Along with millions of others across the United States, I had the great privilege of viewing the total Solar eclipse on August 21. I had traveled up to the Oregon Eclipse Symbiosis Gathering with family and friends, to witness the exact conjunction of the Moon with the Sun, a perfect alignment of two spheres in the morning sky. It would not be too much to say that the total eclipse was the most beautiful phenomenon I have ever seen, and one of the most numinous experiences I have had this lifetime.
Our viewing conditions were excellent, with only wisps of subtle cloud across the sky. As the Moon slowly but inevitably covered the face of the Sun, the surrounding light became an iridescent silver-gold—I have called the kind of eclipse luminescence “elf-light” in the past. The colors of the natural world appeared to be separating out from one another as the sunlight continued to dim. At the moment of totality, the whole sky became a deep violet twilight. White sparkling stars emerged suddenly across the darkened sky. Venus, in all its glory, burst forth like a beacon from the sky, shining near the midheaven. The coniunctio of the eclipse itself was like a black and silver rainbow flower, the Sun’s corona flaring forth in arcs of energy around the dark face of the Moon.
I felt as though I was witnessing a cosmic, tantric marriage, that something so much greater than any of us human beings could conceive of was taking place before us. It felt as though the symbolic, archetypal, spiritual realm had merged fully with the physical realm, and we were living in both conjoined worlds for the two minutes of totality. I pray that I may see a total eclipse again, and will likely become an eclipse chaser to continue bearing witness to such a profound sight. Nothing I have encountered is comparable to it.
The day before the eclipse my father, Rick Tarnas, and I gave a dialogue on the Solar and Lunar archetypes, and their complex relationship to each other and to the feminine and masculine polarity and spectrum. In conversation together, we explored the ways in which we each embody these archetypes, individually and collectively, in communion with each other and in relation to the world and Earth community. Chad Harris made an audio recording of the talk, and Matt Segall kindly edited it together with photographs from the dialogue and of the eclipse itself. Many thanks to both of them for their help with this, as well as to the many PCC students and alumni who were at Symbiosis who attended the presentation!
Solar and Lunar, Feminine and Masculine
A total Solar eclipse, the exact alignment of the Sun and Moon, has often been described as a cosmic enactment of the sacred marriage, king and queen, ruler of the day and ruler of the night. Many cultures have considered the Solar as symbolizing the masculine, and the Lunar as the feminine. But can we speak of “the feminine” in ways that don’t fall into the trap of a cultural stereotype, and same with “the masculine”? How can we liberate these categories in a way that would do justice to the diverse ways we have of being male and female, and of being human? Perhaps the ancient archetypal symbols of the Sun and Moon can help open up our understanding of the deep mysteries of the feminine and masculine so we can better articulate the great social and psychological transformation of gender roles and identities in our time.