The Theosophical Forum – January 1939

THE UNCONQUERED SUN — Helen Savage

[Note: page numbers cited for The Esoteric Tradition are to the 2-vol. Second Edition and do not correspond to the 1-vol. 3rd & Revised Edition.]

It is the 31st of December, and, here in California, 4 o'clock in the afternoon. We have been listening to a short-wave radio program of merry-making from the B. B. C. in London. Suddenly the laughter and singing become fainter as Big Ben strikes the hour — twelve deep-toned bells, and with the last stroke the voice of the announcer says: "We wish you the old, old wish: A Happy and Prosperous New Year!" As we shut off the radio we realize that already the New Year has dawned for half the world; already the peoples of half the world have put away thoughts of the old year, whatever it was, whatever it might have been, and are looking to the unseen days ahead with hearts full of hope.

It is actually a wave of hope that moves steadily around the earth and encircles the globe, as that magic moment when the old year is dead and the new is born touches each longitude on the spinning earth. There is cumulative power in this surging wave — there must be; for the least enlightened must for the first early hours of the New Year feel, as a deep-rooted intuition, that somehow, somewhere, there is a means of finding spiritual security: that beauty and joy and love belong to the human race; and that perhaps the first intimations of a new wisdom in regard to living are waiting for them in the unspoiled days ahead.

We need not consider here the fact that as the days of the new year unfold and prove to be but the children of those that have gone before, too often this hope, this intuition of the fundamental Tightness in the Universe, dies. We shall note only that it has lived, however briefly, and because of the quality of this hope we know that it is based upon a reality. It is a flash of light from a real world that seems to surround us but eludes us, and it fills us momentarily with conviction.

Is there a means by which we can step over the threshold and move familiarly in this realm where our inspired dreams become actualities? How can it be done? There is an ancient symbol which yet has never grown old, and within its manifold significances lies the answer to our question. It is the symbol of the Sun. This symbol contains within itself the secrets of man's unawakened powers. First, the Sun is a symbol of immortality. Even science conceives of its life as a virtual eternity, for we are told that in 150,000,000,000 years it will not lose even one per cent of its stupendous mass. And the Ancient Wisdom adds that the earth will know many deaths, but with each new imbodiment it will witness again the shining of the great luminary, which, during the long ages of the earth's obscuration, has known no night and no lessening of its vital power, for it is continuously replenished from the secret stores of its own inner being.

Further, in the Sun we see a symbol of generous giving of oneself. It is pouring forth its vital substance at the rate of 133,000,000,000,000 tons a day, according to science; and this, not merely in prodigal wastefulness through the vastness of the heavenly spaces, but in order to sustain and nourish all the planetary satellites of its kingdom, and for the maintenance of all beings that live therein. For the life of the planets is a part of the life of the Sun; it is one life pulsating through the entire system.

Then there is kingliness with its attendant attributes of benevolence and wisdom. And who, contemplating the orderly workings of cosmic law in the solar kingdom can deny that this mighty sovereign rules by divine right?

Beauty, also, is symbolized in the Sun. The pale radiance of the early dawn, the prismatic colors in the rainbow, the greens and golds and scarlets of trees and flowers, the flash and fire of jewels, the blue haze of far distant hills — all these are solar in origin. It is beauty stepped down to us who are incapable of beholding face to face the glorious veil of the Sun-God himself.

And here we have slipped unwittingly into the phraseology of the ancient "pagan" world. But in spite of what the scholars may say, the ancients were not mere children adoring a bright disc in the sky. There is nothing infantile in the ancient Vedic prayer:

Unveil, 0 Thou that givest sustenance to the Universe,
From Whom all things proceed, to Whom all must return,
That face of the True Sun, now hidden by a vase of golden light,
That we may know the Truth, and do our whole duty
On our journey to Thy Sacred Seat.

The Egyptian Osiris, the Persian Ormazd, Surya and Mithras, Adonis and Apollo, the Scandinavian Baldur, Lugh of the Long Hand among the Celts, Tonac-atlcoatl (Serpent-Sun) god of the ancient Aztecs — under whatever name it may have appeared, it was a Divine Being whom the ancient peoples addressed. They recognised that the solar universe was governed over by a divine hierarch, the spiritual Sun, whose real being is veiled in a garment of light. He was to them the vortex of the divine-spiritual fire of the universe. Spiritually as well as physically he was the nourisher of all within his kingdom; and therefore, whatever might befall mankind, they knew that in their inner being they were secure as long as they allowed his beneficent rays to light them within.

For those who were students of the Mysteries, there was even a deeper significance to the Sun-symbol. They were taught that as the source of the solar universe was a divinity to whom all the lesser planetary gods made obeisance, so the little universe of man had its own central sun, a ray of the solar deity; and to this central sun the purely human in man, an unawakened god indeed, should be a faithful servitor.

Why a servitor? Because we owe our very life to it. The Mysteries taught that this human self of ours has been built up through many ages by the Evolver within, the Sun-god within. Step by step, from unconscious elemental substance, through intermediate degrees of semi-conscious life to the time when the form was ready to contain the light of mind, the delicate process had taken place. Like the golden drop of honey that the bee must gather from a thousand flower-chalices, so the precious soul-fabric had been built from the essence of countless imbodiments. And with mind came power, and the ability to learn to serve with self-conscious understanding the sacrificing parent within, for it is by means of this soul of ours that our divinity may shine in the grosser worlds of substance. If the soul succeeds in becoming the perfect channel, pellucid to the shining of the solar light, it has the ineffable reward of itself being born in the spiritual world. Then the human being actually becomes a dweller among the gods even while he performs his appointed duties among men on earth. This rare phenomenon was announced mystically with the words: "The Sun has arisen! A Sun-God is born!"

