There was a moment, driving on the winding roads along the coast of Bodega Bay, that I nearly experienced a collision. It was dark, the only clarity of what was before me illuminated by the headlights of my car, while the darkness encompassed the majority of my periphery. All of a sudden, as I navigated the road’s contour, I slammed on my breaks fueled by panic and terror. No more than several feet ahead was a deer, standing in the middle of the road. Startled by the jarring halt of the mechanical beast, the creature leapt away into the darkness, a rapidly vanishing presence.
The light, although minimal, in casting its radiance, became a salvation, literally protecting me from what could have been a near death. Had there been no light, who knows what tragedy could have resulted, but it was enough to make known what I would never had been able to if it was shrouded in darkness.
Darkness, was not this evil presence, but it was saturated by unknowing. What was around me was hidden and my mind could not articulate what was covered by the shadow of the night, veiled by unseeing.
But the light, working in the midst of the darkness, was the agent of consciousness, bringing understanding to that which was unknown to me because of the shadowy obstruction.
However, this is not how light and darkness have been presented in our humanity and specifically in the religious community.
Light and darkness have been conveyed as though they are at odds with one another. This dualistic perspective sees light as good and darkness as bad or evil. Then, for certain reasons, we take human behaviors, actions, thoughts and feelings, give them a judgmental appraisal, and segregate them into these two categories.
As a result, not only do we judge others based on these labels, we first judge our own selves, striving to avoid the “bad” and with a white-knuckled disposition, strenuously do whatever we can to stay in the “good” lane. But if we somehow deviate outside the lines, we immediately are pummeled by shame, to which we respond by promising ourselves, others and the Divine that we will amplify our good behaviors to counter the shame we feel.
But we have wandered far away from the actual meaning of these two words, light and darkness; and because of the misinterpretation, it has drastically altered and sucked the life-giving power of them.
Here’s another example.
Imagine you are in your house and you begin to smell something that has an odor reminiscent of something deceased. As you follow the smell it leads you to the basement, but you do not have immediate access to the light, so you stumble around in the darkness, looking for some kind of light assistance so you can find and diagnose the source of that smell. Eventually, after a few minutes of fumbling for an illuminating aid, you find the light switch and turn it on.
Its radiance saturates the room and you continue in search of that mysteriously repulsive fragrance. Not too long into your sleuthing, you discover the carcass of a rat emanating the smell that initially caught your attention.
Once again, the darkness obstructed being able to find the source of nasal disturbance, and cloaked everything in the room, fusing it into a massively unknown presence. But once the light was accessed and activated, all objects became visible and distinct, and the root of the issue was found and addressed.
Light = Awareness / Darkness = Unawareness (And a Different Salvation)
Now, I want to translate this into our human existence.
Light and darkness refer to consciousness and unconsciousness, or in other words, what we see and are aware of inside ourselves and what we do not yet see. This means that our actions are fueled by this conscious awareness and/or an unconscious state of being.
It’s a fairly common human experience to feel lost and perplexed, following some reaction we had. This confusion speaks to a state of unawareness, a pre-seeing, one could say. Most of us are driven by the shadows present within ourselves, but enigmatically we are compelled and moved to live fully in the light, unguarded and uncovered. Some might call this a true human “nakedness”.
But how do we move towards and live fully in the Light? I will tell you one thing, it’s not about converting to a particular religion or believing certain religious constructs. Actually, it's far more exciting and vibrant that this.
In Scripture, Jesus sits down with his disciples and gives this profound, “state-of-the-union” address quite foreign to anything humanity has heard. Jesus flips the belief system upside down. His message shifts from focusing on pleasing the Divine, to connecting towards the true self and living in human skin in a whole new way, contrary to how mankind has operated; entrenched in shame, constantly in fear of the Divine Other, and responding to one another in destructive, disconnected, and dehumanizing ways.
Interestingly, and I believe with intention, he begins his teaching with the Beatitudes, which is the progressive journey of discovering our true selves and living out of this foundation, and then subsequently moves on to talk about being salt and light of the earth.
Jesus draws the person toward their own selves, to face and accept the truths within, leading to transformation and a new way of being.
Somehow that message fell into the throes of distortion.
So he talks about being the light of the world, a city on a hill, a lamp not to be covered, but to shine radiantly to all (you can look it up in Matthew). Some take this to mean that we trumpet the name of Jesus, convince others to join a specific religious team, say a little sinner’s prayer, and receive their ticket into heaven.
But this is so far from what Jesus is talking about. Instead the light he is referring to is this significant radiance that beams from within; a radiance that is imbued with self-awareness, one who has gone into the shadows of their own inner world.
When we talk about Jesus being this light, the richer understanding is that he is the consciousness, the illuminating awareness, that enabled humanity to begin to see inside themselves, to go into the “darkness” or the unconsciousness.
Those That Live In The Light Have Journeyed into Their Own Darkness
Those who emanate light is referring to those who have traveled inside, faced themselves, experienced and listened to the truth that is communicated within the emotional realm, the subterraneous chambers within. They stopped pushing dimensions of themselves away or living behind defenses. Instead, with openness and acceptance they learned from the “voices” that stirred inside.
They listened to the hate, the anger, their sexuality, their hunger, loneliness, emptiness, sadness, every desire, thought, feeling, behavior, need, judgment and so on. Instead of fixating on the problems of everybody else, they focused on what was happening within their own selves.
Those that live in the light, live in the truth and the truth was accessed, not from an outside source, but inside, deep within their own hearts. With tenacity and commitment, they fought through the overpowering presence of shame that would cause someone to pull away and not go into the uncomfortable parts. Instead they lived in the uncomfortable, the tensions, and the unknown, surrendering their relentless efforts to demystify the mysteries of life.
We have judged darkness as evil, but darkness in and of itself is not evil. It is true that evil can come from darkness, for evil is birthed out of unknowing. Evil is the reverse of life, a destructive, toxic force that seeks to harm the self and all in its path. However, to address evil, one must irradiate the source from which it comes, a heart absorbed with unprocessed anger and pain. The one who acts with evil intent has not yet acknowledged, owned nor vulnerably felt the hurt that he or she carries inside.
It is those that go into their darkness that not only learn, but discover they have a message to share to others, one rich in compassion, care, boldness, strength, genuineness and vulnerability.
To go into our “darkness” requires an openness to learning, growing, and sharing vulnerably everything that stirs inside ourselves. Those that have gone this path before us, become lights, beacons of consciousness, illuminating our dark spots, so that we may now understand and see. They walk with us, removing the impediments that block us from accessing our true self and expressing our message to all around.
Those who now operate within this state of consciousness, have experienced a beautiful care and compassion that they earnestly desire and reflexively share with all in the world. No longer do they live in exclusive and divisive realms, ostracizing those often hated and scapegoated by society. They operate by different rules, courageously sharing their truth, venturing into the “darkness” with others, helping them to face and no longer avoid seeing, in the hopes that they will move towards their true selves.
This, I find incredibly exciting, that we all are invited to be salvations to one another, which begins on a self-journey of embracing the whole package, shedding the hatred and fear towards that which lives inside of us. It is on this journey that we discover how to live and connect and it's such a radiant message that we instinctually cannot push down, nor hide or keep from others; nor would we ever want to.