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"I do not like the way I feel now, so I imagine a state sometime in the future when I have "attained enlightenment". When that happens, this fairy-tale goes, I will be special. I will be different from ordinary people. I will not suffer as they do, and as I do now. I will know the answers to my questions. I will know "God". Perhaps I will have magical powers."
Robert Saltzman, The Ten Thousand Things
A special case of searching is seeking "spiritual enlightenment", a.k.a. "realization" or "moksha".
It's a special case because it's special to me: I have been addicted to this drug for years. It looks very different from the image of a junkie who is shooting up, but in fact both "remedies" are very similar.
The blissful state the spiritual seeker hopes for is not much different from the bliss and peace the junky craves, and the dependency may be a lot less easy to drop.
Let's see what ChatGPT says about "enlightenment".
Spiritual enlightenment is a profound and transformative experience that brings individuals closer to their true nature and the essence of existence. It is a state of heightened awareness, inner clarity, and deep connection with the universe. Spiritual enlightenment goes beyond religious beliefs or dogmas and transcends the limitations of the material world.
At its core, spiritual enlightenment is about realizing the interconnectedness of all beings and recognizing the divine spark within oneself. It is a journey of self-discovery, where individuals shed their ego and dissolve the illusions of separateness. Through this process, they gain insight into the deeper aspects of life and discover a sense of purpose that goes beyond the pursuit of external achievements.
Spiritual enlightenment often involves a shift in perception, as individuals start to see beyond the superficial and recognize the inherent beauty and interconnectedness of all things. It brings a profound sense of peace, joy, and contentment that cannot be derived from external circumstances alone. Instead, it arises from an inner alignment with one's higher self and a deep understanding of the universal principles that govern life.
While spiritual enlightenment is often associated with meditation and contemplative practices, it is not limited to any particular religious or spiritual tradition. It is a universal human experience that can be reached through various paths and practices, including mindfulness, self-inquiry, devotion, and compassionate action.
Although spiritual enlightenment is often considered a lofty and elusive goal, it is not reserved for a select few. It is available to anyone who seeks it with an open heart and a genuine desire for inner growth. The journey towards spiritual enlightenment is deeply personal and unique for each individual, and it may unfold gradually or in sudden transformative moments.
Ultimately, spiritual enlightenment is not an endpoint but an ongoing process of awakening and deepening one's understanding of the self and the world. It brings a profound sense of unity and harmony, allowing individuals to live authentically, aligned with their true nature, and in service to the greater good.
Man, that's a lot of bullshit, lies and half-truths, but it sounds great! Being in alignment with your higher self! Who wouldn't want that! And peace, joy and contentment! And you can achieve it just by following an exercise!
It's cheap, new agey crap.
Working on yourself - following paths and practices - to become enlightened sometime in the future is deception, a toxic belief, but you can be awake here and now, you can know here and now. You cannot be more and more awake. Awake is awake. What may differ is what life brings when it also brings awakening. So, life brings what it brings, and it can bring awakening, or not. There's nothing you can do about it. Yes, that sounds frustrating, doesn't it. What to do… Or maybe - another possibility - it sounds completely liberating!
Awakening is not a process you can aspire too. But having insight into a belief structure can happen. It depends on how much suffering you can endure. Frustration is good. Despair is good. You can break through the trance of belief structures that normally cloud our brains. But you can't force it and it's not being or becoming "happy happy happy". You might even think you've gone insane. And also the dampening effects of the beliefsystem's are gone and so you may come into a deeper contact with the pain and misery happening in and around you.
My first experience of being awake happened to me as a 29-year-old. Life then didn't only bring being awake, but also the experience of being free from anxiety:
I am visiting the Kosmos in Amsterdam with some fellow residents of the housing group I belong to. I buy some cannabis there, roll a joint and light it up. As unfortunately often happens, I become incredibly anxious and paranoid. I am completely "in my head". The anxiety gets stronger and stronger until it suddenly collapses into complete relaxation. I am free, free from the feeling of being judged. Free to do whatever I want. Free, clear and awake. And when I do something it feels completely right. There is no doubt at all. Body and mind are functioning synchronously. Everything is exactly as it should be.
I look at the other people present. They are all like robots. They talk to each other, but there is no one talking and no one listening. The conversations are automatic. In fact, there is no dialogue at all. Very strange. I realize that this behavior is normally the same for me and that I am normally always somewhat anxious about the judgment of others. Even when I am alone. But not now. I enjoy my state immensely and start walking around the building. I meet someone else on a staircase and we smile at each other. Apparently there is another free person present...
