“It was a common practice among the early Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans to seal lighted lamps in the sepulchers of their dead as offerings to the God of Death. … There is ample proof that many of these lamps were burning when the sepulchers were sealed, and it has been declared that they were still burning when the vaults were opened hundreds of years later. …
“Numerous authorities have written on the subject of ever-burning lamps. W. Wynn Westcott estimates the number of writers who have given the subject consideration as more than 150. … Only a few maintained that the lamps would burn forever, but many were willing to concede that they might remain alight for several centuries without replenishment of the fuel.” ~Manly P Hall
There are many tales of these ever-burning lamps found in ancient writings and a variety of explanation have been brought forward for these. I haven’ researched the subject thoroughly, but of the few explanations I have read which didn’t simply write it off as the work of the devil, the one that suggests the lamps may actually have contain glowing mercury vapor make the most sense. There may actually have been may solutions to making a lamp “burn” for centuries discovered by ancient priest-scientists, and some may have worked better than others. The truth is, it really doesn’t matter how they worked. The real question to ask is: why did the ancients think it important to have an ever-burning lamp in the tombs of important people?
The idea of the eternal flame is closely related to that of the ever-burning lamp. Wikipedia tells us that in ancient Iran, this eternal flame represented the “Divine Spark” as taught of in Zoroastrianism. It can be found in many other religions all the way up to modern Christianity. In many denominations of Christian churches, an eternal flame, or ever-burning lamp can be found in all churches. No one claims that these lamps mysteriously burn for centuries on a one day supply of fuel. They are purely symbolic and represent both God’s eternal presences and God’s Light. They are called sanctuary lamps, chancel lamps, altar lamps, the everlasting light, or the eternal flame, depending on the particular church, but they are basically the same thing and have the same symbolism.
The eternal flame on the grave of President John F. Kennedy is the oldest one in the United States and it started a world-wide trend of noted politicians and dignitaries having such a flame on their grave.
The Eternal Light
Whether real physical lamps were created that burned for centuries, or not, is really not that important to those concerned with spiritual development. It is the spiritual symbology of the ever-burning lamp, the eternal flame, the burning bush, the pillar of fire, and other similar symbols, that matters. All of these are symbols of one thing: God’s Eternal Light. That Light that illumines the souls and brings about higher states of consciousness. That Light that comes to us from the Spiritual Sun. And all of the ancients knew how important this light way, so they broadcast that significance through things like ever-burning lamps and eternal flames, and legends like that of the Phoenix. That importance has been lost to most modern churches, and even most modern spiritual schools, but a few still teach it.
Eternal Flame on Kennedy Grave By Tim Evanson – http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8943708503/, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26477712