The Nature of Darkness

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The Nature of Darkness

silhouette of a person's head against black background

In response to my last blog about darkness and light, I was asked, “Is there a natural relationship between darkness and evil?”

I can see how it is confusing, in a culture that oversimplifies, to make it all seem easy by taking all the subtlety and nuance out of the picture, and just saying, “Oh light is good. Oh dark, it’s not just bad; it’s evil.

What I am putting forth here is from both the traditions of East Asian medicine—where Yin and Yang are both utterly necessary, and one is not more necessary or more beautiful than the other—and from Sufism, where there is both a holy darkness and a holy light.

When darkness is healthy, it is like the rich, nourishing, potent black velvet of our bone marrow. The nature of healthy darkness, because it is darkness, is different than the nature of healthy light when it is radiating out like the sun and bringing brilliant clarity.

duck and moose over yin yang

Why? Because the nature of a healthy duck is different than the nature of a healthy moose. They are just completely different things, and so their health looks different and feels different. You can’t say, “Which is healthier, a duck or a moose?” Well, is it a healthy duck? Is it a healthy moose?

We have darkness and we have light that could be healthy or unhealthy. When they are healthy, they are sooo different, because they are different—so their health would be very very different.

When they are not healthy, their lack of health is also different, too. When darkness goes the way of illness and evil, it’s got a sneaking, skulking quality that’s gonna come up in the dark and slit your throat put the light out. It comes to that candle and goes, “Pffffft, I’m gonna put that candle out; I’m gonna destroy hope, destroy heart, just smash it down and leave you in the dark.”

Ah, light, when it is unhealthy or evil, it looks like white supremacy. It looks like Nazism. It looks like being absolutely utterly clear and certain, in ways that are not just untrue but that are massively destructive—usually in the name of tada, tada, sounding very glorious and bright, like “ethnic cleansing.” That’s excess of light. That’s light turned to evil.

lady too much light

Just as darkness, when it turns to evil, is trying to put out the light, light that has turned to evil is trying to eradicate the darkness by claiming that the darkness is evil. “We can’t have any darkness here at all!” It is pesticide, insecticide, and genocide consciousness. The Nazis called my ancestors filth and vermin, and said, “We have to purify, we have to purify and clean this darkness, clean this stain out.” That zealous, clean, brightness that sterilizes and sanitizes is just as evil as the skulk-in-the-dark.

Excess and unhealthy light that seeks to reject and destroy the darkness is just as “evil” as excess and unhealthy darkness that seeks to reject and destroy the light. It looks and feels very, very different. Neither is better. Neither is worse.

In health, we are living a mutual respect for the darkness and for the light, in acknowledgment of the place of both in our lives—and in the process, acknowledging that there is a hygiene to be found on both sides. Is my relationship with the darkness loving and supporting of the light? Is my relationship with the light loving and supportive of my relationship with darkness? Can I go deep into the dark waters of the mystery and the unknown, and not lose awareness that there are some certainties here? Can I go into the brilliant clarity of certainty, and not lose awareness of the mystery?

flying rubber chickens

We have a lot of practicing to do, because we weren’t taught this in nursery school. We are remedial at it. Please take it all with a huge amount of mercy, as we toddlers go stumbling around in the light and the dark. It’s strong stuff, very strong stuff. We’ve made a bit of a muck of it so far. And, there are candles.


To learn more about healthy winter darkness, explore Thea’s winter/Water seasonal resources.

To join the discussion, find us on my Perennial Medicine discussion listserv (all are welcome).

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