What is enlightenment?

The following was a question received from Mary which is wonderful and brings a lot of common ideas out into the open:

Question: I’ve come across the topic of enlightenment so often lately that I’d like a clear perspective on it. I find the idea confusing because it seems to be a worthy aim for the spiritually focused, yet it is said that those who say they are enlightened are not, and others say that it is better to work for personal maturity rather than enlightenment. Others say that it’s no fun being enlightened, while others say it’s pure bliss. So what is it really? How to get there, what does an enlightened life look like in our here and now life?

The concept of enlightenment, I find with some humor, is one which is filled with much non-enlightened thought: that is, thought based in separation and ‘ego’. Firstly, the concept is a label for an experience decidedly without labels. It is an experience of utter freedom â???? but whatever thought you have of what enlightenment is will always be accumulated from others. It is again, something someone else tells you is a better way.

Second, in most people’s thoughts it implies an end to growth, conflict, and issues. Once this magical state is achieved then there is nothing more to learn; one can live in bliss. It is thus a more new age equivalent to the concept of heaven.

Lastly, there is the assumption that enlightenment is ‘better’ than what you are experiencing at this very moment, in the Now. It is separate from what you are in this instant. It is somewhere you have to get to.

Some others’ references to enlightenment:

  • In Hinduism, it is moksha, a final release from one’s worldly conception of ‘self’.
  • In Buddhism, it is the end of suffering. The mind is free from craving, anger, and other afflictive states.
  • In David Hawkins’ levels of consciousness in Power versus Force, it is the level at which non-duality is perceived.

It is the latter which seems to describe it for me, but there is of course value in all of them. When reading, it is always easy to intellectualize the concepts, which is very hazardous when dealing with something beyond the intellect. The key is the usage of perception in the description. It is not something you take a pill for, to transmute “bad” energies into “good” ones.


To give the perspective from the “other side”, we asked about enlightenment when channeling :

We find no particular merit to the term ‘enlightenment’ other than in acknowledging for you the possibility for greater awareness of Love. You are already complete simply as you are. By this, we mean that you are All That Is, and nothing less.

Within this completeness, of course, is a universe of range for experience and perception. You can experience complete separateness and disunity. You can never actually be less than All That Is, but within your entire being you can experience extremely limited perceptions.

The perception that most people would call ‘enlightenment’ is simply an awareness of the fundamental interconnection of All That Is. Because it is a perception, from this state there is nothing that happens to you (an external force operating upon you) but rather simply experiences of you meeting your Self. Externally this looks identical.

There is thus no true need to transform negative emotions or thoughts, because you are All That Is, which includes them. Having different perceptions of what these energies are leads to radically different experiences. It is hard to see the interconnection and oneness of All That Is while disowning parts of yourself, but it is still possible to choose this. Indeed, while having expanded perception you see the beauty and wonder of all choices.

This perception is of course not an end, but rather a beginning. Greater perceptual awareness will always lead to more energy, more growth, more freedom, and more possibility. The perception of oneness is not the same as the experience of it, which is what the soul craves; to know Self through experience. This you are already doing.

And so, we wish you to understand that you are already engaged in the process of knowing and loving your Self, whatever you may be doing. Enjoy your process. It is the process that is important, not the “result”. From here comes the old adage: you are already enlightened, but you simply do not perceive Who You Are.

Those who advertise

It is of course true that those who advertise their state as enlightenment as ‘better’ are not likely to be in this state, for then they would not see it as ‘better’. It may be there are those who perceive true oneness are in a state of pain. Ramana Maharishi had painful cancer in the final year of his life, but was said to be peaceful and serene through the pain. Again, it is the Zen koan: “Zen is like a finger pointing at the Moon”. It is much more helpful to know the moon: point towards your Self.

And so if you perceive Who You Are, are you really any different? Is it any better? Again, that is your choice. There is nothing lost and nothing gained, for you are always Who You Are.


  1. 3MG January 19, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Good question; enlightening answers (no pun intended, of course ;-). Among the best explanations I’ve ever read.

  2. Georgete January 20, 2008 at 10:53 am

    Great post. Thank you. In my opinion, when it comes to real life you have, there is no way for you to achieve enlightenment once and that’s it. You are free from suffering, craving, etc for the rest of you life.

    As human beings, we change as we get older and go through new experiences, which can drive us towards unknown and unexpected “types” of suffering. As you grow as a person and soul, your search for enlightenment is a constant effort. And honestly, I think this search is a endless effort.

  3. tremor January 20, 2008 at 11:38 am

    To say the “search for enlightenment is a constant effort” implies that it’s work and you’re separated from it, which is what this addressed in the first place!

    I think there’s a huge difference between saying “overcoming suffering” and “transcending suffering”. To overcome gives an image of a battle, whereas to transcend means to see beyond it while still having it touch you.

