Taking the Mystery Out Of Mysticism: Awakening, Enlightenment, and Illumination

If you have studied spirituality, mysticism or religions, especially the eastern ones; you have heard of states of consciousness or being beyond ordinary human awareness. These states have many names; a partial list includes: 

  • The Tao
  • Enlightenment
  • Illumination
  • Self-Realization
  • God-Realization
  • Transcendence
  • Gnosis
  • Liberation
  • Salvation
  • Redemption
  • Integration, Re-Integration (to the One)
  • Birth of the Spirit
  • Awakening (of the spirit)
  • The Kingdom of Heaven
  • The Coming of the Holy Spirit
  • The Totality of Oneself (Toltecs)
  • Christ Consciousness
  • God Consciousness
  • Divine Union
  • Nirvana (Buddhism (extinction of individuality)
  • Satori (Zen)
  • Samadhi (Hinduism, Buddhism)
  • Bodhi (Bud)
  • Buddhahood
  • Kensho (Zen)
  • Moksha, Mukti (Hindu, Bud)
  • Jivanmukti (Sikhism)
  • Kevala Janana (Jainism
  • Ushta (Zoroastrinaism)
  • Prajna (Hindu)

They are all One and the same thing: The One Infinite Creator Being, the Essence of All That Is.   

All of these names are different facets and gradients of one experience, the experience of the One, the perception of Essence, which as we have said, has 13 major characteristics (and at least 15 minor ones (Pre-Essence). The 13 are: Light, Consciousness, Will=Power, All-Oneness, Infinity, Magnificence, Wisdom, Perfection, Beauty, Truth, Love, Peace and Joy.  The variations, combinations and intensities of experience — and the enormous differences in the narration of them — make it seem like there are many states.  But no, there is only one; there is only the One. 

All spiritual paths, if they go anywhere, lead to the One. 
(And It is the same One, or there would be two.)

The experience of the Essence is a spectrum that runs from the opposite experience of evil, through avidya (no experience) ; to an experience so powerful, so grand and ecstatic and joyful that it obliterates perception of the physical universe and requires great focus to recover perceptions here (should you wish to do so).  Samadhi and the ecstasies of the saints are instances of losing all contact. For example, the book, Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a beautifully written book in which the author Robert Pirsig relates his entry (as Phaedrus) into such a state by pursuing Quality (another name for Essence) as the creator of reality. However, he is not prepared for awakening, and those around him do not understand what is happening to him, so he is put in a mental institution and electro-shocked back to “reality”. (This is one of reasons you need a school: you are prepared by those who have already gone through the experience.)

At the lower levels of perception, any one characteristic, or any combination, may dominate any given moment of your experience of your Essence. In mysticism, there is a well-known story from India about six blind man trying to understand an elephant.  Each one is given to feel a different part: trunk, tail, legs, side, ears, tusks, etc. They report variously that an elephant is like a serpent, a rope, a tree, a house, a fan, a log, depending on the part that each experienced. Similarly, at the beginning of opening to Essence, we will each experience different aspects and in different intensities, producing very different reports. As you perceive better, as you advance towards enlightenment, you will perceive them all and as a single thing, as the One.  

If you would like to investigate more deeply what Essence feels like beyond my poor description of the 13 Characteristics, google “mystical experience” and “near-death experiences” (www.near-death.com is a good site). I give here one of my favorite descriptions, not because it is complete (it is very partial), but because it is so poetic.  This quote comes from the book “Cosmic Consciousness”, by Richard M Bucke[1] (1898). He is writing of his own experience in the third person. 

[1] One of his basic assumptions, that consciousness develops from matter, is wrong, but the rest of the book is a notable study on spiritual illumination citing more than 30 probable cases.

He was in a state of quiet, almost passive enjoyment. All at once, without warning of any kind, he found himself wrapped around as it were by a flame-colored cloud. For an instant he thought of fire, some sudden conflagration in the great city; the next, he knew that the light was within himself.

Directly afterwards came upon him a sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination quite impossible to describe. Into his brain streamed one momentary lightning-flash of the Brahmic Splendor which has ever since lightened his life; upon his heart fell one drop of Brahmic Bliss, leaving thenceforward for always an aftertaste of heaven.

Among other things he did not come to believe, he saw and knew that the Cosmos is not dead matter but a living Presence, that the soul of man is immortal, that the universe is so built and ordered that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all, that the foundation principle of the world is what we call love and that the happiness of everyone is in the long run absolutely certain.

He claims he learned more within the few seconds during which the illumination lasted than in previous months or even years of study, and that he learned much that no study could ever have taught.”

In researching mysticism, if you decide to do so, do be careful. There is a lot of ignorance and mis-understanding out there by people who have never experienced it, and by those who think it can be explained by the mind or psychology or science, or that mankind is high on the totem pole of being (when he is close to the bottom). (One psychologist equates mystical experiences with psychopathology!)  

While it is scientific and useful to compile reports and experiences about mystical experiences; there is a huge difference between reports and opinions.  If a commentator has not been there personally, he really has no idea what is going on; a blind man trying to understand an elephant by only hearing about its tail.  It is encouraging, however, to note that more than half the population in the US reports some degree of mystical or expansive experience at least once in their lives.

Look for descriptions by people who have actually been there. One example is the near-death experience of Mellen-Thomas-Benedict: Click here.

(Notice how he reports light, love, beauty and perfection.) 

Another experience worth reading is that of Diane Morrissey: Click here.

Note that they both are perceiving these experiences through a human filter and also through the personal filters of their spiritual beliefs. This is normal until you have enough personal experience to transcend such projections.  

These people had experiences of Essence by “dying”; you can have them by systematic effort through following the protocols of Essentiality.