I seem to be having a number of conversations lately that invite a clarification of the differences between three notions, the first two of which we’ve already looked at – enlightenment and ascension – and a third we have not – evolution. (1) Perhaps I can be permitted a brief word here that brings the third into the discussion.
Everything I say here is purely speculative and intended simply to stimulate further discussion rather than describe something known to be factual. In fact I don’t know these matters factually.
All three concepts describe elements of movement in the return journey to God.
Enlightenment is an event in consciousness; ascension (2) is an advance in dimension; evolution (in the final analysis, spiritual evolution) is an advance in kingdom or domain.
Which process one observes depends on distance from the individual. If one stands up close, conceptually speaking, one sees events in enlightenment; if one stands back a distance, one can make out events in ascension; if one stands back a great deal farther, one can see events in evolution.
Enlightenment relates to events that happen to individuals in historical time. Ascension relates to events that happen over tens and hundreds of thousands of years. Evolution relates to events that happen over such vast stretches of time that I’ll call it “developmental” time, for lack of a better measuring stick.
Regularly, spiritual seekers have numerous enlightenment experiences in the Third Dimension and remain in 3D after them. (3) Even after exalted experiences such as those gifted to Sri Ramana Maharshi or Shankara, the individual remains embodied in this material world or physical dimension.
Ascension implies movement (and I mean “movement” in a metaphorical, rather than an actual, sense) from one dimension to another. Ascension does imply enlightenment as well, but it isn’t enlightenment that’s being principally referred to; it’s the “relocation” (again, a metaphorical use of the word) to a higher dimension that’s being pointed at.
Spiritual evolution implies enlightenment and ascension, but neither is being principally referred to; it’s the entry into and exit from one kingdom or domain of life to another that’s being described – mineral, plant, animal, human, angelic, and so on. (4)
Therefore, looked at from another angle, enlightenment signifies a radical, discontinuous leap in consciousness or experience; ascension signifies a radical, discontinuous jump in dimension or plane; and evolution implies a radical, discontinuous step up in kingdom or domain.
Certainly each process involves a great deal of gradual build-up but, at the same time, the event at the heart of it is both radical and discontinuous. Much preparation goes into enlightenment but when illumination itself occurs, it is a radical break in experiencing.
Similarly, much preparation goes into ascension, but when the actual shift occurs, it is a radical transition in dimensionality. And similarly as well, evolution is marked by much slow and gradual adaptation, but when the life form leaves one kingdom – mineral, plant, animal, etc, – and enters another, I assume that the reorganization of its form and process is total and discontinuous. One form of life is left behind and a second form assumed.
Movement from one enlightenment experience to another is relatively fast compared to ascension from one dimension to another. Ascension is relatively fast compared to evolutionary movement.
Each plane or dimension has many subplanes; each kingdom has many dimensions; and our total journey of spiritual evolution involves passage through many kingdoms. All three terms are useful to know and each term does different conceptual work.
(1) “What is the Difference Between Enlightenment and Ascension?” Aug. 31, 2012, at http://goldenageofgaia.com/ascension/what-is-ascension/what-is-the-difference-between-enlightenment-and-ascension/
(2) By “ascension” here, I’m referring to both individual and mass planetary ascension. Both involve an advance in dimensionality. A regression in dimensionality is also possible.
Individual ascension is rare but always possible, as SaLuSa tells us here: “Whilst individual Ascension is possible at any time, it is an unusual event only achieved by greater Beings who have dedicated themselves to rising up into the Light.” (SaLuSa, Sept. 7, 2009.) On the spirit side of life, individual ascension involves rising from the Astral Plane to the Mental, thence to the Causal, Buddhic, etc.
(3) These include:
(a) spiritual awakening (when the kundalini reaches the fourth chakra)
(b) savikalpa nirvikalpa samadhi, which I think I can also call “cosmic consciousness” (sixth chakra)
(c) Brahmajnana or God-Realization, which is also called kevalya nirvikalpa samadhi and is a temporary heart opening (seventh chakra); and
(d) sahaja nirvikalpa samadhi, which occurs when the kundalini reaches the spiritual heart or hridayam and is a permanent heart opening.
None of these experiences ordinarily brings about an ascension.
(4) Thanks to my wife, D’Arcy, for this discussion of evolution. It is spiritual evolution that Rumi is describing here:
“I died as mineral and became a plant.
I died as plant and rose to animal.
I died as animal and I was man. …
Yet once more I shall die as man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.
When I have sacrificed my angel soul,
I shall become what no mind e’er conceived.
Oh, let me not exist! For Non-existence
Proclaims in organ tones, ‘To Him we shall return.’”
(Rumi, in Anne Fremantle and Christopher. In Love with Love. 100 of the Greatest Mystical Poems. New York, etc.: Paulist Press, 1978, 58.)