L is for… Light

“…the leadings of God whose Light shows us our darkness and brings us to new life” (A&Q 1).

Quakers talk a lot about Light. We are asked to “wait in the Light, that the Word of the Lord may dwell plentifully in you” (William Dewsbury), and reminded that “It is by an attention full of love that we enable the Inner Light to blaze and illuminate our dwelling and to make of our whole being a source from which this Light may shine out” (Pierre Lacout). Klaus Huber found that when he asked Buddhist-Quakers which terms they preferred in place of ‘God’, ‘Light’ was very popular (along with ‘love’, ‘Spirit’ and ‘Gaia’ among others – see Quaker Studies 6, no. 1 (2001): p.95 for details).

It is in some senses very Biblical language. We find a lot of talk about the light in John’s Gospel, traditionally a Quaker favourite. Consider chapter 1 verse 9 as John introduces the coming of Jesus: “the true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world”, and compare it with the claim made about the Inward Light or the light of Christ in chapter 19 of Quaker Faith and Practice: “it is a universal Light, which can be known by anyone, of either sex, of any age, of whatever religion”.

Personally, I find Light imagery very helpful. Not only does it have this universalist connotation – problematic but emotionally appealing, wait for my PhD for the full discussion! – but it is concrete (visual, vivid) and not gendered or out of date. I know some Friends find it patronising or difficult in times of darkness, and perhaps Friends with sight problems relate to it differently, but for me its associations are all positive. Put the lights on. Light a candle, light the fire, light the way. Be open to new light.

a figure dressed in blue, back to the viewer, sits on red stony ground and contemplates a yellow sky

The Hermit, Patrick Caulfield

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2 responses to “L is for… Light

  1. Lots of interesting strands, thanks, Rhiannon.

    I guess my PhD thesis took a very brief view of the meaning of Light for Quakers (p6 of http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/3076/), so I look forward to yours…

    And then there’s James Turrell’s work with light (for example, see http://goinsidetogreetthelight.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/GoInsidetoGreettheLight)

  2. I find light extremely useful too – look forward to reading more of your ideas about it.

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