by James Bean
Copyright February 2006
There is a very clear Light-motif in the world scriptures, including Western holy books such as the Hebrew Bible, Ethiopian Bible, Dead Sea Scrolls, Zohar, Books of Enoch, New Testament, Nag Hammadi Library, Gnostic Gospels, Pitstis Sophia, Corpus Hermeticum, Mandaean and Manichaean texts, as well as in countless writings of Kabbalahist, Syrian, Coptic, Orthodox, Catholic, and other mystics.
“I entered even into my inward self. Thou being my Guide and able as I was: for Thou were become my helper. And I entered and beheld with the eye of my soul (such as it was), above the same eye of my soul above my mind, the Light Unchangeable. Not this ordinary light which all flesh may look upon, nor as it were a greater of the same kind, as though the brightness of this should be manifold brighter, and with its greatness take up all space. Not such was the light but other, yea, far other from all these…. He that knows the Truth, knows what that Light is and he that knows It, knows Eternity.” (Augustine) “Do not cease seeking day or night … until you have found all the Mysteries of the Kingdom of Light, which will purify you and make you into Pure Light and lead you into the Kingdom of Light … And the soul which receives the Mystery of the Ineffable will ascend to the Hight, being a great outpouring of Light.” (Yeshua in, “Pistis Sophia”) “If one is whole, one will be filled with Light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness … there is light within a Person of Light, and it illuminates the entire cosmos.” (Gospel of Thomas) “If your eye be Single, your whole body shall be full of Light. (New Testament) “From the Fount of His Knowledge has my Light shot forth. Upon His wonders has my eye gazed.”…”Your Holy Spirit illuminates the dark places of the heart of your servant with Light like the sun.” (Dead Sea Scrolls) “The light of one soul is equal to that of sixteen suns.” (Kabir) “His Light illuminates and His radiance irradiates all the worlds, and the divine beings who stand before Him and shine in their radiance and in the radiance of the Great Light which rests upon them.” (Mandaean Scriptures of Iraq) “The drop of my soul rises to merge in the Ocean of Pure Light, leaving behind the illusory creation.” “When your eye, turning inward into your brain, pierces the sky within and your Spirit leaving your body, flies upward, you will sight the heaven which is the location of the Thousand-Petalled Lotus”. (Sar Bachan of Swami Ji Maharaj, Agra, India)
It’s fascinating to research the Light-motif in world scriptures and find the eye-witness accounts of mystics, he “Children of the Light”. Some of these, dating back two thousand years, resemble modern-day Near-Death-Experiences, and the experiences of some advanced Shabd Yoga practitioners.
Black Holes and the Unseen God
The Unseen Supreme Being can be seen indirectly via the inner “divine Light within everyone” (Guru Nanak). I like using the analogy of black holes. Black holes are invisible, as the gravity of a black hole is so intense that even light particles can not escape it. Yet astronomers can indirectly observe black holes. There is a stage as you approach a black hole when the atoms of matter being sucked into the immense gravity-well of the black hole are smashing together giving off incredibly bright gamma light radiation. Black holes often have this halo of luminosity around them. This is the “donut” of light surrounding the donut-hole or black hole at the center. This is the energy of matter being released before it forever disappears out of sight “down the drain” of the black hole, slipping out of ordinary space-time reality. As the Sufi mystics say, “Allah is veiled by his own Light.” “By the Light of Allah, I see Allah.”
