Even with no shred of mystical sentiment, a purely rational and scientific assessment of the sun should fill us with awe and reverence. Here should be the God for atheists.
Photo by Matthew Paulson
I live in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, about 62 miles (100 kilometers) west of Sydney. I have a day job in Penrith, 29 miles to the east. I catch the 6.26 am train. For a brief time, in winter, I can witness the whole drama of sunrise from the comfort of a train seat – from the paling predawn sky, the breathless moment the fiery orb kisses the far horizon to its full emergence into the day sky. If I drove I would be cursing the dazzling glare and hiding behind sunglasses and a visor drawn down. But sitting in the train seat I get to sit back and watch the unfolding drama of dawn, culminating in the emergence of an extraordinary blazing furnace we casually call the sun.
That sun has been the subject of human curiosity since as far back as we have evidence. My Celtic ancestors honoured the sun through the Awen, the three stations of the sun on the horizon, at the two extremes (north and south) of the solstices, and the midpoint between the two, the equinox position. My inquiry into the nature of the Awen was hampered by a presumption of the sun as an object. The past few years have been slowly transforming my thinking, in the morning, on the train, as I dared open up to the visceral presence of the furnace in the sky. The presumption of object, of thing, begins to dissolve.
In all of this interrupted personal transformation I came across Gregory Sams’ book, Sun of gOd. I rushed through the first part of the book, impatient to get to Greg’s description of the sun’s scientifically determined attributes. It would be easy to think that, even with no shred of mystical sentiment, a purely rational and scientific assessment of the sun would fill us with awe and reverence. Here should be the God for atheists. Beyond the sun, Greg takes the reader on a deeply rational micro and macro adventure to propose that consciousness underpins reality.
I emailed Greg eager to engage him in a conversation. What follows are my questions and comments, and his responses.
Michael Patterson: Greg, my first reaction to the title of your book was an apprehension that you might be a wacky pedant, but that fear was quickly dispelled. I’ll ask you to explain your reasoning to the current reader, then I want to get into the logic of dropping the definite article, thinking not of the sun, but Sun, for instance. Some years back I was listening to a guy from Poland talking about environment, with no definite article. It was unusual and it struck me as being a more moving mode of expression. The separate thing became not definite and remotely singular, but integral and intimate. Can we choose to make that it/thou distinction in favour of thou as an expression of more than intellectual recognition?
Gregory Sams: Michael, my first reaction to your pre-question words is to appreciate how your distilled soundbite. “Here should be the god for atheists.” Might use that.
Yes, about “dropping the definite article.” Thanks for reminding me what that is called. As soon as I began writing the book I realized that Sun is the proper name of our local star and Earth is the name of this planet, with “earth” referring to the soil upon it. Mars, Saturn, and all the other planet’s names are capitalized, as well as other stars such as Sirius and Proxima Centauri. I then realized that we rarely use the “definite article” with proper names such as the Boston, the Henry, the Mars or the Sirius. Having a name brings closer familiarity to something otherwise nameless and faceless in our cabinet of familiarity. It’s not the daughter, but Rachel; not the dog, but Rocky.
I have noticed that many scientific publications have taken to capitalizing Sun in their writing though they still tend to precede it with “the.” Language goes deeper than the intellectual, shaping our opinions and responses to whatever it describes without us having to think about it.
“The outlandish explanations of creation offered by organized religions serve to convince many that science must have the better answers. But the sometimes stranger theories of cosmologists explaining how dumb particles accidentally bumbled into becoming stars and ﬂeshy organisms make many cling to the irrational ideas of organized religion…” — Gregory Sams, Sun of gOd
Michael Patterson: You seem to be saying that while people don’t want the religious myths as literal renditions of what happened neither do they want to accept the narrative of chance creation with no purpose, no soul, so to speak. What’s in between? Where do they go to get what they need?
Gregory Sams: Today we’ve got just the “all planned in detail by someone like us but a WHOLE lot smarter” option or the “completely accidental” scenario. What about it being self-constructed from the bottom up, with intelligence built into the system? It’s not that preposterous an idea when we recognize that the EM Force pervades all. Since dedicating a chapter to it in the book I have gained a greater appreciation for the quality of the force that manifests in our world as light, in all the vibrations of the electromagnetic spectrum.
