God in the Darkness

Plate 1 of 22 for the Macklin Bible after Loutherbourg. Bowyer Bible. Frontispiece to the Old Testament, by Phillip Medhurst, 1800, Photo by Harry Kossuth. Wikimedia
Plate 1 of 22 for the Macklin Bible after Loutherbourg. Bowyer Bible. Frontispiece to the Old Testament, by Phillip Medhurst, 1800, Photo by Harry Kossuth. Wikimedia

The people stood far off, while Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” (Exodus 20:18-21)

Saint Gregory of Nyssa draws upon Exodus 20:21 to show that God is found not only in the light, but in the darkness as well. Gregory of Nyssa saw that at first, to know God, we must ‘escape from the darkness’. But as we are devoted in our spiritual progress we come to “the invisible and the incomprehensible”, and there we see God. This seeing is a ‘non-seeing’. It is a non-knowing, because it ‘transcends all knowledge’. In this way God is comprehended within the darkness.

What does it mean that Moses entered the darkness and then saw God in it? (Exodus 20:21) What is now recounted seems somehow to be contradictory to the first [revelation], for then the Divine was beheld in light, but now he is seen in darkness…Scripture teaches by this that religious knowledge comes at first to those who receive it as light. Therefore what is perceived to be contrary to religion is darkness, and the escape from darkness comes about when one participates in light. But as the mind progresses and, through an ever greater and more perfect diligence, comes to apprehend reality, as it approaches more nearly to completion, it sees more clearly what of the divine nature is uncontemplated.

For leaving behind everything that is observed, not only what sense comprehends but also what the intelligence thinks it sees, it keeps on penetrating deeper until by the intelligence’s yearning for understanding it gains access to the invisible and the incomprehensible, and there it sees God. This is the true knowledge of what is sought; this is the seeing that consists in not seeing, because that which is sought transcends all knowledge, being separated on all sides by incomprehensibility as by a kind of darkness. Wherefore John the sublime, who penetrated into the luminous darkness, said, no one’s ever seen God, thus asserting that knowledge of the divine essence is unattainable that only by men but also by every intelligent creature.

When therefore, Moses school in knowledge, he declared that he is seen God in the darkness, that is, that he had been come to know that what is divine is beyond all knowledge and comprehension, for the text says, Moses approached the dark clouds were God was. What was God? He who made the darkness is hiding place. (p.94)

References:

  1. The Life of Moses By Saint Gregory of Nyssa, Paulist Press, 1978
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4 thoughts on “God in the Darkness

  1. Edward Abbey said “You can’t study the darkness by flooding it with light.”

    You might know that in Christian mythology Lucifer’s name means “light bearer” and he was God’s brightest and most beautiful angel. His sin, like ours, was pride: he wanted to rule heaven because he thought he was God. He tempted Eve with the same “to be like God”.

    But as the light bearer, he is missing the darkness and can’t ever incorporate it because it falls away at his presence. He is incomplete by nature and not up to the task of being God for it. So his fall wasn’t so much a moral failing as a tactical mistake. He was banished in the same way we were banished from the Garden of Eden, not to teach us some lesson that might reform us morally, but because the knowledge we are seeking can only be found in our fallen state.

    Lucifer is the mind, seeking the knowledge of good and evil and dividing the world against itself. So too god must now be divided. If Lucifer was lacking some part of the darkness of God, then God must also be lacking some part of Lucifer’s light.

    This is making the rounds right now and seems related:

  2. “If Lucifer was lacking some part of the darkness of God, then God must also be lacking some part of Lucifer’s light.”

    I don’t see myself able to agree with this statement. My understanding simply reflects this: If God created Lucifer, which he did and all that was ever created, according to scripture, then how must God be lacking in anything? The limitless God created limited creatures. So for Lucifer to be as God, he would’ve had to be with God before God created anything. God is eternal …etc, so learning of him, incomprehensible or not, must be eternal as well, I would say.

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