Updated: Dec 8, 2021
Hunter Havlin Adams, III ©Creativity Magazine, Spring 2002
Artists, poets, philosophers, scientists and religionists of all sorts speak of light in their works. But what is the ‘light’ they are referring? This article attempts at unpacking the hidden meaning of light from the material, metaphorical and metaphysical to give those in personal growth or creative pursuits an edge, and clarity.
Touched by light; saved by light; embraced by light; living in the light; and loving in the light. Most of us have heard these terms or have seen films or read books or articles with these titles or themes. Marvin Gaye, for example, in his last and least known, yet most philosophical and prophetic album, In Our Lifetime, advises us to “groove on the light” and “dance in the light.”
We are familiar with numerous and diverse scriptural references to light. The Yoruba Odu Ifa, Buddhist Dhamapadma and the Jewish Zohar or Kabbalah (metaphysics works) are exemplary, containing a host of references to light. Recall in the Christian Holy Bible, Genesis 1:3-4 – “And, God said, let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from darkness.” and Matthew 5:14 – “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works.” Light was recognized as the organizing agent forming the cosmos and applied conscious awareness.
The Holy Koran also has many references to ‘light’ as the Sura, "Allah is the light of the heavens." A 12th Century Sufi Muslim philosopher, Shaikh Shihâb al-Din Suhrawardi believed existence or ‘reality’ as Light. Around this concept, he developed Al-Ishraqi or a “philosophy of illumination.” In part inspired by Muslim scholars Avicenna and Al Ghazali and pre-Islamic Zoroastrianism, his treatise also had Greek, Buddhist and, notably Kemetic (or Ancient Egyptian) influences. Perhaps this is why Sultan Salah-al-Din felt his teachings were a danger to Islam, and martyred this 36 old Persian (Iranian) thinker. But death didn’t put his light out; a century later on to today, the great Turkish poet Mevlana Jalalludin Rumi brought to millions this message of light and love.
In hymns, songs, poems, plays, and paintings Kemetic thinkers and artisans speak volumes about light. Their architects designed temples, at Karnak and Abu Simel in the manner of prisms to focus the dawning sunlight from the outer gate into a laser-like ray down a long corridor to its inner sanctum or Holy-of-Holies. Rituals were developed to amplify and channel that light back to the worshippers outside its perimeter. The 4500 years old Great Pyramid of Pharaoh Khufu was called, "the place of ascension into glorious light," suggesting a function other than a tomb– transformation. Throughout later pyramid texts of Pharaoh Pepi I for example, transformation ideas are prominent. The Kemetic Book of Going Forth as Light, popularly, the Book of the Dead was a compilation of numerous texts: Its secret purpose was enlightenment – before death, not after.
Pharaoh Akhenaten, the 14th Century B.C.E. so-called heretic king pushed the envelope, advancing a radically new science-based theology of light, detailing in a hymn– relationships of the 'Oneness' of all there is and uniqueness of each manifestation'. In the journal, Orient (1988), Egyptologist, Jan Assmani contends in Akhenaten's system, "the concept of "One" had not only a theological, but physical meaning: the One is the source of cosmic existence..."This truth is not a question of faith and fidelity such as the truth of Biblical monotheism...but of cognition." Assman adds, that faint, frayed red threads of this idea run through diverse traditions including Greek (Hermeticist and NeoPlantonic), as one of the foundational truths of Chinese Taoist thought yin-yang and Indian Vedic, Buddhist and Tantric Dharma traditions as the 'light of consciousness', virmasa prakashya (Sanskrit); and traces are seen in 17th and 18th century European theologians, historians and philosophers writings.
Akhenaten's conceptual breakthrough was that light be explained both as a manifestation of solar energy, and time, leading him to reject the fundamental materialistic basis of existence. This anticipates some philosophical aspects Einstein's discoveries of the relationship between matter, energy and time and of Quantum theory by three thousand years. How could Akhenaten know this? Was he a closet mystic? It is known he did not worship the physical sun, Aten, as many mistakenly believe, but as he refers it the ‘light-which-is-in-his-disk’ – Ma’at! Ma'at was the Kemetic concept representing cosmic and social compassion, reciprocity, justice, truth, beauty and love. Akhenaten's mission was revealing the hidden or ‘dark light.’
