The Transfiguration of Jesus

by Joshua Tilghman on March 26, 2013

The transfiguration of JesusThis post continues our series on the esoteric Jesus. So far we’ve seen why he had to come out of Egypt and be baptized. Today’s post will study the esoteric meaning of Jesus’ transfiguration.

We’ll start with Gaskell’s definition:

Transfiguration of Jesus: A symbol of an initiation, and signifying the using or raising of the lower nature in the interest of the higher.

While the transfiguration is one of the easiest initiations to decode, perhaps it shows us more than any other the esoteric nature of Jesus and the Gospels. The symbols are undeniable, and I believe anyone looking closely at the nature of this event would have to admit that it’s more esoteric than exoteric.

Let’s look at the first scripture in the scene.

“After six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John, his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart” (Matt. 17:1).

The first verse is filled with symbolic meaning. I have bolded all of the ones that deserve discussion.

It’s no coincidence that the text tells us this event happened after six days. Biblical numbers are never arbitrary. Six symbolizes a round of growth and accomplishment. We’ll even see this number used again at the crucifixion, another period of conscious growth for Christ. Think about Genesis chapter one. Even though the creation of the world is considered to be seven days, all God’s work of creating took place in six. He rested on the seventh which is the number of perfection.

Next I want you to notice that Jesus only took the famous three, Peter, James and John. These three are the obvious choice for what they represent. They are archetypes for the human soul. Peter, who comes first in the list, represents the natural man. Think of him as the lower mind, or ego. This can be proven from scripture because Jesus rebuked by calling him Satan.

“…get thee behind me, Satan: for thou art an offence to me: for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men” (Matt. 16:23).

Natural man, or ego, is always at enmity with God.

Next we have James. He is a symbol of the mental aspect of the soul. Building up the mental qualities of the soul is an important step on the way to enlightenment. The intellect, once sufficiently developed over many incarnations, helps to curb the appetite of the passions and desires of the natural man, or lower mind, when combined with the moral nature. James becomes the unspoken leader of the apostles as well. This can be expected as the consciousness I expresses itself through the mind.

Last we have John. John is the Apostle whom Jesus loved. He represents the love-nature of the higher mind. Think of John as the spiritual influence of the higher moral nature that brings together all the faculties of the soul into unity.

It should make sense to you now that Jesus goes through the transfiguration with the three disciples present who ultimately represent the body, mind, and heart, all of three of which need to go through a change by reflecting the truth of the higher nature. More on this change in a moment.

The last portion of the scripture we studied said Jesus took them up on a high mountain apart. High mountain tops in scripture also always represent the higher planes. As we’ll see, Jesus’ transfiguration represents a reflection of the bright white of truth on the higher planes. The fact that the scripture states it is apart means in isolation, which represents going within one’s self. It is the “kingdom within” that Jesus speaks of.

Let’s now look at the next verse:

“And [Jesus] was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his rainment was as white as the light” (Matt. 17:2).

The face, or countenance of man, is associated with the expression of truth within the higher nature of the soul. His face did shine as the sun because it reflected the truth on the higher planes. Jesus’ clothes were also shining because the outer nature of Jesus now reflected the truth that was within him. The two are in equilibrium, an important juncture on the road to enlightenment. Man must not only know the truth, but his actions on the outside must also reflect that knowledge. As we have already seen, the three disciples, representing body, mind, and heart, now reflect the outward appearance of what Gaskell terms: works, understanding, and love.

The symbols of Moses and Elijah with Jesus in the next verse are as equally important. The scripture states:

“And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias [Elijah] talking with him” (Matt. 17:3).

Moses represents the moral, ethical nature of man. Elijah represents the physical nature. The fact that they both appeared during Jesus’ transfiguration is symbolic of the unity of the god spark, or indwelling spirit of Jesus, with the moral and physical natures of man. In other words, the lower nature of man is being raised up by the higher nature of man. This represents the perfection of the personality and development of the higher spiritual ego. It is the harmonization of the entire being of the soul.

The last scripture I want to discuss is Matthew 17:9:

“And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the son of man be risen again from the dead.”

The esoteric nature of this verse is subtle, but important. Why would Jesus forbid them to tell any man about the vision until after his resurrection? Esoterically, it is because the son of man has not yet become fully the son of God. The perfection of the lower nature is fully shown in its death at the crucifixion and resurrection. This is not meant to be literal, but is figurative of the completed process of the evolution the soul.

In the next post we’ll pick up with the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. In subsequent posts we’ll leave this completion from the son of man to the son of God philosophically and discuss the entire process from a more practical viewpoint with a discussion of kundalini in the Book of Revelations.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Bernhardt Adjedi Cadbury March 27, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Hi Rabi Josh,
One sharp basic question here, Is this great mission of yours limited to blogging? In other words, how do you intend spreading this esoteric knowledge/knowings beyond readers of your blog other than waiting for awaking souls?
However, i was thinking that the symbolism of “Peter, James and John” as read in this post should be likened to that of ” Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego” . What do you say about that. Blessings.


Joshua Tilghman March 31, 2013 at 6:51 pm


I definitely don’t deserve the title of Rabi. As to your question, I really don’t know for now. I do plan to do more, but the timing isn’t right. I have a four and six year old, full-time job, etc. I know the opportunity will present itself at the right time. For now I depend on people like you to spread the deeper message of the scriptures around. I also see your point about Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Thanks for drawing the conclusion. I hope you had a good Easter weekend.


