The Urgent Indifference of Enlightenment
By Martin LeFevre
Over the centuries many people have pondered the question, ‘What is enlightenment?’ A few have even attained it, though a lot fewer than think they have. Most of us “seeking enlightenment” fall short, and invent narratives such as: ‘Enlightenment is within us every moment;’ or ‘Pre-agricultural people lived in a state of illumination because they lived close to nature.’ Keeping in mind that the word is not the thing, the definition is not the defined, and the explanation is not the explained, I’ll give my own definition, which is perhaps as good as any. However I’m not interested in defining or explaining enlightenment, but in finding out whether it can actually occur within one, and others so inclined, and what relevance it has to the world and the human prospect. So can we gain some feeling about what enlightenment is, without making a goal or idea of it, but simply to understand it to some degree and hold the intent to be as fully realized a human being as we can in this lifetime? The most difficult thing to grasp, much less actually live, is that enlightenment occurs in reverse from everything we’ve been taught in school or learned through experience. The paradox is that illumination advances through negation, not addition; through regression, not progression. Not negation in any ‘negative’ way, but in the sense of completely quieting and emptying the mind through passive attention to the movement of thought/emotion. And not regression in a psychological or social sense, though there is tremendous meaning in Jesus’ injunction, “I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Enlightenment is not some kind of return to an imagined illumined state of nature. Rather, it involves an inner flowering through stripping away the accretions of knowledge and experience. Clearly, illumination is a transmutation in the human brain itself. Can it be initiated and ignited by a small minority of people? Illumination, to my mind, is a state of being in which one doesn’t just have ‘mystical experiences,’ but dwells in the infinite multi-dimensionality of the unknown. Why is the unknown so much more important than the known? Knowledge has its place obviously, with respect to science and skill. But the known, which is personal and collective experience, is the greatest impediment to enlightenment. I feel illumination is where the human being and humanity are headed, if we’re headed anywhere except more deeply into self-made darkness. Thought-based consciousness, which is based on separation, symbol and memory, is no longer necessary, if it ever was. AI will soon dominate that dimension, if it doesn’t already. That means the human brain and being will either be freed to grow in the light of insight, or the machines of our own making will subsume us. In short, the immense spiritual potential of the human brain urgently needs to be released and realized by ordinary folks, or AI, VR and GE (genetic engineering and the corporatocracy) will destroy us.
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Martin LeFevre, a contemplative, philosopher and writer in northern California, serves as a contributing writer for The Seoul Times. His "Meditations" explore and offer insights on spiritual, philosophical and political questions in the global society. LeFevre's philosophical thesis proposes a new theory of human nature. He welcomes dialogue. firstname.lastname@example.org