Spiritual awareness is an ever-continuing process. It is not a final attainment. That means that the people who claim that there is a final state of enlightenment are confused by a common misunderstanding about what enlightenment is. They have been taught that a person somehow becomes enlightened, as if there is a pre-enlightened state, and then a post-enlightened state.
Stories that take place in a conveniently ancient time claim that after a seeker had some special experiences, the person became totally and permanently enlightened. It is very convenient that it takes place in an ancient time, isn’t it? And you won’t be surprised to hear that this person, after their enlightenment experience, magically understood everything in the universe there was to know.
If you like to believe such stories, without asking deeper questions about the situation, then enjoy them as mystical tales, but don’t take them literally.
What really happened in those ancient stories? The person described in such stories had a consciousness changing experience. Well, that’s wonderful — for them. But there are many details left out of these stories. Most of all, such accounts seem to always assume that when someone has had a consciousness changing experience, and that experience is named as enlightenment, that this means that the person became entirely and perfectly aware of all things.
Why do these spiritual stories claim that this complete, one hundred percent enlightenment is exactly what took place? The stories have to claim that, because if the stories were realistic, then they wouldn’t become larger-than-life mythic accounts. If the stories were realistic, they would be recognized for what they really are — accounts of people who had their own personal transformational experience.
You are in a continual process of spiritual evolution
Actually, you are in a continual state of awareness expansion. You are learning in each moment of every day — your soul is maturing. You could say that the older souls who have a deeper universal perspective have a more enlightened perspective than younger souls. They are relatively more aware. And that suggests that enlightenment describes a gradual process, rather than a permanent condition.
Many well-intentioned teachers have repeated what they have been told about enlightenment. For many years, people assumed that enlightenment was a permanent condition — once you’re there, you’re automatically enlightened forever. Over the centuries, many teachers have tended to label certain people as enlightened, and most others as unenlightened.
The idea that certain people are permanently enlightened makes many spiritual students feel secure, because it makes the universe seem tidy and easy to understand — just like a school, where you take advanced degrees, and finally you graduate to enlightenment. And then, when you have that advanced degree, everyone knows that you are an officially acknowledged expert. Or, are you?
Having a college degree may, or may not, mean that you are truly skilled. Not having a degree doesn’t mean that you are any more or less skilled, either. You have to assess each person individually, and that means that your world is not quite as tidy and compartmentalized as you would like it to be.
If having a degree doesn’t prove anything, this is even truer when you consider spiritual attainment. The inability to categorize people may worry many spiritual students, and it makes them feel insecure. If there is no such thing as being officially enlightened, then how do you properly categorize people as truly spiritual?
What if you had no definite way to know if someone was enlightened or not? But maybe that is the wrong question. Here is an inspiring possibility — maybe you can stop asking whether someone is enlightened, and start asking more useful questions. But to form those questions, you need to realize that this is a universe of vibrations, and everyone is expressing their own unique combination of vibrations.
Everyone is participating in the spectrum of consciousness
There is a spectrum of consciousness, from unaware, to very aware. It is a vast spectrum, with infinite degrees of subtle variations within it. You are within that spectrum of consciousness. And everyone is participating in this one broad spectrum of consciousness as well.
You could even call it the Continuum Of Enlightenment. It is like a big community that everyone is a member of. Everyone is in that spectrum, expressing varying degrees of awareness.
However, there is no specific point on that spectrum that is definitely enlightened. Rather, there are infinite degrees of enlightenment, from low to high. But, the high range stretches to infinity, and it has no limit. That means that your task is to become incrementally more aware than you were yesterday.
If enlightenment is the gradual expansion of awareness, and if awareness is unlimited, then your explorations in consciousness have no final completion place. There is no official ending place where you graduate. You will be capable of being more aware tomorrow than you are today. Awareness is always capable of becoming more aware — it is always seeking to become more conscious.
Even the person who seems enlightened to you is only relatively more enlightened than someone else. That so-called enlightened person is on the same spectrum of consciousness that you are on, exploring how to become more aware. From that person’s point of view, they are not yet enlightened — they realize that they will always have new vistas of consciousness to explore.
Illusions about being permanently free of problems
But what about those people who are confident that they have attained a permanently enlightened status? Beware — they are making a self-deluded mistake. They assume that there is such a thing as a permanent condition of enlightenment. Consciousness expansion is not so easy, however, because as you evolve, your sub-conscious patterns gradually surface.
