…to tell people searching for a greater truth that they can accomplish near miracles without the hard work. To write about enlightenment, personal growth, spiritual awareness – call it what you like – without also explaining that such head in the clouds ideas are meaningless unless you also have your feet firmly on the ground, literally and metaphorically. Yes, we may be angels in disguise, but the ‘disguise’ is there for a good reason: to be a vehicle through which to learn about ourselves in this material world.
Why enlightenment isn’t an easy ride: As a learning tool, the physical vehicle – our body – is designed to adapt to our progress and evolve. The problem is that everything that makes us who we are – our ideas, hopes, joys and dreams, our aspirations, memories, knowledge, and our awareness of those – are all essentially immaterial concepts; they’re properties only of our consciousness. When consciousness is absent, ‘we’ cease to exist. That means conscious awareness isn’t something we have, it’s everything that we are. All ‘we’ are is a collection of immaterial concepts. But this is not the way we’ve evolved to see ourselves, or reality. On the contrary, we’ve come to think of our ‘real’ self as the physical body, and our consciousness as a mysterious side-effect of that body’s evolution.
By choosing to see reality as a material process, we’ve actually become masters of self delusion, thinking and behaving as if we are material too. We’ve decided that all of the immaterial things that ‘we’ are – our ideas, hopes, joys and dreams, our aspirations, memories, knowledge, and our awareness of those – are somehow produced by the same stuff that material reality is made from. And it’s precisely by allowing material things to govern our understanding of reality this way that we create all manner of problems for ourselves and each other.
All of the perceived difficulties we encounter in life stem from this fundamental self deception. What’s more, our ‘spiritual’ aspirations, arguments for belief in an afterlife, higher dimensions of consciousness, God and etc., appear vapid and unreal, simply because they make no sense in a material reality. Making matters worse, those arguments suggest our immaterial consciousness is in some sense more real than so-called physically real phenomena.
Testimony from the many thousands of people who’ve reported NDEs, or been hypnotically regressed to the ‘life between lives’, tells us that as immaterial conscious beings, the awareness we bring to this material world is only a small part of our real conscious self. Most of our real self remains in higher dimensions of consciousness, though we’re always connected to that greater self. Through that connection we can access what our higher self knows – about who we really are, and our real reason for being here.
It seems we can find not just enlightenment but can overcome our human problems and failings by learning to strengthen that connection; to ‘be’ more of our real self. The stronger our connection to our real, higher self, the better able we are to see through the illusion created by material things. The pitfall is that in our eagerness to embrace these concepts, we might be tempted to believe there’s a quick and easy way to achieve enlightenment.
This belief only perpetuates our delusions. There is no soft option. The illusions and delusions – and problems – that come with being human are only dissolved gradually by a long learning process over many lifetimes, and it’s often hard work.
But that’s not what we want to hear. For one thing, the concept of reincarnation and many successive lifetimes of learning can seem incredible. An immature mind, steeped in this ‘I want it now’ culture, prefers an easy ride, imagining it’s possible to ‘become enlightened’ more or less instantly, simply because we want to be, or because our belief system says we can be.
It’s not about what we want. Enlightenment, personal growth, spiritual awareness – call it what you like – is not about what ‘we want’. Wanting per se isn’t about our real self, it’s only about material things. We only become more of our real self not by getting but by giving; by doing things for others. Enlightenment is entirely about giving, and it happens only when we learn to recognize what’s real from what’s illusory.
The crux of the ‘learning program’ we’re all a part of is to realize that giving and getting are part of the fundamental machinery of reality that we’re here to learn to manipulate in our capacity as co-designers of that reality. In a material world like this, our understanding of giving and getting can make the difference between heaven and hell. We can so easily make life difficult for ourselves and each other by failing to appreciate the science of giving and getting. A science, because it’s about how reality really works. It’s the science of reality if you like. You could think of it in terms of energy, but that’s too simple a word for the stuff that powers reality