~ Copyright 2011 Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard
Itâs often wondered why ancient peoples from all over the world placed so much importance on the celebration of the solstice and equinox. It is estimated that they built hundreds (if not thousands) of huge megalithic structures, stone circles, temples, and secret inner rooms that aligned with the sun precisely at these times of yearâacross Europe and Britain, in Egypt, North and South America, Easter Island, Australia, Asia, and many other parts of the world.
Most today see the solstice as a form of sun worship and pagan celebration to do with the seasons – and yet these sites are some of the most advanced astronomically, mathematically, architecturally, and spiritually, in history and even still today.
This article explores the deeper spiritual significance of the solstices and equinoxes, which are the four points in the wheel of the year, to uncover why these celebrations were so important spiritually in ancient times, and are just as relevant to people searching for spirituality today.
The journey of the sun through the sky (or rather our planetâs journey around it) can be marked at 4 distinct points: the spring equinox, summer solstice, autumn equinox, and winter solstice, each at equidistant points of the year forming the symbol of the cross within the âwheel of the yearâ. These points mark the movements of the earth around the sun and the sunâs varying influence over light and darkness, day and night, and the passage of the seasons, but they also hold a greater spiritual significance.
As Above, So Below
It is easy to write ancient spiritual people off as simple-minded nature worshippers. But there is a reason why natural principles are found throughout sacred texts and ancient sitesâthis is because there are universal principles that govern all of creation, including all life in the largest to the smallest of scales. Thus we can see the same principles of the macrocosmic movement of the planets, in the microcosmic structure of an atom. Mathematically, in the spiral of a galaxy, we see the spiral of a shell, and the unfolding of a fern. The principles that govern all life above us, also govern life here below on earth.
Going further, not only do the principles of life and creation govern the outer world, but they also govern the inner, spiritual world, which canât be seen, yet is felt and experienced nevertheless. Spirituality exists in the very fabric of life. Thus when someone studies natural principles, they find spirituality and the supernatural, and why scientists are now discovering other dimensions, parallel universes, and the inexplicable realm of possibilities, energy, and matter, from the study of the behavior and structure of minute particles. The sun in its movement throughout the course of the year then, becomes a symbol of something much, much greater than a physical object bringing the change of seasons.
The Spiritual Sun
Osiris, Jesus, Krishna, and many other great spiritual figures throughout history, have identified themselves with the sun and its fire and light, and as the source from which all creation came forth.
Thou shinest in the horizon, thou sendest forth thy light into the darkness, thou makest the darkness light with thy double plume, and thou floodest the world with light like the Disk at break of day. Thy diadem pierceth heaven and becometh a brother unto the stars, O thou form of every god.
~ Hymn to Osiris, The Egyptian Book of the Dead
That light of the sun which illumines the whole universe, which is present in the moon and in fire likewise â know that splendour to be Mine.
~ Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita
It is I who am the light which is above them all. It is I who am the all. From me did the all come forth, and unto me did the all extend.
~ Jesus, The Book of Thomas the Contender from the Nag Hammadi Library
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light.
~ Matthew 17:1-2
Ancient teachings reveal that the sun is more than just a physical object – but that it has a spiritual side and significance.
The sun worship of the past in the more advanced societies was the worship of the spiritual sun not the physical sun. A European scholar wrote of the Druids that they followed the pure worship of the great luminary [the Sun], the visible agent of a great invisible first cause. Paracelsus wrote:
There is an earthly sun, which is the cause of all heat, and all who are able to see may see the sun; and those who are blind and cannot see him may feel his heat. There is an Eternal Sun, which is the source of all wisdom, and those whose spiritual senses have awakened to life will see that sun and be conscious of His existence; but those who have not attained spiritual consciousness may yet feel His power by an inner faculty which is called Intuition.
The physical sun is a blazing fire – it gives light and life to all things physical. From the physical sun, all creation comes into being. Literally, science has discovered that all matter burst forth from the “big bang” – from within the fiery furnace of the stars.
But life is multi-dimensional. Mystics have known this throughout time – that there is more to our word that what we perceive with our five senses. With improvements in technology, there are now hundreds and hundreds of compelling accounts of life beyond the physical body in other dimensions from near-death experiences. Even scientists have discovered that there are multiple dimensions from the behavior of particles existing in multiple places at the same time (in the field of quantum physics).
Therefore, the creation from the physical sun is only the physical representation of creation. Creation also occurs in higher dimensions.