When your patterns surface, you are surprised to find that the issues that you thought you had addressed years ago are still surfacing. They emerge from even deeper levels in your subconscious, but perhaps in a more subtle way than before. To acknowledge that this is happening requires that you humbly recognize that you aren’t quite as supremely aware as you had assumed. This is why people who have become ego-identified with their so-called enlightened status encounter serious problems.
It is difficult to name yourself as enlightened when you are still experiencing issues — so the would-be enlightened person must deny all problems. When people delude themselves that they are free of issues, they are not able to assess their actual problems clearly. This leads to self-deception, and self-deception leads to the negative, even destructive behavior that you sometimes see in spiritual teachers who have an inflated opinion of their spiritual power, their ability, their wisdom, or their spiritual status.
So everyone is on the Continuum Of Consciousness — or you could call it the Scale Of Enlightenment. Does this mean that everyone is the same? Not at all — everyone is different, because they are all expressing their unique vibration. That means that people have varying degrees of enlightenment — and their spiritual awareness is expressed in many unique and diverse ways.
For example, one person is able to access higher consciousness through their emotions, and another person is able to access higher consciousness through their mind. One person expresses higher consciousness through one of their chakras, and another person through a different chakra. There are infinite sub-categories for accessing higher consciousness, and everyone is doing this in their own distinctive way. So it is an over-simplification to assume that enlightenment is one thing.
Learn to notice these higher qualities within others, and within yourself. Notice that people have spiritual accomplishments, but notice, as well, that people are not perfect. They are still working on many of their aspects. Becoming aware of this can free you from regarding others as perfect, and it frees you to see everyone as they really are — beings who are expressing their range of qualities, and seeking to express their deeper potential
Your uniquely multi-faceted learning process
When you find that you are experiencing higher consciousness in one way or another, that doesn’t mean that you are entirely enlightened. It only means that you have some deeper awareness today that you didn’t have yesterday — just as the people in the ancient spiritual stories had their consciousness expanding experiences. Don’t get a special attitude, because you are always discovering, and you have much more to learn. And assume that everyone else is always learning as well.
You exist on many levels, and you’ll have many opportunities to cultivate your awareness in the varied aspects of your being. And you’ll certainly meet your subconscious patterns as they surface, as well. So don’t get overly identified with your attainments as you develop deeper awareness.
If you find yourself with spiritual skills, integrate them as best as you can, and continue moving forward with ease and grace. But, don’t judge yourself if your evolution sometimes feels more clumsy and troublesome than easy and graceful.
When your friends and family tell you that these limitations do not apply to their favorite teacher, saint, or holy being, politely agree with them. Arguing about this matter is pointless, because the people who need to label their spiritual figureheads as perfect don’t want to hear your explanations about the infinite path of continuous enlightenment. They need the security of knowing that the spiritual luminaries of their spiritual path are perfect and enlightened, so let them have their belief if it makes them feel more secure.
How to sense the frequency scale of consciousness
You can learn to sense this range of vibrations that exist for humanity, and for you, by drawing a Frequency Scale. It’s easy to make one and to use it:
1. Draw a vertical line on a piece of paper.
2. You label one end of the scale as lower frequencies, and the opposite end as higher frequencies.
3. Slowly move your finger along the scale, and you’ll be surprised to discover that you can sense the varying degrees of awareness that different people have.
4. Notice the different readings you get for different people.
5. Notice the readings you get for yourself:
5a. Check your emotional awareness level.
5b. Check your mental awareness level.
5c. Check your soul awareness level.
6. Notice that this process helps you learn to sense the subtle differences between different states of consciousness, so you can treat this as exercise as a meditation into the levels of consciousness.
7. With practice, you realize that you don’t need the scale, because you have learned to sense the subtle states of consciousness as multi-sensory phenomena that you can feel, see, and hear.
Your world is an ever-evolving multidimensional reality
Of course, sensing frequencies on a little scale is a rather simple way to tune into the world. Your actual experience of a person is a profound, multidimensional exploration — and that experience transcends tuning into frequencies on a scale. But this little exercise is a good place to start if you want to understand that the universe around you is made of infinite vibrations.
As you practice this sensing, you realize that you really can become aware of the subtle differences between people. And you can discover that within any given person, there is a broad range of frequencies, reflecting their multifaceted awareness.
That means that each person is not just a vibration — each person is a universe of frequencies — a rare unity of varying rates of vibration. So to label any person as specifically enlightened is inaccurate. But why is this realization so unsettling to some spiritual students?
