Students achieving 'oneness' will move on to 'twoness.'
-- Woody Allen

Some individuals have professed to reach a state of "enlightenment", in which they go beyond human cares and limitations, become one with the universe, and experience an elemental perfection that literally cannot be imagined.

I am sure this is an amazing, rewarding state of mind -- but one has to recognize that it also has much in common with addictive states of minds achieved through drugs, romantic love or other means.

Many states of mind have the property that, when you're in them, you think they're the most important thing in the world.

Then once you get out of them, later, you wonder how you ever felt they were quite that essential.

From a neurological perspective (which I stress is not the only valuable one!), enlightenment may be a bit like these -- except it's a more powerful "attractor", and once you're in, you don't get out.

I wouldn't want to trivialize the amazing experience that some individuals call "enlightenment." Yet I'd hesitate to classify any state of consciousness as absolute perfection even if, in some sense, it tells you it is.

Of course not all "enlightened masters" do classify their states as perfection -- not surprisingly, the rhetoric surrounding "states of mind beyond description" becomes subtle, ironic and paradoxical.

And of course, from the point of view of First, putting any experience in a labeled box (like "enlightened" or "perfect") is irrelevant -- labels are Third anyway. Enlightenment is about experiencing First as First and not mixing up its pure Firstness with the tangle of relationship. When you're meditating and you start to ponder or perceive some relationship and enter the realm of Third, the Firstness of that Third becomes apparent -- and you're back to the Firstness of First again. (And of course, this paragraph, which indulges in the dubious amusement of relating enlightenment to Peircean categories, is just another Third, which --)

One wonders if yet deeper and more amazing "enlightened states" could emerge from minds associated with more powerful cognitive architectures than the human brain.

Beyond Enlightenment?

Profound as enlightenment is from its own perspective -- it seems to have its limitations, from a pragmatic view.

It's well worth noting that in human history, enlightenment seems to be anticorrelated with some other valuable things, such as deep scientific, mathematical or engineering creation.

What might the reason for this be?

Quite possibly, maintaining mental purity is difficult for our feeble human minds, so that it consumes most of our resources, not leaving much for anything else.

Might more powerful minds than humans be able to maintain the exaltation of enlightenment while also effectively pursuing activities requiring deep analytical thinking?

Could improvements to our cognitive architecture obsolete the dilemma between enlightenment and creative productivity?

1 comment:

  1. Didja hear the one about the zen philosopher at the hot dog stand? He said: "Make me one with everything."

    Then, he handed over a $20. After he got his hot dog, he stood their with his hand out. The hot dog vendor said "Change comes only from within."

    Courtesy of Christopher Hitchens.