Human photosynthesis is the process of spiritual enlightenment by gazing at mystical light. Have you ever seen the inner light behind your eyelids? You may notice that certain people appear to have light emanating from their eyes, shining faces, and enlivening energy. Or you may observe yourself emerging from an experience of deep psychological cleansing or spiritual practice with shiny eyes and brightness to your presence. These are a few physical manifestations of spiritual light-gazing. Photosynthetic spiritual practice brings purpose, inspiration, and the power to serve humanity. What is mystical light, and how can we cultivate it?
Light can be harnessed through a process of photosynthesis to connect us with the deepest aspects of our personhood (healing) and our relationship to the people beyond it (dharma, service). In plant photosynthesis, plants sunbathe in solar light and alchemize this light into energy they utilize for growth and expansion. Humans, on the other hand, spiritually photosynthesize light that emanates from a subtler plane of existence. (However, the subtler dimensions of light can also be accessed from the gross material dimension of light.) In human photosynthesis, we spiritually sunbathe in the divine light generated by the internal sun of the human cosmosoul. (The soul extends beyond itself to the Soul of Existence, and microcosmically reflects it.)
Mystical light is divine energy. It is one manifestation of the Total Presence that pervades and gives expression to existence. Light is a fundamental constituent (elementary particle) of reality. Other elemental constituents are vibration, consciousness, and love, depending on the plane from which one approaches reality. Because light emanates from the highest-level dimension of Nature (the nondual realm), connection to Light is automatic alignment with high-level orienting principles like purpose, service to others, clarity, and inspiration.
Photosynthetic Spiritual Practice
Mystical practices like meditation, entheogenic medicine, and countless other ways of deeply connecting are the human organism’s chlorophyll, or means of light-absorption. These practices often result in spontaneous visions of inner light. Contemplative scientists around the world have empirically studied and cataloged these photonic psychospiritual phenomena for millennia. (Unfortunately, the materialist paradigm of Western secular scientists often prevents them from approaching mysticism scientifically.) Yogic mystical scientists, for instance, describe various forms of inner light and their different levels of intensity, and how these correspond to psychospiritual development.
In photistic yoga, liberation is often referred to as enlightenment or illumination. The Ultimate Transcendental Reality is frequently described as “utter brilliance and as such is compared to the sun, or is called the sun beyond the sun” (Feurstien, 2008, p. 320). Along the path of spiritual evolution (more accurately, involution to Original Nondual Consciousness), the yogin has many experiences of light (photisms): internal fireworks, higher vibrations of white and colored light, and intensities of light far beyond anything perceivable by the physical eye. These are all foretastes and preparations for the ultimate encounter with the unmanifest transcendental Light, either during life or after death, which produces enduring transformations (although there is still a continual need for growth after the event). The encounter with the Light often results in a fear response necessitating total surrender. The fear of losing oneself (egoic separate-self existence) is said to prevent people from surrendering to the Light after death in the Buddhist Tibetan Book of the Dead, resulting in additional incarnations (Feurstien, 2008, p. 320). Light phenomena are also frequently accompanied by inner sounds and celestial music, which likewise signify an opening to higher states of consciousness. For a description of photistic yogic practice and experiences, read the Advaya-Taraka-Upanishad.
Visions of Celestial Light in the Bible
Like yoga, the Bible describes divinity photistically. The Bible contains several visions of God (theophanies) and celestial realms. Divine visitations are often encounters of indescribable light. In his vision, Daniel depicts the divine being as light-bodied: “His body was like topaz, his face like lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze” (Daniel 10:6, NIV). Likewise, the prophet Ezekiel describes the numinous as fire, molten metal, and rainbow: 27 “I saw that from what appeared to be his waist up he looked like glowing metal, as if full of fire, and that from there down he looked like fire; and brilliant light surrounded him. 28 Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown” (Ezekiel 1:27-28). And John the Seer sees the Divine Luminosity as shining crystals emanating glowing emerald rainbow presence flashing lightning: 3“And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne… 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder” (Revelation 4:3,5). And in the New Testament, Jesus is revealed to his disciples as divine at the event of his Transfiguration through irradiation: “His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:2).
The Bible equates divinity with light in several passages; “God is light” (1 John 1:5). I interpret God as the divinity of the self as it relationally connects to the divinity outside of itself. Godness is fundamentally within and also without. Although this conception of divinity is foreign (or heretical) to many Christians, it is not foreign to the Bible. Human nature is considered divine and godly. The goal of salvation is merging with the God outside of the self (or perceived as such in egoic states), who reconciles all things to godself. Because God is inside the self, but most readers of the Bible have been trained not to view it this way, I often translate the word God in Bible passages as yourDivinity or I AM God, God the Father as myDivinity beyond myself, and Holy Spirit as Divine Consciousness. With this understanding in mind, “God is light” means “myDivinity is light.” The nature of God is to shine; the nature of the spiritually connected (divine) human being is to shine forth knowledge of the divine.
