Bowerchalke, Wiltshire, 2015.
In my last blog I looked at the 2015 dove formation at Hampton Lucy that appeared on the 8th of August. There was however, a second formation to appear on that date at Bowerchalke in Wiltshire. This circle was totally different in character and design and it is a circle I have struggled to come to terms with during the intervening months since its appearance. So I decided to confront this image again and to do a little work with it to see what I could uncover and learn about its design, symbolism and geometry. Perhaps in immersing myself in this formation I could uncover a little about its effects on me, but I was filled with trepidation, this symbol has dark associations that made me decidedly uncomfortable.
On the whole, the crop circle phenomenon is one filled with light, grace, beauty and spirit. While some designs, like the dove at Hampton Lucy (and many others such as labyrinths, stars, moons, spirals, and even the Kabbalah) are familiar human shapes, the vast majority of formations are kind of ‘iconically neutral’, that is to say they have no immediate meaning. Many are entirely geometric, filled with numbers and proportions one might interpret, but they are unfamiliar in the sense they are designs we have not seen used before in other settings. While the crop circles have presented us with both the familiar and the unfamiliar in their designs, the images are on the whole uplifting and inspirational; it is rare indeed for the phenomenon to present us with something that is unsettling and even rarer still that it should present us with something dark.
When I first saw the crop circle at Bowerchalke this summer it looked fantastic in the landscape, a twelve-spoked wheel contained within a four-fold ring. With numbers like twelve and four it was tempting to see this as a sun (or solar) wheel concerned with time, the division of time, the four seasons and perhaps the four elements. However, when the pictures were posted online I soon discovered that the central part of this motif was in fact a well known symbol, and a dark one at that.
One comment left beneath the pictures posted on Facebook openly asked for the formation to removed and censored, I was pretty shocked by such a response, but a quick Google search found me face-to-face with a symbol called the Black Sun, a symbol that some claim had been used by the Third Reich as part of their occult practices.
However, the direct link of this symbol to Nazism is controversial. The symbol can be found as a mosaic in the floor of Wewelsburg Castle in Germany, which was for a time a major centre of Nazi occult activity and it is this that principally makes the connection between the two. But it remains unclear if the mosaic was installed there by the Nazis or had been there previously before they restored the building. Nevertheless, despite arguments to the contrary, this symbol continues to be associated with the Third Reich.
Like so much symbolism (of any kind), many symbols associated with this dark force in history are multivalent (my favourite word of the moment!). The much maligned Swastika had been used by Hindus and Buddhists for thousands of years before the rise of the Third Reich. Similar wheel-like symbols can be found as German brooches, which again predate any connection to the Nazis.
How does one begin to reconcile this? I think it would be both too convenient and remiss of us not to consider the dark aspect of this design. After all, the crop circle phenomenon does have its darker aspects, although these are rarely expressed in the fields. So rather than take the easy route and ignore what I had discovered, I decided to sit with the uncomfortableness and see where it took me.
As a phrase or title ‘The Black Sun’ is also a well known alchemical symbol. It represents the Negrado stage of the alchemical work, a blackening of the matter, purification – the necessary death, before transformation and rebirth. It is the dark heart of the entire process. I contemplated this for a while and was reminded of an image from the alchemical treatise Philospohia Reformata by Mylis – see right. Here the ‘Sol Niger’ appears as a flaming eclipse, or perhaps even a dark eye?
As an eclipse, the black sun is ‘light eclipsed’, thrown into shadow. As a ‘dark eye’, the black sun is the pupil, with radiating flames within the iris. I found the (non-rational) connections between all these images fascinating. Even the Bowerchalke crop circle design could be seen as an eye with lightning bolts as, aura, flames, or iris.
One further connection occurred to me at this point and that was of the lightning struck tower of the Tarot. Card sixteen is known as The Tower, The Lightning Struck Tower, or more enigmatically, The House of God (La Maison Dieu). At the heart of the many of the graphic interpretations for this card is a tower which was been hit by lightning and that lightening emanates from the sun. It is often seen as a card which foretells misfortune out of the blue, however, another interpretation has it as a flash of lightning from the Divine, the creative spark of inspiration that changes everything, that shatters paradigms, or simply put causes an eclipse of consciousness. This last interpretation had deep resonances for me, and linked it back to the alchemical Negrado – which is also known as the ‘Dark Night of the Soul’, an eclipse of consciousness, in which the alchemist is at most danger of losing his way. As I explored these associations, I was suddenly reminded of dream I had in 2012.
In the dream I am in a boat travelling to a place and time of some import, where there would be some kind of grand convergence. As I got nearer to my destination I saw a mountain in the ocean, and atop of the mountain was a huge eclipsed sun that appeared to kiss the top of the mountain. It had an aura of brilliant light around it, which was made all the brighter as the sky around it was as dark as night. As I looked at the black sun I saw three rust coloured moons on its surface (regularly placed) that formed a triangulation of some kind. These moons also seemed to be in eclipse. To add to the peculiar nature of the dream at the 1pm position of the black sun was a huge lighthouse! A red and white striped lighthouse from the top of which shone a brilliant beam of light. I was so affected by the dream I painted it (the best I could), the dream was accompanied by a palpable feeling of awe and wonder, and a kind of eclipse in my own consciousness, where all rational thought was paralysed and all that existed was this image and my participation in it. I had the sense of the overwhelming power and gravity of this convergence, or eclipse, and the lighthouse seemed to be a guiding light in the darkness showing the way, throwing light on the darkness. In writing about it, this the dream seems as vivid now as it was then – if not more so.
