Enlightenment

What is this fabled state of being he wondered. After many years of contemplation, he thought perhaps he might know.

Is it black or white, true or false, binary or analogue? Wholly on, or altogether off? Or can one claim partial enlightenment, that one has gone some of the way?

What bold and dramatic claims surround this condition. There was an Age of Enlightenment we are told, but our current age is apparently not so blessed. Saints, gurus and mystics untold are described, or worse, far worse, describe themselves as enlightened. What, one might enquire, is meant by so bold a claim.

Is light a metaphor? Or do photons thrown out by a raging inferno in distant space have some real part to play in this curious state of being.

Both perhaps. There are no absolutes it this curious universe, despite the physicists’ assurance that mere matter is all. .

Enlightenment, he was convinced, was a complex and continuing process, not a blinding flash.

Perhaps there were those who had sat upon a pinnacle of rock or underneath a tree, in ages gone by, and achieved in some brief instant of time a transformation so absolute that their very nature switched immediately from dark to light. From apathetic banality to saintliness. From a state of ignorance to blissful awareness.

But somehow he doubted it.

His own internal landscape veered towards the binary. Periods of intense dark would be succeeded by times when the light of the sun would reappear and pessimism would be replaced, if not by outright optimism, then at least by the conviction that somewhere, not so very far away, lay uplands which basked forever in light. Where a soft wind and gentle luminosity played gently upon alpine meadow and the dizzy white height of towering mountains rose towards a sky forever blue and kindly.

And yet change had happened, although his metamorphosis had been halting and sporadic, spread over many decades. Slowly still, but with some faint hint of acceleration, pieces of the puzzle appeared to be drifting almost imperceptibly into their designated place.

Mystery remained – perhaps it always would and yet a clarity began to materialize.

He had no problem with seeking to improve human life (although it had to be said that these efforts, in his case, had ever been more by thought than by action), but would prefer to seek the betterment of sentient species in general.

The very search for enlightenment greatly “improves” human life although that is not perhaps the object of mysticism but a side effect.

He came to believe that gnosis can come by incremental steps and as a result of one’s own efforts. Or at least that had been, and continues to be, his own experience. It had also been his circumstance, that while his inner search had improved his worldly “behavior” it had not (thankfully, perhaps, following St Augustine’s plea) made him any kind of “saint”. Whatever that word is taken to mean.

And so he had come to a gentle and perhaps slightly melancholic acceptance of life and the way he believed the universe to be. Perhaps his worldview was best reflected by the Book of Ecclesiastes, or the Tao te Ching.

In any event, meditation and many years of searching lead him (in his more placid moods) to a serene understanding of the way life “is”.

While wishing for change, he suspected it would occur not through mere human will or in accordance with any individual effort.

But over eons of time and in accordance with the unseen patterns of the universe itself.

In which he found his own conception of “god”. And thus, at times, a sense of profound peace.

10 Comments

  1. In his anthology of the spiritual traditions called, “The World’s Wisdom,” Philip Novak writes:

    “In Buddhism, practice and enlightenment are one and the same. Since practice has its basis in enlightenment, the practice of even the beginner contains the whole of original enlightenment…the Zen master warns (us) not to await enlightenment apart from the exercise, because [the exercise] points directly to the original enlightenment.”

    When we purposely choose to abandon our perceptions of objective reality in the practice of meditation, mentally letting go of all temporal conditions and considerations, we can eventually achieve a state of being that is unattached to any temporal concerns, which may allow us to absorb whatever sort of ineffable energies are available as a result. Without judgement or expectation, such a state of being may provide us with an opportunity to unconsciously gain access to insights and result in impressions on our psyche not otherwise accessible.

    I cannot say definitively what the true nature and source of these impressions might be, but upon reflection after meditation, I seem to possess a kind of “knowing,”—and I use this word as a concession because no single word can truly express it—but I know that it is real, and if there exists something akin to a “spiritual feeling,” I think that may be as close as we can come to describing the effect afterwards, and it clearly affects me profoundly.

    In the Tao it says:

    “When enlightenment arrives, don’t talk too much about it; just live it in your own way. With humility and depth, rewards come naturally…Miss no opportunity to savor the ineffable.”

    It would seem that your rewards are coming now as you contemplate these ideas in your blog, and I, for one, look very much forward to reading your thoughts and musings when they appear. I hope you will continue to share them with us as they arrive in your world.

    While the “Age of Enlightenment,” in the late 17th and 18th centuries was clearly an improvement for the world generally, the world does seem to be forgetting the lessons of that time, when we look at the chaos and the apparent lack of interest in the spiritual variety of enlightenment. As a practical matter, the benefits of both scientific advancement and spiritual enrichment are equally urgent in our day, and your writings serve this urgency well.

    Kind regards…John H.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What an extraordinarily insightful response John. I was wholly unaware of Philip Novak’s views but knowledge of them comes at a particularly appropriate time for me. As for that wonderful quote from the Tao those very thoughts have made me disinclined to write much recently. I have tried more and more to mind my own business, to keep “out of the swing of the sea” and indeed, just live. My picture above is an oblique reference to this. Hewing wood and drawing water, or in my case moving a large pile of chalk.

      Anyway, thank you John for your most thoughtful and valuable response.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I understand your inclination to “just live,” and appreciate your sentiment to “keep out of the swing of the sea.” I must admit it does sometimes feel like I’m banging my head against the wall with my own blog writing, and as much as I enjoy sharing my own thoughts and musings with the WordPress community, I sometimes wonder if it makes a difference at all really.

        Perhaps you could just avoid the subject of enlightenment specifically, and allow us to share in your other thoughts. I’ve been in a bit of a “writing funk” myself lately, but enthusiastically took the opportunity to respond to your posting.

        Now I’m considering returning to my desk to go off on another tangent!

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Knowledge “can come by incremental steps and as a result of one’s own efforts.”
    This was Adam’s and Eve’s decision to believe The Lie that Lucifer told them: “You can be like God…” by your own effort and understanding.
    Anthony, very sincerely, I do not wish hell on anyone, but as one of your countrymen noted, ““All that are in hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.” (C.S. Lewis)
    With all my heart, I hope you find that “our own effort” is not enough; “enlightenment,” as far as we can attain it, is not enough.
    We must trust Jesus for His mercy and forgiveness of our sins (“for there is no one who does not sin” [2 Chronicles 6:36]) and for His power to live in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) and to build a relationship with The God Who Is (This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. [John 17:3]).
    Most of the words in your evening vespers are correct; one just needs to realize, believe and trust Jesus that they are true.
    ❤️&🙏, c.a.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I much appreciate you kind words and have respect and indeed understanding of your faith. I was brought up in the Anglican Church and have a passionate fondness for western Christian art, music and architecture. As well as a great fondness and belief in certain parts of what we call the Bible. Ecclesiastes is one such part and the moral teachings of Jesus in the New Testament another. There is no finer teaching. I have however for many, many years been more aligned with Budhism and Daoism as regards the mystery of creation and have long since abandoned the Christian god. I believe like de Chardin that one can indeed aim to become a part of the godhead. Perhaps Lucifer felt the same way. The fall of Adam and Eve and the concept of Original Sin is not a train of thought I have ever had any time for.

    My belief is in a very different sort of god. That of Spinoza perhaps.

    However, I respect the beliefs of others, including those of fundamental Christians and would uphold to the end their right to promote and proselytise their views (provided of course that is done in a peaceful way and without terror, crusade or Jihad).

    With all good wishes to you and my thanks for your kind post,
    Anthony

    Like

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