Robert March 27, 2013 at 9:58 pm

The manner in which the symbolism you have presented fits is awesome. If we are going to re-examine the entire Gospel with new symbolism, we are likely to discover a whole new meaning. I’d especially like to see where you go when Jesus comes off the mountain and Peter, James and John try unsuccessfully to drive out sickness and demons. Jesus promises them power to succeed with what he refers to at the time as “prayer and fasting”. Meanwhile, I followed your assignment of the body, mind the heart to Peter, James and John farly easily. And Moses as mans moral nature fits. But I am not that clear on Elijah representing man’s physical nature. I’m used to the conventional assignment of these two as Moses the law and Elijah prophecy.


Joshua Tilghman March 31, 2013 at 6:56 pm


That would make for a great future post! Prayer and fasting is part of ego submission. I’ll plan on that in the future. I bet there’s a lot of symbolism we could draw out in those stories that would make more sense than the traditional view. I’ll think about it some and reread the text. About Elijah: have you read up on the 5 planes (some consider 6) of existence in esoteric literature, especially theosophy? That might help you to draw a conclusion about the physical nature. I’ll see if I can address that more later too. I’m sure Elijah will come up all by himself sooner or later. I have an interesting way to prove scripturally that he actually wrote a letter to the king after his supposed chariot experience! I look forward to writing that one, though I want to tackle revelations for a few people that have requested info on that Book first. Blessings and I hope you enjoyed Easter Sunday.


Robert March 31, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Thank you Josh. I will look up the 5 planes in theosophy. For now I’ve been thinking about it it and it seems to me that Moses and Elijah both represent (as you implied) incomplete, less advanced, or earlier-evolved stages of human existence, just two different aspects of those stages. Moses the law, the written code of ethics, a culmination of the spirit of God acting from above upon man’s INTELLECT, the voice of God from without speaking to a representative of man on the mountain. Elijah the prophet, who foretells, warns and gives hope in distress, the product of the spirit of God from above upon man’s INTUITION, the voice of God from without speaking through an overshadowed man in the wilderness. Jesus supersedes these two arch types, one on his right and one on his left, INTELLECT and INTUITION, by showing the potential for man to advance as the spirit of God rises and shines from within man, instead of merely acting from without, such that INTELLECT and INTUITION are then balanced, integrated and enhanced, producing through the process of enlightenment a higher consciousness. There are probably many ways of describing this. Different analogies. Different paths. But the idea of bringing together good things from the past and adding a new and better dimension to them is the same.


Joshua Tilghman April 2, 2013 at 7:38 pm

Very true. I am reminded of the center channel in the tree of life where a balance in consciousness has been achieved. This is the Christ. Thanks for your comment, Robert.


Robert March 31, 2013 at 8:58 pm

By the way, my wife had a crisis today which I was able to help by using what I learned from your blog back in July on “Jonah, The Whale, and Consciousness”. It just came to me from my memory. These new spins on the bible you have been accumulating are very useful to pass along. Some day you might take the best of them and put them together in an integrated manner into a published collection. You have quite a number of them now. I went searching on your bblog later to find the Jonah article to look at it in more detail. It was a little difficult to find. There is no complete list article by article in the archives. There is no way to do a formal electronic search through your blog for a subject like “Jonah”. The SEARCH functions on your site are web wide. I eventually found the article I wanted using a web wide search by trying different combinations of search words to narrow it down.


Joshua Tilghman April 2, 2013 at 7:36 pm


Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I do need to make the blog more user friendly with a better system of categorization and labeling. I will admit that my categories aren’t set up very well. I’ll work on them.


Shawn March 27, 2013 at 10:35 pm

Hi Joshua,

The transfiguration of Jesus has always intrigued me and I knew there was more to it than what I was reading. I searched for an explanation of the transfiguration on your blog about a week or so ago, so needless to say I really enjoyed reading this. What has also intrigued me is why the three (Peter, James & John) were overtaken with “heavy sleep” (Luke’s version) and why was Moses and Elijah talking to Jesus about his decease? Any insight??


Shawn March 27, 2013 at 10:53 pm

I’m wondering if the deep sleep had to do with a deep meditation that allowed them (Peter, James & John) to experience/”see” what was taking place??


Joshua Tilghman March 31, 2013 at 7:00 pm


I think the entire transfiguration process represents the deep meditation experience for all of humanity, so your conclusion fits perfectly. The soul in Jesus (the Christ) was in deep meditation and an exalted mental state.


Christine Hoeflich March 28, 2013 at 8:03 pm

Beautiful post Josh!

I completely agree with you, “…The lower nature of man (physical nature) is being raised up by the higher nature of man (higher self). This represents the perfection of the personality and development of the higher spiritual ego. (It sure does!) It is the harmonization of the entire being of the soul.”

Yes it’s about integration, merging, for as the higher self merges with the lower self (through a conscious, deliberate initiative) the individual transforms and the lower nature/ego “gets behind” the (greater, higher) agenda of the higher self. (Here I am reminded of Jesus saying “Get behind me, Satan.”) Thanks for this article! Oh and what ARE you going to do besides blog??



Joshua Tilghman March 31, 2013 at 7:03 pm


As I was saying to Berhnhardt, when the timing is right I would like to jump full-time into spirituality. Maybe the blog would be a good launching point to branch out from in the future. We’ll see. Blessings and Happy Easter!


shawn October 15, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Gaskells dictionary of scripture and myth is a huge help in understanding the symbols in scripture. Should be a must have for all.


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