Enlightenment is a term used in occultism, mysticism, and
Eastern religions to denote the awakening to andor appropriation
of the highest and most essential truths of the universe.
Enlightenment usually includes an intellectual mastery of the
teachings of a particular tradition, the personal mastery of various
occult techniques (spiritual disciplines), the direct contact
with and embodiment of the highest divine realities, and the
social acknowledgment of the enlightened one’s accomplishments
by at least a small community of students or followers.
Enlightened teachers may claim authority from their having
studied personally with an enlightened master who transmitted
hisher wisdom and acknowledged that transmission more or
less publicly. Others may have engaged in a systematic study of
a tradition that included both the study of tests and the practice
of a guarded set of spiritual disciplines. Acknowledgment of enlightenment
in such cases is due not so much to the status of
one’s teacher but to the passing of a set of standard initiations.
In many Western initiatory systems, the highest grades of enlightenment
are self-proclaimed and then verified by one’s
fruits. Of course, new groups often arise when a student reaches
the higher levels of accomplishment only to reach a very new
or different understanding of the universe.
Most enlightened teachers offer students a system of practice,
some form of yoga or meditation being the most popular.
It is generally assumed that the teacher has followed this method
successfully and that their success offers hope that the student
can also attain enlightenment by perpetuating the master’s
course of action. Having followed the path, the master
provides evidence of hisher contact with higher realities and
hisher embodiment of them. One of the most obvious examples
is the kundalini yoga teacher who offers students the experience
of shaktipat, the transfer of energy from the master
to the student to initiate the enlightenment process. Others
demonstrate their contact with the divine by the aura of sanctity
that encompasses them, the wisdom of their words, andor the
austerity of their lives, although it often comes in the demonstration
of their ability to speak directly to the immediate situation
of a particular student (a sign that they have experienced
and already passed that situation).
Enlightened teachers make claims to have perceived occult
(that is, hidden) realities. Though ultimately no acknowledgment
of that status should be necessary, if they are to become
teachers, they generally find confirmation of their status in a
social context. Confirmation of an enlightened master’s status
may be partially based upon outward accomplishments, but
also always has an element of subjectivity since the members
making the profession do not have access to the levels of reality
to which the master has claimed access. Members of most occult,
mystical, and Eastern religions will profess a belief in the
enlightened status of their leader, while occasionally questioning
the enlightenment of the leaders of rival groups. People
who leave a group will often justify their action by claiming a
loss of belief in the enlightened status of their former teacher.
Underlying any discussion of enlightenment is a belief that
our perception of the ordinary world of waking consciousness
is distorted, lost in illusion. Matter is less than real, and the avenue
to the real world is found in the inner search, through a
change in consciousness, through a gaining of a new perception
of reality.
British scholar Andrew Rawlinson, who has made the most
extensive study of modern teachers considered to be enlightened
by their followers, has noted several basic approaches to
the topic. One set of teachers generally holds that enlightenment
is a state to be attained. To become enlightened requires
a lengthy period devoted to spiritual practices, possibly over
several lifetimes. The wide variance in the recommended practice
(yoga, meditation, occult development, prayer and chanting,
magic) is the major item distinguishing these types of
groups. Some of the more advanced practitioners of a spiritual
discipline may in fact be picking up their accomplishments
from a previous lifetime.
Another set of teachers feels that enlightenment is an inherent
quality of human existence. The divine is the only reality
and all we have to do is wake up to that fact. As humans are in
essence divine, the whole of reality is immediately accessible.
In these cases, exemplified by some forms of Advaita Vedanta
and Zen Buddhism, the teacher’s job is to place the student in
situations where they are likely to grasp the truth. Enlightenment
comes not from mastering the environment, even if that
is an inner environment, but from an act of self-realization.
In the case of the former understanding of enlightenment,
the condition under which most occult teachers operate, the
world is generally considered to be divided into a complex set
of layers, the visible world being but the lowest. These various
layers emanate from the divine. Enlightenment comes from accessing
the highest levels of spiritual reality. An enlightened
teacher would not only have accessed those higher levels, but
be capable of communicating some elements of those higher
realities to others and of assisting their disciples in their movement
upward. In most occult systems, people who have accessed
the lower levels may possess various occult abilities, a
Enlightenment Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
sign that they have at least begun the pathway to enlightenment,
though they would not yet be considered enlightened.
Rawlinson has made important observations concerning the
unique situation in the modern West in which a variety of enlightened
teachers are available to the average seeker, who may
compare and contrast their personal suitability.
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Calif. Moksha Foundation, 1991.
Enomiya-Lassalle, Hugo. Zen Way to Enlightenment. Marlboro,
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Hixon, Len. Coming Home The Experience of Enlightenment in
Sacred Traditions. Burdett, N.Y. Larson Publications, 1995.
Ichazo, Oscar. The Human Process for Enlightenment and Freedom
A Series of Five Lectures. New York Arica Institute Press,
Lozowick, Leo. The Book of UnenlightenmentThe Yoga of Enlightenment.
Prescott Valley, Ariz. Hohm Press, 1980.
Melton, J. Gordon. Finding Enlightenment Ramtha’s Ancient
School of Wisdom. Hillsboro, Ore. Beyond Words, 1998.
Millman, Dan. Everyday Enlightenment. New York Warner
Books, 1998.
Rawlinson, Andrew. The Book of Enlightened Masters. Chicago
Open Court Publishing, 1997.