The Theosophical Society in America

Resurrection and the Body of Light

By John White

Originally printed in the Winter 2009 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: White, John. “Resurrection and the Body of Light.” Quest  97. 1 (Fall 2009): 11-15.

john whiteEnlightenment or God-realization is the highest aspect of our human potential for growth in body, mind, and spirit. According to many esoteric traditions, as we awaken to our oneness with God, bodily changes occur, most dramatically in the higher phases of enlightenment. In the final phase, the body is alchemically changed from flesh into light, becoming immortal. Enlightenment becomes a literal fact through the transubstantiation of flesh and blood into an immortal body of light. Various traditions have different names for this transubstantiated form, including the light body, the resurrection body, the solar body, and the diamond body.

In this article, we will look at this phenomenon from a cross-cultural and evolutionary perspective. We will also consider questions such as; what is the relationship between death and resurrection? What is meant by the terms “ascended masters” and “illuminati”? We will look at Christianity as a Western enlightenment tradition whose purpose is to enable people to develop psychophysically through resurrection to become Christed god-men and god-women. Toward the end, we will look the Shroud of Turin as evidence of bodily transubstantiation and the perfection of the human race.

From Transfiguration to Transubstantiation

The model of human consciousness I will be using is essentially drawn from the ancient yogic chakra model of consciousness, which posits seven stages of development that correspond to each of the chakras. Enlightenment is the highest. The American spiritual teacher Sapta Na Adi Da Samraj (formerly known as Adi Da and Da Free John, among other names; born Franklin A. Jones) divides this phase into three substages: transfiguration, transformation, and translation. With transfiguration, the body-mind is pervaded by what he calls Divine Radiance as the person abides in God-realization. Transformation is characterized by the manifestation of extraordinary powers and faculties (sometimes called siddhis), such as psychic healing capacities, genius, and longevity, as spontaneous expressions of further permeation of the body-mind by Divine Radiance. Translation removes the individual from space-time altogether and returns him to what I call the Preluminous Void, the unmanifest state of existence before God said “Let there be light.”

I believe this model, though valuable, is incomplete. Therefore I would like to suggest adding a next-to-last stage before translation: transubstantiation, or attaining the light body. This is the culmination of the entire evolutionary process of higher human development. It results in a deathless body of light, the perfection of the human body-mind, and it is the subject of this article.

The True Nature of Resurrection

Sacred traditions and metaphysical schools of thought generally agree that reality is multileveled and that each level of reality is composed of different energies or of matter with different degrees of vibration and density. In their totality, these energies and forms of matter constitute a spectrum of substance. At one end of the spectrum is purely physical matter; at the other end is pure spirit prior to its manifestation as matter and energy. This spectrum of substance is one of the two primal forms of God constituting the cosmos. The other is the spectrum of consciousness. Together, they are the inner and outer aspects of reality, the subjective and objective, the intention and extension of God.

Through our body-mind, we humans partake of all levels of reality, although we are generally unaware of the higher ones. Nonetheless, we retain the potential to awaken to the full spectrum of our being as consciousness and substance. Furthermore, we have a form or container or vehicle for our consciousness on each of those levels—a vehicle that is composed from the substance of that level. Collectively these are called energy bodies. They can be seen as nested one within the other, and all are resident within the physical body, although their energies may extend beyond it. Our physical body of flesh, blood, and bone is merely the container through which we function at the level of reality we know as ordinary space-time. At death, as the physical body decomposes, the other bodies withdraw from it, and the consciousness continues to function in other levels of reality. Those energy bodies have been given various names by various traditions. In one tradition they are termed the gross, the subtle, and the causal levels and bodies. In another they are the physical, the vital, the emotional, the mental, and the spiritual levels and bodies. In yet another they are termed koshas or “sheaths” of finer and finer substance enfolding the physical body. Still more names could be given from still other metaphysical systems. Here are some of the names given to the "highest" or "final" energy body in various traditions:

