We can’t help staring into the flames. Whether it be a humble campfire, the stars at night, or the glitter and glam of stage and screen, we are drawn to light like primate moths around a flame. That’s why we also love burning fuel; from the humble whale oil lamp to nitrous guzzling race cars, Prometheus rules our evolution. The demigod who taught us to control the flame could have guessed we would become addicted to it, but i’ll bet he would have hoped we’d also learn to temper our love with wisdom.
Because we can’t help ourselves, we can become passive consumers trapped by the market, as well as inspired beings finding our own way towards the intelligence and wisdom of light. The screen upon which you are reading this, the TV that came before it, even electric light itself – only a century or so old – our attention can be drawn along by flashing luminescence. And in modern times, this ancient fascination is owned. We don’t look to nature for connection, but to technology. That’s where we are at home; in the new ‘natural’ environment of the city, hooked up to the light bulb, the lime light, the paid advertisement, the street lights and LEDs in the ceiling. We can hardly move without being flooded in light, mostly provided by the burning of fossil fuels hundreds of miles away.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We used to find the light within, as well as without. In fact, we don’t have to look anywhere, if we are talking metaphorically, for the light of consciousness. We can trust ourselves, we can find a way, we can figure out where we stand … we can listen to our bodies and to the nature they represent.
This is because light is within all matter; in fact, matter is very slow light wavelengths (or electromagnetic radiation), just as light is the same stuff moving infinitely more quickly. This is physics, not philosophy. So, it would be more accurate to say that light is matter, matter is light, in a unified field or flow of all things, or the “only one thing,” as physicist and author Frank Wilczek writes in The Lightness of Being. Hence, the sun’s power within carbon, released as fire, is also the same as the light that emanates from stars; our friendly yellow one as well as the red giants and pulsing quasars of distant galaxies.
Light is what we are and what it all is: a unified field filled with celestial intelligence, the knowledge of all things as it was sent upon its cosmic journey by the fire of life. This is wisdom, love, goodness and abundance, as well as power. That means power over, as well as power with. Power is neutral and we choose what to do with it. And behind every light falls the shadow. In the case of human consciousness, this shadow is greed, hatred, and ignorance. Manifest in its most potent force, it is the elite at the top of the pyramid, those who control the market, who demand that we receive the sign, the mark of the slave class, the workers who create profit and send it up the line. And the ultimate victory for the shadow is when it convinces us that it represents the light, the one true light, the only light, the guiding light … the light that draws us on, which we follow into the cave, which enslaves us. Here are the sun kings, ancient and new, and the corporate stars that replace them.
As Orwell pointed out, we must not only fear Big Brother, we must love Big Brother. And we do; Big Brother rules, brings us the light of order, peace, security. Perpetual war is the cost and we accept it; war upon the earth, which creates so much wealth we no longer even question our right to it. We love the Big Brother of the marketplace while he promises us full shelves in the supermarkets, freely available fuel for our cars and planes, and cities of light so bright it hardly matters whether it is night or day.
And so the shadow wins; we believe we live in perpetual light and we have not asked clearly or persistently enough the only question that really mattered: what does it cost?
It costs us the earth. To relate this to the Christian religious framework that sits behind the godless capitalism that chokes the planet to death now, the modern city is a place where we sacrifice dark fossil fuels to create endless light – the New Jerusalem of Revelation, which today is a church of endless consumption.
The New Year’s 2020 bushfires in Australia are a logical result of our Promethean tendencies and they are also a warning from the future that we have created; this is the beginning of the apocalyptic conditions, which arise out of the devilish bargain we have made with our ‘resources’. The increased ferocity of storms, heatwaves, hurricanes, droughts and floods that are all still forecast by the same climate modelling that promised us these fires were coming will not stop soon. They are coming because we burn too much fuel. But while fire is the focus, let’s remember something about its nature as light, and hope that this also reminds us of a few things about ourselves. We are the light, as is the earth, and this is our only home while we are here in these bodies. This is right relationship to our planetary home. This is what we can learn from out of control fires, if we choose to do so.