Darkness Visible: Awakening Spiritual Light through Darkness Meditation

Darkness Visible: Awakening Spiritual Light through Darkness Meditation

By Ross Heaven and Simon Buxton
Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 2005
Paperback, 168 pages.

Early in this fine text, Simon Buxton and Ross Heaven recall the myth of Icarus. They remark:

We might sum up the moral of this tale in this way: "Too much light and your wings may be lost." Yet within the religious traditions of many denominations there is often a largely unbalanced emphasis on embracing light and following a sole trajectory of ascension.

Or, in the lyrics of Buddhist punk musician Stuart Davis: "All ascenders end up sinking... Makes love wonder what fear's thinking ..." ("Easter";What 2006). How many of us have embarked on spiritual paths which point us only toward increasing light, and paint darkness as an image of evil , or more politely, the non-integrated parts of ourselves?

Yet, trees cannot reach upward without deep roots to anchor them, and most spiritual traditions know this. Jesus was buried in the silence of the earth before the resurrection. The Masonic initiate is symbolically killed and buried. However, darkness is not only an initiatory death from which one will rise, but a potent point of entry into divine consciousness which can become an enduring aspect of a balanced spiritual life.

The importance of the mysteries of darkness, death, and the underworld came to the fore in the 1970s with important books such as The Dream and the Underworld by James Hillman, and The Underworld Initiation by R. J. Stewart. More recent times have brought further contributions including Peter Kingsley's revolutionary In the Dark Places of Wisdom, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' A Ray of Darkness, and esoteric visionary Josephine Dunne's teachings on the Void beyond being and non-being.

Buxton and Heaven write for a more popular audience, and provide a wealth of helpful practices to initiate the newcomer into forms of darkness meditation and related inner work. The book includes many comments and stories from participants in their "Darkness Visible" workshops. This work is weighted toward the psychological effects of working with darkness (in the case of their workshops, spending several days in total darkness, including a burial in the earth), with a personal and emotional tone which is helpful in an introductory work. But, as the authors make clear, as one journeys deeper into the Void, the dark, pure potential, all personal aspects drop away, and one is left simply in Mystery.


May/June 2007