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'It's a darkness that claws at your sanity...'

Darkness is a primal thing. No one likes it. No one seeks it. We think we have beaten our ancient fear of it, but it is only the fragile light bulb that makes us think we are less primitive than we are.

Darkness is disorienting, you cannot see the ground ahead of you nor the prey sneaking up on you. As a child, the prey is the alligator living under the bed. As an adult, the darkness is a thing to be laughed at in the light and a thing to be dreaded while in the dark.

For generations and centuries, man hated to see the sun set, having no candle to ward off the night spirits. Even with a candle or kerosene lamp, its flickering glow seemed too meager to combat the oppressive night.

Sailors for millennia will tell you that the night watch from 2-4 am is the most chilling. Terrifying is the night, especially if there is no moon and the stars are obscured. Samuel Taylor Coleridge captured this in the stanza about sailing at night in his famous Rime of the Ancient Mariner,

The Sun's rim dips; the stars rush out;
At one stride comes the dark;
With far-heard whisper, o'er the sea,
Off shot the spectre-bark.

We listened and looked sideways up!
Fear at my heart, as at a cup,
My life-blood seemed to sip!
The stars were dim, and thick the night,
The steersman's face by his lamp gleamed white;
From the sails the dew did drip—
Till clomb above the eastern bar
The hornèd Moon, with one bright star
Within the nether tip.

George Grie 'Final Frontier Voyager' Wikimedia commons
 Night sailing is vertiginous, captured here in Grie's painting. At every moment one believes the edge of the world looms and we will be pitched into a void from which there is no escape.

The River Styx is the Greek mythological river that separates the outer world from the underworld. It is a kingdom lorded over by Hades, and guarded by Cerberus the three headed dog. Charon is the ferryboatman who brings the lost souls across the river to their eternal doom. The term ‘stygian darkness’ comes from the Styx.

Here in the book Stories of the Ships, by Lewis R. Freeman, we read a description of a storm at night-

“The ship was reeling through the blackness of the pit when I clambered to the deck after dinner, so that the driving spray and ice-needles struck the face before one saw them by even the thousandth of a second. The darkness was such as one almost never encounters ashore, and it was some time before I accustomed myself to close my eyes against the unseen missiles (when turning to windward) without deliberately telling myself to do so in advance.”

“Into the Stygian pall the vivid golden triangles from the signal searchlights on the bridge flashed like the stab of a flaming sword. One instant the darkness was almost palpable enough to lean against; the next, the silhouette of funnels and foretop pricked into life, but only to be quenched again before the eye had time to fix a single detail.”

“Darkness you could lean against” … so apt!

I was in total darkness once. I do not mean the dark night, or even the dark when sailing, though that is very dark. I mean under-the-earth kind of dark where there is no spot of light nor any particle of brightness nor any beam of luminosity…just oppressive dark. It was when we toured the Queen Copper Mine in Bisbee Arizona. The tour takes you down under the earth and as you go along, they explain about mining. When we got to the bottom, the tour guide says to turn off your headlamps, and for 5 to 8 seconds we sit in a darkness so black is it alive. It suffocates, and permeates the brain to the extent that you want to scream and scrape your way out. It is a darkness that is palpable, suffocating you with its wild dementia. It is a darkness that claws at your sanity. When the lights come back on your mind relaxes at the soothing balm that brightness brings.

In darkness such as this, your eye has no opportunity to grasp a single detail, and instead, the mind is floating as a raft upon the darkness, free-wheeling and unhinged from the anchoring light.

In this NY Times review of an art installation, Darkness Visible, and Palpable, the author wrote,

“Usually, when we see something, we see it in advance: we know we can approach it; we can assess it as we move forward. Sight helps shape our sense of the future.

Here we have a different experience of time. Sounds help us anticipate, but in this strange, darkened space, even voices seem to float, positionless, in a void. We don’t know what is about to happen; we aren’t sure where we have been; and it is a problem finding out just where we are. No wonder horror movies rely on darkness: Anything can take shape in front of our eyes, and we would hardly know it. The world becomes immaterial in one respect but all too solid with dangers in another.”
Dore's illustration in Dante's Inferno,
Gates of Hell, 'Abandon all hope, ye who enter here'

Studies have been done. Darkness does things to us. Participants in an experiment were put into a dimmed room. Their behavior became more dishonest than the participants in the well-lit room. In another study, participants were situated in a well-lit room with another person, except then they were given sunglasses. Participants wearing sunglasses acted more dishonestly than participants without.
Read more about "What darkness does to the mind" at The Atlantic.

