Many observers of a solar eclipse often describe the diminished light from this cosmological event as being eerie. I too, have experienced the eerie sensation of this phenomenon while working in my midwestern garden years ago. Why should this physical event produce such a psychological response?
News of the recent eclipse caused my associative mind to draw up some past memories, and make new mental connections. I remember back in grade school, one of my teachers commenting on the superstitions and mythology of more “primitive” peoples concerning the solar eclipse. He said that one culture (I think from Africa) described such an event as “a dragon swallowing the sun.” Upon saying this he had a small smirk on his face because modern astronomy dispelled such silly superstitions. Astronomy proved that a solar eclipse was merely a cosmic event where the trajectory of the moon sometimes crossed the plane of the sun.
As a youngster, I fully absorbed my teacher’s more “enlightened” explanation. But I remember that something still bothered me about the primitive explanation of the solar eclipse. Such “backwards” people had eyes just like I had. How could anyone with similar eyes and human brain mistake the moon for a dragon? Apparently, this question, which gave me some minor discomfort, was put in some remote corner of my noggin.
Years later, when I was in my mid-twenties, I came across the unique ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg. He claimed that in more ancient and remote ages, humans perceived that all phenomena in nature symbolized psycho-spiritual realities, and therefore, contained more elevated information for the human mind to distil. (This mechanism of “sameness” is how God is intimately connected with physical creation and process.)
For instance, the “sun” symbolizes God’s love (heat) and truth (light). In other words, in the same way that the astronomical sun provides the energy and thermodynamics for sustaining physical and terrestrial life, God’s spiritual energy gives life to human souls.
The moon, since it receives or reflects the light of the sun, symbolizes the ability of the human mind to reflect on the deepest questions of reality. Therefore, when the moon crosses over the sun, shutting out most of its light, it symbolizes the human intellect, through false reasoning, shutting out God’s spiritual influence (and importance). Our inner world goes into darkness.
Swedenborg also made the claim that this kind of symbolism (correspondences) is also hidden in the deeper structure and spiritual architecture of the narratives of Holy Scripture. In Revelation, a dragon is used to convey the idea of false reasoning against God. That this “Great Red Dragon” threatened to devour a pregnant woman (clothed in light and standing atop the moon) and later her newborn child symbolized a terrifying false belief-system attempting to devour the birth of any new appreciation and perception within the human intellect of God’s true spiritual importance.
My mind had a sudden mental flash and unique synaptic experience! The ancient superstition of a solar eclipse representing a dragon devouring the sun was indeed true—but on a deeper symbolic level that addresses the human spirit (and transcends the operation of the human corporeal/sensual mind).
The eerie feeling I experienced from the diminished light of such a solar event reminded me of a similar effect when my inner reality is suffering from the mistakes and flawed thinking I’ve made from relying on my self-intelligence, rather than God’s wisdom. We all devour (try to destroy) God’s heavenly influence from time to time during our lives from our egoism and self-importance. In such cases our souls start experiencing an even more dangerous kind of eclipse and darkness.
Ancient cultures knew all this!
Modern astronomy has put all its focus on the literal meaning of physical events “up there” in the sky. But ancient cultures looked beyond the phenomena occurring in time and space or from mere visual observation. The human mind was created to probe realities beyond physical matter to discover spiritual truth.
Checkmate, Mr. Modern Science!