Our linguistic body language acknowledges the inherent intelligence of light without us even realizing it. We “see the light, shed light on the matter,” have “bright” ideas, get “illuminated,” reach “enlightenment,” follow a “guiding light,” and so forth. Science believes that it is the electromagnetic force that gives atoms their character, giving wood and rock and metal and water the qualities we experience – despite them being 99.999% empty space (empty of matter, that is). The EM Force could have been the intelligence working within the system, building as it goes, from the bottom up.
Once we take on board stellar consciousness, which to an unbiased mind makes more sense than some accidental light bulb in the sky, we open up a much more meaningful route back to the beginning of space and time. And now that we realize energy does not need a place in which to vibrate and that light exists only in the now, we have a candidate for something that could have existed before there was any time or a place to be. Perhaps it was not a Big Bang but a Big Whoosh as all that smart energy condensed into matter. Just a thought.
“Acceptance (of the idea that consciousness underpins all) opens the door to a veritable Pandora’s box of quackery and hocus-pocus, things that science has “religiously” sought to exclude from its arena. But I am afraid that it is too late. The box is open. Scientists have already discovered spirit and the evidence shouts at them from their own research.”
Michael Patterson: Can you elaborate on the claim that scientists have already discovered spirit? Do they know this, and are denying what they know? Or do they know it, but, because they have ruled out this prospect, are calling it something else?
Gregory Sams: The scientific mind is tightly constrained by a set of religious taboos that have long been in place. During many centuries that the Church maintained a total monopoly on anything to do with “spirit,” any scientist who ventured into that territory risked getting more than their fingers burned. Now they think it is scientifically sound to reject anything not measurable by our existing toolkit.
Now, with our tools becoming ever more sensitive, they are peering into the world of cells and seeing more than five million individual components going about their daily work of eating and excreting and building and repairing and communicating with each other and with other cells. Ever more powerful telescopes and tools allow them to see communities of galaxies and detect the electromagnetic conduits connecting Sun to Earth, exchanging high-energy particles every eight minutes. They study the invisible corona of our Sun and believe it manages many puzzling solar features.
Our own spirit (consciousness) is acknowledged as the greatest mystery of human existence and about the only thing scientists do know about it is that nothing else shares it. Only in the past 10-15 years have scientists dared to suggest that a handful of animals might possess consciousness, having for centuries viewed them an unthinking machines. Now they are even wondering if some plants display intelligence, divorced from consciousness, of course.
There are a growing number of scientists who, in altered states of consciousness, have perceived realities unrecognized by the status quo. I predict that new tools will come into play to support those scientists wanting to re-incorporate the study of spirit into the scientific agenda.
“It is my belief that a universal consciousness pervades all matter, whatever its form of existence—that this consciousness is the vibrational DNA of the Universe. This is not to suggest that blades of grass are very clever or rocks all that sentient or that, individually, either play much of a part in the scheme of things. But perhaps even a grain of sand might know of its existence as a micro-part of the beach or desert——a life being polished and rearranged by the waves of water and wind?” — Gregory Sams, Sun of gOd
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Michael Patterson: How did you come to formulate this essentially animistic cosmology? I converted to ‘animism’ after thinking animistic thoughts for many years. Even after decades of involvement the Western Mystery Tradition and Wicca, and with a strong interest in Eastern and ancient Western traditions I stumbled across the word by accident. I think I had come across the idea of universal consciousness before, but when I encountered the idea of animism a penny dropped for me. How did this belief evolve for you?
Gregory Sams: I’ve had that feeling that everything has some smidgen of consciousness for a long as I can remember but think it probably developed in my late teens when I began eating natural and organic foods, having been on a meat-free diet from the age of ten. Being thus better tuned to the world around me made me more connected somehow to organic objects like trees and sesame seeds. As life progressed I noticed connections between our consciousness and so-called inanimate objects, whether lost things, furniture, kitchen implements, office equipment, whatever. We’ve all experienced curious and amusing, frustrating and infuriating encounters with inanimate stuff. I venture to say that our consciousness is some form of electromagnetic field, however that field arises. All stuff, all matter, has some form of electromagnetic field, and is infused with the electromagnetic force that permeates our Universe. Our fields overlap and interact with those of our surroundings and sometimes all the energy needed is enough to aim our eye at a particular moment to reveals something of great value. Being in tune makes a huge difference.
