“…it is better to enlighten than merely to shine.” ~ St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 188, a. 6.
That bit of wisdom from St. Thomas Aquinas caught my attention a few days ago, when I came across it in some reading and it stayed with me.
Is it possible to do both: enlighten and shine?
As usual, with my associative and dot-connecting mind, this perspective from Aquinas made me think of the telestai or phosters — the initiated adepts, teachers, and illuminators — of the ancient Mystery Schools.
The telestai, writes John Lamb Lash, “were considered to be the leading lights of ancient civilization, and the initiates, teachers and vocational trainers of the ancient world.”
Lash says that the telestai were, “.. bound by sacred duty to bring what they learned into the world at large, (but) were also bound by a vow of secrecy never to disclose exactly how they underwent accelerated learning through repeated intentional encounters with the Organic Light.”
Dominicans like Thomas Aquinas have a this mission: “To contemplate, and to give to others the fruit of that contemplation … constantly being formed and assisting in the formation of others.”**
This is an ethos not unlike the one shared by the telestai of the earlier Mystery Schools. And in the earliest monasticism, spiritual practice was actually seen as a form of inspired action.***
Our culture has long favored or biased action over contemplation, and perhaps the consequences or ‘fruits’ of that imbalance are very easily seen in the current state of affairs: in the majority of headlines for what passes as ‘news’, but also in the escalating percentages for depression, anxiety, incivility, narcissism, and so on.
I doubt there’s much of a likelihood of that the culture as a whole will suddenly become more reflective and thoughtful, with considered (and considerate) action (including thought and speech) flowing out of the sweet wells of contemplation.
That said, for each individual and group that is more contemplative and whose considered actions move out of the illumination and wisdom born of contemplation, it might be like a sort of energetic and psychic ‘remedy’ in the collective consciousness or field.
And then, the fruits of those Divine revealings, the meditations, and how such practices change us, get shared more overtly through writings, teachings, and role modelings of inspired, wise action, right speech, and the capacity for sacred relationship.
For those more aware of how energy flows, and that all is energy, perhaps it’s more fair now to say that “It is better to enlighten, as well as to shine,” assuming that we’re shining the light of the heart illuminated and not the ego-stroking, stage-hogging thing that’s more like p.r.-savvy, foil-wrapper glitter than actual shine.
That’s really what I think of when I hear the quote attributed to the Mahatma Gandhi, Be the change you wish to see in the world.
“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.”
~ a Chinese proverb shared by Eleanor Roosevelt, 1962.
In this case, perhaps we can endeavor to be the lit-candle, yes?
The irony is something that the ancient (and contemporary) telestai knew, and Aquinas likely knew as well: that such light is born out of the transformative depths and the “dazzling darkness.”
Find more food for cultivating your shiny-heartedness and tending your Divine Spark in these Sophia’s Children musings:
• Out of Fear-Spin and Into the Heart, Illuminated
• Shining Heart: The Morning Star Rises
* Find more about John Lamb Lash at Metahistory and through his excellent book, Not In His Image. John and I also co-created a series of illuminating conversations on the Sophia Mysteries, which you can find in my Feminine Mojo Show archives.
** Lovely summary from “Dominican Spirituality,” Head and Heart Theology.
*** As shared in Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, by Vladimir Lossky
May 19, 2016 at 9:52 pm
excellent, very awesome article. Yes, yes, and yes. And furthermore…thank you espavo
September 23, 2017 at 11:13 pm
Thanks for reposting this one, which I somehow missed the first go-round.
“assuming that we’re shining the light of the heart illuminated and not the ego-stroking, stage-hogging thing that’s more like p.r.-savvy, foil-wrapper glitter than actual shine.” Oh, yes! So refreshing when something other than that shines through. 🙂
September 24, 2017 at 1:14 pm
Hey there, Laura. Oh yes, indeed – I know you’d resonate with that one as well. 🙂 It’s amazing what’s buried in the archives of long-running blogs … I’m sure you know this one, too (I appreciate more than a few of your refeatures from your treasure vault). Lots of love (and thank you for shining your light and wisdom, too).
September 26, 2017 at 8:44 pm
Yes, it’s hard to believe what treasures are hiding in there! Lots of love and thanks to you, too. 🙂
September 24, 2017 at 9:15 am
Indeed. Very well said my friend. Thoroughly enjoyable post this one. Warmest regards xoxo
September 24, 2017 at 1:15 pm
Leeby! Welcome back my friend. I’ve missed you (I’m sure I’m not the only one.) Thanks for sharing the auto-immune post. That seems a more and more prominent issue, it seems, in this world and these times. I hope you’re well. Love, Jamie
September 25, 2017 at 10:23 am
Hey, good to see you again too. Ufortunately my writing had to take a backseat to life for a bit, but, yes I’m back. Looking forward to catching up! As always peace and big love.
September 25, 2017 at 11:50 am
Life does have a way of redirecting (or just flat-out directing) our energy, focus, and attention, doesn’t She? That’s been the case for me as well in the more recent cycle, though it’s been shifting again (like caterpillar, cocoon, chrysalis, butterfly) in recent months.
Looking forward to resuming the conversation. Peace and Big Love to you as well, Leeby.
September 25, 2017 at 12:45 pm
Absolutely. Finding time to write is a struggle these days, but it’s a crucial part of my mojo. So gotta work that mojo!
September 25, 2017 at 1:56 pm
Work the mojo, my friend. Work the mojo. So many people out there will be glad for it (no pressure). 🙂
September 25, 2017 at 8:42 pm
Cheers. Thank you for your support. Yes, important work to be done. And not to mention just how fun and invigorating it all is at the intellectual and soul level.
September 25, 2017 at 8:52 pm
Truly spoken, Leeby. Cheers.