This is not going to be a treatise on the history of calendar dates and religious holidays which were more or less arbitrarily laid down by worldy or ecclesiastical authorities. Or on the medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas, who has made the term “epiphany“ (ancient Greek for “revelation“) widely known.
Googling the term, one does not find much enlightening information anyway. Wiktionary mentions the following denotations:
- Religion: unexpected manifestation or self-revelation of a deity among humans
- Universal: sudden realization or revelation which occurs unexpectedly
Well, this much to begin with.
Undoubtedly it would be fascinating to do further research on the celebration of the birth of the sun god Aion in hellenistic Egypt, or on forms of the epiphany cult in pre-Christian times as well as the cult among the gnostic sect of the Basilidians. On some other occasion this might bring to light facts of great interest.
Here, however, we shall be concerned with the question whether or to what extent epiphany can occur in our own daily life: epiphany as a first-hand experience – without any academic or ideological superstructure, without any authorities functioning as mediators or interpreters. Possible AT ANY TIME, not only at times of special stellar constellations, such as the Jupiter/Neptune-conjunctions which are supposed to occur in the year 2022, or under the mysterious influence of Cygnus and Serpentarius, which was referred to by the classical Rosicrucians (in their manifesto Confessio Fraternitatis).
Would we even notice it, if Mystery, the Supernatural, manifested itself in our life?
Epiphany in the Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross
How impressive it is to read in a venerable text such as The Alchemical Wedding of Christian Rosycross about his spiritual awakening on the eve before Easter:
“… a sudden wind arose of such terrible vehemence that I could not but fear that the mountain in whose shelter my little cottage lay hidden was going to burst asunder from such overwhelming force.“
When Christian Rosycross, sensing the touch of an unknown presence, has slightly recovered from his shock, he becomes aware of a marvellous female figure in a blue star-studded dress, endowed with wings, who hands him a message and disappears “without saying one single word. However, while she was ascending she brought forth such a powerful sound on her beautiful trombone that the whole mountain resonated with this sound, and even one quarter of an hour later I was incapable of hearing my own voice.“
Interestingly enough Christian Rosycross is by no means pleased, let alone flattered, for after he has read the message which has been addressed to him, he “thought he would fall unconscious. My hair stood on end and cold sweat erupted from every pore. For even though I knew that this was about the wedding whose prospect had been held out to me, which had been announced to me in a vision seven years previously and which I had been anticipating with great yearning for such a long time and which finally I had found through zealous calculating and recalculating of my planetary positions, I would never have expected it to come with such hard and dangerous conditions. …“
He becomes aware of his thorough inadequacy and weakness: “Thus I discovered … within myself, the more I examined myself, nothing but great incomprehension and blindness with regard to occult affairs, and that I was incapable of grasping the very things which were within my reach and which I daily dealt with.“ After a very meaningful dream that very night Christian Rosycross realizes the significance of what has happened to him and sets off for his life-changing spiritual journey.
Does epiphany fit into our modern lives?
The question arises how such an “apparition“ fits into our modern lives. Other than Christian Rosycross, who, when it occurred, was deep in his meditative prayer, many people these days feel compelled to work until late in the evening and to devote their attention to a flood of media reports (tuning in on collective waves of concern and anxiety). For the remains of their day they might simply seek diversion and “recreation“ by watching Netflix series or consuming other products of the entertainment industry.
And – to be quite honest – who would want to feel paralyzed with fear as they encounter a sublime ethereal creature and, possibly, have to realize that they cut a sorry figure during that “magic spell“? Even worse: that THEREAFTER they could not simply carry on with their carefully planned and organized lives, with all their tedious, yet reassuring routines, that things would irrevocably have to change?
Would any average sensible person, if they had any say in the matter, not prefer the blue pill to the red pill (like in the movie Matrix) and – rather than acknowledging the fact that they had access to a totally different, higher reality – gladly return to the old reality that feels so familiar?
Without any doubt the identification with materialistically oriented conceptions of the world, along with all their surrogate gratifications, offers a certain sense of security, the comfort of the common and customary, something we are unwilling to give up in today’s crisis-ridden world and its alarming future prospects.
Do we really feel any inclination to fall down “as dead“ before the Angel of the Apocalypse? Do we, as rational and disillusioned human beings of this modern age, feel inclined to seek refuge in unworldly fantasies, in escapist mystifications and mystic raptures? We, who have learnt to equally distrust hypocritical piety and esoteric eccentricity?
Divine revelation? In my life? You are not serious, are you?
What is required?
Are such manifestations (still) possible in our time? Definitely this would require, first of all, an intelligent, positively realistic and sufficiently down-to-earth disposition in order to avoid manipulation and deception. Furthermore: humility and modesty as displayed by Christian Rosycross (pretty unpopular these days). And above all: open-mindedness and a keen perception of vibrations that are higher and more subtle than those omnipresently circulating through the world-wide web, receptivity not only to what is invisible, but also to what is super-natural. Last but not least: in the midst of noise, agitation and uproar gliding into silence, listening, letting go…
What to expect?
NOTHING. Nothing, really.
Any expectation or intention to make things happen, any calculation of possible gains or successes would be detrimental. God’s spirit cannot be controlled. Flow just happens without our intervening. We trust that something can and will happen which we sense in our deepest inner being, but which we can neither see nor grasp. Moreover, we had better not wait for an angel with a trombone, for Buddha, Shiva, or any other wondrous entity to make their appearance.
We can experience epiphany at any time
And yet the miraculous thing is that we can experience epiphany at any time and place – particularly in encounters with other human beings.
When I was hiking in the mountains of north India many years ago, I often met native people carrying burdens on their back. With a friendly smile and their joined palms placed before their chest they greeted me: “Namaste!“ (“I greet the god within you!“)
How rarely do we come to realize that encountering another human being can have the full potential for epiphany! After all, we are used to thinking of ourselves as individuals, we define ourselves by what makes us special, what distinguishes and, therefore, separates us from others. In our loneliness and remoteness we tend to eye our fellow human beings with suspicion, as potential rivals, or to judge them according to utilitarian principles.
If, for once, we manage not to let our attention be distracted by notions such as whether or not the person in front of us is sporting fashionable designer clothing, whether he/she belongs to an age category that is of any interest to us, whether they strike us as being male/female/diverse, imposing or rather inconspicuous – then entirely different and new possibilities of perception open up to us.
For a moment you behold another human in the essence of their soul being. The divine gem, which is inherent in them, is revealed to you. Like a flash of lightning the realization seizes you:
Tat tvam asi. That is your SELF.
Such experiences cannot be brought about willfully. They need not necessarily be repeated. They might only last for an instant – and then be covered up by our usual modes of perception and outlook on things. Such experiences have no romantic quality. They are totally unlike anything we might visualize in our wishful imagination. On the contrary: A revelation of this kind can shake the very foundations of our being, whirl about our convictions, tear asunder our image of ourselves.
There are ways for epiphany to come to us other than through our fellow human beings. Like Christian Rosycross on the eve before Easter we can be on our own and just sit there in silence. Epiphany can knock softly on the door of our heart, or it can overwhelm us like a violent storm. Perhaps we are thoroughly surprised when it happens. Perhaps at that moment we are unaware of the fact that we have invited it, tuned our soul in on it, that we have for quite some time been longing for it.
Does epiphany approach me from outside? Does it rise up from my innermost being? Do what is outside and what is inside of me find each other and become one in a mystical wedding?
Am I ready?
What happens NOW?