The time of winter solstice has come round again as the sun reaches its extreme border and the light of day seems about to be swallowed by the sea of night. Solstice means “sun stands still,” as if the warmth and radiance of life itself hangs in the balance at critical points in the course of planetary existence. Traditional cultures around the world imagined that the midwinter sun needed conscious help from people in order to avoid being devoured by the expanse of darkness that nips at the edges of life.
The modern world, made bright with the speed and shine of inter-connective technology, is no less dark. Despite all the artificial light, the darkness between people grows with the spread of fear and hatred and deepens with the increase of isolation. This has been a dark year, marked by many tragedies, made darker yet by the bitter bite of un-reflected self-interest and the damage being done by those who seek to profit from the fears and conflicts of an already troubled world.
Individuals and groups seeking to profit and gain power by creating a “post truth” world risk bringing the “dark ages” round again. Refusing the human instinct to seek for the truth is not a strategy for success; rather it reflects a loss of soul that adds to the growing sense of cynicism and nihilism that diminish life. Denying the dangers of climate change and the damage done by economic disparity, whether out of ignorance or blind self-interest, adds to the darkness in the world. These are the characteristics of true darkness; the darkening that grows inside people who have lost the deeper sense of humanity and neglected the soul’s natural and necessary connection to the living world.
Ancient people imagined that the extremes of darkness harbored a rebirth of the sun in which the warmth and generative power of life shifts from waning to waxing. The essence of solstice involved a sense of stopping, as the sun seems to stop just in time, before the gloom becomes too great to recover from.
Cultures across the face of the earth fashioned festivals of light in which everything from a single candle to a bonfire could represent the hidden sun.
They created rituals of unity and holy days to assist the turning of the world back to the light. Even now people wrap houses in displays of light, bring evergreen trees inside and decorate them as if to assist nature to become bright again.
The “holidays” were once the holy days, a sacred time set aside to allow timelessness to enter the human realm and make things whole and holy again. The birth of the sun at solstice was reflected in the awakening of an inner illumination of the heart and soul of each person. The instinct for warmth and care, for love and generosity in the dark of the year arises from the soul’s longing to feel the sacredness of life. Only a touch of the eternal can renew the world and restore the holiness of life in the midst of the darkness and ease the pain often caused by man’s inhumanity to man.
The light we discover in our own depths is a speck of the original star, a spark of life that connects us to each other and to the Soul of the World. When the light of the soul grows within us, it also contributes light to the world.
These are increasingly dark times for everyone; especially for those who truly care for the souls of others and for the well-being of the earth we all share. Extremes of politics and disparity may continue to divide us and modern technology may isolate us with our own devices; yet we are all secretly connected and each a part of the living substance of creation.
At the close of a tragic year, amidst a deeply troubling time, the soul’s instinct to stop and touch the holiness and stillness of life remains. Amidst all the hacking and fracking, in the face of all the fake news and false promises there may be no better time than the “dark times” we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love and generosity.
By virtue of being human we are each called to assist in the work of bringing back the light; no one can do it for us. In the face of great challenges and obstacles either we become bigger people or smaller souls. If we remain in touch with the inner spark and light of the soul, our experiences can become revelatory, our responses more spontaneous, and our hearts more inclusive and life-enhancing.