What is it about a campfire that is so mesmerizing? What is it about a campfire that compels you to contently stare at it for hours? It has the power to draw you in and captivate you. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a friend say that they could sit around a campfire for hours.
There’s something mysterious and mesmerizing about it. I’d venture to say there is even something spiritual about it.
Throughout the ancient scriptures of the Christian tradition, every time there is a flame or fire, it symbolizes the presence of the Divine.
A pillar of fire leads God’s people through the wilderness. A fire burns on a completely waterlogged altar after Elijah prays for God’s presence. Small fires, like tongues of fire as they are described, are upon all the Apostles at Pentecost, symbolizing Spirit upon each of them.
Within some Christian communities, lighting a candle symbolizes the presence of God. During the season of Advent, the lighting of the candles symbolizes the Light that God brings into the world. To pause and light a candle during a spiritual direction session, for instance, is a way for people to become aware that God is with them.
A core principle of the Quaker tradition is the idea of the Inner Light. Quakers maintain that within every human soul there is a implanted an element of God’s Spirit and Energy. This Inner Light helps each of us to discern between good and evil as well as connects us with every other human. And, it is through this Light that we encounter the Divine.
Jesus is also described as Light. One Apostle describes Jesus as the true light that gives light to everyone. Jesus identifies himself as the Light of the world. He even goes on to claim that those who follow Jesus are the Light of the world.
This isn’t only within Christian circles, however. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, symbolizes the miracle of God’s providence through lighting the Menorah. In the Hindi tradition, using the Sanskrit word, Namaste, can mean, “The Light within me honors the Light within you.”
So, maybe the reason fire is so mesmerizing is not simply because we’re all pyromaniacs, but instead, is a spiritual experience. Maybe it is awakening us to the truth that there is a Light, the True Light, within each of us. Maybe it is mysteriously connecting us with, and opening ourselves up to, God.