The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth
A View by Richard Lang
MY SOLAR IDENTITY : THE SUN
Viewed from another star in the night sky, I am a star too, member of a glittering society of a hundred billion suns. In stately fashion I revolve with them round the centre of the Galaxy, participating in a majestic celestial dance. I am about 30,000 light years from the centre of the Galaxy - about half way out on one of its spiral arms. It takes about 225 million years for me to do a complete orbit round the Galaxy's centre : so far in my solar life I've been round 20 times! If I lived nearer the crowded core of the Galaxy, stars there are so
plentiful and shine so brightly that I would never experience darkness.
On Closer Inspection
Closer inspection reveals me to be a developed solar system. Born probably from the cooling embers of a supernova explosion about 5 billion years ago, I developed from a swirling cloud of dust and gas into a sun orbited by planets, asteroids, meteors and comets. My eight major planets include Neptune, icy in its remote orbit; Mercury, burning in the great heat near the Sun; and Earth, perfectly placed for the emergence of Life.
I will shine steadily for another five billion years. Because I'm not a very large star, my death will be a gradual cooling down over millions of years. If I were larger, in another supernova I would scatter my flaming gases through space, gradually then to cool down and condense into another solar system.
First Person Star
Just as at the human level I do not see my own face but am capacity for other faces, so at the solar level - looking out at night I trade my star face for the faces of all the other stars in the sky. Though for other stars I am light years away from my neighbours, for myself I find no distance separating any star there from this formless awareness that I am here. Being capacity means I go right up to other stars and become them.
Just as at the human level I can see part of my body (emerging from my central void) so at the solar level. I am simply looking further. Looking from my central nothingness beyond my (headless) human body, beyond other people, houses, trees, and then beyond this planet's horizon, I see in the sky some of the other planets of this solar system - say Venus and Mars. These other planets, along with whatever I can see of this planet (including my headless human body), are what I can see of my solar body. This is my first person solar body. Venus shining so beautifully in the evening sky is as much a limb of mine as my right arm. And just as at the human level I then look beyond my own human body here
and see other human bodies there
, so at the solar level I look beyond my own star body here
and see other stars there
. My body expands and contracts depending on who I'm looking at.
Third Person Star
I come to know my third person solar identity by placing myself over there
in my neighbours and observing myself from their point of view. My nearest neighbour, Proxima Centauri, one of three stars in the Alpha Centauri system, is about 4 light years away. Sirius, the brightest star in the northern sky is about 8.7 light years away. Stars on the far side of the Galaxy are 75,000 light years away. It is by noting the positions and behaviours of my solar neighbours that I come to know my own solar position and behaviour.
The great distances between myself and other stars make clear what is true at every level, that I look out into the past. The further I look, the further back in time, for light takes time to reach me. Thus the star I am observing this evening may have died centuries ago. Of course it works the other way round as well. By the time my
starlight reaches the star Rigel, 775 years have passed. We stars take our time to communicate!
And at the centre and source of all my appearances, here where I am no distance from myself, it takes no time to arrive at myself, no time to be myself. Here, wholly co-incident with myself, I am wholly present - forever looking into time from this timeless now.