the sun at midnight

Sun at midnight is the title of Geoffrey Ahern’s magnificent work on anthroposophy, published again about a year ago. The sun at midnight is also a phenomenon I was reminded of when reading this post at the blog of the Anthroposophical Society in Canada. The ASC quotes from SkyNews:

On the night of December 20/21, the full Moon turns rusty red as it glows high in the south in the middle of the star-rich winter Milky Way.  Its position in the sky couldn’t be better.  The Moon is as high as it can possibly be.  However, the price we pay is that the eclipse occurs in the middle of a long winter night; indeed, the longest night of the year – winter solstice….

Which all makes sense (I assume). Though Canadians may be luckier than Europeans (see); where I live, the eclipse will be visible (if at all) during the morning hours, not in the middle of the night. Then, turning to Sergei Prokofieff, we learn of ancient mystery students watching the sun at midnight. He’s repeating, I believe, what Steiner taught, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Steiner, in turn, got it from somebody. (I don’t know; I’m sure others do.) Anyway, according to ASC’s post this midwinter night offers the opportunity to see the ‘sun’ at midnight.

The Cosmic Event coming before us in the total Lunar Eclipse on the day of the Winter Solstice, in the place in space occupied by the Sun at the Summer Solstice, offers an opportunity to “see the Sun at Midnight”.

Curious as I am, I went to the Rudolf Steiner Archive to research the topic. In ‘Signs and Symbols of the Christmas Festival’ Steiner lectures to his followers; but he talks about ‘the sun at midnight’ not as a physical, astronomical phenomenon but as a ritual, an enactment intended to induce a certain kind of spiritual experience:

Early on the previous evening the pupils gathered together. In quiet contemplation they were to be made aware of the meaning and import of this momentous happening. Silently and in darkness they sat together. When the midnight hour drew near they had been for long hours in the darkened chamber, steeped in the contemplation of eternal truths. Then, towards midnight, mysterious tones, now louder, now gentler, resounded through the space around them. Hearing these tones, the pupils knew: This is the Music of the Spheres. Then a faint light began to glimmer from an illumined disc. Those who gazed at it knew that this disc represented the earth. The illumined disc became darker and darker — until finally it was quite black. At the same time the surrounding space grew brighter. Again the pupils knew: the black disc represents the earth; the sun, which otherwise radiates light to the earth, is hidden; the earth can see the sun no longer. Then, ring upon ring, rainbow colours appeared around the earth-disc and those who saw it knew: This is the radiant Iris. At midnight, in the place of the black earth-disc, a violet-reddish orb gradually became visible, on which a word was inscribed, varying according to the peoples whose members were permitted to experience this Mystery. With us, the word would be Christos. Those who gazed at it knew: It is the sun which appears at the midnight hour, when the world around lies at rest in deep darkness. The pupils were now told that they had experienced what was known in the Mysteries as “seeing the sun at midnight.”

He who is truly initiated experiences the sun at midnight, for in him the material is obliterated: the sun of the Spirit alone lives within him, dispelling with its light the darkness of matter. The most holy of all moments in the evolution of man is that in which he experiences the truth that he lives in eternal light, freed from the darkness. In the Mysteries, this moment was represented pictorially, year by year, at the midnight hour of the Holy Night. The picture imaged forth the truth that as well as the physical sun there is a Spiritual Sun which, like the physical sun, must be born out of the darkness. In order that the pupils might realise this even more intensely, after they had experienced the rising of the spiritual Sun, of the Christos, they were taken into a cave in which there seemed to be nothing but stone, nothing but dead, lifeless matter. But springing out of the stones they saw ears of corn as tokens of life, indicating symbolically that out of apparent death, life arises, that life is born from the dead stone. Then it was said to them: Just as from this day onwards the power of the sun awakens anew after it seemed to have died, so does new life forever spring from the dying. [Source.]

Anyway, it’s this night or tomorrow morning, depending on where you live, that you’ll be able to see the moon eclipse. More information by NASA! Don’t miss the lunar eclipse gallery.

Edit: National Geographic!

