is birth, growth, fall or decay, and death, death only marking a new beginning and far from being the end of things. We know that each cycle, having its necessary function in relation to the whole, has a beauty of its own and neither of the cycles should be viewed as unnecessary or devoid of intrinsic value, for they all function toward their principal aim, namely spiritual development and realization, which is nothing other than the reintegration of the manifestation in the principle.
These cyclic transformations caused by the relative position of the earth to the sun, the manifestation to the principle, apply both to the life of a single human being, manifested in the four stages of childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age, and they also apply to the life of historical epochs, empires, traditions, etc. Everything undergoes this cyclic change, but in spite of this apparent change the sun which is the source of all things shines while being itself unaffected by these changes, as the principle is always unaffected by its manifestations.
From a wider perspective we can see the solar system itself as a phenomenon subject to the cycles, constituting a smaller, sub-phenomenal symbol within the larger symbolic phenomenon of the Milky Way Galaxy which is the grand revolution of stars and stones around a super massive black-hole at the center of the galaxy. A black-hole does not signify lack of light; on the contrary it is the locus of infinite amount of light. The black appearance of a black-hole is caused due to the tremendous force of gravity that keeps the light from escaping the center.
Black-hole which is the fate of almost any average-sized star is the last stage of a whole 4-fold cycle in which the source swallows all its material effects, and hence a black-hole can be viewed as the symbol representing the reintegration of the manifestation in the principle which itself marks the beginning of a new cosmic manifestation. When a sun doesn’t collapse into black-hole at the end of its life it explodes creating the most beautiful cosmic event called the supernova. From a supernova, which is the event of the death of a single star, a thousand suns are born.
Thus, we see that the end of an existing cycle marks the beginning of a new cycle for countless other manifestations which themselves produce sub-manifestations. The cosmic manifestation and its relation to the Principle reminds me of Russian Dolls: Creation is the event of one and the same Principle manifesting itself in multitude of forms, one inside the other, and as its own infinite possibilities: The principal form or the archetype constantly shows itself from the infinitely small to the infinitely large and everything in between, the macrocosm being reflected in the microcosm and vice versa.
Each natural phenomenon can be viewed as a symbol communicating to us the metaphysical truths in general and the spiritual possibilities inherent in man in particular, which states that the macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm, a message of which we are reminded in the verse “God created man in His own image.”