In Growing into Being, enlightenment is described as a process consisting of four basic stages: separation – believing – knowing – being one. These are referred to in the passage below.
“Whether or not you choose to believe or not believe, ultimately either decision is based on a leap of faith. How can it be otherwise when approaching metaphysical issues with knowledge of only the five physical senses? Either you have faith in nothing (separation), or you have faith in something (believing). Actually, it’s this lack of deeper knowledge which permits a choice in the first place. The state of knowing changes all this. There’s no longer any need to choose a belief system. Nor is it even possible. Stepping over this threshold, you personally experience, first-hand, the reconnection with yourself and the universe, as described on numerous occasions in previous chapters. You know yourself to be true.
Knowing means that, through a perceptible flow of inner energy (see Chapter Five), you receive direct experiential knowledge in a language far deeper than words, removing the element of doubt which must always persist in a state of believing, no matter how profound the element of faith. While in a state of believing, enough indirect knowledge can certainly lead to the logical conclusion that you must indeed be One with All. But this is a process which occurs in the head, not the heart. While in a state of believing, you likewise feel a degree of union with yourself and the universe. Nevertheless, because these experiences do not go deep enough, because universal energy has not yet permeated your being, the element of doubt always remains.
So finally, in the words of Jimi Hendrix, you get ‘experienced’. You reach the point of knowing. Your life changes on a fundamental level. Perhaps it feels like living for the first time. Doesn’t this sound similarly reminiscent of the feelings of spiritual awakening as you step over the threshold between separation and believing? Nevertheless, it is different. It is fully tangible now. And stronger. Incomparably stronger.
And then what happens? The actual experience of reconnection lasts only minutes, maybe hours, even if it may take days, weeks or months for the body to fully integrate the energetic consequences. After the actual experience, though, you have no choice other than to return to everyday life. As much as consciousness can connect with infinitely subtle dimensions, its ‘default setting’ is nevertheless rooted in the human body – at least for the duration of this life. As much as your consciousness of the world inside and around you may feel utterly transformed, the basic patterns of life still continue, beautifully and quietly unchanged. The sun still rises in the East and sets in the West. As the Zen saying goes: ‘Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water…’ The difference is, everything has new meaning now – or, more precisely, everything simply has meaning for the first time in your life.
From now on, literally everything is a potential reminder of Oneness.
But herein lies a potential problem. Knowing is wonderful. Even so, ‘reminders of Oneness’ aren’t enough, no matter how frequent or beautiful. From this point on, if the process of enlightenment does not continue, the state of knowing becomes dependent on an experience which is gradually slipping into the past – for every such ‘reminder’ also serves as a reminder that you have become reliant on the past in order to give meaning to the present…”