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Dark Darker Darkest-how Dark is Space?

indyman87 Members Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

There are two main kinds of darkness: the sub-darkness and the super-darkness, between which lies, as it were, an octave of light. But the nether-darkness and the Divine Darkness are not the same darkness, for the former is absence of light, while the latter is excess of light. The one symbolizes mere ignorance, and the other a transcendent unknowing — a super-knowledge not obtained by means of the discursive reason.

'Of the First Principle,' says Damascius, 'the ancient Egyptians said nothing, but celebrated Him as a Darkness beyond all intellectual or spiritual perception — a Thrice-unknown Darkness.' This is for ever about the Pavilions of that great Light Unapproachable. It is caused by the superabundance of Light and not by the absence of lumination: it is 'a deep but dazzling Darkness' (Henry Vaughan). 'The light shineth in the darkness' (St. John, I, 5). 'In Thy light we shall see light' (Psalm 36, 9).
As another post mentions, a good rule of thumb might be taking night-time with no light pollution, during a new moon. (I would add no planets here as well.) I poked around for some numbers... (Here: http://www.ee.ryerson.ca/~phiscock/astronomy/light-pollution/photometry.pdf)
What we're looking for is illuminance, which is how much incident light hits a surface for human perception (you mentioned wanting to see your hand). The figure it gives here is 2x10-4 lux, which is on the border of perceptibility (you could probably make out objects, but not read.)
You can definitely see the stars themselves (this is determined by luminence). Scotopic vision (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scotopic_vision) can detect things down to maybe 3x10-6 cd/m2 (threshold of vision), vs. "night sky" at 10-4 cd/m2 on the chart.
Okay, but you mentioned "deep" space, and we are still talking about being inside a galaxy. Most of the universe isn't galaxies, but empty space. So let's imagine that we were far away from the Milky Way. At this point, you can give up any hope of seeing your hand. But what other galaxies could we see? What other galaxies are visible from Earth, ignoring the Milky Way and its satellites? Turns out only a handful can be seen. (See "naked-eye galaxies" here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_galaxies)
But the universe is far far more cruel than this: at the largest scale, the universe is actually organized mostly into immense voids, and almost all of the galaxies are clustered together (into clusters, filaments and walls) sit between the voids somewhat like a foam. If by "deep space" you mean that you find yourself in one of these voids (and if you picked a random spot in the universe to be in, you'll probably end up here), I doubt you would see anything at all with the naked eye.

4. The mystics speak of other kinds of darkness; for example, the darkness of the night of purgation, and the dark night of the soul, but the Divine Darkness is in a different category from these. It was not without reason that the blessed Moses was commanded first to undergo purification himself and then to separate himself from those who had not undergone it; and after the entire purification heard many-voiced trumpets and saw many lights streaming forth with pure and manifold rays; and that he was thereafter separated from the multitude, with the elect priests, and pressed forward to the summit of the divine ascent.5 Nevertheless, he did not attain to the Presence of 🤬 Himself; he saw not Him (for He cannot be looked upon) but the Place where He dwells. And this I take to signify that the divinest and highest things seen by the eyes or contemplated by the mind are but the symbolical expressions of those that are immediately beneath Him who is above all. Through these, His incomprehensible Presence is manifested upon those heights of His Holy Places; that then It breaks forth, even from that which is seen and that which sees, and plunges the mystic into the Darkness of Unknowing, whence all perfection of understanding is excluded, and he is enwrapped in that which is altogether intangible and noumenal, being wholly absorbed in Him who is beyond all, and in none else (whether himself or another); and through the inactivity of all his reasoning powers is united by his highest faculty to Him who is wholly unknowable; thus by knowing nothing he knows That which is beyond his knowledge.6 5. The Triple Mystic Path is outlined here: - the Purgative, the Illuminative and the Unitive, which have a parallel in the Karma Marga, Jnana Marga, and Bhakti Marga of oriental mysticism.

