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Ideas about enlightenment, self-realisation, immortality, liberation from the sorrows of the mortal body, etc, have been around since the beginning of recorded human history. It means different things to different people. Some think it means a state of permanent happiness and bliss. Others think it means immortality – forever conscious, whether occupying a physical body or not. Some think the state comes with the acquisition of special powers – moving physical objects by the power of the mind, or perhaps walking on water. The majority of the human population doesn’t seem to care.
I got interested in these topics back in 1985, and have done a good deal of reading, research, participation in various study groups and meditation courses – in person, by correspondence. There are many, even without including the mainstream religions. Even those who wouldn’t classify themselves as spiritual or religious often have a nagging feeling about the hard questions about life. Like … what happens when you die?
It may be the fear of death that moves some people to inquire; for others it may be the attempt to contact a loved one who has passed on. For me, it was the notion that there may be some state of mind or state of being that could be achieved which would bring immense joy and knowledge. A happier, healthier and more fulfilling life.
When we follow up on the lives of those who are supposed to be enlightened – those that are dead (and for that we have to rely on accounts via a third party), or those who are alive and have been designated as such – it gets a little murky. Many seemed to have quite a rough time. None have lived eternally in physical form. The ability to perform miracles or demonstrate supernatural powers also seems limited. There are some good biographies of self-realised people that I will reference, and I recommend them to others.
Amongst the sceptical articles, I came across statements suggesting that the self-realised state was simply a part of the brain being activated. Such ideas have been around in esoteric circles for hundreds of years. Descartes believed that the pineal gland was the magical gateway to consciousness, and there are still some who pursue this idea today (you can buy special potions on the internet claiming to detoxify the pineal gland). The more sceptical think that certain brain centres can be activated that give a false sense of connection to a higher power; a state of self-delusion.
What has become available in recent times in the ability to study the brain from the outside, using MRI scanning and EEG headsets. The brain is the control centre for the physical body, and whatever consciousness is, the brain is involved in either creating it or conducting it. If there is such a state as enlightenment, it will definitely involve the brain in some form or another.
Observation of the brain in action through these imaging devices in recent times, has revealed many interesting aspects of how it works. When we are awake and in a normal state of consciousness interacting with the world around us, the Default Mode Network (DMN) is active most of the time. This is a network of brain regions, and is a bit like the engine running on idle. This is the “manas” of the Hindu/Buddhist teachings – discursive mind, day-dreaming, imagining, “monkey mind”. The one that is so hard to control. The Salience Network monitors the state of our environment, and switches between the DMN and the Central Executive Network (CEN) when decision-making is required. The CEN is the finest part of our brain in the pre-frontal cortex (PFC). It is our highest intellect; our reason and wisdom. We all have it, but 99% of the time it is inactive. Why this is the case nobody is quite sure.
This website will provide a discussion of the body and brain, which I have termed “The Machinery“. The machinery and the brain are not consciousness, but correctly using the machinery is a pre-requisite for attaining the state of enlightenment. In a nutshell, I am proposing that our experience of enlightenment depends to a large extent on how we use our brain, and in particular how much time we spend with the Central Executive Network active. There is a bit more to it than that, but in a nutshell, that is what we should be learning to do – spend less time in the DMN, more time in the CEN.
The good news is that everyone has what is necessary. You don’t need to buy anything or pass any tests or exams to be licensed to use it. Everybody has the necessary equipment (excluding, perhaps, those with physical or mental disorders). That is the good news.
The bad news is that it doesn’t seem to be naturally intuitive to maximise using the CEN. There will be more in-depth discussion on these hindrances or impediments. Despite what others would say about enlightenment being our natural state of being, it appears to me that it is a most difficult state to achieve; one that our natural tendencies are to move away from. Those that do achieve close to permanent activation of the CEN (which I am proposing is the state of enlightenment) seemed to have arrived there by accident or through considerable personal effort.
I don’t want to discourage anyone from trying. It is a natural ability and we all have the right to maximise our potential – and using our brain to its fullest extent certainly qualifies.
In this website I will discuss methods that will help with spiritual growth towards this end goal. Unsurprisingly, methods passed down from the great teachers in the past such as Patanjali, seem to be spot on. The difference today is that we now have ways of non-intrusively monitoring the brain, and we can confirm the effects and benefits on the brain from practising these ancient teachings on meditation, breathing, yoga, etc.
How to use this web-site
- Start by reviewing The Machinery – the physical body, emotions and the brain
- Then move onto the sections on Consciousness and Enlightenment
- You can then review the Personal Journey, and see if you want to do things differently in your life
- The sections on Humanity and Research links are for further reading
This website is an on-going work in progress, and I always welcome constructive feedback.