Through a glass, darkly

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part but then shall I know even as also I am known.” I Corinthians, 13. 

One of the paradoxes of light is that it both illuminates and obscures. Through a glass, darkly invites us to consider the illuminated space. The light acts as an invitation, only to rebuff us with it’s brightness creating an unresolved ambiguity about the nature of these lit spaces. Light is often associated with refuge with place. Here, light radiates brightly, but never the less repels.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly”, has been subject to appropriation since it’s memorialisation as a translation form the Greek in the King James version of the Bible. The phrase has been subject to a wide range of interpretations. Some suggest it explains how we reflect and observe but also how we comprehend our world. The most lyrical of interpretations explains the expression as holding a mirror up to mankind and how only then do we comprehend how limited is our understanding of ourselves and our spiritual relationships. The expression is ultimately concerned with how we see things; what is obvious, what is refracted what is delivered to us un-intermediated and that which comes to us uncertain, fleeting or obscured. Clarity it seems is an elusive quality.

The expression has a vitality and resonance that belies it’s age. Suggesting both at once a permanence and and impermanence, the very ambiguity of the expression is the key to it’s longevity. How else do we explain the enduring nature of the question embedded in the statement? For the expression is one that suggests both clarity and obfuscation, a fog of misconception and misunderstanding where notions of reality and clarity are in a permanent struggle for ascendancy.