Originally posted as part of February 9, 2012 blog post
A friend sent me Kant’s definition of “Enlightenment”:
Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. “Have courage to use your own understanding!” — that is the motto of enlightenment.
Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, long after nature has released them from alien guidance nonetheless gladly remain in lifelong immaturity, and why it is so easy for others to establish themselves as their guardians. It is so easy to be immature. If I have a book to serve as my understanding, a pastor to serve as my conscience, a physician to determine my diet for me, and so on, I need not exert myself at all. I need not think, if only I can pay: others will readily undertake the irksome work for me. The guardians who have so benevolently taken over the supervision of men have carefully seen to it that the far greatest part of them regard taking the step to maturity as very dangerous, not to mention difficult. Having first made their domestic livestock dumb, and having carefully made sure that these docile creatures will not take a single step without the pull-cart to which they are harnessed, these guardians then show them the danger that threatens them, should they attempt to walk alone.
Now this danger is not actually so great, for after falling a few times they would in the end certainly learn to walk; but an example of this kind makes men timid and usually frightens them out of all further attempts. Thus, it is difficult for any individual man to work himself out of the immaturity that has all but become his nature. He has even become fond of this state and for the time being is actually incapable of using his own understanding, for no one has ever allowed him to attempt it. Rules and formulas, those mechanical aids to the rational use, or rather misuse, of his natural gifts, are the shackles of a permanent immaturity. Whoever threw them off would still make only an uncertain leap over the smallest ditch, since he is unaccustomed to this kind of free movement. Consequently, only a few have succeeded, by cultivating their own minds, in freeing themselves from immaturity and pursuing a secure course.
The idea of a social conspiracy was so prevalent at the time Kant was writing ideas like these, he spoke of the “guardians” who consciously and with specific effort kept the human livestock in ignorance. This Age of Enlightenment was above all political, and only scientific as a side effect; Kings were the principal bad guys in the drama. Capitalists and usurers too. The idea of a social compact was created to replace the social conspiracy that had been ultimately exposed.
Today we need not posit a conspiracy to understand how self enslavement has occurred, and continues apace long after Kant wisely explained our true situation. It was not that those benefitting had to keep us down with active effort and malice aforethought — it was easy enough to just depend on the green monkey effect.
Ghastly experiment that it was, someone once painted a monkey green and observed the effect on the monkey in context of its tribe — it was shunned, attacked, driven away. Nauseatingly, they replicated the experiment to make sure of the results. This is what keeps us from stepping outside of the sheep herd. We sense that we will be attacked and isolated defenselessly if we move too far away from the central tendency of our group. This is why Belongers are such a large segment of the population according to SRI VALS I&II, and why Belonging as a human value is prominent across all segments. All VALS segments describe the human condition prior to Enlightenment — the smallest of all segments today as always throughout history — standing above even Self-Actualization (see prior post).
It is fear of non-belonging that keeps us from risking loss of social position, riches and fame, from maturely seeing that there is something more to Life than those objectives. Fear of losing those things, an immature fear, keeps us immature.
And yet the potentiality is there to cross the great divide into Enlightenment in any instant.
This is uncommon. More common is getting there for a few instants but then slipping back. Both are good things and worth being open-minded to the possibilities.
You initially slip back because although you may have broken from the attachments to finite, immature things — fame, riches, many lovers, self-esteem — in your intellect, but this has not yet permeated all of your cells and processes. Before you know it, an habitual feeling within you has once again tripped a cascade of bodily and other responses that you can only realize later was the moment you slipped back into entrapment. Major parts of you have not yet given up what your intellect thought it gave up, your intellect apparently imagining that it actually controls all parts of you.
Even though you may slip back millions of times before you no longer slip back, every time you become infinite if only for a moment, you pile up neuronal probability of establishing yourself permanently being there sooner rather than later. Therefore it makes sense to consider activation of techniques for slipping across the wave front into infinity, even though they may initially yield merely momentary glimpses. More on such techniques later.
Digressing here to chord-resolve an incomplete thought train in last post. Commenting on the last outpost of finitude, the life of a world saver, I now see we left the impression that once Enlightened, a being would not spend a lifetime serving humanity, as the Buddha, Jesus, Saint Teresa and many other saints did. Huston Smith points out that in India the one who returns to help others, although already freed, is called a bodhisattva. Worldwide this being is also known as a saint. My reliable editor Yana Lambert of course tried to point that out to me, and in a moment of Acceleritis™ I missed the point the universe was making to me through her. Synchronistically a few days later Huston reminded me in The World’s Religions, as the Universe is kind in making needed points any way it can.
Noia is my word for the suspicion that the universe is secretly out to help you and is always sending you clues if you can but be sharp enough to notice and decode them. The opposite of paranoia.
In the context of my Theory of the Conscious Universe (TOTCU)*, we are like neurons carrying messages across the universe by the passing on of information (memes) to other places in the cosmic brain where, from the Universe’s point of view, that information should go — keeping the whole universe moving toward greater perfection of understanding at all levels, in a sense upgrading the health of the whole. Each neuron also benefits in the process by getting information it is grateful for (if it is awake enough to notice and/or helped by the technique of Noia). By visualizing the universe as a biomachine, the cost in language is a step away from accuracy since “what is” awesomely exceeds the reductionism to any sort of machine. Yet this is the price we pay to be able to convey the theory to the present age where logical positivism would otherwise dismiss TOTCU as meaningless.
Acceleritis is notorious for banana-peeling you out of Flow and way out of its highest manifestation, Enlightenment.
What I had meant to say was that the bodhisattva/saint is not attached to saving the world. He or she will still do it with the same degree of eager zeal knowing that he or she will never get credit for it. Not even doing it specifically to please God. Even that takes one out of infinity. More on that and techniques in next week’s post in part 2.
Best to all,
*The Theory of the Conscious Universe was the working title of my book, “You Are the Universe: Imagine That”, released in 2014.