Darkness Visible: Powers of darkness

In an age in the Western world where there is an almost insatiable yearning for “enlightenment,” what could be more timely than an invitation to reestablish a sacred relationship with darkness?

Indeed, it is in the redefinition of darkness that we discover an entryway into a potent transformational experience that can assist us in rethinking the nature of both reality and healing. What might we learn about ourselves and the powers of the “other world” by surrendering to the beauty and opportunity for greater vision afforded us in darkness?

In all parts of this planet the first nine months of human gestation are spent in the rich, protective darkness of the womb. It is there that the being makes the transition from the spirit world to this one, and it is in the absence of light that the spirits work their greatest magic. It is in the light-absent womb that they do the necessary work to prepare the soul for its journey into life on planet Earth.

In the modern world, the newborn is evicted from the peaceful uterine environment into harsh fluorescent brightness, and it seems that the rest of the person’s life is spent trying to sever ties with that nurturing, sensual landscape.

In our ever-more-illuminated houses, streets, and cities, we seem to have lost our way; we have become blinded. We have forgotten the benefits of darkness; we have forgotten how to find our way home. Darkness, however, is ultimately inescapable, and at the end of each day, as the soporific seduction of nighttime overtakes us, we are, once again, transported to yet another gestational experience, yet another opportunity to be reborn.

From a tribal perspective, it is darkness that is the light of the ancestors. It is only in darkness that certain powerful aspects of indigenous technology can be revealed. It is of little surprise, then, that in the African village nearly all rituals of initiation are carried out after the sun has given way to the deep night. The constant presence of darkness provides a protective umbrella that prevents the intrusion of distraction and delusion. It is there that the psyche is invited to surrender to that which is not available in the daylight. It is there that the eyes learn to see what is hidden by the sun’s light.

We often find ourselves ill at ease in modern society, caught in recurring cycles if dis-ease and depression. We might ask ourselves whether our discomfort comes from compromising the sacred and balanced partnership between light and dark. What healing might be available to body and soul if we would turn off the lights and invite the powers of the night into our lives?

In the West, there is a largely undiscovered potential that can only become a reality in darkness. What is familiar and sacred in the nighttime to an indigenous person seems, at best, to be an inconvenient irritation to the modern person. The tribal person knows that there are certain types of wounds that can find healing only in the nighttime and only in the hands of the ancestors who show up for work after the last candle has been extinguished.

We would do well to learn to appropriate a definition of an elder as one who is the keeper of the gates of darkness. It is the old who have finally become disillusioned with the glittery brightness of the manufactured world and who feel the enticing whisper of the darkness, inviting them to draw closer to their earlier transitional home, to the place where they were held in their first months, in the deep liquid intimacy of the ancestral womb.

It is the sweet power of darkness that invites the discerning listener to attend to the whisperings of the spirit world. In darkness true connection occurs and distraction is no more than a distant, indistinct buzz.

Darkness Visible invites us to regain our magical vision. Turn out the lights; step into the beauty of darkness.

Darkness Visible, by Ross Heaven, is published by Destiny Books. ISBN 1594770611.