Anyone interested in spirituality or religion will recognize that light, as an illuminating and life-giving energy, has been a much-used metaphor for the divine since time immemorial. Pure light has thus been equated with the light of truth, the light of God, the light of Consciousness, the light of Buddha, the Christ-light or the cosmic light, depending upon where one was born and what one was taught.
Nearly all cultures, peoples, and religious groups through the ages have talked about the phenomenon of light in the context of the spiritual or mystical experience. Spiritually inclined individuals have spoken of being called to the light, of being filled with light, of being guided by the light, and of dissolving in an ocean of light etc. Those who claim to have seen visions of holy beings typically report that they were surrounded by a radiant luminescence.
After Prince Siddhartha Gautama realized his Buddhahood, he taught that all beings are imbued with a spark of inner divine light. In describing the original Buddha-nature, Buddhists use such phrases as innate luminosity, primordial radiance, the unobscured clear natural mind, and the clear light of reality.
The Hindu scriptures refer to this divine light as 'Brahman' as in: "In the supreme golden chamber is Brahman indivisible and pure. He is the radiant light of all lights, and this knows he who knows Brahman." (Mundala Upanishad, Part 2,The Muslim holy book, the Qurâ€™an, referring to man, talks about the little candle flame burning in a niche in the wall of God's temple.According to Jewish tradition, the Israelites were led to 'the promised land' by a 'fiery pillar of light'. David the psalmist sang, "The Lord is my light ..." and "In thy light shall we see ..."
Christ Jesus, the Jewish spiritual teacher, whose followers became known as 'Christians', asserted from his Spirit-consciousness, "I am the light of the world ..." and to others, he said, "You (also) are the light of the world ..." indicating that their essential nature and purpose was the same as his.
The Bible, as we now have it, states that God not only lives in light (Ex 24:10, 1 Tim 6:16) and is clothed with it (Ps 104:2), but 'He' is light (1 John 1:5). The New Testament reports that John the Baptist came to bear witness to that light and that Jesus said, "They that follow me (live as I live) will not walk in darkness but have the light of life."
Around about the 2nd centuries of the Current Era, the gnostic, 'Hermes Trismegistus', wrote what we know today as the Corpus Hermetica.
In the Poimander section of the document, Hermes experiences God as an infinite Light, which he describes as "That which is unpolluted, which has no limit, no color, no form, is motionless, naked, shining, which can only be apprehended by Itself, the unalterable Good, the Incorporeal."
That infinite Light is the Divine Mind (Nous), which speaks to Hermes, telling him, "This Light is I, Myself, thy God, ... and the luminous Word (Logos) issuing from Me is the Son of God."
In another early gnostic Christian document, the 'Dialogue of the Savior', Jesus explained that our natural dwelling place is a “place of life” where “the true mind dwells” that is “only pure light.”
Many of the Church fathers referred to the divine light within. God's transcendence, for instance, is frequently described as ecstatic light by Symeon the New Theologian in the 11th century and Gregory Palamas in the 14th. These Greek saints can be seen as sequential mystical theologians glorifying the radiance of God in the Orthodox illuminative tradition.
They held that the purification of one's consciousnessconsciousness (the in-seeing or recognition of oneâ€™s essential nature as being pure Spirit) leads one into that awareness of the Presence which is often manifested as an experience of the light of Christ.
In the 16th century, the Jewish mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria wrote, "Know that before emanations were produced and creatures were created, there was a simple supernal light that filled all existence; and there was no empty space, like a completely empty space or vacuum, but all was filled with that simple infinite light (or, light of the Infinite One). It had no aspect of beginning or end, rather all was one simple light equally distributed, and this is called the light of the Ayn-Sof."
The Kabbalah (Qabala) recognises two double equations of infinite energy: Ayn-Sof and Aur-AÃ«lion. In Hebrew Ayn-Sof means "without end," or "infinite," and Aur-AÃ«lion means "light." Hence, Ain-Sof Aur is understood by Kabbalists to be the no-end or limitless Light. the Light of the Infinite, the radiant fullness that is the Source of all Reality, and/or, the Unending Essence that is Infinite Divinity.
In his spiritual classic, History of Mysticism, a contemporary seer, Swami Abhayananda, emphasizes the essential unity of this Divine LIght and the Absolute in the following terms ...
"... the constant Awareness, which is realized in the experience of Unity to be the one eternal and indivisible Reality, is also realized to be the very One who projects His own living light in the form of the universe. That light is not separate from Himself, nor does it, in fact, go out from Him; but in order to speak of it at all, it is necessary to differentiate it from the constant Awareness, the unchanging Absolute.
Thus, the primal Awareness is spoken of as â€œHeâ€€; and the light that forms the mutable world is called â€œShe.â€€ But they are never two. He is the universal Mind; She is His Thought. He is the Speaker; She is the Word. He is the Seed; She is the Tree. They are complementary aspects of one indivisible Reality."
