Wednesday, January 20, 2010

June 22nd - December 22nd: My Two Birthdays

I was born on June 22nd, the day after the Summer solstice in the northern hemisphere when the days begin to get shorter as the tilting earth moves away from the sun. The Babylonians and other cultures in the northern hemisphere commemorated this time with a six-day funeral because it marked the decline of daylight hours and the onset of the withering, deadly summer heat. They saw this moment as the death of Tammuz, and his descent into darkness. Our month of June was called Tammuz by the Babylonians.

In Egypt this God was Osiris. In ancient Sumer this dying God was called Dumuzid, and in Greece Adonis. Recent discoveries reconfirm them as annual life-death-rebirth deities. Tablets discovered in 1963 show that Dumuzi was in fact consigned to the Underworld in order to secure Inanna's release, corresponding to the coming life giving crops and animal births.

If June 22nd marked the day after the longest day and the death of the god with gradually decreasing light, then December 22nd was the day after the Winter solstice, marking the shortest day and a pivoting back toward the lengthening of days as the light returned to warm the earth, bringing life from the soil. This time was often celebrated as a period of rejoicing, great hope and the rebirth of the absent God/ess. The Christmas story and birth of Christ was assigned to this well known day and event of the rebirth of light, hope and peaceful weather on earth.

When I was exactly nineteen and one half years of age, on the night of December 22nd, after reading the Passion story of Christ for the first time from the Gospel of Matthew, I was compelled by some inner thought to pray and ‘believe’ in the dying and resurrected Christ. On December 22nd I underwent a remarkable transformation. The psychic shift was shocking and unanticipated, especially since I had no religious training or church attendance prior to that night. My whole life literally changed in an instant in a radical fashion. I lost all desire to drink and party with my friends, I felt a union with all of creation, I knew God was real, I felt a total freedom from fear and worry, my college GPA went from a 1.8 to a 3.8 and astonishing events began to occur in my life. For the first time I felt purpose and confidence.

Like Tammuz (Dimuzi, Adonis), I had been raised from death and darkness. The juxtaposition of June (Tammuz) 22nd and December 22nd was either a colossal coincidence, or some sort of psycho-astrological synchronous event.

Subsequent to the transformative December 22nd experience, I began attending an evangelical church, then a Bible college and eventually two different seminaries where I completed two post graduate degrees in biblical and theological studies. I taught part time in a Presbyterian seminary for a couple of years and became the minister of an Evangelical Free Church for five years. However, during those years of theological education, I was having increasing doubts about what I was being taught, and unsure that my December 22nd spiritual experience was necessarily connected with, or explained by those theological teachings.

Depressed, bereft of faith, doubtful of all that I had been taught in my church, the Christian college and evangelical seminaries, I left it all in 1990. For the next decade I dabbled in many different religious traditions, called myself an agnostic and spent considerable time experimenting with alcohol and the lifestyle that went along with it. I was relieved to be free of the guilt, oppression and often inhumane beliefs I had been taught. I was distraught to be so confused, lost and bereft of a structure for existence, or cosmology.

Within a year of leaving organized evangelicalism, I met a woman in a class I was teaching. She told me that she had a dream. In her dream, she said, God had asked her to share a message with me from the divine. Skeptical, but fascinated, I asked her what the message from the dream was about. She said, “Jesus told me to tell you that ‘Life came out of death.’”

I told her that the one thing I had retained from my religious life was my December 22nd experience of reading the Passion of the Christ story and the subsequent spiritual awakening that came upon me. I said, “The one thing I know is that life comes out of death.”

She then told me that Jesus had asked her to “tell Michael that my real name is Irv.”

My reply was, “Whatever,” and I went away thinking she was a New Age kook. Two weeks later she called and said she had shared the dream with her Jungian therapist who was an ex-Catholic nun. The therapist said, “IRV was sometimes used in Catholic school to refer to in requiem vita, or ‘in death is life.’”

June 22nd and the earthly symbol of descent into darkness and death - December 22nd and ascent into light and life; a time of various seasonal rites of death and rebirth on those dates; a dream message of ‘in requiem vita’ or ‘in death is life.

Since that time I have experienced various depressions and struggles with the meaning, source and ‘way out’ of dark nights. I have lost my faith. I lost a marriage and family. I lost my 25 year old son in Afghanistan in 2008. I have been near death on two occasions.

For the past twenty years I have been obsessed with the themes of Eros (love) and Thanatos (death) as seen in my poetry and blog sites. Necessity compels me to explore the themes of darkness and light, life and death, positive and negative. I have experienced mystical ascents into sublimity and a descent into the hell of alcoholism. Both have gifted me with insights as well as in-sites into a diverse and fascinating soul topography that includes light bathed oases as well as shadowy labyrinths. This is my call. I do not know why, but I finally surrender and open to what it means, and what I must do with it, if anything.

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