- Darkness and light frequently symbolize pairs of opposites such as ignorance and wisdom, ego-oriented living and transcendent living, and death and rebirth. The novel begins with a dream about a dark, labyrinthine forest and ends on a sun-drenched mountaintop.
- Pyrrha is the not only the name of the hidden city, but the name of Deucalion’s wife who is said to be the daughter of First Woman. This suggests that the alternate universe is a womb (often symbolized as a cup, cauldron or chalice) where new life is manifested.
- Binah, the name of the bakery in Robert’s hometown, is also the name of one of the ten dimensions of the universe in Qabalistic (also spelled Kabalistic) cosmology. The dimensions, or Sfirot (also spelled Sephirot), are diagrammed on the Tree of Life that reaches from the physical universe to the Creator. The Creator’s dimension is often called the realm of limitless light and the physical universe, by contrast, is often referred to as the realm of darkness. Binah represents, among other things, a womb, and is often referred to as the Great Mother (1). It is said that Binah represents both birth and death since everything and everyone that manifests in the physical universe will ultimately die (physically). Note, then, that the initial coming and going of Robert’s psychic power is associated with the truck from Binah’s bakery.
- Going to the Sun, in a symbolic sense, can refer to the death of the old self, one’s search for the limitless light of the Creator, and other transcendent experiences along the seeker’s or the hero’s path. Robert was said to be Going to the Sun. The use of the phrase in the book is also a clue to the location in which the novel’s high country settings are based: Glacier National Park, Montana. Going to the Sun is the name of a mountain (as well as a point and a road) in the park. Author Jack Holterman (2) notes that while the authenticity of the legend related to the mountain’s name is in dispute, it is that “Nápi or Old Man comes to save the Indian people in time of trouble, and when his work is accomplished, goes back to the sun, leaving his portrait on the peak.”
- Names often symbolize a change in a hero’s status, the attainment of wisdom or power, or the birth of a new (transformed) individual. Robert forgets his name when he steps through the portal into Pyrrha and takes the name of a fish (Sunny Trout) and then that of a bird (Osprey) before discovering his true self. This discovery is symbolized first when he remembers his name and then upon his return to his world when the Guardian and Garth both refer to him as Eagle.
(1) Can you find references/symbols for rebirth in The Sun Singer in addition to those listed above?
(2) Drawing on the personal experience and reading of class members, discuss the death/rebirth symbolism found in daily experience, novels, religious beliefs, and culture and traditions as it relates to the hero’s path.
(1) See, for example: Fortune, Dion, The Mystical Qabalah, London, Ernest Benn Limited, 1935. (Reprinted in 1957 by the Society of the Inner Light.) For a devotional Kabbalah approach, see: Berg, Yehuda, The Power of Kabbalah, San Diego, Jodere Group, 2001.
(2) Holterman, Jack, Place Names of Glacier/Waterton National Parks, West Glacier, Montana, Glacier Natural History Association (GNHA), 1985. (I served as an editorial consultant during the book’s production and owe a great debt to Jack Holterman for his knowledge of Glacier Park and the Blackfeet language. Unfortunately, the book is now out of print.)