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Love And Will
Meditation And Recollection
The First Form Of Contemplation
The Mystical Life
The Preparation Of The Mystic
The Second Form Of Contemplation
The Third Form Of Contemplation
The World Of Reality
What Is Mysticism?
Anaximenes And The Air
Animism, Ancient And Modern
Brooks And Streams
Development And Discipline Of Intuition
Earth, Mountains, And Plains
Fire And The Sun
Heracleitus And The Cosmic Fire
Light And Darkness
Man And Nature
Mystic Intuition And Reason
Mystic Receptivity
Nature Mysticism And The Race
Nature Not Symbolic
Nature, And The Absolute
Poetry And Nature Mysticism
Rivers And Death
Rivers And Life
Seasons, Vegetation, Animals
Springs And Wells
Still Waters
The Beautiful And The Ugly
The Charge Of Anthropomorphism
The Expanse Of Heaven--colour
The Immanent Idea
The Moon--a Special Problem
The Ocean
The Waters Under The Earth
Will And Consciousness In Nature
Winds And Clouds

Light And Darkness

Robert Fludd, the English Rosicrucian, who died in 1637, wrote
a treatise on the universe, in which he taught that man was a
microcosm of the macrocosm, and that light and darkness are
the two great principles of existence, the one of animate, the
other of inanimate nature. He held that soul and life are every
day shed from the sun upon all objects open to his beams. For
such doctrines as these he was denounced as practically an
atheist! Fortunately the times have changed, though we have
still much to learn in the way of rational tolerance and
sympathetic receptivity.

Who shall say how old is this idea of two distinct, and generally
opposing principles, the light and the dark? The Babylonian
cosmology carries us a long way back, but not to the beginning
of such mystical conceptions. For in that cosmology Marduk is
a well-developed god of light, with Tiamat as his antithesis, the
goddess of the dark, and the nature and course of the deadly
contest between them has taken form in a well-defined series of

One of the most obvious emotional effects of darkness is to
inspire fear, and there are few who have not in some degree and
on some occasions experienced a sense of discomfort in the
dark--a chill, or a shrinking, which in certain cases, especially
with children, may amount to terror. It is possible that we have
here, as is often contended, an organic reminiscence of the
experience of our remote ancestors. Certainly it is not difficult
for us to sympathise with the primitive dread of darkness, nor to
understand the transition to the conception of darkness as a
hostile power. But there is also an element which may be
regarded as simply personal and individual--a natural
anticipation of unknown dangers, and a sense of helplessness
should the apprehensions be realised. There is, moreover, an
element of a still more directly mystical character, that which
Everett describes as a feeling that in the darkness the familiar
world is swept away and that we are touching the limits of the
natural. Hence the chill of the unknown and supernatural.

However this may be, the fact remains that from the earliest
known times, there have been powers of darkness set over
against the powers of light; and the conflict between them has
suggested with exceptional vividness the conflict between good
and evil. The opening verses of the Bible, with their chaos and
darkness, and the sublime command--"Let there be light"--are in
line with a vast body of primitive myth and speculation which
represents the good God as the Creator of light, or as light itself
over against the dark. The mysticism of the prologue to St.
John's Gospel both represented and fostered ideas which were
current in the earliest Christian communities and have coloured
the whole of the primitive Christian literature.

So in the most ancient of the classical mythologies, Night was
one of the oldest deities, daughter of Chaos, and sister of
Erebus, the dark underworld. So in Persian dogmatic we have
the same essential concepts. From the beginning existed
uncreated light and uncreated darkness--the opposing kingdoms
of Ahura and Ahriman.

Who shall say what great cosmic facts lie behind these vague
and looming intuitions? The physical merges by insensible
degrees into the aesthetic, the moral, the spiritual. On the one
hand, the chill, the blankness, the negation, sometimes the
horror, of the darkness. And on the other hand the purity and
beauty, the colour and effulgence of the light--above all, its
joy-giving, life-giving, though noiseless, energy.

Coming down to the present, we ask if these mystic influences
of light and of darkness still retain their power. Can we doubt
it? We have Milton's Melancholy, "of Cerberus and blackest
Midnight born"--"where brooding darkness spreads his jealous
wings." All this no mere refurbishing of classical lore, but the
outcome of deep sympathy with the poets of the prime. And the
same is true of his buoyant lines that describe the breaking of
the day, when morn

"Waked by the circling hours, with rosy hand
Unbarr'd the gates of light."

In sympathy, too, with the old belief in Ahura's final victory is
Emerson's declaration that "the night is for the day, but the day
is not for the night."

Browning finely discriminates the grades of darkness in
Sordello, where he addresses Dante as

"pacer of the shore
Where glutted hell disgorgeth filthiest gloom,
Unbitten by its whirring sulphur-spume;
Or whence the grieved and obscure waters slope
Into a darkness quieted by hope;
Plucker of amaranths grown beneath God's eye
In gracious twilights where His chosen lie."

Homer and Job are at one in associating darkness with the
grave, and all that the grave implies. "Before I go whence I shall
not return, even to the land of darkness and the shadow of
death." Homer and Ecclesiastes are one in love of the sunlit sky:
"Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes
to behold the sun." And Shakespeare in fullest sympathy cries:

"See how the sun
Walks o'er the top of yonder eastern hill."

And sunrises and sunsets wake in Wordsworth's soul the
thought of

"The light that never was on sea or land."

And it is the world-old feeling of life and joy that breathes in
Blake's lines "To Morning":

"O holy virgin! clad in purest white,
Unlock heaven's golden gates and issue forth;
Awake the dawn that sleeps in heaven; let light
Rise from the chambers of the east, and bring
The honey'd dew that cometh on waking day.
O radiant morning, salute the sun,
Roused like a huntsman to the chase, and with
Thy buskin'd feet appear upon our hills."

But what of modern science? Does not that eliminate the mystic
element? Far from that, it increases it. The dominant theory is
that light is a sensation caused by waves in ether which travel at
a speed of 186,000 miles a second. Of this theory Whewell
wrote in 1857 that Optics had "reached her grand generalisation
in a few years by sagacious and happy speculations." But it was
not thus that a halting-place was gained. For there succeeded the
discoveries of Faraday, Clerk Maxwell, Hertz, and other great
physicists who used the old theory merely as a foundation for a
superstructure of unsuspected and wondrous proportions. The
theory of electrons came to the front, and the phenomena of
light are being linked on to those of electricity. The phenomena
of electricity, again, are being linked on to those of life. And
thus, as ever where our deepest intuitions are concerned, the
nature-mystic finds himself in harmony with and abreast of the
latest developments of modern knowledge.

At the dawn of human thought light and life were dimly but
persistently felt to be akin, if not identical. And now we know it
was a deep prompting of mother nature which caused men to
give to their divine beings the simple name--"the Bright Ones."

Next: The Expanse Of Heaven--colour

Previous: Fire And The Sun

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