This thesis was radical in the 1600’s in that it articulated an inward experience of the Divine as the only authentic path to Truth.
When a vision begins from within, then the outward action follows. It is a path accessible to all persons, and is the standard by which all religious claims are to be judged.
The Light upon the Candlestick, 1662 was adopted as a Quaker tract and circulated as such in England. It was written while Spinoza was living among the Collegiants in Rynsburg.
This what-i-believe.ca edited version was hacked and butchered from the origional. Editing by Weird Sly Kip October 2022. Headings added by Weird Sly Kip
The Light upon the Candlestick
The Folly of Words
Things are not for words, but words for things; if we understand things as they are, then it is enough until we want to make known our thoughts to others.
When two people are writing the same word they may have contrary thoughts. This should be of no suprise as we know of the perpetual changes in languages, even such that the very words may be changed from their pristine signification.
The imperfection of language is so great, that whosoever invented them, now that they are in use would have little or no knowledge of those things that are stated. So that if we would better express things unto another by words and speeches, we had need find new words, and consequently a whole new language: But that would be a toil indeed.
In the mean while a sea of confusion flows to all mankind. For sometimes through ignorance, and sometimes by wickedness some may pervert words contrary to the mind of the writer for their own ends, from whence deceit, slandering, contention, and the like proceeds: yet so it is, that even an upright or prudent man nevertheless finds himself liable to mislead, or to be misled.
But yet for all that, written words are, so far as I know, the fittest means to make known all our thoughts unto others and we should not be too much afraid of them, as many do manifest themselves to be.
This is chiefly the case for Religion: Most will not give audience to, much less take into consideration any thing they judge not to be of their own opinion, to avoid as they imagine, being deluded.
Yet if they were skeptics to their own ideology, we might think it was prudence, but no, this is too hard a task: who chooses a side, acts as if there were no danger nor possibility of erring: whereas nevertheless it is all alike with the one or the other opinion.
It all depends but upon a possibility of being nearest to the Truth: and upholding your own opinion, defending against others. There’s so much ado, so much pains taken, so much scholastic learning, study and disputing, that one would often believe that there were no facts at all.
Can we blame people, that they despair of ever being able to see the truth. Are they then glad when they can find anyone that will think for them? Surely no: for he that sees but a little clearly still sees.
There is always contention, and no end till a man grows weary. The truth always prevails, but often the debate goes to those who can best handle his tongue. A miserable thing if it were thus, but it is not so with the truth.
Therefore we do not attempt to draw thee from one heap of men over to another, ’tis somewhat else we invite thee to.
Lend us but a little audience: Surely thou knowest thus much: It is ridiculous to receive all things without distinction, so ’tis no less to reject all things without judgement.
We invite thee to a means to attain thy own salvation and well-being: Be as distrustful, or prudent as thou wilt, you cannot in reason refuse us thy ear.
All the damage a little reason can inflict is only to have taken a little pain in vain, if what we promise should not ensue: Whereas on the contrary; you might enjoy something that you would not exchange for all that’s esteemed great in the earth.
Moreover, it is not far to seek, but at hand; in thy self. We direct thee to within thyself, and have regard unto that which is within thee, to wit, The Light of Truth, the true Light which enlightens every person that comes into the world.
Here thou shalt find a Principle certain and infallible and at length arrive unto a happy condition: But if you can’t look inside yourself it is hard to help thee.
And if you are one of those that must know all things, before you begin, know this, you are like those that would learn to read, without knowing the Letters.
To desire to know all things that we are capable of, is good and laudable: But to go further, is folly. There will be alwayes something else to ask, and our knowledge will never be complete. If you do not adventure until fully satisfied, you shall never begin, much less finish it to salvation.
We say then, That we exhort every one to turn into the Light, that’s in him; the appellation of Light, is all one to us whether we call it, the Spirit or the Word
All these denote but one and the same thing: Yet the word Light being a natural signification, we shall therefore in brief endeavour clearly to express what we intend under this denomination.
The Light is a knowledge of truth in the understanding of every man.
The Lights principal effect is showing us, and giving us the knowledge of what’s Truth and Falsehood, what’s good and evil
Without the light people swerve up and down in continual darkness, opinion and sin, neither knowing truth nor doing good, but groping haphazard without any certainty.
This Light then is what reproves sin in man, showing him how he has strayed from Truth, accuseth him of the evil which he has committed.
This is known to every Creature under Heaven, though they have never read or heard of the Scripture.
This is what leads man into truth, giving him peace in his Conscience, bringing him into union with God, wherein all happiness consist.
Moreover, the nature of this Light is infallible in reproving sin and it can never possibly consent to sin.
And although the operations of the Light are not in all men alike powerful, it is nevertheless: though in some men seems to have no operation at all: Yet this is occasioned only by those impediments that do hinder it.