“…a giant spiralling magnetic bubble, called the heliosphere, which reaches out beyond Pluto to encompass our entire solar system in its protective embrace.” — Gregory Sams, Sun of gOd
Michael Patterson: There is a powerful sense here that gives rational form to that idea of deity being that ‘great being in whom we live and move and have our being’. If we work with the idea that Sun is the center of agency that is underpinned by fundamental consciousness then can we not see this heliosphere as a kind of organic envelope? I am conscious that even when we try to think in terms of fundamental consciousness our habits of mind pull our thoughts into conformity with our norms, so I’d like you speculate here and give some creative thought to how we might think of the heliosphere.
Gregory Sams: You might view this answer as too concise but if we’re trying to reduce the heliosphere into something that we can understand then you might see it as a Sun-built bus that transports us all safely through the galaxy. At another level this all-embracing electro-magnetic field could be the means through which Sun keeps in touch with all of its charges.
Michael Patterson: You were saying that you have been studying Zoroastrian thought and have realised how much Zoroaster and quantum physicists are ‘speaking the same language’. Personally I think that mystical and scientific inquiry should arrive at essentially the same understanding, even if the narrative is different in form. However some in the quantum physics community are pretty frustrated by folk hijacking their science to support mystical arguments. I guess I can see where they are coming from, especially when complex ideas are reduced to almost glib recitations of marvelous fact in not very clear support of a metaphysical proposition.
Gregory Sams: The connection in understanding between the two, however, is the focus of a talk I give with the theme of “seeing the light through ancient eyes.” Light itself is the divinity of Zoroastrians and they have 101 names for it, which are all descriptive, the main one being “Ahura Mazda,” which translates into “light wisdom.” Many of the others fit neatly into the quantum understanding of light’s strange qualities, including Richard Feynman’s famous quote that “Anybody who says they understand quantum theory doesn’t understand quantum theory.” EM = Electromagnetic Force, which manifests as light. Without going into the full lecture, here are just a few of those names, with comment in parentheses:
A-ehem Beyond Reason
An-aiyâfah Cannot be Understood
n-âinah Formless (photons are without substance or form)
Aokh-Tan Without Body (photons have no content)
Mb înôtum Invisible (we don’t see light, just the information it carries)
A-zamân Timeless (at the speed of light, time ceases to exist)
Abadah Without beginning (this implies time)
Abî-anjãm Without end (this implies time)
Vasna All-Pervading (the EM force, manifested by light, is everywhere)
Rakhôh All-energetic (light is pure energy)
A-Gar-Aa-Gar-Gar Creator of Stars (The EM force shapes cosmic dust into stars)
Meeno-Nahab Hidden in Invisible Creation (the EM force gives atoms the sense of substance despite being 99.99% empty space)
Afjaa Creator of Growth (Photosynthesis, a quantum process, means made by light)
Safana Bountiful One
Stewart Edward White’s 1947 book With Folded Wings is centered on conversations with his deceased wife, Betty, and other persons described simply as Invisibles. Here is a quote from the book. “The ﬁrst business of each day,” said the Invisibles, “is a recognition of the sun of your life: unquestioning and eager heart-lifting acknowledgment of the warm, loving, positive creative force of the universe beyond our knowledge. Always give time to purify and clothe ﬁttingly your spirit to contemplate the unknown great Causal Force operating through each living thing.”
This allusion to the sun surprised me. It is not clear from the book whether the sun is literal or figurative, or both. As you know the sun has played a central role in many religions, including Christianity. Alvin Boyd Kuhn, in Easter – The Birthday of the Gods observes that Jesus was transformed from a spring equinox solar deity to a winter equinox solar deity (effectively inverting the birth and death celebrations). D.M. Murdoch is strong on the Jesus as the Sun theme with her book, Jesus as the Sun. In a sense Christianity was continuing the earlier solar traditions.
The logic of the sun as being the focal point of thinking about the divine is plain enough. Even before you know the science the experience of Sun is powerful enough in an entirely mundane way. The solstice and equinox festivals I celebrated during my time in Wicca were, in one sense, scarcely religious in the sense we now know the word. They were expressions of awe and gratitude, as well as awareness of the round of seasonal changes. The religious seems to have arisen from the absence of any notion of materialism or mechanism (all was entirely animistic), and from a natural sense of awe and respect for something that is palpably present and yet utter mysterious.
