Like the solstices in the annual cycle, so midday and midnight are not simply points of the greatest concentrations of yang and yin, but also starting points for ascending movement of opposing principles, since the ascendant portion of the day runs from midnight to midday, its descendant from midday to midnight. This is why, in China, the most favourable time for conception is at midnight at the Winter solstice, while in the West, Christ was born in the middle of the night at that same Winter solstice.
The I-Ching teaches that the prince who possesses greatness and plenty is ‘like the Sun at noon’ (his body casts no shadow, his voice throws back no echo), but also ‘after it has reached midday, the Sun starts to sink; the Moon wanes after it has reached the full.’ In the north, The Secret of the Golden Flower observes, at midnight at the Winter solstice the yin is at rest and the yang set in motion. It is the middle line (yang) of the trigram K'an (north) turning back to the trigram Ken (complete yang).
This is close to esoteric Tantrism, which draws a correspondence between midnight and the condition of absolute repose in a state of beatitude. This, Guenon observes, is because the spiritual Sun is at its zenith at midnight, in converse analogy with the material Sun. Initiation into the ancient mysteries was linked to the ‘midnight’ Sun.
There is a wealth of similar concepts in Ismaili esotericism. Noon, when there are no shadows, is the Seal of Prophecy, the zenith of spiritual light. Midnight is the entanglement, confusion and befogging of conformity to the letter and the point from which the ascent to solar revelation begins. Thus in the writings of someone like Shabistari such apparent paradoxes occur as ‘shining night’ or ‘dark noon’, these being the points of disjunction in the two cyclical half-courses of the spirit.
In Biblical tradition, noon symbolizes light in all its fullness. Origen explains the importance of this symbol in Holy Scripture in his first and third sermons on the Song of Solomon, when he observes that Lot was unable to face the full light of noon, while Abraham was able to do so. To see God face to face is to see him in the midday light.
Midday marks a sort of sacralized moment, a pause in cyclic motion before the fragile balance is broken and the Sun totters into a decline. It conjures up the Sun halted in its course - the only moment when there is no shadow - an image of eternity.