“AND THE LIGHT SHINETH IN THE DARKNESS; AND THE DARKNESS COMPREHENDETH IT NOT” -John 1:5
Darkness, in the Theosophical literature, is a term applied in different ways. It generally refers to the Absolute, to the universe in pralaya or to pre-cosmic principles, before the manifestation of the cosmos.
According to the tenets of Eastern Occultism, DARKNESS is the one true actuality, the basis and the root of light, without which the latter could never manifest itself, nor even exist. Light is matter, and DARKNESS pure Spirit. Darkness, in its radical, metaphysical basis, is subjective and absolute light; while the latter in all its seeming effulgence and glory, is merely a mass of shadows, as it can never be eternal, and is simply an illusion, or Maya.
Meaning of the term
In the context of universal principles, the word “darkness” is used to refer to those principles that are beyond our comprehension, so that they appear as darkness to our minds:
[The] source is unknown, though as strongly demanded by reason and logic, therefore it is called “Darkness” by us, from an intellectual point of view.
It is Darkness most unquestionably to our intellect, inasmuch as we can know nothing of it. I told you already that neither Darkness nor Light are to be used in the sense of opposites, as in the differentiated world.
At the level of these universal principles we are not talking about light or its absence. Therefore this “darkness” is not the opposite of light:
In the sense of objectivity, both light and darkness are illusions—maya; in this case, it is not Darkness as absence of Light, but as one incomprehensible primordial Principle, which, being Absoluteness itself, has for our intellectual perceptions neither form, colour, substantiality, nor anything that could be expressed by words.
The term darkness is sometimes used in a relative way:
In using figurative language, as has been done in The Secret Doctrine, analogies and comparisons are very frequent. Darkness for instance, as a rule, applies only to the unknown totality, or Absoluteness. Contrasted with eternal darkness, the first Logos is certainly Light; contrasted with the second or third, the manifested Logos, the first is Darkness, and the others are Light.
[It] is absolute darkness to the scientific mind, and but a gray twilight to the perception of the average mystic, though to that of the spiritual eye of the Initiate it is absolute light.
- What is Ever-Darkness in the sense used here?
A. Ever-Darkness means, I suppose, the ever-unknowable mystery, behind the veil—in fact, Parabrahm. Even the Logos can see only Mulaprakriti, it cannot see that which is beyond the veil. It is that which is the “Ever-unknowable Darkness.”
The Absolute being the source of everything, in the Theosophical Literature it is said that darkness is the source of light:
If the absolute deity can be referred to as Darkness or the Dark Fire, the light, its first progeny, is truly the first self-conscious god.
For the Occultist, the Rosecroix of the Middle Ages, and even the mediaeval Kabalists, said that to our human perception and even to that of the highest “angels,” the universal Deity is darkness, and from this Darkness issues the Logos. . .
But esoterically, it is Darkness itself, the unknowable Absolute which is the Source, firstly of the radiation called the First Logos, then of its reflection, the Dawn, or the Second Logos, and finally of Brahmâ, the manifested Light, or the Third Logos.
Thus, the Darkness is regarded as eternal, while the appearance of light (or manifestation) is a non-eternal phenomena occurring periodically.
Darkness is taken as the appropriate allegorical representation of the condition of the Universe during Pralaya, or the term of absolute rest, or non-being, as it appears to our finite minds.
When the whole universe was plunged in sleep—had returned to its one primordial element—there was neither centre of luminosity, nor eye to perceive light, and darkness necessarily filled the boundless all.
In some occasions the term “darkness” is applied to the pre-cosmic principles, especially when they are mentioned in reference to the manifested elements. The first or unmanifested Logos is called in [[Stanzas of Dzyan#Stanza III|Stanza III.8 “the dark hidden father” as opposed to the manifested “white brilliant son”. Darkness is also used to refer to the the first cosmic element, “the waters” or “chaos“, before it differentiated into the different planes.
In Christian thought
- P. Blavatsky wrote:
Even in the mind-baffling and science-harassing Genesis, light is created out of darkness “and darkness was upon the face of the deep” (ch. i. v. 2.)—and not vice versâ. “In him (in darkness) was life; and the life was the light of men” (John i. 4). A day may come when the eyes of men will be opened; and then they may comprehend better than they do now, that verse in the Gospel of John that says “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehendeth it not.” They will see then that the word “darkness” does not apply to man’s spiritual eyesight, but indeed to “Darkness,” the absolute, that comprehendeth not (cannot cognize) transient light, however transcendent to human eyes.
In authors such as Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite or texts like The Cloud of Unknowing the word darkness was also used to refer to the highest and unknowable aspect of the Godhead.
Excerpts from a Theosophical Source.