The inner light

I do not like or trust the inner light. The thing I hunt or woo, that pursues me, that I desire and fear, has blessed me, painfully. I have been seeking it out, and started writing before my revelation:

The inner light is a human experience. Quakers seek to share our mystic experience, so write a great deal, in prose, rather than the poetry of more solitary mystics. I start with the Bible and Quaker Faith and Practice, the Britain YM book of discipline, as a way of reassuring myself that this is the mystic experience, before turning to my own, and my doubts.

As a materialist, I conceive of the Light as something that happens in my own brain. I take as poetry, or metaphor, Thomas Kelly’s calling Light “Him who calls in the deeps of our souls”. I take literally his insistence on “quiet persistent practice day and night”. I don’t think of it as a precise anatomy, God → That of God → Soul → heart → mind, self, whatever, though Advices and Queries 10 speaks of “prayer, springing from a deep place in the heart”. It is something which is not conscious in the adult, but may be in children, so we must become like little children.

Though I am materialist, I trust the writings of mystics to express something precious, because I have inklings of it myself. That includes the Gospel of John: John 17, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they [Christians] may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me.” John 8:12 “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.’”

My consciousness looks within to something unconscious which can be brought into consciousness. 2.12: “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.”

This writing seemed poor to me, quoting others’ experience. What might be my own?


I have found that being extremely distressed can get me speaking from a deeper place, and as I go on the distress necessary is less.

She is sympathetic. No! This is good! Listen to the good! I am climbing a long dark road, and the sense of Orpheus leading Eurydice comes to mind. It’s productive distress rather than unproductive. It’s like walking through a waterfall into a cave of diamonds, and the flood gets quieter.

What would it be like to live from the inner light? Tao Te Ching 18:

In the degradation of the great way
come benevolence and righteousness.

There is virtue, and then there is an attempt at virtue out of an idea of what virtue looks like, and the attempt is not as good as virtue.

What would it be like to live from the Spirit? It would be like Life!

Sometimes I use psychological jargon cribbed from popularizing articles, sometimes Christian language- become like a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and children are openminded and flexible, in touch with feelings, though they are often unable to name them and facing implacable resistance from bigger, stronger folk.

There is the kind of person that I am- this may be a barrier, not considering other options. I want perfection immediately so judge myself harshly and the judgment is the Gaslighter, reflexively condemning.

In my weakness is my strength
living from the spirit is open minded and responsive to the moment

I imagine what living from the spirit would be like, and have a moral concept which gets in its way. So- discard that. It would not mean achieving anything in particular according to the Rules, or the ego’s judgment, whether getting more exercise or getting a job or cleaning my teeth

cleaning my teeth- you do that because it’s habit, it’s just part of what you do getting ready for the day, or for the night, but you might do it because you wanted to, you know it makes your mouth feel better and that is Good.

The gaslighter’s judgment is like an overexposed photograph, all white. It makes no difference between a trivial error and a betrayal, in fact the betrayal that others judge worthy of breaking our contact I make excuses for and am bewildered by their response. Hear it, pacify it.

Ah. This is not something I can put into words. It’s “benevolence and righteousness”, ideas rather than being. I would like Rules for Living, which would make me safe, a “Fear is the mind-killer” style mantra to pacify the inner Gaslighter which terrifies me, and indeed that may be a useful habit to make me feel better, but I hope living in the spirit is my shield, and it would be too flexible a shield to put into words. Possibly engage the Gaslighter in dialogue rather than cower from it.

I sulk. I do passive resistence, freeze rather than fight or flee. The ego tells me the rules, the habits I should keep to, and I just sulk, and don’t follow them.

She asks, why do you cycle? Is it exercise, enjoyment, boredom?

To get from A to B. For exercise. I get a sense of pure delight going downhill. I get beauty, sunlight on leaves, the exercise of going uphill and a sense of achievement. I seek to be In the Moment, with my mantra

I am here.
This is.
I am.

I want all of life to be a spiritual experience.

It’s the Inner Light that is sulking and freezing, and it isn’t supposed to do that. And it’s the only part of me I can value, the only part which finds joy anywhere.

It seems to me possible to make a human work like a machine, like a cog, with rules and fear, but that is no good for that individual human. Instead, I would rather stay in my house and not go out. I wanted to be that machine, the desire to get a job, do something worthwhile, is internal to me but isn’t working so the aim is to move into a Spiritual Experience, find Desire in the Light, because it’s the last thing I have to try.

I could tell you why I cycle, all the good things in it, and I do not do it. As St Paul said, “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” The interesting thing is, what is stopping me?

The Deer Hunter: “This is this. This ain’t something else. This is this.”

I know the distress is a good thing, because it gets me speaking from a deeper place.

-Is it fair to say that you always write from your own experience?

Yes. Sometimes I exaggerate a trait. I am not sure I see others clearly.


Next day, Wednesday 7th, came the Blessing, a blessing too hard to bear that makes me miserable.

I want to do something, and I do not do it. Why do I not do it? Because it will be hard, and I have been unable to acknowledge that. So I acknowledge that. I think of all the reasons why I would not want to do it, before considering the reasons why I would. Then I do it. I don’t want to name it to you, because I am ashamed. It is such a small thing! Shame, fear, anger is a ground bass in my emotions, with high notes of curiosity and determination.

I would rather not do the thing, put it off to another day, than face the difficulty of it and my desire to avoid that difficulty. Oh, I don’t want to do it right now, I’ll do it later.

I take no pride in having done it. It really was a small thing.

In this instance, the protection I had cobbled together, denial, fell away, and I DID THE THING! Live in the Spirit! Yay! Not quite James Fenton:

Illusion, then, was beautiful
When I was sure that I was strong.
I thought it was a medium
In which to grow, but I was wrong.

The illusion shielded me from difficult feelings, which is no small thing. This is what I have to do, I told myself, but the rules were not strong enough to make me do it.

Playing on the internet, I found Dr Joan Rosenberg’s TED talk. She names eight unpleasant feelings:

sadness, shame, helplessness, anger, vulnerability, embarrassment, disappointment, frustration.

She says, “Make the choice to stay present, fully present, be aware of and in touch with your moment to moment experience of feelings.” They are not bad or negative, merely uncomfortable. We wish to avoid them because we learned young that they were unbearable, and we fear overwhelm, or losing control, or being engulfed in them and never surfacing. Move through them, let them run their course, surf the wave, and insights will follow.

3 thoughts on “The inner light

    • George Fox: “Plough up the fallow ground… And none are ploughed up but he who comes to the principle of God in him which he hath transgressed.” I am not sure there is such a difference. Fox also wrote of “That of God in every one”. We are blind without God, but whether God implants a seed in us at our beginning, or shines a light we can use to see, which comes from outside us, I don’t see how we could tell. We can ignore the light, perhaps- Christ was the Light, but “the world did not know him”. Or we can turn to it.

      Ursula LeGuin comments on the Tao Te Ching that there is “a ‘bewilderness’ in which the mind wanders without certainties, desolate, silent, awkward. But in that milky, dim strangeness lies the way. It can’t be found in the superficial order imposed by positive and negative opinions, the good/bad, yes/no moralizing that denies fear and ignores mystery.” I am strongly aware of the pull of moral ideas, and of something deeper- which may be outside me but communicating, or inside me, whatever “me” might be; but my materialism requires it to be inside me.


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