Years ago I was given a vision. Sometimes, when I’m in a trance state I go deep to places that are not me. My inner sight shows me things I do not always understand and I am presented with mysteries that echo through my life. These are the threads of image and form that bind and separate my ideas, guiding me. I consider these visions to be gifts from the Gods. Often they are deceptively simple.
In this case, I saw an image of a white circle. I felt within me a powerful urge to look at the circle and it stayed in my field of view for an extended moment. Then it flipped in an instant and became a black circle. Again the form of a black circle held itself in my mind for a long breath. I felt within me how important this vision was. I knew that I must attend to this, that there was a meaning here that far exceeded the simplicity of what I was seeing.
So I watched.
I watched as the circle began to flip again and again. Back and forth, black and white like a spinning coin in my mind. With each change it accelerated. It was both ebony and ivory in that moment and neither of them, too. The crispness of the black versus the white was important as well. The message that came to me was that they were separate, and yet the same, never becoming grey in my mind. I had no idea why this was significant. I came out of my meditations feeling like I had been given some great gift, except that I had no idea what that gift was.
Fast forward to Yule this year, and I’ve been gifted a book penned by a Sufi teacher of the Naqshbandiyya-Mujaddidiyya Order. It’s called The Darkening of the Light by Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee and is a compilation of essays about his visions of the birth and death of a new Earth-soul that is the beginning of an era of non-materialism and unity. These essays span the time from 2004-2012. It is, in many ways, a beautiful book. He writes about the Light overcoming the Darkness and how we must all come together in unity against the Darkness of greed, commercialism, and destruction. He speaks eloquently against our global need to consume vast resources and waste our children’s future. Slowly he descends into frustration as he watches the newborn Light of the World weaken, fade, and finally disappear.
I feel his pain in many ways. Ecological degradation, species extinction, and dwindling resources should be on everyone’s mind. But like many other spiritual leaders I have met or learned from, he cannot understand why everyone isn’t just WAKING UP! He wants to know why everyone hasn’t just gotten on that bandwagon, taken up the call, and got busy saving the gosh darn planet!? I think there are a lot of reasons.
One of them is Darkness.
Darkness is a metaphor. We see it constantly. The Dark is selfishness and greed. It is big corporations trampling the little guy. It is the man in a suit, the demon, the devil, death. Darkness = Bad. Every time I read it I cringed.
I know now a part of why my vision was so vastly important to me. Evil does not equal Darkness. The same discomfort and unhappiness that I feel when someone says the word Nigger trails after the word Darkness.
Except everyone uses this one. It’s the Dark side of the Force. It’s the Dark before Dawn, It’s there in our words, and in the words of the ancients. The pre-Hindu peoples of the Vedas were obsessed with the light:
Bring us the light
The heavenly light
And all things that make us happy
Make us more perfect
Day after day we come to you
Who enlightens the darkness, O Agni,
Bringing with us our prayerful vision
Where the unfailing light shines,
In which world the sun is placed:
Place me in that immortal world beyond harm, O purifier.
Darkness totally freaked them out. Again and again we see metaphors for the light as positive and the dark as negative.
But this is a polarizing viewpoint. It creates a mentality where there are two options and only two. One of these options is good, and one bad. Again, we see this everywhere. Republicans and Democrats, war and peace, science and religion, even Coke versus Pepsi.
But we know this to be incorrect. There are limitless answers in the universe. People go to war out of love, people are inspired to study the world by religion and frankly I don’t like Coke or Pepsi. Life is so much more complicated than that.
The world is so vast and both the Darkness and the Light need room to move and be explored as metaphors for beauty and strength. As either end of a spectrum of visual understanding they represent both the beginning and the end. Both are important. So the next time that someone talks about Darkness as Evil try to think of a different metaphor. Stretch your mind to reach into new territory. As pagans we are the ideal tribe to do so. As ritualists and word smiths working within a young religion we have the room to create new visions. Is this not the job of the Tribe of the Outsiders?
Certainly I am not the first person to say these things, and I hope I will not be the last. I would charge each person who reads this to find ways to speak of hope and life in metaphors of darkness. Both the Light and the Dark are essential to the coming days. I felt pity for Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee’s vision of a loss of soul and sacredness of the earth and her people. But I know in my heart that real change doesn’t come from visions unless vision drives action in this world. Just like people who cast money spells but don’t fill out job applications, we can choose to live in apathy and fear or we can choose to see our world for what it is and do something about it. I choose to embrace the Dark.
I will leave you with a poem I wrote some time ago, may it be pleasing to you, dear reader:
In the darkness all things abide. In the light all things collide.
I am one, I am all, I am the sacred nothing.
I turn through the wheel and see to the very edge of all things.
So far away, so far away.
I am connected to my self by a thin silver line of hope.
So far away, so far away.
I go into the darkness, I go into the light,
I go into the eternal fight
so far away, so far away.
I am tattered feathers lost in flight
I am battle blessed, it is lost and won
I am the many, I am the one.
So far away, so far away.