The term “illumination” Essay
The term “illumination”
In metaphysics refers to an ineffable state of knowledge or communion with a godhood or an absolute ideal. Because the state of illumination is, by nature, a deeply subjective experience, the quantification or definition of the state is difficult to execute through traditional expository methods or scientific investigation. Illumination is a desired state for mystic who maintain the “practice of putting oneself into, and remaining in, direct relation with God, the Absolute, or any unifying principle of life. Mysticism is inseparably linked with religion.
Because of the nature of mysticism, firsthand objective studies of it are virtually impossible. ” (“Mysticism,” 2004) Rather, what can be known, second-hand, about the illuminative state is gleaned through the expression of mystics,artists, poets, and writers who express their subjective apprehensions through various means, often utilizing complex and mythologically driven symbolic systems of reference. “The language of mysticism is always difficult and usually symbolic. This is readily seen in the Song of Songs in the Old Testament, in the book of Revelation in the New Testament, and in the writings of William Blake.
Mystics, especially those of the Roman Catholic and the Islamic traditions, have made use of a terminology borrowed from ordinary human love. ” (“Mysticism,” 2004) In many cases, illumination is closely affiliated with established mystical traditions (as in Zen Buddhism) and also with established religious traditions (such as Roman Catholicism). In all cases, illumination is regarded as a step on the road to union with God or the ideal, but not a conclusion or attainment of the goal in and of itself.
In this regard, illumination stands closely in hand with another mystical state known as “purgation” where the soul undergoes a painful cleansing of its impurities in order to enter into union with God or the ideal. Illumination can be Illumination page -2- regarded, metaphorically, as the light which shines through the cleaned “window” of the soul, as it has been cleared through the purgative state. The two states are seen as continuing and sometimes overlapping.
(“Mysticism,” 2004) The basic pattern for the path to mystical union with God or the ideal can be generically rendered, although the specific differ widely throughout geographic and culturally specific traditions and beliefs. At the core of the mystical journey, involving periods of illumination, several key archetypal aspects can be cited: “The soul undergoes a purification (the purgative way), which leads to a feeling of illumination and greater love of God[… ] after a period the soul may be said to enter into mystical union with God[…
] an ecstatic state to a final perfect state of union with God. ” (“Mysticism,” 2004) The process above is quite generally envisioned and the above description is probably as close to anything like an objective account of what mystical experience is and what its goals are; the illuminative feeling indicates that the mystic has successfully enjoined the path to union with God or the ideal. However, it is not the final union with God or the ideal and its ecstacy are not particularly connotative of what mystics have imagined the final union with God or the ideal to be, once actually attained.
Rather, illumination is a state of awareness and knowledge that blossoms from mystical communion with God or the ideal. It is not a linear knowledge:”We have illumination which is no mere deduction from previous knowledge; but the illumination is at the same time like a leap of recognition. This may throw some light on the problem we noticed earlier — the relation between faith described in terms of the energizing of the Holy Spirit, and man’s efforts of reason. ” (Emmet, 1945, p. 133).
Illumination page -3- The distinction between ordinary rationality and mystical illumination is an important one, for knowledge that is derived by linear reason is often interpreted by humanity as an achievement of humanity alone, whereas illuminative knowledge gleaned from communion with God or the ideal often comes like a “bolt out of the blue” and transcends not only individual ego, but racial, national, and cultural biases as well:
“Thus the community whose way is defined by Torah looks to the moment when Moses stood on Sinai; the Christian Church sees its life as continuing God’s act of reconciliation Prophet as the community of the faithful, committed to God in submission to the stark majesty of His Transcendence; Buddhists look to the moment of illumination under the Bo tree, when Buddha saw the way of release from the restlessness of finite existence. (Emmet, 1945, p. 156).
Just as scientific or other types of linear knowledge may cast world-changing ideas or technologies into the flow of history, the mystical tradition reminds humanity that we are all united in the truths of the highest ideals, in the love of God. Illumination often transports the mystic not only to euphoric feelings of ecstacy, but important realizations about the nature of human existence and how human tragedy and pain can be minimized and sometimes overcome.
From important illuminations come “new ways of living in relation to the transcendent, which have given form to new ways of feeling and of thought. These were not reached by general reflections on the general character of experience” but born out of the devotion of individual seekers who looked inward to find the illuminative power and phenomena which every mystic believes emanates directly from God or the ideal. (Emmet, 1945, p.156).
The verifiable impact of religious and philosophical movements and doctrines that began in the subjective state if illumination are evidence that illumination represents a process of human reason and knowledge which is as important as linear modes.
References Mysticism. (2004). In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed. ). New York: Columbia University Press. Emmet, D. M. (1945). The Nature of Metaphysical Thinking. London: Macmillan & Co. Ltd.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 19 April 2017
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