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The earth will pass through the point of June solstice this year on Monday, June 20 at 3:34 in the afternoon for the Pacific time zone in North America, which is 6:34 pm for the Eastern time zone and 10:34 pm (or 22:34) in Greenwich, England.
For those in the northern hemisphere, this will mark the "high point" of the year or the summer solstice, when the sun's path across the sky will be at its highest elevation above the southern horizon, before it turns back "downwards" towards the lowest part of the year at winter solstice.
The summer solstice will mark a "triumph" point for hours of daylight versus hours of darkness, but after earth hurtles past this point of triumph, the hours of daylight will again begin to grow shorter, although they will still be longer than the hours of darkness each 24-hour period, until we reach the "crossing point" of the September equinox, when hours of darkness will then begin to be longer than hours of daylight in each 24-hour period (for those of us in the northern hemisphere).
The four great dividing points of the year -- the summer and winter solstices, and the autumn and spring equinoxes -- were allegorized in the ancient myths, scriptures, and sacred stories of humanity to impart wisdom intended for our benefit as we toil through this incarnate life. Based on my analysis of many ancient myths, it is my understanding that the point of summer solstice carries a twin message -- embodying both the consummation of complete integration with our Higher Self, the "raising of the Djed-column," towards which we should strive each day, and upon which we should fix our gaze and also the message that (like the sun's path after the triumph of summer solstice) we ourselves have plunged down into physical matter for the express purpose of the elevation of both the spiritual and material natures.
The endless interplay between daylight and darkness during the course of the annual cycle, and between the path through the upper realm of the heavens and the lower realm of earth and water during the course of the daily cycle (with each rising of a star or other heavenly body being allegorized as a rising into the spirit-realm, and each setting as a plunge into the material realm) was employed by the ancient myths to teach us that we ourselves and everyone else that we ever meet is actually much more than the physical body, and are each possessed of a higher, divine spirit-nature, temporarily submerged in the material realm.
The plunge down into matter may on the surface appear to be the humiliation of this spirit-nature, but in fact according to the metaphor it is this very "casting down" which results in the "raising up" of the invisible soul.
In a short treatise entitled Easter: Birthday of the Gods (also found on the web here, and available for purchase in paper format here), in which he most clearly outlines the spiritual significance of each of the four great stations upon the Great Cross of the year (summer solstice, autumn or fall equinox, winter solstice, and spring equinox), Alvin Boyd Kuhn explains that our "fall" into matter should not be misunderstood as a terrible mistake, but rather as a critical and essential experience. He writes:
Unseen as yet by general religion, it was necessary for God's sons, who must start as mortals to gain immortality, to descend into matter and be long subjected to its sluggish dominance. Ignorantly and mistakenly has conventional religion, in its hasty, superficial, and erratic interpretation of Biblical material, assumed that this ostracism of his children by God himself to lower worlds remote from the Father's benignant presence, was somehow a sad consequence of the children's wayward errancy and an untoward and disastrous misadventure of primal mankind. The truth envisages no such direful miscarriage of the plans of Eternal Mind. God's mental progeny could well be entrusted to the tutelary custodianship of nature, indeed injected into her maternal womb, since nature was from the first and eternally ensouled by the Father's energic mind power, and all nature's processes exhibited the divine design at work in open manifestation. God could safely consign his youthful offspring to the educative guardianship of the "old nurse," Mother Nature. For as a pedagogue Mother Nature could never misteach each her divine pupils, herself being the preceptress, the living exemplar and expression of the cosmic mind. 12 - 13.
In other words, Kuhn argues, our spiritual descent into this realm of matter is ultimately (somehow) for our spiritual elevation and the raising of our consciousness through the experience. Elsewhere in the same essay, he states:
Flesh and soul find themselves locked inseparably in the marriage bonds of polarity here in body. Philosophies that place all value on spirit and decry and degrade the flesh are guilty of gross misplacement of emphasis.
[. . .]
It is said that all Scripture is given for edification. Of first importance then it is to realize that the basic edifying item of truth the Scriptures enshrine (in myth, allegory, drama and symbol) is this underlying universal principle: the descent, the "death" in ark-seed form and then the resurrection of the seed units of divine life out of material embodiment. This single item is the lost clue to the mystery and the meaning of both life itself and the great Scriptures which pictorialize its significance. 30 - 31.
It is for this reason, then, that we see Samson's path go from basically irresistible strength and triumph to weakness and imprisonment, after the "seven locks of his head" are shorn off by Delilah in Judges 16. When Samson was passing through the "upper regions" of summer solstice, he slew a Lion with his bare hands, and then later came back and gathered honey from the swarm of bees which had made their home in the carcass of the Lion (the Beehive being representative of the zodiac sign of Cancer the Crab and the summer solstice). But then he descends to the point of fall equinox (presided over by the Virgin of Virgo) and ultimately is shorn of the seven locks of his hair, which are directly symbolic of his identification with the divine fire of the sun in the heavens.
