Enlightenment: Five Views

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This month let us take a Lapham’s Quarterly approach to Enlightenment as we look at five very different individuals’ approaches to it.

First up, Immanuel Kant.

For this enlightenment nothing is required but freedom...

This calls to mind that great directive from Step 271 in Steps to Knowledge, “I will accept responsibility today”: “[R]efrain from all motivations not born of Knowledge.” To me, this is making “use of one’s reason at every point,” irrespective of context—public or private. We are called to do this, to make the best contribution we can, wherever we can.

William Blake would agree it appears.

Enlightenment means taking full responsibility for your life.

“[T]aking full responsibility for your life.” Fortunately we have the tools within us to do this, starting with the deep spiritual connection we are imbued with: Knowledge. It is our conscience, our intuition, our creativity—and a lot more than that. When we are completely responsible for our lives, we are free from all that prevents our “enlightenment.”

Kim Chestney corroborates this view:

Enlightenment is at the source of everything.

It is natural that we are lost in this world as we didn’t originate here (cf. Step 295 excerpt: “You are a visitor within the world, and your participation here must exemplify your great life from beyond the world.”) I share Ms. Chestney’s view here, that enlightenment is that thing upon which we can anchor our best selves.

Now Mokokoma Mokhonoana takes us a little deeper:

Enlightenment does not mean making the most of bad situations.

Oh boy. This takes practice and a lot of unburdening to get to that place of neutrality, observation without judgment, disinterested discernment. Every situation simply is, and as stated in the second paragraph of chapter 17, Mastery, in Wisdom from the Greater Community, Vol. I : “The great gulf between you and God must be filled in with reality.”  Being neutral here allows us to participate effectively without attachment to the outcome. We can do this because Knowledge is with us. “For there is no event or interaction which Knowledge cannot bless and harmonize.” (Step 237, “I am only beginning to comprehend the meaning of my life.”

Anne Lamott takes the practical view.

The road to enlightenment is long and difficult

We are physical beings, after all. (Make sure they are good magazines and snacks, of course.)

We can always rely on the Angels for the pithy and cogent:

Being within a body in the world necessitates a certain level of ignorance.

(Secrets of Heaven, by Marshall Vian Summers)

Being enlightened is being responsible—able to respond—effectively and with compassion to whatever the situation calls for.

This journey is long. Heed Ms. Lamott.



One thought on “Enlightenment: Five Views

  1. Jennifer S

    Beautiful post, thank you. It’s important to know that we do not need to be “perfect” to be a great, positive influence on this world. We must simply be responsible for ourselves, brutally honest with where we are and how we are being in the world. With a focused meditation, like Steps to Knowledge, you will learn to be more honest with yourself, gain the tools to quiet the terrible voice in your mind that keeps you from being who you are, and begin naturally to shift away from that which does not serve you so that you may properly be and serve in this world. I think so many people think that they have to DO something, that the shift is much more active than passive. But honesty and focused meditations do much of the heavy lifting on our behalf. They unburden us from our beliefs, ideas, and culture so that we may become a clean slate from which to view the world in reality instead of through a lens, or filter, that is not truth.

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