At this solstice time of the year, the sun "stands still" in the southern heavens and then, "newborn" from its "cave of darkness," it begins a journey northward to illumine and re-enliven all living beings. It is an event commemorated by many cultures to remind their people that this is a most propitious time to arise from the darkness of ignorance and travail, and to discover — even to become at one with — the Light within.
In ancient Egypt this occasion was celebrated with greenery and dramatic festivities, and today words from the Book of the Dead still stir the heart. In this context we may consider Osiris and the sun god Ra to be the cosmic, solar, and individual divinity, while Maat represents justice-karma. The hawk may symbolize the aspiring human soul, and the phoenix the initiant who, having risen from the ashes of his past and bathed in the light of the Eternal, now joins the gods who for "Millions of Years" gladden the "souls of them that lay in sorrow." The following greeting to the sun is suggestively entitled "The Dead Man Ariseth and Singeth a Hymn to the Sun":
Homage to thee, O Ra, at thy tremendous rising!
Thou risest! Thou shinest! the heavens are rolled aside!
Thou art the King of Gods, thou art the All-comprising,
From thee we come, in thee are deified.
Thy priests go forth at dawn; they wash their hearts with laughter;
Divine winds move in music across thy golden strings.
At sunset they embrace thee, as every cloudy rafter
Flames with reflected color from thy wings.
Thou sailest over the zenith, and thy heart rejoices;
Thy Morning Boat and Evening Boat with fair winds meet together;
Before thy face the goddess Maat exalts her fateful Feather,
And at thy name the halls of Anu ring with voices.
O Thou Perfect! Thou Eternal! Thou Only One!
Great Hawk that fliest with the flying Sun!
Between the Turquoise Sycamores that risest, young for ever,
Thine image flashing on the bright celestial river.
Thy rays are on all faces; Thou art inscrutable.
Age after age thy life renews its eager prime.
Time whirls its dust beneath thee; thou art immutable,
Maker of Time, thyself beyond all Time.
Thou passest through the portals that close behind the night,
Gladdening the souls of them that lay in sorrow.
The True of Word, the Quiet Heart, arise to drink thy light;
Thou art Today and Yesterday; Thou art Tomorrow!
Homage to thee, O Ra, who wakest life from slumber!
Thou risest! Thou shinest! Thy radiant face appears!
Millions of years have passed — we cannot count their number —
Millions of years shall come. Thou art above the years!
In another hymn, "He Cometh Forth into the Day," a candidate who has passed through the awesome trials of initiation exalts:
I am here, I have traversed the Tomb, I behold thee,
Thou who art strong!
I have passed through the Underworld, gazed on Osiris,
Scattered the night.
I have come, I have gazed on my Father, Osiris,
I am his son.
I am the son who loveth his Father,
I am beloved.
I have made me a path through the western horizon,
Even as God.
I have followed his footsteps, and won through his magic
Millions of years.
The Gate between Heaven and Earth standeth open,
Glad is my path.
Hail, every god! every soul! out of darkness
Shineth my light!
Like the Hawk I went in; I come forth like the Phoenix,
Star of the dawn.
In the beautiful world by the bright Lake of Horus,
Riseth the Day.
(From Sunrise magazine, December 2003/January 2004; copyright © 2003 Theosophical University Press)