- Religion and Philosophy
The Absence of Light, Its Many Meanings
By Joan Whetzel
The properties of light have intrigued humans since the beginning of time. Newton imagined light as cascading particles, while Young and Fresnel provided evidence that light traveled in waves, and Maxwell went further by describing light as electromagnetic waves. But what happens when the light goes out? The absence of light can be defined as black or blackness, shadow, night, dark or darkness, dim or dimness, ether, eclipse, malice, evil, blind or blindness, nothing or nothingness, the yin to the yang, the absence of truth, or the absence of God.
Black or Blackness
Black absorbs all the colors of light and reflects no light back. Blackness is the visual effect that occurs when no light reaches the eye.
Shadows exist in areas where direct light cannot reach because an opaque object obstructs the light. Shadows can be described as shade, gloom and dusk.
Night, also called nighttime or the hours of darkness, includes that period between sunset and sunrise when there is an absence of sunlight, particularly when there is also an absence of moonlight. It is the opposite of day or daytime, which is the presence of sunlight.
Dark or Darkness
Dark and darkness are often used interchangeably with the phrase "Absence of light." Unlike light, darkness has no source, it cannot be felt, and it has no temperature (it doesn't generate heat or coldness). Dark or darkness is created when the light is extinguished. Light and dark cannot occupy space at the same time. Darkness triggers fear due to the inability to see.
Lack of light is equivalent lack of brightness, which can be described as the state of being dim or the state of dimness, soft light, faint light, muted light, poorly illuminated, almost dark, or barely light.
While ether is generally described as the air, the atmosphere, the heavens and the clear blue, it is also described - in scientific terms - a medium that "transmits transverse waves" (according to the theory of light). In plain English, it's described both as the medium through which light travels and the space between particles. As such, ether doesn't produce light, it doesn't contain light, it doesn't reflect light. It is simply a passive medium that light sources use as a pathway. Without the ether, there would be an absence of light.
Eclipses produce an absences of light when one astronomical body passes in front of a light producing astronomical body, thereby blocking its light. The verb, to eclipse, can be described as to conceal, to obscure, to overshadow, to cover, to hide from view, to cast a shadow, to darken and to make disappear. In both cases, the absence of light is produced when the "source of the light" has been blocked.
Malice is an emotional or philosophical absence of light. It can also be defined as hatred, spite, malevolence, meanness, nastiness, cruelty, wickedness, all of which could be said to stem from an absence of light in the soul of the person making use of these dark attitudes.
Evil, like malice can be seen as dark actions that stem from an absence of light in one's soul. Evil can also be described as sin, iniquity, vice, criminal actions, immoral actions, vile, nasty, revolting and disgusting - all things that run away from, hide from, or avoid the light. Evil is a dark, destructive force that thrives in the absence of light and hates being exposed to the light.
Blindness, or being blind, can be seen as a form of darkness or absence of light since the eyes cannot see the light. Blindness can also be defined as sightlessness, loss of sight, sightless, or unsighted.
Nothing and nothingness are, for all intents and purposes, a lack of everything - including light. Synonyms for nothing and nothingness include oblivion, empty and emptiness, void and vacuum. In the cases of a void and a vacuum, there is an absence of light because there is no source of light and there is no matter to reflect light.
The Yin to the Yang
Asian philosophy uses yin and yang to describe the concepts of light and dark. So if yang is the light, the yin is the absence of light. Yin and yang can be seen as polar opposites: good and evil, positive and negative, night and day, right and wrong, seen and unseen, masculine and feminine. Basically, the idea is that neither yin nor yang can exist without the other.
The Absence of Truth
The absence of truth can be equated with the absence of light in the sense that holding back the truth is being used to intentionally keep others "in the dark." The absence of truth can also be described as: a lie, unreality, an untruth, untruthfulness, falsity, a falsehood, being false, dishonesty, insincerity, deceitfulness, deception, or being left in the dark.
The Absence of God
To many religious traditions, the absence of God is equated with the absence of light. The absence of God means the unawareness of God's presence or existence. God is seen as goodness and having God's light to warm us and lead the way past the obstacles that appear in our lives and help us find solutions to the problems. So the absence of God in one's life could be seen as darkness, loneliness, the lack of visible solutions to problems and obstacles.
However it is described, the absence of light is often given discomforting or unnerving connotations. These connotations often relate to the absence of other things that we hold dear or with fearful conditions like being alone and not being able to see or recognize those things and people near us that could be most helpful. But when one considers the yin-yang concept that balances light with the absence of light, the darkness may seem a little less overwhelming. Because wherever there is an absence of light, there will always be a switch that can turn the light back on.