The bible frequently uses light and dark to contrast truths. Ecclesiastes 2:14b says that the fool walks in darkness. John 12:35b says "Whoever walks in the dark does not know where they are going."

The way that darkness is used here is that movement in the absence of light could cause self-injury or harm to others. You walk slowly when it's dark, you don't run. That is because you do not know where danger is. Pulpit Commentary says, "they will drift over the fathomless unknown into infinite and endless suspense. When the Light of the world is spurned, ... humanity and the world have no goal set before them; there is no end at which they aim - no mind or will to guide the progress of mankind."

Sin is darkness. "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." (Ephesians 5:11)

The power of satan is darkness. (Acts 26:18)

The LORD spoke much in the Old Testament about the Day of Darkness. His judgment brings darkness.

"Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light" (Amos 5:18).

"Give glory to the LORD your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but he will turn it to utter darkness and change it to deep gloom." (Jeremiah 13:16)

But Jesus IS THE LIGHT!!

"Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

How wonderful we can follow Him, a Light that never goes on and never dims. We will never walk in darkness if we follow Him. He knows the way, because He IS the Way!

If you do not follow Him, O, my heart aches in sadness to say, but there the person will remain in outer darkness all their lives throughout eternity. A person who dies in their sin, will remain in that clawing, palpable, screaming darkness forever- in hell.

Hell is a place of outer darkness (Matthew 22:13) where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12).

People, the precious Light has come!

"Believe in the light while you have the light, so that you may become children of light." (John 12:36)


  1. Thank you for this post, Elizabeth. All day long my heart was heavy with all the homosexual agenda I'm reading everywhere. You won't believe how much news and FB and forum posts I've seen about this topic in a span of 12 hours. I can almost see a sinister cloud of darkness descending upon the world. Almost everyone feel strongly about legalizing same-sex marriage, from Europe to America to Asia, and we know sexual depravity has always been a pre-cursor to judgment.

  2. "Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them." (Ephesians 5:11)

    This verse keeps popping into my thinking lately. We are to bear fruit, and we are to share the gospel, the good news of Jesus paying the price for our sins, and our receiving the gift of repentance from dead works. Some "works" seems to be "of the light", it has an "appearance of godliness" but it denies Jesus and His power, and we are to take no part in it, it is actually darkness, and it is somehow even worse because people get fooled by it thinking it is light. It is from "the liar", the arch deceiver. It has no good fruit, just spoiled and rotted, maggot infested, vileness. What God gives is pure, holy, like life-giving water, and wholesome bread of life that He provides at great cost to Himself. He gave up the beauty of heaven, to become a servant, and then die a hideous and humiliating death, in order to share His goodness with us. He is that pure light of a new fresh day after a morning rain.

    Joh 1:4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
    Joh 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
    Joh 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
    Joh 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
    Joh 3:21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

    1Jn 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
    1Jn 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
    1Jn 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.
    1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
    1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

    These are very dark times indeed, we need our lamps trimmed and held high so that others may come to the light, which light is not of ourselves, but it is the light that the Lord gives us as we proclaim the truth of His word.

  3. Thx, I learn a lot from you and we are on one accord in the spirit. The Lord opened my eyes a few years ago to recognize the number if people wearing shades - even in the dark! Sunshine is vitamin D and is needed for life...
    Why do people hate it so much? The light of the body are the eyes, but it's amazing the number of people whose eyes are sensitive to light!

    Bless you,


  4. What an interesting post!

    I always marvel at this verse:

    Proverbs 4
    14 Do not enter the path of the wicked ... 16 For they cannot sleep unless they do evil; And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.

    Notice how the wicked cannot do the normal night time activity of sleeping unless they do evil. I bet more "shady" deals take place at night.

    1 Thess 5 - more of that light vs dark contrast
    4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; 5 for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; 6 so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. 7 For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night.

    Also, God says about light:
    Ecc 11:7 The light is pleasant, and it is good for the eyes to see the sun.

    But maybe Luke 11:34 is why so many people wear sunglasses?

    Really good post, Elizabeth, thanks!



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