They want to know that their teacher or saintly being is genuine — they want that teacher to be labeled as definitely enlightened. But if teachers are on their own evolutionary path, becoming ever more aware each day, then that means that teachers are imperfect, and continually growing. Recognizing this could be empowering for you — more so than your supposing that someone else has attained a special enlightened status.
When you understand that you, and everyone else, are all on the same spectrum of consciousness, then you become free of the need to put teachers on a high separate pedestal. If everyone is within the same spectrum, then there is no elevated divine tower outside of the spectrum. There are only relatively higher and relatively lower vibrations, all on the same scale. And this understanding frees you from the problems that affect you when you place teachers in a special category of ultimate perfection.
The problems with assuming that certain people are spiritually perfect:
1. If you assume that certain people are permanently enlightened, then you are probably naming yourself as unenlightened. Even if you don’t consciously intend to do that, your sub-conscious may make limiting assumptions about your supposedly low spiritual condition.
2. If you put some people on a higher pedestal, then you are probably seeing yourself as less capable, or even incapable. Some students even believe that it is improper, or unspiritual, to assume that everyone is equally capable of enlightening experiences.
3. If you are assuming that there are people who are free of all problems, then you are probably using the fact that you have problems as a way to categorize yourself in a negative, limiting way. Acknowledging that everyone is evolving and learning lets you perceive people, and yourself, in a more mature, empowered way.
4. If you designate someone as definitely enlightened, then you might not realize that his or her type of higher awareness is a uniquely personal style, and you may judge yourself for having a different style of awareness. Recognize that everyone expresses higher awareness in their own distinctly personal way. This frees you from overly simple judgments about yourself, and about others.
5. If you categorize someone as enlightened, then you will have to deny any evidence that they are imperfect, and that denial leads to many problems — for you, and for that person. Don’t participate in such illusions. Let yourself see people as individuals with a certain level of spiritual awareness, rather than as special higher beings.
How to learn from others without judging yourself
What do you do when you encounter someone who is definitely holding a higher consciousness? You recognize it as a certain level of attainment — and nothing more. It doesn’t mean that you have to regard that person as perfect. It doesn’t mean that you have to regard that person as above scrutiny. Just honor their attainments for what they are.
Learn from those who have attained something. The most important learning for you is the simple recognition that if they attained a state of awareness, then you can attain that state as well.
Do you suppose that those who have attained higher states want your devotion? If they need devotion, their awareness is actually rather limited — so don’t get stuck in that disempowering game.
When you recognize that everyone is on the Spectrum Of Consciousness, then you are empowered to truly learn from people. This is because you can tune into the higher consciousness that another person has attained, and you can activate, at least to some extent, that higher consciousness within yourself.
Learning in this way happens through resonance. You let the desired quality vibrate within you, through the intention of your imagination. You aren’t taking anything from anyone else. You are simply letting the positive energy resonate within you, to activate your own natural potential. That is the key that lets you grow spiritually, rather than stagnating in a passive state of devotion to another being.
The positive states of consciousness that another person has accessed represent what you can access within yourself. You recognize that any person with any attainment is a mirror for your own self, showing you what is possible. This is why it limits you when you label others as enlightened or perfect. They aren’t permanently enlightened. They just accessed a level of higher awareness, and they represent that you can do the same.
When you’re putting someone on a higher pedestal, you give your subconscious the message that you can’t attain what that person has attained. Unfortunately, many people have a curious sense of security when they define their teachers as permanently enlightened. Here’s why — If your teachers are permanently living in higher awareness, then you can look up to them as a substitute for becoming aware yourself. But why would that make certain students feel secure?
Are you giving your spiritual power away?
Many students have given their spiritual power away, and seem happy to do so. They feel devotion to teachers, and elevate the teachers on a pedestal. How convenient — when you name your teachers as enlightened, then you don’t have to work as hard on raising your own consciousness. You have replaced the dedication that would otherwise go into cultivating your own awareness with a substitute action. The problem with this is that your devotion, focused upon a presumed enlightened being, seems to give you a feeling of spiritual satisfaction.
Maybe devotion to a teacher or a group was acceptable in the past. Now, it can be seen for what it is. Your devotion is more appropriately dedicated to the deeper divine truth. To attain deeper cosmic awareness requires that you responsibly tune in to everything in your world. Uncritically devoting yourself to an admired teacher diminishes your spiritual power, and falsely elevates that teacher’s ego — a bad combination that diminishes everyone involved.
