For many, light equals safety. And for them, darkness infers insecurity and may lead to feelings of fear. It is the case that, sometimes, we talk about light in a positive way, darkness in a negative way, but it need not always be the case.
True, when we ‘shine a light’ on something, metaphorically, we can come to see it, picture it, and understand it, and perhaps even quantify it. This may be an advantage when speaking of physical things. What then of spiritual things, and when we need to use a different form of perception? If we’re talking about the deep things of the Source, then ‘seeing’ can be a handicap. Think of the Source, and whatever ‘picture’ or metaphor we use by way of a description will be limiting and therefore inaccurate. The Source is beyond our imagining, and cannot be quantified.
So, a different form of perception is needed. We need: seeing in the dark. And that means, befriending the dark.
‘I said to my soul, be still, and let darkness come upon you
which shall be the darkness of God.’ T S Eliot
I admit, when I’m in north Wales, I love night walks in the forest. These can be deeply spiritual and rewarding. My eyes are rendered virtually useless as I navigate my way in near total darkness, and yet other ways of perceiving arise. I become more attuned to the sounds of animals, the ‘sighing’ of the trees as the wind blows through them, the sound of a nearby rivulet, the smells of trees and flowers, the feeling of the earth underfoot, and deep feelings of ‘presences’. I love it. I’m safe but lost (in wonder). Alone (but surrounded by nature). Wrong-footed visually (but something deep inside comes to the fore to guide me). Isn’t that encounter? Connectedness? We need a different way of seeing and that starts with befriending the dark.
Because the Source ‘inhabits’ the dark, too. And, in that darkness we are not distracted to see the Source as this thing or that. The Source, in the dark, is invisible, close, true and (almost) palpable. More so, in the dark.
[The Source]…’parted the heavens and came down, [and]
dark clouds were under his feet’ Psalm 18:9, The Book
With no visual distractions, with darkness all around, we rely on that which is deep within. In the dark there is no false illusion, no eyesight-vision at all, no distractions, no opportunity to quantify. Deep calls to deep. An encounter with the Source, as a result of deep meditation, cannot be described in terms of length and breadth, cannot be quantified, but merely spoken of in near-miss metaphors at best, with the use of clumsy words. But, with our eyes closed in meditation or prayer, we enter the dark[ness]. And encounter in a deep, dynamic, earth-transcending, indescribable, real way.
‘You will…be led upwards to the Ray of the divine Darkness which exceeds all existence.’ Dionysius, Mystical Theology.
It sounds paradoxical: the way to the Source is not to use your eyes; if you want to ‘see’, then look into the dark; the Source is such a great Light that the Source uses darkness to make us comfortable; darkness releases us from the handicap of visual-quantification; in the dark we ‘see’ more.
‘There is in God (some say) a deep, but dazzling darkness.’ Henry Vaughn, The Night.
Do not fear. Make friends with the dark.