I was raised a Catholic and so was very used to the concept of Heaven – you live a good life and ultimately you will be rewarded by eternal bliss in Heaven with God. You only had this life to get it right and all was about clawing our way into God’s favour and being rewarded by Him (of course – ‘Him’) for our efforts.
So as I gradually moved away from Catholicism as a way of life and started to consider a more spiritual approach. I came across the word ‘enlightenment’ and for a while I replaced ‘Heaven’ with ‘enlightenment’, while at the same time beginning to see the idea that we only had one lifetime, as untenable. So my beliefs evolved to include reincarnation – you keep coming back until you’ve got it right and THEN you reach enlightenment. So enlightenment was still synonymous with Heaven but now I believed you had many lifetimes to reach it. In fact, I used to have an intention that it was THIS lifetime that was going to be my last – I intended to get off the rebirthing wheel. An arrogant thought to assess my supposed enlightenment as being only one lifetime away!
My thinking, reflection and reading continued and I began to realise that enlightenment is not an end point but is more of a gradual awakening to a part of me that is connected to a universal consciousness and that part is my soul. Not only that – everyone else’s soul is also connected to the same universal consciousness – the differences that are seen between people are ego differences not soul differences.
There are still many ideas around the concept of 'enlightenment' that I find particularly unhelpful for our spiritual journeys and it is those I want to address. So let’s look at four ideas which I think are myths about enlightenment.
The soul is perfect and we humans need to strive for perfection so that we can make soul contact and thus become enlightened.
If we see soul contact as an end in itself i.e. at that point we will be in our highest state of awareness, then we are naturally going to strive for soul contact above all else. But suppose the soul itself is evolving? If it is a living entity then it will also be subject to the evolutionary process. And maybe the soul is only perfect in its potentiality – to express its own divinity. Our view about this will depend on how we see the concept of the soul. If the soul is perfect why does it keep cloaking itself in a reincarnated human form? Why doesn’t it stay in the bliss from which it came? Maybe because the soul seeks to know itself as Divine Essence and bring it into expression though a lived life? That makes much more sense to me. So it’s less about making soul contact and more about aligning our human personality/ego in order that the ego can become the tool of the soul.
We need to monitor our spiritual progress
Reflect yes, monitor no. We actually have no idea where we are in our spiritual evolutionary process – and who is it anyway that would be doing the monitoring? The ego of course! Our ego wants to increase its own importance so would love to take pride in how advanced it thinks the soul is – because actually it likes to see itself AS the soul. (And will often try and direct us with this pretense). The reality is that wherever we think we are, we are probably MUCH further back! We can monitor our human progress but best to leave our spiritual progress to the soul to handle!
The more enlightened we are, the more we only see the light in others
I hear of, and read of, many people who think that they should only concentrate on people’s highest selves irrespective of the behaviour they are exhibiting. So abusive, manipulative, harmful behaviour is ignored or tolerated and therefore condoned. I would say that it IS important to be aware that people are more than their pain, more than their behaviour – that they also have a soul which is seeking to express itself. And we can hold that awareness even as we deal with their human behaviour but ‘seeing their light’ should not blind us to personality/ego behaviour which needs to be challenged.
Being enlightened/aware means we will have fewer problems in our lives
So we start to have an expectation of a perfect life free of conflict and pain. But our spiritual journey is not about creating a perfect life – it’s about dealing differently with the life we have. Because if we don’t meet our own expectations and we find ourselves slipping back into old patterns, the danger is that we see ourselves as failing a test and then beat ourselves up about it. We need to remember that beating ourselves up is simply just another pattern – but it is the ultimate pattern to be broken. By learning to recognize and break the pattern of criticising and beating ourselves up, the essence of our true self can flow through and create a change in our perception and then a change in our experience of ourselves and of our lives. The soul will always give us the situations and environments that will aid our spiritual evolution – so our life won’t necessarily consist of fewer problems and less pain, but we will constantly have the opportunity to see an expanded view of the spiritual purpose of everyone and everything in our lives, and we will have the soul’s awareness to guide us as we integrate with, and express our divine essence more fully.