Several biblical passages depict the throne room of God as a kind of celestial lighthouse. Like a light show in a house of mirrors, everything in this heavenly abode is designed to reflect the divine radiance, which is also referred to as the glory of God. In the book of Revelation, God’s throne is encircled by elders (celestial beings) donning light-reflective white robes and golden crowns. In front of the throne, seven lamps blaze forth the light of the spirits of God. The throne itself flashes lightning. And a reflective sea of glass serves as the divine chandelier:
4 Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads. 5 From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings and peals of thunder. In front of the throne, seven lamps were blazing. These are the seven spirits of God. 6 Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal (Revelation 4:4-6).
The divine throne room is a microcosm of all existence, which exists to reflect the divine Glory-Radiance-Presence: “The heavens declare the glory of myDivinity” (Psalm 19:1); “For from myDivinity and through myDivinity and for myDivinity are all things. To myDivinity be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:36). That is, the purpose and play of creation is to magnify and reveal its own divine identity to itself. Nature’s nature is divine. Yet simultaneously, creation has concealed and forgotten its divine nature, which is the condition of suffering (or The Fall and “sin”). Because divinity is nondual (without separation or distinction between subject, object, or process) all things reveal it when illumined with spiritual knowledge. Enlightenment is, therefore, the process of accessing divine identity through remembrance and disidentifying with all the identities we’ve limited ourselves to.
The Shekinah שכינה Glory Nondual Divine Presence
The glory of God is often depicted in the Old Testament as the visitation of the Divine Presence. In Hebrew rabbinic literature, the term Shekinah שכינה (literal translation “dwelling”) is a theological term coined to refer to localizations and manifestations of the presence/person of God in the Jewish Scriptures. Shekinah שכינה appears in the Bible in the verbal form שׁכן “to dwell” where it refers to God dwelling (“templing”) among God’s people (e.g. Exodus 25:8). This dwelling divine presence is also described synonymously by the terms glory, presence, and holiness, and is often depicted as having the visible quality of light or fire: 15 “When Moses went up on the mountain, the cloud covered it, 16 and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai” (Exodus 24:15-16). When the New Testament authors write of God’s glory, they have this Shekinah glory-presence in mind. Thus, God’s glory is not a concept or theological attribute. It is not a matter of ritualistic divine flattery and prostration (as in religious worship). No religious person can glorify God by rotely performing religious rituals or formulating proper theological creeds. True worship means experiencing the nature of divinity and expressing the joy and gratitude that arise organically from this experiential knowing. The glory of God is a close encounter with the divine. It is earth-shatteringly real contact with Alive Awareness. By definition, divine glory is not an intellectual matter because it is encounter by presence, which transcends linguistic-symbolic representation. It is transpersonal, beyond the mind because it is experienced on a plane beyond the bodymind separate self.
One of the most theologically significant times the Shekinah manifested in the Bible was when Moses met with God on Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:29-35). Because he had “spoken with God,” or received experiential divine knowledge, Moses’s face was illuminated. The Israelites were terrified of Moses because of his divine radiance. Moses would put a veil over face after meeting with divinity in order to shield the people from their fear of exposure to divine light. Divine light brings awareness of our misalignments and agreements with falsehood and the false self, so the experience of insight is not always pleasant.
Moreover, the theophanic experience (divine glory) is often accompanied by a feeling of יָרֵא or Φόβος, which translates roughly to awe and dread. The glorious light is wondrous because it is beyond, and it is terrifying because it is beyond. It shatters egoic illusions like selfishness and a sense of purpose based on building your identity on temporal things–even the feeling of existing as a self at all! The ego may perceive this encounter as annihilation. But the awestruck fear is the liberation of enlightenment, for it reveals to you your true nature and the nature of everything. The fear only persists as long as you hold onto what is temporal (grasping): the illusion as subject-object distinction as fundamental to your identity. Eternal life is the experience of encountering what truly lives forever because it is transtemporal and transubjectival: nondual, spirit. Once divine nonduality has been integrated, everyday life in duality states of awareness becomes infused with awe, for everything is seen as it truly is: a mirror reflecting the divine light.
The games we play to be our own little gods of our own little universes is the condition of suffering, or constriction solely to separation consciousness and isolation from our higher nature. And it is illusion (maya) because it is an inversion of Truth, which is that all is God. Because all is God, truthful action (liberated action) is a principled way of living that recognizes self-transcendence: the seeking of the good of all and the good of the individuated self harmoniously.
