Enlightenment – what is it?

The posting on enlightenment has been getting interesting.

Had a call from Stephen Cronin today, which was great to catch up for half an hour, and he reminded me of my intention to put some more words around my understanding of the experience I have had with cancer.

I intend to have a new page up later today, and it may be tomorrow.

“Enlightenment” (intentionally placed in quotes) – what is it, and should we care

So, this is a thread for general discussion of “enlightenment”. If it exists, what is it? And is it worth trying to get?

I like what you’ve written Bill.

It seems that enlightenment is a set of experiences that an individual may experience that may be variously interpreted in various traditions, and in general relate to a substantial re-framing of an individual’s awareness.

Many different interpretations of these experiences exist.
Those who have such experiences are in no doubt of the subjective reality of their experience, but as the experience is intensely personal, it is very difficult to perform any sort of objective measure or experiment.

In my own case, my own interpretation of my personal experiences are framed in a general scientific framework (though definitely not the mainstream accepted scientific dogma). My own framework owes much to an epistemology I expressed in quite a defined manner in a critique of objectivist epistemology that I first wrote about 1993 and updated 1999.

[followed by]

Hi Bill


When you say “the mind isn’t re-structured, so in a sense, nothing has happened” that is not entirely accurate.


It seems to me that a more accurate formulation is “the context of mind is not maintained, so as old contexts return, and establish, then access to the newer contexts is lost, and only a faded memory remains.


What is happening, during these experiences, is the establishment of a new context, a new set of abstractions, which allows many of the internal barriers between the different compartments of brain/mind to be transcended, and for a more coordinated “whole brain” function to be experienced.


When we can allow a context to develop that allows us freedom from our own internal censor, our judge of self; the experience is remarkable.  Unfortunately, in those of us with pre-established habits like gambling addictions, or bipolar tendencies, taking “the brakes off” can lead to the collapse of established relationships (including family and work).

So there is definitely a sense, where the impact of prior training can be critical to the expanded context settling into patterns that are socially stable.


There was a Science Fiction movie made 55 years ago Forbidden Planet in which the patterns from the depths of the subconscious destroyed a society that created a machine that allowed people to make whatever they wished with the power of their minds.


Power without control is dangerous.  Our sun is extremely powerful, it is turning some 600 million tons of hydrogen to helium every second, and releasing mind numbing amounts of energy in the process. Yet at 93 million miles away we are just far enough away to be safe (most of the time), from the worst of it’s instabilities and outbursts.


Awakening minds to their infinite power is not without its dangers.

Discussion of the process in the “Fully Engaged Enlightenment” group


Hi Deb


I have experienced what you say, several times.


When we recontextualise, we have all the same words, but those words that refer to abstracts now refer to things that reside in a new context.  The view can be very different, the connections can be very different.

Often we tend to say “Oh so that is what …. meant”, and sometimes that may in fact be so.

However, it seems to me, that at some point, one gets to a context that no one has been to previously.

Then one starts to seriously look back at the various shifts, the recontextualisations, and wonder what different people really have meant.

All certainty is gone.


There is a saying in the flying community, “there are old pilots, and there are bold pilots, but there are few old bold pilots”.

Fear has it’s place.

Certainly we must be disciplined to master the mind numbing fear of the uncertainty, of the infinite depths in which we find ourselves floating; and we must also stay alert for the intuitions of danger, that usually manifest as lesser “fear”, and are a very healthy thing.


I posted in reply to Bill over in Advanced problems that is relevant to this discussion.

[followed by]

Hi Jen, Bill, Judi, LL, et al

Jen asked “How does one ignite the torch of willpower?” and “what is my purpose?”.

Like Bill says – “if you follow those questions really hard, track them down to their roots, you’re almost there”.

