Jesus said, The images are manifest to man, but the light in them remains concealed in the image of the light of the father. He will become manifest, but his image will remain concealed by his light. (83)
Patterson and Maeyer: Images are visible to people, but the light within them is hidden in the image of the Father’s light. He will be disclosed, but his image is hidden by his light.
Brown: The images are manifest to mankind, and the Light which is within them is hidden. He shall reveal himself in the imagery of the Light of the Father–and (yet) his image is concealed by his Light.
If a person is not really grounded in the ways and beliefs of Eastern Orthodox Christianity, he is tremendously hindered in understanding Christianity itself. Contrary to popular (especially “ecumenical”) opinion, Western and Eastern Christianity are profoundly divided. It is not just a matter of a few beliefs, but of many fundamental differences in belief and a profound difference in attitude and perspective. They are as different from one another as any two of the world’s other major religions. In many ways Eastern Orthodox Christianity is far more akin to the other Eastern religions than it is to Western Christianity. Few in the West seem to grasp this, including the Eastern Orthodox in the West.
One of the basic aspects of Eastern Christianity is what we may call Light Mysticism. In every form of Eastern Christianity, “Orthodox” or “Oriental,” we find a large amount of Hymns of Light dealing with the nature of God as Light, particularly deifying Light in which the individual spirit is united with God and made a perfect imaging or reflection of the Divine. This process is known as theosis–deification. The doctrinal conclusion is simple and direct: God is Light (I John 1:5). Contrary to Western theology which declares that the light seen at the Transfiguration of Christ was merely a created energy, a kind of manufactured glory, Eastern Christians adamantly state that the light seen by the apostles was God himself. Therefore they refer to it as Uncreated Light–as, by the way, did the great English mystic Richard Rolle, despite official Western Scholastic theology to the contrary.
Ultimately everything is Light, as Saint Bernard of Clairvaux saw in mystic vision when West and East were not so divided in beliefs. As I pointed out in the commentary on verse 62, in original Christianity the highest mystical experience was the vision of Divine Light in which the mystic perceived his oneness with that Light. Having understood this, we are ready to analyze this verse.
Saint Paul tell us that God “only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see” (I Timothy 6:16). This is in keeping with David’s praise: “O Lord my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty. Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment” (Psalms 104:1, 2). However, the statement that no human being can see God does not at all imply that no beings can see God–only human beings and those of lesser evolution. When we evolve beyond humanity to a higher status such as that of the great bodiless powers: Angels, Archangels, Thrones, Dominations, Princedoms, Virtues, Powers, Cherubim and Seraphim, then God will be seen. Yet Eastern Christianity tells us that when we see God we will learn that we cannot see him: we will be seeing the Unseen. Of course this is not comprehensible to our limited human minds, but the great mystics of all ages and traditions have told us the same. In mystic knowing we can know that God is Unknowable. That is what the medieval mystical classic The Cloud of Unknowing is all about.
In mystic vision it is possible to see the essential, highest nature of all things, their archetypal being, yet they will be in an incomprehensible manner veiled by the Divine Light which we will both see and not see. That is, the inner light of everything will be covered by God himself who is Light. How and why? Because everything is God. There will be nothing but God to either see or not see. God will be both manifested and revealed, but in a manner of knowing that is rooted in unity, not duality. So seeing and knowing will not be that of an object, but a Self-revealing impossible to any but those who have become organically one with God, who can truthfully say with Jesus: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Read the next article in the Gospel of Thomas for Yogis: Seeing Your Unknown Side