So the idea of the sun as a literal and/or symbolic agency (including ideas of the hidden sun, or the sun behind the sun) seem fundamental to our psyche and our culture.
(from email) “On his deathbed Goethe confided to his closest associate “I am prepared to revere the Sun…which is likewise a manifestation of the highest Being, and indeed the most powerful which we, the children of the earth, are allowed to behold.”
Michael Patterson: The quote from Goethe seems to say that he sees the Sun as the most powerful expression of the highest Being that humans are able to encounter. There’s a lot in that, and, as you picked out this quote I want to give you the space to expand on it.
Gregory Sams: Not a lot of space needed on that one. I am with Zoroaster who recognized Light as the universal deity and Sun as it local representative, so to speak. We cannot comprehend or even see “the highest Being,” the all-pervasive electromagnetic force (EM) that permeates our Universe, whether in the space between galaxies or that between the protons and electrons of every atom. We can “see the Sun.”
Zoroastrians also recognize fire as a manifestation of the highest being and worthy of worship. Bear in mind that in English, “worship” derives from recognizing the worth of something to us. In Vedic usage, worship means to imbue the qualities of that which you worship. There is nothing primitive or ignorant about recognizing the enormous contribution that Sun’s light makes to our lives, well beyond putting a smile on our face and generating Vitamin D in our bodies.
(from email) “The other thing I’ve got a little more to say about is Dark Matter, that curious stuff so far detected only in the minds of cosmologists seeking to explain away the Universe as a collection of dumb balls of plasma responding to nothing more than the laws of physics.”
Michael Patterson: Sun of gOd came out a little over 6 years ago, and, of course, you have moved your thinking on. You said you have been thinking about what is called Dark Matter, which you rather provocatively say has been detected “only in the minds of cosmologists seeking to explain away the Universe as a collection of dumb balls of plasma responding to nothing more than the laws of physics.” Okay. That has my attention. Go for it.
Gregory Sams: Well, my full thoughts on this are expressed in this piece I wrote for International Times, but I’ll try to soundbite it. Basically, I see this as being like the centuries-long search for the luminiferous aether once thought to pervade all space. Cosmologists cannot figure out why stars in a galaxy are not behaving like dumb balls of matter responding to nothing more than the laws of physics. There must be some other agent at play and with no evidence of that to hand they have invented “dark matter,” which is really just the name given the solution of a problem that has not been solved. If they called it “Factor X” then I would have no problem with that. To my mind, the reason stars do not behave like dumb balls of matter is because they are not dumb balls of matter but living organisms in a living community. Consciousness is that Factor X and perhaps once cosmologists accept this they will discover how those EM fields that permeate space are brought into play in the trajectories taken by celestial beings.
Michael Patterson: I want to finish off with a bit of where-to-from-here blue sky thinking, especially around how anybody who accepts the proposition that consciousness underpins all (“all is consciousness in evolution” according to A.E. White) can most effectively adapt to shifting from a native materialist thinker to a native consciousness thinker. We are deeply conditioned by our culture to think within the materialist paradigm, even when we profess no alliance with it on an intentional level. In the same way the echoes of Christian habits of thought still reverberate in our minds. Even when our aspirations are post Christian and post materialist the reflexes remain; habits of thought remain.
Gregory Sams: You are asking about consciousness and I am not alone is suggesting that consciousness pervades the entire Universe. I cannot say how many others, apart from Zoroaster, see that consciousness as being carried by the electromagnetic force manifesting as light. There is a chapter in my book dedicated to the question of consciousness in what we perceive as inanimate objects, but at this stage let me just put it in a human perspective that applies to all other life forms as we know them.
We think we are physical bodies needing physical food in order to survive. But what we need from that food is the invisible energy of light stored in the food. That light is the energy of life, powering mind and thought. All the physical stuff exists to support that activity. If the light stops then the physical stuff rots away. We are light processing light.
When we talk about the light in somebody’s eyes it is not just a figure of speech.
Michael Patterson: Where to next from here for you? How can people interested in following your work get in touch with you?
