When I was a child, I’d clutch an astronomy picture book along with my pillow to fall asleep every night. I didn’t understand the equations behind cosmic order, or the physical laws that governed forces beyond my comprehension – I just knew I liked the cosmos – and one aspect of it in particular: The Black Hole. I understood that it was a very large rip in what we considered to be space-time and that it whirled at extremely high speeds, ripping all forms of light and matter that went nearby it into shreds. Somehow, I never saw it as the destructive abyss of total annihilation it is often portrayed as, I always viewed it as a gateway of sorts.
In my teenage years, sufficient sci fci flicks and popular science opened my mind to the possibilities of the connecting the singularities of two different black holes in different parts of the Universal fabric, creating such a gateway as I had envisioned. Intuitively, this made logical sense to my adolescent self, but I felt that something quite mysterious, transformative – even alchemical – about black holes was still missing from our scientific understanding of them. I had a knack for predicting astronomical finds based on thought experiment around this time. Logic told me that there would be ice on the Moon, for instance – and science confirmed it to be so within a year or two of that thought.
With Black Holes on the other hand, my attraction to them as a child was far from logical – I just ‘knew’ there was something about them that exemplified some core principle about the way I view and experience life. Recently, I found an article wherein science filled in that missing piece of the puzzle for me – I now know just why my attraction to this astrophysical phenomenon has been so intense, enduring and so difficult to put into words. Synchronistically, the parable of the black hole illuminates certain spiritual paradigms in the technical language of science – making one of the least palatable spiritual truths somewhat more intelligible and acceptable.
The Black Hole is a whirling void, a compression of matter, energy, time and space folded backwards to a terminating point known as the singularity at which all known physical laws of time and space break down. It is the astronomical equivalent of the atmospheric tornado, or the aquatic maelstrom. We tend to see these whirling bodies of matter and energy as destructive or terminating points, the abyss from which we do not return and whose event horizon we fear to approach. The notion of the bottomless pit, the dark abyss features prominently in certain spiritual teachings – from an internal perspective going through transformative pits in which we are destroyed, and yet arise anew, termed as the ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ – a period of introspection, intense self examination, the destruction of the ego and psyche and eventual re-integration into a energetic signature of a higher vibrational frequency. We associate this powerful theme of death, transformation and rebirth with symbols such as the Rising Phoenix that leaves its ashes behind in flight. Spiritualists would describe it as ‘traveling through the Valley of the Shadow of Death to emerge as a Being of Light’. It is this process of transformation and creation through destruction associated with astrological elements such as Pluto, Hades, Scorpio and the 8th house and themes connected to the psychological and spiritual Underworld. Diverse religious traditions point to ‘Dark’ Archetypes, particularly in the figures of fierce warrior goddesses such as Kali, Lilith and Hecate that lead to spiritual transcendence through paradigmatic shifts incurred in extreme circumstances such as perceived death, loss and suffering.
The notion of Darkness in the esoteric religious, spiritual and astrological traditions of the world empowers the Void, or returning to that formless, unknowable Mystery at the Heart of Creation. In Jungian psychology, this Primal Ocean of the Collective Unconscious is strongly identified with the Anima Mundi – or aspects of the World Mother/Great Goddess archetype. Sadly, this aspect of spiritual experience is often cast as heretical, taboo, undesirable when badly misinterpreted through the lens of a very superficial, yet pervasive mis-reading of mmonotheisticbelief systems that sadly appear to espouse a rigid binary between Light/Dark = Good/Evil, despite the fact that their greatest champions, prophets, seers, etc. had each experienced their own version of ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’ – frequently in Deserts, as per the Abrahamic religions.
The more enlightened perspective of experiencing Darkness is to view it as passages through aspects of the shadow self, the suppressed or hidden psyche which we feel ashamed, afraid or in denial of. The equation of the wild archetypal female destroyer/nurturer across cultures captures the eviscerating pain of traversing this aspect of the psyche, and the illumination within that emerges through transcending this pain. Hindus may call this the Path of Sakthi (or Saktha traditons) via the Tantric Goddesses, Buddhists have their equivalent in the practice of Chod – the ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Sumerians and other cultures with a strong tradition of fierce female goddesses and priestesshoods understood this principle to a profound degree. It is with the comparatively recent binary drawn across gendered, ethical and spiritual lines which have confabulated this notion of traversing inner Darkness to succumbing to evil temptation, often in the form of a woman.
But what does all this have to do with the astronomical parable of the black hole? As with the transformative potential of traversing the suppressed psyche, the material reality of black holes speaks of the same story in different terms. What was once viewed as an incredibly powerful, complex, mysterious yet dangerous aspect from which there is no return, now appears as a transmutative generator of Light. Scientists at John Hopkins University have conclusively demonstrated, with the backing of 40 years of research, that the inevitable outcome of gas entering this black hole is the emission of (even) higher frequencies of light (up to 100x) from its Core, back into the Universe. As matter is superheated (up to 10 million Celsius) and transformed into photons at the heart of the abyss, it sheds its old form and emerges anew, burning brighter than its previous form would ever deem possible. Irrespective of whether science’s understanding of ‘vibration’ corresponds with the spiritual notion of it, I take some comfort in knowing that one of the most exotic, mysterious and powerful aspects of the cosmos, which has always been close to my heart, mirrors a time-honoured facet of spiritual practice and experience that crosses the boundaries of time, religion, and space. Or is that the other way around?
Blessings and Love to All,
Priestess Bairavee Balasubramaniam, PhD
First Published: April 5th 2014, on an older blog of mine
Image Information: “Black Hole Milkyway” by Ute Kraus, Physics education group Kraus, Universität Hildesheim, Space Time Travel, (background image of the milky way: Axel Mellinger) – Gallery of Space Time Travel. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Black_Hole_Milkyway.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Black_Hole_Milkyway.jpg