Being able to create artificial light was one of the biggest achievements of humankind. When fire was accidentally created in the stone age, our ancestors gained much more than just a source of heat to cook food.
With the development of electricity, light has become even easier to create, and today we take it for granted.
However, the light wasn’t always so easily available. It had mystic and nearly Godly importance to societies all around the world. It has been used as a symbol for many different reasons. In this article, we dive into its symbolism.
Light symbolizes: a sign of divinity, life, positivity, celebration, guidance, and a source of knowledge
Table of Contents
1. A Sign of Divinity
One feature of light common in nearly all societies is that it was incorporated into religion and seen as an attribute of the Higher Power. Societies of the past either had a dedicated God for light or a God that governed some kind of light sources, such as the sun or fire.
Many religions consider God himself a source of light or the guiding light. Messengers, angels, and other creatures closely related to God are also understood and depicted as beings that emit light or are light themselves.
It resembles divinity – following the light is considered to be following the path God has advised.
In nearly all societies, light, and the presence of light, have been associated with a higher power. Even in relatively recent societies, darkness was considered the absence of good or positivity—for instance, in the Dark Ages in Europe after the fall of the Roman Empire.
2. Represents Life
According to modern science, everything in existence came to be due to The Big Bang and the long chain of evolution that followed. However, this initial explosion created an incredible amount of light, the waves of which are still expanding today.
In various religions, we see that light reflects the starting point of life. In Christianity, for example, God first made light and used that as the basis for all other life forms.
In the physical world, light is an essential component of life. Plants are the basis of the entire food chain, and they need light for photosynthesis which is the key process that keeps them alive. In this way, we can say that the sun, and the light it provides, give life and nourish all forms of life on our planet.
In ancient times when there was no artificial light, everything had to be done during the day. As soon as the sun set, it was time to retire to one’s accommodation and keep oneself safe until the next sunrise. Therefore, the light was a forcefield that kept danger away and helped give/maintain life.
3. A Symbol of Positivity
In many religions and cultures, light is seen as good energy, whereas darkness is associated with negativity. When people say that someone has ‘found the light,’ it is to say that the person has found the right way or the better way of doing something.
It also indicates openness, truth, and transparency. Things are clearly visible under lighting, and being open, transparent, and clear are seen as good traits in our society.
In Chinese culture, the Yin and Yang symbol is a great example of how light is a positive force, whereas darkness is a negative one.
Light also plays an important role in celebrations and festivities – even in the modern era, festivals such as Diwali, Hanukkah, the Lantern Festival, Loy Krathong, and many other festivities feature light.
On New Year’s Eve or Independence Day, people celebrate with firecrackers and will decorate their homes with their national colors.
In Christianity, Christmas celebrations are incomplete without lighting on the Christmas tree.  Christians also believe that Jesus is the ‘light of the world.’
Light marks celebration because, without it, colors don’t exist, and we only have darkness, and dark colors aren’t very festive in most societies.
Without light, these celebrations wouldn’t be what they are. Its presence connotes feelings of happiness, positivity, community, and hope.
Light is often seen as a guiding principle in a religious and spiritual context. In fact, believers and students of the faith work ‘towards’ the light, the prescribed path. The guidance from high powers is considered to be light in an otherwise dark world.
When we look at knowledge as light, we understand it is here to better inform and guide us on reaching our desired goals – whether a job, school or religious achievement.
In a physical sense, we use light to get a sense of direction and guide ourselves to our destination. In the past, people used the sun’s light to tell the time through sundials, the sun’s position to tell east from west, and the bright stars in the night sky to navigate their way across the world.
Similarly, we use lights in the modern day to illuminate our towns and cities, vehicles have lights to see at night, and even have night vision that uses sophisticated systems to give people visibility in low light conditions.
6. A Source of Knowledge
Today, with the advancement of technology, we have easy-to-access education and countless sources of information. However, in the past, knowledge was hard to come by, and those who had it didn’t want to share it with anyone other than their tribe.
Without sufficient information, finding your path is impossible (in other words, let the light lead the way).
In this sense, light implies knowledge, as knowledge itself is a guiding force. Libraries, schools, and educational setups are often called ‘sources of light.’ Even the term ‘enlightenment’ refers to someone who has achieved a higher level of understanding by attaining ‘light.’ Light symbolizes both knowledge and wisdom.
Light has held an important position in religions and cultures worldwide since the beginning of time.
Over the years, it has become synonymous with goodness and wisdom, while darkness has become synonymous with evil and a lack of knowledge. Light, to this day, is referred to as a symbol of hope and positivity, and the torch bearer is seen as the bearer of good news.