I’m going to create new meaning.
I’m not quite inventing a new word. It’s more investing an old word with new meaning.
I cite, as my authority for doing so, anthropologist Leslie White, who taught that we create new symbols by freely and arbitrarily bestowing meaning upon a thing or event. I’m going to freely and arbitrarily bestow new meaning on an old word.
I’ll be offering it as a synonym for “enlightenment.” But without the baggage that no longer seems to belong in a rapidly-changing area of life.
In the Sixties and Seventies, devotees claimed higher and higher, or more specialized, enlightenments for their masters.
It seemed everyone was Sri Sri Sri, and then 108 Sri. It seemed to me a sign that true enlightenment was missing somewhere.
Rather than try to pour new wine into old bottles, I’d like to bring in an additional term for it in my writings: “Aliveness.” (3)
Aliveness is a quality of being that can be experienced but not easily defined. When I feel “alive,” I feel whole, complete, satisfied, happy, and loving.
One advantage the term has over “enlightenment” is that it isn’t associated with stages; aliveness just unfolds and unfolds.
I define an increase in aliveness as an increase in our ability to access our powers, senses, happiness, love, etc.
The one feature common to each of the spiritual experiences that I’ve had is that each has raised, by a little bit more, my overall experience of aliveness. (1) With each new spiritual experience, I’ve felt a little more alive.
The most obvious example of that is that I now love, where before I didn’t. Before that expansion in aliveness, everything else pales. (2)
I may as well have been dead in the sense that the best of life (love) was hidden from me. The heart opening therefore translated into a huge leap in the experience of aliveness; in this case, the experience of love. Was that a stage of enlightenment? Maybe yes, maybe no. Who cares?
I’ve seen other capabilities also expand as a result of these experiences. My willingness, patience, the reach of my contemplation, meditation, and awareness, my relaxation, my emotional floor – all of these have expanded or risen, as the case may be.
Each experience has left a trace and each has expanded my overall feeling of aliveness.
Doing so releases us from one old hassle: Testing everyone’s claims to enlightenment. We’re simply expanding our experience of aliveness, more and more and more.
New wine in new bottles.
Do I feel more alive? Am I happier? Am I living more in the experience of love? As a spiritual student seeking aliveness, that’s all I really care about.
(1) The feeling of aliveness is a characteristic of Beingness. The study of Being is usually called “ontology.” God in Hindu scriptures is described as Being-Consciousness-Bliss Absolute. Being is sometimes also referred to as existence, less often as experience. Experience has to do with the senses whereas as beingness transcends the senses.
(2) Because the decision-maker in us decides whether we’ll feel happy or not based on an assessment of how we feel inside. When we feel loving, that’s a very good thing and the decision-maker decides to allow us to feel happy. Compare us in this metaphor to tubeworms, such as you find in the deep ocean. Tubeworms are very tentative when they come out. They easily skitter back in.
Whether we come out (declare ourselves happy) depends on this same tremulous consideration. One minute we’re out and then we quickly draw back in again. Or at least I do.
(3) However, not to get obsessive about the additional term.