What is the experience of enlightenment like?

Enlightenment Part 3

Tony Crisp

People attempt to describe it in many ways. Ramana Maharshi says that when you realise the Self (enlightenment), the sense of yourself as distinct from the world disappears.

Another person describes it by saying, ‘I was sitting opposite someone during an enlightenment intensive workshop. We had been posing the question for days – “Who are you?” Suddenly I realised that it was a silly question, because I was the answer. All thought stopped and I existed as the answer. My being had always been this. In this state there was an awareness of being connected with everything around me, in the beginning of creation. This was the first day.

While in the state of simple existence I was able to observe many things I am usually not aware of. For instance while I simply existed, my usual pattern of behaviour and thought went through contortions to be the centre of awareness again. I could see them almost like habits, systems, that have life, like a body does, and they were dying and twitching in their death throes. Also I saw that I knew that all thought is like a mimic, so all our thinking is like photocopies, without any real life. Also as I saw this I had an image of a monkey that was actually me normal thinking self running alongside my every motion and trying to mimic it. It was almost as if as I as a person walked along, another mechanical person ran alongside trying to keep up and mimicking everything I did in an attempt to be alive and real. Yet thought can never be life.’

Another person says, ‘Unexpectedly everything changed and my fundamental self was something that existed throughout all time. It didn’t have a beginning or end. There was no goal to achieve. I am.’

Slightly different but still the same enlightenment. ‘Everything seemed to slip away and I felt as if I melted back into the primal being of the universe. It didn’t seem as if my ego was gone, just melted into everything else. It was blissful.’

Here is a wonderful description from John Wren Lewis:

“My experience itself, which I have described elsewhere (Wren-Lewis, 1985), lacked almost all the dramatic features emphasized in the now voluminous literature on the subject (Lundahl, 1982). I had no “out-of-body” vision of myself in the hospital bed, no review of my life, no experience of hurtling through a tunnel towards a heavenly landscape and no encounter with supernatural figures urging me to return to bodily existence. I simply dissolved into an apparently spaceless and timeless void which was total “no-thing-ness” yet at the same time the most intense, blissful aliveness I have ever known.

The after-effects of the experience, however, were dramatic indeed, and I have found no account of anything comparable in the NDE literature. I have been left with a change of consciousness so palpable that in the early days I kept putting my hand up to the back of my head, feeling for all the world as if the doctors had removed the top of my skull and exposed my brain to the infinite darkness of space. In fact the Living Void is still with me as a kind of background to my consciousness. The effect is that I experience everything, including this sixty-year-old body-mind, as a continuous outpouring of Being, wherein every part is simultaneously the whole, manifesting afresh moment by moment from that infinite Dark. As “John” I seem to have no separate existence, but am simply the Void knowing itself in manifestation, and in that process of continuous creation everything seems to celebrate coming into being with a shout of joy—”Behold, it is very good!” Yet the experience is in no sense a high, for its feeling-tone is one of gentle equanimity. My impression is rather that I am now knowing the true ordinariness of everything for the first time, and that what I used to call normal consciousness was in fact clouded.

I still slip back into that old clouded state frequently, but this is not a process of “coming down.” What happens is something I would have found unbelievable had I heard of it second-hand—namely, I again and again simply forget about the pearl of great price. I drift off into all kinds of preoccupations, mostly trivial, and become my old self, cut off from the Void-Background. Then, after a while, there begins to dawn on me a sense of something missing, at which point I recall the Void and usually click back into the new consciousness almost immediately, with no effort at all.

I think this is what is meant by the mystical notion that so-called normal human life is really a state of chronic forgetfulness of “who we really are,” and I suppose my NDE must somehow have shocked me into recognizing my identity with the Void, with the result that my forgetfulness is now spasmodic rather than chronic. Needless to say, I was bowled over by all this at first, and spent many weeks coming to terms with it. I soon found that the new consciousness did not seem to demand any drastic changes of life-style. In keeping with its sense of utter ordinariness, I remained recognizably John, and neither my tendency to drift out of the new consciousness nor my ability to click back into it seemed affected in any way by variations in diet, environment, or activities such as meditation.”

In her book Collision With the Infinite, Suzanne Segal writes, ‘In the midst of a particularly eventful week, I was driving north to meet some friends when I suddenly became aware that I was driving through myself. For years there had been no self at all, yet here on this road, everything was myself, and I was driving through me to arrive where I already was. In essence, I was going nowhere because I was everywhere already. The infinite emptiness I knew myself to be was now apparent as the infinite substance of everything I saw.’

As can be seen, there is no final description of enlightenment, just as there is no final definition of life, or love, or any human person. Everything is, in the end, transcendent.

Everything, even the commonest of objects or events, transcends final definition. For instance a cup we drink from can be seen as a household item. It can be looked at chemically. We can see it as a piece of art. There may be personal associations or feelings we link with it. There can be an atomic or subatomic examination of it, or a cultural interpretation. Which one of these is correct? Which one is the final or fullest definition?

There is no final definition. The cup is a part of transcendence. Enlightenment occurs when we directly know the transcendence of our own existence, beyond any definition. It is a direct knowing beyond thought or feeling, of the world and self as One.

I am a wave on a shoreless sea.

From no beginning

I travel to no goal,
Making my movements stillness.

Here is another description from a great spiritual healer, William Lilley. Who says he was able to consciously ‘leave his body’ and visit the ‘Beautiful Place’, where he meets the dead. His description of this is typical of many other peoples, even to the ‘going through the mists’.  Quoted from his book Gift of Healing.

“When I am going into trance, I breathe in the Yoga method shown me by Dr. Letari. Immediately I get a sensation as though I am falling, or being pulled backwards. As this sensation comes to a climax, I seem to be travelling through space at terrific speed. I have opened my eyes many times at this point, but the only vision I have is of passing through a dense fog. Then, quite suddenly, the fog clears and I am at a stile. I climb over this stile and immediately there is a voice speaking to me over my shoulder. This voice is always with me, explaining everything I see and everyone I meet. The stile seems to be on the edge of a large field, which rises gradually to the form of a hill. I walk up the hill, and beyond it I visit many places. It is always the same style, the same hill, the same voice, and it just seems like a large country with so many different towns to visit.

The most interesting and remarkable experience I ever had during these visits happened before I went into trance. Several people had been speaking of consciousness. They had asked me to describe the world I experienced. Was it solid? Did I appear solid? I promised them that if I could, I would find out. I arrived at my stile, the voice came to me, and it evidently knew my desire, because it said “Feel the earth!” I did. It was solid. “Feel the grass beneath your feet!” I did. That was solid too, and even had dew on it. “Smell these flowers!” They were perfectly natural and had the usual perfume. In fact, everything around was natural. Then I was told, “Feel your body”. I did so. It was as solid as I am materially.

‘The voice then said, “Close your eyes; make your consciousness passive”, or as you would do when preparing for a trance state. “Now feel the earth beneath your feet!” There was nothing. “Open your eyes”. It wasn’t dark, it wasn’t light. “Feel at your body”. It wasn’t there. “Such is Spirit” said the voice. “Just a consciousness holding within it all experiences of your lifetime, all the joys and sorrows, your desires, achievements and failures, whence comes spiritual evolution. In your world of the material, you are able to examine matter; everything is matter. When you think of the spiritual, naturally you build in your consciousness another material world.” It is an amazing inner world which offers freedom. It is ours to create, and the very core of us is bodiless awareness”.

If you want to experience enlightenment try Enlightenment Intensives in the USA or UK it really works. It has for thousands.

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