Definition time

(From 2010)

I was accused of thinking I’m enlightened recently, and I wanted to clarify a couple of terms that I use. Remember that my definitions might not be exactly what some particular teacher uses, and that’s fine. The terms are Adult, Awake, and Enlightened.

Adult: a person who takes complete responsibility for their emotions and actions. To be recognized as a “successful” “Adult,” it would be nice to make enough money to support yourself and two other people. Preferably, own your own home.

Awake: a person aware that their actions and perceptions are creating their reality. They may not have control of the “machine language” of genetically or socially encoded survival/tribal memes that determine behavior, but they are aware it is powerfully influencing them. It is totally possible to be brilliantly intelligent and asleep. Science fiction conventions have a high percentage of such people, for instance. The trick is that your conscious mind can only crunch the data it receives. And it is only likely to crunch the data to which it has assigned positive emotional significance, or at the very least, to which there is NOT negative significance. This helps to explain why so many brilliant people are broke, lonely, and have garbage pails for bodies. They hallucinate that their behavior is determined by logic, where in reality their behavior is determined by emotion, and it is simply too painful to look at the truth–so their intellect is basically kept busy re-arranging deck chairs on the Titanic. This is tragic: I know many, many people who are FAR smarter than me who simply cannot make their lives work because they are, in the words of the old parable, searching where the light is, rather than where they dropped their keys.

Enlightenment. Understand something, please: I’m not enlightened, and know this. What I am is intermittently or restlessly “Awake.” But in my moments of “Awakeness” I can clearly recognize those further along the path than I. And have also encountered a few beings of such clarity that they were not functioning totally on our level of reality (believe as much of that as you care to: what you think of me is really none of my business). And the consensus of these teachers and awake, aware individuals, throughout time and across cultural lines, has a remarkable parallax. And what they say corresponds with what I glimpse in my very clearest, focused, out-of-my-own-bullshit moments. And it is this: Enlightenment is a non-dualistic (not THIS, not THAT. And yes, I’m perfectly aware of the paradox of saying that a non-dualistic state is other than something else. Limitations of language, people), sustained state of egoless perception. The Awake “glimpse” this truth and can visit there in their best moments. The Enlightened LIVE there and can visit back with us if they choose. It is the state of awareness that ordinarily is available at the moment of death. The Awake attempt to enter this state before death, hence the Sufi expression to “die before you die.”

What most people refer to as “Enlightenment” is really only being Awake. Most people who claim to want “Enlightenment” would be terrified if it actually approached. Moses cannot enter the promised land. The ego that wishes “Enlightenment” cannot have it. Cannot survive it. So it will side-track most seekers into philosophical and spiritual paths that create positive behaviors, good feelings, “psychic” sensations, suddhis (powers that accompany spiritual growth) and so forth. This is all well and good, and is the most most people really want.

This is as close as I can come linguistically. It is possible to take a student closer to the edge through various programmed experiences, but the aspirant must generally choose to step across the line herself. On the other hand, it is possible to begin certain spiritual/psychological processes that unravel the ego cocoon you’ve been weaving since birth. If done in balance, the experience is glorious, an unfolding of meaning, and a revelation of the secret of life. If done out of balance, it is absolutely terrifying, and people who die in fear experience this.

My greatest goal at this point of my life is to have a good death. That requires that I live a certain way, and give the “silk” that composes my ego cocoon back to the world. It is truly a Thousand-Mile Road, and DAMN it is fascinating.

Hope that clears things up. I stand by it, and if it sounds like bullshit, cool–this path most definitely is not for you. I hope you find your own Way, I really do. I’ve found mine, and it is an incredible sense to be on the downside of the “Gathering” hill. To know I have all the theoretical data I need, and that life itself will lead me the rest of the way. What a feeling.

-Steve Barnes


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