Suggestion: listen to Joni Mitchell singing this beautiful song while you read this post.
There are four turning points of the year: the solstices of winter and summer, and the equinoxes of the spring and of the autumn. The cycle of the year among the ancient peoples was always considered to be a symbol of the life of man or, indeed, of the life of the universe. Birth at the Winter Solstice, the beginning of the year; adolescence – trials and their conquest – at the Spring Equinox; adulthood, full-blown strength and power, at the Summer Solstice, representing a period of initiation when the Great Renunciation is made; and then closing with the Autumnal Equinox, the period of the Great Passing. This cycle of the year likewise symbolizes the training in chelaship.
–– G. de Purucker
Dear Children of the Sun and Offspring of the Stars . . . would that the Summer Solstice lasted a year . . .
It’s that time again (June 21), the longest day of the year in terms of daylight and the first official day of summer.
Mmmm . . .
We long for this day all winter, yes?
It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy again. So good, so very, very good.
But this solstice is more than just the first day of summer for many people. It is also considered to be one of the turning points of the year, a sacred season “representing a period of initiation when the Great Renunciation is made,” as G. de Purucker wrote.
I love doing research for my posts here about the solstices of winter and summer, and the equinoxes of the spring and autumn. I usually turn to articles by Theosophists like G. de Purucker, and find myself in deep, deep waters. I’m not the best of swimmers in either physical or metaphysical bodies of water, but I certainly enjoy the reading as much as I enjoy taking a dip in a cool Laurentian lake.
You can well imagine that I am smiling as I write this because the articles I have been reading have left me feeling refreshed, even if I didn’t fathom their full meanings. (Smiles . . . enough of the water analogies, yes?)
So, what about this Great Renunciation at the Summer Solstice? Well, here’s an excerpt from one of the articles I have been reading, called Summer Solstice by W.T.S. Thackara:
(At) the summer solstice — when the sun stands stronger, higher, and longer than at any other period of the year — one finds inspiration in the Great Renunciation, or what could be called the “bodhisattva” initiation. In Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person on the path to buddhahood who has awakened a degree of wisdom — bodhisattva means “one whose essence is wisdom.” In this sense anyone who strives for enlightenment, who acts from his innermost essence, or wisdom and compassion, is to some extent a bodhisattva. The highest example is one who has earned the right to the eons-long bliss of nirvana but, choosing from the very law of his being, renounces it for a more noble objective: the eons-long task of working for the enlightenment and happiness of all.
The summer turning point in this sense represents a pivotal decision about evolutionary progress and fulfillment, in which all of us may participate. Do we “stand still” and stay awhile to help? Or have we become so energized by our aspirations that we cannot help but jump orbit into a more distant realm, more isolated from the needs of the world? As I see it, renunciation is a paradox. We turn away from personal spiritual progress, but in so doing we actually identify more closely with spirit. Everything hangs on motive: if our decision is made with a view to deferred benefit — a loftier nirvana, rank in heaven, or some other lordship — we instantly nullify the act because we have personalized it. Our daily life presents us with innumerable opportunities to act from compassion and self-forgetfulness, and hopefully we do this wisely. To the degree we succeed, we discover the meaning of renouncing the fruit of action, and perhaps something of the quality of experience undergone by the great ones at this summer solstice period. Surely they have no aspiration to be world saviors, but are so precisely because of the simplicity of their decision and what naturally flows from it. Similarly, by detaching ourselves from personal motive as far as possible, our highest wisdom and love can exert themselves — and the world around us will be benefited accordingly.
Simply put, summer symbolizes maturity and ripening judgment, when our natural interest turns to the needs of others. This solstice period is perhaps the sacred season to which we can most easily relate, because altruism and service is something all of us understand.
You might also try an article by James A. Long called Reflections on the Sacred Seasons: Summer and Autumn.
And finally, if you want to swim in the deep, deep end (yes, I know, more water analogies), try this mystical article by G. de Purucker called Summer Solstice. I have borrowed the lovely term G de. Purucker uses to address his readers in the article: “Children of the Sun and Offspring of the Stars ” . . .
Don’t you just love the sound of that? Doesn’t it remind you of the song Woodstock by Joni Mitchell?
We are star dust
We are golden
And we’ve got to get ourselves
back to the garden
Indeed, this is prime gardening season, isn’t it? No matter how you look at it . . .
Happy Summer Solstice, dear Children of the Sun and Offspring of the Stars!
Song of the times.
I had never heard the Joni Mitchell version until yesterday; I had always listened to the CSN&Y version. Joni wrote the song!
Yeah, she’s so clever. Accomplished painter too. Hope your cold is passing. Come to Oka tomorrow if you can.
Thanks for the song. I don’t claim to understand the spiritual stuff.
Happy winter solstice to those in the southern hemisphere.
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