At­tack­ing enlightenment

I’m Calling it. An astound­ing num­ber of com­munity mem­bers are cur­rently chas­ing en­light­en­ment. That is, we are read­ing books, com­pil­ing in­form­a­tion and med­it­at­ing to pull apart the in­ner land­scape of our own minds. The Buddhist, Taoist, Zen, spir­itual, mys­tical, flow state, thing that is in the cluster that forms the en­light­en­ment space. (What? Weird? I know. Why? Read on)

I did what I al­ways do. I chart out alone, read a dif­fer­ent book. In­teg­ral the­ory, Sam Har­ris, Chade Meng Ta­ing, zen in the art of Arch­ery, The Gate­less Gate, PNSE—Geof­frey Martin… And then I real­ised I was not alone. So was S0phia*, Aella, Sarah, Val, Aaron, Nish, Atharva, Colton, and the list goes on.

This is a list of re­sources I find rel­ev­ant right now. With more to come:


I sug­gest start here (ht­tps://​in­teg­ral­life.com/​four-quad­rants/​) (with the 4 quad­rant concept) and be suf­fi­ciently con­fused to keep re­search­ing.

Ra­tion­al­ity is very good at stay­ing on the right hand side of the dia­gram. The clas­sic straw Vul­can is a cham­pion of the right. The “emo­tional” hu­mans are on the left (spe­cific­ally up­per left). Ex­cept that the en­tirely ra­tional com­munity has men­tal health prob­lems 3 times higher than the rest of the pop­u­la­tion. How is is that we can be ob­ject­ive and op­tim­ised and dir­ec­ted to­wards win­ning and en­tirely hid­ing the men­tal health prob­lems we have?

Well that’s simple. Ra­tional thought streams are on the right of the dia­gram, and emo­tional ex­per­i­ences are on the left. True mas­tery of the nature of real­ity re­quires walk­ing the line between the two. Not just liv­ing in one and not the other.

Why am I talk­ing about men­tal health in a post about en­light­en­ment? En­light­en­ment seems to be this an­noy­ingly bal­anced thing between other con­cepts. It’s one that’s par­tic­u­larly hard to point at. It causes works like the smug The tao is si­lent, and every smil­ing gig­gly buddhist to barely be able to con­tain their laughter when try­ing to ex­plain why everything is the same but dif­fer­ent.

“Be­fore en­light­en­ment; chop wood, carry wa­ter. After en­light­en­ment; chop wood, carry wa­ter.”—Zen koan

What does that mean you cryptic bas­tards! If en­light­en­ment is so great then give me some step by step dir­ec­tions to it!


Three caveats:

  1. Every path to en­light­en­ment is slightly dif­fer­ent. So even with great in­struc­tions, they are bound to be at least a little bit off.

  2. In­terior spaces (the left of the dia­gram) are not eas­ily able to be trans­mit­ted. One per­son’s em­pir­ical pro­ced­ure ex­plains what they did but does not give ex­pli­cit dir­ec­tions to oth­ers. Only the vague map of how they got there. (kind of like chakras and how they can’t be found sur­gic­ally—duh, thou­sands of years ago when they were first de­scribed, they knew they would not be found sur­gic­ally but mil­lions of people claim to be able to ex­per­i­ence them)

  3. I am rather em­bar­rassed to say that I al­ways clas­si­fied Buddhism as a re­li­gion. After all it has that spir­itual, “be nice to oth­ers” thing to it. What I didn’t real­ise was that it’s more like (slightly gib­ber­ish) em­pir­ical in­struc­tions to fol­low, after which you should find your way up the moun­tain to en­light­en­ment.

So uhh.. The in­struc­tions are some­thing like, med­it­ate while pay­ing at­ten­tion to a num­ber of key factors (im­per­man­ence, un­sat­is­fact­or­i­ness, no-self). I’d posit the in­struc­tions my­self but I don’t ac­tu­ally know that I can do that very well com­pared to the re­sources above and every other re­source out there.

What I can say is this: Be a ra­tion­al­ist and go do some re­search and run your own ex­per­i­ments.


Top re­com­mend­a­tion is Mas­ter­ing the Core Teach­ings of the Buddha 2.


A caveat for the whole en­light­en­ment, spir­itu­al­ity “woo” space. The space is par­tic­u­larly bad at words and de­fin­ing their terms. I’d say that “they are us­ing words wrong” but ac­tu­ally it’s more like, be­cause de­scrib­ing in­terior space ex­per­i­ences are a sub­ject­ive and per­sonal pro­cess, each per­son’s de­scrip­tion of in­terior spaces is go­ing to be self con­tained and self per­petu­at­ing. Code switch­ing is worse than ever. The only way to nav­ig­ate the al­tern­at­ive spaces is to get really used to build­ing maps to other people’s maps of their ter­rit­or­ies. I’m do­ing it and I am find­ing sense in the gib­ber­ish that is weird ass spir­itual ex­per­i­ences that other’s are hav­ing. And it’s not scary, bad, dumb or ter­rible like I thought. I was wrong.


If you want to ex­plore, good luck. Send me a mes­sage if you want to con­nect and talk in private. (see also my re­cent post ht­tps://​www.less­wrong.com/​posts/​dSokCMn63Wu48WX5u/​emo­tional-train­ing-model#eWF39EfwzER­ciaYQ6)