The sun that exists in the physical world as the fire we see in the sky also exists in the higher dimensions as a spiritual fire and the spiritual source of all creation. This is why there is an overlap in the creation story in Genesis in the Bible between natural and supernatural phenomenon, and in many accounts of creation in spiritual cultures. The natural phenomenon is the physical, tangible manifestation of the supernatural phenomenon. This is why we see spiritual cultures throughout the world venerating the sun – they knew of its supreme, spiritual side.
In the ancient text the Pistis Sophia, Jesus speaks of the multi-dimensional and truly spiritual source of the sun.
For the light of the sun in its shape in truth is not in this world, for its light pierceth through many veils and regions.
~ Jesus in Pistis Sophia
Manly P. Hall writes in his extensive study of the esoteric teachings of the world:
In the majority of cases, the religions of antiquity agree that the material visible sun was a reflector rather than a source of power. The sun was sometimes represented as a shield carried on the arm of the Sun God, as for example, Frey, the Scandinavian Solar Deity. This sun reflected the light of the invisible spiritual sun, which was the true source of life, light, and truth. The physical nature of the universe is receptive; it is a realm of effects. The invisible causes of these effects belong to the spiritual world. Hence, the spiritual world is the sphere of causation; the material world is the sphere of effects; while the intellectual–or soul–world is the sphere of mediation. Thus Christ, the personified higher intellect and soul nature, is called “the Mediator” who, by virtue of His position and power, says: “No man cometh to the Father, but by me.”
~ Manly P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages
The Ancient and Timeless Solar Religion
This understanding of creation has existed since ancient times. Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita refers to an ancient Sun dynasty whose knowledge was given to Manu, the Noah of the Hindus, and passed to the divine kings of the new age after the flood that destroyed Atlantis, but which was eventually lost. This is a reference to the sun worship of the Atlanteans and its passing to the beginnings of the current human age. The ancient Egyptians who had a connections to Atlantis had a solar religion, which the mystical group the Essenes were said to be the inheritors of. The Essenes had a sun temple, conducted prayers to the sun, and called themselves the Children of Light. Jesus was said to have spent time with the Essenes and the events of his life followed the solar year (i.e. he was born on the winter solstice, John was killed at the autumn equinox, Jesus was crucified at the spring equinox).
The imperishable philosophy I taught to Viwaswana, the founder of the Sun dynasty, Viwaswana gave it to Manu the Lawgiver, and Manu to King Ikshwaku! The Divine Kings knew it, for it was their tradition. Then, after a long time, at last it was forgotten. It is the same ancient Path that I have now revealed to thee, since thou art My devotee and My friend. It is the supreme Secret…Whenever spirituality decays and materialism is rampant, then O Arjuna, I reincarnate Myself! To protect the righteous, to destroy the wicked and to establish the kingdom of God, I am reborn from age to age.
~ Krishna, The Bhagavad Gita
Many P. Hall writes that the sun worship originated from Atlantis in his extensive and famous study on the esoteric mysteries of the world:
Sun worship played an important part in nearly all the early pagan Mysteries. This indicates the probability of their Atlantean origin, for the people of Atlantis were sun worshipers. The Solar Deity was usually personified as a beautiful youth, with long golden hair to symbolize the rays of the sun. This golden Sun God was slain by wicked ruffians, who personified the evil principle of the universe. By means of certain rituals and ceremonies, symbolic of purification and regeneration, this wonderful God of Good was brought back to life and became the Savior of His people. The secret processes whereby He was resurrected symbolized those cultures by means of which man is able to overcome his lower nature, master his appetites, and give expression to the higher side of himself. The Mysteries were organized for the purpose of assisting the struggling human creature to reawaken the spiritual powers which, surrounded by the flaming ring of lust and degeneracy, lay asleep within his soul. In other words, man was offered a way by which he could regain his lost estate.
~ Many P. Hall, The Secret Teachings of All Ages
There are thousands of ancient sites aligned to the solstices and equinoxes; some of the most famous sacred texts encode solar events and venerate the sun; and supreme deities in many ancient spiritual teachings are associated with the sun and its attributes. The Druids conducted their initiation rituals on the equinoxes and solstices, and in the mystery schools of Greece it is believed that the Lesser Mysteries were celebrated in the spring (probably at the time of the vernal equinox) in the town of AgrÃ¦, and the Greater, in the fall (the time of the autumnal equinox) at Eleusis or Athens. Throughout the world we see evidence of an ancient solar religion that was not specific to any culture or place, and that is timeless and universal.
This is why so many ancient cultures, such as the Essenes, Hindus, Sumerians, Egyptians, Peruvians, the Indians of North and Central America, the Inca and the Maya, all referred to themselves as the âChildren of the Sunâ or âChildren of Light.â
While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light.
