Sunday, May 11, 2008

What Is Spiritual Awakening, Enlightenment etc.?

Enlightenment is a "new state of consciousness and being" which is deeper and more profound than our ordinary self-consciousness or "ego". Experience of this deeper, impersonal state of consciousness is available to anyone - particularly, anyone who has the clarity of intention and impeccable and unwavering commitment to individual and collective liberation from the egoic enslavement of our conditioned, learned processes of rational and analytic reasoning.

Enlightenment is the state of the adept - beyond our reacting to sensory stimuli through (i) mere reception of the stimuli, like when a frog reacts if he were poked with a needle, (ii) the deeper perception of what a stimulus represents, like the dog that gets nervous at the vet when it sees the needle, or (iii) through conception, or forming ideas about possible stimuli - physical, purely mental or a combination of such - as when a child reacts when first told he or she is "going to get a needle", irrespective if they have been inoculated before.

These three "ordinary" states of consciousness, as well as the state of the adept, or cosmically conscious person who has benefited from an experience of enlightenment experience are clearly discussed in Richard M. Bucke's classic work, Cosmic Consciousness, which was written by Bucke (a friend and student of the poet, Walt Whitman) in 1901 and went on to become - or so I hear - a "Hippie Bible" in the '60s. It is still in print.

More recently the three ordinary levels of consciousness preceding enlightened consciousness were set out by Neale Donald Walsh (he of "The Complete Conversations with God" fame) in his book, What God Wants: A Compelling Answer to Humanity's Biggest Question. Walsh describes these three levels of ordinary consciousness - reception, perception and conception - as reptilian, mamallian and human. He describes the differences in terms of (a) getting to close to a cobra's personal space, in which case it will react and strike, (b) a he-lion perceiving a rival as being too close to his personal space, and his pride of lionesses and reacting to the smell of another lion's urine on a tree used for marking his territory with his scent, and (c) the physiological reaction of jealousy we humans experience when we think (or conceive the idea) that someone is hitting on our spouse at a cocktail party.

According to the great Swiss psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, one may achieve this state of liberation and self-transcendence spontaneously (a) through an act of Grace - documented, if rarely - or, (b) through a profoundly deep, honest and personal contact with friends (particularly if those friends have become aware that freedom and liberation from the false but 'seemingly real', sense of "ego" or separate individual identity is possible in this lifetime), or (c) more likely, through consciously walking on a path "which leads to a higher education of the mind, beyond mere rationalism".

Enlightenment, self-transcendence, mystic union - the state of consciousness and being described by every great world religion or wisdom tradition - is, thus, a heightened state of depth consciousness beyond what a person who has not progressed on the path to a higher understanding of his or her mind and state of being is normally capable of. It is the experience of a profound spiritual awakening, and the continued, quiet abiding in that state.

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