Friday, December 23, 2016

The Three-Day Pause

image: Wikimedia commons (link).

The earth has now passed the point of December solstice, which is the winter solstice for the northern hemisphere, and the hours of daylight will begin to grow longer each day as the sun's path across the sky begins to arc higher and higher above the southern horizon (for viewers in the northern hemisphere).

However, as discussed in the preceding post, there is a kind of "hang time" at each of the solstices, as the sun is "reversing its course" from proceeding "downwards" (lower in the sky, and further and further south in its rising and setting points) to proceeding "upwards" (higher in the sky, and further and further north in its rising and setting points).

It is a kind of "pregnant pause" -- full of anticipation -- when the sun's azimuthal rising direction barely changes at all (as opposed to the equinoxes, when the direction to the sun's rising point on the horizon is changing by a full degree every couple of days; see the discussion in this previous post).

As discussed in my 2014 book The Undying Stars on page 75, the significant pause before the sun's rising point can be seen to start moving back towards the north is almost certainly the reason for the celebration of the Nativity at the point of midnight three days after the date of the winter solstice -- midnight on the 24th of December, at the very beginning of the 25th of December (following the arguments of Robert Taylor in his lectures on the Star of Bethlehem, published in The Devil's Pulpit in 1857). 

The point of midnight for an observer standing on the side of the globe turned away from the sun (the night-side of the globe) marks the sun's "lowest point" on its journey each day, and thus the point of its "rebirth" when it turns back towards its highest point (which it will reach at noon each day). Thus, midnight at the very lowest part of the year (winter solstice) would mark the very nadir of the annual cycle -- the point where the sun will finally begin to move back the other direction, and thus the point of renewal and new birth, once each year. 

Hence, the point of midnight on the 24th marks the end of that three-day waiting period after winter solstice. 

But right now, we are in that "three-day pause," when all the world is metaphorically still -- in breathless anticipation.

Alvin Boyd Kuhn, some of whose insightful discussion of the esoteric significance of winter solstice was cited in the preceding post, has much to say about this "period of waiting" in which we presently find ourselves. If, as we argued in that preceding post, the great stations of the heavenly cycles were seen as having deep spiritual significance, representing the interplay of matter and spirit which is present at all times and in all points in the simultaneously spiritual-and-physical universe around us, and within us as well, then this point of waiting represents a kind of "place of equilibrium" between the opposite tensions of matter and spirit. 

Alvin Boyd Kuhn explains:
But the December solstice yields a harvest as bountiful as that of the equinox and the horizon. It shows soul at the nadir of its dip into matter, and all its implications bear immediately and weightily upon the human situation. [. . .] At equinoxes light and dark are equal in quantity and sovereignty. But at the solstice the two powers are stabilized for the period, albeit in unequal relation. [. . .] Heraclitus adds a most pertinent observation: "The harmonious structure of the world depends upon opposite tension, like that of the bow and the lyre." Stability is gained only by the mutual annulment of two opposite forces. The planets swing in fixed orbits because of the exact counterbalance of centrifugal and centripetal energies. 
The significance of the solstice (the word meaning "sun standing still") lies in the fact that for the time both light and darkness stand still in relation to each other. The basic feature is motionlessness. Neither is losing or gaining. They are stabilized. [. . .] So the Christ was born in a stable. 475 - 477.
In a sense, as Alvin Boyd Kuhn implies throughout this discussion, this significant three-day pause is representative of our condition during our entire incarnate life. We stand, he says, at the point where "soul has made its deepest descent into matter, having taken actual residence in a body of animal flesh" (476). That solstice, Kuhn declares, "covers the period of human evolution" (476; it is my understanding that Kuhn usually employs this term to mean "spiritual evolution" through the cycles of reincarnation).

Later, he catalogues a host of other passages in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, as well as in the Egyptian Book of the Dead (often called "The Ritual" by authors from earlier centuries) which incorporate a similar reference to a three-day pause:
Many of the myths contain a hiding or seeking of refuge for three days or three months. In Joshua Rahab the harlot, who sheltered the two Israelite spies, hurried them off with instructions to get away to the hills and "hide themselves there for three days till the pursuers return." A clear intimation of the resurrection on the third day is seen in an Egyptian text which runs: "I will arrange for you to go to the river when you die, and to come to life again on the third day." Here again water types the incarnation and it is also figured as a death [in other words, the text is not talking about physical death of the body but rather about incarnation in a body, which is metaphorically "figured" as a kind of "death"]. In speaking of the re-arising of the dead Pepi, the Ritual says: "Pepi is brought forth there where the gods are born. The star cometh on the morrow and on the third day. Mary searches for Jesus for three days as Isis sought the hidden Horus. In Matthew 15: 29 -32, Jesus takes compassion on the multitude that followed him into the desert "because they continue with me three days and have nothing to eat, and I would not send them away fasting." The three days' fast is emblematic of the three "days" in the bleak underworld without the sustenance of the solar light, the divine bread of life. In the story of the dismembered concubine in Judges 19, previously noted, the girl's father detained the husband three days. With the reference to Herod, Jesus enjoined his followers to "Go tell that fox, Behold I cast out devils and I do cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I shall be perfected." Then there is his memorable declaration: "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. But he spake of the temple of his body" (John 2: 9) -- and obviously of his spiritual body. The thunder and lightning that emanated from the summit of Mount Sinai at the Eternal's appearing to Moses came "on the third day in the morning." The manifestation of the Lord's glory on the mountain was anticipated by Moses, who had been instructed to go to the people and tell them to "consecrate themselves to-day and to-morrow; let them wash their clothes and be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Eternal will descend upon the Mountain of Sinai in the sight of all the people." Joshua told the people to prepare food, for within three days they would cross the Jordan and enter the Promised Land. And they remained three days on the banks before crossing the river. 404 - 405.
Thus, this darkest time of the year, when we wait as if in a state of suspended animation for the motion that had been plunging inexorably downward to reverse its course (and we can almost hear the deep rumble of mighty gears grinding at this great pivot), in fact becomes a metaphor for our entire life here in the body -- when we feel ourselves plunged down into matter, and yet we are aware of the equal tension pulling us toward our Higher nature at the same time.

As Alvin Boyd Kuhn says elsewhere: "The candle flame, drawing up and transmuting into its own glorious essence of fire the lowly elements of the animal body of the candle (animal tallow), is the grand symbol of this transfiguration of essence which soul works upon lower body" (Who is this King of Glory? page 466).

These are beautiful images, provided in the various stories from around the world which contain the ancient wisdom given to all humanity in extreme antiquity -- images which we can take time to meditate on during this symbolic and deeply significant point in the year, when all the universe seems to pause at this lowest point of the great cycle.