The British mystic, George Fox, who founded Quakerism, used the term "inward" or "inner light" to describe the direct experience of God or Christ within oneself. This direct experience of the divine became the central tenet of the Religious Society of Friends.
The Quaker belief that an inner light resides in each person is based in part on a passage from the New Testament, namely John 1:9, which says, "That was the true light, which lights every person that comes into the world." Friends emphasize the part of the verse that indicates that every person is born with the light within him or her. Early Friends took this verse as one of their mottoes and often referred to themselves as "Children of the Light."
The divine light has been the subject of many hymns and poetic works. In the early 19th century, for instance, British cleric, Thomas Binney, penned the lines:
Eternal Light! eternal Light!
How pure the soul must be
When, placed within Thy searching sight,
It shrinks not, but with calm delight
Can live, and look on Thee!
Like the vast majority of those brought up in the church, Binney believed that 'oneness with God' applied only to Jesus, and it probably never occurred to him that the Master was stating a universal truth when he declared, "I and the Father are one". So Binney was only able to imagine this awesome eye-to-eye encounter and write of it in dualistic terms.
Several centuries before, however, the great German mystic, Meister Eckhart, had gone beyond dualistic dogma and stated paradoxically in one of his sermons, "The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me."
In his hymn, Binney also expresses the now common belief of institutional Christianity that each person has a soul which is quite separate from God and which may, in certain circumstances and with 'spiritual' eyes, look on incorporial divinity as one with ordinary eyesight would look at a tree or any other 'object'. This is a fundamental misunderstanding and one that goes against the clear teaching of scripture that God, who is pure Spirit, cannot be seen by anyone.
As Adyashanti says, all true wisdom teachings encourage us to look 'within', but this does not mean turning our attention inward and 'looking around' ... as we would when surveying the outside world. When looking within, we usually make the mistake of trying to find or see 'some thing' in our interior region that could be the 'inner light'. Looking within doesn't mean, "Look within and see if you can find yourself, or God, or signs of God, or something called the truth or the divine etc.
Actually, when we turn our attention within, we will always find something -- a thought, a feeling, a mood etc. and if we are of a particular bent, maybe a voice, a vision or some mystical experience. Regardless of what is perceived, the divine Light is what perceives it in our awareness. Divine Light Itself cannot be perceived as an object just as your eye cannot see itself. The divine Presence is always the Subject or the 'Seer', as it were, and never an object of seeing.
When you hear of divine light, you may start seeking it, and, because you are seeking it as if you were looking for an object or for an experience, you cannot find it. This the dilemma of all those who are seeking spiritual enlightenment.
Hence, Jesus said, "The kingdom God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will say, 'Lo, here it is!' or 'There!' for behold, the kingdom God is in the midst of you."
When a student reported to his spiritual director that he had 'found the divine light within', the old master tested him by asking, "Is it like sunlight or moonlight or lamplight?" When the student tried to compare it to one phenomenon or the other, the teacher knew that the truth had not yet dawned on him.
Sometimes, after having a vivid 'spiritual experience', a seeker can be misled into believing that he or she has been endowed with divine light of one kind or another, so that they think that they have or possess it.
You may have heard of an archangel called, Lucifer, who, in Bible mythology, is associated with total ego identification (evil) or spiritual unconsciousness. Interestingly, the name, Lucifer, means -- the bringer of light or one who carries the light. This sounds fine and quite spiritual until the sinister significance of Lucifer's name is fully appreciated.
William Samuel pointed out that Lucifer is the false idea that we as individuals are the bearers or custodians of divine light or awareness, right here, right now. The truth is, there never was, nor ever could be, a bearer of light ... or life, for that matter. We are light, we are life and only the spiritually deluded would see themselves as the custodians of light or life as if light or life were mere objects or phenomenon.
The spiritually awakened have let go the deceitful Lucifer idea that says, "This is my light to bestow on whomever I please." "This is my life to do with as I like." "This is my destiny to live as I choose." The truly enlightened let all that foolishness go -- just to be the Light, to be the Life that is the Godhead shining.
Divine light cannot be generated within a form and carried about like the light of a firefly. The Light of Consciousness is our formless essence or nature and shines through the form of every sentient being that abides in Presence Awareness.
Enlarging on this in his outstanding book, A New Earth, a contemporary sage, Eckhart Tolle writes: "Whenever you are present, you become (your form becomes) "transparent" to some extent to the light, the pure consciousness that emanates from this Source. You also realize that the light is not separate from who you are but constitutes your very essence."
Spiritual sages or esotericists have always understood that luminous Awareness is not just something that awakened individuals have, but rather what the Absolute is, and that this luminous Awareness is in no way separate from the awareness we experience within ourselves. The truth is that we perceive from the divine Light or as the divine Light -- from Awareness and as Awareness Itself.
