God as darkness

I have a close relative who had a relatively brief out-of-body experience as a child when she died and was resuscitated. She generally prefers not to talk about this experience and would rather people not know of it, but she did tell me the story once. I’ve never forgotten it, but it only served to whet my curiosity to know more. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by the reports of people’s experiences like this.

There was a recent one published in Newsweek by a neurosurgeon who had always been skeptical of the reality of life-after-death experiences. In enjoyed reading his account with his neurological understanding of what was happening to him woven into the story, but there was one particular part of the story that particularly caught my attention.

At one point during his experience, he entered an area that he describes as “an inky darkness that was also full to brimming with light.” (See page 3 of the online article.) While he doesn’t spend much time on this part of the story, he does mention that a 17th-century Christian poet made a similar reference to a place that was “the home of the Divine itself.”

I have always thought of God as being Light, so the idea of God being both “an inky darkness” AND “full to brimming with light” made me pause. I don’t know how to picture what that combination would be like, and yet there is a sense of intuitive rightness in that description.

I think of God as being the perfect balance in all things—both male and female, both just and merciful, both silent and communicating—so it makes sense that God would also be both darkness and light. After all, our lives as humans are always a blend of darkness and light in our experiences, our motivations, our emotions, our thoughts.

I am not a theologian (nor do I play one on TV), so I can’t even begin to explain this. But I do know that this thought brings me comfort. It is comforting to think of God being the light in the darkness that I experience, and how much more comforting it is to think that God is the light and the darkness in every experience.

I should be clear and say that I do not think of darkness as evil and light as good, as many people think of it. I think of darkness more as the unknown, the shadows (mine and others) that I cannot see clearly, the doubts, the fears, the hard stuff of life that we all must walk through in order to grow. I am not at all saying that I think God causes evil or is evil, nor even that God causes pain or suffering. I am simply saying that God is as much that which is unknown as that which is known, that God is just as present in the hard stuff as in the blessings, that God encompasses every bit of our experience.

I may be wrong. But isn’t that part of what living in faith is? Doing my best to live within the understanding I’ve been given while always being open to grow into greater understanding—even when that means accepting that an earlier understanding was wrong?

And in this moment, I find my faith enlarged by this idea of God as “an inky darkness that was also full to brimming with light.” I am comforted by an image of the Divine that can be present with me in every aspect of life, the light and the darkness.

“… even the darkness is not dark to you, the night is as bright as the day, for the darkness is as light to you.” (Psalms 139:12, NRSV)

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2 thoughts on “God as darkness

  1. KJ, I agree with your comments and can easily see that God is both “inky darkness” and “full to brimming with light”… I’ve been there! I didn’t exactly understand it that way at the time, but now it makes perfect sense, although probably not in the way you might think.
    When I was 7 years old I had a dream. In my dream I was woken and rocketed into the farthest reaches of outer space. The place where I landed was pitch black and I hovered there for the duration of my visit. In the distance, I saw a ring of clouds surrounding me from the horizon very far away, but moving in on me with great speed as if a stadium of waves were rushing towards me. When they stopped, I was inside the circle, much like standing in a football stadium only perfectly round. Cherub faces with wings on their heads began popping out the clouds and filling the arena as if watching some great event. Soon the brightest light I could ever imagine stood beside me in the form of a man. For a moment, I stood behind myself and could see that proportionately he was maybe ten stories tall to my three feet or so. He placed his right arm around my shoulders and spoke to me in a fatherly voice, which I will never forget. He said, “Don’t be afraid. You are going into another life, but I will always be with you.” I woke up.
    Long story short, my mother took me to our Congregational minister after I told her about the dream. She was worried about me and thought the minster would set me straight. After he explained about reincarnation, I asked him if he believed in it. Obviously at age 7, I had no idea what this was and couldn’t have made up the dream. When he said he believed in reincarnation, my mother nearly fell off the chair. That wasn’t what she wanted to hear. I have never doubted that reincarnation occurs because of this experience. Why would I? I also believe (now) that God is in the darkness as well as the light. Quantum physics theory supports it as well in that in between all the molecules, comprised of the space between the smallest bit of mass we know of, is not a vacuum but an intelligence we can prove exists but can’t explain. If you’re interested, read “The Intention Experiment” by Lynn McTaggart. Fascinating stuff! God is everywhere… in the spaces in between everything else.

    • Wow! What a dream and what a story! That is so beautiful. Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with me.
      Thanks, too, for the reading recommendation. I’ll check it out!

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