Excerpts About Illumination

Even though I am mentioning the progressive view of the teaching, when I say that realization or awakening or enlightenment is nothing but the self-illumination of true nature, I mean that this self-illumination is happening from the beginning of spiritual practice. I don’t mean that at the beginning we are responsible for realization and that, at some point, true nature steps in. Every single time we experience and understand something about reality, it is true nature illuminating itself. When this illumination happens in a more total way, we call it awakening or realization or enlightenment. This perspective of the dynamic of realization—the relationship of practice and awakening—is an antidote to the delusion that we are liberating ourselves through our own individual efforts and capacities. When we side with this delusion, we are appropriating the liberating power of true nature. We are appropriating the light of true nature, its intelligence and clarity and awareness. The theistic traditions have useful measures to counteract this human tendency to appropriate. They make it clear that we are always at God’s mercy, that whatever good we derive is from God, that we are in a state of paucity and insufficiency. We are told from the beginning that whatever light, whatever intelligence, whatever illumination, whatever goodness arises is always a blessing, is always grace.

The Alchemy of Freedom, p. 96   •  discuss »

True nature, the unsullied purity at the heart of Total Being, which is all of reality, is pure illumination, is the light that illuminates and the goodness that loves. And it acts and functions through individuals, through what we ordinarily believe is our intelligence, our heart, and our will. But when we say “our will,” the point is to distinguish it from another person’s will, not to distinguish it from the will of true nature. This is part of our human error: In order to distinguish our uniqueness from another uniqueness, we end up disconnecting ourselves from the ground of all our capacities. We need to be extra subtle here because this language can be misleading. When I say it is “our human error,” I do not mean that there are actually separate human beings making errors; it is always Total Being, which appears in this case as human beings.

The Alchemy of Freedom, p. 101   •  discuss »

We have been exploring the mechanics of illumination, awakening, and realization, and although I have been using these words interchangeably, there are differences between them. By considering these differences and understanding them, they can reveal our experience and our reality more clearly. By “illumination” I mean any understanding, whether it is of our personal issues or our process or something about true nature. An illumination is when the meaning or significance of something that we are encountering or experiencing is revealed in a clear way. So an illumination is any experience of further understanding, including insight, awakening, realization, and enlightenment. These experiences are illuminations because in all of them the spiritual light is illuminating something, whether it is illuminating itself or illuminating one of its manifestations. So “illumination” is a more general term.

The Alchemy of Freedom, p. 153   •  discuss »

I, as the soul, behold the absolute appearing in the heart, occupying it as its rightful resident. The heart beholds the absolute as the most beautiful thing my eyes have ever beheld. It is dazzling and intoxicating, so black it is brilliant with blackness. It is nothing, but it shimmers and shines in such a dazzling way that I can see it has a crystalline quality. It is an infinite black crystal absence, brilliantly shimmering. The radiance is so bright it illuminates the cave of the heart the way a lightning storm illuminates the night. The lightning illumination ricochets in the cavern of the heart with such power I can hear it thundering and exploding. The beloved now claims the heart fully. It has taken full possession of it, as its own throne. The beloved is not an other, it is the true dweller of the heart, my source, my ultimate self, and the ultimate essence of everything. I am struck by the realization that in this experience I perceive the absolute for the first time in the heart, by the heart. The absolute is perceived inside the soul, by the soul. The heart reveals itself to be the abode of the absolute. More exactly, the heart is the window to the absolute. I have experienced the absolute many times before, almost continuously, but not in the heart, and not through the individual soul.

Luminous Night's Journey, p. 80   •  discuss »

Inquiry includes other elements such as knowledge, observation, awareness, concentration, reflection, intelligence, and so on. Yet questioning stands as the central initiating process that acts on all these others, integrating and directing them toward a specific object of investigation. Therefore, to learn to inquire, we first need to learn about questions and questioning. We need to liberate our questioning mind and to expand the dynamic openness at the center of our questions. Inquiry then becomes the manifestation of unknowingness in our experience and the moving toward illuminating this unknowingness. This illumination of unknowingness becomes the emergence, the arising, of new dimensions of experience, the unfoldment of our soul. To learn to inquire means to learn to question your experience in a way that will cause it to unfold.

Spacecruiser Inquiry, p. 107   •  discuss »

The intelligence I am referring to is inherent in our Being, a specific aspect of Essence that characterizes the optimizing force of Being’s dynamism. This optimizing force is movement toward greater and greater illumination. Illumination, when it becomes intense, is brilliance. Brilliancy is intelligence. So intelligence is the organic recognition and responsiveness within the process of inquiry that skillfully moves it toward more optimization—which means more awareness, more light, more love, more expansion, more depth, more significance. However, our organic intelligence can illuminate our inquiry only when two things happen. First, we must have the direct data of our observation, arising from our global awareness of what is going on here and now. And second, we need to use our ordinary knowledge appropriately to inform us of what we have observed in the past. As we have seen, there is a place for ordinary knowledge, as long as we know how to use it intelligently. But ordinary knowledge by itself won’t work without the raw data of direct observation. And these two together will do nothing for our inquiry if we don’t have the dynamic openness. All of these elements need to operate as one in a field of openness that emerges as a dynamic questioning that invites experience to open up, unfold, and flower. Then our inquiry is full of wonder, a thrilling and satisfying adventure, taking us to places maybe no one has gone before.

Spacecruiser Inquiry, p. 119   •  discuss »

The aspect of intelligence is a constant explosion or illumination. The illumination that is always and continuously illuminating is the presence of the aspect itself. The presence and the illumination are one and the same, like the sun and its light. This constant illumination, or exploding, is the functioning of intelligence. But it is not illuminating or exploding in a haphazard way. It is very intelligent, and it is organic intelligence in the sense that it is different than a computer kind of intelligence—it’s not simply associating this with this, that with that, and then putting all these things together and arriving at an outcome. Essential intelligence is more innate, more intuitive. Connecting things the way the computer does is similar to what we call reasoning or thinking—which can be intelligent or not. I don’t think it is accurate to call the functioning of computers artificial intelligence, because it is not really intelligence. You could perhaps say “artificial logic” or “artificial thinking.” But intelligence is something else. A computer does not have the quality of consciousness I am calling intelligence.

Brilliancy, p. 14   •  discuss »

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