The experience of inner light is one of the most widespread, of the most certain, describing by countless witnesses of every time of every country.
By Roberto Assagioli, date unknown, From the Assagioli Archive in Florence, doc. 22285 (Editors note. The Noetic approach is identical to what Assagioli calls the Way of Illumination, it is probably an unfinished paper)
Noetic is one of the words to which various authors have given different meanings, and it is well to carefully distinguish these meanings. “Noetic” comes from the Greek “Nous” which has been translated as “mind” or “reason”, or as the cognitive function.
Some have given it the meaning of pure rational activity within the span of the normal human being. You know that man has been defined as a “rational animal” and someone has corrected it to be “an animal sometimes reasonable”.
A higher connotation of “nous” is the higher mind, or the higher reason; and for others it goes beyond human reason to the direct knowledge or intuition of reality.
It is well to remember William James who in his writings on religious experiences has put these worlds:
“The terminology has little importance, but that which is of great importance is the recognition that there is in man a function which is higher and different from normal mental and even the reasoning activity. The difference is that while the mind correlates, interprets, and synthesises the data coming from the five senses, using as some philosophers think a pattern of categories, as Kant states, time, space, causality, and so on, the other cognitive function is a direct inner vision of subjective and spiritual realities.”
Intuition comes from “intuere” that is to see in, and this indicates clearly the quality of this function, an inner seeing, a direct seeing. Seeing implies light, a light which allows us to see something illumined.
In fact the experience of inner light is one of the most widespread, of the most certain, describing by countless witnesses of every time of every country. A collection of them would include many volumes. A modern small collection of very significant experiences of this kind is contained and ably commented in William James classic “Varieties of Religious Experiences”. No unbiased person can doubt or minimize the reality and the value of such intuitive experiences. The trouble is that very rarely do these experiences reach the ordinary conscious mind in a pure state. In its content it becomes variously colored, refracted and mixed with other content. For another analogy, the means of transmission between the object seen and the seeing eye does variously distort the image, not to speak of the colored glasses of prejudice, and preconceived theories of Theology.
The end product that reaches the conscious level is often a curious mixture of truth and illusions, of direct inner perception and of fantastic developments or deformations of it. Therefore it cannot and should not be taken candidly as its face value, but it is a mistake to reject it wholesale because of its impurity or distortion. Such experiences have to be carefully examined without any bias either positive or negative, and not over-valuated or under-valuated. It is really the investigation of one of the most important superconscious activities and its relationship with everyday awareness, so called “normal awareness”. Such experiences are typical of the mystics, but they are not, by any means, confined to them. They are much more frequent than generally admitted because those who have them are very reluctant to report them fearing ridicule and criticism.
There is an English Doctor Winslow Hall, who has made a careful study of those experiences and in “Observed Illumination” he reports experiences of illumination in average people, mostly not intellectual nor cultured, but for that reason direct and genuine.