It is not often that we have a truly one-of-a-kind experience in our life that we can be certain will never be repeated. I’ve just come back from Salem, Oregon (which was in the path of totality) to watch the recent solar eclipse. Feeling like I was participating in an art-happening created by Nature herself, words fail me in describing how truly mind-blowing it was. It felt like some sort of numinous religious experience that I will never forget for the rest of my life.
One of the main things that interests me about the eclipse is how different spiritual traditions have completely different “takes” on what it means. Some traditions feel that solar eclipses are a sacred spiritual revelation that can deepen our connection with the divine. Other traditions feel that, due to the darkness that falls over our planet as a result of the light of the sun being blocked by the moon, the eclipse is an open portal for darker energies (what ancient indigenous cultures refer to as “demons”) to come down to earth. From this latter perspective, instead of reveling in the celestial light (and dark) show, we are supposed to stay indoors and one-pointedly do prayers to protect us from these negative energies. I find myself wondering, which of these two mutually exclusive viewpoints is true?
For me, in encountering questions like this, it feels important to stay with my own experience, which was incredibly uplifting, inspiring and ecstatic. The experience of being an observer-participant in the eclipse brought me so fully into the present moment that it literally made me feel more alive—more fully engaged with the universe—in addition to deepening my sense of awe, wonder and appreciation for the mysterious cosmos that we inhabit. The eclipse literally felt that it bypassed—eclipsed—my conceptual mind, speaking to and touching a deeper, unknown but familiar part of myself.
The image of totality—of the moon fully blocking the sun with the light of the sun’s corona shining out from behind the moon, like a black hole appearing in and out of the universe—is an image that feels imprinted into my very soul. This image of totality has a deep meaning for me, as it viscerally felt as if it was an image of my own—and of all our—wholeness, which in psychological terms the great doctor of the soul C. G. Jung refers to as the Self. And this experience of the wholeness of the Self has all the room in the world for darkness, which instead of obscuring the light of the Self, complements and illumines it even further.
The eclipse can be symbolically seen to express the coming together of the opposites (the coincidentia oppositorum)—of sun and moon, of masculine and feminine consciousness, of light and dark—which alchemically speaking, is a symbol of our intrinsic wholeness. In the eclipse it was as if our inner wholeness, our inner perfection was getting externally re-presented, out-pictured and reflected back to us by Nature herself. This celestial symbol of our true nature was mirroring—and potentially even evoking—our own state of innate wholeness.
The most unforgettable moment for me was, after about two minutes of experiencing the totality during which daytime had seemingly turned to night and the landscape was drenched in an unearthly darkness, the light of the sun, like a sparkling facet of a diamond, began peaking out from the edge. It was a unique and deeply meaningful moment for me – I felt simultaneously exhilarated by the return of the light while feeling a sense of grief, as this meant that the phase of totality was over. It was such a memorable experience to be feeling such contradictory feelings at the exact same time.
This brings to mind how in an extreme situation lies hidden the seed which gives birth to its opposite. From this point of view, the darkness of the eclipse doesn’t negate the light, but reflects it, as if the darkness illumines the light by contrast to itself. When I reflect upon the moment of the eclipse when the light of the sun began to re-emerge, to me it symbolizes that in the deepest throes of darkness the light is born. This symbol seems to particularly speak to the current situation in our world today.
I find myself wondering if the eclipse happening at exactly this time in our history—when seemingly ever-increasing darkness is enveloping our planetary body politic—is not just coincidental, but might be nature itself synchronistically participating in our species’ psycho-spiritual unfoldment. I know that for me personally, I have been becoming more familiar with the edge between my conscious and unconscious minds such that the boundary is becoming more and more permeable between these two opposites. This brings to mind a quote from Jung, “Becoming conscious of an unconscious content amounts to its integration in the conscious psyche and is therefore a conjunctio of Solis et Lunae [Sun and Moon].”  I wonder if the eclipse—a conjunction of sun and moon—is, like any symbol, both reflecting and effecting (i.e., making real in time) the process of humanity “becoming conscious of an unconscious content.” Symbols not only point to something beyond ourselves, but provide the doorway for potentially actualizing the deeper state of which they themselves are an emanation.
