The House of Lamps

The One True Light

The lamps are different, but the Light is the same; it comes from Beyond.

If thou keep looking at the lamp, thou art lost; for thence arises the appearance of number and plurality.

Fix thy gaze upon the Light, and thou art delivered from the dualism inherent in the finite body.

O thou who art the kernel of Existence, the disagreement between Moslem, Zoroastrian, and Jew depends on the standpoint.

—Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet

Imagine walking into the showroom of a large lighting store. You are looking for that special lamp, the one just right for your desk. A great diversity of styles, colors, and shapes awaits you, all crying out for your attention. As you wander about, you see some you like. Others you don’t, for they do not fit your style. Some quite frankly are the ugliest lamps you have ever seen, and you wonder who in their right mind would buy such a thing.

As you narrow in on the lamps you like the most, the power goes out. You hear the thunderclap from the storm that has kicked up outside. The sudden darkness startles you. An instant later, the power is restored and all the lamps turn back on, flooding the room with light. As your eyes adjust to the sudden brightness, the lamps and the light flicker in and out. In that magical moment, before thought takes over from intuition, you see the lamps with fresh, new eyes. You see the light that shines from each lamp. You somehow know that the lamps are different, but the light is the same.

Imagine, now, walking over the face of the Earth, from nation to nation, continent to continent. A great diversity of people awaits you. On your walkabout, you see the great variety of God’s creation—people with different faces, colors, shapes, and sizes; architectural form as church, mosque, synagogue, temple, or home; ideas, beliefs, and religions, new and old. Some are more pleasing, and you find yourself drawn to certain people and ideas. Others, like the ugly lamp, are so unappealing you wonder how anyone could live like that, believe that, imagine God as that.

Lamps . . . human beings . . . outer form . . . Inner Light.

Bubbling up from the depths of your being come the words, "Dear God, help us know that we shall rise or fall together as we recognize this Inner Light . . . or not. May we know that the lamps are different, but the light is the same."

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. . . .

That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:4-5,9)
©2003 Phil Irwin

Phil Irwin

Phil Irwin is a member of Gwynedd (Pa.) Meeting and a former head of Olney Friends School.