Ra: The Spirituality of Sunlight
British archaeological and historical journalist Graham Hancock famously said that “humans are a species with amnesia” regarding our ancient past. Our ancestors revered the sun, while modern humans think of it as an ambient light source, or worse, a toxin. Meso-American, Indo-European, and Egyptian societies all developed solar religions. While Neolithic humans have become increasingly divorced from sunlight as a symptom of technological dependence, these ancient cultures were exposed and immersed in solar radiation, so it’s no wonder that their spiritual lives revolved around their innate experience of the natural forces. In these cases, the sun was often attributed the role of a supreme deity. Ancient Egyptians conceived of Ra, the sun god who maintained a dominant position among the high gods for the extent of that civilization’s history. The question is: if modern humans have the same physiology as our biological ancestors, why have we lost our spiritual connection with the sun? What could the consequences of this severance be?
Biological Antennas: The Solar Ecosystem
Ancient humans were at the mercy of their environment. They intimately understood the interdependent nature of environmental factors, the consequences of disharmony in ecosystems, and the role of the sun as the penultimate energy source. The sun is the basis of the entire food web through the photosynthetic capabilities of plants. No sun, no life. This awareness led to a deep reverence and spiritual connection to the light of the sun. Aside from a psychological level, humans connect deeply to the sun on a physiological level as well. The fluorophoric (light emitting) and chromophoric (light absorbing) properties of the micro-molecules (amino acids, enzymes, water) that make up our macroscopic tissues make humans the perfect light antennas for solar radiation. Humans are made entirely of photoreceptors, photopigments, semi-conductors, and light transducers, all of which modulate our physiology. It’s no question that humans thrive in the sun, and so we have internal mechanisms that regulate our attraction to it. Upon exposure to sunlight, we synthesize dopamine and endorphins, the endogenous opiates that make us feel good and nurture our connection to sunlight. These and other chemical responses to sunlight encourage us to require the sun, and most likely created the captivation that defined the ancient solar religions. When humans connect with the sun, the hormonal cascade that follows encourages us to nurture that relationship and optimize the entire solar ecosystem.
Cognitive Dissonance: A Divorce from Nature
Cognitive Dissonance: The mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values.
The consensus reality of western societies created an illusory divide between man and nature. Nature became an object, something to be conquered. As our technological abilities have become more proficient, this contradictory belief has become increasingly ingrained in our culture. Behind the veil of progress, our perversion towards our environment has wreaked havoc on our wellbeing physically and spiritually. One of the most disturbed relationships is that between us and the sun. False beliefs have led to the misguided practices of avoiding natural light and replacing it with toxic artificial man-made light. This unfortunate reality is a primary factor in the mental health crisis and disease epidemic that we see in society today. A deficiency of sunlight and artificial light burden disturb the homeostasis of neurotransmitters and hormones while inhibiting metabolic enzymes. In fact, Swedish researcher Dr. Pelle Lindqvist has data to support the fact that sun avoidance is a major risk factor for all cause mortality, which means that a lack of sun increases your risk of dying by any means. In Lindqvist’s studies, all cause mortality was inversely related to sun exposure habits in nordic regions. It’s no wonder that people feel more isolated, lonely, and existentially insecure than ever before, especially in areas with low solar yield.
The Path Forward: Developing a Solar Religion of One’s Own
Finding our way through a world of contradictory information and faulty dogma represents one of life’s most formidable challenges, but often it can be just as rewarding to look to the past for guidance as to plan for the future. Our ancestors developed an innate, intuitive spiritual connection to the sun; one which many of us have lost. This reverence and respect for the environment cultivated an emotional wellbeing that humans haven’t experienced in several generations. There are currently more cultural obstacles than ever to rekindle our spiritual relationship to the sun, but regardless, it is one of the most critical endeavors in which we can partake. Aside from these disadvantages, living in the modern era awards distinct advantages at the same time. We have the opportunity to create a better lifestyle through science and a deeper understanding of the natural world. The more progress we make in REAL science that is unbiased, unobstructed by financial interests, and fueled by genuine curiosity, the more we will behold the capacity of natures deepest secrets and our integral role as humans. For now, we maintain an optimistic attitude, block artificial light, and develop our own unique spiritual connecting with the sun and the planet.
By Lucien Burke