~ Jesus, Gospel of John from the Bible
Krishna, is the famous text The Bhavagad Gita, actually refers to the path of the sun – the path of enlightenment, which takes one to the Supreme Primeval Abode beyond birth and death, as being related to the summer solstice, also saying that this path has always existed. This is why people’s throughout time have expressed the same spiritual wisdom, just in different forms. Here, in this famous Hindu text, again we find references to the ancient and timeless solar religion.
Now I will tell thee, O Arjuna, of the times which, if the mystics go forth, they do not return, and at which they go forth only to return. If knowing the Supreme Spirit the sage goes forth with fire and light, in the daytime, in the fortnight of the waxing moon and in the six months before the Northern summer solstice, he will attain the Supreme. But if he departs in gloom, at night, during the fortnight of the waning moon and in the six months before the Southern solstice [winter solstice], then he reaches but lunar light and he will be born again. These bright and dark paths out of the world have always existed. Whoso takes the former, returns not; he who chooses the latter, returns. The sage who knows this passes beyond all merit that comes from the study of the scriptures, from sacrifice, from austerities and charity, and reaches the Supreme Primeval Abode.
~ Krishna, The Bhavagad Gita
These same paths in and out of the world, connected to the winter and summer solstice can be found in Mithraism. An author describes the design of the secret caves of Mithras as follows:
“But this cave was adorned with the signs of the zodiac, Cancer and Capricorn. The summer and winter solstices were chiefly conspicuous, as the gates of souls descending into this life, or passing out of it in their ascent to the Gods; Cancer being the gate of descent, and Capricorn of ascent. These are the two avenues of the immortals passing up and down from earth to heaven, and from heaven to earth.” (John P. Lundy, Monumental Christianity)
The Cosmic Son
Symbolized by the sun, the Son/Christ is present in many ancient spiritual practices where people were in touch with the divine, given different names according to culture, but naturally having key aspects in common. Jesus is known as the Christ, but Christ is more than a name – itâs the same cosmic Son, Horus, Quetzalcoatl, Mithras, Krishna, Odin/Balder, Hu, Dionysus, Attisâthe savior and light of the world. This universal cosmic principle has been celebrated throughout the world.
As just one example, these deities all have the same birthday, which is the date of the winter solstice. This is because the cosmic Son has been present many times within different people, each who have experienced the same kinds of events in their lives. Even today, many people still continue to celebrate the birthday of these deities at the time of the winter solstice. The birth of Mithra is celebrated in Persia as Yalda, in Germany Yule is celebrated in connection with Odin, and the birth of Jesus as Christmas.
In the West there were many traditions which the Romans called pagan and suppressed as Christianity took hold, but Christianity itself has many similarities with those pagan traditions, which also appear in many other cultures.
People argue that the winter solstice was a pagan tradition which was simply used by the Church as Christâs birthday and that the celebration actually has nothing to do with Christ, and even that Christians adapted pagan myths and symbols to create the story of Jesusâ life. Others argue that the pagan people of Europe were simple people whose celebration was little more than a form of nature worship. But both ignore the role of the cosmic Son and the many universal principles contained in their religion’s forms.
The solstices and equinoxes are a celebration of the universal cosmic Son, the neutral force of creation, which has expressed itself through various ancient religions but belongs exclusively to none.
The Cosmic Son and Enlightenment
Some believe that the correlation of heavenly movements to the lives of different deities only indicates that different religions borrowed from one another, basing their stories on the pagan traditions of sun worship. But to mystics, this correlation is the result of something hidden and profound that is central to all authentic spiritualityâthe path of the Son.
This path is one that is mirrored in the heavens with the movements of the celestial bodies, that has been enacted by “Christified” humans throughout time, and which takes place within any spiritually prepared person. It is the basis of the work of awakening, and at the solstices and equinoxes ancient people celebrated its stages.
Ancient esoteric civilizations were based on this individual work toward awakening. This is why we find universal esoteric symbols emerging in remote places all over the world and forming the basis of the worldâs ancient religions.
It is a process of transformation, and of death and resurrection. Preceding the birth of the Son within at the winter solstice an initiate (a spiritually prepared person) must first undergo a cleansing inner spiritual death, which is the time of growing darkness around the autumn equinox, which is why John the Baptist, symbol of the initiate, died at the time of the autumn equinox. The birth of the Son within at the winter solstice brings the spiritual into an individual so that they may be “born again” of the spiritâthis spiritual force within starts as something small like a child, and grows just as the sun does, and why so many solar deities were born at the winter solstice, including Jesus. At the spring equinox the Son then dies to be brought back to life to live eternally, and why so many deities went through this at the spring equinox, such as Jesus, Osiris, Tammuz, and the Mayan Hun Hunahpu. Here the initiate resurrects and attains eternal life, or imperishability as the ancient Egyptians called it, eventually merging with and returning to the divine source, which is the point of ascension at the summer solstice.
