Summer solstice, feast of Light
by Adriano Nardi
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For Freemasonry the cyclical celebration of winter and summer solstices is an important harmonization to the rhythm of the great ritual of Nature, given by the apparent motion of the sun, which, generously and without distinction, irradiates and vivifies any form of the four kingdoms. Equinoxes as well are focal points of this ritual, but the peculiarity of solstices is represented by the substantial ‘reversal of trend' as far as solar irradiation on our planet is concerned.
For Freemasonry these astronomical moments are ‘feasts of Light', the primary energy to which we will dedicate some considerations.
A foreword is necessary. It is interesting to notice how Freemasonry is permeated with ‘religious' symbols and references, or even better, symbols that can be traced back to mystic tradition. Indeed, it dedicates the solstice ceremonies to the Saints John the Evangelist and John the Baptist.
Nevertheless ‘ ...it is not clear how an Institution that claims to be ‘a child' of the ancient mysteric Order (see Mediterranean Mysteries) could mix abstract spirituality with obvious religious romanticism. Or how it could mistake representations of an exterior cult for the inner principles of spiritual illumination. On the difference between the manifestation of an exterior devotion and the inner achievement of a spiritual principle, every researcher reaches his own conclusion. There is no point in discussing it, because it is the result of a free conviction that must be respected.' (see Masonic Religiosity. The denied aspect of a plain reality )
Therefore we might wonder why a mysteriosophic order, which is certainly not short of significant philosophical and symbolic references, must draw representations from the mystical order. Perhaps the two fields are representative of the two ‘Paths' necessary to grasp the unique Truth that generated them?
But this would avert us from the topic; therefore let's leave the opportunity of this discussion to another time for anyone who might be interested.
John the Evangelist, whom the winter solstice is dedicated to, is an expression not so much of a physical person, but rather of the most esoteric of the writings recognized by the principle as a testimony of the ‘Johannine' school. Among the historians the prevailing idea is that the names used to indicate the Gospels don't correspond to physical people, but to schools of doctrinal thought.
The reading attributed to John highlights the divine origin of the Son into an unfathomable eternity, as this statement announces: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…' . The concept of pre-existence is at the basis of the testimony given by the Gospel of John.
The summer solstice, though, is dedicated to John the Baptist, so called because he introduced baptism, an ancient Hebrew rite of purification through water.
The Baptist was a prophet, who announced the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God .
The connection of these two moments of the year, winter time – with less solar irradiation – with John the Evangelist, he who symbolically looks at the Origin of this spiritual Light, and summer time – with the highest degree of solar irradiation – with John the Baptist, he who announces and prophesizes the future advent of the divine Light, is the teaching that the Masonic tradition has considered useful to hide in the symbology of its rituals.
Therefore Light is the symbol at the center of this celebration.
We know that the term Light can be interpreted from many points of view, such as creativity, wisdom, beauty, intuition, heat, love, magnetic attraction, knowledge. In any case it is a group of virtues that we might consider as the unit of measurement of the real progress of every man in the initiatory scale, which is expression of his own conscience development. In actual fact we are talking about Culture, which must not be mistaken for erudition. Culture is much more; it is the cult of Light.
An ancient precept states that ‘ every form is the symbol of the reality that produces it ', and the symbol is a form, a container like a temple, a cathedral, a book; and every form is feminine and receptive, a space that welcomes. Every symbol is qualified by the light that it contains, its own solar nature, but the content is limited by the ability of the observer.
Man as well, a living symbol, in his three-fold reality, of form, conscience and spirit, is qualified by the degree of Light that he can express. This reality is reminded by the colors of the paraments that characterize degrees, not only Masonic degrees. Indeed the colors of the paraments remind the people who are not initiated yet the luminous quality, in the sense of vibration of the psychic and spiritual sphere, that that degree or function should express. The Initiate that embodies the qualities represented by jewels and paraments will be able to vivify them with his thoughts, actions and words. In other words he is what he represents.
Therefore the Light is the energy that every form is able to irradiate, the spiritual essence that qualifies it by manifesting itself. The absence of Light, a product of spiritual conscience, leaves man in the dark, in the obscurity, so much so that the Teaching defines the lower self still lacking a conscience, a shadow. This is what Giordano Bruno called ‘shadows of ideas', the man not conscious of the Idea that generated him and that Animates him. Men in the labyrinth of the world of chaos move like shadows.
The concept of illumination is at the center of any work in the Temple .
Let's not forget that this is the request of the postulant who, from the darkness where he wandered in the profane world up to that moment, once found the door where to knock, asks for ‘light'. At the beginning it will be a ‘half-light', and then it will become ‘full light' thanks to his transmuting work.
These expressions are the allegory of precise conscience levels in the journey from Darkness (ignorance and profane mistake) to Light (initiatory Wisdom), the latter symbolized by the figure of the Master of all masters, Hiram, living symbol of the initiatory spirituality directed towards the Humankind in order to stimulate and accelerate its progression in the evolutionary line.
Freemasonry is a Ceremonial Order with the purpose of initiation, which is a succession of many little illuminations. Any field where an activity is carried out in communion and cooperation and where the goal is illumination is an ‘ Institute of Culture ' , where by Culture we mean the cult of Ur , the fire that originated civilization.
We will physically re-evoke this Fire as a tribute to the symbol of Light.
It is a purifying fire that prepares to the renewal of oneself, purifying as the rite carried out by the Baptist, who announced the coming of Him who would baptize not with water but with the fire of the Spirit.
It is a fire that burns old forms, a fire that creates by destroying; because the cycle of life and rebirth is at the basis of any renovation. This is true in all kingdoms, included the spiritual one. The rebirth of the living to a new life, the life of who, permeated by the light of his inner sun, managed to illuminate his own conscience and become a point of irradiating light among men, through his thoughts, gestures and words; a bearer of vital light.
Nothing resists the Fire that transmutes, that purifies everything and asks for nothing. To perceive and apply to life the fire element, which feeds the seed of spirit and embraces all, it is possible for anyone who is determined to purify his own thoughts and, once identified his own main faults, sacrifices them on the fire of burning effort. Fire is will, ardor, renovation; it expresses the continuous possibility to create by destroying the old forms that tend to crystallization, in other words to death. What is more insidious for growth and development than habit and routine, which gives the illusory sense of security for ‘what is known'?
On the contrary, initiation means to be introduced to new things, to experience a new start.
In this regularity we grow, with a continuous tension renewed every year on the basis of the experience acquired, ready to immerse again in our ‘own secret room', where we can recognize the inner voice that guides and instructs.
This rhythmic beating is the breath recognizable in small and big cycles; in the annual cycle it leads from the stage of internalization coinciding with the winter solstice to the light of consciousness of the summer solstice, where the action of the man renewed to a new knowledge can start.
We must also be aware that Fire and Light bring responsibilities, since every single thought can obscure or light up space.
‘ The Light is for anybody, but one must long for it'.