Few things are mentioned in connection with the Divine as often as love and light. Since we can express love ourselves, we understand and appreciate it more readily. But like love, the deeper meaning of light can also expand our understanding of the Divine, the universe and our own true nature. Light has been given many meanings in spiritual teachings, but recent scientific research has added a richer perspective to ancient wisdom.
Religions and cultures through the ages have used the contrast between light and darkness as symbols for good and evil. For example, the Bible at John 3:20-21 reads, “For everyone who does evil hates the light…But he who does what is true comes to the light.” Unfortunately this dualistic symbolism has often kept us at the surface of our understanding of Divine light. The Byzantine mystic, Saint Symeon, revealed a more fundamental meaning when he described the Divine as, “A light infinite and incomprehensible…one single light…simple, timeless, eternal…the source of life.” In this case, light is not symbolic but literal, as Saint Symeon tells us that the very being of the Divine is light.
In early Christian gnostic writings, the ‘being’ of the Divine is also described as a literal ‘life-giving perfect light.’ The Secret Book of John reads, “The One is the immeasurable light. . .Not that the One possesses this. Rather, the One gives immeasurable and incomprehensible light.” These words also reflect the sentiments of the Katha Upanishad written about 1500 years before Jesus, “There shines not the sun, neither moon nor star, nor flash of lightening, nor fire lit on earth. The One is the light reflected by all.” Rumi also affirmed that the Divine is light, but went on to explain that this light also permeates and sustains everything in existence when he said, “One matter, one energy, one Light, one light-mind, endlessly emanating all things.”
When we consider light in material terms, we might think about the energy released from sun and stars that illuminate our world or the speed of light used as a measure to help define the parameters of space/time. However, the sages were referring to another light; quantum light that serves as a universal foundation or matrix. Scientists once believed that a vacuum or emptiness surrounded matter. As they attempted to prove their theories, they discovered the ‘emptiness’ was actually a sea of quantum light energy so powerful, a single cubic meter is capable of boiling all the oceans of the world!
This quantum sea of light is made up of approximately 5% matter (atoms), 20% ‘dark matter’ that acts as a structure for matter, and approx. 75% ‘dark energy.’ Although classical physics assumed that all matter had mass, new quantum theories propose that mass is an illusion created by the light energy of so-called dark matter. We do live in a universe of quantum light, so don’t let the label ‘dark’ confuse you. Dark matter and energy are called ‘dark’ not because they actually are, but because we understand so little about them.
From a human perspective, this sea of fundamental light is a paradox. Although research has revealed that everything is light, this light is not a material object, it has no mass, and it doesn’t exist in time or space. In fact, what we call light is the energy that’s released by light, not the light itself. As mind-boggling as it may seem, scientists are beginning to theorize that this light existed before the material sources of illumination that send light to our world. Surprisingly, their research finds support in an ancient Jewish manuscript called the Haggadah, which tells us, “The light created at the very beginning is not the same light emitted by the sun, the moon and the stars.”
An early gnostic writing, Creation of the World and the Alien Man agrees, saying, “There is no boundary for the light and it was not known when it came into being. Nothing was when light was not, nothing was when radiance was not, Nothing was when the Mighty Life was not, there never was a boundary for the light.” The sages, through their own direct experience (gnosis), understood that the Divine is a light energy that existed before matter, and also created using this light. This shouldn’t be too surprising since everything that reproduces on earth also recreates out of self.
Scientists have discovered that tiny particles of light, called biophotons are emitted by all living things. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus explained that we originated in light and remain light when he said: “If they say to you, ‘Where have your come from?’ Say to them, ‘We have come from the light, from the place where the light came into being by itself, established itself, and appeared in their image.’ If they say to you, ‘Is it you?’ say, ‘We are its children.’”
As Rumi’s beloved teacher Shams-iTabrizi proclaimed, “We are substances of light.” Science is discovering that everything in existence is indivisible oneness, and that One is light. But if that’s true, why do we have such difficulty recognizing our reality as light beings? The Gospel of Thomas says that we diminished the light by choosing separation in form over oneness in spirit: “For this reason I say, if one is whole, one will be filled with light, but if one is divided, one will be filled with darkness.” And the gnostic Dialogue of the Savior emphasizes the point: “As long as your hearts are dark, your light…is far from you.” But science is also realizing what the sages understood; the world of matter is an illusion, a veil that merely obscures our conscious awareness.
Although we’ve convinced ourselves we’re separate from Divine light, Rumi assures us, “There is a rope of light between your heart and Source that nothing can weaken or break, and it is always in His hands.” That’s why masters like Jesus have told their followers not to “hide their light under a bushel” but to recognize their eternal oneness with Divine light. Rumi encourages us to, “Concentrate on the Light…The light streams towards you from all things….One matter, one energy, one Light, one light-mind, endlessly emanating all things…Ground yourself, strip yourself down to blind loving silence. Stay there, until you see you are gazing at the Light with its own ageless eyes.” But the Divine light we ‘see’ and radiate in this world is a reflection, not the light itself.
To BE light once again, we must return to oneness, return to our Source. Rumi spoke eloquently about our true nature when he said, “You think you are earthly beings, but you have been kneaded from the Light of Certainty. You are the guardians of God’s Light, so come, return to the root of the root of your own Self.” During Rumi’s last illness, a friend wished him a quick recovery. He answered, “Don’t you want the Light to unite with the Light?”
Lee and Steven Hager are the authors of several books that explore the synergy of science, spirituality and gnosis.
On Twitter @LSHager