Posted by : Sherri Cornelius Friday, October 2, 2009

Does anyone here know the origins of "going into the light"? I know it was popularized in the movie Poltergeist, and probably came from near-death experiences where people see a warm, loving light beckoning them. But do you know about when the first references were? Is there something in the Bible that would fit using the "light" as a portal to Heaven? Other literature? Pop culture? Anyone?

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  1. Hmm. Don't know where the expression came from. Don't think it's a Biblical thing, although it does talk about Christ being the Light of the world. But that's not about dying, it's about living.

    I did read a book - oh, about 25-30 years ago now, that was about the last words of famous people. I remember being struck by everyone's last words were either of joy of seeing a light and angels, or Christ, or screaming in fear and seeing flames and Satan. There weren't any "nothing is there" quotes, it was either one or the other. Complete joy or abject terror. It was very compelling.

    Sorry I can't be of more help.

    On Death and Dying by Kubler-Ross might have something too.

  2. I remember discussing this in college when we read Plato's Allegory of the Cave-(and then I found the relevant passages on google, go google!)

    "This entire allegory, I said, you may now append, dear Glaucon, to the previous argument; the prison-house is the world of sight, the light of the fire is the sun, and you will not misapprehend me if you interpret the journey upwards to be the ascent of the soul into the intellectual world according to my poor belief, which, at your desire, I have expressed whether rightly or wrongly God knows. But, whether true or false, my opinion is that in the world of knowledge the idea of good appears last of all, and is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right, parent of light and of the lord of light in this visible world, and the immediate source of reason and truth in the intellectual; and that this is the power upon which he who would act rationally, either in public or private life must have his eye fixed."

    Another passage:

    "Any one who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind's eye, quite as much as of the bodily eye; and he who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of the brighter light, and is unable to see because unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by excess of light. And he will count the one happy in his condition and state of being, and he will pity the other; or, if he have a mind to laugh at the soul which comes from below into the light, there will be more reason in this than in the laugh which greets him who returns from above out of the light into the cave."

  3. I would think if one saw nothing just before death, one would say nothing. ;)

    It seems like I remember God coming down to earth in a light...maybe old testament. I'm really bad at recalling facts from things I've read. I remember concepts, but if I have to be specific, forget it.

  4. Thanks for finding that, Sarah, that's a good starting place. Even though he's not talking about an actual portal to heaven, that second passage may actually receive a reference in my book.

    I haven't had much luck googling the generic "into the light" terms. I will try some other variations, but I'm afraid it probably wasn't used the way I'm thinking of it until the 20th century.

  5. I thought it had to do with people seeing a light in close-to-death experiences.

  6. No idea, but I do know that people's perceptions of near-death expereinces tend to be culuturlaly bound. You aren't going to see angels, for instance, unless you are in a tradition that includes angels.

  7. Going into the light -- here's a biblical passage that I believe is on point with the concept, though the phrase is not used: Matthew 17:1-8, the story of the 'tranfiguration' of Jesus, where on a mountain with his three favorite disciples, Jesus meets up with the dead (resurrected?) Moses & Elijah. And of course God's voice was there, telling Peter to listen rather than talk. Jesus' face was transfigured -- his face shone like the sun. Sounds like light to me. Good luck with what your doing.

  8. Thanks for the passage, Janell. I'll go look that up. It does appear that light has represented Good for a very long time. I'm still looking with one eye as I go through my days, for some evidence of non-Judeo Christian cultures using the device. Egyptian, Sumerian, Viking...I'm not looking hard right now, but if something crossed my path I'd jump on it.

    Thanks for visiting!

  9. I forgot to reply to this, but I've thought about it all week. That seems to give credence to the view that's it's all a dying brain's hallucination. I sort of think that maybe near-death experiences are the brain's interpretation of what the soul is experiencing. Our physical bodies can't comprehend what the soul is.


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