Is Darkness an essence or absence of light?

A new article by Ohad Pele, December 2019

The debate if darkness is essential or just an absence, while light being the only essence in existence was one of the old debates between Jewish philosophers, like Maimonides, and the ancient Kabbalists. The latter ones usually sensed that there is just MORE to darkness than absence of light. 

There are two types of Darkness in our world. One is the absence of light and all you have to do to cast it away is to light a candle and this darkness disappears.

But there is another kind of darkness known to modern physics, that is the essential darkness of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. This darkness is not affected by light at all, and a million candles or laser beams would never illuminate it. It has no response to light. 

Philosophy saw light as a metaphor for goodness and for reason and wisdom, whilst darkness is standing for ignorance, which is an absence of wisdom, and evil being not a thing of itself but a lack of goodness. There were mystics who saw it like that too:

“הצדיקים הטהורים אינם קובלים על הרשעה אלא מוסיפים צדק, אינם קובלים על הכפירה אלא מוסיפים אמונה, אינם קובלים על הבערות אלא מוסיפים חוכמה.”
– הרב קוק “ערפילי טוהר” (עמ’ ל”ט) 

“The true righteous ones do not complain about evil but add on justice. They do not complain about heresy but instead add on true faith. They do not complain about ignorance but instead add on wisdom.” 
(Rabbi A. I. Cook)

This quote by Rav Cook is derived from seeing evil and ignorance as absence, not as essence, despite him being a known mystic, he was mainly a person of Light.

Nevertheless, in Kabbalah it is easy to find writings about the evil side as a manifestation of itself that has 10 Sephirot of the “other side”. 
Some Kabbalists would relate to it as an illusion, that doesn’t REALLY exist, essentially, but appears as if it has validity as long as we are not seeing reality clear enough.

Every expression of evil in our world is an expression of the “shuttering of the vessels” (shvirat ha Kelim) in Kabbalah, hence the confusion in conception of reality. God is the source of everything, and God is good thus evil has to be an illusion….

It is only in the writings of Radical Kabbalists, such as Nathan of Gaza (17th century) and R. Jonathan Eybeschutz (18th century) that I find depth of understanding of the root of the shuttering of vessels, high above, at the source of it all, in what they call: “The energy that has no constructive thought” for creating the worlds. 

This thought of the Divine source IS the source of all destruction and in my understanding can be interesting to be looked at as the root of the 2nd law of thermodynamics. The inevitable increase of Enthropy in any closed system.

I also want to suggest that this can be related to Dark matter, to darkness as essence in creation and not only as absence of light. 

In a week from now, during Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday of lights, I am going to offer those thoughts in length at a unique evening in Tel Aviv (click here for more info) together with my friend Prof of physics Avshalom Elitzur who will talk about the dark matter from his perspective, while I will offer some Kabbalistic thoughts on the matter of the Dark. 
I am very much looking forward to this event in which, I’m sure, we all are going to learn a lot and get a bit more endarkened in a sacred way….

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