As natural light can be hindered by the interposition of covers so may there be things in man which impede the light however the light itself is still abiding unchanged.
Desire vs Light Everlasting
The eyes and ears stand so perpetually open to all things, that they never want an object to bring to mind the experience of that which pleased the body so well. And this stirs up the desire to enjoy it, yet all without fascination: The objects are multifarious, the enjoyment can be but single and transient and the causes incessant.
Now this is controlled by education and example in manners and customs which are regulated by opinion, and not by the true Light, that men live altogether therein, is it any wonder that in these men there is so little, or no operation of the Light?
Not at all.
We are so involved into the desire of that which is high in the World, so overwhelmed in pleasures, that its almost impossible for the Light to cause one desire after Good to spring or bubble up.
Where then these so contrary operations to the Light are, there it can never break through.
According to the nature of everything: Where they are opposites, the one must give way to the other, and that which is most powerful prevails: from whence also the effects thereof become most visible.
The LIGHT notwithstanding, abides always the same, & therefore although man by sin, through his love and union to corruptible things, comes to perish, be damned, and miss of his everlasting happiness, the Light nevertheless which is in every man that comes into the World, abides forever unchangeable.
The Light is also the first Principle of Religion. For seeing there can be no true Religion without the knowledge of God, and no knowledge of God without this Light, Religion must necessarily have this Light for its first Principle.
God is known by this Light according to limits of a finite creatures understanding of the Infinite and Uncircumscriptible Creator, man hath thus obtained a firm Foundation, upon which he may build all firm and lasting things:
A Principle whereby he may without ever erring, guide the whole course of his life, how he is to carry himself towards God, his Neighbor, and himself, and all things else, whereby he may happily attain unto his chiefest salvation, which consisteth only in Union with God. And thus this Light is therefore the first Principle of Religion.
The Ability to do Good
Without this Light, there is no power or ability at all in man to do any good.
This must first raise him and quicken him out of the death of sin. ‘Tis folly to expect anything, where nothing is, there’s no effect without a cause: There must be something then which must cause a man to act, if he does anything.
And this cause must have in it whatsoever the effect produced hath in it: As for example: Where any see, there must be LIGHT, if the effect of Light be produced, Light must do it, and nothing else.
And therefore, is it not a silly thing that all men would be told this or that is good, and this or that is evil, because they tell them so.
Without any more ado, or at best assigning only the accustomary motives to good and evil. With that they think they have reason: just as this were enough.
Who can see the such effects are caused by the truth of the Light? Not I, for my part.
Experience also teacheth us the same; else how could it all pass away in a train and custom, without any fruit? These are therefore not the right means: But such we must endeavor to furnish people with, Means from whence Power may issue forth to do that which they are exhorted to. Such is the nature of man, that he is forced to choose that which he judgeth to be best, before the worst, and is always willing to change for the best.
Now it so happens that people choose the worst before the best because of a lack of knowledge, and contrary to his aim not being led by the true Light.
It is easier leading of a man to that which of himself he is desirous of: If teachers are lead themselves by the true Light, knowing better, they would be able to lead clearly to others.
And so making it their continual work, to teach of the Light it is impossible their labour should be fruitless, for people knowing better, would better do.
Who remembers not our youth, how much we were in love therewith, and yet how ridiculous is it now unto us but to think upon it? And why? Because we now know that which we judge better.
Not by force, but very lightly, and of it self, from time to time to be worn out; and pass away, that there’s now no desire nor motion moving thereunto.
How may we think then it would be, if the Spirit came but once to apprehend those things aright which infinitely transcend all bodily toyes in worth?
So far as these toyes then should come to be esteemed more glorious then all bodily things, so much the more powerful would be the annihilation of those things in which all men, even to old age, yea, death it self do take so much delight.
Then we might hope and expect that those things which are alone worthy to be known would gain entrance and being brought forth in the Light, would be also owned and received by every one, according to the measure in which they should stand in the same Light.
Change from Within
Hence from within, the conversion is to be waited for, from within it must begin, if with foundation, the outward then will follow of it self.
The weakest must give way to the strongest, all depends but upon the knowledge of something better, to make a true and lasting change. Therefore to hold this forth to men, is the best thing we can give them.
The voice of God
This Light is the inward ear by which alone, and by no other, the voice of God that is the Truth, can he heard.
By this alone must the sence and mind of him that would signify any thing by words or any outward sign, be comprehended and understood.
So that if the Truth of God be presented to a man who stands not in the Light of Truth, ’tis impossible he should understand it, although he hears and comprehends the words after his manner, yet he is still fenced off from its true sence and meaning thereof.
Hence, therefore, it is, that amongst so many hearers there are so few that have ears to hear.
