One of the problems with enlightenment is that most of the teaching about it we have inherited from the East. And most of the teaching from the East comes with hundreds or thousands of years of concepts that date back to a time when most people had little literacy, little education and certain very little science. So the terminology and explanations we get from teachers from the East (or people saturated in ancient teachings from the East) don’t get communicated in terms that make sense to the 21st century, science-literate Western mind.
But really – enlightenment isn’t complicated.
All enlightenment is, is the realisation, the recognition, that our self-concept – the idea of who and what we are – is false. It’s predicated on erroneous concepts. It’s never been true, never could be true, and never will be true. And we then need to adjust our self-perception with something more credible.
Despite what you’ll hear from many teachers, this process of seeing the errors with the old self-concept, CAN, DOES and MUST happen “in the mind”. The mind is that ONLY place where this self-concept can occur and it’s the only place where it can change.
The old self-concept that most people have, is that they are some kind of entity that is a) self-governing and b) separate from the rest of the universe.
But when we investigate that idea, we discover that it cannot be true. Our bodies are made of cells, which are made of molecules, which are made of atoms, which obey the laws of physics – therefore we are not self-governing. And those atoms are constantly coming and going from our bodies, and are interacting with the atoms of our surroundings, so we are no separate form the rest of the universe. What, then, are we? What should our new self-concept be?
If I contemplate those conclusions for a while, I come to the following further conclusions.
1. There is no particular thing I can point to, and say “this is what I am”.
2. And yet – I exist. If I did not exist, what is having these thoughts?
3. So some thing exists and yet is it no particular thing.
4. What is left? All things. Every thing.
5. Therefore I must be everything.
It also makes sense that if the atoms that make up ‘me’ (as in, the body I used to think of as me) come and go, then the atoms that are me now, were something else a few years ago. The atoms that were me a few years ago, are now something else. The atoms that will be me a few years from now, are currently something else. Which atoms are ‘me’? Obviously all of them. Which means I am simultaneously many things.
From there I consider that, according to physicists, atoms do not have a solid boundary. The nucleus of an atom is orbited by one or more electrons as a “fuzzy probability cloud”. Therefore, there isn’t even a hard boundary between the atoms that are currently me and the atoms in the air and furniture around me. If I could see at such small levels of detail, I would notice that my atoms blend into the atoms of the air and furniture. And the atoms of the air and furniture would blend into other atoms. And so on and so forth, until all of the atoms are blending into each other. The universe is comprised of atom soup.
Therefore what I am – what any of us, all of us, are – is the atom soup of universe. Which is, in other words, the universe.
There is only the universe. And I am that. And so are you.
We are the universe aware of itself.
The recognition of this – the new self-concept – is the first step of enlightenment.
The second step is the question: “So what does that all mean for how I live my live from this moment on?”
I think the ‘laws’ of physics are essentially mutable patterns. The idea that they’re somehow ‘fixed’ seems absurd. Fixed to what? It’s an infinite regress paradox. If we are all an atom soup what defines this soup from the next soup? There is no hard boundary between one ‘universe’ and the next at least that I am aware off, which one can quite reasonably question. Assuming the previous statement is true then it follows the idea of fixedness is relative. Things seem stable based on the perspective of this mind. In the same way things that feel ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ are relative to your form. Based on the time perspective of a life.
I really wish scientists would give up the notion that these laws are fixed, even with the caveat that they’re likely to remain relatively stable across our lifetimes but even that we don’t really know do we? I guess some people find it reassuring that reality has a fixed state so that we can trust it to keep being there, as if that ever stopped people from dying?
I agree that the recognition that we are one with everything is certainly ‘enlightening’ in a sort of spiritual sense or translated differently as the feeling of having weight lifted off the mind. This i think captures the meaning of enlightenment better, it is a sense in which the mind moves to a place that is less constrained, more effortlessness, flow states. However, constraint (better, resistance) also provides form. So, the degree to which the vehicle of the mind (the brain and body, and universe that supports it) becomes more free to be ‘everything’ the less it is anything in particular.
There is a real sense in which one can get lost into the realms of the imagination, is our mind generating a small mental cosmos in which we run mind simulations and are gods over it? Do we actually understand the internal physics of our mind? Are thoughts in some sense ‘real’ such that what is being thought of is actually happening in some fundamental sense. How are our minds able to access places that seemed impossible? What tools could be discovered / invented by unlocking the minds potential for self-expression?
Well again, if that mind becomes untethered to our shared reality then to whom or for what are we experiencing and doing this all for? i.e. whats the point?…..for ourselves of course, which is to say all of us, which is both me, the individual; a collective of atoms and cells, concepts and experiences and we, the larger collective, of what i assumed we can rationally agree are distinct conscious beings separated by physical bodies which are located in a relatively stable physical environment in which to amuse ourselves. The mystery of what we will evolve into and how we’ll shape the universe remains up for grabs.
On a side note,
This probability cloud that we use to describe the in-precise location of atoms, is an obfuscating notion which is to say “we don’t know”, “we don’t have instruments precise enough”, but we do it’s called the mind. The mind is co-adapting with the universe (because it is that) and it feeds itself on it’s own illusions. The mind is both within and without i.e. outside, e.g. what ‘you’ see is ‘your’ mind, which is to say the universe you inhabit is your mind inwardly reflected, you are the universe seeing itself. This is why I don’t see the laws of reality as fixed but simply hidden until we can collectively pull our shit together to unlock the secrets to the universe and beyond.
Hopefully this makes some sense, I spent maybe an hour trying to capitulate it in a way that captures my ideas with enough exactness but while trying to leave room to interpretation.