There is something about greeting the rising sun at the dawn of a new day that changes our perspective, especially on a spiritual workshop, when the attention is already focussed beyond the confines or everyday life.
Every April, we begin the Saturday of our workshop by greeting the dawn. Given the time at which our Companions must rise in order to attend this ritual, it is an entirely optional part of the weekend, especially as many have travelled far the previous day and then stayed up late talking after a visit to the village pub. And yet, every year, almost all of our Companions gather in the pale, cold light of dawn to join us.
We usually walk up to the hillside to greet the sun as it rises over the crest of the ancient hillfort above the Centre, but this year the rain seemed to have settled in, with as much persistence as it had when Utnapishtim was instructed to build his Ark. Rather than having everyone drenched, frozen and buffeted by high winds, we elected, instead, to work in the conservatory.
The idea was a simple one… to bring the Seven Radiances that symbolise the essential nature of the Sumerian gods into the temple. For our purposes, we had chosen to work with seven of the most prominent deities, each one associated with one of the then-known planets, referring to them as Planetary Beings, a term that recognises both the life and inherent sacredness of our own planet and those with which we share the solar system.
The Sumerians recorded complex astronomical observations, linking them to their belief in seven heavens, seven earths and seven generations of gods. Their beliefs, passing through many cultures and ages, would eventually give rise to the symbolism with which we are more familiar, including the seven colours of the rainbow and the association of the gods with the days of the week.
We had, when planning the weekend, expected to have a Companion take the place of each of the seven Sumerian gods with which we were concerned. Because of the absences inflicted by illness, we found instead that our temple’s symbolic east was entirely bereft of Planetary Beings. We were not the only ones to recognise the significance of this, both in relation to the missing aspects of Gilgamesh himself, and to the fact that so many people in the world today, especially those in power, seem oblivious to sanctity in any form.
Many pay lip-service to constitutional and corporate gods, but as a species, we seem to have moved away from a reverence for life and a recognition of the sacred. There is, however, a growing awareness that we must change in order to survive and a nascent understanding of levels of sentience hitherto unrecognised by the scientific mind. It is only over the past few decades that we have accepted that animals have emotions and can suffer at levels deeper than reaction to pain. The discovery that trees communicate and cooperate with each other is even more recent. We have learned much, but still know so little about our world and its creatures, that who knows what we have yet to discover? Perhaps the ancients were not so far wrong when they saw life in the rocks trees and waters and a living awareness in the planet they revered and called Mother?
It is said, in magical circles, that the gods are both the creations of the created and exist in their own right; man-made visions, born of our desire to understand, yet ensouled by the natural and cosmic forces they represent. It is also said that whatever is created, be it in the physical world, in the heart or in the imagination, is real on its own plane.
The symbol of eternity, traced by many feet as the Radiances of the gods were added to the staff, was not an empty act. At the moment when the sun rose over the ancient hillfort, it was a Veil the colour of Love that was added to the staff, and Love was carried into the temple.
The staffs were laid to form a single line above the circle of the enneagram, forming a Sumerian symbol of sovereignty… the rod and circle, the ‘measure and containment’ of that which gives form to the formless; on earth, a symbol of kingship, in the heavens, a symbol of the gods.
Following a guided meditation through the ancient landscape of Sumer, we went out to meet those gods, one by one, and bring them once more into the temple… and thus, into our own lives. When we had done, the symbolic east was no longer empty.