Two Kinds of Enlightenment
Freedom and Fullness
If you want to understand a term like “enlightenment” and make sense of what appear to be conflicting and confusing spiritual claims, this is your first stop. In thousands of spiritual books that fill book stores we learn of amazing and transcendent-sounding experiences from spiritual seekers. Are these people encountering God? Are they delusional? What’s going on here? By recognizing the two different types of enlightenment, you'll increase your own sense of freedom and fullness and enhance the amount of warmth, light, and consciousness you have to share with the rest of the world.
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- Enlightenment, as traditionally understood, is not magic, rather it is a “state” of human consciousness.
- But how we interpret our state of consciousness depends upon our stage of consciousness.
- States and stages of consciousness represent the two forms of enlightenment: horizontal enlightenment (a state of total presence in the now) and vertical enlightenment (a stage taking the broadest perspectives available to humankind at this moment in its evolution).
- Horizontal enlightenment yields total freedom. Vertical enlightenment yields total fullness.
If you want to understand a term like “enlightenment” and make sense of what appear to be conflicting and confusing spiritual claims, this is your first stop. In thousands of spiritual books that fill book stores we learn of amazing and transcendent-sounding experiences from spiritual seekers. Are these people encountering God? Are they delusional? What’s going on here?
In this video with Ken Wilber you’ll learn about different states and stages of consciousness. States are intrinsic to human consciousness but can be interpreted in profoundly different ways. You’ll learn that spiritual traditions are masters of the “state” experience. (Hmmm, but so are drug dealers...)
The spiritual book The Power of Now is a sensational book that sometimes catalyzes people into a "non-dual" state of consciousness. Often interpreted as a mystical state of oneness with God, non-dual literally means “not-two,” where the separate sense of self dissolves and what remains is a blissful feeling of oneness with everything. No subject, no object, not two… This state of consciousness is how enlightenment is traditionally understood, and contemplative religious traditions the world over have made practices that induce this state in their adherents a central part of their spiritual training.
A non-dual state is only one form of enlightenment – what we call horizontal enlightenment because states form a horizontal right angle progression at each and every vertical stage – though it is the one most focused on in the spiritual path. It is important to remember though that states of consciousness are always filtered through and interpreted by the stage of consciousness through which someone perceives reality. So although awesome mystical states can be profound and spiritually-provocative, human beings have often gotten into trouble as the states have been interpreted by different religious orthodoxies to imply different things.
In this video we hear Ken also talking about stages of consciousness, which progress as our view of reality becomes broader, deeper and more inclusive. Stages are the 2nd form of enlightenment – vertical enlightenment because stages progress upwards through evolution – and by progressing in our stage of consciousness, by cultivating a broader perspective, we literally “see more” than we did before. (As an approximate metaphor think of how an adult “sees” more than the teenager, and the teenager sees more than the child, who sees more than the infant, and so on…) We are in-light-ened as if a light switch has been thrown and we can see more of the room we’ve been living in. This leads us to encounter more freedom and wholeness as we see ourselves as a broader tapestry of a universal story…
States and stages of consciousness may be one of the most important contributions to the religious dialogue in centuries, and may well play a fundamental role in the future of spirituality. Mastery of the various states of consciousness (e.g., gross, subtle, causal, and nondual) determines the amount of freedom you can experience in life, while development through the many stages of consciousness (e.g., magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral) will determine the degree of fullness you can experience.
By recognizing these two types of enlightenment you'll enhance the amount of warmth, light, and consciousness you have to share with the rest of the world.
Ken Wilber is the founder of Integral Institute and the co-founder of Integral Life. He is an internationally acknowledged leader and the preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. His many books, all of which are still in print, can be found at Amazon.com. Some of his more popular books include Integral Spirituality; No Boundary; Grace and Grit; Sex, Ecology, Spirituality; and the "everything" books: A Brief History of Everything (one of his largest selling books) and A Theory of Everything (probably the shortest introduction to his work).