The Rainbow Body

When David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, proposed investigating the “rainbow body,” a phenomenon in which the corpses of highly developed spiritual individuals reputedly vanish within days of death, he received an enthusiastic response from Marilyn Schlitz, IONS’ director of research.

In a new joint initiative with the Esalen Institute, IONS is expanding its research on “metanormal capacities” — behaviors, experiences, and bodily changes that challenge our understanding of ordinary human functioning — because they raise crucial questions about the developmental potential of human beings. …

Steindl-Rast’s own curiosity about the rainbow body began when he heard various stories of Tibetan masters who had, through their practices, reached a high degree of wisdom and compassion. It was reported to him that when they died, rainbows suddenly appeared in the sky. “And I was told that after several days their bodies disappeared. Sometimes fingernails and hair were left. Sometimes nothing was left.”

These stories made him reflect upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is central to his own faith. “We know that Jesus was a very compassionate, selfless person. When he died, according to the gospels, his body was no longer there.” …

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