Enlightenment? Or a Cold Beer Instead?

MAYA, MIRROR OF ILLUSIONS by A.B. Davies
What is this thing called "enlightenment" and why would one want it?

I've got nothing against the concept: I just want to know what the specific benefits are. As it says in the poem in the previous post (below): One wonders why oneness is set as a goal.

Unfortunately, there's not much hard info on the benefits of enlightenment, nor on what it is exactly or how it manifests or how to achieve it. It's one of those slippery words/concepts, like "God", that can mean many things to many people. Conveniently though, we can identify a small number of broad themes to help make sense of all the detail.

Enlightenment is believed to involve:

  • escaping the endless cycle of reincarnation -- the recurring samsara of birth, death, rebirth -- in which every soul is believed to be trapped
  • quantum entanglement in the biological sense, ie being "at one" with all living things
  • getting closer to God (I don't know what "closer" or what "God" means; but some people do, apparently)
  • absence of personal identity, or the state in which one finds oneself after losing oneself
  • living outside of time / "living in the now", a technique believed to lighten the (alleged) psychological burden of regrets about the past and anxieties about the future
  • accessing lost or secret knowledge about how things really work, and our individual roles in the process
  • seeing through the illusion, the maya, of a time-bound, material world in which everything is relative to every other thing, and nothing stands still long enough to be real.
Some would say that the above are pretty cool -- awesome, even wicked! -- and that they comprise "worthy goals". In fact there seems to be the default assumption that achieving enlightenment is a worthy goal. Is it really that clear-cut? Many people see extinguishment of their personal identity as something to be avoided at all costs, not embraced with joy. Where's the satisfaction in achieving something if you're not around to be satisfied?

To be fair though, extinguishment of personal identity is included as an outcome of becoming enlightened only in some models of enlightenment, not all.

So, why would one want to become enlightened? Where's the WIIFM in being no more than a link in the great chain of being?

An idea that is one of enlightenment's fellow travellers is that this world, this life is horrible and nasty and full of pain and suffering. (Or, per Hobbes: nasty, brutish and short.) Yet in this unenlightened world, people experience great joy, love, clarity and fulfilment. Is that joy an illusion? Is their fulfilment unreal? Is Love mere chemistry? And if it is, so what? It's enjoyable to feel happy. In fact, it makes one happy to feel happy, illusion or not.

Enlightenment offers (or seems to offer) the opportunity to escape, not only the cycle of birth, death and rebirth, but also the responsibility for the outcomes of prior actions. Nor does throwing "karma" into the mix change anything. Because even if there is such a thing as "karma" and even if it works in the way that it is commonly said to work, there will always be people who believe -- correctly or incorrectly -- that they can escape the consequences of their actions. An illusion can produce non-illusory effects in reality!

And on the subject of illusions, you've probably heard or read somewhere that "time is just an illusion" or that "time does not exist". Dubious. Fishy. Time may be not what we think it is; it may be an illusion. But it's a real illusion. The illusion exists. Otherwise, how could we talk about it?

And it's a very specific illusion, related to the experience that people say they have of "the passage of time", the sequence and flow of events in reality. We're told that time is an illusion, that there is no sequence and flow of events, but rather that everything happens at once. We're told that time is not what we think it is, not what we feel it is; it's something else, eg an illusion. But there's something there, isn't there? If time is an illusion, it's incorrect to say that time doesn't exist.

According to Einstein, there is no absolute time, no Governing Clock of the Universe. There is no right time, ever. Whatever time is, it's relative. But it does exist. As do all of those things that are said not to exist because of their being mere illusions, epiphenomena: Life, Consciousness and Causality, to name but a few. We don't understand what they are or how they work. But our inadequacy makes them no less real.

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eBooks by Cosmic Rapture
(for kindle, tablet, smartphone or e-reader.)

NIGHTMERRIES: THE LIGHTER SIDE OF DARKNESS. This so-called "book" will chew you up, spit you out, and leave you twitching and frothing on the carpet. More than 60 dark and feculent fictions (read ‘em and weep) copiously and grotesquely illustrated.

AWAREWOLF & OTHER CRHYMES AGAINST HUMANITY (Vot could be Verse?). We all hate poetry, right? But we might make an exception for this sick and twisted stuff. This devil's banquet of adults-only offal features more than 50 satanic sonnets, vitriolic verses and odious odes.

MANIC MEMES & OTHER MINDSPACE INVADERS. A disturbing repository of quirky quotes, sayings, proverbs, maxims, ponderances, adages and aphorisms. This menagerie holds no fewer than 184 memes from eight meme-species perfectly adapted to their respective environments.

MASTRESS & OTHER TWISTED TAILS. An unholy corpus of oddities, strangelings, bizarritudes and peculiaritisms, including but not limited to barbaric episodes of herring-flinging and kipper-kissing. A cacklingly bizarre read that may induce fatal hysteria. Not Recommended!

FIENDS & FREAKS and serpents, dragons, devils, lobsters, anguished spirits, hungry ghosts, hell-beings, zombies, organ-grinders, anti-gods, gods and other horse-thieves you wouldn't want to meet in a dark cosmos. Immature Content! Adults Maybe.

HAGS TO HAGGIS. An obnoxious folio featuring a puke of whiskey-soaked war-nags, witches, maniacs, manticores and escapegoats. Not to mention (please don't!) debottlenecking and desilofication, illustrated. Take your brain for a walk on the wild side. Leave your guts behind.