By Michael Strelcheck
As I was driving around my neighborhood the other night, I was startled by the fact that it had been magically transformed by LIGHT. Perhaps I was in denial about the march of winter’s encroaching darkness and the shortening of the days, or maybe I was just daydreaming, but in the gathering darkness my vision was suddenly filled with house after house twinkling with radiant points of light! Although it was obvious (after I thought about it for a moment) that my neighbors had started to turn on their lights for the holiday season; nevertheless the awakening to the light’s presence impacted me in a surreal way. For a second it seemed as if I was looking into the night sky, seeing stars gathered in their particular constellations drifting effortlessly along the Milky Way. I suddenly felt excited, and like a young child, I was filled with a sense of wonder. “How cool was that!” I thought as I came back to reality. The experience got me thinking about LIGHT and how it can grab our attention.
From the very dawn of time the light of the sun has been revered as the life-giver, that which takes away the darkness of the world and embodies the good, the righteous and the true. Light has always held a central place in the many cosmologies of the religious and spiritual traditions of not only our country but those of the world. All things were understood as coming from darkness and eventually entering into light. All that is, was believed to be the result of the interplay between the fundamental expressions of LIGHT and DARK. In Genesis we read, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void and darkness were upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 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 the darkness.” Maybe that’s why humans are instinctively nervous when they find themselves in unfamiliar territory at night?
When the sun in all its majesty sinks out of view each evening, another type of light, resembling a delicate filigree, appears in our view. The silvery light of the night sky, subtly illuminated by millions of stars, grabbed the attention of the early human mind, captivating its interest. Ancient civilizations were fascinated with uncovering the mysteries of the silver light of the night sky, and from this fascination sprung forth the many myths through which the heavens could reveal themselves. In time, these civilizations began to scientifically “chart” the lights in the night sky, establishing the science of Astrology, of which was said to have lead the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem for the birth of the world’s savior, known also as the “Light of the World.”
Traditionally speaking, LIGHT is considered the symbol of “conscious awareness” in beings. Theosophical writings propose that many millions of years ago a great event, called “individualization,” took place. In that far distant time, there occurred a down-pouring of the light of consciousness into the earth, which ignited the spark of mind in the early humanoid awakening their ability to consciously think. This event, in the Greek myth wherein Prometheus stole “fire” from the Gods, began the evolution of human consciousness.
When we consider our country’s identity through the lens of our spiritual heritage, we find that the use of “light” stands out. From our most sacred holidays to many of our cherished images, the symbolic use of light can be seen. Our beloved Statue of Liberty holds a torch of fire – illuminating the way out of the darkness of ignorance and into the light of understanding. The celebration of our national birthday on July 4th is punctuated by the use of “rocket’s red glare” that brings forth explosions of LIGHT in the overhead sky. These displays arouse our wonder and awe inspiring profound oooh’s and aaah’s from deep within our soul. And of course, the holiday of Christmas is arguably our most lavish use of light, where we hang streams of lights all over the place, illuminating them for weeks on end. These lights warm our hearts and help us feel closer to one another.
Perhaps one of the better examples of our national conscience and its relationship to LIGHT was highlighted by the recent passing of former President George H.W. Bush “41.” Speakers at his funeral singled out Bush’s belief in volunteerism and his phrase “a thousand points of light,” which offered a vision of a network of volunteers serving the nation’s common good. His son said his father “strongly believed that it was important to give back to the community and country in which one lived.” He did just that by turning this vision into a nonprofit group, the Points of Light Foundation that survives him, quietly works behind the scenes in communities throughout our country. “He recognized that serving others enriched the giver’s soul,” the younger Bush said. “To us, his was the brightest of a thousand points of light.”
There are many other examples of our use of LIGHT as a metaphor for “understanding” such as an image of a lightbulb turning-on above one’s head or when asking another to “shed some light on a situation,” as well as the liberating suggestion of “letting your light shine.” Fascinatingly, if the myths are true, all humans, within their psyche, are connected through an inner LIGHT (whether recognized or not) and our nation’s holidays remind us of that. With that in mind, the next time you encounter a bright light it may remind you of the Spirit that unites us all.