Mysteries of light
Human beings cannot live without light, yet the relationship between the two is more than an issue of survival. Since the dawn of humanity light has been drawing us into its powerful presence. We are irresistibly attracted to light. It captivates through its glorious splendour whether as sunlight, moonlight, lightning, starlight or fire. In architecture, the design of sacred spaces often utilises a play of light whether in a mighty cathedral or an ancient pyramid. Consider how light in a majestic church will often gently fall onto the altar through lofty windows. Every culture on earth has revered the mighty force of light, worshipping not only its vital place in our lives but its greater spiritual mysteries.
The great, radiant sun
Sun worship has been and still is prevalent across the planet. As an archetype, the sun reminds us of the shining radiant self alluded to in nearly all religions. The sun is a powerful symbol reflected in many cultures and beliefs including the ancient Egyptians, Hinduism and Shintoism.
In ancient Egypt, the great sun god Ra was considered the first king of Egypt. The pharaoh was said to be the son of Ra and was therefore the sun god’s representative on earth. According to well-known Egyptian archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass, the Great Pyramid was believed to serve as a means of transportation for the pharaoh in his afterlife and was designed to help him make his ascension as a sun god. This belief can also be interpreted in allegorical terms. The fact that the pharaoh can become a sun god by harnessing the power of the sun at death hints at a greater possibility of spiritual ascension for ordinary human beings. Such a belief in the transformative power of the sun is not limited to the ancient Egyptians.
The Mayans and the Aztecs of South America were also devoted to the light of the sun, moon and stars. Teotihuacán in central Mexico is a pyramid dedicated to the sun. It acts as a giant solar calendar and is known as the place where “man becomes god”.
Millions of Hindus greet the sun every day. In the great Hindu Vedic epic, The Mahabharata, the sun is said to be the gateway to the path of the gods. Surya is the great Hindu sun deity and is an important symbol in Hinduism, which is devoted to en-light-en-ment, as Surya is said to symbolise the enlightened mind and creative intelligence.
The reflective moon
The light of the moon has different qualities to those of the sun. Its archetypal associations are with water and our emotions. The moon has the power to affect the tides of the ocean with its gravitational pull, so it is not inconceivable that moon phases can impact emotions and our bodies since they are made mostly of water.
At full moon, when moonlight is at its strongest, you are likely to have more energy. Those noticeably affected by the moon may feel heightened emotions or have persistent thoughts. In fact, some people can have so much energy at the time of the full moon that sleep becomes difficult. Yet in many cultures people harness this potent energy through ecstatic dance and some use it to enhance fertility and the creative powers.
In many cultures the figure of the goddess is linked to the moon because of its connection to fertility and its impact on the cycles within nature. Crops planted according to the phases of the moon have been shown to flourish more than crops planted without lunar reference. The Druids and pagans regulated their worship by the seasons and the moon cycles. One of the highlights of their ceremonies was the act of drawing down the light of the moon. The belief being that by connecting with this great light source of the cosmos, the practitioner is connected to their own clear inner light.
Star light, star bright
Traditionally, the stars have been used by travellers as a navigational tool because of their fixed positions in the sky. The Maasai in Kenya are said to take guidance from the stars, moon and sun not only when they travel but also in their daily activities such as herding. Other cultures, like the plains American Indians, believe stars represent our greatest ancestors.
In the Hindu tradition one of Vishnu’s greatest devotees was transformed into a star. After performing great tapas (restraint and disciplined yoga) and after serving wisely on earth, enlightened King Dhruva ascended as the pole star. The pole star is the hub around which all others stars are said to orbit. He was given this position because it reflected his constant relationship with his own stillness and illumined mind.
Stars also act as shining beacons of hope in times of darkness. This is so eloquently demonstrated in The Lord of the Rings. Author JRR Tolkien drew heavily on mythology for his epic tale and darkness and light are omnipresent in the trilogy. A personification of this lies in Galadriel, the elven queen of Lothlorien, who is also known as Lady of the Light. She gives Frodo, the young, brave hero of the epic, a crystal phial containing the light of the star Earendil. She says: “May it be a light for you in dark places, when all other lights go out.” It is interesting to ponder that the light shines most brightly when we are in darkness.
Sacred light architecture
Like the pyramids in South America there are many cultures that create sacred architecture to capture the power of light. The Egyptians harnessed the light of the sun and stars in their pyramids. Various pyramid shafts and passages in the Great Pyramid are said to align with the former pole star Alpha Draconis, with other various star systems and with the precession of the equinoxes (two times in the year when the length of day and night are approximately equal).
On the other side of the world, the Pawnee Indians of North America fashioned the layout of their villages on the shape of a star. Posts in their earth lodges at the east and west represented the morning star, the god of light, and the evening star, the goddess of the night. When the lights of these two stars meet, they are held to unite in creation, mimicking the birthing of humankind.
The Druids, also great masters of light, told the time by the sun, moon and stars. The motions of the sun and moon are said to be reflected in the mysterious English ruins of Stonehenge. Stonehenge is angled so that on equinoxes and solstices, the sun rising over the horizon appears to be perfectly placed between gaps in the megaliths.
