Should I Stay Or Should I Go? Towards the light, I mean
September 12, 2007 12:56 PM   Subscribe

"Go Towards The Light" - Death or Salvation?

Upon discussing the future possible demise of our office Beta fish (named Pookie), the conversation hit upon the phrase "Go towards the light!"

In my head, I think of movies and literary references where upon a person is dying, a person trying to comfort him / her says, "Go towards the light!" As in if you head towards the light, you will find salvation and therefore will fight harder to LIVE. I guess I am specifically thinking of the movie Poltergeist where the medium is telling the little girl to head towards the light.

Others in the office beg to differ. They argue that if you don't want to die, you should head AWAY from the light. The "light" represents heaven and therefore you would be surrendering your life and resigning yourself to death. They think the phrase, "Stay away from the light!" is more appropriate

How do fellow Mefites interpret this phrase?
posted by HeyAllie to Writing & Language (11 answers total)
I always thought "go toward the light" was advice to the dying/deceased person's spirit to go toward heaven/Valhalla/the happy hunting grounds/the Elysian fields. It just means going to a good afterlife, rather than trapped here as a ghost or some other less desirable option.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:03 PM on September 12, 2007

Go towards the light is a reference to near death experienes where people see a bright light often interpreted as heaven or the afterlife or god or whatever crap.
posted by aubilenon at 1:04 PM on September 12, 2007

I guess I am specifically thinking of the movie Poltergeist where the medium is telling the little girl to head towards the light.

Then you're going to have to overcome the inherent confusion of the scene. At first, the medium tells the little girl to stay away from the light, because the light represents heaven and death. Then the medium starts talking directly to the other spirits, telling them to go toward the light, because that's what dead people are supposed to do.

The family gets confused ("You said stay away from the light!"), and Craig T. Nelson starts yanking the rope back, which attracts the attention of the Evil Giant Head that pokes through the doorway. Then somehow, the mother grabs the little girl in the swirling, goopy netherworld and they fall through the "exit hole" downstairs in the living room.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:08 PM on September 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

Go towards the light is a reference to near death experienes ...

That's how I interpret it...and have been intrigued with Raymond Moody's research on the subject. His website.
posted by ericb at 1:14 PM on September 12, 2007

Moody's Life After Life and The Light Beyond.

There's also Dannion Brinkley's Saved by the Light and Betty J. Eadie's Embraced by the Light.
posted by ericb at 1:19 PM on September 12, 2007

Best answer: Going toward the light = going toward death

You'd only say "go toward the light" if you thought someone was suffering and you wanted to tell them it was okay to let go.
If you wanted them to live, you'd say "come back - don't go toward the light".
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:37 PM on September 12, 2007

If you're dead you need to go towards the light. If you don't, you end up as some sort of confused ghost stuck in the world.

If you're not quite dead then, according to reports like Raymond Moody's, you'll see the light and very much want to go there because it is so yummy, but you'll be sent back to Earth to finish your life.
posted by alms at 1:37 PM on September 12, 2007

And you're right in a way. Going toward the light is supposed to be going to heaven, that is, salvation in the spiritual sense. "Salvation" in that sense doesn't mean saving your life (from death) -- it means saving your soul (from hell).
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:39 PM on September 12, 2007

See also the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which is chock-full of advice of not only going to the light, but exactly which light you should go to. Namely, you want to head for the Clear Light, as that's the landing beacon for liberation. But most dead folks get sidetracked with thoughts of how they're not going to get any more turtle sundaes or really good cheesecake (understandably, I think), and there's a whole slew of increasingly bad-news detour lights that show up.

The continuing advice winnows down to exhorting the dead person to at least pick the best option available. Fine, they've missed the last possible exit ramp to the Clear Light, but they can at least pick one of the more promising worlds to be born into; if they're bound and determined to be reborn here, then they can for goodness sake avoid getting born as an animal, and above all else, "Be not fond of the dull smoke-colored light from hell." Which is pretty sound advice.
posted by Drastic at 1:46 PM on September 12, 2007 [3 favorites]

When I hear the phrase, I always think of an episode of Dinosaurs. I think it was The Last Temptation of Ethyl.

See also virtually any episode of Ghost Whisperer -- going "toward the light" is going toward a "good place" after death".
posted by Robert Angelo at 3:40 PM on September 12, 2007

As to Poltergeist, the medium sends the little girl toward the light initially to lead the lost souls who are following her there. Later she tells the girl to stay away from the light. Then when the mother goes in after her, she starts telling the lost souls to go into the light. The father character gets confused as to who the medium is talking to (the movie is less clear than the script on this point), and panics.

But in Poltergeist, and elsewhere the light represents the final stage of the journey to the afterlife.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:58 AM on September 13, 2007

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