  • In the Christian tradition it is called "the resurrection body" or "the glorified body." St. Paul called it "the celestial body" or "spiritual body."
  • In Sufism it is called "the most sacred body" (wujud al-aqdas).
  • In Taoism it is called "the diamond body," and those who have attained it are called "the immortals" and "the cloudwalkers."
  • In Tibetan Buddhism it is called "the light body."
  • In some mystery schools it is called "the solar body."
  • In Rosicrucianism it is called "the diamond body of the temple of God."
  • In Tantrism and yoga it is called the "the vajra body," "the adamantine body" and "the divine body."
  • In Vedanta it is called "the superconductive body."
  • In Kriya yoga it is called "the body of bliss."
  • In Gnosticism and Neoplatonism it is called "the radiant body."
  • In the alchemical tradition, it is called "the glory of the whole universe" or the "golden body."
  • In the Hermetic Corpus it is called "the immortal body" (soma athanaton).
  • In ancient Egypt it was called the akh.
  • In Old Persia it was called "the indwelling divine potential" (fravashi or fravarti).
  • In the Mithraic liturgy it was called "the perfect body" (soma teleion).
  • In the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo it is called "the Divine Body," composed of supramental substance.

As I see it, these are different terms for the same ultimate stage of human development. If I understand these terms correctly, they refer to the condition in which a human being, by a combination of personal effort and divine grace, attains a deathless state through the transubstantiation or alchemical transmutation of his or her ordinary fleshly body. The traditions speak of the process in different ways. Is the immortal body created or released, attained or manifested? Is it preexistent within the individual, so that the gross matter of the body and the other energy bodies are simply "burned" away? Or is the gross matter of the body altered through a process not yet recognized by physical science that changes the atoms of flesh into something unnamed on the periodic table of elements? Is there more than one route to the perfected human body-mind?

These are provocative questions, but I have no definitive answers to offer here. I am seeking answers, and I welcome whatever information readers may have to share.

Attaining Immortality


Whatever the process may be, it enables the transubstantiated individual to operate within ordinary space-time through an immortal vehicle of consciousness. Unlike biological flesh, that deathless body is no longer carbon-based. Rather it is composed of a finer, more ethereal form of energy substance unknown to conventional physics but long known to metaphysics. For a human individual, this condition is the most exalted phase of higher human development. The person has become fully manifested as what he or she inherently is: a form of God. Such people have been recognized throughout history as “god-men” and “god-women.”

If we share a common human nature, then what is possible for one is possible for all, at least theoretically. For humanity in a collective sense, then, the body of light is the final stage of evolution, the perfection of man, the complete manifestation of the Mystical Body of Christ. Attaining the body of light is an alternative to death or, more correctly, the conquest of death. As Dr. Charles Musès put it in an article in Astrologia (vol. 1, no. 2, 1974), which I quoted in my book Kundalini, Evolution, and Enlightenment:

The most ancient Egyptian teachings were concerned with an occult science—now lost and as yet far beyond the reach of our technology—whereby while still in this life, the carbon-based body, by suitable extradimensional radiation, could be transformed into the new type of energy-substance and form the imperishable, radiant body. In this manner, the initiate so treated could enter into a higher dimensional objective world...without the trauma of physical death.

Jesus and the Body of Light

The best-known example of transubstantiation of the human body-mind is Jesus of Nazareth. I regard Christianity as an enlightenment tradition whose true purpose is to enable people to become Christed. That is, Christianity has (or had) both a theory and a practice for attaining enlightenment in the highest degree. But that understanding has been lost in the institutional forms and sects that have arisen over doctrinal and ritualistic differences that are not essential to the process of growth to Christhood. It is important for fundamentalists to realize this fact, but it is also important for transpersonalists, integralists, and secular spiritualists who dismiss certain inner truths about Christianity and thereby overlook the possibility of connecting with a Western enlightenment tradition whose roots extend at least to ancient Egypt.

Fundamentalist Christians often speak about the blood sacrifice of Jesus. They declare that his shedding of blood was a mighty act of salvation. A hymn asks, "Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?" It asks whether the listener is cleansed from sin and redeemed from eternal damnation by accepting the blood sacrifice of Jesus as the sign of his rulership of creation.

With all due respect, that view of Jesus and Christianity is naive, literalistic, and superficial. It is an exoteric understanding of a situation that actually requires an esoteric understanding. In other words, conventional Christianity has the teaching, but not the key that unlocks its meaning. I will explain. 