Those who incarnated the Son, and had the role of savior in the world, enacted these events in their lives to show the process of awakening. And those who did the spiritual work and incarnated the Son, also went through this same process in their lives. It is a process that does not belong to any religion, to any deity, but is so universal that it has taken place within many men and women over thousands of years, and is repeated every year throughout the cosmos.
The cosmic Son is born within an individual who is spiritually prepared. This is why references can be found throughout Christian texts in which Jesus and John the Baptist both state that an individual can receive Christ, become a son of God, be born again of the Spirit, and become a son of the living father. This timeless and eternal force of the Son can be born within us, and the life of Jesus and his words (the clearest and most recent reference), as well as a number of other ancient solar deities, shows how to achieve it. The aim of anyone truly searching for awakening is to be saved by the Son within.
But as many as received him [Christ], to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
~ John 1:12-13
Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.Â That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.Â Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
~ Jesus, in John 3:1-7
When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourself, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty.
~ Jesus, The Book of Thomas the Contender
Spiritual Symbols Found in the Cosmos
Some of the world’s most ancient and well known spiritual symbols also reveal that there is a cosmic aspect to much of the world’s ancient spiritual wisdom. These symbols actually encode universal spiritual principles that are not specific to any religion. This is why many of the same or similar symbols appear throughout the world. They reveal that there is a common spiritual knowledge which people have tapped into and have then expressed according to their environment and cultures, forming different religions and traditions that were actually founded on the same eternal and universal spirituality.
Symbols operate on many different levels – only being able to be interpreted according to the understanding of the observer. If we understand something, it can become apparently visible in the symbol, but that which is out of our reach, will remain hidden.
While many of us will be familiar with the symbols below, most will be unaware of what these symbols describe. The examples below reveal how symbols can actually describe universal principles that operate on many different levels. These symbols encode information about the movement of the heavens, yet at the same time, also reveal how those universal principles operate within the human psyche.
This is why a great maxim of wisdom states, “as above, so below.” These symbols reveal how physical, cosmic phenomena are related to inner, spiritual ones, and why the progress of the sun throughout the year was so important to ancient spiritual cultures. We are connected to the cosmos in ways that we cannot possibly imagine.
Yin and Yang
The ancient Chinese symbol of the yin and yang can actually be seen when mapping the cycles of light and darkness during the rotation of the earth around the sun.
The swastika is one of the most universal symbols, examples of which can almost be found in every culture of the ancient world. It illustrates a cosmic principle of movement which can be found in the relationship between the planets and the sun, and can even be seen in the slow spin of a galaxy. The four arms can symbolize the four points of the year – the solstices and equinoxes.
The spiral is often found in the spiritual symbology of the ancient Europeans and Britons. At the ancient site of Newgrange in Ireland the sun rise on the winter solstice enters its innermost chamber. This ancient site is decorated with the symbol of the spiral. Whilst we often think of our earth’s rotational movement around the sun as being in an ellipse on a flat plane, a new theory has been put forth that it is really rotating in a spiral as the sun itself moves at great speed throughout the universe in its own rotation around a greater sun – dragging the planets of the solar system with it in a great whorling spiral.
The above video shows how the planets rotate around our sun in a spiral.
The Churning of the Milky Ocean
The Churning of the Milky Ocean is an ancient Hindu teaching which was carved into a mural at the ancient site of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, which itself aligns to the spring equinox.
In this mural it symbolizes the cycles of light and darkness throughout the year, rotating upon the equinox, with the winter solstice at the darkest extreme, and the summer solstice the lightest. Numbers of the annual cycle were encoded into the mural, as well as those of a greater cosmic cycle know as The Great Year or the precession of the equinoxes.
The above video may show just one example of the motion that the churning of the milky ocean illustrates – which in this case is the rotation of the earth upon its axis, whilst moving back and forth in cycles as occurs in the annual rotation of the earth around the sun and in the precession of the equinoxes.
Remnants of Solstice and Equinox Celebrations from Ancient Times
Many thousands of years ago highly advanced ancient peoples built huge megalithic structures and temples that aligned with the sun at the equinoxes and solstices, many which even align with each other from across the world. Many traditions of celebrating the solstice and equinox still survive today, although many others passed into history.
