‘For the Sun of Righteousness, who drives His chariot over all, pervades equally all humanity, like “His Father, who makes His Sun to rise on all men,” and distils on them the dew of the truth’.
~Clement of Alexandria (2nd Century Church Father)
Most Christians, I imagine, would find the idea that Jesus Christ, at least as he is depicted within Christian gospels, is little more than a symbolic personification of the sun, absurd to say the least. How can the Christian ‘Saviour’, the ‘King of Kings’ and the ‘Sun of Righteousness’ be but a mythical, or perhaps legendary, hero – a mere mortal, whose biographers sought to transform him into an allegory for the sun? It does sound somewhat far-fetched when said that way, however, absent the proper context almost anything is capable of sounding absurd. The earth is round. What? Then how do people not fall off the bottom? The context provided by the knowledge of gravity serves to turn this scientific fact into an understandable reality and so too when we learn more about the context of solar worship and its influence upon the foundations of the Christian religion we find that the idea of the Christian Sun of an imaginary god makes perfect sense. The aim of this series of articles is to provide that context.
As discussed in my exposition on the Persian origins of the Devil, the Persians had a tremendous influence upon the development of the Hebrew Bible and its theology, endowing their Hebrew counterparts with the conceptual battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. This metaphoric battle between the darkness and the light is rooted in solar myth, but by no means finds its origin amongst the ancient Persians.
From the brilliant work of the late seventeenth-century French scholar and savant Charles Francois Dupuis, entitled ‘Origine’ (Eng. The Origin of all Religious Worship), we read:
‘Thus did the Egyptians invent the fable of Osiris or the beneficent Sun, who travels over the Universe, in order to spread over it the countless blessings, of which he is the source, and set up in opposition to him, Typhon [Set], the Prince of Darkness, who counteracts his actions and finally kills him. On such a simple idea as this, did they invent the fable of Osiris and Typhon, in which, one is represented as a legitimate king, and the other as the tyrant of Egypt. Besides the fragments of these ancient sacerdotal fictions, which have been transmitted to us by Diodorus and Plutarch, we have a life of Osiris and of Typhon, composed by bishop Sinesius, because in those times the bishops manufactured legends. In the one here mentioned, the adventures, the characters and the portraits of the two principles of Egyptian theology, were drawn from imagination, yet still after the idea of the character, which each of them had to play, in order to express in a fable the opposite action of the principles, which counteract and contend with each other in Nature. The Persians had also their history of Ormuzd and Ahriman, which contained the account of their battles, and of the victory of the good over the bad principle’.
The struggle between the “good” and the “bad” principles in nature was founded upon very rational and easily observable phenomena. It is a practical expression within mythological terms of the prosperity of the sun and the desolation inherent in its absence. It is Demeter’s grief-stricken land, Ishtar’s desolate wasteland, and it is the sun going dark in the middle of the day upon Christ’s crucifixion. We can trace the root of this conceptual struggle to the beginnings of solar worship, and perhaps even prior to it, for if one is to think about it, it isn’t a very difficult association to make on one’s own.
The origins of solar worship may correspond to the social shift in many nations from being nomadic, and possibly predominantly matriarchal societies, who observed and subsequently worshipped the stars and the moon, known as stellar and lunar worship, to societies that began to settle in one place and depend upon agriculture, which was, and still is, governed by the apparent motions of the sun. Some have suggested that numerous societies moved away from their matriarchal origins into a new patriarchal structure that gave birth to the solar cults who worshipped gods that were symbolic representations of the sun, and these solar mythical systems, whether the older societies were in fact matriarchal or not, underpin today’s modern patriarchal religions.
A detailed discussion of the transition from lunar to solar worship can be found in Ernest Busenbark’s Symbols, Sex and the Stars, in which he argues:
‘ If the ceremonies and sacrifices which were part of sun worship are much better known to us than those which accompanied moon worship, it may be attributed to the fact that moon worship was already being over-shadowed by the spreading worship of the sun at the beginning of written history. The very earliest records of the ancient nations best known to us date from 3000 to 4000 B.C. to a time when the sun cults were already gaining the ascendency’.
Aside from some archaeological evidence supporting the proposition that matriarchal lunar worship foreshadowed the more modern patriarchal solar forms of worship, and notwithstanding the fact that it is an issue of ongoing debate, there are pieces of evidence within the myths of some of the most ancient gods this planet has on record. These gods were those of ancient Mesopotamia. Turning once again to the illuminating works of Ernest Busenbark, we read:
‘In our own day, the importance of the sun to life on earth is known to be so overwhelmingly greater than that of the moon that, at first thought, it seems strange that moon worship should have been widely practiced long before the development of sun worship. Nevertheless, the findings of modern scientists leave no room to doubt this fact. In Babylonia, for instance, the principal gods were identified by numbers according to their rank. The first triad of gods is composed of Anu 60, Bel 50, Ea 40. The second triad is the Moon 30, Sun 20, and Mylitta or Beltis (Venus) 15. The third triad is Air 10, Nergal or Mars 12, and Nur or Saturn 10. Wherever the sun and the moon are mentioned, the sun is spoken of as “the son of the moon” and not “the father,” as might be expected. One of the ancient gods of Ur in Sumeria was called Shamash (the sun) , the offspring of Nannar, which is one of the names of the moon god. Nabonides, the last native king of Babylonia, assigned the same father to Shamash, so that from first to last, the sun god ranked below the moon god in dignity’.
