Life and Fire

Jesus said, “I have cast fire upon the world, and look, I’m guarding it until it blazes.”  —Gospel of Thomas, 10

People love fire. They cook with it, they dance around it, and they like to just sit around and watch it. Why are people so attracted to fire? The answer is that life and fire are two similar processes. Both processes involve light and matter.

I’ll explain what I mean.

If there were no light, there would be nothing. Every particle in the universe would be motionless, and the temperature would be absolute zero. Absolute zero means no heat. No heat means no motion. No motion means no space-time. No space-time means nothing.

If the last light were to go dim, the universe would no longer exist.

Light might be called “eternal,” since the universe began with light’s warm touch (which implies that light does not originate in the physical universe). Light means heat, and heat means motion. When things move, things happen!

Light gives matter energy to move around and get into different configurations, like carbon atoms and water molecules and amino acids. Light also provides the energy that the right concoction needs to bridge the gap between being and being alive. In a sense, light is life!

Light—the Sun—makes life possible.

Once alive, matter needs light (and other things) to sustain its life. Plants receive light energy from the Sun and store it. When the plants die, their matter still contains light energy, which becomes part of the soil and enriches it for other life to use until the light energy’s release from matter.

If a plant is eaten, its light energy is passed on to an animal, which uses some of the light energy in its own body and passes the rest on as bodily waste. Bodily waste is also useful to fertilize soil, as it is still rich in light energy. When the animal dies, its light energy stays with its body until passed on through digestion, decay, or eventual burning.

Of course, plants can burn, too—even better than animals. This is because their light energy is less diluted with other compounds: it’s more “pure” in plants than in animals. When organic (plant or animal) matter burns, the light energy that entered the original plants is released from matter, back into light:

Light energy + Matter = Organic Matter


Organic Matter – Light energy = Matter

Organic combustion is the separation of light energy and matter. When we watch a fire, we are witnessing the escape of light energy from organic matter. This includes the burning of petroleum products, since petroleum (as a fossil fuel), is formerly organic matter that still retains its light energy. That’s why it can burn so well!

When we watch a fire, we are effectively watching a resurrection, the return of light energy from its temporary entrapment in matter back to its original state of unbounded freedom.

The absence or presence of life in matter parallels the cycle of light energy in organic matter. Light is the visible manifestation of Life in matter, and fire sets light energy free from matter! That’s why light—especially fire and particularly the Sun—captivates us so.

(Written in 2006 and freshly edited on December 19, 2016.)

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