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Monday, May 17, 2010

Are You Enlightened?

I rarely ever use the word “enlightened” because, like many people (including those on a spiritual journey), the concept is heavily culturally laden. It seems arrogant to think of being enlightened, or to say that my representation of enlightenment is truer than yours. It’s also fashionable, and indeed politically correct, to state that enlightenment is relative, and that each representation of spiritual development is perfectly valid according to the culture and time in which it occurs.

Yet those who have reached the higher stages of human spiritual development do not seem terribly interested in such arguments.

In academic circles, the influence of postmodernism in recent decades has contributed to this tendency to think of enlightenment as being relative. Jorge Ferrer of the California Institute of Integral Studies, for example, wrote a book called Revisioning Transpersonal Theory (2002) in which he states this position quite clearly, and raises his concerns over transpersonal psychology, which tends to see transpersonal development moving in relatively linear fashion from ignorance to rationality, to transpersonal enlightenment. He is particularly critical of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory, which (while itself being critical of transpersonal theory) nonetheless follows the idea of cognitive development into the transpersonal realms.

My position as a researcher and an intuitive is that the academic/postmodern position is delimited. This stems from the fact that many of those writing about advanced states of spiritual perception have never actually experienced them at any depth. There is then the further pressure to conform to political correctness, and suggesting that one vision of the spiritual is “higher” than another is now effectively taboo.

Yet there are now enough human beings who have experienced advanced stages of spiritual development for us to see that these stages are fairly consistent and represent a universal focal point of human consciousness evolution. As just an introduction, two very different writers/mystics who write in this area are Leonard Jacobson and David E. Hawkins. Jacobson is by far the gentler and more subtle writer, almost coyly inviting the student to consider the path of the mystic. Hawkins on the other hand, writes in polemic form, stating directly that he has reached enlightenment, and rather didactically outlining the stages of the path to enlightenment, including its obstacles. Despite their very different styles, it is clear that Jacobson and Hawkins are writing about the same thing. The cognitive stages they outline are obviously the same; and their descriptions of the distractions of the human ego and its beguiling ways are consistent.

If we agree (and not everyone will) that there is such a thing as human consciousness evolution and that it unfolds in predictable stages, and that the human ego plays games to distract us from actually allowing enlightenment, there then follow some very important questions.

How enlightened am I?
Even better, how enlightened is my teacher?
Or, how enlightened is my philosophy/spiritual practice?

Most people who read this blog and my books will be committed to some spiritual path, or at least be very interested in one or more. How conscious is your chosen path or teacher?

Let me be frank, as an imperfect student (and sometimes teacher) of the spiritual. Much of what passes as “spiritual” in New Age and popular circles is largely delusional. There is a very high degree of ego deception in the New Age. Many teachers exist in a state of “spiritual fraud”, because the difference between where they think they are at, and the reality of where they really are has become too great.

One spiritual teacher I once knew told the class I was attending that “you are enlightened when you think you are”. Again being frank, this belief is almost a guarantee of delusion. The ego cannot see itself, and grandiosity is a standard ploy. I was not surprised to see that this teacher went through many years of struggle, and was channeling some very dark energy at one point (although I have some reason to believe that she may have come through it now).

The first time I was given an actual percentage measurement of my spiritual development I was outraged. At that time I had been doing a lot of reading, meditating and visualising, and considered myself to be well on the way to spiritual advancement. Then fate sat me down with a certain teacher. She drew a line across a whiteboard, going from zero to 100%. Then she waved a hand and placed a small vertical tick at the very left side of the line and said: “This is where you are.” She had placed me at about three percent. A miserly three percent! My reaction was to tell her to stick her measuring pen where the Great Light had never shone. But it got worse. She then placed another tick half way along the line, indicating that her own level was way above mine. 

I wasn’t impressed. I just sat there staring at her. Then, without bothering to ask for permission, she started telepathically reading my thoughts and mirroring them back to me. This included the bits about telling her where to go. This was a real shock, for, almost thought for thought, she was spot on. Staring in the face of my own shadow, I decided to swallow my pride and take a good look at myself. It soon began to dawn on me that I was not a spiritual giant, but a spiritual minnow, and a rather self-satisfied one at that!

My experience at that time is what is called an “ego fall”. When the ego is faced with the delusion it has created, it then has to decide whether to “get it” or deny the delusion.

Many are chosen, but few will be told.

In a sense there are multiple ego falls for all of us throughout the lifespan. Some are bigger than others. Some New Age philosophies actually encourage the building of the ego into delusion, and thus ensure an inevitable fall. In particular, the idea of the law of attraction can be used the wrong way, to sell the lie that the ego can have whatever it wants, whenever it wants. James Arthur Ray, one of the presenters of the hit video The Secret is now facing jail time for manslaughter, after the deaths of three attendees at a native American sweat lodge he conducted.

I am not surprised that somebody associated with The Secret came unstuck. As I mentioned in Sage of Synchronicity, (which was written before the sweat lodge incident) although the original video resonates at about sixteen per cent of consciousness, the consciousness of the presenters as a whole has fallen since the video became mega-successful (this does not mean that all individuals involved have lost consciousness). Consciousness does not only evolve, it also devolves if the ego comes too much into play. This is something that we all need to be aware of when we work with spiritual teachers. None of us is impervious to spiritual fraud, including me. The ego is a trickster par excellence.

Regardless of whether you are a spiritual teacher, or a spiritual student, it is important to be honest about where you are on your journey. If you rate yourself too highly, then you go into delusion, and sabotage your own journey. You also run the risk of channeling dark energy, as a bloated ego is a magnet for regressive fields of consciousness.

I highly recommend David Hawkins’ The Discovery of the Presence of God. It outlines the stages of the journey quite clearly, as well as the challenges that are faced at each level. Hawkins makes quite clear that many spiritual and religious practices which purport to teach spiritual development are actually locking people into regressive levels of consciousness.

You need to choose carefully the path.

How would you describe your own level of consciousness development?



  1. Very interesting and informative post, as usual. To respond to your challenge, I'd hesitate to judge mine for all sorts of reasons, some of them creditable - and I'm frankly skeptical about attributing a numerical value anyway.

    Doesn't one's level of consciousness (to avoid using the e-word) fluctuate considerably anyway - low when one's stuck in a traffic jam and late for a plane, higher when one's in a forest focusing on being present, for instance?

  2. I have The Journey Into Now on my bookshelf, at your recommendation. And I have the Hawkins book on my Amazon list. As for trying to decipher my level of consciousness, I have to agree with Simonbuc, it varies greatly. I find that when working on a part of myself that needs work, I am bombarded with opportunities, which is humbling. I've studied for over twenty years but never with teachers. I'm just now meeting people that could serve that function. I am always a bit hesitant to give my power away, if that makes any sense. I feel better learning on my own. I find that reading and studying a variety of information and then deciphering what feels right for me is usually my spiritual path. I guess I learn by being intuitive to what feels right for me and not worrying about what others think.

  3. Do you think I said "what feels right for me" enough times? LOL!