6. Since it is absolutely impossible for the finite reason to receive a pure knowledge of 🤬 save through processes which divide and limit His Infinite Nature, the mystic at last with absolute faith must plunge into the Darkness of Unknowing, which he can only do when he has reached the loftiest point to which the highest human faculty will raise him.

The ascending stages of degrees of prayer and contemplation delineated by the mystics constitute a ladder by which the aspiring soul mounts from finitude into infinitude. Thus: -
The Prayer of Simplicity (vocal).
The Prayer of the Mind (voiceless).
The Prayer of Recollection (the Perfume or Answer of Prayer).
The Prayer of Quiet (beyond thoughts).
The Prayer of Union; of various degrees of Rapture, Ecstasy and 'Glorious Nothingness.


  • LUClEN
    LUClEN Absence makes the heart grow fonder of someone else Members Posts: 20,559 ✭✭✭✭✭
    darker than Dro
  • indyman87
    indyman87 Members Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    Prayer of Simplicity

    It seems that Jacques Bossuet (1627-1704) was the first author to use this expression,(11) but this type of prayer was recognized by St. Teresa as the prayer of acquired recollection, to distinguish it from infused recollection, the first grade of mystical prayer.(12) Other authors call this prayer the prayer of simple gaze, of the presence of 🤬 or of the simple vision of faith.

    In the seventeenth century some writers began to call this prayer acquired contemplation. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila never used that expression, and although there is no objection to the use of the term (it is simply the prayer of acquired recollection, according to St. Teresa, or the prayer of simplicity, according to Bossuet), many authors now restrict the word contemplation to the mystical grades of prayer. This is more faithful to the language of St. John of the Cross.

    The prayer of simplicity was defined by Bossuet, as a simple loving gaze upon some divine object, whether on 🤬 himself or one of his perfections, on Christ or on one of his mysteries, or on some other Christian truth. It is a form of ascetical prayer that is extremely simplified. The discursus formerly used in meditation has now been transformed into a simple intellectual gaze; the affections that were experienced in affective prayer have been unified into a simple loving attention to 🤬 . The prayer is ascetical, meaning that the soul is able to attain to this type of prayer by its own efforts with the help of ordinary grace, but often it is the transition point to mystical prayer.

    The prayer of simplicity is thus the bridge between ascetical and mystical prayer. It is, as it were, the final disposition before the Holy Spirit begins to operate in the soul by means of his gifts. For that reason, one may frequently experience a blending of acquired and infused elements in the practice of the prayer of simplicity. If the soul is faithful,'the infused elements will gradually be increased until they dominate the practice of prayer entirely. Thus, without any shock and almost insensibly, the soul proceeds gently from the ascetical practice of prayer to mystical contemplation. This is an indication of the unity of the spiritual life and of the fact that there is only one road to perfection.

    Practice of the Prayer of Simplicity

    Because of its simplicity, there is no particular method for this type of prayer. It is simply a question of gazing and loving. It is useful, however, to keep in mind certain counsels. Before we actually enter upon the prayer of simplicity, we must take great care not to try to hasten the entrance into this type of prayer. So long as we are able to meditate and to practice affective. prayer, we should continue with those types of prayer.

    The contrary extreme should likewise be avoided. We should not continue the practice of meditation or even of affective prayer if we perceive clearly that we can remain before 🤬 in loving attention without any particular discursus or affective movement. St. John of the Cross severely criticizes spiritual directors who try to restrict souls to the practice of meditation when they have advanced far enough to enter the prayer of simplicity.(13)

    It is fitting that the soul should dispose itself for this prayer by means of some material, es was done in the use of meditation, but it should abandon it immediately if the attraction of grace so inclines. The preparation should be very brief and should not be concerned with many details. The prayer of simplicity requires that the powers of the soul be intimately united in a loving gaze, and this requires that the object of attention should be simple and unified.

