What Is Enlightenment?


mahavira_enlightenmentWhy am I here? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? Am I doing it? How can I know? Will I ever know? Is there an underlying pattern to it all?

These are some of the Big questions that philosophers, Spirit Persons, and ordinary seekers are compelled to ask and answer. Some rely solely on intellectual methods: following teachers, reading, studying, getting degrees, writing books. Some seek answers in traditional religions and ‘religious’ practices. Some experiment with various forms of self-reflection aimed at self-discovery, self-knowledge and consciousness. Some try combinations of these plus alternative practices like body work, mind-altering drugs and artistic pursuits.

As I noted in my last post, our hunger for answers to these questions is motivated by the ‘transcendent function,’ a form of archetypal energy we all inherit just by being human. As a reminder, here’s Jung’s definition:

The cooperation of conscious reasoning with the data of the unconscious is called the ‘transcendent function’…. This function progressively unites the opposites. Psychotherapy makes use of it to heal neurotic dissociations, but this function had already served as the basis of Hermetic philosophy for seventeen centuries. ~Carl Jung, CW 18, par. 1554.

In other words, even though we think of enlightenment as a strictly spiritual pursuit, it also has psychological (mental/ emotional/intellectual) components. Further, I would argue that it has physical components. In fact, I have come to believe that enlightenment is not solely a function of any one aspect of human nature, but of the whole package.

Buddhism expresses this idea through four “Aims” or goals of human life. As I see it, each goal is met within a particular domain of human functioning. Each domain is fueled by a physical instinct and represented by a masculine and feminine archetype. These stand at either end of the pole of energy in which that instinct specializes.

To be fully functioning spirit persons, we need to awaken, activate, and heal our fullest potential—masculine and feminine—in each of these four areas. ~Jean Raffa, Healing the Sacred Divide, p. 203.

Here’s my summary of these relationships:

(1) The aim of Lawful Order and Moral Virtue takes place in The Social Domain. Our social lives receive energy from our physical Instinct for Nurturance.  Psychologically, this instinct is symbolized by the King and Queen archetypes, our inner authority figures who govern our social behavior for the benefit of all.

(2) We accomplish our aim for Power and success in The Physical Domain. This goal is primarily accomplished through our Instinct for Activity. We cannot just think or will our way to success. Our bodies have to be engaged in studied, committed, goal-oriented and self-disciplined practices. For me, the Warrior and Mother archetypes represent the opposite poles of physical energy available to us in pursuit of our goals in the material world.

(3) Release from Delusion:  The Mental Domain. Our search for truth and enlightenment relies on our cognitive functioning, or intellect, which matures as we consciously activate our Instinct for Reflection and its archetypal representatives, the Scholar/Magician and Wisewoman.

(4) Love and pleasure:  The Emotional Domain.  To find emotional satisfaction in life, we need to activate our Instinct for Sex and its psychological equivalents, the Lover and Beloved archetypes. This does not necessarily require our participation in physical sex, but the aspect of our libido which specializes in this kind of energy does need to be activated. In other words, we need to experience passion, and being loved and loving in return.

Since Jung believed we have five instincts, and in keeping with his insight that the transcendent function progressively unites the opposites, I respectfully offer a fifth domain which is equally essential to enlightenment.

(5)  Perfection and Completion: The Spiritual Domain.  In my experience, spiritual growth is fueled primarily by our Instinct for Creativity: our capacity to imagine and find meaning in the inner forces which influence our journeys through life. Our creativity is symbolized by the Couple archetype, or Self, which gradually manifests in every area of our lives via the transcendent function.

I see the Couple as integrating the other four archetype pairs in a sacred marriage of fully individuated and fully related opposites.  This union activates the creative instinct and brings us into the spiritual domain and Epoch III integrated consciousness. ~Raffa, HSD, p. 203.

british_museum_room_1_enlightenmentAs you can see, the search for enlightenment cannot be compartmentalized into one domain, but requires cooperation between every part of us in every domain in which we function. I stress this point to dispel the common misconception that putting all our spiritual eggs into one basket—traditional religious participation and belief—is the only way to attain enlightenment. This obsession with using only intellect and emotion to connect with a loving God not only dismisses the sacredness of the physical body, but it ignores the fact that our actual words and behaviors can be decidedly unspiritual. Moreover, it can lead to a dangerous split between mind and body, spirit and soul.

