Suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said, “This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear.
In his book, “Convictions,” the late Marcus Borg describes a series of mystical experiences that convinced him of the reality and the mystery of God.
None of his experiences were as dramatic as the disciples’ experience at the Transfiguration. The Bible does not describe many visions or mystical experiences, and when they are described, a lot of them are negative. There are many instances of “false visions,” in which a false prophet tries to convince the people of Israel that what he wants them to do is really “from the Lord.” Not surprisingly, those episodes tend to end badly for the false prophets. And when the narrative speaks of an authentic vision, as at the Transfiguration, most of the time the response is overwhelming fear.
Marcus Borg’s mystical experiences are reassuring rather than fearful.
Remembering the first of these, he writes, “It happened as I was driving through a sunlit rural Minnesota winter landscape alone in a nine-year old MG two-seater roadster. The only sounds were the drone of the car and the wind through the thin canvas top. I had been on the road for about three hours when I entered a series of S-curves.” Then suddenly everything glowed and looked wondrous and he was amazed.
As you might guess, this brought a lot of questions to my mind.
What model of MG was it?
Was it an MGA?
Or an MGB?
Or (it takes my breath away even to think about it) could it have been an MG TF?
If it was an MG TF, then it would have been mystical, but hardly surprising. The TF’s were the last of the classical MG’s. One of the most beautiful cars ever made. How could anyone drive a TF and not have a mystical experience? Richard Dawkins would have had a mystical experience in a TF.
Theoretically, it could have been an MG Midget. They were the MG version of the Austin Healey Sprite (the later ones, not the “Bug Eye Sprite) and they looked like a miniature version of the MGB. But a mystical experience in an MG Midget would be a true miracle. They were cute and fun, but it’s hard to imagine one experiencing any sort of transcendence in an MG Midget.
Many of my childhood experiences centered on events at the Cape Cod Sports Car Club. Our “Sports Car” was a Volkswagen Beetle, but my dad was a founding member and always very good with all sorts of cars. He spent many hours fixing other peoples’ exotic automobiles.
I was not old enough to drive any of those cars, but I often rode in them, and I remember riding across the Bourne Bridge in an MG TD. The low seating and the low cut doors made it feel like you were in a race car. On that day the sky was clear blue and the sun reflected off of the canal below. I don’t know if I would have called it a mystical experience. But it was close.
A mystical experience in an MG on a sunlit road entering a series of S-curves. I can easily believe that.