Since the theme of The Uncarved Blog deals with Transcendental Meditation, consciousness & enlightenment, and poetry, I’d like to introduce someone to you who has been studying these ideas in great people’s lives for some time now and has complied them all in a book.
Craig Pearson, Ph.D., is author of the forthcoming book, The Supreme Awakening: Experiences of Higher States of Consciousness—Cultivating the Infinite Potential Within. He has spent many years researching the expression of higher states of consciousness in the writings of great philosophers, saints, scientists, artists, and writers.
Dr. Pearson is the Executive Vice-President of Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa. He has served the University in a variety of roles over the past 33 years, including Dean of Faculty, Dean of Students, Director of Maharishi University of Management Press, Director of Freshman Composition, and Professor of Professional Writing.
In this interview for Issue 5 of Enlightenment Magazine, Linda Egenes asks Craig Pearson about humanity’s age-old quest for enlightenment. Dr. Pearson highlights his answers with examples of exceptional people throughout history who had described experiences of higher states of consciousness. Here is an excerpt from The Quest for Enlightenment: Transcendence in the Lives of Great Seers and Thinkers.
Enlightenment: What is the relationship of enlightenment and human potential?
Dr. Pearson: Enlightenment is a term that has been used for thousands of years, in traditions east and west, to refer to the most fully developed expression of human potential, far beyond the ordinary.
Enlightenment: How common is it?
Dr. Pearson: Although this extraordinary experience has been described by individuals in different cultures over the millennia and is celebrated in the world’s spiritual traditions, it seems to be exceedingly rare. But obviously it lies within the realm of human potential.
Enlightenment: What has Maharishi contributed to the understanding of enlightenment?
Dr. Pearson: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is often credited with reintroducing the concept of enlightenment in a systematic manner in our modern age. He has put forward a comprehensive understanding of enlightenment that embraces the great traditions and thinkers who have described this experience across time. Maharishi was also the first to promote scientific investigation into enlightenment, bringing the phenomenon of spiritual development into the arena of modern science.
Enlightenment: How does Maharishi describe enlightenment?
Dr. Pearson: For Maharishi, enlightenment is the ultimate development of one’s inner potential as a human being. It means being established in the highest state of human consciousness.
Enlightenment begins with experiencing the reality of your innermost Self as unbounded and eternal and being established at that level. This means the consciousness of an enlightened person is no longer subject to the ups and downs of emotions, mind, and body but steadfast, anchored in inner silence.
Enlightenment brings the ultimate unfoldment of one’s creativity and intelligence. It means living in harmony with all the laws of nature and easily fulfilling your desires. It means being of maximum use to yourself and others and creating a powerfully nourishing effect in one’s environment.
At the highest stage, enlightenment means experiencing the universe as the expression of your unbounded Self. It is a state of perpetual freedom and bliss, supreme fulfillment.
Enlightenment: Can we relate this in any way to our day-to-day experience?
Dr. Pearson: Although this vision of human development may seem idealistic, we have all had experiences in this direction. Some days we just feel happier inside, more appreciative of others—life is easier, fuller, richer, and more rewarding. We may have moments of enhanced mental clarity or heightened levels of creativity, when we surprise ourselves with how quickly the solution to a problem may come. Athletes sometimes experience the zone—periods of peak performance that are effortless and euphoric.
At these times we are using a bit more of our potential. But enlightenment is far, far more than this. It goes far beyond just having a good day. People who have had experiences of enlightenment report that words simply cannot capture the sublimity of the experience.
Enlightenment: You have researched how individuals from different historical epochs and different parts of the world have shared this same experience. Can you talk about that?
Dr. Pearson: In traditions throughout time we find remarkably similar descriptions of this extraordinary experience of human life lived to its fullest—in the writings of great philosophers, religious figures, artists, scientists, and writers, as well as in the great religious traditions of the world. The terminology may vary from tradition to tradition and age to age. But when you have the clear and precise description of enlightenment provided by Maharishi, it becomes easy to appreciate what these people are talking about.
