ETHICS: A PERSONAL ENLIGHTENMENT (Part I)
About twenty years ago I experienced a life-changing epiphany. What caused it I can’t say, but I know that it happened. I was there, and my life since that time is witness to it. The story’s in two parts, both from my book, To Tell The Truth… PART I follows. PART II will come later.
I was in anything but a spiritual mode when I fell asleep one clear and moonless night in a Colorado B&B, but about 3AM I shot bolt upright in bed shouting “It doesn’t matter!” loud enough to wake myself up. The room was in white light—bright but not overpowering—and there were no shadows. It was still dark outside. Hard to imagine, but true.
Why I woke up just then or what didn’t matter wasn’t clear, but I experienced a sudden perfect insight of my place in the universe, instantaneous but complete, that immediately began to fade. I remember desperately trying to hold onto it as it (and the light) faded—it couldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes—but I only managed to grasp a few points before it was gone.
I stayed awake—how to sleep after something like that—frantically thinking and trying to reason with what was clearly unreasonable, and made a few notes. What didn’t matter? But after what must have been about two hours I fell asleep, exhausted and thoroughly confused by what had happened.
What had happened? The best I can tell you is that I was truly enlightened in the strongest sense of the word. And while I learned a lot, it was merely a tiny fraction of what had been revealed to me in that instant. But I came away from the experience with a new and lasting appreciation of life that has benefited me ever since, and continues to manifest itself in different ways with time. I’m a lucky guy.
After the initial shock I felt a total calm—equanimity became a part of my life. Situations somehow became simpler and as time went on I realized that I’d lost all fear. Where the thought of dying had been literally paralyzing, that had disappeared—totally gone. I found an empathy and new appreciation for everyone with whom I came in close contact—unusual for me. They tell me that I became a better husband, father and person generally. And I found a new sense of purpose. For some reason I was driven to become a student of ethics and to write a book about it. At 60-years of age my life had been wholly transformed. I’d had a “transient moment of self-actualization.” I’d had what I found out later to be a peak experience. http://www.extremeethics.org/?p=620
I had no idea of what that was—I only found out years later while reading philosophy and ethics and discovered the psychologist Abraham Maslow. All I knew at the time was that I’d suddenly become a different person for some reason that wasn’t at all clear. It continues to unfold, and it continues to amaze.
This I know: I’ve been graced with a spiritual appreciation, metaphysical not religious, that defies description. At the risk of appearing less than rational, I’ll try to relate what’s been made clear to me and what I’ve been able to piece together in the years following the event.
“It doesn’t matter!” Why this sudden powerful awakening in the middle of night? What exactly is it that doesn’t matter? (Begging the other side of the coin: what does matter?)
The best I could come up with at the time was that whatever was or will be doesn’t matter. Things and situations come and go, leaving only traces as they pass through the now. What matters is the omnipresent now. And what matters is not so much what we do, as that we are when we are. We’re all here in our own time for some reason, the primary why being that we exist—nothing happens without that—and every one of us is important.. We (not it) are what matters, and when we are here matters every bit as much.
Mankind will reach its goal in spite of any one of us. But this gives us freedom to experiment to our hearts’ content, even foul up our own lives and those of others, and it will still advance and still reach its goal.
We live in a reality that we experience but do not–cannot–understand rationally. We know enough to fool ourselves into believing that we can know it all, which keeps us from discovering what’s right in front of (and within) us. We accept some givens but deny others. We believe that we can work it all out logically. But the fact is that we can’t because it is, in fact, irrational—truly beyond us. We can only begin to understand what is beyond understanding when we know that we cannot know, shut up, and listen.
When it comes to the ultimate purpose of the universe and mankind, it doesn’t matter what I, or you, or anyone thinks. We are inexorably on a path to the future, the length and direction of which we have no clue. Mankind will survive and progress in spite of us. The puzzle of the universe is what it is, no matter the shape or size of our individual pieces.
This doesn’t mean that we, individually, don’t affect its direction or pace. What we do individually in fact has universal effect (because we are indeed universal beings), even if it doesn’t appear to affect substantially our immediate surroundings. But, at least in this context, What matters is not so much what we do, as that we are, NOW.
There’s an infinite and eternal unity (for want of a more suitable word) that simply IS (rather than ‘exists’). This unity has no scale and probably is best thought of as a singularity having none of the three dimensions we commonly deal with (but perhaps containing more), a source that can’t be subdivided, complete unto itself yet unintelligible, an eternal unchanging truth (a principal principle) concomitant with intelligence: Consciousness. GoTo: http://www.extremeethics.org/?p=801
CONSCIOUSNESS–everything springs from it. Everything that exists in and of the universe, including its inhabitants, is an intellectual consequence of this ubiquitous singularity, ageless and timeless, existing before time itself (time requires mass in motion, and was itself born with the universe). We are inexplicably integrated with it. Our consciousness is its consciousness; the entire wisdom of the universe exists in each of us. We all have it, and it’s available to us by turning inward. I’ve been fortunate enough to have been shown a part of it. That others have as well gives me confidence to proceed.
So that’s what I’ve come to know from that enlightenment. You can believe it or not, but it doesn’t matter(!). I wrote a book—To Tell The Truth…–based on it. You may wish to read it. Or not…
Stay tuned for PART II…