What if our awake state is similar? What if there can be “lucid” times when we realize that there is more to what seems real than that which appears to our senses. What if the laws of physics are not fixed once we realize this? Is this what the Buddha meant when he said he was awake? Is this what the Celtic Christians meant when they taught that Jesus was the one who remembers and was here to teach us to remember? What if we are more than we can normally see, feel, and do in our awake world?
In the gospel story of the transfiguration, Jesus’ disciples, Peter, James and John see Jesus “transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matt 17:2). The usual interpretation of this story is that Jesus was manifesting his divinity, but what if the story is really about Peter, James and John experiencing a moment of being “awake”? Jesus wasn’t the only person who was seen as radiating with light in sacred scriptures. When Moses returned from his encounter with the Holy One on Mount Horeb, the Jewish scriptures say: “His face shone brightly” (Exodus 34:29-30). But this is not just a phenomenon written about in religious scriptures. In the late 18th century, a Russian attorney, Nicholas Motovilov wrote about his encounter with Russian Orthodox priest and teacher Seraphim of Sarov as follows:
“Fr. Seraphim was sitting across from me, teaching about the Holy Spirit. I asked him: ”Father, how can I know if the Spirit is with me or not?” The elder took me firmly by the shoulders and said, "We are both now, my dear fellow, in the Holy Spirit." It was as if my eyes had been opened, for I saw that the face of the priest was brighter than the sun. In my heart I felt joy and peace and in my body, a warmth, and a fragrance began to spread around us. But I was also terrified by the fact that his face shone like the sun.”
So, it seems as though other holy people also can be seen as shining like the sun. But wait, there’s more, as the infomercials say. Motovilov continues his account: “So Holy Seraphim said to me, "Do not fear, dear fellow. You would not be able to see me this way if you yourself were not shining in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.” The monk and author Thomas Merton, wrote about an experience he had in the center of the shopping district in Louisville Kentucky. He reported that, “It was like waking from a dream of separateness into a special world. And if only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” We are ALL walking around shining like the sun. Who would have thought! There is a line in the beginning of John’s Gospel that usually gets overlooked. In fact, I’ve never heard a sermon preached about it. John wrote,“In him (referring to Jesus) was life, and that life was the light of all people” (John 1: 4-5). Again we hear, “The light of ALL people.” Even Yoda, in Star Wars, told Luke, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”
Now biology agrees that we are luminous beings. Scientists have demonstrated that every cell in our body emits light. These light emissions, which are not only emitted by humans but by all living things, are called biophotons. Studies have also found that only living things emit light. You can learn more about this here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BA5TYZ1g1zQ
Why don’t we always see this light in ourselves or in others that the disciples, the Israelites, Motovilov, and Thomas Merton saw? From a purely scientific point of view, our eyes can’t usually see light in the spectrum in which these biophotons appear. But what if there is more to it from a spiritual or metaphysical view? What if it is because our waking life is like a dream and we are not lucid, or awake enough to see this light? After his enlightenment, it is said that the Buddha passed a man on the road who was struck by the Buddha’s extraordinary radiance and peaceful presence. The man stopped and asked, “Are you a celestial being or a god?' “No” said the Buddha. “Well, then, are you some kind of magician or wizard?” Again the Buddha answered, “No.” “Well, my friend, then what are you?” asked the man. The Buddha replied, “I am awake.” Perhaps St. Peter gives us a hint to this dilemma in one of his letters. He wrote, “Pay attention as to a light shining in a murky place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Maybe Peter is referring to the divine light that is already in us but is hidden in our murky places - in our psychic pain - by the business and distractions of everyday life - in our collective forgetting. Maybe that is why Jesus said, “I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see” (John 9:39).