    During the practice of the prayer of simplicity, the soul should strive to preserve the loving attention that is fixed on 🤬 , but without forcing itself. It must avoid distractions and slothfulness; but if it exerts too much effort it will destroy the simplicity of the prayer. Psychologically it is difficult for us to remain attentive over a long period of time, and therefore we should not expect, especially in the beginning, to be able to practice the prayer of simplicity for long periods of time. As soon as the loving attention begins to waver, we should turn to the use of affective prayer or simple meditation. All must be done gently and without violence. Nor should the soul be upset if periods of dryness occur. The prayer of simplicity is not always a sweet and consoling type of prayer; it is also a transition from ascetical to mystical prayer, and therefore the soul may experience the aridity that normally accompanies transitional states.

    Fruits of the Prayer of Simplicity

    The fruits of the prayer of simplicity should be manifested in a general improvement and progress in the Christian life. Our entire life and conduct should benefit from the practice of this prayer. And since grace tends more and more to simplify our conduct until it is reduced to unity in love, we should foster this tendency by avoiding every kind of affectation and multiplicity in our relations with 🤬 and our neighbor. This simplification of life should characterize those who have entered the prayer of simplicity. It should be especially manifested in a deep and continuous recollection in 🤬 .

    Even when occupied with the ordinary duties of daily life, the soul should be interiorly gazing upon 🤬 and loving him. The presence of 🤬 should be especially felt during liturgical prayer and in the recitation of vocal prayer. The examination of conscience should be so implicit that a rapid glance reveals the faults and imperfections of the day: All external works should be performed with the spirit of prayer and with the ardent desire of giving glory to 🤬 , and even the most commonplace tasks should be permeated with the spirit of faith and love.

    All the advantages of affective prayer over simple meditation are found as well in the prayer of simplicity, but noticeably increased. As affective prayer is an excellent preparation for the prayer of simplicity, so the latter is a disposition for infused contemplation. With much less effort than before, the soul achieves magnificent results in the practice of prayer. Thus, each new grade of prayer represents a new advance in the Christian life.

    Strictly speaking, it is not possible to make a complete separation between ascetical and mystical prayer as manifested in any particular soul because persons in the ascetical state are capable of receiving certain mystical influences through the operations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and mystics will act in a purely ascetical fashion when the gifts are not actually operating. What is certain is that in the ascetical state there will be a predominance of ascetical activity, and in the mystical state the operations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit will be predominant. Consequently, it is not surprising that the gifts of the Holy Spirit should sometimes begin to operate while the soul is in the highest grade of ascetical prayer, namely, the prayer of simplicity.
  • indyman87
    indyman87 Members Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭

    The Prayer of Recollection

    She emphasizes that to enter the Prayer of Recollection we have to stop trying to think, and to just wait for 🤬 to bring us in. She uses an image of a beggar begging a king, and after the request the beggar simply waits, with head bowed, for the king’s answer. Waiting with patience, listening for an answer. We can’t achieve the Prayer of Recollection, but 🤬 can grant it to us. She touches on the aqueducts / springs image from the previous chapter – the Prayer of Recollection is when the flow of the spring increases, and 🤬 enlarges the soul to receive it.

    She also spends some time explaining why she believes it is best not to try to curb or control our thoughts during prayer. I think it all has to do with encouraging detachment, which is a higher goal than mind / thought control. She lists a few points to support her position:

    “The first reason is that, in this work of the spirit, it is the one who thinks less and has the desire to do less that accomplishes more…. By trying not to think, we hopelessly stimulate the imagination.”
    “The second reason is that all these inner activities are gentle and serene. To do anything painful would do more harm than good. What I mean by painful is anything that we try to coerce ourselves into doing.”

    “The third reason is that the harder you try not to think of anything, the more aroused your mind will become and you will think even more.”

    “The fourth is that what is most essential is that we remember 🤬 and forget ourselves, and that we honor him and relinquish our own pleasure and comfort. But how can we forget outselves when we are being obsessively careful not to stir our minds or desires?”
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