I know that this state is more "real" than the way I usually perceive and function. I am also sure that this state has nothing to do with the effects of cannabis. That only acted as a trigger.
When it is time to go home again, I start to worry. I can't live like this with my housemates, can I? No one will understand me and the idea of having to live with "robots" is unbearable.
Soon I am back to my "normal" behavior.
I tried for a long time to re-experience the freedom and clarity I felt then, but to no avail. You can't try to be awake. Again: you get what you get when you get it.
Experiences pass. Nothing is permanent. A famous example is Suzanne Segal, who wrote down her experiences in her book "Collision with the Infinite: A Life Beyond the Personal Self". In this book she describes her sudden realization of "unity consciousness", the experience of which lasted nearly two years, only to end in "unenlightenment" to her surprise and sorrow…
Such experiences are not to be repeated. For a moment there is a change of mind, a different view of life. And a moment later the experience may be different again. And it seems you have lost something, something "better" or "more real" than one's "normal" state of consciousness. But experiences come and go. And one experience is not "better" or "more enlightened" than another.
Life has no preference for any state.
Miranda Warren is one of these people who have reported that they have experienced a "shift" and after this shift her experience of the world and other people has changed quite a bit. She writes about her experiences on her website and blog. Below is a piece of a blog-posting called "Miranda in Wonderland", which she wrote on August 28, 2023:
A surprising number of people write me wanting to know how life is seen, how the world of apparent people and events looks to me. They've heard various speakers say that there is simply "no one" there, that everything that appears has no meaning, and even the judgments of good and bad no longer apply. It often sounds very detached, and speakers seem like they have a rule prohibiting them from discussing their direct perceptions and speaking to their audience as intimates.
So there's a lot of "no one" and "nothing" language, as in "life is happening for no one" or "life happens, but is impersonal." From messages I receive, it seems that when sages speak this way, seekers imagine some detached observer sitting aloof from the swirling kaleidoscope of life, watching it all from a kind of void-like state.
I doubt very much that is how life seems to nonduality speakers, and certainly it's not like that at all for this Miranda thingie. So I will try to address the many questions that ask how life seems if there is no meaning or separation.
I should begin by saying that nothing that appears ever seems caused, so in the world of seeming others---in so-called "person" or in the mediated forms we call internet or TV--- everything people do and say seems like something out of an outlandish Sci-Fi or fantasy film.
Nothing having meaning is hard to explain, but imagine you woke up one seeming day and everyone was debating the state of basket weaving in every country. Nations went to war over basket weaving, news stories centered on basket weaving, and basket weavers were the most revered people on Earth.
Or that marriages consisted of exactly 5 people--- two men, two women, and one nonbinary person, and any deviation from that was considered abnormal and even immoral. Or that people went nude everywhere, and those who wore clothes were ridiculed and in some countries stoned to death. Except for fingers, which were considered blasphemy to show, so everyone always wore gloves, and if you went glove-less the police would chop off your hands. And most people believed that chipmunks were gods who created the world and sent messages to the chipmunk popes who were the human religious authorities in each land.
That's how political, social, spiritual and moral "issues" of "society" seem, rooted as they are in the myth of separation.
When people talk of their "identity" and mention some imaginary category of human (which is already an imaginary category), whether nationality or race or religion, it sounds, as my friend Lynn says, like someone is saying, "I am an eggplant and I am proud of that, it defines me and eggplant culture must be heard." Or: "My people are a bowl of soup! Soup people, that's what we are!"
As Nancy once wrote, "The running commentary is not believed. There is no solidity to the thought stream. It's all even and equal... whether it is someone talking about purple unicorns on the moon or politics or whether it will rain on Tuesday. It has no meaning nor non meaning like the tree tops dancing in the wind."
There is simply nothing that appears that makes the slightest bit of logical sense, as the very concepts of some "thing" and "logic" and "sense" are absent.
It's an Alice in Wonderland world:
"I don't want to go among mad people", Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that", said the Cat. "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here".
The world that appears is a surreal carnival where no action seems to happen in relation to any other, and the appearance of continuity is as illusory as trying to find fixed variables for subatomic particles. Kaleidoscopic is my favorite term to describe it, as any pattern that appears soon seems to dissolve into another, and yet there is never any movement from, to, or back and forth or forward in time or space, as they are also only the shifting web of imaginary named patterns.
What is seen is indecipherable, as all words are like baby talk with a baby pointing this way or that. I suppose that is why some say this is nothing appearing as everything, as there is no place or source from which anything can be seen to arise or fall back into.