In conclusion I would like to note that despite all the thought and energy I’ve given to the pursuit of enlightenment, I cannot say for certain what it is. As I wrote in response to a comment after last week’s post:

“I wish I knew what enlightenment is. If it’s a conscious, consistent, ongoing process of trying to understand, individuate, love, realize our true selves, and appreciate the miracle of our lives, then, perhaps all of us who do this kind of work could be considered such. I mean, we know we’re part of a process, and we’re consciously involved in it. But if enlightenment is not a process, but an end-product, then I know I’m not “there.” I keep re-hashing old stuff and coming up with new stuff to process, so in this definition, I’m only as ‘enlightened’ as my thoughts, behavior, and motivations are in this very moment!” ~Jean Raffa

Image Credits: Enlightenment: Wikimedia Commons.  

Jean Raffa’s The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. E-book versions are also at KoboBarnes And Noble and Smashwords. Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications, Inc.

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22 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie, I love how you answer the big question of Enlightenment with small, yet delicious, bite size replies, using such wonderful quotes too! For as each domain is gathered for (Soul) harvesting, collectively they offer new paths for spiritual growth. Where we are called to work in chorus (mind, body, spirit and soul) cooperation between each part is so needed yet for many of us, keeping that balance going can be extremely difficult at times.
    For example, I woke today with a cry from my body to go swimming, one of my favourite physical activities. Yet over Christmas, by turning a deaf ear to my body’s needs, a physical sluggishness quickly permeated through my mind and spirit too. So I had to enlist the help of both to get my body out of bed and drive over to the local pool. I truly believe that my mind and spirit knew the body was being neglected, and sought to correct the imbalance.
    In pure synchronicity you’ve written about the Couple archetype, as this week I’ve been studying the (Tarot) Lovers card in depth. I really appreciate your “Healing the Sacred Divide” quote – Perfection and Completion indeed! For in two short sentences alone you’ve perfectly summed up the meaning and importance of working alchemically, towards our “inner” sacred marriage. A lifetimes’ work? Hmm, perhaps several. Who really knows? Not I! Love and blessings, Deborah.

    1. And I love how you notice and appreciate the structure of this piece: as only a sister writer…especially a poet…would. And how you follow my thinking so easily. (I’m always struggling for clarity, worried that my meaning is too obscure!) It’s very satisfying to be read by someone with a mind like yours.
      Your example about how you tried to keep that balance going this morning is absolutely perfect. Thank you. I had a similar experience with my body/mind/spirit this holiday season, and you’ve just helped clarify it.
      Yes, this is most definitely a “…lifetimes’ work…perhaps several. Who really knows,” indeed?
      Thank you, Deborah. With love and appreciation, Jeanie

    1. Thank you very much, Skip. I’m thrilled to know this. I created the bulk of this material—in particular, my theory that connects the 5 instincts, their relationship to the 4 aims of Buddhism, the domains in which they manifest, and the masculine and feminine archetypes which represent each pole of the instincts in one coherent chart—in a book I started working on over 20 years ago.
      I also created and tested a survey (initially called the PQ—Partnership Quotient—survey, later The Partnership Profile), which I presented in a workshop I was invited to teach at the Disney Institute in 1996. I also used it at numerous other venues, including a Jungian oriented “Journey Conference” in 2012. The point of the survey is to help people discover the strength of their masculine and feminine archetypes with the goal of helping them empower both parts of their psyches and to see how these forces are related to instincts that every human being inherits at birth. The same material is in my book, Healing the Sacred Divide, which was published in 2012 (p. 203).
      However, I haven’t put any of this material on the internet until now. I feel strongly that the time is right to share them with others who may have spent much of their lives wrestling with the same issues. It is deeply satisfying to know that you find it relevant and powerful these many years later. Your opinion emboldens me to consider resurrecting the original book.
      I’m sharing this information here because I’m a bit concerned. Today it came to my attention that someone who attended one of my workshops several years ago is using this material, has created a ‘quiz’ featuring its basic ideas and their relationships to each other, and is apparently claiming ownership of it. My book is, of course, copyrighted, and I’ve shared the material in many venues over a period of many years, so I’m safe there, but it’s so disturbing to think that other lovers of Jungian psychology would use my material without asking for permission or citing it.
      Have you ever experienced this? Do you, as an attorney, have any thoughts or advice for me?
      Again, thank you, my friend.

