In theology, divine light (also called divine radiance or divine refulgence) is an aspect of divine presence, specifically an unknown and mysterious ability of God, angels, or human beings to express themselves communicatively through spiritual means, rather than through physical capacities.
The term light has been used in spirituality (vision, enlightenment, darshan, Tabor Light). Bible commentators such as John W. Ritenbaugh see the presence of light as a metaphor of truth, good and evil, knowledge and ignorance. In the first Chapter of the Bible, Elohim is described as creating light by fiat and seeing the light to be good. In Hinduism, Diwali — the festival of lights — is a celebration of the victory of light over darkness. A mantra in Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (1.3.28) urges God to ‘from darkness, lead us unto Light’. The Rig Veda includes nearly two dozen hymns to the dawn and its goddess, Ushas. And Buddhist scripture speaks of numerous buddhas of light, including a Buddha of Boundless Light, a Buddha of Unimpeded Light, and Buddhas of Unopposed Light, of Pure Light, of Incomparable Light, and of Unceasing Light.
Various local religious concepts exist:
- Inner light – Christian concept and Quaker doctrine
- Prakasa – Kashmiri Saiva concept of the light of Divine Consciousness of Siva
- An Noor – Islamic term and concept
- Ein Sof – in Rabbinic Judaism
- Tabor Light – in Eastern Orthodox theology
- Theoria – in Christian theology, illumination on the path to theosis
- Ayat an-Nur – in Arabic, the Sign of Light
Light is the core concept in Iranian mysticism. The main roots of this thought is in the Zoroastrian beliefs, which defines The supreme God Ahura Mazda as the source of light. This very essential attribute is manifested in various schools of thought in the Iranian Religions and philosophy. Later this notion has been dispensed into the whole Middle East, having a great effect of shaping the paradigms of different religions and philosophies emerging one after another in the region. After the Arab invasion, this concept has been incorporated into the Islamic teachings by Iranian thinkers, most famous of them Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi, who is the founder of the illumination philosophy.
Although this school had stemmed from the Iranian culture and beliefs, it has spread far into Europe and can be seen and traced in the teachings of the Enlightenment era, Renaissance movement, and even the secret cults as early Illuminati.
Manichaeism, the most widespread Western religion prior to Christianity, was based on the belief that god was, literally, light. From about 250-350 CE devout Manichees followed the teachings of self-proclaimed prophet Mani. Mani’s faithful, who could be found from Greece to China, believed in warring kingdoms of Light and Darkness, in “beings of light,” and in a Father of Light who would conquer the demons of darkness and remake the earth through shards of light found in human souls. Manichaeism also co-opted other religions, including Buddhist teachings in its scripture and worshipping a Jesus the Luminous who was crucified on a cross of pure light. Among the many followers of Manicheaism was the young Augustine, who later wrote, “I thought that you, Lord God and Truth, were like a luminous body of immense size, and myself a bit of that body.” When he converted to Christianity in 386 CE, Augustine denounced Manicheaism. But by then, the faith had been supplanted by ascendant Christianity. Manichaeism’s legacy is the word Manichaean — relating to a dualistic view of the world, dividing things into either good or evil, light or dark, black or white.
In the terminology of Sant Mat, Light and Sound are the two main and expressions of God and from them all the creation comes into existence. Inner Light (and Inner Sound) can be experienced with and after an initiation by a competent Guru during meditation, and are considered the better way to reach Enlightenment.
Eastern Orthodox Church
In the Eastern Orthodox tradition, the Divine Light illuminates the intellect of man through “theoria” or contemplation. In the Gospel of John, the opening verses describe God as Light: “In Him was life and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it.” (John 1:5)
In John 8:12, Christ proclaims “I am the light of the world”, bringing the Divine Light to mankind. The Tabor Light, also called the Uncreated Light, was revealed to the three apostles present at the Transfiguration.
- “Light as Metaphor of Truth (Forerunner Commentary)”. Bible Tools. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- “Religions – Hinduism: Diwali”. BBC. 2010-10-20. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
- Bruce Watson, Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age. Bloomsbury 2016, p. 32.
- Bruce Watson, Light: A Radiant History from Creation to the Quantum Age. Bloomsbury, 2016, p 30.
- Kirpal Singh (1999). Naam or Word. Blaine, WA: Ruhani Satsang Books. ISBN0-942735-94-3
- ‘Intellect’ in Glossary page 432, The Philokalia, The Complete Text Volume 4, translated by Palmer, Sherrand and Ware, published 1995 Faber and Faber.
- Gregory Palamas. Declaration of the Holy Mountain In Defence of Those who Devoutly Practise a Life of Stillness. Text 4 (Philokalia, Volume 4)
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