Light is normally treated scientifically as a branch of Physics or Natural Philosophy, other branches of which are Mechanics (or 'Properties of Matter'), Heat, Sound, Electricity and Magnetism. Together with its close relative, Chemistry, Physics is commonly considered to be the 'purest' and most 'scientific' of all sciences. It makes use of mathematics to express the finer points of its theories. These theories are tested over and over by rigorous experiments and discarded or amended if experimental results do not accord with predictions based on the theories. Theories which have hitherto stood up to experimental 'verification' are provisionally taken to be physical 'laws' which hold good everywhere and for all time unless and until further experimental evidence casts doubt upon their absolute veracity when they must be revised. Our modern reliance on technology gives us daily assurance that our 'faith' in the validity of long-established physical laws is well justified.
For most of us, light is what enables us to see. Physical light is what enables us to see with our physical eyes. But the image that is produced on the retina of the eye is only part of seeing. At least as important is the mental process by which we interpret that image, the process of 'forming' the image in the mind so that it becomes 'information', and the mysterious process by which we project our mental pictures on to the 'space' outside our bodies.
Most of us are aware that we can be 'misinformed' when we interpret images wrongly. Misinterpretation may arise from physiological or psychological causes. When we 'see things that aren't there' (as in a mirage), we may say we are experiencing an 'optical illusion'. But our interpretation even of faithful images may be affected in subtle ways by our 'state of mind'. In interpreting what we observe, psychological factors come into play which often result in different individuals reaching markedly different conclusions from the same visual evidence.
Contrary to popular opinion, we do not see light itself. Light is what we see things in. Many of us have seen television pictures from space showing a brilliantly lit Earth against a completely black background. Yet that black background must be full of light: because if it were not, we should be unable to see the Earth. When we see beams of light emanating from a torch or a lighthouse, for example, what we see is not the light itself but material particles which are illuminated by the light. The presence of light becomes known to us only in its interaction with matter, either when matter reflects light or when it 'glows' and we see it in its self-radiated light.
Physical light is only one small 'octave' in the vast spectrum of electromagnetic vibrations. There are other sorts of vibrations (such as sound) which can also convey intelligence or information about our environment and enable us to "see" in a metaphorical sense.
Therefore, for our Temple purposes, we shall adopt the convention commonly used in esoteric studies and define Light (with a capital L) as whatever enables us to 'see', whether literally or metaphorically. Light is anything which helps us to gain a better understanding of life, the Universe, and our personal relationship with the environment in which we find ourselves. This extends the meaning of Light beyond the purely physical and its deeper significance will become apparent to us, whether gradually or suddenly, as we prepare ourselves to perceive it. As the Russian proverb puts it, 'There is more light than can be seen through the window'.
Life supplies many 'lights' whereby we can give reasonable answers to the questions which arise in our minds when we are trying to decide what actions would be appropriate in the prevailing circumstances. Each of us is born with certain tendencies or characteristics which make themselves felt as we gain experience of living and which, if we pay attention to them, enable us to offer tentative answers to such questions. As we learn to trust our own inward impressions, we become just as confident in applying metaphysical laws derived from them as the scientist or technician is in applying physical laws.
Among our principal 'lights' are our personal experience of pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, satisfaction and dissatisfaction. These innate lights may be augmented by principles which have been distilled from the experience of other wise men and women down the ages and whose validity may be tested by reference to our own experience
The main purpose of the Ardue Temple is to stimulate reflection on our personal experience using all the lights which are available to us. It also gives contemporary friends an opportunity of shining their own lights on our day-to-day problems. To that end, readers are invited to contribute their own thoughts on the subject of Light for mutual enlightenment through the medium of the Ardue Mailing List.