  2. Wow! You take on the big questions, Jeanie. I love your addition of the 5th Spiritual Realm which seems to hold all the others.
    I’ve spent a lifetime hanging around teachers and reading books about Enlightenment while hanging around teachers (sometimes the same one) and reading books about Psychology. There are many definitions and paths, but I’ve worked to find what suits me rather than following a single doctrine. I work on the mundane level where I deal with emotion, psychological responses, and the unending problems of ego adjustment in the world. I also try to experience the realm beyond all conceptualization and occasionally have a glimpse of that. Paul Brunton called these The Long and Short Paths. Those words work for me. The psychological realm is cyclic and never ending. The spiritual can zoom us to an experience of the One (and then disappear again).
    I found the clearest and most compelling discussion of the two paths in ‘The Light Inside the Dark’ by John Tarrant who is a Zen master and a Freudian analyst. He is wonderfully clear about the importance and differing roles of the soul or psyche realm (despite the Buddhist non-soul doctrine, he speaks of soul) and the spirit realm beyond all thought and conceptualization (Zen in his world). I’ve likely mentioned his book before, so forgive my repetition. It changed me forever. It helped Vic understand the value and necessity of working through issues of mortality and the devastation of cancer from both psychological and spiritual perspectives.

    1. Thank you, Elaine.
      That fifth realm has haunted me for years. When I was working on my doctorate in the late 70’s we were taught a major educational theory which organized learning into three categories: cognitive, affective, and psychomotor (physical.) I always knew there was at least one missing….a spiritual realm….because I had encountered it myself and it had most definitely influenced my learning and outlook on life. And yet no one in education was even considering it relevant!
      And what about the reality of the psyche…or dared I call it “soul,” and its influence on learning? I knew I was so much more than just a body, an intellect, and a mix of emotions. There was an awareness there that colored everything I saw and experienced. And there were hidden forces and patterns that had moved me in mysterious ways for years. When I started teaching children’s literature, I was blown away to realize that the same themes had been showing up in myths and fairy tales through the ages. I’ve been trying to organize all this material into one coherent theory ever since, and when I discovered Jungian psychology I realized it was the missing link I’d been looking for. This post presents the gist of my theory.
      So I guess I’ve been on the Long Path for a Long Time!! As have you and so many others. (I also have some of Bruntun’s books. Wow!)
      You did recommend Tarrant’s wonderful book to me a few years ago and I enjoyed it very much. Thank you! It most definitely merits repetition!! As does your own book which is helping so many understand “the value and necessity of working through issues of mortality….from both psychological and spiritual perspectives.”
      I think of how spiritually hungry and psychologically naive you and I were as coeds and young wives in the sixties and seventies….. I never imagined then that I’d be writing books about this sort of thing. I imagine you didn’t either. And yet, here we are, trying to give back some of what we’ve learned on our magical mystery tours!

  3. Thanks Jeanie so much – what strikes me most I think is the pattern you weave, from threads of vibrant colour towards a fabric of wholeness and beauty and the evidence of a life time of loving labour in the creation of it.
    Maybe one day we’ll come to a realisation of the value of transcendent function in it’s unifying function. Maybe one day we’ll come to realise the split in our psyches from aeons of cultural and historical conditioning and do the hard work in uncovering those wounds allowing for healing to take place.
    Some sage said, if you think you’re enlightened, you definitely aren’t. Rather humbling. So, I keep on trekking through this strange thing called life, finding affirmations somewhere along the way, such as I find in your posts posing the big questions – thank you again.

