We are all familiar with light as the emblem of good, and darkness as the emblem of evil, but we take this only in a general sort of way, as mere poetic imagery, without suspecting how near poetry sometimes comes to the expression of actual relations. But if we examine the facts of light and darkness, of good and evil, a little more closely, we shall see how much more accurate is the correspondence between them than we had ever imagined. In the first place, we can have a source of light but not a source of darkness; and this means a good deal. It means that light can be centralized and that darkness cannot; from which we see that light is something positive and affirmative; in a word, that it has substantive existence, while darkness is the mere absence of something, and has no substance which we can concentrate into a radiating center as we can the light; it has no affirmative being of its own, but is merely the absence of light. In like manner all evil is in its origin the absence of the opposite good. True, there are positive acts of evil, but they owe their origin to the ignorance which supposes that they can be made to produce some good which the doer feels the want of; and when this ignorance is dispersed by the light of true knowledge then the futility of evil as a source of satisfaction for any part of man's nature becomes clear, and evil acts are no longer supposed capable of producing any real benefit to the doer of them; and thus the incapacity of evil as a radiating source of life to its perpetrator becomes evident. In this way the affirmative nature of light and the negative nature of darkness are paralleled by the qualities for which they stand as symbols.
Again, an opaque body casts a shadow on the side which is turned away from the light. On that side there is darkness. Why? Because the opaque body will not allow the light to shine through it. And in like manner we find that a shadow of evil follows us on that side which is turned away from the moral light. We complain of this shadow as a deprivation of light without realizing that we cast it ourselves; or we say that the casting of shadows is in the order of Nature and must be accepted without question. But all nature is not made up of opaque substances. There are also translucent substances which allow the light to shine through them, and we shall find that we are of the latter order if we resolutely set to work to remove the incrustation of ignorance as to the true nature of good; then the light will shine through us and no shadow be cast by it; for the shadow is not in the light itself, but only results from whatever opposes it. And further, we may pass beyond the stage of mere non-resistance to the light, and may ourselves become radiating centers of light, not only casting no shadow, but illuminating all that comes within the field of our activity. The light is within ourselves—we are the light, and have no darkness in us, but carry our illuminating power wherever we go. And this, not simply in a figurative or even in a merely intellectual sense, but as radiating healthful influences all around. For that light which is the realization of the perfect good is in its very essence life itself. It is the recognition of the truth that the life-giving quality in all things is their goodness, and therefore the perfect good must be the perfect life. So that the resolve to see all that we see, and to do all that we do, from the standpoint of the Affirmative, from the standpoint that we have in us a power which can radiate itself forth to the kindling of like power in others, at once endues us with a strength such as nothing else can give. We must believe in the principle of Life, and we must believe in ourselves as the manifestation of it. If we have no confidence in ourselves and in our principle we shall attribute to the darkness a substantive quality which is not in it. If we do not see that the active force, which determines what things shall be and how they shall be, is the Light, we have no alternative but to say that the determining force is Darkness, and thus attribute to it a power of concentration and radiation utterly impossible to that which is merely a condition arising out of the absence of something else. We must assume this affirmative position by an act of sheer determination to realize it, and then we shall find that our resolution will soon begin to result in a growing confidence in ourselves; we shall find that we have in us a hitherto undiscovered spring of interior livingness, which gushes forth in greater abundance the more we draw from it. We shall feel it as health, strength, clearness, and vitality in ourselves, and we shall find that we are able to pass something of this on to others; and the more we seek to do so the more we shall find this secret spring welling up within. It is the result, not of this creed nor of that, to the exclusion of others; but it is the result of the settled resolve to realize that Light is the only Affirmative power, and that we ourselves are Light. It is well to have a clear conception of the chain of cause and effect by which the light and life in ourselves results by an intelligible sequence from the inconceivable splendor and livingness of the First Great Cause, for when we see how a thing can be we are all the more ready to believe that it should be. But let us remember that the only use of explanations is to give a firmer hold upon the fact explained, and it is therefore sufficient that my own explanation should satisfy myself. If a different explanation enables another to lay an equally firm hold upon the fact, his explanation is as good for him as mine for me; therefore let us not waste, in disputing about rival modes of explanation, the good energy that should be used in strengthening our resolution to affirm the Light in ourselves and for others.
But we cannot be Light and Darkness at the same time. The sphere filled by our rays may as yet be small, but so far as they go they must be all light, for there are no such things as rays of darkness. ln other words, we must set it down as a maxim that we refuse to acknowledge evil as a substantive power anywhere, either in ourselves, or in Nature, or in other people. It is darkness, or the mere condition arising from the absence of Light, that light which we are radiating forth. Creative power is necessarily affirmative, and negation can never create anything; and so continually seeking to expel from our minds every thought both of ourselves and others which is not full of Light and full of Life, we shall by degrees realize that we are centers of creative power creating a new world of Light and Life both within us and around us.
—Charles Caleb Colton