Contrary to what many Christian fundamentalists believe, I would like to suggest that the resurrection of Jesus did not involve reconstitution of his flesh, blood, and bone into a functioning biological organism. It was not the restoration of his physical body or the reanimation of a decomposing corpse.

Similar examples of this fallacious fundamentalism may be seen in ancient China and in Orthodox Judaism. In ancient China, I have read, it was common for men to save their cut hair and fingernails on a lifelong basis so that upon the person's death they could be placed in the grave or tomb in order to be ready for use in restoring that person's body to life. Likewise, in Orthodox Judaism it is believed that the Messiah will resurrect dead bodies upon his coming, so Orthodox Jews retain even amputated body parts for burial with the person.

No matter what form this literalism takes, it needs to be corrected with insight and understanding. There is no need to collect body parts. Doing that is an entirely superfluous and literal-minded view that misdirects one's energy and consciousness. Nor is there any need to be “washed in the blood of the Lamb.” The important thing is, as the Bhagavad Gita puts it, to "fix your heart on God" and then invoke the Holy Spirit, the Shekhinah, the goddess Kundalini, or whatever devotional form your particular tradition may provide. Support that with moral behavior, contemplative practice, cultivation of the mind, works of social goodness and civic responsibility. In other words, live a life of integral practice so that your entire being—body, mind and spirit—is oriented to the attainment of enlightenment. God will take care of the rest.

However, “the rest,” according to esoteric traditions, includes advanced practices that are for all intents and purposes unknown to the exoteric forms of those traditions—the churches, temples, mosques, etc., where conventional worship prevails and enlightenment-knowledge is generally regarded as craziness or heresy. It is not a matter of having all your body parts collected; dead flesh is dead flesh. It is a matter of enlivening your energy bodies so that, through spiritual refinement, the dross is removed and the "highest" body is developed to the point of complete self-mastery. Then you can cast off the flesh body through the death process, but without the trauma of dying. You release the light body from its fleshly cocoon. You put on the “robe of light.” You no longer cast a shadow because you no longer have a shadow.

Evidence of the Shroud

When Jesus arose from the dead, he lived in a resurrection or glorified body. That is indicated by the Shroud of Turin, which, legend maintains, was the funeral shroud of Jesus when he was buried in the tomb after crucifixion.

Although a carbon-14 test in the 1980s purportedly showed that the Shroud was no older than the fourteenth century—and therefore was a hoax—it has now been shown that the results of this test were badly flawed by two major factors. First, the sample of the fabric tested was recently found to be part of a sixteenth-century patch or invisible repair of the original cloth, which had been damaged. (The repair was revealed by microscopic examination.) Second, microscopic biological material (mold microorganisms) was present on the piece of fabric tested. These factors led to a medieval date for the Shroud. New tests move the relic’s age back to the first century. Moreover, other research has identified pollen grains on the Shroud that could only have come from the vicinity of Jerusalem during the months of March and April, when such localized vegetation is in bloom. Finally, the weave of the cloth has now been identified as specific to Palestine in the first century and not to medieval Europe. For these and other reasons, the Shroud is now clearly established as an authentic first-century relic.

As for the image of the man in the Shroud, research likewise indicates that it is no hoax. The blood stains are real (type AB) and contain human male DNA. Shroud researcher Frank Tribbe notes in his book Portrait of Jesus? that the closest science can come to explaining how the image of the man was imprinted on the Shroud is by comparing the situation to a controlled burst of high-intensity radiation similar to the Hiroshima bomb explosion, which "printed" images of disintegrated people on building walls. Shroud researcher Ray Rogers, a physical chemist from Los Alamos Laboratory, said, "I am forced to conclude that the image was formed by a burst of radiant energy—light if you like." In other words, the image is recorded on the cloth as if by a photoflash of brilliant light rising from the body of the man in the Shroud. Another Shroud researcher, Alan Adler of Western Connecticut State College, concluded that the image could have been created only by a form of energy that science cannot name. Apparently a self-induced nuclear "explosion" was the means by which Jesus transubstantiated.

