I remember looking at the mosaics in the great churches in Palermo and Ravenna and wondering what they must have looked like under candlelight or torchlight. In the twentieth century we see the mosaics under electric light and the whole is illuminated evenly and not very well. But if one saw those masses of gold and blue and crimson tiles illuminated by candlelight, the heavenly host must have seemed imminent because the rest of the building would have faded into darkness. Such and experience of the golden dome might give a physical sense of divine presence. Byzantine and Romanesque churches under candlelight must have focused a religious feeling of imminence different from the aspiration towards the divine engendered by the vertical glass windows of the Gothic Cathedrals.
An exhibit entitled "The Search for Alexander" displayed a gold coronet of exquisitely wrought laurel leaves and acorns. The impact of Alexander continued long into Persian and Middle Eastern literature in the heroic, mythical figure of Iskander. If he had ridden into the cities of the Middle East with that circlet reflecting the sunlight under the dome of the blue sky, one could believe that the god himself had arrived in the physical presence of this young man. Gold is the sun itself for the brightness of both dazzles the men of this world.
The image of Vedic sacrifice is often gold, a metaphor for the clarified butter poured onto the sacrificial fire. Gold is solidified sun, gold is butter, gold is light, light is the illumination of spiritual realization.
An 18th Century painting from the Deccani school of India shows a yellow disk flecked with red and with arrows in all directions against a gold ground, a "radiant manifestation of energy. The visible universe in a panorama of reflected images of forms created and produces by light."15 The rays of the sun are not different from the sun; they are its outer extension.16 Our verbal structures separate the elements of a dynamic process into separate entities which do not accurately reflect the reality. The sun is not different from its manifestation. It is not that the sun as an object (a noun) generates energy; the dynamic energy is what we call the sun. When one feels the actuality of the process which is behind all forms of representation, the world is transformed. Saul was stunned by the power of light on the road to Damascus and Moses was called to halt before the burning bush. The unexpected breaks through the familiar as new content blazes into consciousness.
Now when I wake early in the morning and do not go back to sleep, instead of worrying about it, I lie in my room and watch the progression of light; for in darkness there is no form, no shape. Light is necessary to define form, and as one begins to watch as morning light comes into the room, objects emerge first as silhouette. Then they take on contour and three-dimensional shape, a plastic contour; all is gray and black at this stage of waking, for color is reflected light and in a minimum of light no color yet appears. When natural light increases in the room or one turns on the lamp, then color appears, but not before then. It is literally true that light creates forms because, psychologically, that is our experience: that light creates three-dimensional forms and brings color to them for without light we visually experience neither form nor color.