Illumination (May 19)


“There are very few human beings who receive the truth, complete and staggering, by instant illumination. Most of them acquire it fragment by fragment, on a small scale, by successive developments, cellularly, like a laborious mosaic” (Anaïs Nin).

TO BE “ILLUMINATED” MEANS TO BE “ENLIGHTENED.” In our language, light is very often used as a metaphor for knowledge or understanding; so when we speak of “illumination,” we are saying that someone has “seen the light.” A previously unrecognized truth has “dawned” on them. What was dark is now “as clear as day.”

Illumination is a more important thing than we sometimes give it credit for being. If our character accumulates from our conduct, and our conduct grows out of our thinking, then it’s a matter of great importance whether our thinking is accurate or not. If we’re “in the dark,” we may imagine that we “see” some things that are not actually there. Even a little “enlightenment” can help us to see what is really there and what is not — and once we accurately judge the nature of the reality we’re dealing with, our actions can be appropriate to that reality.

But as important as it is for our minds to receive illumination, most of us find that gaining greater light on significant subjects is a gradual, and sometimes painstaking, process. On very rare occasions, we may get some tremendous flash of insight that opens up entire vistas of understanding all at once. But more often, our understanding grows slowly. Most of us get a more accurate view of reality, as Anaïs Nin suggests, “fragment by fragment, on a small scale.” The process is well worth it, however, even when it seems unbearably slow.

Whether big or small, those moments of illumination — someone has called them “A-ha!” experiences — are delightful when they occur. They happen to be some of life’s happiest turning points. It isn’t really possible to plan when these moments are going to take place, but we can certainly make a difference by being open to illumination. If we have an honestly receptive mindset, life’s experiences will prepare us for moments of understanding, when the time is right. As the saying goes, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

What in me is dark
Illumine, what is low raise and support.
(John Milton)

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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