Philosophical Connections (Part 3.3 of a 6 Part Series)

Philosophical Connections (Part 3.3 of a 6 Part Series)

Welcome back to our Culture & Climate series! Today, we discuss how cultures perceive light philosophically!

 


 

Light has many philosophical connotations, and is often used as a metaphor or symbol within several religions, discourses and general discussions. The philosophical interpretation of light in this manner almost exists as its third definition (the second definition referring to weight), that when we used the term ‘light’ we may not be specifically referring to the physiological phenomenon, but rather we use the term to describe either some emotional, aesthetic or sensual sensibility.  The Ying and yang from Chinese philosophy is a good example of such philosophical connotations. Black is the color of Yin, and white is the color of Yang. Within Yin is the seed of Yang and vice-versa, and as such, they form two complementary yet opposing forces- a oneness which contains apparent dichotomies. This is also translated as ‘light’ and ‘dark’, displaying how the definition of light can change.

 

 

The terms ‘darkness’ and ‘shadow’ also posses their own philosophical connotations. In Jungian psychology, the shadow or ‘shadow aspect’ is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses and shortcomings, a ‘darkness’ that is portrayed as an abscess or consuming void. Jung wrote that; “Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. In spite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness – or perhaps because of this – the shadow is the seat of creativity.”

 

The transition and relationship between light and darkness also has philosophical connotations as can be seen through Buddhist tradition, the Vedic scriptures (circa 6000BC) make the spiritual or poetic connection between knowledge and light with the Vedic mantra “Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya”, which translates as “From darkness to light”, where light is seen as knowledge and awareness. However it is acknowledged that nothingness ‘darkness’ is essential to the ability to attain enlightenment in both Zen and Buddhist meditation techniques.

 

There are even theories that surround how we perceive light in physics that challenge philosophical perspectives, and even create new ones. Manjoi Thulasidas, a physicist from CERN, writes about the time it takes for us to see what we call ‘light’ being emitted from the sun. It takes roughly eight minutes for the light to travel the distance from the Sun to the Earth, during which time continues to move forward. As such, it is impossible to ever know now, Thulasidas suggests, the condition of the Sun. Thulasidas uses this as a starting point to examine the Special Theory of Relatively developed by Albert Einstein, continues by stating that; “since it takes time for light from an event at a distant place to reach us, and for us to become aware of it, the concept of ‘now’ no longer makes any sense”. This perspective changes how we should interpret relativity, by looking not at how we believe things are currently, but rather by accepting that our interpretations consist solely of what is actually the past.

 

This is continued by Thulasidas in his assertion that there is a gap between philosophy and physics in current study, that; “…the contribution from philosophy to physics had been so surprisingly small.  Perhaps it is because physics has yet to come to terms with the fact that when it comes to seeing the universe, there is no such thing as an optical illusion – which is probably what Goethe meant when he said, ‘Optical illusion is optical truth.’ Here Thulasidas seeks to determine how ‘light’ not just allows us to see, but informs how we see because of its relative nature. These are just some of light philosophical connections, and there are many more that have been developed throughout the world. Light has to be understood in this manner as not just a scientific element, but as an element that shapes our very existence well beyond our physiological responses.

 

Philosophical Connections Text from Presentation:

 

YIN – YANG

– Black is the color of Yin, and white is the color of Yang. Within Yin is the seed of Yang and vice-versa, and as such, they form two complementary yet opposing forces- a oneness which contains apparent dichotomies.

 

HINDUISM

– The Vedic scriptures (circa 6000BC) make the spiritual/ poetic connection between knowledge and light with the Vedic Mantra “Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya”- From Darkness to Light, where light is seen as knowledge

 

JAPANESE LITERATURE

“…and yet so far as I know, the west has never been disposed to delight in shadow. Japanese ghosts have traditionally had no feet; western ghosts have feet, but are transparent. As even this trifle suggests, pitch darkness has always occupied our fantasies, while in the west even ghosts are as clear as glass.” – Jun’Ichiro Tanizaki (1933)

 

Feng Shui

–  Black belongs to the element of water and is passive energy of grounding and stability.

–  Soft Light creates Positive Energy

–  Soft light creates a positive energy.

–  The right conjunction of light [color and direction] promotes harmony and prosperity

 

Vastu Shastra

–  Black absorbs energy

–  Fire (Agni) represents light and heat

–  Color, light and smell are often used to remediate inauspicious conditions in existing structures.  It is encouraged to turn on all the lights in the house at night, even briefly, to expel all negative energy “Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya” From darkness to light Where light is seen as knowledge and awareness Rig Veda [circa 6000 bc] – James Turrell

 

Jung

–  In Jungian Psychology, the shadow or “shadow aspect” is a part of the unconscious mind consisting of repressed weaknesses, and shortcomings. “Everyone carries a shadow and the less it is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is. Inspite of its function as a reservoir for human darkness- or perhaps because of this, the shadow is the seat of creativity.

–  The shadow is part of the unconscious mind comprising of repressed weaknesses.

–  The shadow is the reservoir for human darkness as well as the seat of creativity.

 

Sufism

–  Nothingness [darkness] is essential to attaining enlightenment

 


 

Join us next time in the Culture and Climate series as we discuss the Symbolism of Light!