Winter Solstice

This article was originally published under the title “SOLSTICE” in the December 1949 issue of “Theosophy” Magazine, published by the United Lodge of Theosophists.

This month, Christians will make the 25th an occasion for special memory of the “Christ-Savior,” the Prince of Peace. Theosophists will observe the 21st of December, a Sun-cycle, for they look to Nature and Nature’s Gods, and venerate “living human Mahatmas” as witness to human potentiality and the evolution of soul. What is the difference between the 21st and the 25th? A world of philosophy separates the two, for in pagan occult tradition the time of winter solstice appears to have been connected with the Mysteries of Initiation. The unphilosophical West, having lost the meaning and times of the cycles, has telescoped into a single historical period the long history of the soul on its journey to the Self. What should be, perhaps, a “daily initiation” has become one long-past event in the life of another Being, mysterious, unique, and finished.

What is the significance of the Christmas cycle? What will give man himself a key to it? Is there a sense in which each incarnated being enacts the sun-god rite, and adheres to a yearly cycle like the Sun’s? How can the Real Man celebrate on December 21-25?

Let us take H. P. Blavatsky’s account of one three-day ceremony of initiation, called the “Sleep of Siloam” in the traditions of Asia Minor, Syria and even higher Egypt to this day.

“The initiated adept {H.P.B. writes}, who had successfully passed through all the trials, was attached, not nailed, but simply tied on a couch in the form of a tau . . . of a Swastica without the four additional prolongations . . . {and} plunged in a deep sleep. He was allowed to remain in this state for three days and three nights, during which time his Spiritual Ego was said to confabulate with the “gods,” descend into Hades, Amenti, or Patala (according to the country), and do works of charity to the invisible beings, whether souls of men or Elemental Spirits; his body remaining all the time in a temple crypt or subterranean cave. In Egypt it was placed in the Sarcophagus in the King’s Chamber of the Pyramid of Cheops, and carried during the night of the approaching third day to the entrance of a gallery, where at a certain hour the beams of the rising Sun struck full on the face of the entranced candidate, who awoke to be initiated by Osiris, and Thoth the God of Wisdom. . . . Then appeared the Hierophants-Initiators, and the sacramental words were pronounced, ostensibly, to the Sun-Osiris, addressed in reality to the Spirit Sun within, enlightening the newly-born man.” *

How different this “Crucifixion” from the tragic fable of the “only Son of God”! Is there not a God in every man who comes each day into the darkness of a world where souls are still asleep? Does not man’s daily cycle – to say nothing of his year – invariably include an interval of god-like existence, a solstice when the soul is still, in its own place? “Swapita,” said the ancients, at a death: “he is gone to his own place.” So might it be said of all the lesser intervals when the soul retires and the body sleeps.

The sleep of living things, of Great Nature, is longer than man’s, and one purpose of observing the season cycle is that mind-beings enrich the awakening in the Spring by “works of charity” in the time of solstice. The thoughts and deeds of men are reflected in all the spheres of being, since man, having achieved the consciousness of self – individuality – is the prototype, the microcosm, the goal, the initiator and the guide of the rest of Nature. But while man has a more responsible part in evolution than life in the state of class-consciousness, the human evolution is yet only a transition stage. Beyond self-consciousness is Selfhood – the realization of the Self of all. Man, when he sacrifices the sense of separateness by service to forms of life which cannot respond in kind, removes also the barrier of selfishness between himself and the full beneficence of Self-realizing Beings.

The dedication of a particular day each year to the “giving of gifts” – whether things or thoughts – does not mean that the gifts of wise goodwill to all that lives are ever out of season. He who knows the “ultimate divisions of time” will mark not only the great cycles, but all their smaller correspondences, as well as their analogies in states of consciousness. The “seasons” inhere in the interval of a day, from morning to night and night to morning. Even an hour, and perhaps also a moment, has its solstice, its spring, another solstice and its autumn. There is always an auspicious time, when man can move with the cycle’s whole force and draw upon the peak of his own power. Thus “Christmas comes but once a year,” yet its meaning may be made manifold throughout the year.

If man aspires, the gods “descend to meet” – and the cycle of the “Spirit Sun within” is not limited by human days, nor earthly seasons.

* The quote about the “Sleep of Siloam” is from “The Secret Doctrine” Vol. 2, p. 558-559, by H. P. Blavatsky.

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You may also like to read The Daily Initiation as well as The Four Branches of the Theosophical Movement which explains the distinctions that exist between the various “branches” or “streams” of the Theosophical Movement today. Antahkarana – The Path will also provide some practical insight.