This line of reasoning means that Jesus actually died, physically and biologically. While he may have been alive in a yogic swoon or a near-death condition when placed in the tomb, nevertheless at some point he underwent biological death in order to attain resurrection. But unlike the typical corpse, which undergoes decomposition into its elements, Jesus's physical body was altered into something more elemental—indeed, more fundamental, although it is not understood by fundamentalists.

From my point of view, Jesus called people to duplicate himself, to grow into "the stature and fullness of Christ," so that in our own bodies—our own flesh and blood—we perform the true and complete imitation of Christ. Institutional Christianity, from evangelical to mainstream churches, aims at producing Christians when it should aim at producing Christs. The kingdom of heaven to which Jesus called humanity is not an astrophysical location but a state of consciousness known as enlightenment. Jesus' life, death, and postmortem acts opened "the gates of heaven" for everyone, but mere belief in Jesus is not enough. No one will pass through the gates unless he or she lives a God-centered life resulting in God-realization. And in the final phase of God-realization, one literally becomes light.

Ascended Masters and the Illuminati

There may have been others before (and after) Jesus who attained the glorified body or resurrection body, as is implied in various ways in both biblical and extrabiblical literature. The pharaonic ceremonial tradition of ancient Egypt is primarily about the process of consciousness transference from the flesh body to the spirit body or akh. Knowledge of that process may have passed into Judaism through Moses, who, according to the Bible, became a member of the pharaoh's household when he was rescued as a baby by a pharaoh's daughter. From Moses, according to esoteric legends, the akh knowledge descended through the centuries as an underground stream in some branches or schools of Judaism, emerging publicly and most dramatically through the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Legends and some esoteric documents also have the tradition continuing through some of the early Christians to the Cathars of southern France, and thence to the Knights Templar and modern Freemasonry as expounded by scholars such as Manly P. Hall and W. L. Wilmshurst.

Although Jesus is the primary Western exemplar of resurrection, there are others, both Eastern and Western, whom history and legend record as similarly transubstantiated. According to various esoteric traditions, a number of "ascended masters" have attained to that condition and are accessible to us when they choose to be. Among them are Melchizedek, Ezekiel, Count St. Germain, Boganathar, Kriya Babaji Nagaraj (also known as Mahavatar Babaji and Shiva Baba), Koot Hoomi, Morya, Djual Kool, Matsyendra Nathan, and Swami Ramalingam. Collectively, they are known as the White Brotherhood, the illumined ones or the true illuminati.

In a different but related situation—that of near-death research—are reports by the thousands of people who, while clinically dead, have found themselves in a nonterrestrial environment and have then become aware of the presence of a being of light. These light beings have been identified by the near-death experiencers as gods, angels, devas, saints, holy people, mythological personalities, and other figures associated with divinity. The reports imply a veritable society of such entities, operating in what seem to be vehicles of consciousness identical to the one Jesus had after his resurrection. That society resides at the top of the divine hierarchy of worlds extending from the lowest physical level to the highest of the metaphysical. The hierarchy has often been called the Great Chain of Being; it connects all life to God, from the lowest microorganisms, through humanity, to the forms native to the higher worlds, such as angels, devas, and archangels. At the highest level, the Logos—where creation itself begins—are those Christed ones of humanity who have ascended to the throne of God, that is, who have attained the condition of existence that is the seat of power for God's governing of the cosmos. Despite the apparently vast distance which separates them from us, they are simply "elder brothers and sisters" of ours who have traveled the evolutionary path before us.

They present themselves to us in ways that appeal to our deepest nature and that urge us to externalize that nature in every aspect of our own being, including relationships and social organization. They are models for human aspirations of spiritual growth. Thus Jesus, properly understood, is not a vehicle of salvation, as fundamentalists claim, but a model of perfection drawing us beyond ego to the transpersonal and the mystical.

From my perspective, someday in a distant evolutionary future we humans will wear the seamless robe of light. May all beings attain enlightenment!

John White, M.A.T., is an internationally known author and educator in the fields of consciousness research and higher human development. He has published fifteen books, including The Meeting of Science and Spirit, A Practical Guide to Death and Dying, and What Is Enlightenment? His books have been translated into ten languages. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Reader's Digest, Omni, Esquire, Woman's Day, and various other publications.