Spiritual enlightenment is one of the most elusive ideas in our lives. Nobody actually knows what it is, apart from a few people who are indeed enlightened. We don’t know who they are, as we don’t know what enlightenment is, and whether those people are honest or not, after all. If they are truly enlightened, they don’t talk about it, as there is no need for that, or it’s simply indescribable.
We could even say that every attempt to explain enlightenment or talk about it is rude or presumptuous. Maybe it is, but sometimes we simply are too curious and bold to do such things.
Nonetheless, if we want to talk about enlightenment, we have to define it in the first place. It’s not an easy task, however, and in this article I will use two sources: enlightenment as considered by some of the eastern spiritual traditions (as western traditions can have a completely different understanding of this term), and spiritual symbolism that can be found in modern physics.
If we want to talk about enlightenment, we have to define it in the first place.
The idea of spiritual enlightenment is present in all of the eastern spiritual traditions. The main four of them are Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and Jainism, which offer these terms:
Although differing greatly in their views on enlightenment and one’s supposed path to it, these ancient spiritual traditions seem to agree upon this: enlightenment is a permanent, irreversible state of highest happiness, perfect stillness, inner freedom, liberation from suffering and rebirth, and realization of the highest truth.
Ancient spiritual traditions seem to agree upon this: enlightenment is a permanent, irreversible state of highest happiness, perfect stillness, inner freedom, liberation from suffering and rebirth, and realization of the highest truth.
Stages of Becoming Enlightened
In my opinion, it is not possible to distinguish any levels of enlightenment itself, as it is the final stage of awakening, the absolute liberation (whatever that means) and as such unequivocal and definite.
However, as there are many paths leading to it, there are numerous stages leading to that state, too. For example, in Theravada Buddhism, there are four stages of enlightenment. In this case, I would re-formulate this overview as the stages to enlightenment, except the fourth stage, which refers to the attributes of an enlightened human being.
These stages represent signposts on the gradual path of expansion of consciousness that leads toward the final goal, liberation.
Some spiritual traditions, however, like Zen Buddhism or Dzogchen, have a rapid or sudden approach to attaining enlightenment. Through their practices, they are trying to swiftly leave the mind behind and realize the Truth. While that approach is simpler and seemingly faster, it has its traps and may easily lead to a false sense of enlightenment.
 Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_enlightenment
Some spiritual traditions, however, like Zen Buddhism or Dzogchen, have a rapid or sudden approach to attaining enlightenment.
There are also people, for whom the spiritual work is not necessary for achieving the final liberation. These relatively rare individuals apparently have mysterious inherent abilities and pre-conditions for attaining enlightenment. They usually achieve liberation suddenly, with little or no effort at all.
Here is an amazing story of Eckhart Tolle’s awakening:
“One night not long after my twenty-ninth birthday, I woke up in the early hours with a feeling of absolute dread. (…) ‘I cannot live with myself any longer.’ This was the thought that kept repeating itself in my mind. Then suddenly I became aware of what a peculiar thought it was. ‘Am I one or two? If I cannot live with myself, there must be two of me: the ‘I’ and the ‘self’ that ‘I’ cannot live with.’ ‘Maybe,’ I thought, ‘only one of them is real.’ I was so stunned by this strange realization that my mind stopped. I was fully conscious, but there were no more thoughts. Then I felt drawn into what seemed like a vortex of energy. It was a slow movement at first and then accelerated. I was gripped by an intense fear, and my body started to shake. I heard the words ‘resist nothing,’ as if spoken inside my chest. I could feel myself being sucked into a void. It felt as if the void was inside myself rather than outside. Suddenly, there was no more fear, and I let myself fall into that void. I have no recollection of what happened after that.
I was awakened by the chirping of a bird outside the window. I had never heard such a sound before. My eyes were still closed, and I saw the image of a precious diamond. Yes, if a diamond could make a sound, this is what it would be like. I opened my eyes. The first light of dawn was filtering through the curtains. Without any thought, I felt, I knew, that there is infinitely more to light than we realize. That soft luminosity filtering through the curtains was love itself. Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, an empty bottle, marveling at the beauty and aliveness of it all. That day I walked around the city in utter amazement at the miracle of life on earth, as if I had just been born into this world.
Tears came into my eyes. I got up and walked around the room. I recognized the room, and yet I knew that I had never truly seen it before. Everything was fresh and pristine, as if it had just come into existence. I picked up things, a pencil, an empty bottle, marveling at the beauty and aliveness of it all. - Eckhart Tolle
For the next five months, I lived in a state of uninterrupted deep peace and bliss. After that, it diminished somewhat in intensity, or perhaps it just seemed to because it became my natural state. I could still function in the world, although I realized that nothing I ever did could possibly add anything to what I already had.
For the next five months, I lived in a state of uninterrupted deep peace and bliss. After that, it diminished somewhat in intensity, or perhaps it just seemed to because it became my natural state. I could still function in the world, although I realized that nothing I ever did could possibly add anything to what I already had.”
Although this is a lengthy quote, I considered it essential to all of us to get a glimpse of this sudden kind of awakening.
How is this possible? That’s a mystery. We may only assume that the people like him have done most of their inner work probably in other incarnations and that the Inner Truth simply must reveal itself through them in the present lifetime.
We are most probably not blessed with such a possibility. Thus, we need to continue with our hard, yet wonderful work on ourselves. Our goal is the final liberation.
Can Enlightenment Be a Goal?
Yes and no.
