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, ascension, and evolution. (1) Perhaps I can be permitted a brief word here that brings in the third.
Enlightenment is an event in consciousness; ascension is an advance in dimension; evolution (in the final analysis, spiritual evolution) is an advance in kingdom or domain.
Regularly, spiritual seekers have numerous enlightenment experiences in the Third Dimension and remain in 3D after them. (2) 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 referred to.
Spiritual evolution implies enlightenment and ascension, but neither is being principally referred; it’s the entry into and exit from one kingdom or domain of life to another that’s being referred to – the mineral, plant, animal, human, angelic, and so on. (3)
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 does a different conceptual job.
(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) 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.
(3) 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.)