The word epiphany comes from the ancient Greek verb “to reveal.” The church holy day of Epiphany celebrates the Magi seeing the presence of God—the spirit that created the universe—revealed in Jesus. The church season of Epiphany is about recognizing that same spirit’s manifestation not only in Jesus but in other people, in nature and in ourselves.
The word epiphany in everyday use means an “aha!” moment. To have an epiphany is to have an insight that feels like an urgent truth revealed.
Right now humanity is facing a multidimensional global emergency. We need epiphanies, and we need the spiritual wisdom that the church tradition of Epiphany can reveal, to help us resolve these crises.
Epiphanies pave the path to a new consciousness. We can help our entire culture move along that path by sharing our own epiphanies of the Spirit’s guidance, and our insights into the purpose for our lives, and our glimpses of the light shining ahead that beckons us toward a healthy, just and sustainable way of living on earth.
The Hubble telescope is a metaphor for what epiphany calls us to do—peer into the depths of the universe within and around us and send back what we find.
This is an extraordinary half-hour film. You can watch it by clicking on the image above, but I encourage you to read the background about it first at https://deepfieldfilm.com/. Particularly read about the composition of the music, which is equal in importance to the breath-taking images. The music is designed to follow the history of the Hubble telescope and to reflect the experience of humanity receiving Hubble’s epiphanies. The choir that you hear in the vocal portions is made up of over 8000 voices of all ages from 120 countries, and you will see some of their faces at one point in the film. It is as if the earth itself is singing, and we are merely the part of the earth that was created to attain this universal consciousness and sing its song. The video is intended to spark epiphanies in us and be a religious and transformative experience.
We need epiphanies now, both ancient and modern.
The Christian tradition of Epiphany comes from the second chapter of the gospel of Matthew where the Magi follow a star to the child Jesus. The Magi were a combination of contemplatives and scientists. They were priestly holy people and wisdom seekers who were steeped in the most advanced observed knowledge of nature. They believed that the spirit of the universe was trying to communicate with humans so they studied the skies for signs and listened to voices in their dreams.
We can look to similar sources for the epiphanies we need. The spirit that created nature speaks through other life forms to help us understand what it needs from us in order to sustain life. The spirit that evolved our consciousness speaks to us from our depths and helps us keep evolving.
We need to be both scientists and contemplatives to catch the epiphanies the spirit is trying to give us now.
We need to cultivate our heart’s core, our inner Golden Room, the place within us each where we meet the spirit, where we find the ability to perceive intuitively what God or the universe is saying.
It takes courage to open ourselves to urgent truths because they can be painful. The second chapter of Matthew describes how Herod responded when he realized that the Magi had disobeyed him. He sent soldiers to slaughter all the children near Bethlehem two years old or younger. Humanity’s failures to follow the spirit’s way of universal love can be excruciating to see.
Even beautiful epiphanies require courage to embrace, though, because they lead us into the unknown, which we fear. They change our consciousness, and they ask us to act in new ways that go against our cultural norms and comfort zones. Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus to save themselves from Herod. Imagine that.
The epiphanies of ancient spiritual tradition and modern insight are aligning now like Jupiter and Saturn, like the star of Bethlehem. They offer hope that we might yet save the earth from the crises that humanity’s failure to follow the way of love has created.
We exist for a purpose.
Why did the spirit of the universe that orders the galaxies and created life on earth evolve human consciousness? The Hebrew wisdom teachers pondered this question thousands of years ago and recorded their epiphanies in the creation stories of Genesis.
God put us in this garden “to till it and keep it.”
We exist to serve life.
Over the millennia we have come to understand that this means our life, but not just our life. Our family, but not just our family. Our nation, but not just our nation.
The most urgent epiphany for the twenty-first century is that the creation is truly one, and we need to declare allegiance to all life, especially to the most vulnerable, including strangers and enemies and the ecosystems on which life depends. We need to think locally and act locally with love and care, but also with an awareness that humans are no longer residents of their local place alone.
This planet is our one and only garden, a small, fragile home we share with all life.
If you travel to the moon and look back at earth you see that it is a beautiful, lush oasis, and tiny compared to the vast desert of lifeless space. The nearest planet that has the potential to be a garden like earth is 4.2 light years away, which doesn’t sound that far until you do the math and realize that our fastest rocket traveling 20,000 miles per hour would take around 140,000 years to get there.
This planet holds our only chance to survive. If we wreck it, we have nowhere to go. If we cannot learn to get along, if we cannot live ethically, if we cannot love and have compassion for one another here, we won’t do it anywhere. If we cannot change in this generation, humanity may not exist for another generation to try again to get it right.
Every one of us contributes to a cumulative human impact that now literally outweighs all other life on this planet combined. An estimated fifty-one trillion microplastic particles pollute the waters of the oceans, and they have been found in the waters of the womb as well, and in the air of our cities and the air of our lungs.
Our impact on the earth in one place can lead to a pandemic that infects all places. The deterioration of the climate from our way of living threatens every species.
Our allegiance to all life as one makes it the urgent responsibility of us each to act in ways corresponding to the emergency we are in—arguably the greatest emergency humanity has ever faced.
The most urgent thing we are called by the universe to learn now is how to manage a planet.
I was thinking the other day about how the “eco” in economy or ecology comes from a Greek word meaning house. That night I had a dream that I was trying to sell my home. An authority—a realtor or banker—kept telling me bad news about my house’s value. First it was devalued because of racism—it had been built partly by enslaved people. Then it was devalued because of economic inequity—the paid workers brought home a tiny fraction of the what the bosses received. Then it was devalued because of environmental exploitation—it both wasted and used too many resources. The list went on until the value was less than nothing—I would have to pay the next owner of my house to take it off my hands.
To manage a planet we first need to manage our own egos—our selfish ambitions, our fear and greed. We need to learn how to have a wise, mature level of consciousness that is capable of loving all creation as one inextricably united self.
If we can evolve to that new level of consciousness as a culture, then we will naturally learn how to manage our lives as individuals and as societies in such a way that we nurture the life-sustaining health of every ecosystem. We will naturally live by the Golden Rule and love of neighbor with compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed. Racial, economic and environmental justice will naturally happen.
Epiphanies pave the path to a new consciousness.
This leads us back to the need to be like the Hubble telescope, with our heart’s Golden Room wide open to the epiphanies that the spirit of love and life and light is trying to help us see. We need to expand the vision of our hearts and minds, what the ancient Christian tradition calls metanoia, and we need to share widely and compellingly the epiphanies that our expanded vision sees.
Part of what we need is a new story, based on a new understanding of who we are and what our place is in the universe. Below is the trailer for another remarkable film, this time using words for its narrative. If you have not experienced it, prepare yourself for more epiphanies and another step on the journey toward the new consciousness humanity needs.
Click here to find your way to the full film and other related resources.