Enlightenment, in a few words
Humans are creatures, created beings, whose being is located in an experiential matrix, referred to as ‘life’. There are various dimensions to this experiential matrix, such as physical experiencing, and psychological experiencing, and even mental experiencing of a sort, called ‘thinking’. But everything that is apprehendable, whether it is physical, or psychological, or mental, is made of the same stuff, which is a knowable quantum, and which, in a way, makes everything which is knowable and apprehendable possess the quality of a ‘thing’. So there is not much difference, in terms of apprehendability, between a lump of rock and the subtlest mathematical calculation. They are both apprehendable ‘things’.
Now human beings, as the creatures they are, are predisposed towards certain experiences. Each person has their own particular hierarchy of experiences that they consider important to them. Some people like being drunk, some like being rich, some like punching others in the face. Yet others like experiences which are considered more subtle, such as pure mathematics, or translating ancient Chinese, or meditating. But as has been stated, these are all experiences within the experiential matrix we understand as ‘life’.
And in all this experiential mix there is only one quality which partially transcends that which it apprehends, and this is the quality of ‘knowing’ in its reflective and analytical mode. It apprehends things, and can reflect on them, but is not wholly caught up in them. It can know that things are things, even if it does not know what it can do about it. It is partially caught up in a kind of sticky mystery: it knows that it is trapped in the mystery of the human condition, and wants to get out, but it does not quite know how to go about it.
Experience is open-ended. It can go on forever, in time, endlessly, in any number of ways. It can go in an evolutionary straight line, or it can go in circles, or it can stop and start and stop and start. Experience is like space: infinite. You can never exhaust it, because even at a very primitive level, you can lose all your experiences through memory loss and you can then go through them all again, as if for the first time.
The important point to realise about experience is that it cannot transcend itself. It is subject to its own laws, and these laws are, when you take the time to think about them, really quite straightforward. Experience can give you all kinds of feelings, but these feelings wear off, and in time you find yourself back where you started. This is not a piece of dogma, it is a feature of experience. Nothing is so wonderful, or so horrible, it can’t be overwritten by another experience, which in turn can be overwritten by another experience, and so on. For example, imagine you are being tortured to death in the most horrible way, and that you are at the very edge of your capacity for horror and dread. But then you wake up, and realise it was all a dream. You go into a state of ecstatic relief, which takes you almost to the edge of your capacity for pleasure, and you might die of euphoria. But then you realise that both scenarios were a dream, and that you are in fact about to be tortured to death. And so on, and on. Endlessly. Obviously experiences like this don’t happen as rapidly as this in everyday life, but they could, and this is only meant to be a metaphor for the longer term.
Experience cannot save you. Nothing that is an apprehendable, knowable ‘thing’ can ever do more than take over your mind for a stretch, and then lose its grip. Nothing that happens in life – in the experiential matrix – no matter how sublime, ecstatic and transformative, can show you the way out, even if it feels at the time as though you have managed it. Experience is a dead end, even with all the most sacred, holy and sublime elements thrown in. Test this for yourself, however long it takes.
The only way out, is through exactly the same door you came in: through your knowing, apprehending capacity: your intellect, in its widest sense. This is the capacity which is currently dazzling you with experience, now let it enlighten you as to where you are really from. Of is own accord, unfortunately, it cannot deliver, but if you nurture it, it may give you the necessary clues. In and of itself, it is a mere created faculty like any other, but it has a spark within it which leads elsewhere. Experience cannot enlighten you, but the knowing capacity can show you where you need to go. The knowing capacity leads to the supreme insight, which is Enlightenment. Nothing else will do it, so don’t waste your time looking for ever more profound and transformative experiences: they are bits of created material, and in time they vanish.