It was also a fact of common knowledge among the ancients that the phenomena of the visible world are a symbol of and in fact delineate what is taking place behind the veil of outer things. Therefore to the enlightened among them, the cycle of the year, with its changing seasons, was a mystery-pageant enacted upon a cosmic stage, each episode of which depicted in symbolic form a spiritual verity. Thus when the time of the Winter Solstice came round, and the sun began again his journey to the northern hemisphere, they saw more in it than merely a time for rejoicing because the world would be filled with warmth again, and the fields would again be green and fruitful; they read the symbol aright. Their hymns were to the True Sun, the Sol Invictus, the Unconquered Sun, whose steadfast shining throughout the aeons is a guarantee of the spiritual security in the Universe. It was a sign to them that because of the focus of certain solar forces it was a fruitful time for communion with the sun-god within.

Even candidates in the Less Mysteries knew that at this season "the trained and fully prepared neophyte might enter at least temporarily into the Heart of the Universe, into the Light of the World, and bring back with him an unimpaired memory of what the greatest of Adventures had taught him." And he returned surrounded with a nimbus or aureole. He was "clothed with the Sun." (1)

It is this fact that is the basis of all the traditions of the ancient peoples in which there was a correspondence between initiates, great kings and heroes, and the Sun. The Babylonian heroes, Nimrod and Gilgamesh both became sun-gods after undergoing a series of trials; Hercules, Theseus and Perseus of Greece were all born of a virgin and were sons of the Sun. Quetzalcoatl, god-hero of the Mexicans, was a sun-god. His name means "Feathered Serpent," a symbol with them, as among the Phoenicians and others, of certain solar attributes. Krishna is represented in the Mahbarata as born of Aditi, the bright Dawn-Goddess, who gives birth to the Sun. Mithras, a sun-god, was called "Giver of Glory" because he was supposed to bestow upon his successful suppliants in initiation the aureole or nimbus, as shown in many Mithraic monuments. In the Egyptian mysteries when the candidate for initiation awakens from his trance, it is said that the Hierophant-Initiators appeared "and the sacramental words were pronounced, ostensibly, to the Sun-Osiris, addressed in reality to the Spirit Sun within, enlightening the newly-born man." (2)

The Christian Savior also must come under this enumeration of Sun-gods if we are to consider authentic the records of early Christianity. H. P. Blavatsky says (Lucifer, Dec. 1887), after quoting from Ralston Skinner certain interpretations of the Christos-myth as typifying the Sun:

For, as the same author shows further, John, Jesus and even Apollonius of Tyana were but epitomizers of the history of the Sun "under differences of aspect or conditions." The explanation, he says, "is simple enough, when it is considered that the name Jesus, and Apollonius, or Apollo, are alike names of the Sun in the heavens, and, necessarily, the history of the one, as to his travels through the signs, with the personifications of his sufferings, triumphs and miracles, could be but the history of the other, where there is a wide-spread, common method of describing those travels by personification."

The early Christians themselves obviously accepted this interpretation of their Christ-Sun as passing through the Twelve Zodiacal Signs — a symbol of the trials undergone by the initiate in the Mysteries — because there exist even today relics of this belief.

The representation of Jesus as the "Christ-Sun" and of his twelve disciples as representing the twelve Signs of the Zodiac, may be seen even today graven on the building-stones of not a few churches in central and southern European countries, . . . (3)

As the above brief illustrations show, in the minds of the ancients what happened in and to the Universe was inextricably interwoven with what happened to man. And rightly so. For man apart from the Universe were indeed a lost creature. It is the present-day erroneous method of looking at our relationship to the universe which is responsible for the evidences in so many quarters of the sense of aimlessness, of drifting in an alien world. Yet the hope that we feel at times like the New Year, the sense that the confusion and apparently irreconcilable conflicting elements in the life of the peoples of the world, are all but a bad dream — such intuitions as these show that at times even the least of men are illumined by a ray from the sun-god of their own being.

Were there no systematized philosophy of life to guide men in their search for the Real, had there never appeared among men a single Teacher to proclaim the age-old secret, we should still have with us as a daily and yearly testimony the glorious Sun in the heavens, symbol of the Unconquered Sun within ourselves. To meditate upon the significance of this symbol, as H. P. Blavatsky urges us to do, is to have at least an introduction to the study of the Real Self and our relation to it. First, like our day-star, it is immortal; for though the earthly man is dissipated at death, there is no death for the Inner Sun, and with the disappearance of its earth-child it takes up its duties in other spheres, only to return again at the appointed hour to bring to birth again in another earth life, its yet undeveloped child.

Further, like the Sun in the heavens, it is the generous giver of itself, for its life is our life, and by its power alone do and can we grow. And as for benevolence and wisdom: it is from this source that springs our ability to know, to act wisely, to intuit the deepest aspects of the cosmic workings, to reach out in sympathy towards another fellow-being, to use discrimination, and restraint, and compassion.

And lastly, in the creation of all that is beautiful, we are stepping down its beauty, we are allowing the beauty of the solar light to shine on earth. This is even more true when we have made of ourself a work of beauty. Beauty of character is the supreme tribute to the god-sun within. To the degree that this is attained, we are living in the sunlit world of the spirit and have shown that our hope of the New Year was not a mere dream.

FOOTNOTE:

1. The Esoteric Tradition, 1,079. (return to text)

2. The Secret Doctrine, II, 559. (return to text)

3. The Esoteric Tradition, 1082. (return to text)


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