    1. Thank you, Susan. Yes, I’ve been deep-sea diving and trying to clear the mud away from a beautiful jigsaw puzzle—or to use your analogy, tapestry— hidden at the bottom of the ocean of my unconscious for as long as I can remember. It’s still plenty muddy down there, but over the years I’ve clarified enough small sections of it to have brought “deep” fulfillment and meaning to this adventure. It’s such a thrill for me to be able to share tiny glimpses of it here……..And I thank you for the many affirmations I find in your work. Blessings.

  4. You know sometimes, you just have to come back and say, “Wow!” because this is such an amazing thread! It’s so wonderful to read the wealth and wisdom of other people’s comments here. Makes my heart smile!
    Jeanie, I found an article you might find interesting: https://belsebuub.com/articles/plagiarism-as-a-threat-to-higher-knowledge-and-spiritual-awakening – written from his publishers point of view, very enlightening.

    1. Thank you, Deborah. I appreciate the article about plagiarism. It is, indeed interesting. I’m mulling this over, trying to put it in perspective, tolerating the tension for now… We’ll see.

  5. To all who have been following this thread, I’ve sorted it all out and there’s no plagiarism involved. Probably nothing more than a phenomenon well-known to non-fiction writers of coming across some fascinating theory, studying it and playing with it for a long time until you create something of your own with it, then forgetting where your inspiration came from. I’ve done that too. We all play off the ideas of others. And you can’t copyright ideas, no matter how precious they may be to those who come up with them.
    Something good has come out of this though; I’m dusting off the old manuscript and sending it to a book developer to see what she thinks about it. I know there’s good stuff in there; it’s just a matter of separating the wheat from the chaff!

  6. Thank you for your deep and rich writing—I’m intrigued and will look forward to reading more of your work.
    One thought about the “Couple” archetype. As a lesbian, I find the concept of completion/couplehood as represented by the coming-together of male and female somewhat limiting. Of course, there’s a masculine/feminine dynamic relationship occurring within each human being, within every man or woman. And I understand the Couple archetype is more about that inner relationship than it is about the outer manifestation of a heterosexual couple. Nevertheless, I’d love to see the dynamic of LGBTQ couplehood explored further (or maybe I just need to explore this further myself!)…
    When two women, or two men, or couples consisting of transgendered or queer partners, come together, there’s a kind of wholeness that includes multiple dimensions and degrees of masculine and feminine and perhaps other elements—to create something “more than the sum of its parts.” There are good reasons why “Two Spirit” people in many indigenous cultures have a significant role in spirituality, because they (we) literally transcend the human tendency to create dualistic models of relationships (both internal and external) that are actually intricate, reflective, webs of interdependence—more like Indra’s net than like pairs of complementary opposites.
    I believe that heterosexual relationships are just as potentially intricate and glittering and complex as gay/queer relationships, but perhaps more likely to get reduced to dualistic oversimplification. With gay relationships, we’ve got to experiment with going beyond the duality and open up the possibilities… because we don’t just fit the mold. In my own 29 year relationship, we’re constantly exploring new ways of balancing, responding, creating, and dancing with each other… I hope that’s true in any healthy relationship!
    So, the Couple archetype may be just a beginning place, with the potential for infinite expansion and evolution. Any two energies, when they come together, exponentially increase the potential of each partner and create a new whole that radiates outward to impact an infinite number of other inter-related individuals. The Couple is not completion, it is only the point where “self” and “other” become one… and then become infinite. The “transcendence” occurs beyond self and other, beyond masculine and feminine. I think you imply something like this in your article, but I just wanted to address it directly, since the heterosexual couple model can easily be interpreted as a static, dualistic endpoint.
    Whew. Sorry to go on and on about this—I guess you sparked my imagination here!

