Monday, January 20, 2014

The Great Awakening

Paul in the midst of an eager defense of his right to be the Jesus-centered lover of the Corinthians says the following:

And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

Light is not an indication of goodness. Light alone is not a mark of the good. Light is simply power; it is the power to reveal what hides in the darkness. Light is the power to pierce into the vulnerable inwardness and bring it out for all to see, judge, condemn, and punish. It is the power to reveal. It is the power to blind. It is the power of conversion. It is the release of energy. It is heat, and it is life, but it is not the good. The warning Paul gives here is that you should not be misled solely on account of how bright the light shines from someone. You should not use that as your only means of judging if the source is good or not. You need to understand that light is, perhaps far too often, a cover or a disguise that obscures the darkness within the cloak. We have to see this inversion of the idea of Enlightenment as shining a light in a dark place: true enlightenment is the capacity to see without the light in those moments where even darkness masquerades as light.

Righteousness, conformity to the law one uses to judge right, is therefore, like light, not a mark or a sign or an immediate perception of the truth. It is something one must look past. We must, likewise, see without conformity to the standard of right what is truly right.

Thus, light and righteousness are not what we must look at. They are things which we must look through to see what is behind them, within them, covered by them, obscured by them. And, consequently, one must always be vigilant to refuse the claim someone makes about being righteous. Just because someone means well doesn't mean they are well, nor does speaking or arguing or defending or supporting or justifying or writing well mean one is well.  Wellness is something beyond the light and the dark, the righteous and the fraud.

This makes me think of the numerous people who report end of life experiences involving a "tunnel of light" at the end of their vision. A great number of people say the light filled them with something like peace, contentment, resolution, or something like the weekend you're always waiting to arrive.

What if, in the end, it's the masquerade awaiting us? What if, at the end, the cruel joke of our mistaken belief in the light reveals a very disheartening punchline: what if the light is not even the last firings of a very complex neurological machine, but the opening to hell itself?

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