Perhaps “enlightenment” consists of the realization that there is no such thing as “enlightenment.”
What do I mean? Well I became preoccupied by this question rather unwillingly at first because my friends and associates in the ’80s and ’90s were so obsessed with it. Frankly the idea of enlightenment in the Eastern sense of the word terrified me, and I wanted nothing to do with it. At least that’s how I saw it at that time.
But as is my usual way, when something disturbs me I cannot let it go. (One of the most gratifying experiences I had recently was hearing Marshall Vian Summers, The Messenger, talk about how valuable it is to stay with those things that disturb you or trouble you.) All my life I have been criticized by certain individuals for “thinking too much.” To describe this as thinking is a complete misunderstanding. In fact, I was usually just “staying with” something that was uncomfortable. Frequently I have stayed for long periods of time with things that have been very uncomfortable. I do not necessarily mean perpetually worrying or brooding, though I did that as well, especially before my previous experience of great inner change that climaxed in the years 2008-2010.
So I asked myself the question, “What disturbs me most about this notion of ‘Enlightenment’?”
The first thing that occurred to me is the way people describe it as an “end-state.” What do I mean by “end-state”? I mean a permanent state of completion, requiring no further development, and implying no further inner experience of change. Such a state is not at all desirable in my view. Nor is it realistic. It is not a very objective view of life.
Life may be a noun, but living is a verb. It is active. If there is action, there is movement. If there is movement, you will be going from one place to another. In fact, whilst you are preoccupied in your thoughts with enlightenment, what you are really doing is moving on a journey. This unavoidable journey will involve decisions and this necessarily implies a purpose. Will this purpose be one you involve yourself in, with conscious deliberation? Or not? If so, you will be involved in the agony of endless decision making. Or you could follow a path. Perhaps you could follow the Ancient Way, that path described for example in Daodejing, a path that is mysteriously already set out for you.
The great beauty of this path is that you can discover it from your own inner experience. That is what happened to me. Not until I personally found the Daodejing, did I find an external confirmation of my inner experience that was truly authentic. But then I made an even more important discovery. In my own dedication to this Ancient Way, I came across a New Message that has as its foundational text an ancient and universal preparation that is exquisitely adapted to our own time and home-world, Earth, at this period of great change here in the history of our planet: Steps to Knowledge.
The second consideration that arose revolves around that problem of “pursuit.” The pursuit of anything has a whole set of other problems related to “striving,” but also related to the encouragement of “self-obsession.”
My instinct has always informed me that there is something counter-productive about the notion of “pursuit.” The “pursuit of happiness” is the classic example. It is utterly futile and worse. This is easily grasped and understood.
“The problem with the pursuit of happiness is that so much of it is the escape from pain.”
You see, happiness “happens.” And you only pursue what you are not experiencing; whilst in pursuit you can never experience it. You have to stop the “striving.” You can either pursue or you can experience. You can’t do both.
But back to enlightenment. How can it be a permanent “end-state” where change ceases? That is not living in the world. So what could it be? Over a long period of time I shuffled through a lot of alternatives, none of which seemed to me to feel or fit right. And gradually along the way I happened upon, from my experience, a different notion.
People want permanent bliss and final closure to save them the pains of life. They particularly want to be spared the state of incompletion, or that sense of an ongoing irritation, a sense that “this is still not resolved.” This is neither possible nor desirable, living here in the world. There are only transient states. There are always unresolved problems. Think about this. Even when one attains or reaches a higher state one never stays there, permanently. One slips away from it, loses it, finds it again. That is living. This is completely natural. It is evolving and adaptive. It is the Way. Some call it the Greater Community Way of Knowledge or Greater Community Spirituality.
So what if it is giving up all your ideas of a final end-state of closure that is the true path to enlightenment? What if enlightenment is the total opposite (in some sense) of what people crave and aspire to? What if it is the complete acceptance that no end-state is possible? What if this state of complete acceptance—that there is no “end-state”—is in fact “enlightenment”? Or in other words, enlightenment is the acceptance that there is no such thing as enlightenment.
Just something to consider in your idle moments.
- Out of this World?
- Enlightenment: Five Views