Getting back to our question – what about those traditions that talk about eclipses as being portals for darker forces to come down and infect humanity? How does this seemingly fear-based perspective fit in with my “post-ecliptic” (as compared to apocalyptic) experience of feeling more deeply in touch with my wholeness? Am I simply unconscious of these negative energies, an unawareness that is the very channel through which these darker forces can insidiously infiltrate my mind? Is my feeling that I am more in touch with my wholeness simply my having fallen under the deception of the powers of darkness, the very demons whose existence I am seemingly denying?
This brings up an association: Many years ago, two of my spiritual teachers who are highly esteemed Tibetan lamas were giving an empowerment (a blessing ceremony) whose purpose was to break black-magic curses and spells (interestingly, we had so many people show up to receive this blessing that we almost had to turn people away). As they were giving a commentary on the empowerment they were bestowing, the lamas made the point that the blessing would dispel the real curse, which was the belief that we were under a curse. In other words, they weren’t investing the idea of an external curse with any objective reality, which would be a presumption that invested the curse with a seeming reality that wasn’t warranted, for the actual curse was not separate from the mind that believed it was afflicted by it.
To me it feels like a similar psychological dynamic is at play with spiritual traditions that believe that phenomena such as eclipses are doorways for darker forces to come flooding into humanity. If followers of these traditions believe this is so, that will be how their experience actually manifests, which then, in a self-created, self-confirming and never-ending feedback loop whose origin is within their own mind, they will then have all the evidence they need to prove the seeming objective rightness of their point of view.
It should be pointed out that this process is the very dynamic that the lamas were pointing at when they described the “empty” (i.e., lack of independent, intrinsic or objective existence) nature of spells and curses. For me, the glorious and unforgettable image of the eclipse during its phase of totality was a God-given symbol reminding me (i.e., bringing to the forefront of my mind) of my intrinsic wholeness, a wholeness which itself is the greatest and most powerful protection against spells, curses and any and all darker negative energies.
One last thought regarding how to interpret—i.e., what is the meaning of – the eclipse. Meaning never comes from outside of us, but always emerges from within our own minds, which is to say that meaning-making is an inside job. Quantum physics, the crown jewel of the sciences, has proven beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt that there is no objective world outside of ourselves, which is to say that there is no objective meaning inherent in the world. Instead of thinking that all meaning is merely subjective (i.e., projections of the mind), or that meaning inheres in the outer, seemingly objective world, quantum physics promotes the mind to be the creative arbiter of meaning; i.e., it is the mind’s task to create/discover meaning via its ongoing interaction with the world.
We are creators of meaning—“meaning generators”—which is to say that, ultimately speaking, the meaning of our world and our experiences within it originates within our minds and truly belongs to ourselves. In other words, just like when we tell a story or dream a dream, we are the ultimate author(ity) when it comes to its meaning. Learning to more consciously exercise our power of giving meaning—a truly creative act—to our experiences enables us to creatively paint our world with meaning that enriches our lives in ways that are more in alignment with, and thereby feeds, who we actually are, i.e., our true nature.
I’ve learned that many people and traditions, however, are more than willing to assume the role of authority and tell us what the meaning of our experiences are. I am very clear that for me it feels important to stay with and stand for my own subjective experience, and not take on other people’s version of things. I’m not saying that my subjective experience is objectively true for anyone else – my perspective has room for other people to have their own experiences that are different from mine. For me, the eclipse has helped to empower me even further into my true identity as author of my own life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
After writing this article, I spoke to one of the aforementioned Tibetan lamas and asked him what Tibetan Buddhism had to say about the energetic, psycho-spiritual effects of a solar eclipse. He had never heard of any negative effects of eclipses. He did say that during eclipses our intentions – be they positive or negative – become amplified. The implication is that eclipses are portals which magnify what is in our hearts. This intuitively feels in alignment with my own experience.
 C. G. Jung, The Symbolic Life, CW 18, para. 1703
A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. He is the author of Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father(Awaken in the Dream Publishing, 2015), Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013) and The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis (Authorhouse, 2006). His upcoming book, tentatively titled The Quantum Revelation: A Modern-Day Spiritual Treasure, is due out in April 2018 (SelectBooks). He is the founder of the “Awakening in the Dream Community” in Portland, Oregon. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over thirty years. He is the coordinator for the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. Please visit Paul’s website www.awakeninthedream.com. You can contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections.