The Sphere of Light
What is the way to the Inner Abbey and, supposing one has already found it,4 how does one gain access? Do you need to be of Christian persuasion?
Gareth Knight concludes the first chapter to his seminal Experience of the Inner Worlds (1975)3 with a contemplative meditation within a Sphere of Light. The chapter itself describes the differences in approach between Natural Religion and Revealed Religion, or Monism and Theism, respectively. So yes, it helps if one is already orientated towards the Judeo-Christian corpus. Yet again, religion per se – accepting of unity in diversity – and the spirituality of an Inner approach of the soul – finding diversity in unity – are distinctive modes of assimilation, so again, not necessarily. Temple layout and construction is relatively universal across time and culture. You do not so much gain access to the Inner Abbey, it first has to be built. When utilising our innate inner faculties of visualisation and imagination it helps to begin with first principles.
The Sphere of Light, is a symbol of the whole of creation, it speaks to the soul as being the basic shape upon which worlds are formed, from their smallest part to their largest, from the energy sphere of the atom to the bowl or hemisphere of the night sky.3
We live in a sophisticated world environment whereby technology is about to outrun even human intelligence. In the face of such an intricate web of social diversity and technocratic complexity, the universal Platonic sphere, in the original sense, might seem somewhat overly simplistic.
Furthermore, through the present day soul desert of materialism, many are looking for an underlying wellspring of spiritual meaning beyond opiates; the latter term is what someone once said of religion. They are seeking either self-knowledge, in the Gnostic sense, or are experiencing some form of spontaneous awakening, perhaps triggered by a so called “kundalini activation.“ There is still a blurred line between all of the these areas that has even led some to entrapment within an escapist sect, or cult.
Psychedelics are said to guarantee an open door and free passage to the Inner worlds. Moreover, whatever may be beyond that door lurking beneath the surface of everyday consciousness may not be at all pleasant. Even Peyote ceremonies require a cleansing ritual beforehand.
The Sphere of Light is therefore a hygienic clearing of a sterilised place for work”3 and “It must be clearly understood that this construction is objective.3
In the first instance, the regular performance of an such an activity conforms the personal will in freedom to the Will of god, which corrects and sanctifies the present moment. And the sustained regular practice of it helps the personal will to attain a habit of free conformity to the will of god as a general way of life.3
Secondly, Jung used the terms objective psyche and unus mundus – one world – to describe the layer underneath the sum of the archetypal structures…This all-extensive world-soul, or cosmic luminous body, “is the central ground of empirical being, existing beyond time and space, within the psychoidal realm.1
Again, Knight, after A.D. Duncan,2 says of the Sphere of Light that it is the symbol of the Mind of God in whom all things exist, and it is the symbol of created things in wholeness and totality.3
What does all of this mean and how can it possibly help? Knight reiterates that, within this sphere he may, in his imagination, place himself; and in so doing he includes his total self, by act of will.3 That is, by placing our human nature, warts and all, into the Sphere of Light, we may encounter what may be experienced to be a clearing ground. Rudolf Steiner in his Knowledge of Higher Worlds5 also had a term for the clearing ground and called it, the trial by fire.
The Chartrian Platonist, Bernardus Silvestris (fl. 1150), in the Megacosmus section of his allegorical Cosmographia wrote that:
Nature appeared, complaining to God, and accusing Noys [Nous], the unfathomable mind: “O Noys, supreme image of unfailing life, God born of God, substance of truth, issue of eternal deliberation, my true Minerva. Though what I seek to realize be beyond my comprehension – that Silva [Silva, still a formless chaotic mass, held the first beginnings of things in their ancient state of confusion] be made more malleable, that she cast off her lethargy and be drawn forth to assume the image of a nobler form – yet if you do not consent to this undertaking I must abandon my conceptions.6
Following our own initial complaint and, by some inner discipline towards regular practice, it so often happens that we may experience a flood of consciousness. To explain this particular developmental stage Knight describes this as a Sea of Light, but here Bernardus draws again upon the Sphere:
From the very source, then, of this our life and light, there issued forth by a sort of emanation the life, illumination, and soul of creation, Endelechia [World Soul]. She was like a sphere, of vast size yet of fixed dimensions, and such as one might not perceive visually, but only by intellect. Her shining substance appeared just like a steadily flowing fountain, defying scrutiny by its uncertain condition since it seemed so closely akin to the atmosphere, and at the same time to the heaven itself.6
Yet the initial flood soon ebbs away. We are faced once more with Silva: this time not so much a seething elemental chaos – a trial by fire – but more likely as an impenetrable forest.
Incidentally, Wetherbee, in his Introduction to Cosmographia, writes:
From a different vantage point literary scholars have recently presented suggestive theses relating Bernardus’ conception of the silva, the physical (and by implication the psychological) chaos from which all created life is formed and articulated, to the “gaste [waste] forest,” the symbolic wilderness of Arthurian romance, and have stressed Bernardus’ formative influence on the twelfth-century conception of epic poetry.6
Considering that we might make it unscathed through the Waste Forest – like the prince to sleeping beauty – the original Romance talks of one solitary Hermit: One whom, as a signpost or way-shower in consciousness, opens us to an awareness of the clear cut path. In the story, he pointed the questing knight to a grail castle; in our case, it may lead us to the Inner Abbey. I think it was the Theosophist Mabel Collins who first coined the phrase, For when the disciple is ready the Master is ready also.
The path may not be straight ahead. In the Inner Worlds, consciousness is a stranger to our usual sense of corporeality, especially when you are used to having four known directions to chose from. In the Inner Worlds two extra directions are given; above and below, or rising and descending.
Here let me relate that, as a small child, some time in the early 70s, i had a waking dream: I found myself climbing a stone spiral staircase, the sort you might find in an old castle. Then, as if in full adult consciousness, i was aware of the chanting of monks above. Being drawn towards them, the staircase came to an abrupt end at a wooden ceiling. In the upper room, the sound of the brotherhood was still emanating.
A sceptic may tell me that i had probably absorbed the impression from a film on the television that my parents had been watching. A psychotherapist might indicate a collective experience buried somewhere in the racial subconscious, my family line or genetics. A psychometrist, from the land upon which my house stood. But all of this doesn’t quite explain how the experience went for me; the sense of curious wonder, the knowledge of something once known, as an adult, and an inner need of the soul to reach the source of the experience. It was significant enough to leave a stamp upon my memory.
After some thirty years: past the inopportune encounter, as a curious 14 year old, with psilocybin mushrooms; the castle in Winchester, England, aged about 18, where i joked about seating arrangements for the wall hanging Arthurian Round Table;7 then, shortly after to the chronicled Royal Oak pub with the art student with pre-Raphaelite hair and green surcotte dress, who later rejected my advances; the subsequent existential crisis leading to a fortuitous encounter with The Hermit. He was on the cover of a tarot manual displayed in the window of W. H. Smiths bookstore; then, Experience of the Inner Worlds – the book recommended for further reading.
The password and injunction of the ancient Mysteries was Know Thyself. Without this the higher reaches of our work are impossible. The regular formulation of the Sphere of Light in the way we have described is as a means to this knowledge.3
- Bryon, Deborah, Ph.D, The Function of the Objective Psyche in Psychoanalysis in Relation to Time, added to the Inter-regional Society of Jungian Analysts, IRSJA.org (October 2015)
- Duncan, A.D. Lord of the Dance: Essay in Mysticism, Sun Chalice Books, U.S.; New edition (3 April 1997)
- Knight, Gareth, Experience of the Inner Worlds, Skylight Press (31 Dec. 2010)
- Knight, Gareth; Wilby, Rebecca, The Abbey Papers, Skylight Press (31 Oct. 2011)
- Steiner, Rudolf, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds and Its Attainment, Merchant Books (10 Dec. 2012)
- Wetherbee, Winthrop, The Cosmographia of Bernardus Silvestris (Records of Western Civilization Series), Columbia University Press (5 Jan. 1990)
- Image Source: Winchester Round Table: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winchester_Castle