Whilst traditions often change their shape or lose their meaning through time, many of these stone monuments have withstood thousands of years. They were purpose built as giant symbols and thus have kept a knowledge of the greater spiritual significance of the solstice and equinox encoded into their structures for us to still read today.
Here are just some of the ancient markers built by different cultures that recognize the solstices and equinoxes:
- The first rays of the rising sun on the summer solstice pass through stone markers to hit the altar stone in the center of Stonehenge in England.
- Newgrange in Ireland is a giant 1 acre mound which receives a shaft of sunlight into a central chamber shaped like a crucifix at dawn on the winter solstice.
- At the ancient city of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the spire of its central tower aligns with the sun on the equinox, and surrounding temples align with the stars of the constellation of Draco.
- The Great Sphinx of Egypt gazes precisely at the equinox sunrise.
- A giant serpent mound in Ohio in the United States faces the summer solstice sunset.
- On Easter Island 7 of the giant stone statues called maoi face the equinox sunset, whist on another part of the island 15 face the summer solstice sunset.
- The âsun daggerâ built by the Pueblo Indians in Chaco Canyon in the United States is a stone structure which uses shadow and sunlight to mark the equinoxes and solstices. The ancient city at Chaco Canyon also has various alignments to the solstices and equinoxes.
- In South America, the ancient Mayan city of pyramid shaped temples at Tikal align with the highest mountain peak in the area at the winter solstice sunrise, and the temples align with each other to mark the equinoxes and solstices.
- On the equinox at the pyramid of Chichen Itza in Mexico, the light creates the effect of the feathered serpent slithering down the side of the pyramid.
- Two of the thirty caves at Ajanta in India capture the sunlight on the solstices so that the illuminate sacred statues of Buddha.
- A number of temples in Egypt are aligned with the winter solstice sunrise. At the temple of Amun in Karnak, the sunâs rays are funneled along a giant temple causeway lined with massive pillars, flooding an inner sanctuary of Amun with light. This page includes some stunning photos of the solstice sunrise at Karnak.
Connect with the Heavens and the Earth by Celebrating the Solstice and Equinox
Solstices and equinoxes are a time of connection between the heavens and the earth, the personal and the divine, the inner and the outer, the material and the spiritual, and even a time when contact through mystical experiences is made more possible. It is a beautiful time, which unfortunately we as a humanity have lost touch with, as did other cultures who degenerated in the past and lost their spiritual foundation.
By taking part in ceremonies to celebrate the solstice and equinox, one is able to extract from and use the event for its higher purpose just as the ancients didâto connect with the divine, to understand cosmic eternal principles through intuitive experience, and take spiritual nourishment needed to help toward awakening. This is not simply the revival of something past, but the partaking in something eternal that permeates our lives, even if we pay little attention to it.
The whole of creation has been formed to imbue the principles of spirituality, and thus these principles can not only be found all around us, but also within us, thus allowing us to understand our origins and the true purpose of life whenever we choose to look. This has allowed different people’s, throughout the world and time, to each be able to tap into the same universal spiritual knowledge.
In everything that is life is the law written. You find it in the grass, in the tree, in the river, in the mountain, in the birds of heaven, in the fishes of the sea; but seek it chiefly in yourselves. For I tell you truly, all living things are nearer to God than the scripture which is without life. God so made life and all living things that they might by the everlasting word teach the laws of the true God to man. God wrote not the laws in the pages of books, but in your heart and in your spirit. They are in your breath, your blood, your bone; in your flesh, your bowels, your eyes, your ears, and in every little part of your body. They are present in the air, in the water, in the earth, in the plants, in the sunbeams, in the depths and in the heights. They all speak to you that you may understand the tongue and the will of the living God. But you shut your eyes that you may not see, and you shut your ears that you may not hear. I tell you truly, that the scripture is the work of man, but life and all its hosts are the work of our God. Wherefore do you not listen to the words of God which are written in His works? And wherefore do you study the dead scriptures which are the work of the hands of men?
~ Jesus in The Essene Gospel of Peace
Many people become attached to a particular religion, denouncing others as untrue. But all the great religions sprouted from universal spiritual truths given to humanity by those with the Son within throughout time, which is why they have such seemingly inexplicable similarities. Once a person who has the Son within leaves a religion, it loses the living guidance which gave it the vital connection between the heavens and the earth needed to form a true living teaching. And so the Son must come again to give spiritual truth anew through another spiritually prepared individual. The aim of an esotericist is to always find the living Son to receive the direct living wisdom of the divineâcosmic, omnipresent, and beyond all religious ideas.
~ Copyright 2011 Belsebuub and Angela Pritchard