Our spiritual traditions world over honor light as an expression of the Divine. Consider the African tradition.
“Beautiful you rise, O eternal living god!
You are radiant, lovely, powerful,
Your love is great, all-encompassing.
Your rays make all radiant,
Your brightness gives life to hearts,
When you fill the Two Lands with your love.” (Praise to the Aten, eighteenth Dynasty, 1550-1305 B.C., Kemet, Egypt)
To talk of Creation is to talk about light. This is evident in so many creation stories from that of Akhenaten in Egypt above to that of Genesis and Psalm 104 and the prologue to John’s Gospel in the Bible as well as mystical works of Judaism such as the Zohar and the Kaballah and also today’s Creation story from science. Let us revisit the latter.
The originating power that brought forth a universe made reality such that stars, lizards and supernovas would all blaze with the same numinous energy that flared forth at the dawn of time. The first of the atoms, hydrogen, was special because photons or light waves could pass through them without ever being obstructed. Hydrogen becomes a special conductor for light to move through. The eventual birth of supernovas was an explosive light burst, whose intensity outshines even a galaxy of two hundred billion stars.
Albert Einstein said in the early part of the last century that “all I want to do is study light.” As the century drew to a close, we could begin to glimpse what science is learning through light and about light. Light drives all energy systems. Plants and we eat light, breathe light, drink light and transform light into energy. Light is far more prevalent in the universe than is matter—indeed, for every molecule of matter there are one billion particles of light!
The Egyptian prayers to the sun as well as the aboriginal rituals that follow the sun’s path from rising to setting are seeming more and more wise every day. Part of the scientific contribution to light at this time in human history is to insist on the need to become sustainable again. Climate crisis is telling us in very loud terms that we are on a death path—the medicine includes the practical application of solar awareness. Sun energies are uniquely renewable and sustainable—the time when humans ran their enterprises on fossil fuels coming to a close. We must rediscover light or perish.
If we are to fit into creation once again instead of attempting to stand outside it and control it (and in the process killing it), then we must imitate nature’s source of energy. As physicist Fritjof Capra puts it: Ecosystems differ from individual organisms in that they are…open with respect to the flow of energy. The primary source for that flow of energy is the sun. Solar energy, transformed into chemical energy by the photosynthesis of green plants, drives most ecological cycles.
Adapted from Matthew Fox, One River, Many Wells: Wisdom Springing from Global Faiths, pp. 50-52.
Queries for Contemplation
Does this meditation on light reinforce the bigger picture of climate change and the invitation and requirement that we learn to harness light instead of fossil fuels? How can our spiritual traditions that link Divinity and Light assist us to move in this more sustainable and demanding direction?
Matthew Fox calls on all the world traditions for their wisdom and their inspiration in a work that is far more than a list of theological position papers but a new way to pray—to meditate in a global spiritual context on the wisdom all our traditions share. Fox chooses 18 themes that are foundational to any spirituality and demonstrates how all the world spiritual traditions offer wisdom about each.