We may wonder why Samson would ever reveal to Delilah the secret of his irresistible strength, especially after every "false lead" he gives her is immediately tested out by Delilah and a group of Samson's enemies -- but the reason is that the sun must eventually make its way downward from the heights of summer and pass through the fall equinox on the way down to the very lowest point of the year, and that this same journey of the sun was used by the ancient myths and scriptures to dramatize to us the necessity of our own descent from the realm of pure spirit, into this material universe and our incarnate life within a physical human body.
The necessity of Samson's "plunge" (and the shaving of his "solar glory" in the cutting off of the seven locks of his head by Delilah in Judges 16) prefigures a very similar descent which is described in the stories of the New Testament in the life of the Christ: after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem upon a donkey (or two donkeys), which again is symbolic of the zodiac sign of Cancer the Crab at the very top of the year at summer solstice (the Beehive cluster symbolized in the Samson myth being located between two stars in the constellation Cancer which are named Asellus Borealis and Asellus Australis: the "northern and southern donkey colts"), the motion of the gospel narrative moves inexorably towards his betrayal by Judas Iscariot and then his arrest, humiliation, and crucifixion.
In other words, in both the Samson narrative and the "triumphal entry" narrative in the gospels, we see that the "high point" of the year (associated with Cancer the Crab at the top of the annual cycle) is followed soon after by descent, humiliation, imprisonment, and death -- all symbolic of our own plunge into the material realm, which was symbolically described as a sort of "death" of our spiritual consciousness, and a "shaving off" of our connection with and memory of our inner connection to the infinite and divine.
Thus, the symbolic significance of summer solstice to us from our vantage point in this "lower crossing" of the incarnate life is as something we can look towards as a reminder of our true spiritual and divine nature, which we should recognize and elevate in ourselves and others as much as possible, but it is simultaneously a reminder that (like the path of the sun itself) we had to descend from the realm of spirit in order to sojourn in the material realm, for reasons that ultimately have to do with the "uplift of the soul" (in the words of Alvin Boyd Kuhn, 30).
My analysis of the intended message is that each of us should in fact be engaged in the process of "raising up" the Djed column during this earthly sojourn, but also that we should realize that we never actually reach the point symbolized by summer solstice while we are sojourning here in the material realm -- that is where we came from, when we commenced the plunge into physical matter, and where we are heading towards again (in an "aeonial cycle" that continues many times, according to some interpretations of the ancient wisdom imparted to humanity, as Kuhn explains on page 30 of the same tract mentioned already).
The reason that the Beehive in the constellation of Cancer the Crab is associated with this triumphal highest point in the spiritual cycle (the point from which, however, the "only way to go is down") is that the line of the summer solstice falls between the signs of Gemini and Cancer on the zodiac wheel, as it was drawn during the Age of Aries:
As can be seen from the above diagram, the very top of the vertical line connecting the winter solstice (at the bottom or "six o'clock" position on the wheel) with the summer solstice (at the top or "twelve o'clock" position) passes between the sign of the Twins of Gemini (to the left of the "twelve o'clock" position) and of Cancer the Crab (drawn to look more like a lobster in the illustration above), just to the right of the same line through twelve o'clock.
These two signs, incidentally, are almost certainly responsible for the description in the Biblical scriptures of the Promised Land as a "land flowing with milk and honey," as discussed in this previous blog post on that subject. It is noteworthy that in the mythology of ancient Greece, the infant Zeus was said to have been nourished upon the milk and the honey provided to him in the Diktaian cave (the cave on Mount Dikte on Crete, where the baby Zeus was hidden by his mother, to escape being devoured by his father Kronos or Cronus) by the miraculous goat Amaltheia and (according to some ancient accounts) by the nymphs Ide (Ida) and Adrasteia, daughters of Melisseus (see discussions and ancient sources here).
The same constellation of Cancer the Crab, which is a very faint constellation composed of only six easily-visible stars, is also undoubtedly responsible for the association of the "upraised arms" with the point of summer solstice and of the top of the Djed column (the highest point of the year), as discussed in this previous summer solstice post from 2014. The "upraised arms" (with the triumphant, full sun above them) can be seen at the top of the Djed column in an illustration from the Papyrus of Ani shown in the collection of images at top (in the upper-right image in that collection).