Agricultural societies were dependent upon the sun, for without it there could be neither garden nor farm, and without these building blocks there could be no village, no town, no city, and no empire. Needless to say, without the sun, life on earth would cease. From the dawn of our species the sun has bestowed upon us prosperity and has been responsible for the universal cycle of the generation, destruction, and regeneration necessary to sustain the unfaltering cycle of life. The sun’s apparent cycle was studied by ancient astronomer-priests who were able to predict its apparent movements, in turn bestowing upon them a scientific gnosis which allowed them to glance into the unseen future and provide the farmer and consumer with the necessities of life. When to plough the fields, when to sow the seeds and when to harvest the crops, were all activities regulated by these astronomer-priests, who in exchange for this knowledge were presented with both a tithe and near-absolute control over their superstitious flocks. Yet without the sun, these farms, villages, towns, cities and empires would never have been, and so the sun naturally took centre stage, well, next to centre stage – for centre stage was frequently occupied by religious charlatans who could predict the sun’s apparent cycles and pass their astronomy off as knowledge of the “divine”.
I think the best way to illustrate the role of the sun in myth is to furnish you with a short ode to the sun.
An Ode to the Sun
Since our species’ advent upon this earth, you have benevolently and indiscriminately protected and condemned both the rich and the poor alike – the good and the bad – judging with complete impartiality both the innocent and the guilty. Your immense power and warmth is the fecundating force behind our opulence and your intense heat has been responsible for widespread devastation and judgment. You create light with your glorious rays and cast great terrifying shadows of darkness. You are responsible for both good and evil. You are, and will always be, our enlightener, leading us not into darkness, but delivering us from the evils of this otherwise cold and dark world. You heal the sick, cast out darkness and transform water into wine with your fermenting heat. You walk on water, traversing great oceans, navigating your way upon a path of light, and at twelve o’clock midday you are the Most High. You are the all-seeing eye in the heavens [space], looking down upon all of us, from the human to the tiny sparrow, and you have always been that loving and benevolent day star, or lux ferre (Lucifer), whose beauty seduces life on earth.
Upon the completion of your yearly and daily missions, you fade away and die, only to be resurrected in the spring of morning and in the morning of spring. During both the night and the winter, you traverse the underworld, leaving darkness and desolation upon the face of the earth, yet you always fulfill your promise to return so that all may see you once again, coming in the clouds. Without you there would be no life, and for this reason you are both our redeemer and our saviour. Yes, it is true, all that we are and all that we have we owe to to you. In most cultures, you are the heavenly father, while in a minority of others you are the divine mother – yet one thing is constant, your blessed role as our eternal guardian. What better time to worship you than on a Sunday, at sunrise? What better direction to face when praying to you than to the east, the place of your rising? What better date to celebrate your birthday than at the end of the winter solstice (December 25th)? O’, is there a more suitable time to celebrate your glorious death and resurrection than at the end of the solar year, following the spring equinox? Could one possibly even imagine better epithets for you than the ‘Light of the World,’ the ‘Enlightener,’ the ‘Saviour’ and the ‘Redeemer?’ You are all these things and not a single living creature could survive without eating of your body and drinking from your cup.
In Manly P. Hall’s Secret Teachings of All Ages, he describes ancient solar worship in the following words:
‘THE adoration of the sun was one of the earliest and most natural forms of religious expression. Complex modern theologies are merely involvements and amplifications of this simple aboriginal belief. The primitive mind, recognizing the beneficent power of the solar orb, adored it as the proxy of the Supreme Deity. Concerning the origin of sun worship, Albert Pike makes the following concise statement in his Morals and Dogma: “To them [aboriginal peoples] he [the sun] was the innate fire of bodies, the fire of Nature. Author of Life, heat, and ignition, he was to them the efficient cause of all generation, for without him there was no movement, no existence, no form. He was to them immense, indivisible, imperishable, and everywhere present. It was their need of light, and of his creative energy, that was felt by all men; and nothing was more fearful to them than his absence. His beneficent influences caused his identification with the Principle of Good…’
In ancient times, the sun became allegorically associated with the supreme go(o)d, as well as his offspring in the mythical systems of countless peoples of antiquity – from Africa to the Near East, to Europe, Asia, and even as far as the Americas. In Egypt he was Amen, Aten, Osiris, and Horus. In Mesopotamia he was Shamash, in Persia he was Ahura Mazda and Mithras, in Greece he was the Almighty Apollo, Helios, Hercules and Asclepius, among many others, and in Israel he became Yahweh and later his only begotten Sun, Yeshua (Gk. Jesus).
One thing that always confused me in Sunday school was how the son could also be the father. I used to wonder how a son could also be his own father, absent some kind of bizarre science-fiction-styled inbreeding experiment. But if we look at this doctrine, known in Christian theology as the ‘eternal generation of the son’, through the illuminating lens of solar myth it starts to make a lot more sense. The father is the old matured and martyred Sun, who, like the phoenix, voluntarily submits to his own demise so that his throne may be succeeded by his new-born son, the sun of the next day, annual cycle, or Platonic Age. Thus, the father and son are one and the same, they both come from the same place on high, journey in the same direction, along the same straight path, take the same time to make that journey – they both exist for the purpose of enlightening and redeeming the world from darkness and only through the son is one able to see the father, for the sun of the present cycle and the sun of the following cycle are but one single sun.
I and my Father are one….[for we are but the sun] John 10:30
- Philip Schaff. Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 2 – Fathers of the Second Century: Hermas, Tatian, Athenagoras, Theophilus, and Clement of Alexandria. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. (1885). p. 322.
- Charles Francois Dupuis. The Origins of All Religious Worship. 171.
- Ernest Busenbark. Symbols, Sex and the Stars in Popular Beliefs. The Book Tree. (1949). p. 4.
- p. 5.
- Manly Palmer Hall. The Secret Teachings of All Ages. S Crocker Company, Inc. (1928).p. 49.