See also “Start with the Sun” (Sun Messages, Part 1) and “The Sun in Scripture, Song, and Commentary”
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.” —2 Samuel 23:4
Who among us has not been touched by a beautiful sunrise or sunset, a glorious bright spring day, or the sight of the sun breaking through the clouds after a rain storm? Its beauty is self-evident. It is not surprising that physical glory would not find its expression in the spiritual as well.
In verse 3 of the Christmas hymn “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” we find the line “hail the Sun of righteousness”. Now some versions of this hymn have inserted the word “Son” instead, evidently fearing the worship of pagan deities. But there it is in Malachi 4:2: “But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.” The Sun of righteousness, in messianic literature, points to none other than Jesus Christ. This connects to other Old Testament passages which point the way to the Messiah to come: the “Righteous Branch of David” which “shall spring forth” (Jeremiah 33:15); the one who will rise to “judge the world in righteousness” (Psalms 96:13); the prophecy of the time when “the righteous will flourish, and abundance of peace till the moon is no more” (Psalm 92:7); and that day when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14). To put the relationship between the Son and the Sun in context, here is a quote from Ralph Erskine: “The sun in the sky is only a shadow of the Sun of Righteousness and of His glory.” Perhaps this alludes to the Transfiguration (mentioned in Part 1), where Jesus “was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light”, with a parallel verse in Mark 9:3 where “his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them”.
The Upanishads speak of The Golden Person who is within the sun, who “dwells in the lotus of the heart”, who is immortal, who is the one spirit, who “is seen within the sun”. We should consider it a comfort and a validation that the Sanskrit record supports the Judeo-Christian one. Let these verses selected from several passages, wash over you to communicate that vision which, to me, points to Christ: “Now, that golden Person who is seen within the sun has a golden beard and golden hair. He is exceedingly brilliant, all, even to the fingernail tips. His eyes are even as a Rapayasa lotus-flower. His name is High. He is raised high above all evils….I know this mighty Person of the color of the sun, beyond darkness. Only by knowing Him does one pass over death….With a golden vessel the Real’s face is covered o’er. That do thou…uncover unto the Eternal Real. He who is yonder, yonder Person in the sun—I myself am he. Verily, that which is the sunhood of the sun is the Eternal Real.” Can this be the one who is “as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:19)? Is this the Godhead, pre-existent, the Word, which in John 1:1 was “in the beginning”, who dwelt in flesh and in time? This brings us to an important decision, because the evidence presented differentiates faith in the personality of Godhead (the purpose of this site) from that of some vague spirit. It is a great divide, a crucial one, and a personal decision. I cannot decide for you—each of us must determine from the facts at hand and the convictions we feel which side we are on.
Does God have a color? Can it be perceived? In Eastern cultures color is an expression in mode of dress frequently displayed by the wearing of red, orange, and saffron. The external mirrors the apprehension in the interior sense. The Upanishads have recorded this: “The form of this Person is like a saffron-colored robe like white wool, like the [red] Indragopa beetle, like a flame of fire, like the [white] lotus- flower, like a sudden flash of lightning. Verily, like a sudden lightning-flash is the glory of him who knows this.” Visionaries have indeed perceived colors, f lashes of light, dazzling white brilliance, motion, a sound like the rushing of wind (Acts 2:2 on the day of Pentecost: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.”), and numerous accounts of a voice as well. Back to the visual, Daniel 7:9 writes “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool; his throne was like the fiery flame, and his wheels as burning fire.” This recalls the Transfiguration of Jesus and, of course, Ezekiel’s famous vision of the wheels. It is so striking that it is worth including in its entirety here:
“Now it came to pass in the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, in the fifth day of the month, as I was among the captives by the river of Chebar, that the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. In the fifth day of the month, which was the fifth year of king Jehoiachin’s captivity, the word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the river Chebar; and the hand of the Lord was there upon him. And I looked, and, behold, a whirlwind came out of the north, a great cloud, and a fire infolding itself, and a brightness was about it, and out of the midst thereof as the colour of amber, out of the midst of the fire. Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. And every one had four faces, and every one had four wings. And their feet were straight feet; and the sole of their feet was like the sole of a calf’s foot: and they sparkled like the colour of burnished brass. And they had the hands of a man under their wings on their four sides; and they four had their faces and their wings. Their wings were joined one to another; they turned not when they went; they went every one straight forward. As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies. And they went every one straight forward: whither the spirit was to go, they went; and they turned not when they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps: it went up and down among the living creatures; and the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures ran and returned as the appearance of a flash of lightning. Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up. Whithersoever the spirit was to go, they went, thither was their spirit to go; and the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up over against them: for the spirit of the living creature was in the wheels. And the likeness of the firmament upon the heads of the living creature was as the colour of the terrible crystal, stretched forth over their heads above. And under the firmament were their wings straight, the one toward the other: every one had two, which covered on this side, and every one had two, which covered on that side, their bodies. And when they went, I heard the noise of their wings, like the noise of great waters, as the voice of the Almighty, the voice of speech, as the noise of an host: when they stood, they let down their wings. And there was a voice from the firmament that was over their heads, when they stood, and had let down their wings. And above the firmament that was over their heads was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man above upon it. And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.”
