I was 22 years old and inhaling everything I could about the physical and symbolic nature of temples when I checked out a gigantic book called The Hindu Temple from the BYU library. The nondescript book had no dust jacket or cover art.
I had no experience with Hindu temples so knew I could learn a lot. I learned about dimensions and shapes and geometric patterns important to a Hindu temple that translated to temples I felt familiar with more easily than I expected. I took pages of notes to reinforce what I learned and to compare and contrast what I knew. Learning about super-luminous darkness impacted me most.
As I understand it, Hindu temples, perfectly oriented and geometrically placed, contain no glass windows. Round, square, triangular, or hexagonal windows adorn the temple’s exterior and throughout various levels of interior walls, but the windows are opaque or stone and permanently shut.
As created, a person leaves the outside world and steps into a dark-ish temple, which progressively grows darker as the person moves through interior doorways and passes through interior rooms. Finally, the person reaches the heart of the temple, the center, the womb of creation. Here, at the darkest point in physical space, spiritual light explodes. God, the power of all life and creation and light, emanates from this place to fill the immensity of space with a light that shines in and through and pierces all darkness — super-luminous darkness.
In the return trip out of the temple, radically different, the person sees as God sees, in brilliant light. The light penetrates the closed windows from the inside out and lights the world from the center of the temple.
Super-luminous darkness contains the paradox that within the darkness, the greatest light is found.
What Darkness Impedes the Path to Super-Luminous Darkness?
My experience as I read the book was to equate darkness with evil, which it can be, but I learned that darkness could also include blindness of heart and mind, the veil of mortality, the effects of the Fall that separate us from God, and any number of other things that keep us from the clarity of light. I learned that in the Hindu temple, the pathway through the darkness is not feared or avoided, but rather a welcome part of the journey to illumination and wisdom. I’ve remembered that understanding as I’ve encountered times of blindness and limited thought and sought to pass through it rather than beat against it.
Shining in the Darkness
During this time of study, I attended the Provo Temple. In the endowment rooms stands an altar. In the Provo Temple, the altars are illuminated. I remember the first time I’d been to the temple since reading about super-luminous darkness and trying to determine if/how it fit into my theology or if/how it could enlighten my understanding. The lights went out before the film began. And there I sat in darkness with the altar’s light shining in the midst of the darkness. And I began to understand.
“As also He is in the sun—” the sun shines in the midst of dark space— “and the power thereof by which it was made. As also He is in the moon, and is the light of the moon—” the moon reflects light in the midst of dark space, sometimes the only light in a dark sky— “and the power thereof by which it was made; As also the light of the stars—” shining in the blackness of space— “and the power thereof by which they were made; And the earth also—” illuminating in darkness— “and the power thereof, even the earth upon which you stand.
And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through Him who enlighteneth your eyes—” as we enter the center room, removing veils of unbelief, sin, and the effects of the Fall— “which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space—” proceeding back, we see as God sees — light penetrating the darkness and permeating every facet of space — “The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon His throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things. . . .
The light shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not; nevertheless, the day shall come when you shall comprehend even God, being quickened in Him and by Him. Then shall ye know that ye have seen Me, that I am, and that I am the true light that is in you, and that you are in Me. . . .”
Through Thick Darkness to the Pillar of Light
Consider that concept of a journey into and through darkness to light in this real-life example.
After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I wasupon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.
But, exerting all my powers to ust at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of , which descended gradually until it fell upon me. exactly over my head, above the brightness of theupon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—j
It no sooner appeared than I found myselffrom the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I two , whose brightness and defy all description, above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My . Hear Him!
Joseph’s theophany occurred at the very darkest moment in the journey to super-luminous darkness. For Joseph, spiritual and physical light permeated and penetrated his surroundings and his person. And after that experience, he gained clarity of God’s vision that continued to grow until the perfect day.
Because “[t]hat which is of God is that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.“; and he that , and in God, receiveth more ; and