12 – Enlightenment Myths
Exposing the idea of human perfection
Do you think you can take the universe and improve it?
I do not believe it can be done.’ – Lao Tzu
Matthew: I need to clarify some terminology before we go on. Are you saying that someone who’s had an Awakening is not Awakened?
Jez: Yes. An Awakening can pass, so it’s incorrect to say someone who has had one is Awakened.
Matthew: But if the Shift has happened, then they’re Awakened because the dis-identification with Personality is permanent?
Matthew: So, by that definition, you’re Awakened? (Pause.) You look kind of uncomfortable…
Jez: The Dream of my Personality has been permanently awoken from, so the answer is yes… But I wouldn’t normally use that term, or the other word, Enlightenment, in reference to myself.
Matthew: Why not?
Jez: Because those words are burdened by misinformation and this makes using them problematic. Let’s use our Timbuktu analogy again*. Imagine I live in Timbuktu and I’m trying to describe accurately to you what it’s like to live there. You’ve never been there, but you’ve heard many stories from people who say they have. When I talk about my experience of Timbuktu you hear it through the prism of what you’ve previously heard. That’s how the mind works: It tries to understand the world around it by piecing together information it gathers from various sources. But when it comes to matters of the Absolute, this is not so helpful: That idea you’ve constructed of what it means to be Awake is not the same as the experience of being Awake. There are two reasons for this: First, the sources from which you’ve gathered this information can’t all be relied on.
Matthew: You mean because not everyone who says they’re Awakened actually is?
Jez: Correct, some of those people who say they know Timbuktu haven’t actually been there. They may be experts on all that’s been written about it, part of their Personality’s Dream may be the belief that they have been there, but none of this is the same thing as the experience of actually being in Timbuktu. So what they say about it can’t be trusted. If it’s not first-hand experience, it’s just rumours going round.
Matthew: What about people who have been there; people who’ve had an Awakening experience?
Jez: Having visited Timbuktu for a short time, they may have some worthwhile things to say about it, but, as a guide, they won’t be as reliable someone who lives there. So if you listen to their account, there will be some truth in it, but also inaccuracies can come in. We’ll go into this subject more when we discuss teachers and gurus…
Matthew: Ok, and what’s the second reason I can’t necessarily rely on reports I’ve heard about what Awakening is?
Jez: Quite apart from the reliability of their sources, when you hear those reports they’re filtered through your Personality, so your idea of what this is is partly derived from your interpretation of it. Most people see in this what they want to see; this is especially the case with the word ‘enlightenment’. The literal meaning of the word ‘en–lighten’ is to dispel darkness or confusion; it’s a beautiful and accurate application of the word. Symbolically the ‘darkness’ of the Dream (the Suffering) is dispelled by the light of Choice-less Awareness. But the word ‘Enlightenment’ has taken on a different meaning; it’s been overlaid with all sorts of beliefs and projections that aren’t in alignment with the truth of what this is really about.
Matthew: Can you be more specific?
Jez: How would you describe an average person’s image of someone who’s enlightened?
Matthew: Some guy at the top of a mountain…
Jez: It’s never a woman is it?
Matthew: No, it’s quite a male-centric image. It’s a guy who’s reached a level of understanding that makes him almost superhuman. It’s as if he has special powers and isn’t subject to the same laws as ‘normal’ people like us.
Jez: That just about covers it. For those interested in finding out what is true, for those with a Yearning towards freedom, this belief causes no end of obfuscation and misunderstanding. For a start it suggests this sort of freedom can’t happen to you, it’s exclusive to some divinely appointed superhuman breed. The word ‘enlightenment’ has come to refer to an idea of human perfection. This understanding has nothing to do with being superhuman; rather, it’s about being fully human.
What does it mean to be human? Let’s look at it this way: What’s the difference between a human and a robot?
Matthew: A robot doesn’t have feelings, for a start.
Jez: Right, one of the essential characteristics of being human is our capacity to feel. Will you look up the dictionary’s definition of the word ‘superhuman’?
Matthew: It says: ‘having a higher nature or greater powers than humans have.’
Jez: Our nature is to feel: Having a ‘higher nature’ suggests that part of being superhuman is to be beyond feeling. And this is one image that many people have of what enlightenment is about: A person who’s detached, beyond feeling.