In drawing this formation, the 360 degrees of the circle are divided into twenty-four, this allows for the creation of the lightening bolts – the formation is essentially twelve-fold. Twenty-four and twelve are numbers of time. We divide our day into twenty-four hours – twelve hours of day and twelve hours of night. We also have twelve signs of the zodiac and twelve months in a solar year. Twelve seems ubiquitous in human culture we use it in imperial measuring systems and the division of time; in mythology we see it in the twelve disciples and the twelve tribes.
The design came together rather poetically, for an image that I had felt rather ambiguous about; it was a satisfying experience to feel it all come together on the page. The crop circle does differ from the Wewelsburg mosaic, in that at has additional pattering on the perimeter of the formation which ‘contains’ the central design. This perimeter design is divided into four and has four wide bars, each with a circle placed at the centre top of each. It is curious indeed that the black sun should be ‘contained’ in such a way, bound by the number symbolic of the Earthly plane, made manifest somehow.
When it came to adding colour to the painting, I opted for a fiery orange-yellow. To me this crop circle was the ‘Dark Eye of the Soul’, unlike the hidden third-eye of the Dove formation at Hampton Lucy which appeared on the same date (see last blog). This was the inner or dark sun which illuminates all that is in eclipse; the slow burning eternal flame which lights the deepest, darkest recesses of the human soul. It seems to me that whatever convergence we are travelling towards, (perhaps like McKenna’s ‘Singularity’), like some huge gravitational phenomenon, we are being pulled inexorably towards it and it may just well involve a total eclipse of consciousness of some kind.
Before closing this blog, I have one other curious experience to report. A few days ago, before going to sleep, I had been reading an introduction to a book which discussed the work of Ian McGilchrist on the roles of the hemispheres of the brain. I had been reading about the idea of a pole-shift of the mind, because the rational left hemisphere had gone too far in asserting its dominance over the right and that this kind of shift in dominance of the hemispheres had possibly happened before in the development in human consciousness, working towards a true integrated balancing. The ideas in the text seemed to have a profound effect on my consciousness, and though I’m pretty sure I did sleep, when I awoke the next morning it felt as if my mind had been alight all night – millions of neurons firing, ideas arriving in an electrical storm in my head. Perhaps because I had been thinking about it, the image of the Bowerchalke formation – the eye with lightening bolts emanating from it popped into my head. It seemed a great visual counterpart to my dream (if that’s what you can call it) and to somehow symbolise a great eclipse of consciousness.
Working with these forms is always illuminating, always challenging and the effect they have on consciousness is so rarely closely examined. It takes time, commitment and a willingness to use the self as part of the work. As I close my encounter with this formation, I feel much less ambivalent about Bowerchalke. I think its dark nature is not to be rejected, but embraced. As the old alchemists used to say, “There is no generation without corruption” and perhaps consciousness evolution is a perilous journey in a small boat heading towards a grand convergence symbolised by a flaming black sun.
I finished writing this blog feeling that I had closed the chapter on this particular crop circle. But in one of those serendipitous moments of coincidence, I was tidying my books away when I came across my copy of the Splendor Solis – a large book containing a photographic facsimile of the original illuminated alchemical manuscript. I found myself quickly flipping through the pages to plate 19 the ‘Rising of the Black Sun’. As you can see, it’s a beautiful image and I decided that I would look it up in Adam McClean’s commentary on the work in his book of the same name.
In the Splendor Solis the Black Sun appears toward the end of the work and is not associated with the Negrado, but with the coming Rubedo – the end of the work. In this image you can see the black sun rising. The body of the sun below the horizon remains radiant, but above the horizon it is shown as black with golden rays. In this context, according to respected alchemical author Adam McClean, the rising Black Sun represents the ‘Earthing of the Cosmic’. This is a profound concept, one perhaps related to philosopher *Jean Gesber’s ‘Concretion of the Spiritual’, a part of his Integral Consciousness Structure – a new state of consciousness that according to Gebser the human race is fast approaching. In this context, the Black Sun is the dawn of a new state of being in which again, according to McClean, “The conscious, radiant part of the soul has entered into the unconscious realm, which itself, like a dark sun, makes its forces felt in the conscious sphere”. It also sound a lot like a pole-shift of the hemispheres as written about by *Ian McGilchrist. If Alchemy was a right brained approach (or prelude) to modern Chemistry, then perhaps the Rising Black Sun in this setting is the journey of the unconscious into the light where it can operate in the world.
So I am now ready to finally close this chapter, after what has been a throughly fascinating adventure into the symbolism and meaning of this crop circle. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much I have have enjoyed writing it!
My thanks to Kayleigh Douglas-Alexander & Michael Glickman for their assistance.
*Jean Gebser – The Ever Present Origin. The work describes states of consciousness mutation that the human race has undergone from antiquity to modern day. Gebser describes our current consciousness state as the Mental Stage (or Mental/Rational Stage). We are however, experiencing the decline of this stage and Gebser wrote of a new stage of consciousness to come the Integral Stage.
*Ian McGilchrist – The Master and his Emissary. The work describes the roles of the hemispheres of the brain, their relationship and characteristics. It also discusses the theory that the Left Hemisphere has become overly dominant in modern times at that it might be possible that some swing back in favour of the Right may be immanent – moving towards a state of integration between the Hemispheres.
Echoes, refections and visual additions…