Beware of ‘enlightment’ that requires
you to remain loyal to a single group
The is the second part of an extended series of explorations on “enlightenment” as a human experience. The first entry in this series may be found in the archives.
At the conclusion of Part One I said that the danger of this business of enlightenment is two-fold. The first danger is thinking that there is something specific that you have to do in order go get there. And that if you don’t do that, you can’t get there. The second danger is thinking that your way to get there is the fastest, the best way to do it.
Now if you think that your way to get there is the fastest and best way, you are going to spend the rest of your life trying to convince me of that, because you believe that and you want to share this wonderful gift that you have gotten.
Many years ago I was approached by people in the est movement. How many of you know what the est movement is? Most of you do. “est” was an acronym for the Erhard Seminar Trainings. The name was always presented in lower case letters, because “est” is also a German word meaning ‘to be’. So it was a happy coincidence. And Werner Erhard created the Erhard Seminar Trainings.
The est movement was huge in the New Thought community in this country and around the world around 25 years ago or so. And the people who were involved in the est movement were absolutely convinced that this was the fastest way to enlightenment. You needed to take est! And so they began recruiting people to take est and they became very engaged in the process.
It was almost an urgent matter with them. And they couldn’t understand why you didn’t get the urgency. If you didn’t get it, they would look at you and say, “You just don’t get it, do you? You just don’t get it.” They had found something that changed their whole life virtually overnight, and they wanted to give that to you, and they knew that this was the way.
There were many ways, they said. This wasn’t the only way, but this was probably the best way. Or certainly, if not the best way, among the fastest ways.
And I enrolled in the est program and I took est and I, too, became enlightened. In fact, I became so enlightened that I realized that I did not need est to be enlightened—which really upset some of the est people, because they wanted me to take the next level and the next level and the next level.
You see, est was a program that had multitudinous levels. You could take level one, level two, level three—they had very fancy names for them. And once you got in the program you could virtually never get out of it. I mean, not with grace. Not with ease. You had to almost extract yourself out of it. And if you did get out of it, you were made to feel by many of those who were inside of it that you had done something desperately sad. Not wrong, but very sad. Because you just didn’t “get it.”
If you really got how powerful est was you would have stayed in it forever and gone all the way to the top and become an est trainer. Then you could train other people in how to become trainers by enrolling them in the est program.
What I realized was that my whole life could be caught up in the est program very quickly and very easily, doing virtually nothing else. I actually met people in the est training and in the est program who did virtually nothing else but that. They had literally turned their lives over to this process called est.
Now I want you to know that the process called est was very powerful and I could understand how people could become so attached to it, because it did change people’s lives. In fact, it was so powerful in my life, as I said, that I realized that I didn’t need est anymore — and probably never needed it. AND, having said that, it was very helpful to me in leading me to an understanding that I did not need it, or anything else outside of myself, to be fully Who I Really Am.
I don’t think some of est trainers intended it to be quite that powerful, because if everyone, after taking the basic est training, realized that they didn’t need est, there would be no more est training!
Some religions have the very same problem. They convince you of the wonder of God, but then when you get in touch with the wonder of God, you realize you don’t need the religion anymore. So some religions do whatever they can to hold you within the confines of membership, by telling you that only through the ways that the particular religion has established can you remain in the good graces of God.
All of this is natural. It’s understandable. Who wants to start of movement that convinces people you don’t need the movement? Yet this is the ultimate purpose of all religions and of all movements—or should be. With 7 billion humans on the earth, there are enough people to continue introducing the highest truth to, and one doesn’t, or shouldn’t, need to hang onto all the old members in order to create a power structure that supports itself in continuing itself.
This is the problem with most organizations and movements. They tend to need to be self-perpetuating. Yet, I repeat: the true purpose of every religion and every movement that would bring you to “enlightenment” should be to render itself obsolete, should it not?
Many years ago Paramahansa Yogananda gave birth to the Self-Realization Fellowship. This is now back in the late 30’s or early 40’s, I don’t know the exact time, but it was somewhere in there. When Paramahansa Yogananda, or Master, as he was called, came to America he brought with him a technique for self-realization, which was his phrase meaning enlightenment. It was called self-realization.
When you realize who the Self, is you become enlightened. And Master described himself as being enlightened. And, by the way, he was enlightened. He was enlightened because he said he was. I hate to break the spell that someone may be under, but to be enlightened is to say that you are. It is quite as simple as that. And we will talk more about that as we move forward with this series of entries.