In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. ~ Genesis 1:1-4
After the heavens and the earth, Light is listed as the first creation in the new world; the first word spoken by the Divine. In most mainstream Christian churches as well as American New Thought, the concept of LIGHT takes center stage, and for good reason!
Physicists have identified 4 forces in nature: the strong force, the weak force, electromagnetism and gravity. Electromagnetism is, in essence, light. Light is fundamental in physics, in spirituality, in life so it is easy to see how the pursuit of Light became a priority. Spiritual seekers often get caught up in chasing light, however; and forget that it was the CONTRAST that was noted in Genesis:
“God saw that the light was good and divided the light and the darkness.”
The darkness was not banished, demoted in rank or otherwise dismissed, and for good reason. Without darkness, light loses its importance. Take a flashlight and go out in the middle of a street at 12-noon in most cities in the lower 48-states across the U.S. Turn on the flashlight, and see what impact it has out in the middle of the day.
It has very little impact in this scenario, but take that very same flashlight and turn it on at 2:30am when the electricity has gone out as you’re trying to make your way to the bathroom without tripping over something and falling: in that context the same flashlight makes a major positive impact.
Modern New Thought has focused too long on the “feel good” aspect of things that it has – in my opinion – lost sight of the fact that in between the good times, life is messy, tumultuous and complex. This refusal to look at the totality of life in all its many forms has contributed to some writing New Thought off as a “get rich quick” scheme, while letting others down with a seeming unwillingness to address the realities of life – scoring all wins as due to treatment and all losses as due to “inadequate consciousness“.
If everything in life is supposed to be fixable by getting consciousness in the right place, how do we talk to people with real, painful problems?
We can’t, and the people who came to us for help are left to feel that they’re not doing something right – the exact opposite of what they need from us.
If the whole world was a mountain, we would never appreciate the majesty of the Alps, Rockies or Himalayas. If everyday was sunshine and butterflies, the beauty of these natural gifts would become mundane and non-special. If every encounter we have can be prayed away to our favor, how do we ever learn to grow by feeling the pain that comes with failure; meeting and overcoming challenges? The simple answer to that question is that we cannot.
In Jewish life the observance of Shabbat is intended to separate sacred time from the mundane, or common time with a beginning of the sacred time (lighting candles) as well as an end (Havdalah). It is a wise practice that can teach us much about the importance of contrast. In life there will be laughter and tears; heartache and joy; pleasure and pain. Spiritual traditions that stand the test of time recognize this, and build their beliefs and practices around a framework that supports people through ALL aspects of life.
April showers bring May flowers and light is never as welcome or as bright as when it shines through the darkest night. We will all walk through pain, and heartache and disappointment, and loss. That’s part of the journey on this planet, and spiritual tools like positive thinking, affirmative prayer and meditation can help us navigate these challenges, but mostly – a shared spiritual tradition helps us build a community of like-minded travelers who can hold our hands when we’re scared, wipe our tears when we cry, and celebrate with us when things work out.
The lesson of darkness and light is an ancient and important one – the yin and yang of all life, and one we would do well to respect.