The Difference Between Enlightenment & Having Spiritual Experiences

Art by Teal Eye

via Awakened Vibrations 

Enlightenment is not an experience. It is a state of being. It is a radical state of clarity. It is a continuous state of clear awareness. It’s not something you attain, for in the moment of “achieving” this state of clarity, your fundamental belief in the personality self, your hypnotic fixation on personhood is obliterated. You, as you have known yourself, do not cease to exist…you simply see that you never existed in the first place. There is no “you” to attain enlightenment.  In that moment any reality of a “you” who could succeed or fail, attain or not attain, is understood to the very core to be unreal.

It’s not an intellectual understanding. It does not involve the mind or thinking or evaluating or believing. You just see it. It’s like seeing a shadow at night and it looks like it’s moving. You think it’s a dog or a monster or a ghost. The mind fills in the blanks, fills it in and makes it very real for you. Then you turn on the light and you see it is a shadow cast by something that is being blown around by a breeze. You don’t need to think about it, or believe it or anything. You just see it. When you turn off the light, you see the shadow again, but you know what it is and that’s that.

Only, it’s kind of a big deal, especially at first, because every activity, motivation and aspiration is organized around this basic, unexamined bedrock belief in the self.  It’s so fundamental that you don’t even know it’s just a belief, an assumption. Not only is your personal world built around this organizing principle, but so is our entire society. When you wake permanently from the dream of self, the world of men may not make much sense to you, and you may not make much sense to others.

Waking permanently is different than waking for a moment and then going back to sleep. When you wake fully, that moment of waking may seem like an experience, but what follows is a state of being…being awake. That is what the threshold of enlightenment is. When you cross it, you are in a totally different terrain. It’s not a static state, like you “reach” enlightenment and that’s it.  But this is the fundamental threshold of living in a state of basic clarity that is not mental, theoretical or academic.

People who are still sleeping, but waking up from time to time, can be very concerned that no one ever should claim to be enlightened. It doesn’t bother people who are fast asleep as much, but it does seem to really get the hackles up for some people who are popping in and out of direct clarity.  Direct clarity is clarity you are living in this very moment, not clarity you refer back to…referring back to your experiences of momentary wakefulness.  People who pop in and out of clarity can often sit in their dream state referring to the experience of clarity that they had, but are not having in the moment. There are all kinds of strange beliefs floating around. “One who claims to be enlightened is surely not, because an enlightened person would never say so.” Or some such nonsense. There are lots of reasons not to walk around telling people you are enlightened, but false humility is not one of them.

Enlightenment is something people don’t speak much about.  Those who live in this awareness know exactly what it is. You could also be talking to someone so learned in topics such as non-duality and while they could go on at length talking eloquently around it, debating the finer points of it using impeccable spiritual lingo, the living of it, the true direct understanding of it eludes them.  It’s hollow.  It’s intellectual.

Then there are spiritual experiences. They can range from the mild to the spectacular: feelings of oneness to the emergence of rare abilities. How to deal with these changes, how they might affect your life, and how to integrate them. Spiritual experiences and enlightenment are not the same thing. Some enlightened people have these crazy spiritual experiences. It’s also possible that some don’t. Many people have all manner of intense spiritual experiences and have not crossed the threshold of enlightenment.

It’s probably wise not to get too swept away by the spiritual experiences. They can be crazy and intense and reorganize your life, but they come and go. They may leave you with a whole new set of “powers” to deal with and integrate, but a person can get so focused on chasing the experiences, raising their frequency, activating their DNA or whatever, that they lose themselves. It may seem counter intuitive, but spiritual “evolution” as we know and practice it today is not the same as enlightenment. We can be living without food, running more energy, working with angels, or whatever, but that is not the same as enlightenment.

The point of this article is not to value one experience over another, but to bring into focus the difference between the state of enlightenment and the various kinds of spiritual experiences, including the path of spiritual evolution as we are re-defining it in modern culture.

Spiritual experiences are very flashy, we can talk about them for days and never tire.  We can revel in our abilities or the “places” we go. Enlightenment, or awakening, is not like this at all.  To say it is humbling is a comical understatement, as it wipes out the inner personhood to whom pride or shame could accrue. Everything in the whole universe changes, and yet it is at the same time, completely anti-climactic and very ordinary.

Synchronicity, the Lost Soul of Psychology and Psychiatry

time is artBy Chris Mackey

Synchronicity relates to meaningful coincidences that occur with such uncanny timing that they seem to go well beyond chance. To the uninitiated, this may result from someone looking out for such coincidences, or merely responding to the human tendency to find patterns in what we perceive. To those who have experienced striking synchronicity on innumerable occasions, it is ultimately because some coincidences occur with such uncanny timing that it is objectively clear that they do in fact go beyond chance. Mainstream psychology, based on a scientific approach, accepts a hypothesis as valid if it is backed up by research outcomes that have less than one in 20 chance of being obtained by chance. Some synchronistic experiences, including psychic predictions that have been proved accurate, occur with a probability of less than 1 in a billion according to scientists, including Dean Radin, who was employed by the U.S. government to explore such phenomena. This was also demonstrated in the early experiments of JW Rhine, cited by Carl Jung, and the more recent work of the esteemed psychologist, Darryl Bem.

Extensive evidence for these contentions is documented in my book, Synchronicity: Empower Your Life with the Gift of Coincidence. The development of the capacity to experience synchronicity on a regular basis is related not so much to superstition or gullibility, as some presume, but of processes of enlightenment related to more advanced stages of human development. Mainstream psychology fails to recognize this owing to its general lack of capacity to appreciate spiritual or transpersonal phenomena, as a result of its overly reductionistic paradigm. This is to its cost. The term “psychology” etymologically means “study of the soul”. There is not much soul in mainstream psychology, and even less in modern psychiatry, a field that is even more reductionistic.

This is a core failing of these disciplines. To many people, notions of soul are as important as any other notion when considering one’s life in totality, or making sense of one’s life path. If mainstream psychology and psychiatry aspire to being key disciplines in understanding the human mind, then how can they exclude conceptions of soul? I believe this modern disconnection of psychology and psychiatry from their etymological roots contributes to disruptions in many people’s sense of connection to others and to themselves at a deeper spiritual level. Around 100 years ago, Jung suggested neurosis often resulted from detachment from spiritual experience. He lamented this, especially as he believed that rather than transpersonal beliefs being unscientific, such perspectives were more consistent with modern physics than conceptions that exclude notions of connectedness between internal consciousness and external matter.

When it comes to the intricate and powerful connections between our inner and external reality, Jung felt this was most clearly revealed in the phenomenon of synchronicity. Synchronicity: Empower your life with the gift of coincidence offers a 21st-century take on such ideas.

Chris Mackey is a clinical and counseling psychologist and Fellow of the Australian Psychological Society with 35 years’ psychotherapy experience in public and private mental health settings. He is the principal psychologist at Chris Mackey and Associates, his private psychology practice in Geelong.

Chris has presented at numerous national and international scientific conferences over the past 20 years on such topics as the assessment and treatment of psychological trauma and the evaluation of effectiveness of psychological therapy for anxiety and depression. Chris has a particular interest in promoting more optimistic approaches to mental health, including positive psychology, about which he has presented regular free public talks in Geelong over the past ten years. He has been fascinated in synchronicity throughout his career as well as in his everyday life, leading him to choose this topic for his first book, Synchronicity: Empower Your Life with the Gift of Coincidence. His practice’s website provides extensive information about a wide range of mental health issues (see