"Jesus said: "I" is the light (of awareness) that shines upon all things. "I" is the All from which everything emanates and to which everything returns." (Thomas, 186)
Esoteric teaching down through the ages has asserted that the divine Light is the essence of all things and therefore, our essential nature. This inner Light, it reveals, isn't something we can be in relationship to ... the divine Light is really What we are! -- it is indeed the Light that lights and gives life to every sentient being that manifests temporarily in the world.
Contemporary Australian spiritual teacher, Bob Adamson has said, what we are in essence is self-shining, pure intelligence. It is shining through our eyes at this very moment.
This Light of consciousness, he says, ever expresses as that living, vibrant sense of presence, which translates through the mind as the thought 'I am'. The primary thought, 'I am' is not the reality. It is the closest mind or thought can ever get to reality, for reality to the mind is inconceivable. It is no thing. Without the thought 'I am', is it stillness? Is it silence? Or is there a vibrancy about it, a livingness, a self-shining-ness?
In the ancient Indian Advaita tradition, the still, silent, self-shining, conscious awareness we finally recognize within is referred to as Atman, as in: "The Atman is the light: the light is covered by darkness: the darkness is delusion: that is why we dream. When the light of the Atman drives out our darkness, that light shines forth from us, a sun in splendour, the revealed Brahman." (Bhagavad-Gita V, The Yoga of Renunciation)
Toward the middle of the 20th century, the saintly Indian sage, Sri Ramana Mahashi, spoke of our true nature or essential Self as the light of consciousnes. For instance, he once said, "It is the undifferentiated light of pure consciousness into which the reflected light of the mind is completely absorbed."
Light, the eternal unborn Awareness of all phenomena including the mind (our thoughts), is expressed as radiant love, healing one's internal divisions and wounds and eventually enabling the seeing or realization that there is no distinction between the infinite Absolute and the sacred presence that is finally noticed at the core of one's being.
Scott Kiloby elaborates further on this imperfect analogy: "Awareness is like a pure white light behind thought. The "thinking mind" is like a prism that disperses the light into apparently separate colors. When life is lived solely through thought, everything appears to be totally separate. From that perspective, there is a "you" that is separate from life and therefore inherently incomplete and lacking. This causes conflict, suffering, and searching. When it is recognized that your true nature is the pure white light (non-dual awareness), peace of mind is realized....
"In realizing that your true nature is awareness (the white light), you see that awareness is appearing as every thought (every color). When this is seen, you no longer seek a sense of self in one thought or the other. You are not trying to convince everyone that your color is the right color. Yet thought is not denied. The rainbow of colors is enjoyed and appreciated. The colors are none other than expressions of the light."
Again, Eckhart Tolle has written, "Perceptions, experiences, thoughts, and feelings come and go in the light of consciousness. That is Being, that is the deeper, true I .... Opening yourself to the emerging consciousness and bringing its light into this world then becomes the primary purpose of your life .... Love makes the world less worldly, less dense, more transparent to the divine dimension, the light of consciousness itself."
In summary, the divine Light is not something that can ever be seen or even comprehended by the finite mind. It is the Seer or That which does the seeing. When we see truly, there is a 'knowing' that our inside world and the outside world are as one -- full of forms or phenomena -- and all contained in that formless Awareness which is ever the Light of Life.
Tony Titshall has put it so beautifully in this verse from his wonderful book, The Day of Awakening ...
The 'journey' is but letting go,
Arriving at the One we know
We ARE, the One we've always been,
The One I AM, the never seen,
If you found this of interest, we recommend The Gnosis of Light
You might also like to see a related article on What is Meant by Inner Light?.
NB: If you'd like to be part of an Inner Light group based on the above revelation, >>>Click Here.
If ever you were able to stand inside a large cathedral like Chartres in Paris on a clear Summer day, you would no doubt have been impressed by the gorgeous stained-glass windows reaching high on all sides depicting the saints and other figures from holy writ.
Apart from reminding you of particular people or stories, these windows were intended by the architect, artisans and mystics of old to convey a supreme truth that it is important none of us should miss.
The great truth, I believe, the cathedral builderrs wanted each of us to see is that through all the myriad figures and representations of nature in the windows, the one effulgent light shines.
It is the illuminating light, so symbolic of the divine, they wanted us to notice rather than the windows themselves. In fact, they knew that without that light, the windows could not be seen nor could their translucent colors enthral us.
One light shines through the many windows and the many differently shaped pieces of glass in each window section. It is the one light making many appearances -- revealing saint and sinner alike in every imaginable shade and hue.
The profound message conveyed by all cathedral windows, regardless of their colorful depictions, is simply this -- it's all God! Not God and them or God and us -- there is only God, the Light that is the substance of all.
The same Light shines in and through everything that comes into being -- there is nothing else!
The Christ-Light, the windows teach, is What we really are -- the Light of the world, beyond birth and death, beyond time and space. Let us then stand in awe and with the eyes of 'God', gaze the gaze of eternity -- seeing the divine everywhere and in everything.