I do resonate with speakers who say nothing is personal, yet I would also say that everything is stunningly intimate. My family is right when they say I feel no deeper connection to them than to anyone else. I can look at a photo of my brother's child, but it doesn't seem like "my" nephew. I simply see a smiling human and I smile myself. But if someone online posts a picture of their child smiling, the intimacy felt is exactly the same.
I can relate to Byron Katie saying, when they told her that her family was there to see her after her awakening, that she expected to see little children and was surprised to see adults. If you say you're my family, wonderful. Whoever you are, you are all my family, any appearing human as much as any other.
Everyone I see, in any apparent instant of perception, is my most intimate family member, from someone online to someone walking in the woods to the man who threatened to kill me. All are my lovers, all the beloved. Yet all who appear seem no more like actual separate individuals than characters in a nighttime dream.
When you write me, and I read your words, it always feels as if I am writing them. We are characters dreamed by life, but that is simply a way of trying to make it sound like what is going on is knowable, when all these analogies and descriptions are also part of a surreal carnival that makes no sense whatsoever.
And even that is one more fairy tale, as there is not even any center from which this writing seems to appear. Who is writing, what is writing, and what these words are and where they come from is impossible to answer. If thoughts come up about it and don't go away, the neural pathways in my candy apple brain will start to short circuit and catch fire and my head will explode. That's my theory, anyway.
The happy part, for this deranged Miranda thingie, is that there is no one here who gives a whit about what seems to happen or does not. No one who is looking for meaning or non-meaning; just a child playing in the grass and blowing dandelions in the wind. When people say they love me or hate me, it's wonderful that there is no difference. It's just like heavy metal and Mozart, and both are beautiful. And even beauty is made up.
And this sounds truly awful to some, because it includes all the things you love and all the things you fear; the things you call babies smiling and nuclear war, tender kisses and mass shootings, volcanoes and hurricanes and languid sunny days, playing on the beach and drowning in a tsunami.
All are loved, and yet none of those things seem like true descriptions as they are all imaginary separate movements in an inseparable dance where no one can even find a dancer. All these names and concepts about what appears are like looking at clouds and seeing shapes and naming them, which is all the entire world we seem to share consists of: names written on cloud shapes, blowing across an empty sky.
Alice said, "If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?"
Yes, I do indeed, Alice!
Aoetl, (always only ever this love)
Miranda Warren, Miranda in Wonderland
Miranda's description of her "state" is exactly that: a description of her state. Perhaps this state changes tomorrow, perhaps it stays for all her life. It doesn't matter. I could now aspire to also be in the same state, because I could think that her state is somehow "better" or more "enlightened" then my state at this moment. But who or what can decide what's better or more real or more "enlightened" (whatever that means)?
I can only know my own world, it is impossible for me to know whether I am "enlightened" or not. How could I compare?
It's all "names written on cloud shapes, blowing across an empty sky."
The moment you realize that, the quest for a permanent "enlightened" state of consciousness has ceased. Which is not to say that the feeling of emptiness and the urge to search does not still rear its head from time to time.
We are all "enlightened" to some degree and with respect to certain areas of our lives. For example, a person can be less under the influence of magical thinking, but at the same time be an asshole in dealing with others. There are people who are very wise, yet cannot resist seducing impressionable followers into sex. Or have tantrums, or destroy their bodies by chain smoking. One may have perfect intellectual understanding, but perhaps it is not felt viscerally, or not all the time, and so on.
There is no such thing as permanent enlightenment, nor enlightened persons. Perhaps one can call life itself "enlightened," but even that makes no sense, because there is no unenlightened life. There is life and one can be awake and aware as this life. One can be awake, here and now, to the fact that there is no separation, there are no fixed things and no fixed selves. Only this life, this universe of perceptions, feelings and thoughts - which in fact also do not exist as separate phenomena - is happening. Life is one undivided, utterly mysterious flow, which can be experienced and described in endless ways.
"I have searched everywhere to find an answer to my question, 'Is there enlightenment?', but have never questioned the search itself. Because I have assumed that goal, enlightenment, exists, I have had to search, and it is the search itself which has been choking me and keeping me out of my natural state. There is no such thing as spiritual or psychological enlightenment because there is no such thing as spirit or psyche at all. I have been a damn fool all my life, searching for something which does not exist. My search is at an end.
Enlightenment is often described in psychological terms, as an act of knowing or as understanding, when in fact it is the cessation of the very demand or need to know that which cannot be known."
Layman Pang approached a teacher with a request to show him his true self. The teacher said nothing, just sat silently. Finally, tired of waiting, Pang got up and walked to the door. Just as he opened the door, the teacher called out, "Oh, layman Pang."
"Yes?" replied Pang.
"That's it", said the teacher.
I don't know if Pang got it when he got it...