No, because we don't know what it is. We can only experience it personally, but nobody can explain it well; there are too many different descriptions of it. Moreover, setting the goal of becoming enlightened could aggrandize our ego and deter our attention from the path itself.
Can enlightenment be a goal?
Yes, because many of us have a strong desire for it, albite we don’t exactly know what it is. We only know it is the end of suffering, the final liberation. That desire drives us toward it, but when we come nearby it, the very desire becomes an obstacle. And along this path, any ideas or beliefs on enlightenment and how we could achieve it could pose obstacles too. That’s why it is much better to consider it as a direction, rather than a goal.
It is much better to consider enlightenment as a direction, rather than a goal.
Symbolism of Subatomic Particles and Their Behavior
Aside from the religious interpretations of enlightenment, we could also examine a new view on it, which is based on modern physics’ symbolism, deeply hidden in its laws. I must say that there are strong parallels between many aspects of spiritual life and numerous findings of quantum physics and Einstein’s relativity. This symbolism can give us valuable hints that will help us to take a right direction toward the ultimate truth. Let’s examine some of them.
According to the equations of Einstein’s relativistic physics, all particles traveling at the speed of light don’t “experience” time and space. From their “point of view,” they are everywhere, and the lifespan of the whole existence is within their “now.” In a way, photons have no speed at all as they are omnipresent.
In our symbolic language, light symbolizes God’s presence and perfectly enlightened people.
There are strong parallels between many aspects of spiritual life and numerous findings of quantum physics and Einstein’s relativity. This symbolism can give us valuable hints that will help us to take a right direction toward the ultimate truth.
What’s interesting, there is an innate hidden trait (something like a particular polarization) to the photon which prevents the Higgs field to give it a mass.
Unlike the elementary particles, which do not consist of any sub-particles, complex systems like protons, neutrons, atoms or molecules are always impeded by the Higgs field plus by all four elementary forces of nature. So, we are too.
 Perhaps the very fact that nature ‘cares’ if a particle has a particular polarization (‘to the left’ or ‘to the right’) and hence behaves differently to it, is the proof that this reality is intentionally created and could even be a computer simulation, but that’s the subject of another article.
Here are the main symbols in quantum physics related to our inquiry:
Massless elementary particles symbolize God’s presence and enlightened beings.
Practical Directions to Liberation Given by Quantum Symbolism
There are two ways of converting the massive particle into a massless one: either through annihilation with its anti-particle or through the elimination of its longitudinal polarization. The former is happening all the time in nature, as well in scientific laboratories and colliders, while the latter is purely theoretical, at the moment.
Still, both approaches are inherently the same. Through merging with its antimatter counterpart, the particle cancels out its polarization and consequently transforms into light.
If we translate this symbolism into a meaningful advice for our spiritual life, we would have to integrate with our anti-persona. What would that mean?
Does it mean that we need to reunite with our soul-mate (or twin-flame)? Well, not really, although in the outer world that might help, if the person is really the twin-flame. But then again, the real solution is to remove the inner roots of our limitations. Deep inside our souls, there are particular polarities that are actively obstructing us to attain our natural state – absolute freedom. We have to accept and embrace the unconscious, “dark” part of our being, the “shadow self.” We also need to fully accept the opposite sex within us. We have to reintegrate all other fundamental, yet deeply hidden polarities of our personality.
However, if we reintegrated these polarities, wouldn’t we still have some “mass”? As the majority of the mass of complex entities, such as protons, neutrons, and atoms, comes from other basic interactions (strong nuclear force, electromagnetic force), wouldn’t we still have almost the same “heaviness” in everyday life?
According to this symbolism, no. If we had an imaginary situation of converting, for example, a quark into a photon, neither the strong nuclear nor electromagnetic force could exert any influence on that photon anymore. So, the particle would have become completely free. Meaning, when we reintegrate all inner polarities, we will achieve the final liberation, we’ll get enlightened.
When we reintegrate all inner polarities, we will achieve the final liberation, we’ll get enlightened.
Easier said than done. Even after passing through the whole list of inner polarities that we are aware of, many of them will still be hidden from our sight. Hence, we need a comprehensive approach to our transformation. We need to continue with the work, to encompass many other types of inner obstacles, i.e. to deal with habits, limiting beliefs, negative rules, fears and other emotions, decisions, subpersonalities, etc. Being reintegrated one by one, these aspects of our being will allow us to become aware of many more subtle polarities that we hadn’t been conscious of before. And through the reintegration work itself, we will be naturally merging many of these polarities, too.
We can now conclude that the secret to liberation lies in merging the opposites within us.
Whatever its meaning is, spiritual enlightenment definitely is achievable, even for us, ordinary people. Nevertheless, it cannot be a goal. We must set other objectives that are achievable and known to us, as it is the work on personal transformation, and the enlightenment can only be an unexpected result or consequence of that. While doing that, we must take an all-inclusive approach: meditation, mindfulness and comprehensive inner work, concurrently. Here is the article on that.
So, generally speaking, what are we supposed to do? No too much wandering. If we want to find water, we must dig at one place. But also, to question everything, to open our minds. We have to live consciously in the Now as much as possible. We need to open our hearts, to love unconditionally.
We must take an all-inclusive approach: meditation, mindfulness and comprehensive inner work, concurrently.
We need to work on ourselves, to reintegrate parts of our personality, one by one; to take full responsibility for our own life. To embrace our excellence, but also to accept our vulnerabilities. And we are free to pursue our dreams.
The final freedom will inevitably come!
Have a wonderful day! :-)
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