The Symbolism of Solar System

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.

Russian Dolls, each fitting inside the other
Russian Dolls, each fitting inside the other

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.”

The Blanket of Truth

Don’t ever think that you are not home. You are home and you always been home because you are the home. This human life of yours to which you think you belong, this apparently vast cosmos in which you think you reside, all this is just the scenery. Your dearest attachments, your identity and personality, too, are in the scenery.

You have accepted too much and assimilated too little. You take from your soul what is concrete, the spirit, and add to the world what is abstract, matter. You steal the reality of your spirit and attribute it to the world. You have drained your own blood to color this world. My friend, you have forgotten the safety code: The traveler doesn’t get attached to the scenery. Shit happens, but what’s it to you?!

You are blinded by the blanket of truth. Fear not the faces and demons pained on the blanket. Fear only your own suffocation. Don’t see the faces; see the blanket. Don’t crawl deeper into your paranoia, just remove the blanket; remove it and see that you too were just a painting on that same blanket. Wake up and see that this reality of yours, your thoughts and memories, your beloved character, this whole universe and its objects, are all drawings on that one blanket. You are that blanket. Don’t confuse yourself with the folds and wrinkles, for the whole of this world is nothing but your folds and wrinkles.

You are home, and you are home alone, for you are already everyone and everything.

Time & Consciousness

The object that I see in front of me I see as something in space, but my seeing of it is not something in space. What is seen is seen to be an spatial entity; however, seeing itself is not something spatial. We tend to treat objects of the world as independently existing entities as if our consciousness could stumble upon them by chance!

Consciousness cannot make as its object something that is not already prefigured in it. I see the world through my perceptions but I do not see my perception through any intermediary mechanism. It is due to the self-evident and immediate givenness of perception that I come to know the world and know that I know it. That I perceive an object is because the object is something constituted within the temporal flow of perception. Even the spatiality of an object is something itself first perceived and only later spoken of. In this sense, the world and its objects are essentially temporal extensions before they are spatial.

To put it more precisely, world and its object are made of time, for it is in and through time that they appear within the field of perception. To exist means to be, to keep being in time, to endure in time. From here we can see more clearly how world is constituted in consciousness and not outside it. Time and being in time have no meaning and existence apart from consciousness, for the passage of time is something meaningful only in and through experience. Time is what we experience and not something we perceive out there in the world. Only a consciousness that subsists the flow of time can experience the passage of time.

Time is nothing but the ecstasy of consciousness, that is consciousness experiencing itself as conditioned and partitioned. It is this partitioned and fragmented consciousness that appears to us as diverse experiencing subjects. In reality there is only one subject, but this subject cannot experience itself unless it objectifies itself into the manifold of its own infinite possibilities. Each person is one possibility for the being of one and the same consciousness.

Consciousness undergoes the same self-objectification into multitudes in the case of dream experience: In a dream one and the same consciousness, that of the dreaming subject, projects itself into a world of diverse objects and experiencing subjects. All the conscious agents that appear in our dreams are the possibilities inherent within the dreaming consciousness. It belongs to the nature of consciousness to project itself outwardly in such a way that it appears to itself as something fragmented and embedded inside a world as if it were only a part of that world. In our dream we appear as a person among others inside an infinitely extended world of objects, but all persons and objects are one and the same consciousness, only appearing to itself as if it were outside itself. Consciousness inside itself is the dreamless sleep, but consciousness outside itself is the world. It is in this sense that I see the world as the ecstasy of consciousness.

We Are a Black-hole

There is this thing called the information paradox in black-holes. The idea is this: From conservation laws we know that information can never be lost, created or destroyed; it may only be transformed or moved around. This is of course an alternative way of presenting the energy conservation law. But when it comes to black-holes this laws seems to be violated: Black-holes are by definition structures that suck in information in such a way that we cannot retrieve it. Once information passes the event horizon of a black-hole it cannot be accessed at all, for nothing escapes the event horizon, even light, hence the name black-hole.

Scientists have been trying to figure out what happens to the information that falls into a black-hole. If we say that information is destroyed, then the conservation laws are violated. If we say that it is not destroyed, then what happens to that information?!

Here was my morning fantasy: The information which is falling into the black-hole is converted into consciousness. After all, information is really meaningless without a consciousness that can be informed. Thus, the information is not lost; instead, it produces conscious experience. In other words, black-holes are conscious; they perceive the universe since the light from all over the place is falling into them. But of course since our modern science doesn’t recognize consciousness as an independent reality as it cannot be measured with a stick, naturally scientists call it a paradox.

A little more of reflection on our own consciousness shows that we experience the world around us as if we were at the center absorbing the light reaching us from all over the universe, hence producing this world-experience that we have. We perceive the world as something extended beyond us into infinity, and this is precisely how a black-hole would experience the light falling into it. The idea is that we are a black-hole who happens to have a human experience. This cosmos is that experience. There is only one black-hole, a singularity, that has come to believe it exploded in a big bang, but that too is just an experience. The singularity that we are never exploded. We have not yet happened. In reality nothing is ever happening.

But now enough with the fantasy.

I must add, considering the internal dynamics of a black-hole, the gravitation tension and torsion, and the stretched space-time in it, for a person who is standing at the singularity it will appear to him/her that everything is accelerating away from him. He/she will experience a rapid expansion of the universe around him which is really nothing but the light that falls into the black-hole. This expansion is experienced from inside the black-hole whether or not the outside universe is actually expanding! Now, this is not fantasy, and yet we believe our universe is expanding.