Have you ever wondered, are these concepts on 'light' merely metaphors or metaphysical ruminations? Or are they hinting at deep insights or profound truths? And, “inner light:” Is there really anything to it? How might these claims be sorted out and tested? First it need be asked, what is meant by light and its relationship to darkness? Here’s a personal reflection. What seems now almost like a past life, when my family was making a cross-county drive from Chicago to California and one night I nervously watched the play of moonlight through trees twisting and turning by brisk winds that created shifting shadows which to my mind morphed into T- Rex. and other hauntings. Tired, my father pulled off the highway to rest. Sitting there, imagination running wild and unable to lessen my anxiety, I asked my mother could I get out of the car and stretch. And, looking at the beauty of the star-filled darkness, awe struck, my fears faded as I wondered why the sky was black.
Generations of cosmologists, scientists who study the big picture of the cosmos have asked the same question. Though they still have no sure answers, there are some new clues. At a recent conference, some German scientists reported, that by using very sophisticated and sensitive measuring instruments, they theorize that during the first moments of the dawning of the cosmic light, “dark matter” – the missing or hidden mass and glue that holds galaxies and stars together was formed. Maybe this is why the sky appears black.
If dark matter or weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) is 30% of the universe’s mass, then stars are only the tip of the iceberg. The iceberg the German physicists believe, is the mysterious “dark energy” – a “dodgy, springy stuff thought embedded within ‘empty space.’” Others are not convinced. So, we come full circle back to Einstein’s and Akhenaten’s insights. Maybe this “stuff”, indeed all matter, is not stuff, but observable ‘event-related relationships’ between dark energy, information and consciousness – from micro through cosmic scales. Now that’s deep! On the human scale, one example of such a relationship is the ‘near death experience’ (NDE).
People who claim to have had a ‘near death experience’ report observations of inner-light. To them this light is unequivocally ‘real.’ It is not metaphor or metaphysical speculation. What may induce a NDE is some traumatic experience such that death appears imminent.
Such individuals describe very vividly their experience: They may have ecstatic feelings of beauty, timelessness, spacelessness, an incredible lightness of being, serenity and tranquility; they may be passing through a dark enclosed space like a tunnel or cave, drawn toward a pinpoint spot of light, which as they approach, expands and eventually envelopes them with a profound sense of peace; they may encounter other entities such as deceased family and friends in their glorified state or guardians, guides, or luminous beings, all of whom communicate via thought and exhibit qualities of love and compassion; and they may have a full disclosure life-review, with a self-appraisal of the karmic consequences of past actions and speech, both good and bad.
These experiences recall the “declarations of innocence” in the Kemetic Book of Going Forth as Light, Chapter 125, where the deceased declares he or she lived a 'ma'atic life' and Tibetan Buddhist "bardo" states of transitional consciousness during dying. What’s the point? Death is not instantaneous. Our thoughts, speech and actions determine our experience while living and dying. As there is no resent button, we should live being more accountable and not be a victim.
This science of inner-light was suspect until the groundbreaking work Zen and the Brain by neurologist, James Austin, M.D.v and Why God Won't Go Away by radiologist, Andrew Newberg, M.D.vi who both studied alternate states of consciousness. Their findings paint a different picture where prayer, meditation and mystical states are not necessarily hallucinations or emotional dysfunction, but moments of oneness, non- self centeredness and extraordinary well-ness. Phosphene patterns – stars, checkerboards, wavy lines as light you see from a blow to the head or having a migraine headache – as revealed in ubiquitous geometric symbols found on ancient pottery and rock and cave art worldwide, offer more evidence of the reality of inner-light. Yet, how is all these phenomena accounted?
Consider this. In many living organisms there are reaction centers, complexes of pigments and proteins that convert sunlight into potential chemical energy; hence exposure to light may cause such plants, algae, bacteria (and animals) to express new genes. During the 1930’s, a Russian scientist, Alexander Gurwitsch, while studying dividing cells found them to actually emit ultra-weak light. This is the dark light within! As above, so below. In the last three decades this new field of physics of the living state has taken off. It’s now known even DNA emits light. Last September, I attended a summer school in Germany on the light within our cells, and witnessed this first hand. Soon, your state of health will be assessed by the quality and intensity of your light in the manner of a device like the “Tricorder” used in the Star Trek film and television series.
As you can see, the word light has at least three connotations that deal with different aspects of human experience of the universe: There is light as a photon, a particle with zero mass and electrical charge, venerated by cultures worldwide as the sun. Every interaction in the physical world is mediated by 'light.' There is light as biophotons, information emissions or 'subtle energy,' known metaphorically as chi, prana or za, which allow cells and components of cells to communicate with each other. Lastly there is light in its psychophilosophical and spiritual conception as inner wisdom and enlightened consciousness. Light connects diverse disciplines.
Here’s bottom line: WE ARE LUMINOUS BEINGS. Our natural impulse is towards experiencing our light nature and generating goodness. You don’t have to wait to have a NDE or die to experience the light.