Eclipses of the Soul

Fanatics and faithless, everyone’s got an opinion of the eclipse. From people who plan a lavish vacation with the eclipse as its zenith to people who’ve seen it all before – why are we all atwitter about this celestial event?

For myself as a religious person, it is another triumph of science that warrants spiritual appreciation. Thousands of years ago, humanity was able to predict eclipses and other astronomical wonders. However, they typically gave the event metaphors of profound reason and many believed that to be the literal reason as for the event. A sign from God. Darkening skies were foreboding, a warning for kings. A time when the sun, giver of life and warmth, would be weak.

It’s only been in the last few hundred years that those of us in the west view the eclipse as a natural event. The predictability did not change, but the reasons did. We adjusted for the correlation, not causation error of eons. However, knowing the real reason why the moon passes the sun has not changed the fact that it is a mesmerizing event and one with spiritual power.

I think for religions that focus on experience and results as a barometer of spirituality this change from metaphor to science is especially instructive. The reason why we as Unitarian Universalists are not required to all believe in the same thing is because we are asked to do something a little different – ask ourselves: is this working?

Is what I believe helpful? Is my life better now because of it? Is it helpful to other people? Am I satisfied, happy, whole? Are my answers to the great questions like where we go after we die and where we were before we were born working for me? For my family? For my community?

Asking ourselves these questions cause us to make meaning out of our everyday experience. We want a spirituality that is free from hypocrisy, a spirituality that rings true to our hearts, a spirituality that works. Instead of trying to force one belief to work for us for all times and all people we instead are asked to find a spirituality that we know to be true based on our individual and collective experience. In this way I feel like our spiritual direction is a lot like the scientific method. We form a hypothesis on what this is all about, and constantly test it. If it causes the effect we hope for, perhaps we can use it as a theory that holds true for decades. If it doesn’t, then we need to adjust our thinking to achieve the desired effect.

So we praise science for being able to produce a lot of desired effects in our lives. And we look to the eclipse, an event of just a few minutes, to ponder if it really means anything to us or not.