It is the kind of experience that contemporary philosophers, scientists and naturally the common atheistic skeptic, readily attack as the stuff of ancient myth and therefore why it is no longer creditable to give credence to a notion of reality outside the material paradigm. This is the world we are challenged to examine if we want to continue to believe. This type of experience is referred to as a theophany. It is not only spoken of as part of our Judeo/Christian story but spoken of in other great traditions of religion.
As a possible human experience it is well embraced by many who feel drawn to a mystical path of life. Mystics can be found in all religions. They report an experience that is so profound and valued that it makes all other experiences of life seem of little importance. All traditions find a word for such a profound experience, emptiness, sunyata, terayia.
What is difficult to grasp about this type of experience is that it is beyond the normal span of consciousness. We speak of human consciousness through our faculties of the senses and reason, yet for the mystic it is beyond such description. For our purposes let us just say that it is the purity of the life force. It is not something that is beyond our realm of consciousness, but is the very essence or heart of what we commonly experience in our every day.
It is the essence of the reality of unity that constitutes creation. The common metaphor reported by mystics of all traditions is ‘light’. St. Paul hinted at this when he suggested, ‘we now see through a glass darkly or partially but then we will see face to face.’ Perhaps he was recalling the experience of his own moment of conversion on the road to Damascus, ‘he was blinded by a great light.’
Recall the beauty of the saying, ‘And the glory of the Lord shone upon them’. Once a mystic has encountered such an experience he or she will devote their life to maintaining union with such. They see the way in the meditative, contemplative experience.
So if we are still prepared to trust the record of Jesus transfiguration experience, we might very well ask, ‘what does it have to say for us?’ I believe it speaks of a life transforming knowledge of creations unity.
Firstly, it tells us the nature of the mystical divine. They heard a voice say, ‘this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased, listen to him’. The divine is the source of love and affirmation for the earthly.
Secondly, it is not just a love for one moment. It tells us that the whole unfolding message of history, symbolized by the appearance of Moses and Elijah, the two historical pillars of Judaism is united in the unfolding message of love. It illustrates the pathway of this love. Descending the mountain, Jesus tells the disciples, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have experienced until after the Son of Man rises from the dead.’The path of love initiated by Moses and Elijah, that is, the law and the Prophets, ultimately deepens to the point illustrated in Jesus way of the cross. It makes sense of the broken, fragmented and suffering experience of humanity. It illustrates the path for redeeming the unity of all.
Thirdly, it speaks of the full spectrum of unity. Heaven and earth, matter and spirit, the divine and the human, past present and future are all integrally bound as the one inter-reactive reality.
Sometimes we might want to say that we now live in a dark world. The media floods us with such deafening noise and a barrage of blinding images declaring that the only thing that matters is matter. It so easily dulls our deeper senses. People poo hoo the notion of the mystical depth and reality of spirit.
At Christmas we were reminded that, ‘the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’ Today’s feast of the transfiguration gives us a fuller picture of this light and illumines the way forward as it looks toward Easter. At Easter we will witness the ultimate implication of this victorious light. Turning to Jesus we will witness the ‘light of the world’. Only some encounter the depth of this mystical side of life, but of those who do their common message is there to remind us of the great reality of life. Like telegraph poles in a dark street they guide the way of the spiritual pilgrim.