By Andrew Cohen
Spiritual awakening is the crucial next step in the evolutionary process of humans by Andrew Cohen
Andrew, you are a teacher of enlightenment. A lot of people would like to understand what that word means. So, my first question for you is: What is enlightenment?
That’s a very difficult question to answer in a simple, succinct way, because enlightenment means many different things on many different levels. Maybe I can begin by giving you one definition, and hopefully by the end of our dialogue together, a full picture of what it means will have revealed itself. A good place to start would be this: One who is truly enlightened has directly experienced the ultimate or absolute nature of life itself. In that revelation, they have seen far beyond the boundaries of the personal self and discovered the universal nature of all their human experience. That explosive realisation liberates the self from the perpetual tyranny of being trapped in a relationship to life that is merely personal. Another way to answer your question would simply be to say that enlightenment is a condition in which the individual has come to the end of a fundamentally self-centred relationship to life. Most human beings, it seems, are concerned only with their own needs – constantly thinking about themselves, always wanting for themselves, perpetually lost in an endless, narcissistic preoccupation with their own personalities. So one way to understand what enlightenment is would be to say that it is a condition in which we have come to the end of this painfully self-centred relationship to the human experience.
Does this realisation happen gradually, or is it a dramatic transformation that can occur in an instant?
It really depends upon the individual. But it doesn’t matter whether it happens instantaneously or gradually. The only important thing is that it happens. Because as long as we are self-centred, lost in that which is merely personal, we are simply not going to be available. Available to manifest the profound and extraordinary evolutionary potential that in most of us lies dormant. You see, this suffering world is in dire need of truly conscious beings – human beings who know who they are and why they are here.
But wouldn’t moving beyond the personal in the way you are describing discount many important aspects of human life?
Absolutely not. The enlightened condition in no way denies any aspect of our humanity. It enlightens it. It means that our perspective dramatically deepens and widens. The perspective of one who has not awakened is limited by definition. The reference point for all of their personal experience is the separate ego. But the perspective of one who has awakened is free from this fundamental limitation because, as I’ve said, they have realised the absolute nature of life and the universal nature of their own human experience. And that changes everything. It transforms their relationship to being alive because the context in which they are living now infinitely transcends the merely personal dimension. Therefore, the question I encourage people to ask themselves is: How enlightened is my perspective on my own personal experience?
So an “enlightened perspective” would be one where we see all our experience in a much, much bigger context?
Yes. And that bigger context reveals itself automatically when we make the thrilling discovery that who and what we are, beyond the personal ego, is a profound mystery that is completely free from any sense of limitation. A truly enlightened human being spontaneously expresses that freedom from limitation as their own humanity. Indeed, simply through spending time in their company, we can awaken to that same mystery that is also our own true nature. In their reflection, it becomes obvious how, in our ignorance, we have been living in an alarmingly small context. And we see directly that it is that small context alone that creates the painful sense of suffocation and isolation that is so familiar in the unawakened state. The miraculous experiential discovery of the enlightened perspective is instantly liberating. And it is in this discovery that our humanity is finally set free to manifest its evolutionary potential without inhibition.
From the enlightened perspective there is only one human experience and that one human experience is recognised to be an impersonal affair, a universal unfolding. The impersonal view always sees through and beyond that which is merely personal. A perspective that is merely personal traps us forever in the deeply painful and never-ending melodrama of the separate self and inherently limits our ability to see beyond the illusion of independent self-existence. From the enlightened perspective, we see that it is the deeply conditioned, profoundly mechanical habit of personalisation that creates ego, the psychological and emotional barrier that separates us from our own Self and the rest of life in every moment. That is why making the effort to see beyond a perspective that is merely personal is essential if we want to be free.
So how can we discover this perspective for ourselves?
By paying attention to our own experience in an honest way. Without being aware of it, we personalise almost every movement of thought and feeling. Every single experience we have, from the gross to the subtle, we compulsively call “mine”. Yet if we stand back even a little, we will quickly discover that so much of what we experience is not unique or personal in any way. Think about it. Look and see how much of our shared human experience is exactly the same, and yet how, through the deeply ingrained habit of personalisation, we compulsively create the appearance of difference – the very illusion that is the sole cause of all of our unnecessary suffering. You see, in the impersonal view, which is the enlightened perspective, the ego and the entire personal world that it creates is not seen as being real. That world is revealed to be empty of meaning, value, and purpose, ultimately serving only to perpetuate the existence of a separate self that doesn’t really exist.
When you discover who you really are, you see directly that the personal self, with its attachment to time and history, lives in a dream world, an unending nightmare of countless worries and fears, desires and hopes, which literally become transparent when one awakens to one’s own impersonal absolute depth. And when that impersonal Self Absolute begins to emerge in consciousness as a living presence, the “personal,” instead of being the impenetrable fortress that the separate ego abides in, becomes a permeable vessel through which the impersonal Self Absolute seeps into this world. That is where the relative and the Absolute, the personal and the impersonal, merge and become one. In that mysterious place, they become one unbroken universal unfolding that is free from the bondage of duality.
Where is all this leading? Ultimately, what is the purpose of enlightenment?
That’s simple. Evolution! When the relentless will of the separate ego has finally been broken, the evolutionary impulse begins to become active within consciousness. That impulse is always there, but as long as we are hypnotised by the ego’s agenda of unending self-concern, we remain oblivious to its presence.
In profound spiritual awakening, a mysterious compulsion is activated in human consciousness. It is experienced as a call or command that arises spontaneously from the Self, as a powerful impulse to create order out of disorder, to manifest higher and higher expressions of harmony and integration as ourselves, in this world, for the sake of all of life.
You and I, right now, are part of an extraordinary event that is in a miraculous process of endlessly becoming. And the most important part of that becoming is the evolution of consciousness itself. Don’t you see what I’m getting at? That means you. How aware are you right now of the vast evolutionary process that you are participating in? You see, the human experience only begins to make deep and profound sense when we begin to consciously participate in the process that we are already a part of.
But how do I get in touch with this for myself?
You already are. The awakening of the longing for liberation in the human heart and mind is the first step toward becoming a conscious participant in the evolutionary process. Wholeheartedly responding to that longing is what makes it possible to literally become one with the process itself.
Becoming one with the evolutionary process – that’s where all this is leading? That’s what the purpose of enlightenment is?
The ultimate purpose of enlightenment is for us to become so conscious that, through our wholehearted participation, we actually begin to actively guide the evolutionary process itself. As outrageous as that sounds, it’s true. We are all desperately needed. Consciousness cannot evolve beyond a certain point without our wholehearted and fully conscious participation in the process. And for that to happen, we have to make ourselves available. That’s why it’s so, so important to want to be free more than anything else, not for ourselves but for the evolution of Life itself.
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