Where are those roots.
Here we are, consciousness, residing in a brain in a body.
We now understand that the body and brain are the result of some 4 billion years of genetic evolution by natural selection.
Each body is made up of about 10,000 times as many cooperating cells as there are people on this planet.
Inside each cell, are about 10,000 times as many molecules as there are cells in the body, of about 50,000 different types. Some of those molecules are huge, they have more atoms in them than there are people on the planet. Many are very large with very complex shapes, and very complex properties in terms of vibration, electromagnetic forces, and interactions via these with other molecules around them. The levels of electromagnetic activity with a human body is amazing – both mind building and mind numbing.

At another level, some of those cells are connected together electrically as nerves and form neural networks connecting us to the outside world via a range of senses.
Via this network, our body builds a predictive model of the reality in which it finds itself, that allows it to perform complex behaviours in complex contexts.
Over millions of years, the interaction of evolving patterns of behaviour (language and social/cultural organisation) have evolved by mimetic evolution by natural selection.

Relatively recently, in the last few thousand years (probably within the last 10,000) and almost certainly within the last 60,000, language evolved to the point that languaging animals were able to boostrap a new level of entity into being, by self declaring a software entity into existence. This is what we now experience as self awareness.

Each of us as self aware individuals starts at a certain biological age, usually around 5 years, +/-3years.
Prior to entering that state of self awareness, we have our biological bodies, and the minds in those bodies have absorbed a lot of cultural patterns that are part of the basis of our being.

Part of that culture are ideas like Jesus (a man who is god) and superman (a really interesting superhero – whose nature is having these super powers, but he pretends to be normal, to be able to exist in society {as distinct from most other super-heroes, who put on disguises to hide their “real” identities}).
These form part of our “cultural ideals” for who we “ought” to be; part of who we are.

At another level, we have our emotional motivational systems, which are very old in evolutionary terms.
These form part of our “holographically” connected awareness.

The feelings of relatedness, belonging and the instantaneous nature of understanding that one experiences when operating in this “holographic” mode, are very different from the sort of experience we have when operating in pattern based mode (habits and culture). The two are both related, and the holographic definitely needs pattern based systems as part of its operation, and they are also very distinct.
It is very easy to see how people relate to these experience in terms of gods, and universal one-ness; and there is a sense in which holographic awareness does have universal connectedness – just not quite the sense that most people are used to thinking in.

So when it comes to choosing a path for one’s self; it is powerful to have as much awareness as possible of the levels of influence of all the various levels of one’s being – from the sub atomic on up through the atomic, molecular, cellular, multicellular, chordate, lizard, mammal, social, cultural, post cultural, infinite, …

Culturally, we are all given purposes to serve the ends of the culture; sometimes these are consciously created by someone, and mostly they are simply the result of unconscious selection of random variants that have worked in the past.

So it is not in the least surprising Jen that you, and I, and most others, have problems selecting our purposes, and maintaining will power and joy in this contextual melee that is being a human being in 2011.

At another level, as LL says – we all co-create; so we each get to live in/with the consequences of the choices/creations of everyone else.

At yet another level, we can create new levels of context within us, that change our perspective on all that exists around us, and our relationship to it.

In these higher level contexts, we can see the many layers and levels of influence on us, and our choice of purpose; and it seems that we can acknowledge those influences, and still claim our purpose as our own creation. And there will be certain classes of choices that resonate more deeply within the holographic being that we are, than others – this, it seems to me, is our own personal “Ananda” our “Bliss”, and is a powerful thing to pay attention to.

Question of the Day February 16, 2011 “Is life hard?”

Do you believe Life is hard?

Depends very much on the sense of hard.

There does seem to a certain inertia in most realms, which resists attempts to change the “status quo”. So in that sense, doing anything out of the ordinary can appear “hard”.

But in general, it seems that the universe simply is, and pain and difficulties are part of existence, like pleasure and opportunities. So I go along with Amber and Gil – it is what we make of it.

Sometimes it is hard, and both Ailsa and I really enjoy it 😉

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see www.tedhowardnz.com/money
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