27 December, 2014

Incarnating the Light

I was going to write a solstice hymn, as I have typically done for the last few years, but I’ve done enough of that for the last several months that it seemed somewhat unappealing. So, something else instead.

Of late, I’ve been thinking about the soul and incarnation and, at least in my part of the world, it so happens today is the Winter Solstice which, no doubt amongst other things, is a time celebrated for the returning of the light to the world. Some of the language used for this includes “birth” and “reborn.” Outside of the winter solstice, it is also Christmas time and Hanukah, both of which celebrate the light, though in fairly different ways. In any case, the Light is borne, if not born, into the world.

The light, or Light, of course, hasn’t gone anywhere. It is eternal and omnipresent. Sometimes we’re just not looking, something about those who have eyes to see. But I don’t really want to talk about that. Instead, it is that birth aspect upon which I’d like to focus. The Light is born, or reborn, into the world. That bit. And, because humanity’s favorite subject is itself, or possibly that’s just me, I’d like to try to relate that to us.

In De Anima, Iamblichus gives two reasons why souls incarnate. One of them has to do with having the same number of beings in generation are there are in the heaves and beyond. The other, and right now more relevant, has to do with bringing the glory of the gods into manifestation. Taken one way, we might say we are down here to incarnate the gods. Not necessarily in a literal sense, but still, to bring the gods down here in a way they are otherwise not themselves. Because they, or It, is already down here; the divine blessings always flow. Again, we’re just not looking.

A number of religions have used this time of the year to celebrate the incarnation of a god, often repeat with solar or light symbolism being born. Some take this as literal, some allegorical, some mythological, etc. At the very least, I try to take it seriously, because this is what I’m talking about. Coming into manifestation to bring the divine into the world in a way different from which it already is. Just like us.

But unlike us, those gods see the light, are logoi, actively bearing that light into the world. They do it on purpose. A lot of us try, some with more success than others. I am somewhat reminded of Plato’s allegory of the sun, which I will no doubt imperfectly relate. The physical sun represents the Good or the Form of the Good. Through the light of sun we are able to see things around us, even if we can’t look at the sun directly. Through the light of the Good, we are able to see the divine around us, even if we cannot see the Good directly. The thing is, we’re part of the light of the Good. Photons made physical, as it were. Perhaps not quite so lofty as the incarnating Light gods celebrated around this time, but still, ultimately, divine, even if the least of the divine. And yes, we have other things to do than just be bits of divine light. And those other things are important. But so is being a bit of divine light, because it is through us others are able to see the divine that is all around them, including the divine within themselves.

And this, I think, connects us. We need each other for this, because, as Iamblichus writes, “it is impossible to partake as an individual of the universal orders, but only in communion with the divine choir of those who, with minds united, experience a common uplift." (In Phileb., Fr. 6.)
We’re here to bring the divine glory into manifestation, but not to do it alone.

Perhaps the hymn was a better idea.

A blessed solstice to you.

Winter Solstice

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