Or, regarding the perception of color, consider this description in the Chandogya Upanishad (8:6:6) of the physiology of the hita, or the “hundred and one channels of the heart”: “Unending are the rays of him who like a lamp dwells in the heart. They’re white and black and brown and blue; they’re tawny and of pale red hue. Aloft arises one of these, which piercing through the sun’s round disk, on to the Brahma-world [Brahma-loka] extends. Thereby men go the highest course. What are its other hundred rays, are similarly upwards ranged; thereby unto the various gods’ abiding places one arrives. But by its feebly shining rays which manifoldly downward lead one roams about here helplessly for the consuming of his deeds.’ Therefore yonder blessed sun is the cause of creation (sarga), of heaven (svarga), and of the final emancipation (apavarga).” [Robert Ernest Hume, translator, adds “Ramatirtha, the commentator, explains this as:—of re-creation for the man who does not worship the sun; of heaven [with temporary enjoyment] for the man who worships the sun as a divinity; of final cessation of rebirth for the man who worships the sun as Brahma-Atman.”]
If we were to construct a “word wall” of perceptions of the divine, it might look like this. I have recorded as many as I can recall in no particular order, but I may not have gotten them all:
|Golden Person color of the Sun white lotus flower golden hair and golden beard golden vessel the Real the sunhood of the sun light that shines flashes of light lightning day star saffron white wool red indragopa beetle flame of fire white snow pure wool burnished brass great cloud wings faces rushing wind voice from heaven voice of the Almighty voice of speech bow in the clouds amber beryl wings wheels burning coals brightness crystal sapphire stone|
Buddhism, which largely concerns itself with the void, describes it as shining, so its perceptions agree with what has gone before. In the words of John Lennon, the most Buddhist of the Beatles, “Lay down all thoughts, surrender to the void. It is shining.” We, too, are able to shine, for we reflect the light which surrounds us, much as the shining moon reflects the light of the sun.
Back to the Sun of righteousness. We must explore who this Sun of righteousness is and what he does, for the full meaning and function does not lie with the vision alone. The action of burning is that of grace, and for grace divine personhood is important, for grace cannot come from an impersonal entity, the cold impartiality of karma, cause and effect. It can only emanate from the Divine Person who, in the course of imparting grace, burns out impurities. Returning to the terrible imagery of Malachi in verse 4:1: “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” This image does not lie with Malachi alone. It is shared too with Isaiah (5:24, 40:24, 47:24) and Nahum (1:10) should you wish to read these accounts. Impurities must be burnt, for that which is impure cannot stand. We should welcome it. And it is a Person who must do this. The Upanishads, too, make this clear, in Robert Ernest Hume’s translation (The Thirteen Principal Upanishads), and here I must introduce the Sanskrit word Purusa (Purusha), for it encapsulates the notion of the Divine Person, and so refers to Christ as well: “He who burned out all sins before all—everyone—is Purusa. Since before (purva) all this world he burned up (root us) all evils, therefore he is a person (pur–us–a).” The derivation, then, of the word Purusa is from purvam (before or being in front of) and osah (burning). The Man burns out sin. This is hard for us to get our heads around, for both the Upanishads and the Bible state that the nature of the sacrificial act by which sin is burned was one made from the beginning, something which was so from eternity. The sacrificial life of Christ who was incarnated at Bethlehem has its basis in something which was so from eternity, from the beginning of the world. Knowing this, the amazing passage in 1 John 3:9 makes more sense: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his sin remaineth in him; and he cannot sin because he is born of God.”
