Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Understanding the Concept of Enlightenment

I have a confession. I never truly understood the concept of “enlightenment,” or the concept of “awakening” either, for that matter. Being the co-publisher of a New Ager oriented magazine, where both terms are used generously by our writers, this may sound like a curious confession. But, bear with me, and I will explain what I myself just started to realize on the subject. I think the lack of understanding is more cultural than spiritual.

In the world of spiritual seekers and explorers that I come from, in my home country Sweden, the words “enlightenment” and “awakening” are rarely used. Having followed for some time how they are used in the States, I might be on the verge of figuring out why this is. Here they seem to mean that you have come to a point where you understand that there is something beyond the material, beyond body, beyond religion, and perhaps even beyond death. Back in Sweden we have other expressions for that - “becoming older” is one of them. This is all well and good. However, in the States there also seems to be a tendency to use the expressions as moving towards the light, the pure, the untouched. This is where the cultural glitch comes in. 

You have to understand that I come from a country where the most popular Christmas tv-show is directed by Ingmar Bergman. And yes, it is just as dark and morose as you would expect it to be. There is a wonderful interview with Bergman that he did many years ago, today available on YouTube, where Bergman casually, even proudly, presents the interviewer with a handwritten note that lists all his inner demons. Reading through the list, Bergman meticulously explains each and every one of his demons, and how they affect his life. “The worst demon is the Disaster Demon,” he says, and continues to explain why. The list goes on. With Bergman’s own words, “There are an enormous amount of them.” There we are. The Swedish psyche on a handwritten note. 

In addition, the concepts of “enlightenment “and “awakening” in the States often seems to be initiated by a dismantling of a fairly sweet world-view. A painful discernment of the world of a sort. This is sometimes referred to as a Kundalini awakening, brushing away all known and true, opening for something larger. In Sweden we call that a nervous breakdown. I am not being cynical. After all, if you grow up in a country with two months of summer on a good year, and a Bergman movie as your Christmas special, a nervous breakdown here and there is not such a big deal. It is expected. To tell you the truth, we take pride in it. When life gets tough we take our best friend for a walk or meet up with our family and get terribly buzzed and pour out all our shortcomings and silliness until we can take no more and either cry sentimentally or laugh our heads off. Next day we go back to work, or life in general, and feel a little better about our place in the world.

Granted, my skepticism towards “enlightenment” and “awakening” is also enhanced by the fact that I’m married to a guy who just happens to have interacted with most teachers, gurus and icons of the New Age arena that you can imagine. Michael’s back-room stories are hilarious. But, not always flattering. Whatever position, the enlightened all have feet of clay. The best-selling author of the-book-on-perfect-relationships cannot hold down an intimate relationship of her own that lasts for more than six months. The harmonious-living-expert is a nasty piece of work that get lawsuits for sexual harassment. The list goes on - just as Bergman’s list of inner demons. My point is not that these teachers’ contributions are not important. They are. My point is that we all have inner demons, and we all have feet of clay. None is more enlightened or awakened than the next person. Frankly, all we can do is stumble along best we can and learn from each other along the way. Which is why I love publishing The Echo World. It is filled with material for the spiritual stumblers … sorry, I mean spiritual seekers or practitioners. 

Speaking of beloved feet-of-clay New Age icons - I hope you haven’t missed Michael’s tell-all-personal story of his interactions with Carlos Castaneda in the previous July issue. This issue contains Part 2. As one of our excellent proofreaders, Susan, put it: “This article is kind of wild.”
So, let’s continue our wild ride of sharing spiritual and alternative knowledge. You, or I, might even get enlightened. If you do, let me know your insights. As an end-note. I may not be part of bringing you enlightenment. But, I am part of bringing you some real good alternative, spiritual information you can find nowhere else.

This is my editorial for the August issue of The Echo World

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