    1. Hi Kirsten,
      I’m delighted to hear from you, and very glad you brought up the topic of same-sex and LGBTQ couplehood. We are way overdue for some deep and serious dialogues about this issue, and I’m glad to see the beginnings of some here. In fact, you’ve inspired me to write my next post about this, which I intend to do, using your comment as my jumping-off place.
      But for starters I’ll just say a little about it now. As an introverted, intuitive, feeling, psychologically-oriented thinker and serious-minded seeker, (whew), my focus is primarily on the psycho-spiritual world within. As such, I’ve done a lot of work to develop strong relationships between my conscious ego self and the contents of my unconscious.
      You’re obviously aware that historically, humanity’s dualistic mindset has been applied to the outer and inner worlds and to the relationships within and between them. And I’m sure you know that philosophers, alchemists, spirit persons, story-tellers and myth-makers have thus seen masculinity and femininity as the ultimate metaphors for the opposite (but not opposing) energies of life; unfortunately, much, if not most of humanity still projects this metaphysical concept onto the physical world where they continue to make dualistic distinctions between males and females which are the basis for unhealthy stereotypes, rigid gender and sex roles, and plenty of other injustices.
      So what I’m getting at is that yes, as a writer about psychological and spiritual matters, for me the Couple archetype is about integrating our inner opposites of every kind: conscious and unconscious, ego and Self, anima and animus, soul and spirit, masculine and feminine archetypes, mind and matter, etc. We all contain all of this, but long-standing stereotypes and the psychological mechanism known as ‘projection’ which you mention in your comment, make it extremely difficult for us to see, understand and accept this reality. Thus, the stereotypes continue, and people are made to feel that there’s something wrong if they or others don’t fit into rigid cultural molds.
      In my writing I’m trying very hard to overcome this unhealthy and oppressive divide, because everyone suffers. But it can be very difficult to penetrate the walls that society has built up on either side. I also believe that “heterosexual relationships are just as potentially intricate and glittering and complex as gay/queer relationships, but perhaps more likely to get reduced to dualistic oversimplification,” and I’ve struggled to find ways to overcome this particular wall in our collective thinking. I’m hoping that more dialogues like ours can give us more words and ways to climb over our walls.
      I love what you’ve written about the “Two Spirit” model that appears in many indigenous cultures, and how it transcends duality! I’ve heard about this and think it is a very promising theme to pursue in these discussions. I hope maybe you’ll say more about it in comments to come. I also love what you’ve said in this observation: “the Couple archetype may be just a beginning place, with the potential for infinite expansion and evolution. Any two energies, when they come together, exponentially increase the potential of each partner and create a new whole that radiates outward to impact an infinite number of other inter-related individuals.” Yes, thus far I’ve seen the Couple archetype (which I understand from my Jungian studies is an archetype that is newly emerging in our time) as it applies to our inner masculine and feminine sides, and I equate it with Androgyny, which Jungian June Singer says is one of our very oldest archetypes. But this doesn’t mean that androgyny is the ultimate goal of completion. As longs as humans evolve, we will always have old stereotypes to overcome and new archetypes emerging into our consciousness.
      I’m excited about pursuing these threads. I know I have a lot to learn about them!
      Thank you very much for writing. Jeanie

  7. Jeanie after reading about political issues for several weeks, your blog came along as such a breath of fresh air. Thanks for helping me keep sane!

    1. Hi Silver Foxx. I’ve been undergoing a similar struggle, and it feels like I, too, am just now coming up for air…..and feeling surprisingly refreshed and energized. Which reminds me that periods of chaos, whether in the inner or outer world, always precede periods of growth and new life. Complacency certainly has its comforts, but it’s dangerously close to stagnation! Here’s to the new life emerging in us, and hopefully our world!

      1. Thank you so much for the recognition. Its an honor to find favor in your kind regards. If only I had more pertinent resources I would make the ‘message’ farther and wider..

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