The Dark-Adapted Eye

Globular cluster M13, I think. (Truth is they all look the same to me)

An interesting quality of the human eye is its ability to become more sensitive to light in dark conditions. After about twenty minutes in darkness, the eye is more able to see faintly lit objects, though only in “black and white”. Here is the wiki explanation as to how.

Astronomers rely on this and one other feature of the eye in order to improve their view. The most light sensitive area of the retina is the periphery. To see a very faint star, one must look slightly away from it, so that its image falls on the more sensitive, though less discriminating, peripheral retina. As stars are just points of light on a black background, this less detailed view suffices.

The things that really destroy the astronomer’s view, apart from clouds, are light pollution, and air turbulence. Light pollution is all forms of earth-sourced lighting that illuminate the dust and mist in the atmosphere from below. They lend a background orange glow that can drown out faint objects. Most of this is man-made such as street lights, car headlights or floodlights used for wide area illumination.

Air turbulence is caused by hot air rising and mixing with the colder higher air. It is much worse over cities and during warm weather. Turbulence is what makes stars twinkle, but it blurs fine detail.


Now of course there is a spiritual analogy coming!

Due to Original Sin, we are blinded to God’s Glory, and instead of walking with Him in the day, we are forced to seek Him out in the night. His Glory appears faint to us. If we wish to see Him more clearly, we must borrow from the astronomers.

1) Adapt your eye to darkness: seek silence and solitude and avoid external distraction while you gaze on God. This will take time too.

2) Look slightly away from “God” if you want to see Him clearer: God is not an idea or a concept, He is Being and Seeing itself. These cannot be intellectualised or conceptualised.

3) Seek an area of low light pollution: The World can block out Heaven with its gaudy brightness. Heaven gives out its own light, it does not require any light from down here.

4) Beware of turbulence: emotional weather can totally distort your view of Heaven. Wait for calm. Be patient, pray!

Oh yes, there is one other trick used to peer deeper: using an array of separate telescopes together increases the resolution and depth of view enormously. The same thing works with prayer.  Check out Matthew 18:20.


About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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4 Responses to The Dark-Adapted Eye

  1. johnkonnor72 says:

    …reminds me of the theodore roethke a dark time… in a dark time, the eye begins to see, / I meet my shadow in the deepening shade; / I hear my echo in the echoing wood…. i suggest you read it if you have time … :-)…reminds me of the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience…all these vows do is aim at darkening the desire of the self so that the light of Christ may fill the void so to speak… when we empty ourselves of things we have nothing left but God


  2. golden chersonnese says:

    Brother Burrito makes me think that he might have a good touch of Manly Hopkins’ spirit, john, although I don’t think Burrito would ever dream of calling a spade a “dappled digging doover”.

    Burrito always manages to find a spiritual parallel with things in the material world and very successfully too. Hopkins, to me, often appears to think the material world hardly exists except as something lying around to make unusual poems with.


    Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
    When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
    Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
    Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
    The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
    The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
    The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
    With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

    What is all this juice and all this joy?
    A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
    In Eden garden. – Have, get, before it cloy,
    Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
    Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
    Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.


  3. Brother Burrito says:

    Now it’s funny you say that GC.

    GMH is on the playlist later today!


  4. golden chersonnese says:

    Spooky things always happen around Lunar New Year time, Brother Burrito. Now don’t let me start on the worst day of my life about 6 years ago,a short while after LNY when all the good luck and prosperity thing had already been doled out by the gods and there was therefore a temporary shortage.


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