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Spiritual Enlightenment

Spiritual Enlightenment is, for me, a frustrating concept. The language implies that it is the pinnacle of development, and yet the standard translation of the term in our culture seems inherently conflicted. Perhaps I should break it down.

What is "spiritual?" Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (© 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.) gives the following definitions

  1. Consisting of spirit; not material; incorporeal; as, a spiritual substance or being.
  2. Of or pertaining to the intellectual and higher endowments of the mind; mental; intellectual.
  3. Of or pertaining to the moral feelings or states of the soul, as distinguished from the external actions; reaching and affecting the spirits.
  4. Of or pertaining to the soul or its affections as influenced by the Spirit; controlled and inspired by the divine Spirit; proceeding from the Holy Spirit; pure; holy; divine; heavenly-minded; -- opposed to carnal.
  5. Not lay or temporal; relating to sacred things; ecclesiastical; as, the spiritual functions of the clergy; lords spiritual and temporal; a spiritual corporation.

Clearly, the word "spiritual" refers to things not of this world.

And "Enlightenment?" Webster's gives the following less-than-useful definition

Act of enlightening, or the state of being enlightened or instructed.

Turning then to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language (Fourth Edition

Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company), we get the following definitions

  1. a. The act or a means of enlightening.
  2. b. The state of being enlightened.
  3. [The Enlightenment] A philosophical movement of the 18th century that emphasized the use of reason to scrutinize previously accepted doctrines and traditions and that brought about many humanitarian reforms.
  4. Buddhism & Hinduism. A blessed state in which the individual transcends desire and suffering and attains Nirvana.

Again we have something ill-defined outside of the Buddhist/Hindu definition. That definition speaks of transcending "desire and suffering," both presumed to be negative impacts on life.

So the net result that I see as the definition of "Spiritual Enlightenment" is "Moving beyond the needs and desires of the physical realm, into a non-physical, presumably more advanced, state of awareness."

The very definition of this term presents humanity with a conflict. Presumably, we are here in this very physical world for a reason. Apparently that reason, according to this theory, is to get off this world by growing beyond it.

So... if the reason we were put here is to get away from here... what lunatics are we that we are here at all? Children do not learn to swim on land, nor do they learn to walk underwater. Why exactly then do so many people assume that humanity is here to get away? And why is our beautiful world a place we should want to leave?

I absolutely and wholeheartedly reject this concept in its entirety. If you wish to presuppose we were put here by some other being, then I do not agree that said being put us here merely to escape - that makes him a cosmic jailor, and no prison that I can think of is as glorious as Our Lady. If you wish to presuppose that we came here of our own will, then I do not agree that the entire reason we came is to learn to get away - I give my "higher self" more credit for intelligence than that.

More insidious than this is the implied disregard for the earth in the common concept of "spiritual enlightenment." It makes the land something to be discarded, cast aside as we grow and progress. Our Lady becomes nothing more than a schoolroom at best, and is a poor second to this mythical heavenly place, or the Garden of Eden. She no longer matters; at best she is nothing but a source of tools for our hands, and at worst she becomes the expression of all that we are to reject. It is of no moment that we destroy our brothers and sisters on this planet; they are less than we.

And this is the goal of humanity? Somehow, I think not.

-Jaelle 9/13/2004

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