The Light that Shines in Darkness

The New Age movement has given women more significance and more power of expression than art, science or politics of the last century. It is said to have been originated by Madame Blavatsky, who was a co-founder of the Theosophical Society. The chief idea behind the new age spirituality, as unveiled and put forward by Blavatsky, was a belief in panhuman fraternity without distinction of religion, color, caste or race. At the source of all cultures lies a primordial, unified tradition, which is obfuscated by sectarian conflicts and cultural differences. As divinity was believed to rest within every man’s and woman’s psyche, the theosophical emphasis lay on the individual religious experience rather than an adoption of outside, objective cultural forms of cult. As Gary Lachman wrote in a section dedicated to Blavatsky in his A Dark Muse: A History of the Occult:

“At the centre of the mass of doctrines about reincarnation, past lives, astral planes, higher consciousness and spiritual evolution was the formidable, electric and roguish figure of Madame Blavatsky. It is true that the world was waiting for something like theosophy to arrive. Bereft of God through the rise of science, and flooded with a triumphant materialist doctrine, thousands of individuals who sought spiritual guidance found themselves adrift in an indifferent universe. With its broad message of universal brotherhood, spiritual truth and cosmic mysteries, theosophy appealed to both the devout ascetic and the late-Romantic.”

I have not read The Secret Doctrine in its entirety, though I have approached the task and read longer passages, which I found very worthwhile. As the moon is dark right now, I was drawn to a particularly illuminating quote about light and darkness:

 “Darkness is Father-Mother: light their son, says an old Eastern proverb. Light is inconceivable except as coming from some source which is the cause of it; and as, in the instance of primordial light, that source is unknown, though as strongly demanded by reason and logic, therefore it is called ‘Darkness’ by us, from an intellectual point of view. 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 versa. 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.”

What is dark to the scientific mind, is gray twilight to the average mystic but absolute light to the Initiate. The clarity of inner vision is unrelated to the presence or absence of what we profanely understand as light. In the following beautiful poem, the divine is seen and experienced most clearly by direct participation in different geographical zones: the I of the poem, in a sequence of incarnations, was a Celtic ornament, an oar from Ithaca, a bump of clay in a Navajo rug in Native America, a stone in Tibet, and a tongue of bark in the dark heart of Africa. When he just was his vision was clearer and more immediate than the one possessed by his present self – the anthropologist – equipped with all the contemporary trappings of scientific measurement and observation.

“Lives” [for Seamus Heaney], by Derek Mahon 

First time out
I was a torc of gold
And wept tears of the sun.

That was fun
But they buried me
In the earth two thousand years

Till a labourer
Turned me up with a pick
In eighteen fifty-four

And sold me
For tea and sugar
In Newmarket-on-Fergus.

Once I was an oar
But stuck in the shore
To mark the place of a grave

When the lost ship
Sailed away. I thought
Of Ithaca, but soon decayed.

The time that I liked
Best was when
I was a bump of clay

In a Navaho rug,
Put there to mitigate
The too god-like

Perfection of that
Merely human artifact.
I served my maker well

He lived long
To be struck down in
Tucson by an electric shock

The night the lights
Went out in Europe
Never to shine again.

So many lives,
So many things to remember!
I was a stone in Tibet,

A tongue of bark
At the heart of Africa
Growing darker and darker …

It all seems
A little unreal now,
Now that I am

An anthropologist
With my own
Credit card, dictaphone,

Army-surplus boots
And a whole boatload
Of photographic equipment.

I know too much
To be anything any more;
And if in the distant

Future someone
Thinks he has once been me
As I am today,

Let him revise
His insolent ontology
Or teach himself to pray.

by Alex Grey

by Alex Grey

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26 Responses to The Light that Shines in Darkness

  1. litebeing says:

    This is so rich Monika that it will require at least one re-read for me. I now have a better grasp on the origins of New Age, which is a term I have come to resent and reject.

    You may enjoy this article. I have been fortunate to spend many meals and evenings here. The energy is wonderful!

    http://articles.philly.com/1988-05-07/news/26260563_1_writings-theosophists-hindu

    love,
    Linda

  2. Don says:

    The quote on Darkness and Light is superb Monika. Thank you. Great post.

  3. This is ultra-beautiful.

  4. ambfoxx says:

    I’m trying to remember if Yeats associated with Madame Blavatsky. I read his autobiography a long time ago and I see to recall a connection.
    Wonderful choice of poems.

  5. Hi Monika.

    I hope you are doing well. I was originally exposed to Blavatsky in college, where I had to read excerpts as part of my Yeats class. After college, I attempted to read Secret Doctrine and got about halfway through the first volume, then my mind told me to stop. I may attempt it again at some point, but likely I will read Isis Unveiled first. Have not tried that one yet 🙂

    Jeff

  6. I am a big fan of Theosophy and Blavatsky, although I have bought “The Secret Doctrine” for a friend I do not own a copy myself. I must remedy that. Great presentation as always Monika.

  7. Pingback: The Light that Shines in Darkness | lampmagician

  8. “There is in God (some say) a deep but dazzling darkness.”
    ― Henry Vaughan

    Henry Vaughan (17 April 1621 – 23 April 1695) was a Welsh author, physician and metaphysical poet. I love the above quotation, and used it as the basis for the title of my book “Wisps from the Dazzling Darkness”. Many thanks for this post, Monika. I am familiar with Blavatsky’s work – she made a great contribution to our understanding in the 20th/21st centuries that all energy arises from the same Ground…

  9. Spiral Light says:

    Reblogged this on Weaving Among The Stars.

  10. Mme Blavatsky and theosophy – i once many years ago went to spend a month with my sister in Bangalore in a house which on the ground floor had been occupied by Anne Besant and Jiddu Krisnamurti – followers lived on the ground floor and we got acquainted with theosophy – your piece inspires me to say ‘do not make too much of this light for the goddess is dark as this new moon, so too Krishna and Rama – withdrawing inversely from you your soul’s light in exquisite union and delight as you blend into the perfection of darkness, suffused and scattered in unidentifiable indigo bliss’
    thanks for the inspiration.

    • Dear Indrajit,
      “Do not make too much of this light for the goddess is dark” – I would gladly etch these words indelibly in a deep memory vault. I actually relish darkness, appreciate it immensely and worship its deep symbolism.
      Thank you very much.
      Monika

  11. even in the photo locking eyes with her gives one vertigo

  12. Love the article, the quotes, the poem, the images!

  13. On second reading new thoughts arise!

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