In the Old Testament Scriptures, the Shekinah glory could be experienced only by the high priest who entered the Holy of Holies inner chamber of the tabernacle and temple, and only once a year under strict conditions. Yet in the New Testament when Jesus was crucified, the curtain of the temple was torn apart: 50 “And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split” (Matthew 27:50-51). The curtain parallels the veil that Moses wore after he spent priestly time in the divine presence to receive revelation. After the time period of restricted access to the divine (old paradigm religion), the Holy Spirit was poured out in the hearts of divine realizers, which symbolizes that the true temple of Godness is not external, but inside the human bodymind. The divine “lives in unapproachable light” (1 Timothy 6:16), but this light is approachable when divine identity is comprehended. Through mystical practice, the soul comes to know itself as part of the Higher Power it previously believed to be unapproachable and utterly other.
The death of Jesus can be taken to symbolize the ego death that precedes liberation. Jesus’ messianic enterprise, his egoic desire to be savior, only succeeded because it failed. He demonstrated salvation in the death of his self-as-savior-to-others complex (spiritual narcissism). The experiential light beams of the Shekinah, which are also the light of creation, break through the darkness of our constricting false identity identifications: “For yourDivinity, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the [experiential] knowledge of yourDivinity’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:6, NIV). The divine light shines in the unillumined human heart, revealing it to be the true place of divine-self encounter. The face of Christ is a metaphor for the glory of divinity shining forth in all liberated beings. For Christ was never a symbol of exclusive, inaccessible divinity (as Church dogma misrepresented him). Christ represents the divinity accessible to all who embrace the divine Spirit. Jesus himself taught the divinity of the self when it is illuminated by the Spirit: “On that day [when you receive the Spirit] you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). The Spirit can be taken to symbolize your Divine Consciousness, which brings awareness of divinity to the spiritual seeker.
The Bible describes the ministry of the Spirit as the New Covenant. The minds of the religious in Moses’s day “were made dull” (2 Corinthians 3:14) because they did not realize divinity was also accessible to them. Because of religious dread of egoic death by theophanic encounter, they insisted that priests encounter the divine for them. This is the same situation in most religious institutions. People still do not realize the veil has been taken away “in Christ” (self-salvation through self-divinity revealed); they still insist on receiving revelation indirectly through words on pages, gurus, sermons, and rituals: “Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts” (2 Corinthians 3:15). (Notwithstanding, gurus, ministers, and study have their place when understood properly as facilitating self-divinity, not outsourcing it to an external religious monarchy.)
External, outsourced institutional dead religious divinity is represented by the Old Covenant (old religious paradigm) “letter of the law:” ”the ministry that brought death… was engraved in letters on stone” (2 Corinthians 3:7); “[we are ministers] not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Externalized divinity is a ministry of death, for it suffocates the divine inner life it purports to cultivate. But as New Paradigm ministers, our task is to gaze at the divine through our chosen spiritual practice. This light-gazing is the process of divinization (transformational time spent in the glory resulting in ever-increasing union with the divine): “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate I AM God’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from I AM God, who is the Divine Consciousness” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The Archetype of Lightworker: Divine Service
When we practice Sun-gazing, we become competent as ministers of the divine to others (not of externalized idolatrous religion but self-divinity): “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). The Greek word here for minister διάκονος means divine servant. Divine awareness always translates to service, because it is light’s nature to shine. As our exposure to the Light increases, we receive divine illumination, or knowledge specific to our purpose in serving others. We become lightworkers; participants in the divine mandate to shine forth our creative truth so others can awaken to their own.
However, each person will experience temptations to hide their light, usually related to fears of rejection, failure, and feelings of insufficiency. Jesus issues a call to persevere in your lightwork in the face of internal or external obstacles: 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify the divinity in all things beyond the self (your Father in heaven)” (Matthew 5:14-16). It is egoic self-preservation, not humility, to hold back your gift to the world. You may achieve a degree of safety, but you will never experience joy or the fullness of the glory until you let your light shine.
Divine Utopia in the New Age: A Kaleidoscopic Cathedral of Light
Beauty is fulfilled only when all creation becomes a divine cathedral whose stained-glass shines forth the Radiant Glory. Such a vision of illuminated materiality is foreseen in the book of Revelation through the symbol of New Jerusalem. New Jerusalem is an ecocity uniting Heaven with Earth, technology with nature, and humanity with divinity. Here in Paradise, the external sun is no longer necessary (symbolically), for the spiritual glory of the divine illuminates everything: “There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light” (Revelation 22:5); “for the glory of God gives [the city] light” (Revelation 21:11). Previously in the Bible, the divine nature of reality was manifested only in visionary heavenly realms (such as the heavenly throne room) and revealed only to a few lucky prophets. Now in the utopian city, the walls are made of resplendent jewels and the streets are paved with gold (Revelation 21:11). Divine nondual nature is no longer hidden, but fully manifest and infinitely intensified in and through the dualistic materiality that had formerly forgotten its light. New Jerusalem is paradigmatic for structures, businesses, and literal cities that lightworkers are now building which, like lighthouses, shine forth a new paradigm of enlightened economics and prosperity.
