Monday, March 24, 2008


The query about what enlightenment meant to me needs perhaps a tad more:

Long ago and far away, I had a moment. A connection got made. It didn't put me on a par with Jesus or Buddha or Mohammad, but it was Relampago Santo -- the holy lightning. It burned a hole my my consciousness and let the cosmos in.

Like zen, it's impossible to explain to somebody who hasn't experienced it, but the essence was that, for a brief and blinding moment, I felt the flow of the universe. My part in it, and where all the other pieces were, and why. The good, the bad, and the ugly, and how they all meshed. The essential rightness of it, as if I somehow beheld it all.

Only a moment, then it was gone. I heard the echo for a long time, and I can remember what it felt like almost four decades later. It was in the most mundane place you can imagine: Standing in the checkout line at a supermarket on Winbourne Ave., just off the Airline Highway, in North Baton Rouge, about to buy a bottle of Boone's Farm Apple Wine.

I was not seeking it. Not expecting it. It hit me zap, just like that. Stone, cold sober.

The woman in front of me turned around, looked at my face, grinned, and said, "Oh, yeah!"

Was I touched by the finger of God? Or did I get a neuron zapped by a rare subatomic particle? Is it the same thing? Was it a total hallucination? I can't say -- but I know how it felt. I believed it was real. A door opened, a glimpse, but that was all I got.

What I think enlightenment is?

You get to live on the other side of that door.


Kai Jones said...

I get glimpses of my enlightenment in the periphery of your description, but your conclusion escapes me.

Steve Perry said...

Is that because you don't understand it? Or maybe not agree with it? Or that you haven't found what you are hunting yet?

Kai Jones said...

All three, I think.

Brad said...

My feelings on it pretty much parallel yours. The brief glimpses I've had (while trying and more so when not trying) are pretty much the same. Some differences subtle enough they can't be described, only felt, are there to be sure.

Probably change my viewpoint as my understanding of what I'm looking for changes or clarifies.

Steve Perry said...

It's a long and winding road ...

Kai Jones said...

I'm not even sure I share the goals; I don't think my enlightenment is close enough to yours, nor is mine something I would live in 24/7. It's not an achievement, it's a practice. It's the exercise of flexible uncertainty.

Kai Jones said...

I'm not good with words, can you tell? ;)

Bobbe Edmonds said...

I've never had anything that far-encompassing. All my moments have been brief spurts of knowledge or comprehension that have propelled me to the next level, or opened up one more neuromuscular/psychological inhibition. Like what we were speaking of yesterday, your advice opening up a new path of understanding for me...I still don't have all the parts, but suddenly I am further along the path of being an author.

But I've never felt touched by something higher. The clouds have never parted and everything was in accord with the universe.

Steve Perry said...

Different definition -- for me, enlightenment is an achievement. I don't know how to get there for sure, but I have an idea of what it looks like because I got a peek. And from all the research I've done on cosmic consciousness and various spiritual states, it seems in line with those.

What it means to others is not for me to say.

Practice is something else for me. Meditation, yoga, martial arts, those are methods, and while they can be ways to get down a spiritual path, they can also be ends unto themselves.

Many roads up the mountain, on my hillside.

I love the story Ram Dass told the time we went to see him. He said, he had been giving a lecture, and there was an old lady in the front row, crocheting. He'd make some esoteric spiritual comment, and she'd smile and nod, and he realized that she understood what he was saying.

Afterwards, he went over to her, curious about where she had studied. "Have you done a lot of spiritual training?" he asked.

"Oh, no," she said. "I crochet."

mdpii said...

Thanks for writing more on enlightment and your experience with it. It does make me curious as to your experience with it. Of course this is a most personal thing, but

you are a writer!


Steve Perry said...

I'm good with words on paper, but deep personal experiences engage one on levels that are difficult to communicate. The classic example of word failure is, how would you describe the color red to somebody blind from birth?

You can't, really. Terms we use to modify colors, like "warm" or "cool," have no meaning without a reference. You can hold a warm cloth or a ice cube in your hand and understand what we mean by those terms, but how would somebody relate either of those to "red?"

It was an experience. I can describe what I felt in detail, but it's like trying to convey the painting of the Mona LIsa by describing its shadow on the wall.

After my Big Rush, I began to look around to see what, if anything, there was written about it. The first book I read on the subject, back when, was written by Richard Maurice Bucke, in 1901.

Here's what the wiki ( says about it.

"In 1872, while in London, England, Bucke had the pivotal experience of his life, a fleeting mystical or cognitive experience that he regarded as a few moments of "cosmic consciousness." Bucke described the characteristics and effects of this "faculty" as follows: sudden appearance; subjective experience of light (inner light); moral elevation; intellectual illumination; sense of immortality; loss of fear of death; loss of a sense of sin. However, the term "cosmic consciousness" more closely derives from yet another feature: the vivid sense of the universe as a living presence, rather than as basically lifeless, inert matter."

And that pretty much was exactly what I felt. I was amazed that somebody had experienced the same thing a hundred years earlier and had written about it; it was as if he had been inside my head. And essentially, he had been.

A hundred years is nothing, however. Most religions address this experience, using different terminology, and it has been around forever. People who aren't religious per se sometimes point at spiritual adepts and say this is what set them apart from their fellows; that a variation of this revelation drove many, if not most, holy men and women through the ages.

I dunno if that's so. But I can certainly understand how it might. At the core of my rush was a feeling, right down to my cells, that everything -- everything -- was ALL ... RIGHT. Not that it was good or bad or that I wasn't going to die, but that the universe was, as Desiderata offered, unfolding as it should.

Best I can do.

J.D. Ray said...

Maybe you glimpsed that the universe has a system, and while you can't identify how it works, you at least noted that there was one, and it is working.


Steve Perry said...

Again, I dunno. I'm not the guy to be leading anybody down the path to enlightenment, I'm just sayin' what my personal experience was.

I think enlightenment means you can stay in that place I caught a quick peek at. From what I can glean from the literature, Jesus and Buddha and Mohammad and Joan of Arc and a host of others, well-known or unheralded, had similar experiences, but defined in their terminologies. And that the ones who could walk through the door and take up residence were the true holy ones among us.

It's hard to imagine living there. It would seem to be like a constant mental, spiritual, and physical orgasm.

Cosmic consciousness could just as easily be termed touching the face of God, from what I understand.

Many people strive for most of their lives to get to that place, and I got there unexpectedly without trying. Much of what I have studied since offers another chance to reach that same door.

I'm of two minds: One, I would love to experience it again, because I know exactly what I am missing.

Two, having been there, it isn't really necessary to go back in the same way.

Working hard to become enlightened is kind of like trying to relax.

Or, as Jon Stewart says, Here is your moment of zen ...