Jay Michaelson
What the World Is, and what to do about It, p. 2

2. What enlightenment is

Enlightenment is the full knowledge of the foregoing section. Although in one sense this knowledge is quite simple to attain (after all, you have just read it), this knowledge is incomplete; it is an intellectual understanding of what the world is, but not experiential knowledge of it. "Map is not territory." One important example of this distinction is that human beings have evolved the tendency to see themselves as individuals, distinct from Being. Even though this thought is in direct contradiction with our current understanding of spacetime as One, the notion of 'self' in some form is necessary for even the most basic tasks needed for human genetic patterns to be preserved and reproduced, and is thus a fundamental principle of human self- understanding. Thus, to truly experience that one does not exist as an independent entity requires unlearning a basic and primal conception about the nature of the self and the universe. Moreover, because humans' rational faculties generally operate in a dualistic mode (separating the world into objects, and distinguishing between the world 'out there' and the self), they must be somehow set aside in order for accurate, non-dualistic perception to occur. Here too, however, basic principles of human thought, necessary for survival, must be unlearned in order for 'enlightenment' to occur.

One method for unlearning these (and other) basic errors is that of meditation, a process of suspending the mind's ordinary function so that a unitive perception/actualization of Being may occur. Many different practices of meditation exist. These practices so not convey information so much as open the mind to reality by quieting its ordinary function. "If only the doors of perception could be opened, the world would appear as it is: infinite."

It may be that the mind's operations may be altered by some other means, e.g. through pharmaceuticals that alter brain chemistry, and enlightened understanding may occur. However, thus far no such drugs have been found that do not also convey potentially damaging side-effects. In addition, because such drugs may also cause hallucinations, they may be unreliable for obtaining an accurate perception of Being.

Next: Is Enlightenment Worthwhile?

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February 2003

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Sam Brody

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what to do about it
Jay Michaelson

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