Parapsychology Journalism: The People, The Theory, The Science, The Skeptics
We all know the New Age fable: Seek the truth, meditate and learn about yourself; follow the path of the light and learn to live in the Now; strive to be at one with all things and one day, when you least expect it, you will be in alignment with the universe and the Glory Of The Truth will shine upon you. You will be Enlightened.
Ok, raise your hand if you’re enlightened. Anybody? Didn’t think so. Enlightenment, it would appear, is always just out of reach. And on those rare occasions that we meet someone who claims to be enlightened, we quickly discover that they don’t seem to be quite there yet. We don’t know what it is, but we’re pretty sure they’re not it. We can see that these other people are flawed no matter how clear and true their message might be. No one, it seems, has it all together. No one we’ve ever encountered can truly lay claim to the magical title of Enlightened Person.
We kind of know what enlightenment is supposed to mean, but what effect does this have on a person. How does an enlightened person act? Do they glow or something? I suspect that if we examined this closely, we’d find that we all have different ideas about what this means with the consistent theme that whatever it is, no one has quite lived up to it yet.
Years and years ago, when I started pursuing what I’ll call the Inner Path, I realized that the idea of enlightenment as a goal was a flawed one. You can’t get there from here. Great transcendental experiences which suddenly elevate a person to greater understanding are a fairy tale. The real process is nothing like that.
Real change is not quick. It takes a lot of time and effort. I’m reminded of Gizmo, a non papered Turkish Van cat that is between 18 months and a two years old. We took him in for rehabilitation and eventual re-homing at the beginning of July 2009. This photo shows basically what he did for the first week or so:
As you can see, he was a very frightened cat. At the time, I felt that he probably needed six months to come around. Now animals have no ego to contend with and should therefore require less effort to heal their fears, but we all know that this is not the case. They take just as long as we do. We have an extremely good environment for this animal and we have excellent techniques for helping him past his overwhelming fear but the fact is, he just needed time. Enlightenment was not just around the corner.
His healing was a process of very short spurts of active engagement followed by long periods of quiet and rest. Our process is really no different. You cannot pursue enlightenment 24/7. It is very much a healing process just like any other. There have to be long periods of rest and if it’s forced, then the process can actually be slowed down.
About two and a half weeks into the process, Gizmo started to come out:
The tail is down, the tension is evident and the eyes are wary. Yet he is no longer cowering in his corner. He has grown bored of that and has started to explore, even if it’s only tentatively. He would not voluntarily leave the room we had set aside for him nor interact with other cats if he could avoid it.
Change is like that for us. Like Gizmo, we have no dramatic leaps, only slow steady change where we begin to explore areas within ourselves once the fear has died down enough. We don’t have to be completely done with the fear to begin exploring, but it has to have diminished enough.
At first, the room he stayed in was quite big enough for him to explore. It was necessary for his world to be small because his fear was too great handle larger areas. The walls around him were not a limitation, but rather a comfort. In time of course, these boundaries would shift to becoming a limitation for him and an irritant. But that would come later.
In this photo, it has been about a month and a lot has changed:
Gizmo has left the security of his bedroom and gone downstairs. He is interacting with another cat (Germanicus, our pure bred Turkish Van) and as you can see, his tail is up and he no longer looks frightened. He is now exploring much more and has more interest in his environment.
From this point on, we began to see what his personality was. Heretofore, he had simply been a scared cat; now he was starting to show his likes and dislikes, what he would merely tolerate and what he actually enjoyed.
Again, no dramatic leaps, no great Wow moments here, just a steady progression of gentle progress. It’s the same for us. Like Gizmo, we have beliefs that form our walls, which are at first a comfort to us, but gradually become an irritant. We can’t rush the process; each step is important and we never leap over any individual part. As we overcome one obstacle we are ready for the next one, but we don’t do it all at once. We proceed just as Gizmo did. First, a few short forays out of our space, followed by longer and longer ones until finally, that room we had in our head is no longer big enough . . .at all.
So when does Gizmo achieve Teh Grate Kitteh Enlitunmunt? (And achieve Official Ceiling Cat status). Is it when he first got out of the room? When he first let himself be petted? When he stared playing? When he started sleeping on our bed at night? Or will it be when he finally starts purring?
If we can’t even define this for a cat, how can we define this for ourselves? Any cutoff point we introduce is going to be purely arbitrary. In fact, the same goes for any spiritual method that relies on levels. We just don’t work that way. improvement is gradual and slow and when we get to a certain point we haven’t arrived at our destination, we’ve simply cleared another hurdle in a process that never ends.
Gizmo may not have achieved enlightenment, but he is ready for a permanent family.
Like the rest of us he must go forward before he is 100% ready. He has not learned everything he has to learn yet, his emotional growth is not complete, but he learned and he has grown to the point that he will be able to handle this challenge without serious backsliding. It’s not a perfect situation, but it is enough.
I think that this is what we have in place of enlightenment. We don’t achieve eternal bliss, we just get to a point where our fears have died down enough to stretch ourselves and explore new and different areas, whether this is a new career, a different art form or even a change in relationship status with someone we love. And once we’ve achieved that we’re immediately on to the next.
It is a gradual process where each goal is simply a door to another one, and another one. We don’t see all the doors along the way, nor do we need to anymore than Gizmo needed to know when he arrived that his goal would be sleeping on the bed, getting petted or playing with the laser toy. That would all be made clear in its own time, along with having his personality come out.
So while the idea of enlightenment is a bit of a sham, what we put in its place is quite a bit more realistic and most importantly, doable.
PS. Gizmo is going to his new home in just a few days. He will be living in Oregon. He is a Turkish Van mix and appears to be under two years old, although he has no permanent records prior to his arrival here. We know that he was originally the cat of a 16 year old girl. Her father sold the cat when it became clear to him that she was not caring properly for him. He was bought by a family in the San Francisco Bay Area who intended to give him a good home, but after two weeks of hiding behind toilets and growling at everyone and biting it was clear he was not adapting and another solution had to be found. When he came here, his rehabilitation progressed quickly. He does not show signs of having been mistreated. He is engaged, active, likes to hang out around people and can be stubborn and headstrong.