The same "upraised arms" play a role in the Exodus account of the battle with Amalek, when the battle went well for Joshua and the children of Israel only as long as Moses held his arms up, but went badly for them when Moses grew tired and let his arms down to rest them. This story, found in Exodus chapter 17, can be seen to be a dramatization of the cycles of the year itself, and the endless interplay between the forces of light and darkness -- which go back and forth between the summer solstice and the winter solstice, with one "side" triumphing as the year approaches its day of maximum darkness, and the other triumphing as the year approaches the day of maximum daylight. But the story is not really "about" the great annual cycle, as majestic and awesome as that is, but rather is intended to provide us with spiritual insight into the interaction between the visible and invisible realms, and into our own innate divine nature, which is so easily forgotten and neglected when we plunge into this incarnate life in the physical body, and subject ourselves to all of the physical exigencies and necessities of the material world.
In that battle with Amalek, Moses had to have assistance in order to keep his arms up, from the figures of Aaron and Hur (Exodus 17: 12) -- and we see that in the Papyrus of Ani illustration (top right) the Djed itself is flanked by the twin figures of the goddesses Isis and Nephthys, each of whom has her hands raised up in a gesture of blessing and uplifting of the spirit and of the Djed. Similarly, the sacred Scarab of ancient Egypt was also depicted with its own "hands" upraised, reminiscent of the Crab of Cancer in the celestial realms -- and in the jeweled necklace shown at top from the tomb of Tutankhamun, the sacred Scarab is surmounted by a solar disc but also flanked on either side by both Djed columns and Ankh crosses, as well as by two uraeus serpents (asps or Egyptian cobras), which appear to take the place of Aaron and Hur from the Exodus story, or of Isis and Nephthys from the Papyrus of Ani.
I believe these "flanking figures" represent the great "crossing points" on either side of the central Djed-column on the Great Cross of the year: the autumn and spring equinoxes, which both can be seen as essential to and supportive of the central column which has the summer solstice at its highest point. As Alvin Boyd Kuhn's quotations (cited above) inform us, the plunge down from the summer solstice is an essential aspect of our spiritual uplift.
Below is one more illustration of the "upraised arms" from ancient Egypt, seen in one version of the royal cartouche of the king Thutmosis III. It contains a sacred Scarab with upraised arms, above which is the triumphant solar disc (certainly appropriate to the summer solstice and all that it spiritually represents). Additionally, below the sacred Scarab in this particular version of the cartouche, we see another set of "upraised arms," to really drive the point home. It is also interesting to notice the linguistic similarity between the name of the ancient king to whom this cartouche belongs and the name of Moses whose upraised arms are described in Exodus 17.
image: Wikimedia commons (link).
This message from the ancient wisdom which was imparted to humanity in the sacred scriptures and myths is one that is very appropriate to contemplate as we once again reach the point of summer solstice and the "high point of the year" (for the northern hemisphere). This summit-point is certainly representative of the full "raising up" of the Djed, the full elevation of the spiritual consciousness, and the full integration with the Higher Self or divine self discussed explicitly in some surviving ancient traditions (such as the tradition of Yoga). However, in the ancient myths of humanity, the triumphal point of summer solstice was usually followed closely by a description of the "descent" of the divine figure, emblematic of the necessity which plunges each one of us from the divine realm of spirit and infinite potentiality into the limiting realm of matter, where we presently find ourselves.
In other words, we are presently in the condition of Samson once his hair (symbolic of the solar fire) has been shorn off -- but the scriptural text encouragingly informs us that "the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaven" (Judges 17: 22). And thus our awareness of and integration with that Higher Self, that True Self, is only temporarily forgotten, and we should be in the business of restoring it in the ways that are given to us to do so (secure in the knowledge that ultimately it will "grow again" by a mysterious process that is beyond any of our own efforts). The triumph-point of summer solstice gives us a picture to look towards as we endeavor to connect with and regain touch with our invisible nature, our spirit nature, even as it also conveys the message that this process will always be imperfect and incomplete during this earthly sojourn.
Methods which I believe have been given to us to aid in this process are numerous, and have been preserved in different degrees and different levels of emphasis in the different cultures around our globe. A partial list would certainly include practices such as meditation, various forms of chanting and sacred song, qigong or chi gung, Tai Chi and other martial arts, shamanic drumming or drumming to induce states of ecstasy or out-of-body experience, tantra, the recitation of mantras, and of course the practice of Yoga itself -- among many other methods found across the vast range of human experience and preserved across the myriad cultures that are scattered across the vast range of oceans and deserts and forests and mountains and plains that make up our planet.
And of course, I believe that the ancient myths, scriptures and sacred stories which were given to humanity in the distant past from a source which today cannot be definitively identified can also guide us towards that integration with and elevation of that aspect of our nature which is spiritual and divine, and which is symbolized by the Beehive and the solstice -- and that they can and will impart their wisdom to us as we learn to approach them using the language that they are actually speaking: the language of celestial metaphor.