True devotion is when you are deeply dedicated to your daily spiritual awareness practices. Devotion is no longer sentimental admiration heaped upon a beloved teacher. When you realize that the old type of devotion takes your attention off your spiritual work, then you can realign your devotion in a healthy way. You can see teachers as showing you possibilities about your own capabilities, rather than as beings to passively admire.
The habit of giving status and power to teachers — especially those that the group mind collectively elevates as higher beings — is a pattern to observe carefully. When you find yourself giving power away, or you notice that you are passively admiring someone, shift that awareness. Recognize that you can cultivate higher states within yourself, and that you are responsible for accessing these states. Here is a meditation that will help you get your power back, while still learning from teachers whom you have admired.
Meditation to cultivate healthy devotion to higher consciousness:
1. Tune into a teacher or saintly being — either living, or from history.
2. Sense the unique brightness or presence of that teacher.
3. Notice any special qualities in that presence.
4. Now bring your attention to your own inner essence, and tune into your energy.
5. Sense that your soul essence is shining brightly within you.
6. Let yourself activate, within yourself, a similar spiritual presence or quality to that which you sensed within the teacher.
7. Let that activated inner presence flow and re-circulate through your body, mind, and soul.
8. Breathe in that newly activated spiritual presence, so that it integrates with your being on every level.
9. Acknowledge that the newly activated presence is yours — it belongs to you, because it is formed from energy that emerged from deep within you.
You can learn to be free of labeling yourself as enlightened or unenlightened. To do this, begin to notice the subtle energy shifts in your awareness, from moment to moment. A simple way to do this is to recognize that from any state of awareness that you are in, you can always make a subtle shift to a higher or deeper vibration. You don’t have to make a radical shift, and in fact a gentle shift is easier to integrate. Here is a meditation to help you explore raising your consciousness, anytime you choose.
Meditation to raise your consciousness:
1. Tune into your energy.
2. Imaging that you could turn a consciousness dial that gradually raises, or deepens your consciousness.
3. Slowly turn the dial, and gently feel higher, divine essence vibrations emerging within you.
4. Notice how this feels — with each breath, let yourself relax into the experience.
5. Gently breathe the emerging higher vibrations into your body, and feel the energies uniting your body, mind, and soul.
6. Let your body relax, so that you can experience the higher vibrations as natural and easy.
7. Repeat as needed. Each repetition may feel different — because your consciousness is ever-shifting, and ever-evolving.
Now you have had the experience of sensing how you can shift your consciousness intentionally. This practice helps you sense your own awareness as being in a continual state of evolution. That is very freeing. It releases you from the stagnant perception that you are either unenlightened, or enlightened. It brings you to the deeper recognition that there are infinite degrees of awareness, and that they are always shifting.
If enlightenment is a process, and not a permanent condition, then you can explore enlightenment in each moment. You don’t need to be on a mountaintop, or in a mystic temple. There’s nothing wrong with those environments — but why limit yourself, as if higher awareness was only available in a few locations?
Your daily exploration of vibrations lets you find higher consciousness in many places, and within many people — and especially, within your own infinite cosmic essence.
Maybe you meet someone who has their own variety of higher consciousness — in their own unique style. Perhaps you meet someone who has a way of carrying a loving vibration, and another person you meet has a bubbly sense of humor that lightens the room. You might meet someone who carries a peaceful energy, and another person who has a dynamic spiritual radiance. Tune into the essence of these energies — don’t be mystified by them, or in awe of them.
Discover spiritual mastery where you find it
You can call certain teachers masters or experts if you like, but recognize that their positive presence and spiritual attainment represents what may well be possible for you. Don’t copy their style, because your way may be different. But when you recognize excellence in any form, start to notice it as a vibration. And if you are drawn to activate that quality within yourself, do so. This practice helps you cultivate enlightenment as a daily process.
What enlightens you? That’s the question to ask yourself. It’s not one thing, one process, or one person — it’s a vast range of possibilities that exist in your world now. Let yourself discover answers to this empowering question every day.
Your evolving enlightenment is part of your life, rather than a fixed thing, or a limited concept. It’s how you approach each moment, rather than a frozen symbol or a rigid belief. And if you feel that your progress was slower today than you would have preferred, you still learned something valuable that will help you in ways that you aren’t yet aware of.
Tomorrow is a fresh opportunity — but not to be enlightened, since there is no such thing. But an opportunity to have enlightening experiences — these you can have in abundance, with each breath you take.
Joel Bruce Wallach
Founder, Cosmic-Living for spiritual empowerment — tele-classes and self-paced mp3’s