Gregory Sams: I have done a lot of culture-changing in a busy life, initially spending over twenty years persuading people in the UK that what we eat affects our health, and introducing a wide range of natural and organically grown foods. To some degree I affected the entire world with my creation and christening, in 1982, of the original VegeBurger.
In the years since I have written two books with seminal messages. One of them, titled “The State Is Out Of Date – We Can Do It Better,” puts across a message about the coercive state regulating us from the top down. It is a relatively recent concept and only arose after we had, in a state of freedom, built up a viable civilization with wealth to be conquered. The underlying issue is not who is in power, how they got there, what they want to do, or why. It is not a question of whether politicians are corrupt or honest, male or female, or whether they are in the pockets of corporations, religions, or the military. The question is whether the basic modus operandi of “Do, or do not do, this or we will damage you” can ever bring peace and harmony to our planet, whatever directives are being enforced. The proposition is that in a state of freedom we can and will evolve sustainable means to govern our complex society peacefully, from the bottom up instead of the top down. It’s a very important message.
In Sun of gOd, I seek to bring our Sun out of the closet after 15 centuries of spiritual darkness. That’s a very big and very important job that changes just about everything we think about planet Earth and the greater Universe. To me, this is as important a message as getting across that what we eat affects our health – and a suitable lifetime achievement goal. If I can succeed in changing our understanding of the starring character in the movie of life then I will exit this planet a satisfied man.
So to answer your question, until I find something that is more important than resolving world conflict and reconnecting us to our spiritual roots I shall continue chipping away at different aspects and angles of the ideas raised in those two books.
More material at my website, www.gregorysams.com, and scores of audio and video interviews online as well as articles and written interviews. Just search Gregory Sams in Google or on YouTube.
By early August, as I commence my journey eastwards, light is diluting the morning sky with soft pastel shades of gold, and Sun is coming up from the grey horizon full of redness, an emphatic presence that now dazzles my eyes. Before long Sun will be up and in the sky before I get to the platform and that annual window of wonder will be closed.
For the past little while each morning has been an episode of existential vulnerability, a brief time in which the demands of the world of human fiat are suspended and a primal sense of awe is awakened. In my days of formal ceremonial working we celebrated the solstices and equinoxes, reflecting upon the seasonal changes and the challenges of an agrarian lifestyle – an ancient way of living denied to us, mostly, now. If we are fortunate we have gardens whose conduct marks the cycles of the year. But even so we can forget that Sun is the core of everything – what we are and what we do – unless we are reminded in a purposeful fashion. We can elect to remind ourselves by celebrating the seasonal stations of Sun, not as an intentional act of religious reverence, but as an intentional act of existential awe – to place our being and doing in a context larger than boundaries of human imagination and endeavor.
It is a purely rational act, this exposure to awe. By doing no more than reciting the catechism of scientific knowing about the nature of Sun we can amend the context of our being and doing and knowing in a way that can restore an inner, and outer, harmony. What we have come to call religion was, I believe, just such a rational response in a human reality that had no conception of lifeless mechanism. Sun was a living agent because it was inconceivable that any alternative way of knowing existed (the idea of the mechanistic universe was some time away). Our knowing is vastly different to our ancestors, but the same primal forces exist and exert the same fundamental influence upon us. But culture has altered our orientation and we are bent to the gravity of human powers in a way that leaves us unaware of, and unresponsive to, the purer powers of our being.
The role of science in our culture has been increasingly subverted from exciting rational wonder to inducing reverence for the brands of the makers of devices. There is a cartoon by the Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig depicting a father and son marveling at a sunrise/sunset on television, while through a window we see the self same event. Life mediated by culture, belief or technology cannot ever equal the dazzling engagement of the real thing, but we cannot know that until we turn away. In Sun of gOd Gregory Sams takes us a rational journey, via science, into the challenge of existential engagement with the depth and breadth of the complexity of Being and Nature. This is what science is supposed to do for us, when it is not hobbled by other people’s dogmas.
The sun worshipper was an object of ridicule when I was growing up – a simpleminded superstitious soul. But now it seems there is no more perfect representation than Sun as the focus of both rational and existential inquiry. And for any person with any deep concern for a sustainable human future that fact is magnified. What Sams’ book did for me was to excite a reunion, a reconciliation, between the rational (scientific) and the existential (spiritual) in a way that was completely unexpected.
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