  4. Patricia - Spiritual Journey Of A Lightworker January 20, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Tremor, this is one of the best discussions on enlightenment that I have ever seen. Thanks to the source of your channeled information. For me, it feels true on my deepest levels of awareness. I like your point on transcending instead of overcoming. Good point and one that I have not made a distinction between before.

  5. Mike S January 20, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    I agree that we are “always who we are.” The problem is that we have no idea of who or what we ARE, but many are beginning to realize what we ARE NOT and that’s a good start. But I understand that essentially you are saying that we need to attain acceptance even of what we “believe” we ARE to finally KNOW what we ARE. To resist what we are now is to resist knowing the truth behind all our “beliefs” about ourselves.

    I feel the problem is that we expect “enlightenment” to come upon us in one fell swoop. We have localized the mind in a brain and expect knowledge to be processed through this “organ” of the body, therefore, the mind-brain will resist this type of “knowing” as a shock to its system.

    I tend to consider enlightenment as an “opening up” process of gradually learning the truth. The mind can handle realization this way since the mind-brain was made to conform to a “learning curve” of gradual understanding. This requires the patience to learn the truth, no matter the “time” it takes.

    Thanks.mike S

    • tremor January 20, 2008 at 4:32 pm

      As someone recently brought me to say, a real question is “what is knowing?”. When we use that word, it’s usually used in the intellectual sense, but of course there’s far more than that. So we can ask what the “know” means in “know what are are”. It’s a wonderful question.

      I agree the shock doctrine of enlightenment is pervasive. We’re so used to Shock Doctrines, as Naomi Klein aptly points out. I sort of look at the knowing of the Self as an exploration across a great sphere that is the more expansive identity we can learn to be. There’s no rush, there’s no curriculum, but patience makes it flow smoother.

  6. Tomas January 21, 2008 at 8:38 am

    Dear Tremor,
    While thinking about your site, I have felt the watching eyes of QUOTE ROTATOR on me. It looks as if the whole humanity participates in your discussions.
    I want to put your quote rotator on my blog too. Is it possible? How could I do that? Could you help me? Thank you

  7. georgete January 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm


    Would you consider writing a post about the difference between “overcoming suffering” and “transcending suffering?”

    You might have done it before but if you haven’t, it might be a good subject.

    Have fun!

    • tremor January 23, 2008 at 6:36 pm

      This is a good suggestion! Thank you!

  8. radha January 27, 2008 at 6:13 am

    How about E. as the awkening of the good qualities we have already stored but hidden within. When we become conscious of them they start blossoming and we enlighten…

    • tremor January 27, 2008 at 7:52 am

      That’s the “lighten” in “enlighten”!

      There are of course an infinite number of ways to say what enlightenment is. Certainly what you say is equivalent to “becoming what we are already”.

  9. Mary January 31, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    As the one who originally posed the question on enlightenment, I am grateful to all of you out there, and especially to Tremor (and Co.) who is putting all of this together for us.

    I really like all these definitions of ‘enlightenment’ and since I posed that question, I have had an experience that might demonstrate the meaning.

    My aim in life is to undo all the conditioning I have received from parents, teachers, religion and society at large. I tend to do this naturally through dream work. I have recently broken a 20 year recurring dream through which I now see a shadow part of me that I was projecting on to my spouse. This discovery made me feel literally ‘light’ as if a huge bag of stones had been taken off my back. I am not claiming now to be enlightened, but I am certainly ‘lightened’ in spirit. “Becoming who we are” is then something I can really relate to, because I am in the process of throwing out who I am not, and so dicovering the ‘real Me’.

    I wish I could do it with as much abandon as stated in above comments. I’m one of those who feels the need to be always doing something, and cannot ‘waste’ a minute…..another form of conditioning I need to free myself from.

    Great stuff!


    • tremor February 1, 2008 at 11:01 am

      Impatience is great, isn’t it? There’s a certain irony to the thought that you can miss out and “waste” minutes. It creates waste and not being present, which is a missing out in itself.

      Thank you Mary! It’s so much nicer writing to you having met you once over a year ago!

  10. CG Walters February 18, 2008 at 3:55 am

    …an excellent answer, Tremor!
    “There is thus no true need to transform negative emotions or thoughts, because you are All That Is, which includes them.”
    thank you.
    Many blessings to you and all you hold dear,

  11. CG Walters February 18, 2008 at 3:55 am

    …an excellent answer, Tremor!
    “There is thus no true need to transform negative emotions or thoughts, because you are All That Is, which includes them.”
    thank you.
    Many blessings to you and all you hold dear,

  12. Kato Kaizen April 28, 2008 at 6:43 pm

    Thank you, thank you! Very wise and inspiring. I am happy you introduced me to your work!


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