The Parable of The Naked Man

(The image is the famous Hubble Ultra-Deep Field.)

We often demand miracles as proofs for the transcendental origin of the world; but in demanding so we are blind to the miracle in the fact of being and the act of demanding. Our mundane preoccupations eclipse the sense of wonder inherent in each moment and its content; and we take for granted the strangest of all things, that the world is.

We take the scientific descriptions as causal explanations, as if science really explained the why of being and becoming! We look for miracles inside the world but fail to see that the very being of the world is itself the most obvious miracle, the ground of all miracles.

The miracle of Being is something beyond the scope of all rational inquiry, for reason itself must first be before it can know, and hence itself remains always a mystery.

The parable of the naked man: “God is With You”

Once upon a time a skeptic scholar surrounded by his pupils bumped into a naked man dancing and singing the names of God. They asked him, “What is wrong with you?”

The naked man said, “God is with me.”

The scholar mockingly said “If God is with you, then why don’t you perform a miracle for us!”

The naked man replied, “Yes sirs, I shall perform a miracle for you.” Pointing to a stone farther away he said, “You see that stone over there! I can move it from here.”

The scholar and his students became curious and demanded the naked man to do as he had claimed.

The naked man walked to the stone, moved it around, and came back to where he was standing and said, “Done.”

The crowd laughed at him; the scholar said “That was not a miracle you fool; you were supposed to move it from here but you walked there.”

The naked man said, “Exactly sir, I walked there, and that is the miracle. From here I can move a bigger thing called the body and with it I can move everything else. I will and it moves. If you cannot see the miracle in that, then you are the performer of a bigger miracle: You can doubt the self-evident and deny the most obvious; even I can’t do that. Indeed God is with you too,” said the naked man and continued dancing and singing.

[Note: I like to add this point about the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field which shows billions of galaxies spread out in boundless space: I have heard people say that this image makes them feel so insignificant. But we must understand that if we feel insignificant it is because we can feel the significance of the image and the infinite greatness implied in it. The image is just a small piece of paper. Both the greatness and the littleness that we experience come from within ourselves, hence preexisting all creation. This is how the macrocosm is reflected in the microcosm transcendentally and primordially.]

The Metaphysics of The Orchestra

As the symphony is a whole emerging from the harmonious cooperation of parts each serving its proper function within the creative process, the violin’s melody is itself another whole emerging from the harmonious cooperation of the body parts of the violinist. The violinist is itself an orchestra. It is false to see the musician simply as the person playing an instrument: In the mastered musician the instrument has become an extension of his body, a new organ which he uses to dance with the orchestra.

The reciprocal relationship between the musician and the orchestra can be seen as one being the enlarged image of the other. It is in virtue of the cooperative reciprocity between the one and its image that the creative process leads to fruition. The conductor is the central figure through whom the various rays of melody are harmoniously reflected into the focal point, the symphony. The macrocosm and the microcosm being reflections of one another in different scales must coexist for the production of an ordered and functioning whole.

The conductor projects the concealed composer into the orchestra making him present through his work. I the same fashion the saint or the prophet, too, is an agent through which the Godhead is reincarnated onto the stage of our lives reminding us of the underlying unity and purpose of this orchestra, that is to see the other as an extension of our own bodies, and hence to love the neighbor as we love ourselves.

Where everyone wants to become the conductor or the soloist no orchestra can take shape and no symphony can be heard. The personal interests and benefits of the parts must be subordinated to the function and beauty of whole. The success of an orchestra is guaranteed only through the selfless tyranny of the conductor.

Physics & Metaphysics

I noticed I write more about metaphysics than physics. I have done so perhaps because metaphysical questions are more relevant to our lives today than abstract questions of modern physics; also because I am much more certain, in fact absolutely certain, of the metaphysical order and its eternal truths than the physical order and its facts. But during decades of working with both disciplines I have come to understand the physical order as an imperfect reflection of the metaphysical order, the mathematical laws of physics as temporal reflections of eternal truths of metaphysics. It cannot be otherwise, for there is only one truth and one fact. The truth is the One, and the fact is the fallen one, man. If man is the fallen spirit, then fact is the fallen truth, physics the fallen metaphysics, and reason the fallen intellect.

The irony of the situation is that after all these years in both fronts I have arrived at one and the same question: “How does the one become the many?”

In the context of metaphysics, I know from direct perception the unity and unicity of the Real, the nondual substance of totality which is beyond being and non-being. I also know the apparent diversity of the phenomena world, that we live in an apparently changing universe. Thus, there is a truth and a fact: The truth is that there is nothing but the One; the fact is that there is an experience of multiplicity. The question is how does that truth appear as this fact? How does the nondual, immutable One at once appear as the changing? I call this the enigma of all enigmas. No doubt the One never really becomes the many; the difference is only apparent, each belonging to different order of reality. But metaphysics is metaphysics and must ground metaphysical questions.

In the context of physics, we know that though there appears to be an infinite number of particles in the universe, their behavior is as if there were only one particle, a scenario called the One Electron Universe by John Wheeler. The question arises: How can one electron appear as the many at once being at many places? This question is the focus of my academic research as a physicist and I call it the quantum enigma.

Seeing that there is one question at the bottom of both quests I felt that insight into one may lead to insight into another. I am much more clear about the metaphysical aspect of the question but like to know its bearing on the physical plane.

For these reasons I feel I need to write something in the area of my expertise, quantum physics, in a simplified language which may interest others as it interests me; the goal is to see the astonishing similarities between the world of the mystic and the world of the modern physics. I will do so in the upcoming post(s).