We live in a world I call “the Babylon Matrix” where darkness is very loud, brassy and in your face. In his apocalyptic poem “The Second Coming,” William Butler Yeats writes of a time of ultimate darkness where:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”
So much art, from the low to the high, wants to draw our attention to darkness, as though it were a rare and mysterious thing we might somehow miss if it weren’t constantly put before us. And sometimes that’s exactly right; sometimes we need visions from the shadow side. In rare cases a great genius like Yeats or David Lynch will bring us crucial visions from the depths of the shadows. But more often darkness is like an obnoxious infomercial channel that can play continuously in your mind, on television, the internet and other media, and also in the outer, physical world. For some, this perpetual infomercial channel is playing on all three levels 24/7. Voices of darkness are noisy and in your face in the Babylon Matrix, and that’s why any perceptive reader will feel a jolt of perfect recognition when reading Yeats’ lines.
For me the jolt of recognition comes especially from “the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.” (listen to a brief Hitler sample). I hear those words and a series of hot, brassy faces of darkness explode into my mind, people whom I’ve never met but whose faces explode from video screens and glossy magazine pages, faces always in my face, faces that smirk with deceitful insinuation and arrogant, caffeinated ignorance. The faces are equipped with loud voice boxes electronically amplified by the loudspeakers of a billion machines made of silicon and plastic, loudspeaker voices that are the brassy trumpeting of bald-faced lies. When I read those lines at this point in history the faces of George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck, etc. explode into my mind as panes of electrically colored video screens. Their voices are loud, as loud as demigods, as they reverberate through television speakers and other electronic amplifications such that it seems at times there is nowhere you can go without their faces and voices swarming around you like locusts.
The loud, brassy voices of darkness would like to overpower all the other sorts of voices. Some voices, voices of light especially, are rather quiet, and if you can’t find a quiet space within you may not hear them at all. These are the voices of the silent, secret light that are not amplified by Newspaper Headlines, internet gossip, or television news. Quite often you need some inner stillness and a high degree of alertness to hear these voices and see the hidden light. For example, I am so jolted by the cascade of loud, brassy faces of darkness conjured up when I read Yeats’ lines that I easily miss the light hidden in these lines. The time of ultimate darkness is a time when “the best lack all conviction.” I have to stop and think for a minute and recognize that actually this is not a time when “the best lack all conviction.” We live in a time where despite the encroachment of what Stanton Friedman calls “the nasty, noisy, negativists,” there are also people who are the very best and who are filled with passionate conviction. These people may not be as electronically amplified as the passionate worst, sometimes they are hidden in obscurity, but other times they are fairly well known. The people of hidden light may not be one of the larger minority groups, but they are there if you look for them. Alex Grey, for example, is a great, living, visionary genius who is full of passionate conviction about hidden light. So we are not living in a time where the best lack all conviction. This is not the hellscape of Armageddon we are always being warned about. The worst has not come. Therefore, seek the hidden light.
Another great hidden light in Yeats’ poem is the brilliant light coming from the voice of the poet — visionary insight wedded to an exquisite perfection of words and rhythms — which Yeats, this genius of great conviction and artistic power, worked on in the alchemical forge of his psyche and brought out of the darkness, gleaming with perfection like a magical sword which he lays at our feet that we may pick it up and take it with us free of charge. The content of some great art may be dark, but the hidden light is the brilliant vision that illuminates the darkness. Consider, for example, the song “Mad World” which was used with such haunting effect in the movie Donnie Darko. The content of the song is about the darkness and madness of the world, but the voice of the song is the voice of angelic, empathic insight, a voice of hidden light.
Listen to “Mad World” and think about some areas of darkness in your life and see if you can find the glimmers of hidden light. What about that person who wronged you and hurt your feelings? If you glimpse past the loud, dramatic images of what went wrong, would you find any moments hidden here and there where the wrongdoer showed a bit of compassion and consideration? Did something dark happen, but which also afforded you an opportunity to learn? To see the hidden light you have to look underneath things, around corners and into those large, quiet spaces just behind your head. There are whole continents and worlds of hidden light at the edges of our peripheral vision. If you are able to see that hidden light then amplify it within yourself and let it ring out loud like Jesse Norman singing “Amazing Grace.”
My friend Rob Brezsny is an artist who I see as playing a compensatory role — compensatory in the way that Jung thought dreams worked, compensating for something defective, lacking, or repressed in the waking life, and giving it vivid, surreal expression in the dreamtime. Rob Brezsny is driven to take what is hidden and too quiet in the waking world and push it into the spotlight, sometimes making the hidden light loud and funny and in your face. In recent years, Rob has become the alchemical, harlequin impresario of the hidden light, especially through his book Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia: How the Whole World Is Conspiring to Shower You with Blessings. Pronoia is an artifact of another hidden light, the compensatory, healing medicine offered to us by inner and outer worlds if we stop to notice it, the flowers that here and there grow from the cracks in the cement sidewalk. A person can become a “Ditto Head,” and even become addicted to the cheap caffeine/sugar rush he gets from a brassy, noisy voice of darkness echoing in his head telling him what to think. But a person can also choose some inner quiet and receptive awareness and discover that there are voices of light speaking quietly and compassionately within and without. If a voice, inner or outer, is not calm and compassionate, then maybe you shouldn’t listen to it.
Instead, consider this a propitious time to listen to the voices of the silent light, the secret light.
For more on Pronoia, go to Rob Brezsny’s site, freewillastrology.com, and/or read my review of Pronoia:
Is the World Spiraling Toward Eucatastrophe or is that just my Pronoia? The latest edition of Pronoia was available on 9-22-09
Dorothy Canfield Fisher is a novelist you’ve probably never heard of but whose writings are filled with the recognition of hidden light. She rebelled from the postmodern expectation that serious literature should be, as she put it, “wormwood and vinegar.”
My mother considers DCF her “third parent” and she had been reading her novels since she was eleven and is still reading them seventy-five years later.