In theosophical and esoteric literature, “light” is commonly used to refer to various states of cosmic manifestation and consciousness.
Light in Cosmology. The unmanifested state is commonly referred to as a state of darkness. It is the period of cosmic PRALAYA or rest. From it emanates the Primordial Light which has seven rays that become the seven principles of nature (Theos. Glossary). This symbolism is similar to that of Genesis of the Old Testament. “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen. 1:2-3). The darkness here and the Spirit of God refer to the unmanifested Deity, while “the deep” refers to primordial Space. Manifested Light does not yet exist. In such a state it is called Absolute Light as a mere potency. Thus The Secret Doctrine speaks of the paradox that Absolute Light is Darkness.
The above is related to the ageless teaching on the Absolute and the Logos. The latter has three stages, only the third of which is manifested, and this is the Light. Helena P. Blavatsky wrote:
As to borrowed or secondary light, whatever its source, it can be but of a temporary mayavic character. Darkness, then, is the eternal matrix in which the sources of light appear and disappear. Nothing is added to darkness to make of it light, or to light to make it darkness, on this our plane. They are interchangeable, and scientifically light is but a mode of darkness and vice versâ. Yet both are phenomena of the same noumenon — which is absolute darkness to the scientific mind, and but a gray twilight to the perception of the average mystic, though to that of the spiritual eye of the Initiate it is absolute light. How far we discern the light that shines in darkness depends upon our powers of vision. What is light to us is darkness to certain insects, and the eye of the clairvoyant sees illumination where the normal eye perceives only blackness. When the whole universe was plunged in sleep — had returned to its one primordial element — there was neither centre of luminosity, nor eye to perceive light, and darkness necessarily filled the boundless all. (SD I:40-41)
The Kabbalah similarly speaks of the unmanifested Ain Soph or Ain Soph Aur (“Light”) as the Infinite Light from which all are derived, specifically, the three and seven sephiroth of the Tree of Life.
In Hindu mythology, Light (Marici) is born of Brahmā. From Marici comes KĀŚYAPA or Vision.
Light as spirituality. The presence of Light has commonly been used in descriptions of spiritual attainment, as in enlightenment or illumination. It is meant either as a noetic enlightenment, that is, an ineffable realization of transcendent truths, or as an inner light. In Dr. Richard Bucke’s description of his own cosmic consciousness, he thought that there was a “conflagration” in the city until he realized that the fire was within himself. St. Paul similarly describes his conversion being preceded by “a great light from heaven [which] suddenly shone about me” (Acts 22:6).
The use of Light to represent divine states of consciousness is also found in the New Testament. Jesus, in the Gospel of John, states: “I am the light of the world” (Jn 8:12). At the same time he speaks of this light within people: “While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light” (Jn 12:36). “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Mt 5:16).
The Gnostic book Pistis Sophia speaks of three degrees of “the Light” in human beings. Blavatsky interprets this as referring to the three vestures spoken of in Buddhism, the NIRMĀNAKĀYA, Sambhogakāya and Dharmakāya (CW IV:11).
Light in science. H. P. Blavatsky, writing in 1883 about the dispute in physics of her time about whether light is a weightless “force” or a material corpuscle, maintained that light is matter.
Now the sun and ether being beyond dispute material bodies, necessarily every one of their effects — light, heat, sound, electricity, etc. — must be, agreeably to the definition of Aristotle (as accepted, though slightly misconceived, by Professor Balfour Stewart) also “a kind of body,” ergo — MATTER. (CW IV:221-2)
She states that light is one of the seven “Sons of Fohat,” the other being Motion, Sound, Heat, Cohesion, Electricity (or Electric) Fluid, and Nerve Force (or Magnetism) (CW XII:620).
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