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During the course of a conference I gave recently on ‘Mural Art and Tradition’, I posed the following question:  ‘Has anyone ever seen Light?’.  The problem of light is a problem of Faith.  For, in fact, it is the problem of something which isn’t concrete, which is perfectly metaphysical since it is perfectly ineffable.  The physicist, the theologian of times past, the mathematician and the poet are, with respect to it, living under the same sign:  they have never seen light.  However, the physicist and mathematician speak with the conviction that they are on intimate terms with it.  They are persuaded that the light of the theologian or of the poet is but a word without any idea attached to it, an image, a metaphor.  Theirs alone is reality and, consequently, susceptible to analysis. 

Well, personally, I think that the theologian and the poet are infinitely less taken in by words than the mathematician and the physicist.  Light is of a nature that transcends what scientific analysis claims to be able to see in it.  When we apply to certain experiences which are based on the senses and are therefore relative and contingent, an idea that is pure, ineffable, absolute, we are attributing to them characteristics that belong properly to the sublime.  In those periods of human history which are, it seems, the most deprived of any lyrical feeling - periods like our own, in which the ‘down to earth’ dominates everything, does man still, then, have a hankering to rise above the level of all those things that he has made by his own efforts?  Without even being conscious of the fact, he insists on jumping straight from the heaviest of sensations into a world that is filled uniquely with concepts and abstractions.  So, because his senses render extension possible for him, he rushes to deduce from this extension the abstract reality of SPACE.  Because he has certain possibilities of retaining his sensations in memory, and of anticipating their recurrence, he is anxious to enclose them in the entity of TIME.  We may conclude that at each of the different levels of himself there is always an emergency exit, a way of salvation, whose secret he may not understand, but which he nonetheless uses in order to arrive at some sort of consciousness of the ABSOLUTE.  SPACE, TIME, LIGHT - these are words that designate one and the same idea.  They are words that indicate a single end, which cannot be denied, which is at once intelligible and inconceivable. 

We have evidence of the existence of light through the nature of our senses and through the nature of our memory.  We have evidence of it but we do not apprehend it.  If we are closed up in a perfectly dark cellar, the light has not followed us.  If we concentrate our gaze on the burning sun, we are blinded by the light and can no longer see anything. Only in circumstances that are neither black nor white can we have evidence of the existence of the light and so it is between white and black, between the sum of all things and the void, that the infinitely varied range of its intensities can be found. 

But the senses do not give us such a monodic notion of light.  White and black are accompanied by colours and by their nuances, and these enable the light to sing like a lover.  It is this accompaniment, this counterpoint, that the physicist has studied in the hopes of entering into the impenetrable nature of light.  Because at will he can produce, through the spectrum, a regular scale of colours, the physicist thought that he had decomposed light.  In reality, what he had done was simply to restore, in their living order, the series of links that bind the lower level of man - that in which the single, individual colour sits, isolated, in a state of stagnation - to the sublime transformation this level undergoes in transcendent light.  A clever, artificial product of the life of colour which, starting from its state of lonely isolation, goes towards light - the prism, the colour wheel.  The same phenomenon, natural, divine, in the clouds after rain - the Rainbow. 

The rainbow, the spectrum, bear witness to the unchangeable ORDER of the life of colours and to their relations of growth and decline.  The cause of colour cannot be found either in darkness, by way of contrast, nor in the brightness of an incandescent source.  These are, rather, extreme effects.  The spirit of the rainbow, always undergoing a process either of growth or of decline, is a more suitable object of meditation if we wish to reflect on the true, the good and the beautiful nature of light. 

The rainbow and the spectrum reveal to us the order assumed by colours as they descend from a sovereign authority.  Colours, we say.  It seems, then, that each of the colours, if taken in isolation, is something other than what it is when subject to the rule imposed by the overall colour circle.  We may conclude that we are in the presence of two phenomena that are quite distinct - that of the movement of colour in the spectrum;  that of the colour taken separately. 

Without the help of REASON, we would derive no benefit from the observation of these two phenomena.  We would mix them up and we would never be able to understand what it is that opposes them one to the other - or, rather, we would never be able to understand their two, quite different natures and what distinguishes them.