Light and Spirituality — Metaphor or Real?

Shared by Rev. Dana Horton

This time of year we see the term “Light” used all the time in religious ceremonies and festivals. What is going on here?

Religious symbolism. Judaism, Buddhism, and most other religions incorporate the concept of light as a symbol of good. Specifically, in Christianity light is a symbol of holiness, goodness, and wisdom (e.g. Paul and the Road to Damascus). It is God’s grace (we’re not sure exactly what “grace” means, but we’ll unpack that in a future post). Darkness is associated with evil, sin, and despair. That is pretty much what we’d expect from Christianity — clear distinctions between good and evil.

Even non-religious philosophy incorporates light as a symbol of knowledge (think Plato’s allegory of the cave). 

And there’s Prometheus stealing the fire (knowledge) of the gods in Greek mythology.

We’re fine with all this symbolism. But we can only take so much of it before we start looking for something … how do we say … more substantive. So let’s turn to light in other venues.

Meditation. We’re a big proponent of meditation. According to long-time meditators, a ‘good’ session might result in the practitioner experiencing light entering and filling the body with a sense of spiritual connection. We’re not exactly sure if this is symbolic or something more substantive (is it an oxymoron to use “spiritual” and “substantive” in the same sentence?). We have done hours of meditation over the years, and have never experienced light or colors like some practitioners report. However, just because this writer has not had a personal experience does not eliminate the possibility that there is a light and it is doing something positive in or around the body.

We are certainly not going to dismiss the practice of meditation. Whether or not there is truth in this “light” concept during the process, neuroscience experiments consistently show the benefits to the body/brain from practicing meditation. 

Near Death Experiences. Let’s turn to light and near death experiences. In interviews with those who have had near death experiences, there is a consistent (but not 100%) correlation to having an experience of a brilliant light source on the “other side.” We understand the skepticism about the validity of these encounters (and we are fine without having our own personal experience to report on). But the preponderance of these experiences is a reasonable indicator that “light” may be something more than just a symbol. 

And finally, we have reports (both in publications and from reputable personal friends) which say they witnessed a ball of light outside the person’s body at the time of death. Bizarre? Yes. Real? We’ll all know eventually … or not.