“Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them…” Mark 9:2
What do people see and think when they notice your body and appearance before them? It is said each one of us has an aura or countenance around him or her. One of our grandsons, when he was around 5 to 7 years old, used see auras around people. An older woman at the Wayside Church saw auras around speakers with different colors. Once a woman told me, “By the age of 40 you have earned the face you wear!”
What are the causes of these auras or our personalities? Are they just genetics? Or are they influenced by attitudes witnessed by us when young and given to us by our parents and early teachers? Some people consider themselves lucky because of certain attitudes given to them by parents while others may consider those early attitudes unfortunate consequences of their birth. Most of us perhaps have a mixture of the two; we appreciate many of the positive attitudes and models of actions we saw from our parents but have moved on to disagree with other aspects we did not feel reflected who we are or want to be.
The story of the Transfiguration of Jesus is an old one going back thousands of years to Osirus in ancient Egypt. There was a story about his Transfiguration on a mountaintop. (The Jesus Mysteries, Freke and Gandy, 1999, p. 42) There is also the story of the Transfiguration of the Buddha on the Mount Pandava in Sri Lanka. (The Pagan Christ, Tom Harpur, 2004, p. 32) There are stories in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries of transfigurations of people like St. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila.
In the ancient stories of transfiguration resurrection came first. Resurrection simply means, “awakening.” It’s the awakening in one’s consciousness to the presence of a deeper self than the normal identification with the body ego. It is the consciousness of what we would call “spirit self” or the “Christ self” in contrast to the normal ego self. When one becomes aware of this and seeks to nurture its awareness, and awareness of oneself being Eternal love along with the forgiveness of all errors and sins, it has a transforming effect upon one’s body.
The mountain in ancient Scriptures represented the symbol of the Earth upon which we walk. The picture of being transfigured on a mountain represented the awareness of one’s true self coming into consciousness on this earth. Transfiguration represents then the freeing of oneself from the world’s normal drives for power, wealth, sex and pleasure. (Inner Christianity, Richard Smoley, p. 80)
Perhaps that’s the joy some discover in climbing mountains. It’s the sense of being on the very edge of all the world’s attractions and busyness. Standing on top of a mountain gives a sense of unity with the unseen, eternal essence of spirit. Of course the climbing of the mountain can be tiring and full of obstacles to be climbed over. Such is the course of living life on Earth. But when the top is a reached in those moments of prayer, or in which some call “the Still Point”, the place of great peace and joy.
In stories of Transfiguration those who were known for receiving them normally started out as peasants or the lowly humble ones of earth. Jesus certainly represented this from his birth and home in Galilee. Certainly Teresa of Avila and Mother Teresa of Calcutta represented this. The Bible says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
One doesn’t need to be a peasant in order to experience deeper liberation and joy, but one needs to recognize the limitations on Earth. Happiness does not depend upon the accumulations of great wealth and possessions. Recent studies show again the happiest people are the people with middle incomes. People in our culture who exceed $75,000 in annual income have a diminishing return on happiness and peace. (http://wws.princeton.edu/news/Income_Happiness/) So if not a peasant, be aware of the importance of simplicity. I often recommend to people in our culture to take a “comfort fast.” Spend time in the simplicity of nature by walking in forests and wilderness areas. Spend a few days without the normal surroundings of one’s normal wealth and possessions. Or just spend time sitting in silence for 30 or 40 minutes in a corner of your home discovering the peace in Nothingness.
Yes, each one of us gives off an aura of peace and love or of judgment and anger. In 1980s I was a part of a clergy support group at St. James UCC Church in Hamburg. We worked several weeks with a teacher from the University of Buffalo who was an expert in detecting auras. As a counselor she could detect fear and stress by simply observing and feeling the auras around one’s chakras. She taught how we could become aware of stress and fear in our own lives by careful listening and scanning our bodies. We were shown how we could move our hands around another’s body and detect warmth as well as coldness. One day she detected a special coldness around the chest of one of the ministers. She had several of us scan our hands around his chest and we could also feel it. He confessed he wore a large denominational cross on a chain around his neck. Instead of bringing him comfort and peace it reminded him of all the stress involved in being a pastor!