Interestingly, sacred light architecture is also being built in our modern times. James Turrell, an American artist with a Quaker background, has now dedicated his life to making art that reveals the majesty of light and the divine mind. He is creating a mammoth naked-eye observatory that captures the light of the sun, moon and stars in an extinct volcano crater in the Arizona desert. More recently Yoko Ono unveiled the Imagine Peace tower on Videy Island, in Iceland. This tower of light is dedicated to John Lennon and while its purpose is to act as a beacon for world peace, it also reflects the potency of light as a symbol for the human psyche.
The fire that burns brightly
The nature of the element of fire is not only to give light but also heat, passion and creative energy. The power of fire emerges in myths and legends in Greece, Rome, Mesopotamian Mithraism, Buddhism and in many Native American traditions.
Fire as a divine entity is a characteristic feature of Zoroastrianism (a religion based on the teachings of the prophet Zoroaster) where it is considered the earthly representative of the sun. In fact, fire is a prominent symbol of the sun in most sun-worshipping traditions. Vesta, the Roman goddess of the hearth, had virgins guarding a perpetually burning holy fire. The Maasai are said to send messages through the medium of fire. They believe that when we sit in quiet communion with the flames that we can meet in the heart of the fire. The fire is seen as that place where our souls and thoughts merge.
In Hinduism, Agni, the god of fire and light, is said to be the messenger between god and man. Offerings are given to Agni in sacred fire ceremonies such as the agni hotra. Fire is seen to purify and burn away all that stands in the way of having a clear relationship with god. Sacrificial fires are also used to send prayers for more auspicious life circumstances. Most importantly, external offerings made to fire symbolise an inner giving from the individual’s ego to a much higher and more divine awareness.
The science of light
Quantum physicists continue to expound many theories on the nature of light as both waves and streams of particles (quanta). Light travels at 300,000km per second and like something out of science fiction, light is already being used as a medium for transportation. In 2004, an Austrian financial institution performed the first money transfer encrypted with light quantum keys, creating an unbreakable communications code.
Scientists are often fascinated by what light is. It is likely we will soon see more research about light and we may just find that the fields of science and religion merge in this arena. When Max Planck received the Nobel Prize in 1918 for his explorations into quantum physics and light he said: “All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force … We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent mind. This mind is the matrix of all matter.”
Is this “mind” the same field of potentially infinite energy referred to by humanity’s spiritual traditions throughout the ages? Is it the same as what science is now tentatively referring to as the “quantum hologram”, a field of infinite energy in which all matter and all consciousness are connected? If so, then humanity has used light to symbolise this same field of consciousness throughout the centuries. Some would simply call this field the mind of god or the light within us all. It is the state of energy and awareness that exists in the space between molecules and even between thoughts.
Working with light
The question arises that if light is the quantum field that connects us all, then shouldn’t we be using it in some productive way? Canberra-based meditation teacher Andrew Wells says: “Every culture in each continent uses light in one way or another as a metaphor to point to our highest potential, our most essential inner goal — whatever we may understand that to be. The idea of light has become a compelling archetype within the deepest realms of our unconscious, carrying the power of thousands of years of human striving for perfection. When you start to work with light, you open the door to that power. You gain strength and a fresh new impetus to discover and awaken your dormant potential and recognise your true nature.”
According to Wells you can use light and the quantum field to recreate the world around you. He says that if you can hold a thought form you can magnetise to yourself a manifestation of that thought. “All the great traditions talk about light as a metaphor for consciousness or our highest potential and so this is one of the mechanisms that explains how manifestation works — that is – what you think about you attract.” Just like the film The Secret, Andrew encourages people in his meditation courses to harness the power of the mind to create more fulfilling and successful lives.
When you get requests from friends or even by email to pray or meditate in support of a part of the world where there is trauma or suffering, it is well worth responding. Your contribution can make a difference. The reason being that our minds all rest in the same field of light. So if you are invited to pray for a country or a trouble spot simply hold a deep abiding thought that the area is completely harmonious, peaceful and free and place the image of peace inside a field of light. If you really want to make a difference in the world then be a co-creator – so many of the world’s traditions say it is within our own power to create change.
The World Peace Flame
This is one example of a global initiative based on light. The World Peace Flame (WPF) was created in 1999 when seven flames of peace were lit on the five continents. The flames were flown, primarily by military aircraft, to the UK where they were united as one. It is estimated that over 10 million people have received the flame. The WPF has become an important symbol of how the light of each human being plays an important role towards creating a world at peace. (www.worldpeaceflame.org)
Here is a meditation to bring greater light to your own life, as well as the world around you. At a time when humanity’s “inner climate” needs as much attention as its “outer climate”, this may be one of the more important things you can do.
World Peace Flame meditation
Try this simple but effective method to bring joy and calm to yourself and others (drawn from The Flame That Transforms, by Savitri MacCuish, Mansukh Patel and Andrew Wells). Use the meditation in the presence of a candle, lit from the World Peace Flame if possible.
- Relax: sit comfortably and focus on your breathing.
- Breathe: take three deep breaths.
- Think: Quietly think I AM PEACE on the next inhalation.
- Think: Quietly think I GIVE PEACE as you exhale.
References available on request.
Astoria Barr has been practising yoga on and off for more than 20 years and is now a dru yoga instructor. She is a freelance writer who specialises in positive news, health and spirituality articles. She also does volunteer PR for non-profit organisations.
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