Thomas 83: Image and Light

83 Jesus said: The images are revealed to the man, and the light which is in them is hidden in the image of the light of the Father. He shall be revealed, and his image is hidden by his light.

Main Point: This verse points out the difference between the way we recognize light and image, or form. We see a form or an image, whether it is a person, a stone, a mountain, or tree, but the light within form is not always so visible to us. We may just see an ordinary stone, or an ordinary person and think nothing more about it. However, it seems that once we recognize the marvel that is in front of us, we recognize the light within the form; in this moment it feels as though this grace has been revealed by God, and indeed is of God. Conversely, we recognize God’s light in the kind words of a friend, in little synchronicities, or in the vast beauty of a sunset, but we do not ever see a singular particular form that can be called God’s image. God’s image is everywhere and nowhere to be found.

New Light: This light within form is always present, but we must be awake to see this light. To me it is as though we first see a shape, or physical qualities that identify for us what we are looking at. And as we take a small journey into the form, we realize what a miracle this form is, but it is not only the form that is so awesome, it is the spirit within that gives it a radiance, a sparkle that literally brings it to life. I believe that it sometimes it takes something bold to happen in our lives to help us awaken, to see this radiance in all things. God’s light is often revealed in moments when we are not expecting it – such as during times of great stress, emotional turmoil, or profound love, but what is uniquely revealed is always the light or grace inherent in the form, not particular form itself.

Implications: One implication that comes readily to mind is that teaching story about helping a bedraggled stranger only to find out later that the stranger was actually a holy person, Jesus perhaps. We cannot always see or know holiness by our customary outward view of a person, which is just a form housing an inward light. We must look with fresh eyes through the outward form, with the same eyes with which God sees. A good question might be, “Who are we beyond our form?”

Problems: The traditional non-inclusive language is noticeable in these phrases relating to God as “Father” and “He.” Actually this doesn’t bother me too much, but it seems to me that this phraseology leads to misconceptions about God as being particular forms, or an image such as a patriarchic figure.

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5 responses

  1. Hi Meredith. The idea that God’s particulat image can’t be found … does this have something to do with why some religions won’t portray God in art?The stuff about light and images and form reminds me of the cave in Plato’s Republic … In the allegory (of the cave), Plato likens people untutored in the Theory of Forms to prisoners chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see is the wall of the cave. Behind them burns a fire. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a parapet, along which puppeteers can walk. The puppeteers, who are behind the prisoners, hold up puppets that cast shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners are unable to see these puppets, the real objects, that pass behind them. What the prisoners see and hear are shadows and echoes cast by objects that they do not see … Such prisoners would mistake appearance for reality.

  2. Thanks, Meredith and Crystal. I had no idea what this verse meant; I’ve never been very visually oriented. But I’ve been telling people for years that we don’t have truth, we only have images of truth. And Crystal, the myth of the cave. Yes, yes. When I was your age I read a book by Nels Ferre named the Sun and the Umbrella, a modern version of the myth. One man got out into the Sun– wonderful; he enticed others out.But the Sun was too bright. They got an umbrella. And on and on the story went. We’re always getting umbrellas, because God is too real, too traumatic, I guess. A few get out into the full sun. Maybe we all will- eventually. Why not now?Well you girls have made me poetic —- sort of.Meredith, re the “he”: I understand the problem, and I realize that it’s only a metaphor for the Indescribable. But I find I can’t worship anything but a person. I know that God made persons. I believe he/she respects and honors this inability in me. Maybe some day I will graduate from the need for persons. Pray for me.

  3. Another potential problem is pointed to by the concrete examples you cite: “…we recognize God’s light in the kind words of a friend, in little synchronicities, or in the vast beauty of a sunset…”Many phenomena in this world don’t appear as radiant…

  4. Not to us who are less perceptive, Paul. But “the whole earth is filled with the glory of God.” and “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: Infinite (Blake).I know some people who have the happy faculty of seeing the silver lining in every cloud.

  5. I’m reminded of the material world and the immaterial world. I believe you have all helped me to see this immaterial world infinitely better!Re: Paul’s comment: I’m glad you mentioned that many phenomena in this world don’t appear as radiant… this is so true. The huricane is one glaring example. How does one see divine light in tragedy? It is difficult, because our minds want to see divine light as good, holy, pure, and blissful. But divine energy or light leaves nothing out – God does not seem to pass judgement on what seems to us to be good or bad; I don’t see that God is dualistic this way. There is the energy of the divine in the power and force of the huricane, just as there is divine energy and light in the heart of those who help and those who suffer. At least, this is my image of the truth.

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