Matthew: Hang on a moment; I felt a sense of detachment during my Opening on the village green.
Jez: Yes, detachment does arise; it’s a detachment from Personality, from Emotion, moods and all the Suffering that identification with Personality creates. But, and this is a very big but, it’s not a detachment from feeling the Joy, the sadness, the whole gamut of human experience. That’s what I mean when I say it’s about being fully human.
So this is one misinterpretation of the word ‘enlightenment’; the problem has been compounded by the fact that most Personalities are quite content to believe this misinterpretation, this myth of perfection in which freedom is abstracted into a set of holy ideals that are inhuman, other worldly, from another plane. The Absolute isn’t another plane; it is this plane, in the form of the Relative Level. That includes all sorts of feelings and experiences of being human, but after Waking Up, it no longer includes the outcomes of identifying with Personality.
The idea of reaching a perfected state is hardwired into the spiritual search and it’s simply not accurate. It’s a glittering toy for the mind to play with, to hope for, to fixate on. Enlightenment, in the definition that it’s been reduced to, becomes just another set of hopes and beliefs for the Personality to distract itself with.
Matthew: So if we use the term in the original sense, i.e. to en-lighten, that would be accurate?
Jez: Yes, but it would be impractical for me to use it that way because I’ve no control over how the word is interpreted. I’d be using it to describe someone who’s returned to their original state of Being but, as I’ve explained, most people would hear it as someone who has superhuman qualities.
But the problem runs deeper than that: The original meaning of the word is fine when it’s used as a verb, because when this understanding blossoms in you it does en-lighten, it does take away the ‘darkness’ (i.e. the Suffering) caused by identification with Personality. However when it’s used as an adjective, when we say: ‘This person is enlightened’ or ‘I am enlightened’, a fundamental inaccuracy enters the picture.
Matthew: Which is?
Jez: No one gets enlightened; that’s not what happens. For someone to claim something called enlightenment there has to be a Personality there who is claiming it. So from this point of view, anyone who claims to be enlightened is simply displaying the fact that they have not seen beyond their Personality.
In this understanding there is a Seeing through of the ‘I’ that could ever claim to be enlightened.
Matthew: But aren’t you claiming to have Woken Up?
Jez: No, I’m not claiming that. That’s the point. That’s why I try to avoid such talk: Because that misinterpretation can be, and usually is, applied to it. No one has Woken Up. A Waking Up has happened, but it’s not happened to ‘me’; it’s happened because identification with that ‘me’ has fallen away.
Think of it this way: If, as a baby, Lucy (our invented character from The Story of You) had the power of cognition and speech, would she go around saying: ‘I have achieved the Natural State’? That would be ludicrous: She has not achieved the Natural State, Lucy is the Natural State. Did Lucy do anything to be it? No, that’s why it’s called the Natural State. It exists before any self, or Personality, can claim it.
Remembering and returning to the original state of Being as an adult is essentially the same; the only difference is that we have self-consciousness, and know what it’s like to be identified, to be lost, and we’ve come out of that lostness. Coming out of it does not turn us into some superhuman breed of man or womankind.
What we’re talking about here is recognising what we already are. When this is known, all the myths and projections about enlightenment, and the people who play that ‘enlightened’ role and believe they’re somehow special, start to look a bit ridiculous. This realisation is not superhuman or other worldly; it’s utterly human. Are newborn babies in the Natural State superhuman? No, they’re simply human, and that’s enough. It’s only the mind that wants more, that creates an idea of extraordinariness, of specialness.
Matthew: The word ‘enlightenment’ is used to describe some sort of perfected human state, isn’t it?
Jez: Yes, but what does that mean? If something’s perfect it implies that it’s as good as it can be, doesn’t it? Evolution has finished; there’s nowhere else it needs go.
Matthew: But if I’ve understood you correctly, the Shift means that the version of life that appeared before it has finished completely.
Jez: Yes, the belief in the Personality has ended; it’s been seen through once and for all. The Awakening is a passing glimpse beyond the Personality; the Shift is a permanent landing in that viewpoint. So the Shift itself could be said to be perfect in the sense that it’s complete. But what comes up in the life of the person after that Shift isn’t complete, it’s an open book. Life hasn’t finished flowing. It’s like saying that if you want to experience the Grand Canyon, all you have to do is go there. But that isn’t the case: Going there is just the beginning.
