My former guru cautioned his students to remain skeptical of their own enlightenment because it could very well be just another ego trip. Indeed, if a particular state of mind is judged to be high on an hierarchical scale of mental states, our egotistical nature will likely become attracted to the concept. The teacher further cautioned us students to beware of teachers who claim to be enlightened or possess elite spiritual insights because we might flatter ourselves by believing we are attaining exclusive, arcane wisdom. Hence, spiritual pride is an obnoxious form of egotism.
Interactions between the conscious and the subconscious mind are tricky matters. There is much that laypersons and experts still do not understand regarding our thoughts and behaviors as may derive from subconscious processes.
Certain individuals believe they are uniquely gifted to be able to traverse between these “realms” effortlessly. They claim to have attained exclusive types of awareness that enables a deep, “intuitive”, heightened ability to obtain hidden, secret information. The temptations are great to become a charlatan and a mountebank. We do not like to think of ourselves as gullible or naïve, so this advice is too often ignored or even ridiculed. Wisdom, enlightenment, and inner illumination are not limited to certain, special people or belief systems. Everyone has the capability to access these. They are latent and are accessible by training oneself to tune in to one’s own intuition. They are accomplished with discernment between what we hope to be true and what is actually true.
It’s helpful to be careful regarding matters of what we believe to be true so as to avoid deluding ourselves and taking ourselves down the time consuming garden path of fantasy and wishful thinking. Answers that we obtain from “within” should be carefully scrutinized so as to avoid being misled by what may seem to be special truths. This is why mindful contemplation, and meditation are important tools for the inner seeker of truth and wisdom. Skeptical analysis along with mindful mental silence can allow us to be more in touch with the subconscious mind in helpful ways. A healthy balance between thinking and intuiting is essential for an effective, more satisfying way of life. Just because a teaching or knowledge is arcane does not automatically mean it is true or ultimately helpful. It can be a distraction or escape from the practical, conscious mind. By careful, skillful discernment, we are more able to walk the line between impulsivity and overthinking decision making.
Inner illumination is something we can use to enhance our thinking and actions. We can mindfully listen to our intuition without making a big show of doing so. There is no practical reason why one should show off one’s special “abilities” in the manner of carnival shows nor seeking outward approval or validation. Keeping the balance between rational thinking and intuition is a highly personal skill, much like keeping a stringed musical instrument in tune. It requires regular, periodical tweaking, so as to avoid mentally tripping into la-la land.
It is best to think of inner illumination as a calm, mindful mental center that can provide insight and focus on matters that are not usually encountered in the day to day dealings of the outer world. When life becomes hectic and chaotic, inner illumination is quiet wisdom that reveals itself by instinctive, natural meditation. It is like the low gear in a vehicle transmission that enables the power of the engine to proceed without strain and overwork. After the illumination and inspiration are engaged, then the practical work can more effectively occur.
A good example of someone who is guided by an inner light is the artist who works to share a special, deep experience. This experiential nature of the work communicates with empathetic people who understand the sorrows and joys that everyone has. The inner light helps us envision both reality and possibility. Highly tuned inner illumination guides the way to profound existence if we don’t use it as an escape and distraction from the responsibilities of living.
A good description of inner illumination might include high aspirations of the human heart in attunement with the natural world. Such a state of mind is always in flux because of the changing natures of the mind and the planetary environment. One can see or feel the illumination at surprising, sometimes mundane times in our daily lives. It might manifest after hearing a certain tone of voice, or while performing a mundane task. Suddenly, it’s as if a switch has “clicked” in the mind as an epiphany. These events remind us of our innate, inner illumination. You might also say that this is the combination of confidence, uplifting emotion, inspiration, enthusiasm, and enlightenment.
The Blue Jay of Happiness ponders a cautionary note by environmental activist and former Jain monk, Satish Kumar. “If we remove ourselves from the world, we are pretending that we can follow our own individual enlightenment and let the rest of the world go to hell, so to speak.”