Saturday, March 16th, was day 15 of the annual Baha’i 19-day Fast. On the Baha’i calendar, that’s a month (19 months of 19 days each with an intercalary period to fill the year).
Saturday was also the day that we here in Casa Grande, AZ saw exactly 12 hours of daylight between sunrise and sunset (6:35 AM to 6:35 PM) splitting the 24-hour day precisely in half between daytime and nighttime. One might think that day should arrive on the Vernal Equinox, but that’s not so. And because of the Earth’s slightly elliptical orbit and some “tricks” played by diffraction and reflection, such a day doesn’t even happen at the equator – ever (ask folks in Singapore). The Vernal Equinox occurs the moment the sun crosses the “celestial equator” (an imaginary line in space above the Earth’s equator) from south to north. This happens every year on either March 19, 20,or 21. On any other day of the year, the Earth’s axis tilts a little away from or towards the Sun (depending on how you look at it – ask Australians). But on the two equinoxes, the Earth’s axis tilts neither away from, nor towards the Sun.
When you Fast, abstaining from both food and drink, from sunrise to sunset, you get curious about such things. At least, I do. So where am I going with this? Well, I’m reflecting a bit on the nature of human knowledge.
Seeing an equinox requires a perspective we cannot really get from here on the Earth’s surface. Yet it is a “mile marker” considered for centuries by religions throughout history, as significant. At the nearby Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, an adobe structure dating back 600 years, there is a small circular window in the upper left portion of the west wall. This opening aligns with the setting sun on the summer solstice (June 21), the longest day of the year. They apparently left out the winter soltice. But, there’s another window on the other end of the building, in the wall of the upper chamber, where the sun shines through and also through an interior opening (like a gun sight) on the day of equinox (twice annually).
This is old knowledge. And it might have come through observation, but it also might have come through “revelation”. Through observation and the scientific methods we gain “acquired knowledge” (as my friend Dr. Sam Delchad calls it), but through religion we gain “revealed knowledge”. And when these two sources align, we can be pretty sure we’ve gotten it right. So as we approach the Equinox on 20 March, and my fellow Baha’is around the world end their fasting and celebrate Naw Ruz, their new year, let’s be grateful for BOTH acquired and revealed knowledge. And let’s rejoice whenever we can see the two types of knowledge align for Science without religion is materialism, and Religion without science is superstition.