Darkness, Page One

From the "Light" essay, we can empirically grasp that darkness, in the present state of creation, is virtually synonymous and coextensive with matter. And we've seen that the descent of the human soul into the darkness of matter during Earth evolution was triggered by the events portrayed by the myth in the third chapter of Genesis, the temptation and Fall from the Garden. Moreover, we have seen that the "veil of the temple," when profoundly understood, is none other than our mineral-physical body, our body of matter—what keeps us from seeing the true light of the human soul and spirit (Heb 10,20; 9,3,8; Mt 27,51; Mk 15,38; Lk 23,45).1

Today darkness is generally defined as the absence of light. Yet this understanding, at least from the scientific standpoint, comes about only from phenomena related to matter. Our instruments (whether the physical eye or something humanly contrived) can only observe light when it falls upon matter. Light itself cannot be seen. Even where light is present, it must fall upon matter to be observed, and thus to be phenomena. In other words, we call emptiness darkness, even when infused with light, until the latter falls upon matter. In the mineral-physical realm light remains a mystery to science, acting in ways that defy understanding according to scientific principles. This alone is a "sign" of deep significance.

When we profess faith in the idea that Christ is the light of the world (e.g., Jn 1,4-9; 8,12), we do not speak in terms of phenomena. We saw earlier that light dies in the process of becoming matter (I-22), just as it dies upon striking the retina in the creation of the sense of vision.2 The miracle of Peter's declaration, "You are the Christ" (Mt 16,16), is that he was able in that moment to perceive the true light still clothed in a mineral-physical body.3

Putting the matter another way, if darkness is merely the absence of light, why does the Bible use such a variety of adjectives to describe it?4 The mirror image of the adjectives used to describe darkness is expressed by Isaiah when he prophesied a future event (Is 9,2, emphasis mine):

    The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.

He speaks not merely of light and darkness, but of great light and deep darkness. The polar relationship between light and darkness is reflected by the countless times they appear together in the same scriptural passage by way of contrast. Yet just as we cannot look directly at the light of the Sun, a light far, far below the great light of the Christ, nor can we see the "least part" of light, the photon—indeed we cannot even begin to approach either of these with our physical eye—so also are both the spiritual light and its polar opposite, spiritual darkness, beyond our present comprehension. Yet we can contemplate their unperceived existence, for scripture clearly points us in that direction, as do the phenomena the spiritual powers have given us, when properly observed. (Cf. Mt 16,3: "You know how to interpret [weather-wise] the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times." See also Lk 12,56).

But before we look more deeply at the polarity between light and darkness, let us take the universal phenomenon of color and compare the explanations of science with those of Goethe and Steiner. Why is the cloudless daytime sky blue and the sunset sky red? Science gives this answer, as set out in 11 Brit 397, "sunlight":

    On its path through the atmosphere the solar radiation is absorbed and weakened by various constituents of the atmosphere. It is also scattered by air molecules and dust particles. Short wavelengths of light, such as blue, scatter more easily than do the longer red wavelengths. . . . The light [when the sun is high overhead] encounters less dust and fewer air molecules than it would if the Sun were low on the horizon and its rays had a longer passage through the atmosphere. During this long passage the dominant blue wavelengths of light are scattered and blocked, leaving the longer, unobstructed red wavelengths to reach the Earth and lend their tints to the sky at dawn and dusk.

I find no hint that this has been empirically shown. It bears the clear stamp of the kinetic, theoretical exposition so typical of scientific thought, quickly accepted by an uncritical laity. In contrast, Steiner has shown, by simple, directly observable experiment, why the daytime sky is blue and the sunset sky is red. Look again at the text explaining Figures 9 and 10 in the "Light" essay. When we look through darkness at light, red and yellow tones appear. Thus, when we look through the darkness of the Earth's atmosphere at the light from the Sun, as one does at sunset, red and yellow colors appear. The redness of thin clouds, or their perimeters near but outside the direct path of sunlight at sunset is due to the redness given off by the "refraction" of sunlight, as through the narrower portions of the prism in Figures 2, 3 and 4 in the "Light" essay. Conversely, when we look through light-filled space at darkness, blue colors appear. Thus, during the day when we look into the sky, not being able to look at the light of the Sun itself but rather looking through our nearby atmosphere filled with that light, the darkness of the outer material atmosphere itself is seen as blue.

The ignoring of phenomena such as this (as well as all that was set out in the "Light" essay) by Newtonian science precludes any true grasp of the nature of our biblical terms light and darkness. So a correct assessment of the phenomena is the starting point if we are to have any hope of comprehending these terms. And the phenomena lead us very clearly to an association of darkness with matter. Matter blocks physical light—this is obvious from the phenomenon of the shadow. And that matter blocks human consciousness was demonstrated in a most fundamental way by Steiner's illustration (in the "Light" essay) of the application of pressure to any point on the body.

But as important as this elementary level of understanding is, we cannot stop there if we wish to come to a more complete understanding of darkness. The prologue of John's Gospel sets out the contrast of light and darkness (Jn 1,5), whether the rather obscure Greek word katelaben5 is translated as "understand" or "overcome" (see fn 36 in the "Light" essay).

But if the biblical word "darkness" relates only to matter, we run into a problem in the first chapter of Genesis, for it appears there before the creation of matter (Gen 1,2,4,5,18; see the Creation essay). If we are to reach a deeper understanding, we must turn our attention to some of the most profound concepts that go all the way back to Evangelist's John's "In the beginning." Simply stated, we must recognize darkness as something that, at least if we are to utilize the concept of time, preexisted matter, for we find darkness in the first chapter of Genesis before matter came into being. Our problem is made no easier when we then recognize that in the unity of all things there is no time. We've seen earlier that space and time are neither independent nor eternal realities. Both are themselves phenomenal creations. And within space and time, polarity and rhythm are everywhere manifest.

If we are to deal adequately with the concept of darkness in its nonmaterial relationship to light, as the various biblical usages now require of us, we must go back to "the beginning." And in that venture we cannot leave behind what we have already observed. We must hold fast to the ancient concept of the image and then observe how, in the polar/rhythmic, creating and destroying nature of the fractal6, it is portrayed in the "imaging" characteristics of the four ethers and four elements as they fit into the cycle of life.


Light, Page 21

Darkness, Page 2