By Rabbi Dr. Moshe Dror. In the religious iconography of the world light has been used as The designation of the spiritual aspect of a holy person. The halo, nimbus, aureole, glory, mandorla- are variations on a ring of light that surrounds a sacred person in the visual arts.
These are symbols that are used in religious works to depict and designate holy or sacred figures.
They appear in Hellenistic Greek, Roman, Buddhist and Christian sacred art.
The Colossus of Rhodes was a statue of the Greek sun god Helios and had his usual crown of radiating light. I mention this because it was this that was copied and used for the Statue of Liberty that welcomes all to the new world port of New York City.
The halo and aureole were and still are used in Indian sacred art to depict the Buddha. This is still used in China and Japan until this day. In Asian art, the nimbus is often imagined as consisting not just of light but of flames as well.
It is well to remember that we began this Cyber Or Blog dealing with Abraham who came from UR of the Chaldees. Ur is a Mesopotamian word for “Fire, Flame” and it’s derivative-light.
In Catholic tradition, the halo represents the light of the divine grace that suffuses the soul which is perfectly united and in harmony with the physical body.
It is interesting to note where these seemingly holy and sacred terms came from. They mostly came from a variation of the technology of the period. The term “Halo” comes originally from the Greek for “threshing -floor”- a circular, slightly sloping area kept very clean, around which slaves or oxen walked to thresh the grain. In popular Greek this came to mean the divine bright disk.
If you are interested in seeing a gallery of Christian Art showing the sacred light –look at Wikipedia- Halo (religious iconography).
In the field of parapsychology and other forms of spiritual practice, an Aura is a field of subtle, luminous radiation supposedly surrounding a person depicting a figure of special power or holiness.
In the ancient world it was Plato (427 BCE-347 BCE) in the Republic who wrote:
“ Anyone who has common sense will remember that the bewilderments of the eyes are of two kinds, and arise from two causes, either from coming out of the light or from going into the light, which is true of the mind’s eye, quite as much as the bodily eye. He who remembers this when he sees any one whose vision is perplexed and weak, will not be too ready to laugh; he will first ask whether that soul of man has come out of a brighter light, and is unable to see because he is unaccustomed to the dark, or having turned from darkness to the day is dazzled by the excess of light”.
In India-for thousands of years- celebrates its Diwali –Festival of Lights, the most significant meaning of the term is “the awareness of the Inner Light”.
Hindu philosophy asserts that there is something beyond the physical body and mind which is pure, infinite, and eternal called the Atman. Just as we celebrate the birth of the physical being, Deepavali is the celebration of the inner light which brings with it universal compassion, love, and the awareness of the oneness of all things. We are reminded to celebrate and rejoice in our Inner Light and the underlying reality of all things.