I’ve been to the Grand Canyon a couple of times. It’s hard to take the experience in because the canyon is so deep, it hardly looks real. So then you walk on one of the trails, you smell the air, touch the rocks and look at the vegetation. Clouds appear; the light on the rocks changes their colour. Where does it end? Can you ever get to a point where you can say: ‘I have fully experienced the Grand Canyon?’ I don’t think so. In this sense, the Shift is not an ending; it’s a beginning.
My whole emphasis in these talks is to wean you off the projection of this realisation as some perfected, superhuman state. I understand why this idea of perfection comes about, because after the Shift life is lived differently, there’s no doubt about that. Someone who lives beyond Personality has a flow and ease in how their lives are run. Someone who has dropped all strategies of pleasing, of trying to gain love from others has an absence of neurosis, a peace about them. Someone who knows and resides in the Stillness and presence does appear different from the stressed-out normality of the Tribe of Man. But to those who live in this Understanding, these attributes are just outcomes of returning to the original state of Being. In fact, these attributes, which we’ll talk about next, are actually very practical.
This ‘spiritual thing’ has been made so complicated by man’s mind; you can trace it all back to this distorted idea of enlightenment. In essence, this spiritual thing is simple. You can forget all that stuff about past lives, karma, altered states of consciousness etcetera. I’ll reduce it down into one statement: It’s all about Seeing life from beyond Personality. That’s what this whole book has been trying to point to.
Matthew: That’s all it is?
Jez: Yes. The Personality, rooted in the mind, creates an illusion of what you are. To become free you have to see through that illusion, you awaken from that Dream. Then you live a life that’s beyond Personality. That’s it.
Once you see this you’ll know that all these projections and beliefs about enlightenment are simply inaccurate and irrelevant. When you see beyond Personality you begin to understand for yourself what all the real teachers, the people who really know, are talking about. Because when it comes to this Understanding there’s only one truth that, potentially, any human being can find.
Matthew: But there are so many different versions and descriptions out there in the world of what it is to find this…
Jez: Let’s be clear, a lot of the material out there about spiritual attainment and enlightenment is simply a reflection of the hopes, desires and escapism of the Personalities who write it. So we’re not talking about that; we’re talking about the writings from people, all through the centuries of man’s existence on this planet, who have actually discovered life beyond Personality and lived it.
Matthew: But even the writings of the great teachers are quite different.
Jez: The variety in their interpretations is simply the result of the truth being filtered through different moments of history, different cultural reference points and different Characters. Part of the beauty of life is its diversity: The writings of Buddha have a different taste from those of Lao Tzu or Rumi; there’s a different emphasis and feel to each of them. But while the approaches and expressions may vary, what is found, the root of it all, is the same. There’s a quote from Gautama Buddha on this:
Just as the great ocean has one taste, the taste of salt, so also this teaching and discipline has one taste, the taste of liberation.
How can what is found be different? We’re all human beings. We’re all made the same and we all suffer the same delusion… Until this is found, until we Awake from the Personality’s Dream.
Matthew: So what you’re doing here is sharing your interpretation of it…
Jez: Yes – what else can I do? I’m offering my observations of this from the experience of it through this Character, and part of that is dispelling the myths that abound about this subject.
To me the whole approach and emphasis to this is backward. You ask me if I’m Awake; I want to ask you: ‘Are you still asleep?’ That’s the angle I see this from. That’s the most amazing thing: To keep yourself from the truth of this is an extraordinary delusion to uphold. I know, I did it for over forty years; the only difference between you and me is that I don’t do it any more.
Matthew: You seem to be implying that to Wake Up from that delusion is not such a big deal.
Jez: It looks like it, if you’re still in that delusion, but from outside of it, no, it’s not a big deal. To live like this is as natural as breathing. That’s why the word ‘Awakened’ sounds a bit grand to me, but it’s a lot less loaded than the word ‘enlightened,’ and it points to a fundamental truth, which is that to ee through Personality is to Awaken out of its Dream.
Matthew: So are you going to tell me what it means, practically, to live in the original state of Being as an adult?
Jez: Yes, I’ll describe my experience of it, and highlight where the misunderstandings come in.
* The Story of ‘You’ – Page 313