To See Or Not To See
However, after many centuries, on this side of the Atlantic, and so very far removed from the Middle-eastern roots and context of the old Schools of Spirituality, we post-moderns of the Protestant West tend to filter ancient teachings through the cultural and theological bias we have inherited. For instance, the saying attributed to Jesus: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”, in mystic and Gnostic traditions is understood quite literally to mean, when one attains a certain degree of inner and outer purity, their consciousness will become receptive enough to actually see the Light of God as a visionary experience. Think of the astronomer carefully bringing the light of a distant star into a clear focus. Mysticism and astronomy have much in common. However, in some religious circles, that saying is pushed into the next world, limited to the next life only, at the “end of the world”, or into an after-death state. This reflects a belief-system that there is NO OPPORTUNITY for living human beings to “see God” now at all, period. Only after a “seven year end-times tribulation” and after certain external political goings-on in the world come to pass, will there be such an opportunity for some to “see”. In that outlook, the meaning is understood to be the exact opposite – the saying is made into a statement that, during this life there is no potential to reach a degree inner focus and that it is impossible to see with the Eye of the soul at this time. That particular saying has been transformed inaccurately into, “Be good, then after you die you will see God.” Some have perhaps even been taught that it is “wrong” to make such an attempt to mystically see. No seeing or visionary experience is allowed or held out as a possibility during this life, is the message. In some traditions most are “not worthy to see, except for a few larger-than-life saints who lived centuries ago, and we can never remotely hope to reach their level nowadays”. This is a gospel of non-seeing, if you will.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the Light.” (Plato) Western theology has not only manufactured thick intellectual “concrete” or opaque walls between humanity and nature, but also between heaven and earth, body and soul, this life and the next, between our current existence and the spiritual Domain. In that sort of paradigm, heaven is made to be far far away, available only in an abstract dimension called “the future”, completely unavailable to us in the present moment. But the great Sufi mystic Rumi once said, “Relying upon the promise of ‘tomorrow’, many people have wandered around that door, but that tomorrow never comes”. (“The Bounty of Allah”, Aneela Khalid Arshed) I also like how that same passage from Rumi’s Mathnawi is translated by Shaikh Kabir Helminski in his book, “Rumi Daylight”: “Some persons, relying on the promise of ‘tomorrow’, have wandered for years around that door, but ‘tomorrow’ never comes…..My friend, the Sufi is the child of the present moment: to say ‘tomorrow’ is not our way.” In the Gospel of Thomas found in Egypt, Jesus very much like Rumi, when replying to someone’s question about “end-times” prophecies, said: “You examine the face of heaven and earth, but you have not come to know the One who is in your presence, and you do not know how to examine the present moment.” Our human institutions have failed us miserably by trying to limit our vision of the Possibilities of God. It is only when we return to the soul’s nakedness, humility and simplicity that our vision can become open to the spiritual Domain and to whatever gifts God wants to give us.
The Light — Real Light Seen
Another example of cultural or theological blinders is the understanding of references in world scriptures to seeing divine Light. Statements about God being Light, and souls seeing this Light get metaphor-ed to death and reinterpreted as always meaning: “I see the Light” as in, “I intellectually understand” something. However, mystics who seek a present-moment Kingdom of Heaven yearn to see inner divine Light via a contemplative meditation practice. The Light is a Loving-Light. Once the soul basks in the Light, it wants to return to this experience again and again. In the East this process of Light-mysticism is called Theosis as well as Divinization, a mystical marriage between the soul and God in the “bridal chamber” of contemplative silence by beholding his Light. We need not wait for the “world of tomorrow”. This is something we can experience right now and has nothing whatsoever to do with calenders, earth-changes or endless prophecy-speculation. This is based on the spiritual principal that “we become what we see” (Bhagavad Gita). If we were to contemplate the Light of God…We Become That. Whatever man thinketh, that he obtaineth. If he were to dwell on the Absolute, he would become immortal”. (Namdev) We are “the observer”. Mystics have universally taught, East and West, that “the Light of God is within everyone” (George Fox, founder of the Quakers) If we can transcend cultural blinders that imply it is impossible for us to see spiritually, mystically or inwardly with the Single eye, there is indeed hope to reunite with the divine Light, right here, right now, in the present moment, and discover that “darkness is not really dark.” Once we are open to the possibility, then there is the potential of adopting a contemplative meditation practice that leads to the experience of the inner Light. There is hope we might be able to temporarily transcend the world of the five senses and begin exploring the “New World” of Inner Space, the “Kingdom of the Heavens” that are within us, the Kingdom of the Light. If the energy of our attention is scattered and dissipated into the world of the five senses, when we close our eyes we naturally see darkness, but if our attention or awareness returns to the Single eye – the seat of the soul – Light will appear.
As we become focused in meditation, mentally repeating our sacred word or words and gazing into the darkness, we may discover the appearance of inner Light. We may see the same sparks of light that look something like the “fireflies” or “sparks” which are described by yogis in the Hindu Upanishads, see shimmering light, stars, lights of various colors, or other visions of Light. “At first there will be only darkness but eventually Light will appear in the form of either small flashes or small star-like points.” (Yogani Mata Ji)
“Those who enshrine the Beloved in their hearts have both worlds at their command. Lovers remain completely intoxicated in the ecstasy of their love for the Beloved. They offer their souls to the Beloved while still living, and thus immortalize themselves in this life and in the hereafter.” (Hazrat Sultan Bahu)
For countless ages, souls have described their experience of God’s Light. I’ll conclude by sharing a quote from the medieval German mystic Mechthild of Magdeburg on the wonders of contemplation andspiritual perception.
“A Light of utmost splendor glows on the eyes of my soul. Therein have I seen the inexpressible ordering of all things, and recognized God’s unspeakable glory – that incomprehensible wonder – the tender caress between God and the soul … the unmingled joy of union, the living love of eternity as it now is and evermore shall be.” (Mechthild of Magdeburg, “Flowing Light of the Godhead”)