3 thoughts on “the sun at midnight

  1. ‘Hence in the ancient Mysteries it was never attempted to allow the scholars to gain an occult impression of the sun by day; they were taught that they might learn to know the sun in its peculiar nature when it is least visible to physical eyes, namely, at midnight. The pupils were taught to direct their occult vision to the sun, through the physical earth, precisely at midnight. Hence among the many descriptions of the ancient Mysteries, you find among other things, which for the most part are no longer understood today — the sentence in the Egyptian Mysteries, for instance: “The pupil must see the sun at midnight.”

    ‘What has not been brought forward by dilettantism, to explain by all sorts of nice, neat symbols, what is meant by “seeing the sun at midnight”? People as a rule have no idea that the things imparted in occult writings are most correctly understood if no endeavor is made to explain them by means of symbols, but are taken as literally as possible.’ — source.

    Steiner keeps advising people to take things literally, not symbolically. Yet, for the anthroposophists, it’s a common excuse that the wacky stuff should only be taken symbolically, definitely not literally. Isn’t it odd… it’s as though they were incapable of reconciling what they know about the world with the ‘facts’ Steiner taught… oh well…

    He later goes on to say:

    ‘So we must take the expression “seeing the sun at midnight,” quite literally. Thus we can best acquire an occult impression of the sun if we are not disturbed by physical impressions; that is, if we see nothing of the sunlight at all but, observe the sun at night. We then gain an impression of the present-day sun, which to a very great extent resembles what is obtained by the impression previously described.’

  2. What I was looking for, when writing this post, was a quote I knew I’d seen somewhere. Now, going through my 2009 calendar (to put it away — I always use paper calendars), I found it. I’d jotted it. ‘Ich habe gesehen die Sonne um Mitternacht.’ And also, surprisingly, a reference: GA 236, June 27th, 1924. Which is the second volume of Karmic Relationships, which I know is also available at rsarchive. So, here’s the quote I wanted to post on Dec 20, but never found.

    ‘Now there is another and different condition of our earthly existence. We spoke of this different condition in the last lecture from a certain point of view. We have the condition of sleep. How does this condition of sleep present itself in its cosmic counterpart? Let us consider it for a moment. When our physical and etheric bodies are there in the bed, and our astral body and ego outside, then out in the cosmos we have to think of the sun at a position where the earth must first let the rays of the sun pass through it before they reach us. Now in all the ancient Mysteries a certain teaching was given which, if fully understood, produced a profoundly moving impression in those who become pupils in the Mysteries and gradually mastered the Science of Initiation. They reached a certain stage of inner development which they might have described in the following way. — I am now telling you what might have been said by one of these ancient Initiates when he had attained to a certain degree of Initiation. — He would have spoken somewhat as follows: “When I stand in the open fields in the daytime, when I direct my gaze upwards and give myself up to the impressions of the senses, then I behold the sun; I see it in its dazzling strength at noontide and behind the dazzling strength of the noontide sun I behold the working of the spiritual Beings of the Second Hierarchy in the substance of the sun. Before my Initiation the substance of the sun vanished from me at the moment of its setting. The shining radiance of the sun vanished in the purples of sunset. Before my Initiation I went through the dark path of night, and in the morning, when the dawn came, I remembered this darkness. Out of the dawn the sun shone forth again and took its course onward towards the dazzling brightness of noon. But now, having attained to Initiation, when I experience the dawn and behold the sun as it passes from dawn on through its daily course, a memory of my life during the night-time awakens within me. I know what I have experienced in this night life, I remember clearly how I beheld a blue, glimmering light arise from the evening twilight and gradually spread, travelling from west to east. And I remember how I beheld the sun at the midnight hour, at the opposite point in the firmament to where it had stood in its noontide, dazzling strength; I saw it gleaming there behind the earth, full of deep and solemn meaning. I beheld the Midnight Sun!”’

    Now, I’ll resume the work of getting rid of my old calendar. Because I never think the year will end, I write all sorts of things in my calendars. Then the year ends anyway and I have to deal with… well, all sorts of things I once thought were important (and which are quite often, due to my handwriting, undecipherable…).

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