Did you happen to see the golf tournament last Sunday in which Tiger Woods played against Phil Mickelson at Pebble Beach California? After three great rounds Tiger lost his composure in competing against Phil. He changed selection of clubs from those used the previous three days. My golf teacher last Wednesday said it was a matter of his ego getting the best of him. One of the announcers said near the end of the match, “Just look at Tiger; he has lost his energy and his whole countenance displays defeat.”
How do we attain this type of positive energy that transforms our lives? How do we in the words of the apostle Paul, “be transformed by the renewing of your minds?” (Romans 12:2) It’s a matter of choice in realizing we can take control of our minds. Because how a person thinks within is how a person displays outwardly. Perhaps most people do not want this change because they are “happy” in their misery and judgmentalness. Most people would rather be “right” than happy. The book A Course in Miracles calls this, “crucifying of the Christ within” us by our refusal to forgive ourselves and others. (Text, ch. 11, God or Ego, Waking to Redemption.) We become so used to our misery and blindness that to be happy and free seems frightening and threatening to our securities.
Years ago I read a book about an Episcopal priest who had charge of a small parish in West Virginia. He worked hard but nothing seemed to change. Attendance did not increase and finances were always a worry. People encouraged him to do more calling and spend more time making better sermons. Finally in desperation he took a retreat into the mountains. For three days he stayed in a little cabin reflecting on his life and praying to God to show him the way. On the third day he experienced a great epiphany of the presence of spirit surrounding his life! He felt overwhelmed and transformed by this powerful experience. When he got back home his wife could tell immediately something had happened to him. He looked transfigured! She questioned him about having a romantic getaway! In the following Sunday’s service the people noticed it. He was happy, full of energy and visionary in his speaking. However, the people felt very upset. He was not being very “Episcopalian!” After several days of being criticized for his childlike attitudes, he quit and found another work where he could remain happy.
To desire and allow oneself to be filled with love can be scary. Surrendering one’s ego to that which is eternally around us can feel frightening. To surrender anger for love, conflict for peace, and confusion for clarity can make one feel quiet naked in public.
Again, the book A Course in Miracles says: “Do you prefer that you be right or happy? Be you glad that you are told where happiness abides, and seek no longer elsewhere. You will fail. But it is given you to know the truth, and not to seek for it outside yourself…” (Ch. 29, The Awakening)
Helen Waddell writes in her book, “The Desert Fathers,” how Abbott Joseph went to Abbott Lot and said, “Dear Father, according to my strength I keep a modest rule of prayer and fasting and meditation and quiet, and according to my strength I purged my imagination; what more must I do?” The old Abbott man arose and held up his hands to the sky and his fingers became like 10 torches of fire and he said to him, “If thou wilt, thou shalt be made holy!”
Recently on the Facebook page of Ram Das, a questioner asked him; “How can I know if I am spiritually healthy?” And Ram Das said: “You feel Joy, you feel compassion, you feel peace, you feel wisdom….. from the inside! And the outside looks like a manifestation of God.”
“When I smile, it’s the joy ever flowing, joy ever flowing from You;
When I smile, it’s the joy overflowing, joy overflowing from You;
What can I say? How can I thank you for the day?
My joy is overflowing from you.
When I cry, it’s the love overflowing, love overflowing from you;
When I cry, it’s the love overflowing, love overflowing from you.
What can I say? How can I thank you for the day?
My love is overflowing from you.
You already know the secrets of my soul
‘cause I’m a part of you.
You are the sacred truth in everything I see and everything I do.
So when I sing, it’s the song overflowing, song overflowing from You.
When I sing, it’s a song overflowing, song overflowing from You.”
-Dan Nahmod in “Joy Overflowing” from his Album, Sacred Love 2.
Manuscript of talk offered to the 1st Presbyterian Church of West Seneca, 2085 Union Road, February 19, 2012 by Rev. David G. Persons, Weekend Supply Speaker.