In a few weeks, a Solar Eclipse will be visible in the United States, which is being called, “The Great American Eclipse.” Many people are making plans to watch this eclipse. I am planning on staying inside and closing my blinds until it is over. Why is that?
In this article, I would like to take a step back and to discuss some important metaphysical principles. These principles are the interplay between essence and substance and between Light and Dark.
Essence and Substance
Everything that exists in manifestation has both essence and substance. Essence is what something is, substance is what it is made from.
Is a wooden chair more like a chair made of metal and fabric, or is it more like a wooden table?
If one is considering the essence of the wooden chair, the answer would of course be that it was more like a chair made of metal and fabric. If one is considering the substance of the wooden chair, the answer would be that it was more like the wooden table.
Substance can be quantified; essence cannot. One can analyze the substance of a chair down to its atoms, and even down to its subatomic particles, but how can one measure the essence of “chairness”? You can try to describe a chair, but even that falls short. A chair is used to sit upon, but so are couches. It often has four legs, but so do tables, and so do dogs and cats, for that matter. There are also chairs that do not have four legs. Many office chairs are supported by a number of wheels attached to a metal post, yet, they are still recognizable as chairs. This is because we have an intuitive knowledge of essence, which allows us to understand “chairness” and to recognize chairs in whatever form they come in.
Modern science has made tremendous advances in our understanding of the substance of the world we live in. The difficulty is that this understanding has come with a cost. That cost has been in the loss of our understanding of essence. Essence can not be measured, studied, or analyzed with the “scientific method,” so modern science often treats it as if it were not important, or even as if it did not exist. Modern science also teaches us to mistrust our intuitive understanding of essence. This leaves us only understanding half of the world we live in, or perhaps even less than half.
Light and Dark
Also lost in our modern world is our intuitive understanding of Light and Dark. One of the difficulties is that, in English, the terms “light” and “dark” are used to refer to many different things. So, with that in mind, I am not referring to the natural light and dark cycle of day and night, nor am I referring to yin and yang, or the cycle between stillness and activity. What I am referring to is the interplay between Good and Evil, or the interplay between Creation and Destruction.
It is in the nature of manifestation to have both Light and Dark. The reasons for this are beyond what we are able to understand from an unEnlightened state. On the other hand, even very small children can recognize Light and Dark on an intuitive level. Indeed, in these modern times, often very small children see Light and Dark far more clearly than adults do.
Even though Light and Dark are both an integral part of manifestation, they are not equal. Light is Light and Dark is Dark. I understand that it is not possible for any manifest being to serve Light completely and purely, without any contamination by Dark. For example, we must take life in order to eat. Even those who do not eat meat eat plants. Even so, I believe that it is important to serve the Light to the best of our abilities, within the limitations of our material existence.
Most religions teach that Light will triumph over Dark in the end, but they also teach that there are times in which Dark appears to temporarily emerge victorious.
The Essential Nature of Eclipses
There is no shortage of resources that explain the nature of eclipses on a substantial level and that describe the mechanics of how they occur. As interesting as this is, I will not be discussing that in this article. Instead, I will be discussing the nature of eclipses on an essential level.
On an essential level, the nature of eclipses is quite simple. They symbolize the temporary apparent victory of Dark over Light. The Sun represents the Spirit, or the Essential Creative and Life-Giving Source. The Moon represents our Light in the Darkness and regulates our lives on a material level down to the most trivial of matters. During an Eclipse, the Light of the Sun or the Moon is temporarily Darkened, and Darkened in a manner that is different than the ordinary day and night cycle of the Sun, or the light and dark cycle of the Moon as she goes through her monthly phases. Indeed, a Lunar Eclipse always occurs when the Moon is full, or when she should be shining with with her greatest Light.
In the Modern West, we are taught that ancient people superstitiously believed that the Sun or the Moon had gone away and would never come back, and this is why they feared eclipses. Indeed, there is a story in the lore of Christopher Columbus in which he uses a Lunar Eclipse to trick Native Americans into supplying him with food and supplies. In Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, this theme is repeated. Yet, viewed from a spiritual perspective, these trickeries, in and of themselves, seem to be acts of Darkness. In both the historical tale of Christopher Columbus and the fictional tale written by Mark Twain, people are using their knowledge of the mechanics of Eclipses to feign supernatural or godlike abilities.
It is likely that most ancient people were well aware of both the physical and metaphysical nature of Eclipses, and it was likely the metaphysical dangers rather than the physical ones that they feared. One of the primary duties of ancient astrologers and astronomers was to predict Eclipses, and many of them did so with a high degree of accuracy.
A well known example of the ancient understanding of the metaphysical nature of Eclipses is contained in the Christian written tradition. The three synoptic gospels describe an Eclipse during the crucifixion of Jesus. Whether or not these events actually occurred, the symbolism is clear; the temporary triumph of Dark over Light. It is also clear that this is outside the natural harmony of manifestation, because it occurred at noon, the time of day in which the Sun is usually at the height of Her power.
While such periods of temporary triumph of Dark over Light are inevitable, this does not mean that we are obliged to actively participate in them. It is for this reason that I choose to avoid seeing the upcoming Solar Eclipse.