Joseph Padinjarekara (Christ in Ancient Vedas) and M.M. Ninan (Sri Purusha Suktham ) have both written extensively on the Purusasukta, which they consider the heart of the Rg Veda, which precedes the Upanishads. Padinjarekara relates Purusa to Ezekiel’s vision: “The Man has a thousand heads, thousand eyes, a thousand feet. Encompassing earth on all sides He shines. The Man knows everything…and sees everything… and can go everywhere…The cherubim, the embodiment of the glory of God that the prophet Ezekiel saw, can go everywhere without turning since the cherubim have many eyes.”
The image of burning has made its way into Christian hymnody as well. A beauatiful Catalan hymn, “En Belen Tocan a Fuego” (A Fire Is Started in Bethlehem) reads: “Here in Bethlehem this evening, springs a mighty Flame from Heaven, whom our sinfulness will be consuming, and through Whom we are forgiven. Flashing and splashing, the fishes in the river, splashing and bowing, to God from Heaven coming; flashing and splashing, the fishes in the water, splashing and praising the Light from Heaven dawning.” Doesn’t it fit perfectly with that which we have read?
Jesus said in Luke 12:49: “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”, and in the Gospel of Thomas, Saying 10: “I have cast fire upon the world, and see, I am watching over it until it blazes.” There is much that we need this fire to burn. The biblical word is dross—impurities which must be removed in the refining of precious metal, in its many supporting passages. Not for ourselves alone, but for our society, let it burn up hatred of races, cultures, and nationalities. Let it burn up our constant tendency to return to our prejudices while we refuse to learn the painful historical lessons of the past. Let it burn up the greed of predatory capitalism and the obscene concentration of wealth in the hands of the few paired against widespread (and increasing) inequity where many go hungry and lack the basic necessities of life. Let it burn up the failure of the international community to make a unified and concerted effort to address the plight of refugees and the increasing dislocation and unsettlement in the world. Let it burn up the previously hidden and tolerated culture of sexual assault in entertainment, business, and, most shameful of all, in the church. Let it burn up the illogical, shallow, ad deluded doctrines—of all faiths—which obscure spiritual truth. Let it burn up the tendency of organized religions—Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam—to serve as an instrument of war, terrorism, and injustice, extinguishing countless lives in the process. Let it burn up the koo-koo universe of “alternative facts” which creates a post-literate culture where truth itself is the victim. Let it burn up the blindness of those who have been entrusted to lead us that they may once again turn to the needs of citizens and to know, care, and practice what truly makes economic and political systems work. This is more than enough to keep us busy for some time to come.
At a dinner party some time ago I spoke with a man from Lebanon, who, describing the troubles there, said something quite amazing. He told me that, in his view, what was needed was to remove the children for fifty years from the influence of religious and political ideology and so to let them grow to maturity in an intellectual environment which is not poisoned by sectarianism and hatred, and, after that, to send them back, for then and only then would that society be renewed, good, and happy. Jesus said as much in Matthew 18:3: “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The kingdom of heaven could indeed become the kingdom of earth if only we could recover that original purity. The fire must burn, and in our own way we can kindle it here, joining with other spiritual communities, until it covers the earth. May the fire of love and devotion, drawn from the Person in the Sun, burn bright in us for the remainder of our lives. Amen.
I have chosen to use selections from the King James Bible, unless otherwise indicated. While its language is antiquated and must occasionally be altered for inclusiveness or a more modern sense of a term, its passages are still the most familiar to many, and its lyricism is unmatched. These, in my view, compensate for any difficulties in negotiating the text.