The Archetype of Angel
The new paradigm of self/trans-self divinity requires messengers: those who have spent concentrated time in divine light and can convey the message of divinity (“the good news”). Archetypally (or also literally, depending on one’s worldview), this is the role of an angel. Angels have appeared in religions and cultures spanning the globe throughout human history (including in the so-called hallucinations of atheistic materialists). They are represented as beings with light bodies who assume gender for the sake of communication. Their wings represent their transtemporal and translocal nature, and the resulting ability to assume form in different planes contemporaneously. They come to the aid of all, without preference for religious or ideological affiliation.
The biblical, instinctual response to seeing an angel was awestruck prostration and worship: “I fell at [the angel’s] feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you… Worship yourDivinity!” (Revelation 19:10). Though they are awesome and powerful, angels never bring glory to themselves. They are servants and ministers of light, pointing you to the divine inside you. An angel redirects the spiritual seeker’s egoic attempts to avoid her true power by seeing it as outside of herself, or in the spiritual guru, or even in some religious notion of God as an object separate from the self (idolatrous worship).
The Greek word ἄγγελος (angel) in the Bible means messenger. Humans who carry a divine message function in the archetypal role of the celestial angels. Some cultures even believe celestial angels may choose to incarnate as human beings to reveal a divine message. John the Baptist was one such angel (archetypally or literally) in the Bible. It was prophesied about John the Baptist, “I will send my ἄγγελος ahead of [Jesus]” (Mark 1:2). John called the people to be cleansed through a baptism of water and repentance: a turning away from self-centered egoic ways, in preparation for Jesus’s baptism of the Holy Spirit: “I baptize you with water, but [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit” (Mark 1:8).
Jesus brought the teaching of divine sonship that we are all children of divinity. Christ consciousness is the awareness that the Savoir sought without is fundamentally within. Deliverer, deliverance, and delivered are realized as one reality (enlightenment). When he left, Jesus prophesied a baptism of the Holy Spirit: the democratization of divinity. No longer would religion be a hierarchical, priestly affair. All people would divinely awaken to Spirit–divine connection. All people would receive divine revelation directly: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17).
The time period when Spirit baptism would take place is called the End Times. Global divine awakening corresponds to escalating tensions with the dark human psychic forces of egocentric self-aggrandizement (narcissism, corruption, greed). This conflict is typified as The Battle of Armageddon: a war between truth and lies. In this present age (known as the Kali Yuga in Hinduism), darkness frequently appears to prevail. Yet the light warriors emerge victorious, and the kingdom of light and the heavenly light city manifest in a glorious new age where human spiritual and moral enlightenment unite with material progress. The darkness of divinity forgotten to itself is finally dispelled.
The coming of John the Baptist in the book of Mark is called, “The beginning [Genesis] of the good news” (Mark 1:1). This refers to the creation story of Genesis (“In the beginning, God created…” Genesis 1:1) and suggests that the coming of the gospel is a new creation event, a speaking of light into darkness. The gospel message that human nature is divine is liberating news. It is a message of equality where no religion, social class, or ethnic group has preeminence, bringing “every tribe, tongue, and nation” together in harmonious kinship (Revelation 7:9). It is the role of angels and lightworkers, messengers of the gospel of divinity, to speak the primordial light into darkness, creating order where there was once only chaotic identity-as-the-self confusion. The primordial light is not magically created by the messenger’s words and it cannot be forced into being by ceremonial or religious practice. It is uncreated light; the light which emanates from the eternal sun within each human soul. Seeing and becoming it only requires tuning in to the presence that abides in every present moment. Let there be light!
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Do you feel psychologically traumatized by religion, or isolated and disempowered by trauma and limiting beliefs in your life? I’m Andrew Jasko, Master of Divinity (M.Div.), M.A., Counseling Psychology in progress, and I work to help you transform your trauma into the place of your power and connect to a healthy, authentic spirituality that works for you (whether that’s as a spiritual, atheist, religious, transitioning, or agnostic identifying person). I was born into a minister’s family and became a preacher and missionary to India, after studying theology at Wheaton College and Princeton Seminary. As a Christian, my relationship with God was my passion, but unhealthy religious teachings caused me an anxiety disorder, sexual repression, and spiritual disillusionment. I felt alone, traumatized, and abandoned by the divine. After an agonizing crisis of faith, I rejected religion and spirituality. Then, I had an unexpected spiritual awakening through mystical and spiritual practices like meditation, psychedelics, and connecting my heart’s desires and intuition through my Divine Mindfulness practice. My passion is to help you in your spiritual or life transition to heal and connect with your authentic spiritual wholeness.
Feuerstein, G (2008). The Yoga Tradition: Its History, Literature, Philosophy, and Practice. Arizona: Hohm Press.