He that hears Truth aright, that is, understands it well, must not stand out of, but in the Truth it self.
Therefore is it any wonder that all men do not understand and conceive those things that are brought forth by the Light. Only those that stand in it, are capable of understanding.
The case being thus, we understand the importance they may go on to the light, as to be fit to understand the Word, that is the Truth of God.
Finding the Truth
Out of this there can be nothing understood and concluded from the words and writings given forth from the Light, but meer opinion & consequently errors. This Light is the truth and word of God, as hath been already said, and in every way appears by what we have hitherto laid down:
For this is a living Word, and transmiteth man from death to life, is powerful and enableth a man to bear witness of it self every where.
This is also the true Rule according unto which all our actions are to he squared.
This hath the pro-eminence before any Writing, Scripture, Doctrine, or anything else that we meet from without.
We are born into the world, and brought up as every body knows. From the very first we hear differences, every one pretends that he knows the matter, and hath the truth: One holds forth this another that to us:
If now the Light which is in every man that comes into the world, shall not be the judge, whither shall we go?
To believe all is impossible, to reject all, no less: Who shall be Judge here? Who else can be but the Light within us? For whatsoever comes from without, is the thing to be judged of: Who then fitter? seeing this is infallible.
Again, Is not this (the Light) that by which we must see and know God, and so consequently that by which we must judge all things Divine?
Certainly ’tis: then it follows also, That we can judge of no Doctrine, no Book that is Divine, but by this Light and judging it thereby to be Divine, it cannot but be truly so.
A Thousand Imaginations
As for example, If we experience that the Book called the BIBLE, in regard of the Divine Doctrine therein comprised, hath such an harmony with that in which God is known, that he must needs have been the Author of it, there cannot rationally any more powerful demonstration be demanded.
With them that are thus, the Scripture may become living and powerful, and not a dead letter, as it must needs be to those men who have no feeling of this thing.
And from hence then it’s apparent, seeing this Light must stand before all things whatsoever that we meet with from without, that then man must first of all be directed to this, for without it what profit is there to be reaped any where by any external sign but by it?
Lay the Book of Scripture freely before any man, let him also have all the fitness (the Universities can give him) to look into in its proper Language in which it may have been first written, what will all be without the Light? Nothing.
The letters, the words are not the Scriptures, but the mind alone is the Scripture, and this meaning can never be truly and justly hit, but by those alone that stand in the same Light, out of which the Scriptures proceeded.
These are they to whom the Scripture is a witness and as a seal of their being Sons of God: in the same condition in which the Saints formerly were, who spoke and wrote all the Books of the Scripture.
These have the true understanding and meaning of the Scriptures, not those that Imagine unto themselves a meaning by opinion and guess, through a thousand imaginations, without the least assurance of not erring: which becomes the very ground of all jangling and contention.
Lastly, this Light in every man is the means to come to the knowledge of God. And seeing external sign must presuppose this knowledge: therefore it must be immediate, without my external sign: signs must presuppose such a knowledge, for these signs must either be words or effects, works or miracles.
If in words we see an impossibility such as God makes known himself by them, and if he should say, I AM GOD, and that this should he the sign by which he would make himself known, we see clearly, that it would be impossible for a man at first to know God by this.
For if he comprehend anything out of the sence of the words, he must formerly have understood the word GOD, and what he is to understand by it:
In like manner if God makes his will known to man, the knowledge of God, which has its original from the true Light must precede and convince him, that that manifestation can be from none but God alone.
Miracles are not cause by nor ended by God. Though we might observe something in nature, which might be too difficult for the power of any creature that we can understand.
This lack of understanding is the utmost demonstration of our impotency, and not from the nature of it. This kind of demonstration cannot be certain and stable, till we were able clearly and distinctly to see that there was not a concurrency of many causes to produce such an effect. We need not claim it is caused by an infinite and unlimited cause, whom we call God: for who knoweth this? Or who can declare it?
Go then do not look outside yourself, Thou must abide within thy self, to the Light that’s in thee thou must turn thee, there thou wilt find it, and no where else.
GOD is considered in Himself, nearest unto thee and every man. He that goes to any creature to know God, departs from God, and so much the further, if he comes to mistake himself by it. Mind the Light that’s in thee, by it do work faithfully and persevere.
God is near to every person, because God penetrates the most inward and intimate parts of man, and is the life of the inner most spirit, as the spirit is of the soul and the soul of the body: Therefore he is worthy to be turned to, minded, sought and waited upon.
Let all those that say “is it not God that appears in the hearts of the wicked” and fools that say “In my heart there is no God.” Listen to this message.
Weird Sly Kip
The rain and wind swept fall trees showering the ground with a blanket of leaves in preparation for a long winter of snow and ice.