NASA map, first stars
If you fulfil the pattern that is peculiar to yourself, you have loved yourself, you have accumulated and have abundance; you bestow virtue then because you have luster. ~Carl Jung, Zarathustra Seminar, Page 502.
Beneath it all, beneath the story of Joseph and the Virgin Mary, the baby Jesus born in a manger surrounded by animals, the star, the shepherds, the angels singing, the three wise kings with their three gifts. Christmas trees, lights, decorations, presents, food. Santa Claus, Rudolph, the elves, snow. Beneath all this, what is Christmas really about? Where did this need to celebrate new life come from?
Jesus’s birth is celebrated in the middle of the coldest, darkest part of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Here, the Winter Solstice, which occurs on December 21 or 22, marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. This was celebrated for thousands of years by our ancestors because it appeared to them as if the sun had been withdrawing since Midsummer. Since their lives depended on hunting, gathering and growing, the longest night marked the end of the sun’s disappearance and the rebirth of light, hope, trust, and a new growing season.
But does this mean Christmas is just a pagan festival celebrating a change in the weather? Of course not. Light, star, rebirth, new life and abundance have symbolic meaning too. And symbols, rituals and celebrations address inner realities as well as outer ones.
Awakening from a long sleep during which our egos have been unconscious of our inner truths, and moving into a more mature way of living and loving is what Christmas is really about. Thus, one message of the Christmas story is that just as a brilliant star stands out from the others in the midnight sky, each of us has the potential to become an individuated, enlightened human being. And that star, that unique baby who brought kings and wise men from afar to worship in a humble manger brings another message too; one about the deep connections between all things.
Everything psychic has a lower and a higher meaning, as in the profound saying of late classical mysticism: ‘Heaven above, Heaven below, stars above, stars below, all that is above also is below, know this and rejoice.’ Here we lay our finger on the secret symbolical significance of everything psychic. ~Carl Jung; CW 5; para 77.
Trinity, Pfarrkirche St. Martinus, Oberteuringen, Bodenseekreis Deckengemälde im Chor von F. Bentele, 1876
We and our world are bi-polar, which is to say, governed by the principle of opposites. Earth has a Northern and a Southern Hemisphere. For every night there is a day. For every season of darkness is a season of light. For every outer event there is a corresponding inner one which resonates in ways that bring joy and meaning to our lives. Thus, all opposites, outer and inner, are bound to each other by an invisible cord which is as real and essential to us as our heartbeat.
The invisible cord is a middle realm where, as Picasso explained, “Everything you can imagine is real.” This place where all opposites merge and overlap has been called by many names depending on our perspective. A physicist might call it the Quantum Field. A symbologist, a Mandorla. An artist, Imagination or Muse. A Jungian, the Ego-Self axis. A religious, Holy Spirit or God.
Whatever you call it, this third place of Trinity, this realm where outer events are connected to—and symbols of—meaningful inner realities, is real. Moreover, the ongoing interactions in this realm create oneness.
And so, although each of us is a unique individual, a glowing star like no other, by means of the invisible cord we are also all bound together in unity. No part can exist without the other. We and our world, our very universe, are one gigantic bundle of connected and interacting impulses and elements, vibrations and particles. It’s called Life. And it’s all holy.
And our conscious, loving interaction with the world along that middle space is where the magic occurs. Where an idea manifests into an object. Where a symbol brings personal meaning. Where a feeling breeds a relationship of twoness which becomes a marriage of individuated oneness.
There is an absolute, eternal union between God and the soul of everything. The problem is that Western religion has not taught us this. Our ego over-emphasizes our individuality and separateness from God and others. ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.
And so we celebrate the birth of a child who became the foundation for a new religion long ago, instead of our own holy inner light and our process of awakening to it and to life: the new life we experienced last year and the new life we hope for in the coming year. And we struggle to prove our worth with outer achievements while struggling against the realities of our life, the very things which make us who we are and which, once accepted, can turn us into the enlightened being we can become.
Mystics like Francis and Clare lived from a place of conscious, chosen, and loving union with God. Such union was realized by surrendering to it, not by achieving it! ~Richard Rohr Meditation, Dec. 17, 2016.
If you’re not a religious person, just replace the word “God” with any or all of these three: Life. Love. Reality. It’s all the same thing.
May this Christmas season strengthen your star and the invisible cord between all peoples of the world.
Image credits: Wikimedia Commons. Thanks to Lewis LaFontaine for the Jung quotes and Diane Croft for the Picasso quote.
Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at Kobo, Barnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.