Enlightenment: So the experience is universal?
Dr. Pearson: Yes. And the recognition that many have shared this experience throughout history is not new either. Some scholars have called it the perennial philosophy or the primordial tradition. The perennial philosophy holds that although various spiritual and philosophical traditions appear different on the surface, at their core all traditions share common, universal principles.
Enlightenment: What are these universal principles?
Dr. Pearson: The perennial philosophy has three basic tenets: (1) Underlying the diversity of the world is a field of unity. (2) We can subjectively experience this field of unity deep within us. (3) The purpose of life is ultimately to experience and live this inner, divine reality of life.
This inner field goes by different names. Laozi called it the Tao. Plato called it the Good, the One, and the Beautiful. Aristotle called it Being. The Greek-Roman philosopher Plotinus called it the Infinite. In Judaism it is called Ein Sof, in Christianity the kingdom of heaven within. In more modern times, Ralph Waldo Emerson called it the Oversoul.
These different names are not referring to mere philosophical or spiritual ideals. They point to the inner reality of life—a reality that can be experienced directly and, when experienced, brings fulfillment beyond words.
Enlightenment: How does Maharishi talk about this inner field?
Dr. Pearson: Maharishi characterizes it as an unbounded field of pure consciousness, an all-pervading ocean of creativity, intelligence, and bliss, beyond space and time. Maharishi asserts, moreover, that this field of pure consciousness is identical with the unified field of natural law that modern physics describes mathematically. Thus the inner field that gives rise to all our thoughts and feelings is the same field that gives rise to the entire universe.
Enlightenment: And we can experience this inner field of pure consciousness?
Dr. Pearson: Every human being has the natural ability to experience this field. It simply requires “diving within,” allowing the mind to settle inward, beyond the thinking process. This is called transcending.
People throughout history have described and celebrated this experience. It is a simple and natural experience—but by most accounts seems to be rare and fleeting. People have lacked a technique for experiencing it systematically. This is the gift Maharishi has given us—the Transcendental Meditation technique, a simple, natural, effortless procedure by which anyone can dive within at will.
Until Maharishi started teaching in the West, the understanding of how to transcend had for the most part been lost. The Transcendental Meditation technique, which has its origin in the ancient Vedic tradition, provides direct experience of pure consciousness. It is easy to learn and practice, validated by hundreds of scientific research studies, and practiced by millions of people throughout the world.
Read the rest of this fascinating article, which includes experiences from Rabindranath Tagore; Alfred, Lord Tennyson; Hakuin Ekaku; and a woman known as Peace Pilgrim.
Many other experiences have also been written up by Dr. Pearson and posted on the TM Blog. Here they are, from recent to earlier posts:
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook: Connecting with the “deep soul”
The Buddha: Rapturous Joy Transcending Any Other
Meister Eckhart: It is in the purest thing that the soul is capable of
D.H. Lawrence: Sitting in a Timeless Stillness
St. John of the Cross: Transcending all knowledge
William Wordsworth: We are laid asleep in body, and become a living soul
Emily Dickinson: The Soul’s Superior instants
Albert Einstein: There is Neither Evolution nor Destiny; Only Being
Zhuangzi: Why don’t you try wandering with me to the Palace of Not-Even-Anything
St. Teresa: A state of great quiet and deep satisfaction
Johannes Brahms: In tune with the Infinite
Rumi: I have passed beyond all thoughts
Plato: And this state of the soul is called wisdom
Jesus: The kingdom of God is within you
Henry David Thoreau: We become like a still lake of purest crystal
Ralph Waldo Emerson: Within man is the soul of the whole; the wise silence; the universal beauty
Walt Whitman: The luminousness of real vision
Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A state of transcendent wonder
Helen Keller: I feel the flame of eternity in my soul
Laozi: His mind becomes as vast and immeasurable as the night sky